Tips for Helping Infertile Couples
Do's and don'ts on a difficult subject.
by Marlo Schalesky
Infertile couples are everywhere — in our churches, small groups, families, and neighborhoods. In fact, one out of every six couples in America experience infertility. And despite their polite smiles, these couples are often hurting — filled with longing, pain, and questions that have no easy answers. They may even be in the midst of a spiritual crisis that is shaking the foundations of their faith.
Yet just when they most need help most, they often find others a source of added stress. How can we help infertile couples in a way that helps and doesn’t hurt them? Here are some suggestions.
- Don’t try to make the infertile couple feel better by complaining about your own children or by telling them they are “lucky” not to have to deal with the stresses of having children.
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice on how to get pregnant. Suggestions such as “Just relax” or “If you just adopt” are not helpful.
- Don’t assure the couple that God will give them a child. There are no guarantees that every couple will be able to have children.
- Don’t ask a childless couple “So when are you going to start a family?” The two of them already are a family. Children expand a family; they don’t make one.
- Don’t avoid any mention of children or pregnancy. Your awkwardness will only make the couple feel awkward as well.
- Don’t offer reasons or excuses for God. Telling a couple why God may not want them to have children is not only painful but presumptuous.
- Do let the couple know that you’re continuing to pray for them.
- Do remember them on special days, such as Mother’s Day. A simple note saying “I know this is a hard day for you. Just wanted to let you that you’re in my thoughts and prayers” can mean much.
- Do be sensitive about asking the couple to be involved in children’s ministries. Some infertile couples find joy in serving children, while others find it difficult. The choice must be left to them, without any pressure or incrimination if they should choose not to be involved. The same applies to attending events, such as baby showers.
- Do feel free to ask questions. If the couple is seeking treatment, inquire as to how they are managing. Infertility treatments can be emotionally, physically, and financially stressful. Couples will feel cared for when you ask about how they are doing rather than if the treatments are “working.”
- Do realize that infertility is often a long, painful journey. It is not something that goes away in a few months or that the couple will soon “get over.”
- Do provide the couple with a safe place for venting their spiritual questions and doubts. It is not unusual for such couples to question God’s love or fairness. A listening ear is more helpful than pat answers.