I recently learned that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week. While those who’ve experienced infertility are surely painfully aware of its difficulties, for the rest of us, it presents a great opportunity to learn more about this struggle that affects 1 in 8 couples. If we listen, we can better understand how to come alongside these men and women to encourage and support them.
A message of faith, hope, and life from Washington, D.C.
Many news outlets ran stories this week highlighting some of the famous women and couples who’ve experienced infertility and its heartbreak. First up was Second Lady Karen Pence, who shared a rare interview with The Federalist’s Melissa Langsam Braunstein. The article is poignant in its rawness relating how painful, consuming, and exhausting the infertility journey can be.
“It took us six years before we were able to get pregnant with our first child…We were ready to start our family, and it just didn’t happen. And when you experience that, all of your friends are getting pregnant, all of your relatives are getting pregnant, I remember my little niece looked up at me one day and said, “Auntie Karen, why don’t you have any babies?” It can be a very heartbreaking experience, and so for us, we thought, maybe we’re just not going to be a couple that has children.”
For the Pences, adoption proved to be a great alternative, but just as an opportunity came up, Mrs. Pence learned she was pregnant. Still, it took a lot to get to that point, including questioning and ultimately trusting God to bring children into their lives in His perfect timing.
“For us, it was really a matter of just letting God bring us kids when He was ready to bring us kids, and that’s where they come from, and so we just had to wait until He was ready. And now it’s so clear to us that that was the perfect timing, these kids are the perfect kids for us, and we couldn’t be more grateful every day that He gave us that privilege.”
The message of faith is not surprising coming from the Second Lady, and it sure is a welcome addition to the mainstream conversation about infertility. It’s a message I’ve seen echoed by many Christian women who have been bold in sharing their struggles in the midst of such a deep desire to become mothers. For these women, the pro-life message is simply understood. They know that a baby in the womb is a gift—and his or her life is just as precious at the moment of conception as it is at the moment of birth.
The Hollywood pro-life, pro-woman message
For me, I was more amazed to hear such a strong pro-life, pro-woman message coming from Hollywood celebrities who have experienced infertility. The Huffington Post ran an article titled, “13 Celebrities Who’ve Shared Their Struggles With Infertility,” and the comments in that article struck me as so staunchly pro-life and pro-women, that I couldn’t help but wonder how those celebrities reconcile some of their policy positions with their own statements.
For example, actress Jaime King, a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood who even donated to the abortion giant in Mike Pence’s name, struggled for seven years with infertility. And yet, her heartbreaking story is a testament to human life in the womb and the beauty of womanhood.
“Nobody knew how long it took me to get pregnant, that for seven years I had so many losses, I’d been trying for so long and I was in so much pain... Somewhere in our subconscious when someone tells you, ‘Oh, you might not be able to do that,’ you feel like it’s the one thing that you have ... I feel like it’s detrimental for me as a woman to not be honest about that and that it’s detrimental that women don’t talk about these things because when you go through it you feel like you’re suffering in silence by yourself.”
Singer Beyoncé, who is currently pregnant with twins and has surprised many with her pro-life tributes to her unborn children in recent months, echoed King’s story of hope and tragic loss.
“About two years ago, I was pregnant for the first time. And I heard the heartbeat, which was the most beautiful music I ever heard in my life. I picked out names. I envisioned what my child would look like ... I was feeling very maternal. I flew back to New York to get my check up—and no heartbeat. Literally the week before I went to the doctor, everything was fine, but there was no heartbeat... it was the saddest thing I’ve ever been through.”
While these are just a couple of examples from the article, it’s encouraging to see these women speak so openly, not only about their experiences, but about their understanding of life in the womb and the unique capacity that women have to bring new life into this world.
Infertility is a deeply personal journey
If you’re anything like me, you desire ways to better understand infertility and be there for the friends and family in your life who are experiencing it. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from reading these stories and hearing others, it’s that infertility is personal. Some may want to share; others may not. The only thing we can do is be more aware, be sensitive to the realities (1 in 8 couples!), and pray that those who experience infertility will find peace, joy, and fulfillment in whatever God brings their way.
My heart hurts for these women and men who so desperately want to become mothers and fathers. And while I don't know their experience, their emotions, or their pain, I am thankful for their message and for their strength in sharing it.