"Do you have children?"

It seems as though the frequency of the question should numb the sting - but it doesn't.  Whether your wait for a baby feels like an eternity or has just begun, the issue of infertility reaches deep into our emotions with fingers that touch many of our relationships.  There are four specific areas where my husband and I have dug deep emotionally and spiritually to find the treasure in this season of waiting: our friends, our identity, marriage and our relationship with God.

I.  Friendships

It can be painful spending time with friends surrounded by baby coos and toddler's cuddles when your own arms are empty.  I watched a friend who had just miscarried clench her fists at the announcement of another woman's pregnancy as she declared, "That should have been mine!  That was supposed to be my baby!"  The temptation to become jealous or give way to self-pity is very real and very ugly in this circumstance.  I have employed a few tactics in this area:
 
1. Confess any self-pity or jealousy to the Lord. 

2. Pray before going into a situation that will be charged with "baby wanting" emotion. Ask for God's comfort, truth and perspective. 

3. Exchange self-focus for other-oriented thinking by serving friends with children. 

4. Limit time in circumstances that increase "baby wanting".

II. Identity

Facing down infertility can deeply impact your identity.  Thoughts like, is God withholding blessing from meMaybe I would just make a really bad parent.  Or my personal favorite, I must be crazy! Hoping (or being positively convinced) each little symptom is the one that finally means "I'm pregnant!" while the months slip into years, can make anyone feel a little delusional! 

Beside all the "crazy" thoughts, there can be heavy guilt associated with not being pregnant.  My heart has ached as I have wrongly absorbed responsibility for not getting pregnant.  Two women jeeringly asked, "What's the matter with you? Why can't you give your husband children?"  For some couples, past failures or hurts rear their ugly head. Abortions and STDs can increase the difficulty in having children, further compounding a sense of guilt.  Sexual baggage from personal choices or abuse can get tossed into the issue of processing infertility. The empty cradle has profoundly deep emotional impact. In order to maintain a healthy self-image in the midst of this circumstance, here are a few stabilizing practices:

1. Confess wrong thinking about issues of guilt as they come up.  If past mistakes have a long-term affect on your fertility, ask God to forgive you and then live in His grace! This won't necessarily solve your medical concerns, but it will bring spiritual healing and more peace. And remember, no one is perfect. We're all sinners in need of grace. And if you wrongly take responsibility for your infertility, ask God to purify your thinking with His truth.

2. Talk and pray with your spouse, a mentor, ministry leader, Christian counselor  -- or all of the above to Scripturally process any old baggage your empty cradle might be stirring up. 

3. Root your identity in what the Bible says about you.

III. Marriage

When a couple sets out to start a family, it is devastating to come up month after month with a negative sign on the pregnancy test.  But in the middle of the disappointment there can be good things that come your way.  While you and your spouse are waiting, try these ideas:

1. Pray about three qualities you want your family to have and then spend time developing them.  Example: my husband and I want to grow in our finances so we are doing a Christian video seminar together about financial freedom.