I remember being so scared the day my husband, Ryan, and I were going to find out whose fault it was that I couldn’t stay pregnant. Which of us would be the reason for our three miscarriages? I felt so impressed that this was a defining moment in our marriage that I sat down at our kitchen table with my laptop and wrote all the reasons I knew without a doubt Ryan and I are meant for each other. With no specific order and plenty of run-on sentences, I wrote our love story-- how it began, how we became engaged, memories from our wedding, and all the signs along the way from our family, friends, and God, showing absolutely we were soulmates meant to be together forever. I wrote at the end, “So, no matter what we find out today, Ryan and I are meant to be.”
The best decision my husband and I made was to decide that, while fertility doctors are usually able to identify, pinpoint, and name one of the spouses as the root of the problem, we decided our fertility struggle was neither of our “faults” but a specific journey God had destined us to go through together. This perspective changed everything. We committed to praying big prayers, to doing all we could medically, and to finding a purpose for this season of our lives.
Infertility is considered by many marriage experts and by couples who have experienced its pain to be one of the most taxing stressors on a relationship. As a therapist, I often tell clients “While our experiences are different, our emotions are often the same.” Your story probably isn’t mine, and mine probably isn’t yours but the feelings, the struggles, the questions are often very similar.
So, how can you stay strong as a couple while struggling to conceive? As both a therapist and a wife, I’ve learned four main ways to stay close to your spouse during the highs and lows of infertility.
- Remember Your Story
- Tell the Truth
- Encourage One Another
- Enjoy Your Life
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools on the planet. There is a reason we love stories, movies, and books. We get taken to far off places, take up arms against the bad, fight for the good, and cheer on the couple who endures faithfully to the end. So, why don’t we do this for ourselves? We have a story that is being lived out, and we need to remind ourselves of what it’s taken to get where we are--the mountains, the valleys, the decisions, the heartaches, the surprises, and the joys. Take time to remember the story of your life but, even more specifically, the story of your relationship. The left side of our brain (the analytical, problem-solving side) gets so overused while trying to get pregnant that often the right side of our brain (the feeling, relational, trust side) gets left behind. This disintegration can cause anxiety, depression, and detachment from our spouses. Remembering and recalling our love story reminds us that we are on a journey and infertility is not a destination.
So many miscommunications and fights come from believing our spouse can read our minds. Tell your spouse what you need, what you want, what you feel. If you need time to yourself, tell your husband that. If you’re like me and require next to no time alone, tell your friends you need to hang out, ask your husband to plan a fun night together, choose a new show to watch--whatever you need to do (within reason, of course) in order to process your feelings but also to not get stuck in your grief. There is a delicate balance between letting yourself feel, yet not allowing yourself to fall into despair that often must be explored during infertility. If feelings of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness are present seek professional help. Some experiences and some feelings are too big to deal with alone and there is no shame in that fact.
It’s easy to become self-focused while trying to get pregnant. Women tend to feel more of the loss and anxiety, and then if you add a social clock you may have for exactly what age you’ve decided you need three children, that’s another mountain of pressure to obsess over. Try to remember your husband is struggling, too. “Pray Big Things” became our motto as a couple. We prayed big things together, and it changed everything. I truly believe the couples who pray together stay together. Prayer helps us dream about our future, connect emotionally, and ask for God’s blessings as a couple. Praying as a couple is an incredible bonding experience that holds a power no other couple exercise or romantic getaway holds. Prayer connects you with one another while connecting you with God, and that creates a force to be reckoned with!
One of the biggest flaws of our human nature is the belief that something else will make us happy. I’ll be happy when I get pregnant. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when we move, etc. Giving power to something else to make you happy that may or may not happen robs us of the joy, the purpose, and the meaning that today and this season holds. It’s hard to enjoy a season you didn’t plan and wouldn’t have chosen. But though your struggle surprises you, it doesn’t surprise God. He has a plan and a purpose and is with you every step of the way. During our year of losing three babies, I focused the best I could on still fulfilling what I felt was my life purpose, on helping others, and on celebrating and praying for my friends’ pregnancies. This changed my perspective and gave me purpose outside of myself. Please don’t get so consumed with ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, baby apps, baby clothes sites, or even reading pregnancy blogs that you miss the purpose and blessing of today.
Seeing infertility as a journey, instead of a prison sentence, freed us to be open to growing closer and finding purpose during our journey of losing three babies in less than a year. I’m not going to glamorize infertility and miscarriages. Not being able to conceive or stay pregnant is awful and not something I would wish for anyone. But while our season of infertility and miscarriages is something I never would have chosen, it is a time I will continue to have respect for as an opportunity to decide what I truly believed about my marriage and my faith.
Julia Jeffress Sadler, LPC, is the author of Pray Big Things: The Surprisingly Life God Has For You When You’re Bold Enough to Ask! She's a reality star from TLC's Rattled, who has seen God do immeasurably more than anything she could hope or imagine with experiencing three miscarriages in a year and then delivering miracle triplets! A licensed professional counselor and the Girls Ministry director at the thirteen-thousand-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, Julia is a regular conference speaker, radio show guest, and host of The Julia Sadler Show. She and her junior-high sweetheart, Ryan, live and minister in Dallas, Texas. Connect with Julia at juliajsadler.com.