Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Cross of Infertility With Amanda Teixeira (Part 3 of 4)

If you’re just stumbling upon this series, please do yourself a favor, and read Part 1 and Part 2 with Amanda Teixeira.  In Part 1, I introduced the series, and Amanda stole the show with her captivating love story with her husband, Jonathan.  In Part 2, Amanda helped us to understand what infertility feels like.  

In Part 3, Amanda and I focus on how NOT to help a loved one facing infertility.  We talked about the common ways people end up making their loved one feel worse by saying or doing the wrong thing.  I imagine most people will find this segment very helpful.  Amanda and I pray that our dialogue will be a source of blessing.  I wanted to ask the hard questions, and Amanda wanted to answer them so that we can talk about what nobody seems to be talking about.  

I hope Part 3 will be:
  • a microphone for couples needing a different kind of support from their loved ones
  • a safe haven where they will feel understood and supported  
  • an opportunity those of us not currently facing infertility to better understand how to be supportive

I am especially proud of Amanda for sharing her candid and heart-wrenching responses in this section.  It would have been easy for her to only share the sweet and pious-sounding responses, but she took a risk in revealing the “snarky thoughts I usually keep to myself.”  These are precisely the thoughts we all need to hear.  The “snarky thoughts” reveal Amanda’s real pain and raw emotion.  These heart-wrenching responses open the door to dialogue and understanding between infertile couples and their loved ones.  

Just like in Parts 1 & 2, my questions appear in red italics, and Amanda’s responses appear in regular type.

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Part 3 of The Cross of Infertility
What NOT to do or say when your loved one is facing infertility

What are some of the most hurtful or least helpful things you and Jonathan have been told?  How do these comments make you feel, and what makes them so hurtful to hear?  

In no particular order, we or friends with infertility, have gotten the following comments. I will provide brief explanations of why these can be hurtful...with some of my own snarky thoughts I usually keep to myself.

1. If you just relax you will get pregnant.

Yea, been there and tried that. Now, I am stressed out with trying to relax. If only it was this simple, people! How about you pay for me to get weekly massages, pedis and manis, acupuncture, and yoga? The financial tag attached to “relaxing” is enough to cause a new wave of stress.

Or, how about I stay home all day and quit my job to focus on relaxing? Then, you will accuse me of being lazy. I can’t win!

2. If you stop traveling and had a more stable job you will get pregnant.

Really? Out of the 25 months of trying to conceive, I’ve traveled about half the months to some degree and almost never when it’s a “fertile-window.” Again, if it were THAT easy, I would stop traveling. And most likely you just don’t like my job and are trying to blame infertility on it, so I change my profession to something you prefer I do instead.

3. If you simply adopt you will get pregnant.

OK, well you can you join our missionary support team so we can pay for the $25,000 adoption price tag? If so, thank you!!! If not, shut up. Also, who are you...God? How do you know if we’ll ever get pregnant? Just because this all too talked about phenomena HAS occurred in the past with some friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law doesn’t mean it will happen to us. You’re setting me up for a false hope here that you really can’t guarantee.

Also, adopting is not an instant fix. It’s a calling in and of itself. I know infertile couples that end up feeling called to adopt, and that is awesome. I know some who do not receive that call. A child should never be adopted because you couldn’t have your own kids, so you settled for second best and bought a kid. It should be done because that child up for adoption is worth loving and you desire to be their parents, regardless of your fertility issues.

Thankfully,, Jonathan and I wanted to pursue adoption way before we ever got married. We love adoption, and even if we had 10 biological children, it’s something we wanted to pursue at some point. But adoption won’t fill the hurt of infertility, and to assume it would is naive. It will be its own unique blessing.

4. Have you tried IVF/IUI/dancing like a chicken in the yard while a full moon is out yet?

Some of the advice we get is from others whose values don’t align with ours. No, we aren’t open to IUI or IVF as Catholics who actually follow Church Teaching because we believe it’s for our good. Just because I am not willing to pursue those doesn’t mean I am not trying. Don’t treat us like we don’t “really” want kids if we don’t want to try artificial means of reproduction.

We also get advice from crazy people who heard about something that helped a couple get pregnant. If you are actually sincere and care about us, I will not be hurt by whatever it is. I will likely research it a bit and talk about it with my doctor. If you are trying to be nosy or talk about something you don’t really know anything about - again, shut up and don’t give me false hope in this “miracle” treatment you heard about working once for a couple in Indonesia.

5. Are you having sex?

SHOOT! We have to do that? That must be the reason! Thanks!

OK - dropping the sarcasm for a real response. This questions is nosey and demeaning. Of course we know where babies come from, you idiot. With infertility, it’s hard to have meaningful sex at times. It’s easy to get burned out and for our intimate lives to be filled with pressure, stress, perfect timing, etc. It can become utilitarian in all honesty, unless the couple really tries hard to keep it humorous and filled with intimacy. Pray for infertile couples to never lose the sense of communion in this most intimate act, regardless of whether they ever get to co-create a life with God.

6. If you stop working out so much you will get pregnant.

I still have a healthy body fat and get a monthly period. I don’t bench 200 lbs, run 10 miles a day, or take steroids to beef up. I am not over-working out.

7. If Jonathan stops using a laptop or carrying his phone in his pocket, you will get pregnant.

Again, if only if it were that easy. And his computer is on a desk anyway and his phone is always lost.

8. Be thankful for the time you have together now.

I am.  But it’s also not the life we thought we would be living 2 years into married life, and that is hard to deal with.

I’ve gotten this comment most often from the “fertiles” who are busy raising kids of their own whom they conceived on their honeymoons/first year of marriage. I get it - they’re desiring more time with their spouse and have never really known married life without kiddos, which is hard. But it’s still hurtful. You fertiles are living the life I wish I had...and let’s face it, you wouldn’t trade your life to be infertile and in my shoes, and I know it.

9. Would you like to babysit my children to get your “kid-fix?”

Walk away before I hurt you.

10. Just surrender. When we stopped trying, that is when we got pregnant.

You are assuming I haven’t surrendered. Let’s be honest, I haven’t surrendered fully but this comment has spiritual entitlement all over it. As soon as I do the act of ___________ (insert surrender, pray this prayer, etc.), God will bless me with a child.

God will bless us with life when it’s His will. It won’t depend on me doing the right prayers, spiritual acts, or positive state of mind. Many women with infertility get pregnant while having never truly found peace with it. Some find peace with it and then get pregnant. It’s God’s timing and will never be dictated by me doing anything to force his hand. Is it possible he will give me the grace to surrender and then I will conceive? Maybe. It could also go a million other ways according to what His will is and I am just along for the ride each day.

11. I have the opposite problem. We can’t stop getting pregnant.

I know that can be a real cross too. I don’t want to belittle the stress that can bring to a marriage, but it’s just not the right comment to give me. Let me tell you how that comment feels:

I am stranded in a desert and on the brink of death from dehydration. You ride past on horseback, toting 100 gallons of water behind you. While you pass by, you complain about your assignment to tote all this water across the desert and how tiring it’s been. While it may truly be a cross to you at the moment, I can’t see anything but the 100 gallons of water and what that would mean to me in this state of deprivation.

Translation - I know you are struggling, but I can’t see anything but the sheer happiness in your family, and I am mad that you have it and aren’t appreciating it for the SHEER GIFT it is.

13. It just isn’t God’s will right now but it will happen.

You aren’t God. You don’t know. I don’t know. This very well may be a lifelong cross for us...we hope not, but it might be, and your assumptive comments, while attempting to be helpful, may be growing false hopes in my heart.
14. Have you tried this novena?

Probably. Again, if you have been through these waters or really care about us, thank you. I will look into it. If not and you’re just making small talk - stop, you really don’t need to.

15. What are your issues?

Yet again, if you are also struggling with infertility or actually care about us, I am happy to tell you/share stories/cry together/pray together.

If you are just a nosy person who likes to be “in the know” so you can gossip about our medical issues better hope I never find out, or I will seriously give you a piece of my mind.

16. Who’s heard this one??? “Want to understand marriage? Think about the Trinity- God the Father loved the Son and the love between them was another person - the Holy Spirit. In marriage the same thing occurs. The husband gives himself to his wife and the love is so real that nine months later you have to give it a name.”

I understand there is deep symbolism here but as an infertile couple, all I hear is, “I am not a real married person since our sex lives don’t mirror the Trinity in bringing forth life.” Comments like this make me feel like we are simply animals acting out of instinct and less souls experiencing deep interpersonal communion, since our acts of intercourse are sterile.

17. Last but not least - “Then we became Catholic and the kids started coming, because that’s what happens when you are Catholic.”

I heard this one at work actually...while sitting at a table with other people battling infertility. I couldn’t feel more isolated and un-Catholic than in that moment.

What do you think are the common misconceptions people have about infertility?
I’ve covered a few above, but I think the biggest would be that adoption is the cure-all to any infertile couples situations. “Just adopt” is the mantra of advice people seem to throw out as soon as they heard about our infertility. They assume that it will solve all our problems. I don’t think people know how intense and hard adoption can be in and of itself. If they did, they likely wouldn't be throwing it out like it’s some simple fix to our shattered dreams.

Within your own relationship, I am sure you and Jonathan had to figure out the best ways to support one another.  What did you learn were the worst things you could do or say to each other?
In the beginning, Jonathan was the one to say, “It’ll happen,” and then another month would pass by without a pregnancy. This began to eat away at me because it felt like a string of broken promises. We’ve since accepted that we don’t know the will of God. We hope it will be for us to be parents, but we simply don’t know. Jonathan sticks with, “God’s will is for our good. Never to harm us. If he gave us His own Son, why would he forget us now?” Statements we can actually cling to with firm hope, despite if we ever have children.

I used to say things like, “You don’t even care about this!” because he never cried about infertility or thought about it like I did. Now, I know he does care, but it looks different, and I’ve stopped accusing him of being a heartless husband or leaving me to shoulder the entire burden.

I imagine there is some tension in some of your relationships with friends not struggling with fertility.  What are the worst moves for friends with children to do?
We just don’t get invited to much. All the families with kids invite other families with kids to come hang their kids can play. All the singles invite other singles to do things, assuming the married folks are busy. The pool of friends willing to hang out with us consistently is newly married couples without kids...and as each year passes, this group shrinks since those couples start having kids. This hurts, but we assume that no one is trying to leave us out, it just naturally happens.

Worst moves for friends with kids - COMPLAINING!!!!  I think complaining is something we all should nix from our lives in general, but I can’t stand pregnant women or women with kids complaining. Women complain (particularily on Facebook) left and right about their kids spilling this, having a diaper blow-out, kids fighting at the store, them not being able to get anything done since their kid doesn’t nap...etc. I would amputate my left leg IF ONLY I could be inconvencied by a child. Those are all my fantasies! Can’t you see that these “obstacles” are linked to little miracles? Please, don’t complain about the biggest gift you’ve ever been given in your whole entire life! Treasure it, and zip your lips when you are tempted to complain.

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I know Amanda was nervous to share her responses, but I am so glad she did.  I imagine a lot of you are either thinking, “Wow, I’ve so been there,” or, “Wow, I had no idea.”  Either way, I imagine Amanda’s responses are a tremendous blessing.  

In Part 4 of The Cross of Infertility, Amanda and I wanted to end on a high note.  We wanted the readers to know the depth and reality of Amanda’s pain, but we also wanted them to know that life is not all doom and gloom for her.  We will focus on how to encourage and lift up a couple experiencing infertility.  Amanda will share resources, encouragement, and final thoughts on her journey.  

Specifically, Amanda will answer these questions:

  • What are some of the most helpful and healing things others have said or done?  What made these gestures so moving?
  • Being faithful Catholics, how does God play a role in all of this for you and Jonathan?  Do you distinguish between God's ordained will and His permissive will in regards to your fertility?
  • What are the best ways that you support Jonathan?  What are the best ways that he supports you?  
  • What are the best moves for friends with children to do?
  • What resources are available for couples facing infertility?  What encouragement and support would you offer them?
  • How have you grown in your relationship with God in this time?

I hope you will join us tomorrow for Part 4!  


  1. Thank You Amanda for sharing! I cannot even tell you how many times I heard almost all of these things and had the exact same thoughts as you. It blesses me to hear that someone else has thought the same things as me and been through the same struggles.

    1. Andrea, thank you for your encouragement of the post! Of course, after writing these a million more came to mind but these are at least a good start of the weird/insensitive/awkward things people say to us. LOL. I am glad you can relate. We've found strength in meeting with other couples and hearing their "unfiltered" thoughts, so I thought I would share some of mine. I am glad it was a blessing to you.

  2. wow - some of those comments people have made.....just wow! thank you again, amanda, for being so strong to share all of this. i can't wait to read tomorrow's post! - lindsay s.

  3. Amanda and Catherine, this is an amazing series of articles. Amanda, I don't know if this is the right thing to say (yet ;-)) but you are amazingly brave to be so honest about the difficulties with infertility. I have not had such issues, but my best friend has, and I struggle to say the right thing to comfort her (although she does know that it comes from the heart), so I look forward to tomorrow's post. I guess the only thing I can say is that while some people can be insensitive, or just plain mean (while thinking they are funny), we all struggle with speaking to one another about one topic or another - whether that be infertility, the death of a loved one, chronic illness or pain - and unless we are suffering with it ourselves, we try to offer solutions or sympathy to the one suffering, not knowing how it will be taken but thinking we're 'helping'. And I hope I've never given any of this advice to anyone (at least not that I remember doing). I know the best help I've had to offer is just listening to the one suffering or in pain - just letting them talk without offering the 'advice' seems to be the most sympathetic.

    All I can say, is that God has a plan for you and Jonathan, and at this moment, that it is to share your experiences and advice through this series. I pray that your marriage stays strong no matter what. Love one another.

  4. First I'd like to thank our wonderful Savior Jesus for giving you the strength to open up like this, Amanda. I pray that God will let a lot of people 'stumble' over your series as he did to me. :-)

    I can absolutely relate to every single thing you've said in this post. My husband and I got married pretty young (I was only 21) after having been engaged for 2 years. I had always (naively) believed that as soon as we were ready we'd have a couple kids and maybe afterwards also adopt a child. :-)

    After a miscarriage and a couple years of hope and disappointment I finally realized that God was not carrying out MY plan, but that I had to surrender and open up to HIS plan!

    Almost 4 years ago we heard our calling to adopt. It was not easy, especially since a lot of people kept telling us to pray this or that novena, to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, to keep trusting in God instead of adopting and surely God would grant us our wish to become pregnant.

    Despite all the well-meant advice (especially from my mom!) we knew what God wanted from us and followed his way. A bit more than a year later we met our beautiful daughter who had been born around the time we laid everything in HIS hands and decided to adopt! We have been parents now for almost 3 years and not one single day goes by without praising God for leading us to our daughter! She is the greatest blessing God could have given us.

    Now my best friend is pregnant and tries to share her happiness with me. I am happy for her, but in one corner of my heart, I have to admit, I envy her. I started despising myself for that feeling since I didn't understand it. We have an amazing daughter whom I love more than my own life. We are in the process of a second adoption and I couldn't be happier. Then why am feeling this hurt by seeing her pregnant? After reading your answer to the adoption question it all became clear to me. It is so simple, but I've just never seen it. Our daughter is a unique blessing, nevertheless the hurt of infertility is still there and I need God's grace to heal.

    Amanda, I pray that you may touch many hearts with your series. I also pray that God may give you strength and love for each other. May he bless you and Jonathan and show you his amazing plan for you.

    Simone (from Switzerland)

  5. Simone - thank you for your comments! I am only just now seeing this and I am so grateful for your encouragement and your story. You will remain in my prayers as you pursue your second adoption! I also hope that the pain of infertility will lessen as time continues to pass and that Jesus will bring the resurrection into that area of your heart. God bless!

  6. Amanda, you are my hero! :) I'm just reading this blog now- you know I think you're an inspiration! Love you, girl!