Recently, as I scrolled through Facebook, I saw that a close friend had posted a pregnancy announcement, celebrating their forthcoming firstborn. I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction wasn’t excitement for my friends. Sorrow filled my heart, as I saw a visible reminder of what I can’t have - biological babies.
And I’m not alone in my sorrow. One of best friends just experienced her fourth miscarriage, and another dear friend has struggled with infertility for over five years. Our longing for motherhood manifests itself in different ways, but our hearts all feel the pain of unfulfilled desires. Infertility affects approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population - over 1 in 10 couples! Roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. will end in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies under twelve weeks is one in five.
Pregnancy announcements and invitations to baby showers can be painful reminders of what’s lacking for women who are struggling to bear babies. I have a few suggestions on how these things can hurt less:
Limit Social Media
If you’re in a season of childlessness - whether it’s infertility, miscarriage, or barrenness, one of the most helpful things you can do for your mental and emotional well-being is to limit social media use. For many of us, it can be too hard to constantly see pregnancy announcements or monthly baby updates. Only you know what your heart can handle, but I’d encourage you to err on the side of caution.
If you have a friend who’s pregnant, and that’s all they post about, consider gently letting them know how it affects you. Chances are, you’re not their only social media friend who’s struggling with childlessness.
Invite People Into Your Pain
Suffering is hard. Suffering alone is almost unbearable. A solid community of friends and family will be the lifeline of your soul. It’s vital to have people regularly check in on you, know what your triggers are, and how to love you well. Allow people into your live who will intentionally ask how your heart is, and aren’t afraid of honest and truthful answers. Tears often scare people, because they don’t know how to react. It’s important to have a community who will care for you in the midst of tears and pain, and will be with you as you wrestle through difficult and unanswered questions.
When pregnancy announcements hurt, hold onto the promise that God has promised never to leave or forsake His children. By God’s grace, I’m still a Christian in spite of walking through the horrible experience of childlessness. I’ve wrestled with the Lord, screamed my pain, and groaned my prayers. Nevertheless, He’s kept me. The pain of childlessness might feel too great at times, but I promise that the Lord will hold you fast.
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik is the author of Longing for Motherhood; Holding Onto Hope in the Midst of Childlessness, and she’s worked for the U.S. House of Representatives on issues such as child welfare, religious freedom, adoption, and foster care policy. Chelsea was adopted as a newborn from Bucharest, Romania, grew up in North Carolina, and then graduated from Liberty University. Chelsea and her husband Michael live in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @Chelspat