Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Tis So Sweet To Trust in the Lord

This post was originally written on January 31, 2006. I don't think I can attribute it to purely coincidence that our first biological son, Elijah, was born on January 31, 2009. Three years to the day that I wrote about learning to trust God in the midst of infertility. And somehow, I find myself ready to post this on January 31, 2012. God is in even the small things!


’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

And to take Him at His Word;

Just to rest upon His promise,

And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to trust His cleansing blood;

And in simple faith to plunge me

’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just from sin and self to cease;

Just from Jesus simply taking

Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,

Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that Thou art with me,

Wilt be with me to the end.

How many times I have sung this hymn? How many times have we sung this hymn? As I write this now, this song is playing in the background on the website where I copied the lyrics from.

I must admit that all my life, I would sing this hymn, or something like it, and boom it with all my heart (or boom it quietly with all my heart as not to ruin it for those around me who sing much better than I.)

And all my life, I thought I did trust in the Lord. The Lord was great! He had given me two loving parents, a loving spouse, a roof over my head, a Christian school to attend, athletic abilities that paid for college, fantastic friends, great churches, health. Nothing bad had happened to me. Of course I trusted Him.

I was in the laundry room talking to a dear friend a few days ago. As we spoke, we both, in our own way, had come to realize that trust is easy when your life is going as planned. While my trust issue is infertility, your trust issue and her trust issue was something different, but it actually all boiled down to the same thing -- wondering what the heck the Lord was thinking?! Where are you Lord? What are you doing?

Recently I have seemed to face this with many people I know -- great Christian people I know who have lost a parent, lost a child, not achieved the career goals they had in mind, been unable to conceive a child, been hurt by something or someone in the church. Suddenly the words of the hymnal become painful to sing. Trust Him? Well, sort of. I mean, I want to trust Him, but why the heck is He doing things this way? Why doesn't He do them my way? Why did He allow that to happen? He defeated sin.

In my case, it is looking around me and listing all the people that God should give me a child to before they give it to them. Yesterday it was a little Brazilian baby thrown in the river in a plastic bag. (She survived and people are now lining up to adopt her.) It's the people who have abortions (126,000 each day and 55 million each year). It's the teenage mothers or those who don't seem to have the money to afford kids having kids. It's the men and women who allow their children to be emotionally or physically or sexually abused. "Wait!" I scream at the TV or at the Lord. "Here I am and here are all the women in my support group. Give us those babies! Bless us with their pregnancy! We want those children!" It's a moment when I look to the Lord and say, "Lord, I'm not sure I do trust You. Do you know what the heck you are doing?"

If you are reading this, I don't expect you to relate to the infertility part, but as a dear cousin told me, "I can't relate to the infertility part, but I can relate to never being given the job I want." Or maybe you lost a parent who didn't deserve to die. Or maybe your marriage ended despite everything you tried to do. Have you wondered what God is thinking?

I am reminded from a scene in Return to Me (the greatest movie EVER!) I don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't seen it. But if you have, I am sure you remember when Grace (Minnie Driver) is sitting in Bonnie Hunt's living room sobbing due to the events that just transpired and admist her tears she says, "What was God thinking?" I can so relate to that moment even though I can't relate to what happened.

Some of you know that I am in am in an infertility Support Group at my church. It's a group that I helped start with two other women. We now have about 15-20 women involved off and on. (It's not a group that I want to be a life-long member of by the way.) The group is called Hearts Like Hannah. Last night we held our quarterly "Caribou Coffee" meeting and a new woman joined us who had tons of questions -- tons of things that she wanted to know if "anyone else felt." We talked to her and answered her questions and completely understood every bit of where she was coming from. Another woman there has twins from embryo adoption. She looked at me last night and basically said, "I know what God was thinking. If I wouldn't have travelled the road I travelled, I wouldn't have these two boys -- and these are my boys."

As I was driving home, I had the moment I had wanted since this journey started shortly after my 26th birthday. I somehow, finally, trusted the Lord. I have been trying so hard -- every step of this journey, but last night I could honestly sing this song and mean it. I realized that while the Lord didn't cause this disorder I have, he is using it every day. Romans 8:28-31 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to HIS purpose." Wait a minute! If I wouldn't have gone through this, I wouldn't have met this woman last night. If my friend with the twins hadn't have gone through this, she wouldn't have the twins she had. If I wouldn't have gone through this I wouldn't have reconnected with old friends. I wouldn't have the faith I have.

More than anything, I don't think I would be able to understand when a friend told me they were questioning their faith or grieving a dissapointment -- whatever it may be. But somehow, now, because of this, I understand. And somehow (and not to say I won't have days where I struggle with this whole trust thing all over again), somehow, I realize that the Lord has the greater picture in His view.

Wendi, trust Me. I've got your best interest in mind. I didn't cause this, but I will use this in your life. When you look back, you will understand, either on earth or in heaven, why things happened the way they did. Trust Me.

I am not saying I won't have doubts in the future, but for today, I am okay. I know that even if I don't have a biological child of my own, the Lord is real, and He has got my soul in the palm of my hand. I trust that.

-- Wendi Kitsteiner

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to help your infertile friend

Many of you have asked me my opinion on what you should or shouldn't say to someone struggling with infertility. I am speaking more to women. While this is a couple's issue, this is something that usually affects women much more than men.

So here is my short and sweet guide. If you follow these rules, you won't go wrong!


A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

  • #1 They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • #2 They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • #3 They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.

It is important that you understand that each of these three "routes" offers excitement, pain, and heartbreak in their own way. I have friends who have chosen or been forced down each of these different paths. It is important that you don't press them down any of these roads. Number 1 is racked with worry and fears after the amount of time and money invested. Numbers 2 and 3 are very difficult choices and usually not the first option.

Here are some things you should NOT say to them while you are struggling. Now if you have said any of these to someone, don't feel bad. One of my dear friends was struggling with infertility before I was diagnosed. Looking back, I said every one of these things to her. I have apologized, but she understands that I meant well. I understand that people mean well. However, the more educated you are, the better.

  • Don't tell them to relax. This is called the "R" word in infertile circles. This is very rarely the problem for infertile people. While stress can be a problem, it is often not the issue for people who publicize their infertility journey. Stress is usually an issue that is quickly rectified.
  • Don't minimize the problem or say there are worse things that can happen. Don't say this really isn't a big deal or shouldn't bother them that much. Of course there are worse things that can happen. Any life-changing event could be worse, but it doesn't change how much it hurts.
  • Don't say they aren't meant to be parents. Well meaning Christians often say this trying to imply God's will is sovereign. Faith and God's presence is a huge issue for infertile women -- let them deal with this on their own or with a Christian counselor.
  • Don't ask why they aren't trying IVF. IVF is very expensive with a lot of ethical considerations. It isn't an "easy" decision.
  • Don't play doctor. Don't give medical advice unless you really know what you are talking about.
  • Don't be crude. This should be obvious. Making jokes about "Do you need a lesson?" is just mean.
  • Be tender when making a pregnancy announcement.The general rule here is to not make your announcement in a public place with your infertile friend in attendance. Instead send them a card or an email and allow them to digest it privately first. Or sometimes you can tell the husband and ask them to let the wife know. Remember that they are happy for you but they are jealous for their own frustrations.
  • Don't complain about your pregnancy or your children. Obviously there are things to complain about but it is a wise move to find someone else to confide in with these problems.
  • Don't push adoption (yet). The general rule is to not bring this up unless they bring it up first. This is a very wonderful and tender topic and when they are ready, they will share. Why do most people not adopt and have genetic children? Because biological children is the primary choice for most people. Your friend is no different in this desire.
  • Don't start any story with ... "I know someone..." or "I had a friend who..." These stories often feature the exception, not the rule. The biggest culprits: "I know who a friend who went on a vacation and then had a baby", and "I know who friend who got pregnant right after they adopted." These cause chills down an infertile women's spine.
  • Let them know that you care. Cards or caring acts are appreciated.
  • Remember them on Mother's Day. Church is very painful on Mother's Day when you are infertile. John and I didn't go. We planned a fun day away from all the mother's with flowers. You can simply send a nice card that you are remembering them on that day like you would the anniversary of a loss. 
  • Don't tell them that if they adopt, they will probably become pregnant. The fact is that very few couples conceive after adoption.
  • Support their decision to stop treatments. Encourage them in whatever direction they choose. This is a personal decision. If they want advice, they'll ask.

If your friend (or an acquaintance) brings up their infertility to you, they are wanting to talk to to you about it. From that point on, the conversation is probably welcome. Start off by saying, "If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay, but how is everything going?" Most of the time, once a couple decides to share, a woman wants to talk about it.

Okay, so that's a lot of things NOT to do. But what should you do:

  • Pray for them.
  • Remember their "calendar" and send an email or card on a big day.
  • Put them in touch with other women "in their situation". (Ask them if they want to be contacted or do the contacting.)
  • Provide encouragement for them to seek support. A great online support group is: www.hannahsprayer.org
  • Attend Support Group meetings with them if they would find this helpful.
  • Invite them to all events but give them the option to "opt" out of events that might be painful (baby showers, baptisms, etc.)
  • Invite them to special child-free events whenever possible.
  • Give them poems or even books that you think might be helpful -- try to have another infertile friend give a "stamp" of approval on the book. Don't have a friend? I'll be your friend. Email me at: flakymn@hotmail.com. 
  • Offer to go to appointments with them if their husband is unavailable. 
  • Recognize that not being able to have a child is the loss of a dream. It is the same as a single person who wants to get married not finding "the one" or an athlete having a career-ending injury. It's a loss. They will move through stages of grief (ups and downs) including a time when they question their faith. However, they will cycle through this with love and prayer.
  • Read books that will help you understand the infertile woman's heart. I strongly recommend Water from the Rock to understand the grief process infertile women go through.