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5 Things Infertile Couples Want Others to Know

5 Things Infertile Couples Want Others to Know

Let’s face it: infertility is awkward for everybody involved. Friends and family members often don’t know whether to broach the subject at all, let alone know what to say. Childless couples want some help and support, but they are often silent about their struggle. Churches know the issue exists, but often don’t quite know what to do about it. What we’re left with is the proverbial elephant in the room. Well, let’s talk about that elephant.

We dealt with infertility for about 9 years before we adopted. We now have 2 children, and while we’re still technically dealing with infertility, that issue is mostly behind us. We cannot speak for all infertile couples (we welcome additions, subtractions, or other comments on this post), but we wanted to use our own experience—with the input of friends who have experienced infertility as well—to be very straight-up about what infertile couples want their family, friends, and churches to know.

You probably know someone who’s dealing with infertility, even if you don’t know it.

How common is infertility? One in ten couples of childbearing age face infertility, according to The American Pregnancy Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a similar statistic, saying that over 6 million US women age 15-44 experience infertility. Since many infertile couples suffer in silence, you need to trust the statistics. We’re not necessarily urging you to seek to identify these couples; we’re simply saying that in all likelihood, you do have some infertile couples in your life.

Your church can–and should–minister to couples struggling with infertility.

Some very simple decisions make the difference between your church helping infertile couples or pushing them away. To determine how you’re doing, consider these questions:

  • When you celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, do you acknowledge—briefly—that while this is a day of rejoicing for many, it’s a day of mourning for others? These events can be brutal for infertile couples, since the purpose is to celebrate the beauty of a wonderful relationship that they are constantly being denied. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that the presence of a few childless couples in your church should drag down the entire celebration. We just think this is a great opportunity to follow Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning. Our pastor does a fantastic job of striking an appropriate balance. He focuses on the celebration, but he also reminds the congregation that there are people for whom this day is difficult, and he prays for such couples. Just a few words can go a long way toward making infertile couples feel like part of the church family on those days. It’s appropriate for infertile couples to obey the first half of Romans 12:15, especially on days designated as celebrations; but it’s equally appropriate for the rest of your church body to obey the second half in some small way.
  • Are infertile couples welcome in the classes and/or small groups that their peers attend, or are they encouraged to attend elsewhere because they’re “not a family yet?” Don’t exclude these couples from family-oriented classes. They may have some of their closest Christian friends in those classes; but also, these couples may have children any time, and can therefore benefit from your family-focused lessons. Maybe they’ll ultimately decide to try a different class, but why not let them decide?
  • Are you providing ready counsel and classes to address the weighty moral questions these couples will face? It’s likely that their doctor will strongly suggest things like implanting several embryos with the intent to “selectively reduce if needed.” The couple may have to make decisions about whether to use donor eggs, sperm, or embryos. They may be asked whether they want to freeze some of their embryos. They may wonder whether setting out on a treatment path costing tens of thousands of dollars is good stewardship. The opportunities to help these couples make biblically informed decisions and solidify their beliefs are tremendous; don’t miss them. In addition to counsel and classes, these couples may need to talk with others going through similar challenges. Has your church done anything to facilitate such a group? If a couple struggling with infertility started attending your church, how long would it take for them to find others who share their struggle, and get the biblical help and Christian camaraderie they need?

How to be a blessing to infertile couples.

  • Give them truth, not just sympathy. This point comes from Debbie Costa, a biblical counselor and member of our church who is dealing with cancer. When asked how others can minister to hurting people, Debbie said, “I need more than sympathy; I need truth.” She quoted Psalm 61:2: “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Sympathy is nice, but it doesn’t change us. Truth can help us think and respond differently.
  • Pray for them. If you know them well enough, ask how you can specifically pray for them. They might tell you that they’re waiting on test results, or deciding on treatment options, or making some difficult financial decisions, etc. On their behalf, appeal to the One who is truly in control of the outcomes (Ephesians 1:11).
  • Be careful when asking people “why don’t you have kids yet” or “when are you finally going to start your family?” If you’re thinking about posing those questions to a couple in their late 20s or older, understand that there may be some very private answers behind the questions. Are you close enough to this couple to have this conversation? If you are, consider having it (again, it’s often the elephant in the room). If not, let them bring it up if they choose.
  • Maintain your friendships with them. Infertile couples can feel left behind as their friends and family members have children and begin new lives. Don’t be afraid to invite them to activities that involve children. And don’t assume that they won’t want to go out to eat with you if you’re going to bring your kids, or if you’re pregnant again. Whether they come to activities or not should be up to them. Don’t make the decision for them by choosing to not invite them.

Infertile couples are not completely clueless when it comes to children.

My wife was an early childhood education specialist who had worked with hundreds of children over several years’ time, and dealt with an amazing variety of behaviors. And yet, when she simply joined in a conversation that some young mothers were having about children, she was asked, “and how many children do you have?”—not in a way to invite her into the conversation, but as if to imply that she couldn’t relate since she didn’t have children of her own. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident.

Such comments are almost certainly born out of ignorance more than malice, and we understand that. And developing a thick skin is part of handling this trial well. Insensitivity on the part of some does not justify over-sensitivity on the part of others. So the point here isn’t to say “shame on you if you ever hurt someone’s feelings.”

The point is that you should never assume that childless couples (infertile or not) are unloving or completely inexperienced. You don’t need to be afraid to leave your children with us in the church nursery. Don’t assume we don’t know how to feed a baby from a bottle or change a diaper. Don’t automatically think we can’t be effective Sunday School teachers. We can be as compassionate and competent as anyone else. (Just to be clear: we know that there are indeed things we can never completely understand without having children in our home day in, day out for years.)

Infertility can cause severe financial and marital strain, in addition to the emotional strain.

Infertility testing and treatment can cost thousands of dollars per round, and each time, there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Worse yet, it’s common for these tests and procedures to not be covered by insurance.

You may have heard of couples trying a procedure like in vitro fertilization—or similar procedures like GIFT (the latter was our choice). Did you know that such procedures cost about $15,000 and offer only a modest chance of success? On top of that, couples are recommended to commit to multiple cycles of some of these treatments.

So now we get to the kinds of financial questions infertile couples have to answer: how much money are we willing to spend to try to have a child? Should we sell our house? Take out a second mortgage? Move to a state that mandates that insurance covers infertility treatment? Skip vacations? How many rounds of procedures can we afford? Are we being good stewards of our money by spending tens of thousands on procedures, or should we be investing that money in savings, retirement, or charitable causes? It’s easy to say that a life is priceless, but would you say that about just the possibility of life?

If you think the adoption path is much better, think again. Domestic and international adoptions can easily cost $25,000-30,000. And while this may be more of a ‘sure thing’ than infertility treatments, the very decision of when to change paths from treatments to adoption can cause a lot of strain as well. How do you both agree to stop trying to have children?

Combine the difficulty of these financial decisions—which can recur for years—with the emotional rollercoaster of getting your hopes up and having them dashed, over, and over, and over, and over. Is it any surprise that some marital strain can result? The unifying desire of starting a family can eventually become a source of conflict when emotions are running high and decisions are not clear.

What can family, friends, and the church do about this? Simple: pray, encourage, exhort.

If you have a close enough relationship with the husband or the wife, keep them accountable. Ask questions like, “how are you and your spouse doing? Are you praying together about these decisions (Philippians 4:6)? Are you showing submission to one another in the ways outlined in scripture?” Help them remember that God has a plan—not simply for their own temporary satisfaction, but for his glory and kingdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). They may need to take a hard look at whether their shared desire is indeed what God wants for them. Infertility isn’t a blank check for self-pity or lack of accountability. We need to be encouraged, but also exhorted

Join the Conversation

What additional words of counsel would you suggest for churches and individuals as they minister to couples facing infertility?

Note 1: Contributions by Beth Nicholson.

Note 2: This article was first posted at Counseling with Confidence and Compassion and is re-posted with permission. You can also read the original post, with links to additional articles in this series, at 5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know.

This entry was posted in Faith, Hope, Infertility, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Gloria Furman

    This was wonderful– thank you! For our part (me and my husband), the two years we spent intentionally trying to increase our chances of conceiving our first child, we were specifically tempted to believe the prosperity gospel.

    At times we slipped into thinking that if God would answer our prayers for a child then that meant he was good and that we were “on his good side.”

    A few friends had the clarity and courage to sift through our emotions to tell us that God’s character remains the same regardless of our family size and that Christ’s work on the cross guarantees forever our right standing with God.

    What a ministry it was to us that we could trust in the unchanging God who did not spare his own Son for us!

  • Mitzi

    I learned that I would be infertile years before I married, and married a man for whom children were not a priority. As a child I watched a woman at church destroy herself, sinking into ever-worsening depression over her childlessness. Church people prayed for her to have children, but never really helped her accept that maybe God had something else in mind for her. I decided not to be like that. If God did not want me having kids, I would not worry about it. I’m a teacher (on hiatus right now getting a Ph.D., but going back into it soon), so I’ve contributed to the rearing of more children than I could ever bear.
    I would ask the church to accept that some of us can’t have kids, and are OK WITH THAT! Quit insisting that something dreadful is missing from our lives. Help the young and infertile to find a niche in your teaching program, or in other ministries. They have the advantage of NOT being soccer moms. Help them learn whether they want to adopt, or to join a Big Brother/Big Sister program, or tutor, or teach, or help kids in other ways, or stick to helping adults. Whatever we do, we have learned that the ultimate fulfillment in life is serving God, not necessarily producing offspring.

    • Brian Nicholson


      Great point. Beth and I had to seriously consider whether having children is something God even wanted for us. With the many options available today, it’s possible for a couple to push aside God’s purpose and insist that they have children in their family, whether through infertility treatments, adoption, etc. It can be difficult to discern what options God does and doesn’t want a couple to consider. Each couple needs to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit on this issue, and consider how their lives can best further Christ’s kingdom. 

    • Laura

      “Whatever we do, we have learned that the ultimate fulfillment in life is serving God, not necessarily producing offspring.”

      And one of the joys of the family of God is that we have the joy of raising spiritual children even when we cannot have biological offspring — relationships that are sure to last into eternity!

    • EAJ

      ” I would ask the church to accept that some of us can’t have kids, and are OK WITH THAT! Quit insisting that something dreadful is missing from our lives. Help the young and infertile to find a niche in your teaching program, or in other ministries. They have the advantage of NOT being soccer moms. Help them learn whether they want to adopt, or to join a Big Brother/Big Sister program, or tutor, or teach, or help kids in other ways, or stick to helping adults. Whatever we do, we have learned that the ultimate fulfillment in life is serving God, not necessarily producing offspring. ”

      Yea Mitzi.. and a big AMEN to what you have said here.

      As I read through this article I was a bit astonished on how the matter of not being able to have children is more of a problem for other people then I think it is for those who learn that they will not be having children.  And is made worse by an attitude that they need “prayed for”.   
      Sure it’s a sad thing but goodness we get over it if people let us.

      And as some have mentioned just because we don’t have children of our own doesn’t mean we don’t know how to love a child or take care of one.  We most certainly do.  And if we work with children in any capacity as a teacher, on staff at a school, baby sit, work in youth programs the list goes on and on.  We some times learn more about the behaviors of children their parents never see and can be important to those childrens’ lives as well.

      So.. that all said.

      Mitzi thank you so much for your thoughts about this. I agree with them completely.
      ~ Ellen, age now 61, widowed, and will never have a child, But I good with this as the Lord has made me a part of many children’s lives. And I remember each and every one of them. Praise God.    

    • HH

      Please tread carefully here. You essentially told an infertile couple that they didn’t conceive “because God had other plans.” That is another cruel thing infertile women deal with – the “God’s will” remarks by clueless clods. We’re already wondering why it was “God’s plan” for those parents who murder their children to have them, but not us. Think about it.

  • Banonymous

    My husband and I dropped out of our small group when each and every couple got pregnant within a year of one another. We then realized there was no other group to join so we stopped going to church for a while. It was sad and tragic for us. We were alone. Churches need to focus on these infertile couples as much as they focus on families. Fortunately my husband and I have adopted a child and are now going to a different church.

  • Anonymous

    Another issue to ask infertile couples to consider is whether the use of all forms of ART (assisted repro technology) are a God-sanctioned way to create a child.

    I think that IVF presents many issues to consider, such as the use of such powerful hormones (no studies have been done to see what effect these drugs have had on a woman’s health in the long term), the issue of creating several embryos who are created with the express purpose of hoping that one of them will live past the embryonic stage to see babyhood (sacrificing many lives so that one will live?), the use of “donor” eggs and/or sperm (is the use of a third party’s gametes within the marriage right?) and then there is the child who is created in by use of donor gametes (I can tell you from my own experience that little thought is given to the child and how they will feel about not knowing half – or all -of their biological family).

  • michael hall

    My wife and I currently have 9 week old twins conceived by IVF after 5 and a half years struggling with infertility and recognise the issues you raise in this post. My wife blogged about our journey here ( and here (
    which others may find helpful

  • Anonymous

    As someone who has struggled with infertility for eight years, I want to thank you for this timely article about an issue that is all but ignored in the church today.  Motherhood is perpetually under attack in our culture, and the church needs to work to defend and elevate the role of the Godly mother.  However, I believe that the opposite problem has arisen in our conservative Christian sub-culture.  In some churches today, motherhood is so elevated that a woman’s worth is entirely wrapped up in her ability to bear and raise children.  This is not something preached from the pulpit or taught in Sunday School, but it permeates our sub-culture in subtle ways.  I think I see this attitude primarily through thoughtless comments people make.  
    I’ve heard everything from, “When’s it going to be your turn?” to “Don’t you know that children are a blessing from the Lord?” to “Why don’t you just adopt?” to “What does a career have to do with having kids and raising a family?”  
    We must keep our gaze fixed on Christ and be careful not to make idols of any of the good things He has given us. We glorify God best by delighting ourselves in Him rather than only His gifts (including the gift of parenthood), and we are called to be faithful followers of Christ no matter what His plan is for our lives.

    • EAJ

      “We must keep our gaze fixed on Christ and be careful not to make idols of any of the good things He has given us. We glorify God best by delighting ourselves in Him rather than only His gifts (including the gift of parenthood), and we are called to be faithful followers of Christ no matter what His plan is for our lives.”

      Amen to this and thank you for posting your thoughts.

      ~ EAJ     

      • Suzy

        That is not right…Bible says to rightly divide the word of truth..God says He will give us the desires of our hearts.Gods will is his word, His word promises that we can be Parents..seriously your stripping people of over religious people that say things that are not Gods heart..

        • HH

          That is another thoughtless, cruel thing to the many devout Christians who prayed and tried, but were never able to conceive. You just told them they didn’t have a baby because they didn’t pray hard enough. Think twice, please.

  • Guest

    What I would also like for our well-meaning friends to know: we find the stories of Sarah, Hannah, etc. to be hopeful and encouraging, but we do not need to be constantly reminded of them. The miraculous biblical conceptions were often brought about to accomplish a special purpose of God or fulfill a specific promise , and not just because a couple wanted a child badly, had enough faith, or prayed long and hard enough. Though God is still the same, and can do the same things, he will probably not give or withhold a child for the same reasons.

  • Aubrey Tell

    Great article. I would also encourage people to have the same hesitation about asking when people are going to start having kids to asking when a couple is going to have their next child. It took us several years to have our son and now that he’s two, we get asked ALL THE TIME when we’ll have more. I get tired of explaining how hard it was to have him and that we’d love more.

    One of the great tragedies of infertility is that it makes you feel very isolated because this is not a problem that is freely discussed. There is often shame associated with infertility, which makes it even harder. I do think that those struggling with infertility can (and should!), as they feel able, open up about their struggles so that some of the shame can go away.

    Just offering a blanket “why don’t you just adopt” is never helpful. I should say that I’m a big fan of adoption and that we are actually hoping to adopt our next child. And in the right context of ministering to a close friend it could be helpful. But if that’s all your advice to someone you don’t know well, just keep it to yourself.

    But lots of prayer and exhortations from dear friends and church family are what has kept me sane during our struggles.

  • Banonymous

    I also want to point out that it is not always the woman who is “barren” as in the biblical stories, which is the issue I had a lot of times. There is no “counseling” available in the church for male infertility.

  • Brian Nicholson

    Great points, Aubrey. I agree that the blanket “why don’t you just adopt” advice needs to be used very cautiously. The people using that statement may not understand how difficult it can be to “give up” on the idea of having biological children. While a couple may indeed need to consider that their Plan B is really God’s Plan A for them, that’s a path that a couple needs to be walked down with care, not shoved down by well-meaning people who haven’t carefully considered how challenging that path can be. As I said in the article, I do believe the infertile couples bear the burden of not being over-sensitive; but that doesn’t mean that advice-givers should plow forward insensitively.

    • Kyle A

      Please don’t refer to adoption as “Plan B”. Kids who are adopted often have a hard enough time accepting that they were “passed on” by their biological parents. The last thing they need is to think that their adoptive parents took them in begrudgingly because they couldn’t get a “real” kid.

      • Kyle A

        I know that’s not what you meant, but that is what could be perceived by your wording. 

        Thanks for the article, though. It is something that could use much wider consideration by churches.

        • Banonymous

           My husband and I never considered IVF or other infertility treatments. From the moment we found out we couldn’t conceive, we chose adoption. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones.

      • Brian Nicholson

        Kyle, notice that I said it could be God’s Plan A. My point was that people consider adoption to be Plan B, in that it’s the second or third thing they try. It doesn’t make my kids any less special to me.

  • Guest

    Another consideration altogether is secondary infertility.  My husband and I had no problems conceiving our one and only child but after years of trying to conceive another one, including two rounds of IVF, we realized God’s plan for us was to raise an “only.”  This is not a popular view among believers.

    • Christina Brown

      We have one daughter right now that is coming on two years old  and we’ve gotten a lot of comments recently, “do you want more children?” and ” if you wait too long she’ll be spoiled!” I know the people are well meaning, but we’re allowing God to choose when our family changes if it does. I wish some people would mind their business. 

    • Finally someone understands

      I am sitting here in tears. Thank you. You are the only person I know who has addressed this. I recently received news that pointed to the fact that my son might be an only child. I feel disappointed and need prayer to help me get past this. Instead I have been condemned for feeling disappointed and hurt. Why can’t people just help me embrace what may be Goes plan for me instead of making me feel like I’m ungrateful for the child I have.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article.

    The pain of infertility is something my wife and I have had to struggle with in our marriage.  If your advice had been followed by people in the church, our toil would have been lightened.

    As to the ethical issues, the faculty and staff at Biola University have made an excelent start to answer most of the medical ethics questions.  For an intorduction to their work, please see the article
    Biblical Ethics: An Overview in the ESV Study Bible.

  • DSM

    My husband and I dealt with infertility for 9 years before we adopted our son.  From a woman who wanted 6 kids and only wanted to me a wife and a mom, it was the hardest thing I ever faced.  I will say after reading the article, the one thing that helped me get through the Mother’s Day Sunday at church was to work in the nursery and let a mother go to the service!  That helped tremendously.  I also had my mom with me on another occasion and that helped with keeping the focus on her.  I have 5 babies in Heaven waiting on me.  That is a wonderful feeling. :)  I’m almost 49 now.  We were only able to adopt one child, I am very grateful for that, but would have loved more.  Every once in a while we need puppies. :)  And having a new baby in the nursery is a Godsend!!  One day, I will see my babies in Heaven!! 

    • DSM

      only wanted to “be” a wife and mom…. :)  Also, wanted to comment on the adoption as a plan “B”.  I know in my heart that God planned for our son to be given to us from conception.  I know that.  It wasn’t “my” plan.  But, as a Christian, I did, after some stubborn back and forth with the Lord, accept that our son is our son.  I might not have carried him in under my heart, but certainly IN my heart.  God’s plan A is always best!

    • Brian Nicholson

      DSM, I love your Mother’s Day idea. Turning your own struggle into an opportunity to serve others is great advice, and a great example of how God’s grace can impact lives. 

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  • Rayannjones

    I appreciate your article. Our story is that when we found out that we could not have children natural and without the “help” of doctors we spent 6 months of prayers and tears. After that we both felt that God’s plan for us was to adopt. Long story short after 3 failed adoptions and months/years of waiting we a adopted a little of seven who also had failed adoption and waiting. When she was 14 we adopted another girl who also had failed adoption. Now we are waiting to see if the Lord has another child for us. We are content but we want to know what His will is for our family.

    That you again for your article.

    • Brian Nicholson

      Rayann, thanks for sharing this. I think there’s a perception that adoption is fairly straightforward, which is evidenced by the phrase that Aubrey and Emily brought up: “why don’t you just adopt?” The “just” implies that “hey, there’s a real simple answer here, right?” Beth and I were blessed to have adoptions that were quick and smooth, but during our research period, we learned that this isn’t typically an easy process. 

  • Dee

     My husband and I have not been able to have children thus far.  We have had one miscarriage that we’ve not shared with most people.  We have several nieces and nephews who would love for us to have a baby and we have often told them that they have to ask Jesus to bless us with a baby.  It is a challenge.  It is also something that we don’t talk about often.  It is a difficult subject to approach not knowing how the person you are talking too will respond. God has given us strength through this journey and we are very grateful. 

  • Laura

     This is beautifully written and so needed. Thanks.

  • Henk Vanden Beukel

    Well written.  My wife and I weren’t able to conceive for 7 years until finally the Lord blessed us with a son via IVF.  The journey was amazing, looking back.  One thing that every couple, infertile or not, ought to remember:  the Lord guides all things.  Take comfort in that as well.  There is a reason for this burden.  Also, remember, as was mentioned, prayer is the most useful tool in regards to infertility.  And, because our Lord guides all things, and realizing that He hears our prayers, never give up hope that you will not be a parent.  The Lord has a plan for each of us.  But it doesn’t always line up to our “wants”.  He supplies our every need when we come to Him in faith!  Let’s continue to remember all infertile couples in prayer.
    Again, well written.  Thank you for posting this.

  • Lynn

    And don’t be one of those well meaning but foolish people who tells your friend that the Lord told you that if you had more faith you would become pregnant. That happened to me. I also stopped going to baby showers, and I think that’s ok. You can be happy for your pregnant friend without feeling obligated to endure two hours of ooing and ahhing over their coming baby’s gifts. The Lord did bless us with two beautiful children…through adoption. Seven years of pain and struggle were worth every tear…they are both teenagers now and I’ve never been tempted to complain about any of the more difficult aspects of parenting. I see it all as a privilege and a joy, a gift of having had to wait so long, not knowing. I also recommend that young couples DON’T wait to have children…fertility drops dramatically after the mid-twenties, and just because you planned your family later in life does not mean biology will necessarily cooperate.

    • Rach

      That “you just need to believe” sort of line is one of my biggest pet peeves. There are a lot of articles on that line being spiritual abuse towards the chronically ill (Joni Eareckson Tada comes to mind, and Pastor Justin Taylor), but I haven’t noticed much of that specifically re:infertility. I do want to cover it someday in my blog. Oh, and I see my secular friends hurt over this too, thanks to a similar belief promoted by the Secret et al, that new age magical thinking Oprah helped make popular. I’m finally seeing it as a gift too. No idea what is in store for me yet… it is nice to hear about other’s experiences.

  • Greg Wright


    Thanks for writing this. My wife and I were married 8 years before finally having our first child, and there were some very difficult conversations during those years. We fought to realize that adoption, not biological children, was God’s Plan A for our lives, until I would say we finally surrendered while attending the “Adopting for Life” conference in Louisville in 2010. Little did we know that my wife was a few weeks pregnant at that time. We believe that God brought us through that trial to teach us several lessons. This article is a reminder of God’s grace toward us and toward infertile couples who are still struggling, and it’s also a reminder of how we can minister to others, lest we forget what God brought us through.

    Good thing this didn’t come up while we were talking at Christmas, or I might still be talking. Maybe we’ll cross paths again sometime in Findlay or elsewhere.

    • Brian Nicholson

      Greg, “surrender” is similar to how I would describe our change of heart as well. Well, I should say my change of heart. We’re supposed to be writing another post about adoption in the near future, where I’ll probably elaborate on that. Thanks for sharing this. 

  • Megan

    Thank you.

  • Psalm 113.9

    Something else I now know as a barren mother of two foster children (hoping to adopt by the end of summer, but if you know the system, you know how these things go): Just because we’re now parents doesn’t mean that it’s not still hard to learn someone else is expecting. I think the pain of infertility is, much of the time, the pain of not being able to be a parent, but for some, at least a portion of that grief is related to the idea of never carrying a child in their own womb, etc. Someone who adopted their son at birth told me that while she was holding her newborn in her arms, she privately grieved as her sister-in-law announced her own pregnancy. The same thing has continued to happen to me as I can count, right now, 20 acquaintances, friends, and family members on Facebook who are expecting sometime in the next several months. I love my children, and God has healed much of the grief of my own infertility, but it’s still very, very hard to see yet another picture of yet another ultrasound and know that I will never have something like that to announce to the world the miracle God did in my body. That said, I do try to focus on rejoicing with those who rejoice, and never expect them to weep with me. I can’t hold that expectation selflessly, and so I don’t allow myself to ask for it.

    • Thank you™

      Thank you! I feel like I am surrounded by people who just think about getting pregnant and BOOM its done. Why do I have to feel like I’m being ungrateful for desiring to know what its like to carry life inside of my womb. Mourning is a process. Let me mourn and pray me through it. You can go to God on my behalf without me being present and ask home to help me through this so that I don’t stay in a state of mourning.

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  • Guest

    My husband and I are current struggling with infertility.  We have been married almost 10 years.  We have been trying for several years to get pregnant and with the exception of one early miscarriage, are still unsuccessful. 

    We are finally at the point of going to a fertility clinic to begin exploring exactly what the problem is.  I guess the only thing I would like to add, and I am not sure exactly how to phase it, but here goes:  Because we haven’t received an official diagnosis yet, I don’t know that I can put myself in the official “infertility” category yet, but we still deal with all of the same issues as couples who are infertile.  The article, definitionally, only deals with “infertile” couples.  But what about those of us who don’t have kids yet, but are not able to get pregnant?  Being where we are in the process is VERY HARD to talk to our friends and family about because I can’t be like “oh we’re infertile so that’s why we don’t have kids yet.” It’s a tough a place to be – not having kids, but not knowing the full extend of why we don’t have kids.  People want to know why we don’t have kids (and so do I) and we don’t have those answers.  I guess what I am trying to get is that there are various levels of infertility.  Am I making any sense? 

    • Brian Nicholson

      Guest, yes, you’re making sense (to me at least). We’re actually in the same category as you. Nobody has been able to tell us why we’re unable to conceive. I was using the term “infertile” in the broad sense, as defined in places like the Mayo Clinic site: “Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year — or for at least six months if the woman is age 35 or older.” (

      I remember the position you’re in, and it’s tough. One of the reasons we held back on talking about it is that we just didn’t know what was happening. Any month, we could have conceived. It’s a slow transition too. These numbers are over-generalized, but here’s about how we felt: At 6 months, of course you’re probably not going to shout from the rooftops that you’re having problems conceiving. At 12 months, you start wondering, “should we tell our family?” At 18 or 24 months, even if you have no answers from testing, you start to feel very conspicuous, but you keep thinking, “maybe next month” or “maybe last week’s test will give us some answers.” Some people get the line in the sand that you’re talking about–a “you’ll never conceive” diagnosis. Others never get that line in the sand, and are left to determine for themselves when it’s time to start saying, “yes, we’re unable to have children right now.” 

      I can offer this advice from our own experience: if we could do it over again, we’d probably talk about it sooner than we did. Getting it out in the open might make things a bit awkward for the people that you tell, but they’ll quickly get past it, especially as you openly embrace God’s sovereignty in the matter. And more importantly, ministry opportunities begin to open up as you open up. God may bring someone alongside you to minister to you, or He may intend for you to minister to someone else. 

  • Anon

    As a couple still struggling in the earlier stages of infertility (about 2 years), my husband and I have been learning how in control of fertility God is. Children truly are a blessing from the Lord and Scripture is full of verses pointing to God’s complete control over giving life. We’ve struggled with the attitudes of superiority people with children have over people without children. We’re coming to accept that God’s perfect plan for us is for us to not have children (at least right now), but that doesn’t make us less of a “family” or any less loved by Him. The primary relationship God established is a husband and wife. We would encourage people to never even us the phrase “when are you going to start a family?” We ARE a family! Just as His amazing sovereign plan included for some couples to have children, his equally sovereign loving plan was for us not to, currently. Having kids can be a great source of pride, and we appreciate it when the church stresses that God is the giver of life. It shouldn’t be made such a shameful thing to not have kids, as even that is directly from the hand of God.

    • Brian Nicholson

      Anon, I love your point about the fact that a married couple is a family. I considered putting this point in the article, almost exactly as you worded it. As a couple who is still going through infertility, we do feel a bit of pressure to not make too many words/phrases “off limits,” because we can easily take it too far, and make it impossible for people to even converse about the topic. However, this might be one of the ones worth fighting for. It would make a great topic of discussion. 

      • ticket for walking LOL

        Sorry but Family only happens when KIDS are added to Mom And Dad.

    • Kinsey

      yes we married couples ARE family!

    • HH

      I’m glad that works for you. For some of us, hearing “it’s not God’s will” for you to conceive is as heartless and cruel as having someone tell us God gave our parent cancer on purpose. It’s a MEDICAL CONDITION. For those of you who said God chose you specially to have that child but denied others of us – PLEASE STOP IT.

  • Leslie

    My husband and I are both 29 and having been trying to conceive for about a year.  There have been a few people that do know we’re trying that have said, “You just need to relax.”  While that may be true, that’s MUCH easier said than done.  I would rather hear biblical truth about God’s promises and faithfulness, not pithy Hallmark-like advice.  We also have two other couples in our lives that struggled with infertility that both conceived on their own after 2 years.  Hearing how the Lord has blessed them through their own journey through infertility has been the ultimate blessing for us.

  • becmc

    “Oh, you have just the one kid??”

    We were married for six years (trying for the last 3) to have our son. During that time, each baby shower, each “when are y’all going to start a family,” and each unwed 15 year old still out partying were like daggers in my heart. I once had a preacher’s wife say in front of me about a friend who had stopped coming to church because of all the pregnant women say, “She just needs to get over it. I’m pregnant and it’s not my fault that she’s not.” Wow!Our son, Elijah, will be six this August. It seems daily that people ask when we’re going to have another. Sometimes I’m gracious and say, “It’s all in God’s timing. We’d love for Him to give us more children.” Sometimes I let the hurt get the best of me and pop off something smartalec. Their reaction is usually the same either way:: disbelief and wonder that if we really wanted another child we’d have one by now. And now the burden has been to try to help HIM grieve with our 2ndary infertility. He is nothing if not a people person. He adores relationships and wants so very much to have a sibling. I struggle so much with God’s plan to give Elijah the personality that He did, yet have him be an only child.

    Adoption is not an option in our lives right now, and I’m not sure it ever will be.  Huge financial mountains would have to be moved for a traditional adoption to happen. Many tell us that we “ought to just be foster parents; adoption’s way cheaper that way.” Really? Cheaper? Just because it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars doesn’t mean it’s cheap. So many of our friends have been through Hell emotionally as they’ve had kids they were so close to being able to make their own slip through their fingers back into the hands of people that are blood, but don’t truly care.  And my husband and I feel that the possibility of this happening would hurt Elijah in ways that couldn’t be undone. I seriously doubt my heart could take it either.

    My advice for people is to only ask couples that are pregnant how many children they plan to have. They’re the only safe bet…

    • Brian Nicholson

      becmc, we considered foster care as well, hoping it would be perhaps a faster (and yes, maybe cheaper) road to adoption. But as you noted, there are some serious challenges with foster care, not the least of which is the potential of losing the children you’ve invested so much love into. In our case, perhaps the thing that “scared us away” from foster care even more is the fact that our local foster care training clearly indicated that the #1 goal of foster care is to reunite the children with their parents. I understand why this is–and must be–the goal. But as someone who had heard that foster care was a decent road to adoption, this wasn’t the news we wanted to hear. With that said, foster care is an awesome ministry, and I highly respect anyone who chooses to serve in that way. I know that there are plenty of stories of people who have adopted, even multiple times, through foster care. My point is just that I agree with you: people who are recommending “just become foster parents” need to be aware of what that really entails, before they recommend it. 

      • Psalm 113.9

        We’re doing foster-adopt through an adoption agency, not through our local govt. We initially talked to them, but what they really need are foster parents, the people you described, who are willing to serve in this way. That was beyond what we thought we could do, really…and yet, God in His sovereignty led us there a little less than a year later, through a back door. We chose an agency because we wanted to skip the foster part but God chose otherwise for our family. To be honest, we wouldn’t wish it different – we love our children and pray desperately every day that God will strengthen us to finish this, no matter how long it takes. But at the same time, we wouldn’t wish it again. We knew what we were getting into…but we didn’t really know. Sharing these children with a mentally ill birthmother and an incarcerated birthfather AND the system has taxed us beyond our strength. We praise the Lord every day that He is enough.

        Our experience is somewhat (okay, very) outside of normal in that the children placed with us at the very end of 2010 (and we’re hoping to adopt before autumn this year) were very young – an infant and toddler, respectively. Obviously, adoption isn’t the right decision for everyone, and foster-adopt is…I don’t even have a word for what we’ve gone through on a sight level, but what God has taken us through on the faith level has been astounding. If I could assign a verse to describe what this has been like for us, it would be 2 Corinthians 5:7 – we walk by faith, and not by sight. 

        If anyone would like to read more about our experiences with infertility and the eventual decision to adopt waiting children, I can offer you our blog address:

  • Jon Bennett

    Thanks Brian, I can totally relate. Most churches and young adult groups take premarital counseling pretty seriously, another thing to consider (since 1 in 6 couples face some kind of infertility after 1 year of trying) is walking couples through these issues beforehand. 

    My wife and I have been married 12 years and we are expecting our first child in June this year. As one who understands what it is like to get the “when will it be your turn” questions, I still think it is upon us all to bear with one another, being patient and kind, it would have been so easy for me to have a bad attitude but that is only selfish and wrong on my part. The Christian community is meant to be a larger family unit where we can trust one another and share one another’s burdens, it is best for us all to leave our pride and be open with one another.

    Thanks for the post, grace to you and your family.

  • Jon Bennett

    Great post Brian, thanks. My wife and I have been married 12 years and we are now expecting our child, she is due in June. I have first hand experience of what it is like. To be honest it was worse in our twenties, because people thought we just didn’t want kids, now, into our thirties, people assumed we have not been able to so then are overly sympathetic. 

    You asked what else can churches do? Most congregations and young adult ministries take premarital counseling pretty seriously. Since 1 in 6 couples face some kind of infertility after 1 year of trying, I think more could be done to prepare our young people for the possibility of infertility. I certainly never expected it. We got through year after year by saying “it will be us next month.” The church is the community of the people of God, a wider family if you will. It is right that we share in an open way with one another so we can stand with one another in love. 

    I think more could be said for the attitude of the ones going through the difficulty, for it is always up to us to take care of our own hearts before the Lord. I would not change the situation I have been in, and I have certainly been humbled by the grace of God. Through loss and through renewed blessing, his grace is ever shown in salvation to us. 

    Thanks again for your post. 

    • Brian Nicholson

      Thanks, Jon. I love the idea of using premarital counseling as an opportunity to prepare the couples for the possibility of this trial. For the 1 in 6 who will have trouble, it will be incredibly helpful; but it would also raise awareness and sensitivity in the other 5, hopefully creating churches that intentionally minister to infertile couples as a matter of regular church life. 

      • Jon Bennett

        That’s it. Good word. There is so much that is “a matter of regular church life” that needs to be revisited and redeemed. 

        All the best Brian. JB

  • anonymous

    After about a year and a half of trying to get pregnant, my husband and I underwent infertility testing- at my GYN’s insistence- he pointed out that sometimes some fertility problems can be solved through the tests, and that sometimes infertility issues point to bigger problems that need to be addressed, so I would urge couples who are having problems conceiving to get at least basic testing done sooner rather than later. Fortunately for us these early tests quickly found the problem, it wasn’t “fixable,” but it was an obvious problem. When the fertility specialist says to you, “I can’t do anything to really improve your odds of getting pregnant and then staying pregnant but the choice to pursue fertility treatments is yours to make.” and “I can’t guarantee that you will never conceive, but the chances are slim- I’ve only had one other patient with test results like yours who got pregnant and didn’t miscarry,” what do you do? For us it seemed like the obvious answer was adoption. We spoke to a couple we know who are involved with a local crisis pregnancy center that occasionally does adoption placements. They asked us a very important question. “What is your goal? Is it pregnancy or parenthood?” I think this is a key question in these circumstances. We have been blessed through our decision to adopt. Our son is now 7. He was placed in our home when he was a few days short of 4 months old. We had a private (non-agency) open adoption. It cost us about $5,000, and we received it all back through the tax credit. Perhaps one way churches could help couples who are undergoing infertility treatments or who are seeking adoption placement is through fund raising.  On an semi related note our second child we call our “little surprise package.” Her name means “God’s gracious gift.” While we were seeking a second adoption placement- but with no active leads- Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a 22 month old running around, during adoption recertification (we needed to renew our certification every 12 months, if it lapsed we were in for a whole lot more paperwork than the small mountain that came with a recertification.) God placed a baby in my womb. For those who are told “relax” this was not a relaxing time, it was God’s time.  That’s what you are waiting for- God’s time. God chooses who each child’s parents will be, what family the child will be in. It isn’t for us to say.  May God bless all of those who are waiting for God’s timing for increasing their family. Just know this, God builds families the way He wants them. Just remind the probably well-meaning but misguided people  who make such thoughtless statements that it is up to Him, not them.

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  • ivf cost

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  • Anonymous

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  • simplyme

    I agree with Emily. I have been trying for almost 6 years. I have cried and asked God “why me?”. I have felt the pain of not being able to bear children and I still do. I feel utterly worthless as a woman. My body cannot do the one function it was meant to do.

    I received my niece through CPS over 3 years ago. I am a mom. I am struggling so much right now b/c my baby girls biological mother is getting out of prison and is going to try to get her back, we know this to be a fact. Once again I find myself asking God “why me?”. She was an newborn when she came to live with us. Our marriage has taken a big hit with everything going on. If anyone has any advice on this please post. It pains my soul to think I am going to lose this baby. I dont think our marriage could survive it.
    I feel that I have a purpose but why put something so beautiful in my life only to have it taken? Maybe I am speaking prematurely, maybe she will remain with us but it is highly unlikely. They always favor the biological mother.

  • Kinsey

    My husband and I have been married almost 5 years and have been struggling with infertility the last 2 years and I was diagnosed with PCOS. I often hear rude comments such as “Your husband is in the military he could deploy again and not come back..he deserves a child” While I understand what they mean, they do not always know the situation. I think more people need to just mind their own business. Just because we are in our late 20’s does not mean we do NOT want kids. We would like nothing more than to welcome a little one or two. God has a plan for us, which could include our own babies, adopted children..or just spoiling our Godchildren :) Have really been working on leaving it up to God lately..can be a bit of a struggle but we know it is the right thing to do. Thank you for this website!

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  • Suzy

    Wow, you quoted it could be Gods will that a couple remain infertile? …Wrong Wrong Wrong…people reading this, let me give you hope, get the promise from the word concerning having children, God will give you the desires of your heart, it’s called calling those things that be not as though they were…Gods will is His word, His word says He make you to be a joyful mother..Don’t accept anything less, Let me tell you straight GOD WANTS YOU TO BE A HAPPY MOTHER…don’t accept anything less,

    • kapodi

      Our desires do not always line up with what God desires for us. Our most important desire is to find our contentment in what God gives to us, Himself. Not being willing to accept what God has already given to us, which is more than what we deserve, is sin. Children are a blessing, not a promise.

      • ticket for walking LOL

        Jesus Christ came and made all the blessings of God YES! Read 2 Corinthians where Pual says I don’t serve a yes and No God.

    • Hmm…

      Amen! I will never accept the defeated view of modern day Christians that says sickness and disease and infertility is God’s will. His word says just the opposite. If you truly believe it’s God’s will then why would you go to a Dr. to get help as this would be going against God’s will. Be encouraged and never give up on the blessing of children.

  • Mary Smith

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  • DeeVC

    We are an infertile couple. I don’t really know if my husband discusses the issue with his friends and family, but I have basically chosen to lie. I have my loved ones convinced that I have decided against having children for very practical reason. I just can’t handle being looked upon with pity. I sometimes wonder if part of the problem is my dishonesty about the situation. I have always been taught that our words are very powerful. That we can speak things into (or out of) existence. I pray for a child every day and night, but any time anyone asks why we don’t have children, I say It’s because we don’t want to. Is it possible that God is withholding the blessing of a child because I have not been honest about my struggle? How would others understand the joy such a miracle would bring if they believe that It’s not even what I want?

  • Hmm…

    I am infertile and am praying God changes that. I also lift up everybody else here in the same boat as me. Lord Jesus by your stripes we are healed. We agree with your word God!

  • Hmm…

    I will never accept the defeated view of modern day Christians that says sickness and disease and infertility is God’s will. His word says just the opposite. If you truly believe it’s God’s will then why would you go to a Dr. to get help as this would be going against God’s will. Be encouraged and never give up on the blessing of children.

  • Hmm…
    Be filled with JOY and concieve.

  • HH

    A few more: Don’t say, “God will give you a baby if He wants you to have one.” This is no more true than God gave you cancer out of love. Infertility is a medical condition, and you just told your dear friend that God decided all those abusive parents out there are more worthy than your friend is. This is crushingly hurtful.

    Don’t suggest adoption. This is usually the first thing out of well-intentioned but clueless clod mouths. Infertile couples have already heard of adoption. They know what it is, and will consider it if it’s an option for them.

    Don’t berate them for selfishness if they say they DON’T want to adopt. Adoption is not for everyone.

    Don’t suggest they can just try again if they have a failed IVF, or worse, a miscarriage. That’s a family death, and you should express condolences.

    • ticket for walking LOL

      IVF is shaky ground. If you don’t use all the fertilized eggs you are killing God’s created children. Only fertilize how many you’re willing to take care of.

  • Gotta love islam

    Never Give Up. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Infertility is not God’s will but the enemy’s.

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