It’s less than two weeks away—Mother’s Day, which, like all holidays, can be difficult for lots of people. Those who have lost or are estranged from parents or children feel pain on the day set aside for honoring mothers. Included in that group of mourners are the infertile. For them the day serves as a reminder of the gift they long to have but that continually evades them.
The subject of infertility is surrounded by many myths. So let’s put some of them to rest.
Myth: Infertility and sterility are the same thing.
Fact: Infertility is not sterility. Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected relations and/or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term (about a million women miscarry in the U.S. each year).
Myth: If a person has given birth, she is not infertile.
Fact: “Secondary infertility” is the diagnosis when couples who have had one child (or more) are unable to conceive or carry to term again. Research suggests the grief experienced by such couples is as acute as that of primary infertility patients. The losses are simply different. (What do I do with my maternity clothes? I can’t avoid the church nursery... My child is begging for a brother or sister.)
Myth: If someone is infertile, it’s because she’s stressed.
Fact: The most common causes of infertility in the female are ovulation or hormonal problems, endometriosis, anti-sperm or anti-embryo antibodies, blockage that prevents eggs and sperm from meeting, and structural or functional problems with the uterus or cervix. In men infertility is caused by poor sperm penetration or maturation, hormonal problems, and blockages of the male reproductive tract. It’s not that stress causes infertility; infertility causes stress.
Myth: Infertility is a woman’s problem.
Fact: The diagnosis “infertility” is shared about equally between men and women. About 30 percent of infertility problems are due to female factors, 30 are due to male factors, and 35 percent are a combination of both. The other five percent are unexplained.
Myth: Couples who adopt are more likely to get pregnant.
Fact: The chances of an infertile couple conceiving are unaffected by adoption.
Myth: Couples going through infertility are at least "having fun" trying to have a baby.
Fifty-six percent of couples experiencing infertility report a decrease in the frequency of their intimate relationship. Both women (59%) and men (42%) report a decrease in their level of satisfaction, and infertile couples overall report having five times the sexual difficulties of fertile couples.
Here’s another fact: Churches can make "M-Day" much more bearable while honoring mothers by following some simple suggestions: Remember the infertile and grieving in pastoral prayers; avoid having all mothers stand; give a carnation to every women rather than trying to identify who does or doesn’t have children; consider calling the holiday “Mothering Day”; and emphasize the spiritual reproduction and nurturing that all women can and should do as followers of Jesus Christ.
If you’re going through infertility remember this: You are not alone.