Something that God has really put on my heart this year was a support group for women and couples who struggle with infertility.
A few months back, Jack and I went to a meet and greet type breakfast thing at our church for the new members. This was the first time I really felt the pull to DO something about what I was feeling. (Remember the Connections Breakfast?) There has been a LOT going on at our church so that's why it's been since March and that this was my first meeting with Carole, but we have been super busy too.
Since it has been quite a while that I have been thinking about this, it has raised a lot of questions that I have been pondering over for a long time. I have also taken it upon myself to chat with other women who struggle with infertility on forums too to see what kinds of support groups they would like to see. What kind of things would the community of couples who struggle with infertility like to see at church?
There are all sorts of ministries in all sorts of churches. At our church alone there are too many to list that I'm not even aware of. We have a GEMS ministry (Growing Every Mother Stronger), WOW ministry (Women of the Word), we have couples ministries, addicts and recovery ministries, HIM (Hogs in Ministry), a food and clothing bank... just to name a few off of the top of my head. There are also ministries where people make food for sick families or for funerals, send cards, pray for the congregation, anything and everything that you can think of, there are people working on that.
I went to this meeting, praying the whole way there that I would just speak of the things that God had put on my heart. That He would let His will be done in the situation and that even if I just made these two women aware of the fact that there are people who struggle with infertility, that I would be totally okay with that too. I had no expectations of what would happen, I only had the dreams and pictures in my mind of how big what God had placed on my heart could be.
I was early (if you know me... this is not a surprise) so I sat with my smoothie and wrote a list of things that I wanted to make sure that I shared. And waited for the two women to get there, Carole and Renee.
They both arrived and we chatted about iPads and iPhones and all the programs on the smart phones, and just basically chatted about random stuff. Then we got down to business.
I started by just telling the two women a little about myself and about Jack and I. You know, the basics. Jack and I got married in 2007 and started trying to have a family shortly after we got married. And then into the, "God had other plans for us" part. I told them both about our struggles, about how at first we spent about $10,000 trying to figure out what was wrong with me and trying minor IF treatments. Then, finally after 2 years we had Jack get a semen analysis and found out that he had major problems as well leaving our doctors to only give us one option to conceive. I went on to tell them about how we thought we wanted to do Domestic Infant Adoption and how that turned out to not be for us... And how after that we just felt lost and confused. And then how finally God put it on my heart to consider and start praying about Foster Parenting. And then how God used a little boy standing in the front of the church to speak to Jack and move him to that. And how we met with Carole's husband, Pastor Jim and about the advice and encouragement he gave us. And how we are ALMOST done and ready and waiting with our nursery finished and just waiting on our well inspection and then we will be licensed with the State.
Then I talked about what it's like to struggle with infertility. How infertility can tear apart your marriage. How infertility can break down your friendships. How infertility feels so isolating. How infertility can keep you away from church to avoid the pain.
And then I started to share the vision and dream that God has put on my heart:
A group where women can come and have a bible based support group. That women can be given Hope that there are good things to come in your life, and encouragement to figure out what God does have planned for them and how does God want them to grow their family. Some it might be through ARTs, some might be complete as two, some it might be through adoption, or adoption out of the country, or adoption out of foster care, some might do embryo or snowflake adoptions. And just positive and hopeful support to help through the hard times with infertility, and to have people who are there to give a hug instead of an *e-hug* which is what so many of us that are probably going to read this have experienced. And then, we will have the support to be able to love people through their successes and good times too. I just picture a REALLY positive environment with people who understand your heartbreak. And understand how life is different.
What I DO NOT want is a little huddle where us women who are struggling come just to be a group of bitter betty's who sit around and hate on everyone else. I don't want to have us just become so engulfed in the negatives of our struggles that we lose our friends and everyone else that we have anything to do with.
I want us to be able to learn from each other how to strengthen our friendships and how to get through life as successfully as possible while struggling and living with infertility. I want us to be able to learn and teach each other how to go to church on mother's day and own the pain we feel and still be able to feel joy for others. (I am obviously not trying to teach by example here haha... as I was too overwhelmed to go to church on Mother's day.) I just hope that we can become these happy women who are hurting, but can still smile. I want to build each others' strength in this, because infertility is life changing and at times, crippling. I just have so much hope that this could be a big positive thing... And I understand there are hard times, but there needs to be someone to lift you up in your hard times, and that's what I hope we can do.
Also, I told them of how I think there needs to be a couple's ministry for couples who are struggling with infertility as well. The men need a place where they can talk man-talk to each other instead of being told all the time that they need to share what they are feeling. They won't feel pressured to just go along with something and say that they feel the same way, when they haven't even gotten a chance to fully understand what was going on yet. And how when the husband and wife are on different pages in their infertility journey, how that can begin to put a wedge between a husband and wife and being to rip apart a marriage.
With the couple's infertility ministry, I hope to create an environment where men are comfortable coming and if it means hanging out with other men in the garage while us hens cackle in the kitchen, then that is fine too... but I just feel like there needs to be a place for men to be men in this journey. So much of infertility is about the woman and pregnancy and all that... that men are sometimes left out in the cold.
I also hope to build a ministry where we can help to build couples stronger by teaching them ways of communicating about infertility... giving them ideas of how to rebuild their sex life to what it was before infertility, to build their marriage and their relationship back, to support each other so that we do not allow infertility to destroy our marriages.
So after me spilling this whole mess of my dream, Carole and Renee asked a few questions... and much to my surprise... they were already on page with the project. Suddenly Renee started talking about when she needed information to start these groups for the fall newsletter and how I only have a few weeks to pick a book or write a guide to go with each of the classes before the support group part. And then Carole starts saying, I think this will be so great for you and your husband to do together, would you be willing to host the couple's thing at your house? Carole starts discussing what day of the week I should teach this class and have this group... then Renee starts making phone calls to find out what rooms are available.
So I have about 3 weeks to come up with a name of a group, come up with a focus listed out through 13 weeks of classes (probably won't be very difficult at all). I also need to take some time with Jack to pray about what kind of direction for the couple's ministry to go. Then they do all the advertising for us and add it to the class schedule. Then in July, I go in front of the women and give a little summary of the study that I'm planning on doing and introduce myself and stuff.
This is just amazing to watch God really work in our lives and through us like this.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28