The Lament of Unfulfilled Dreams: Infertility & Pregnancy Loss

What is the first thought that enters your mind when you think of grief/loss? Perhaps the parent you lost to cancer or the friend to or your marriage ended in divorce. These are tangible losses that others can see. Sadly, the losses that stem from infertility and pregnancy loss are less thought of, despite the staggering statistic about them. Since it’s National Infertility Awareness Week, it’s a great time to connect this topic to lament.

Did you know that 1 in 6 people are affected by infertility? Similarly, 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages. Chances are, you or someone you know has been counted in these statistics.

Disenfranchised Grief & Invisible Loss

I mentioned before that miscarriage and infertility are often forgotten under the categories of grief and loss, particularly if one has not been personally affected by it. Why is this the case? These losses are not always openly acknowledged and/or publicly mourned. This is called disenfranchised grief or invisible loss. Those who lose a pregnancy may not announce it to others in a way that funeral arrangements are made. The loss is incredibly personal as the baby has not been introduced to the world. In the same vein, those who suffer from infertility mourn the loss of a dream, an ideal, or an unfulfilled desire, and this loss is deeply personal for the couple whose intimacy may also be suffering.

Though these topics can sometimes be hidden in our society today, the Bible uses infertility as a way to point to God’s providence, goodness, power, and compassion, and the faithfulness of His people who suffer from it despite being in the lowest valleys.

Take Sarah and Hannah, for example: both lived in times where childbearing was of utmost importance for religious and social status. Hannah was taunted, teased, and harassed by her husband’s other wife for her closed womb, and she was deeply misunderstood by her husband (1 Samuel 1:8) but she took her bitterness to the Lord:

“In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” – 1 Samuel 1:10 (NIV) and “poured out her soul to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:15).

God promised many children to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15), so their infertility didn’t make sense. They take matters into their own hands rather than trusting in the Lord’s timing and plan, but God, in His power, fulfills his promise and does what seems utterly impossible.

Infertility, Miscarriage, and Lament

What feelings did these women feel? Guilt, depression, anger, envy, fear, anxiety….I could go on and on. Infertility and miscarriage can breed questions and thoughts like:

“What did I do wrong? Did I cause this?”
“Will my life look anything like I imagined it?”
“What would my life be like if my baby had grown?”
“Does God see my sadness? Why won’t he fix it?”
“Does anyone care? How do I even bring this up to others?”

If you’re struggling with this right now, there is nothing I can do to change how you feel and I’m incredibly sorry for your loss, whatever that has looked like. And in fact, all of these questions are worth the struggle and fight to work through—within the presence of God through lament.

Trauma therapist Dan Allender once said:

“Lament is not an end in itself. There should be no question that God does not want us to sing lament as the staple of our worship, nor should it be our internal hymn of choice. But lament opens the heart to wrestle with a God who knows that sorrow leads to comfort and lament moves to praise, as sure as the crucifixion gave way to resurrection.”

Psalm 77:19 says that “Your [God’s] way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”

What does this mean? As a reference to the Lord parting the Red Sea for the Israelites to be rescued out of Egypt, we see that God often moves in seemingly impossible ways, ways that are beyond our imagination, and grueling for us. And we don’t always see the way He moves. But He works through our waiting to bring us through and to the other side of the sea. The other side of the sea may be children and may not be, but He promises to lead us to joy.

The Lord wants to hear you lament your losses and your unfulfilled dreams and desires. Your desire for children is a good and right desire. Your sadness is seen and your questioning is valid. If you are in a period of waiting, my prayer for you is that you can bring your questions to God and let Jesus rest his wounded hands on your wounded heart. Let the one who is sovereign over life (Psalm 139) bring clarity to the purpose of your suffering and unparalleled closeness to the one who suffered for our salvation and joy.

I encourage you to journal your laments in this season of life and hunt for the ways that the Lord is working in your heart. Get couples counseling with your spouse, because your healing together will create deep intimacy.

For some resources on pregnancy loss and infertility, see the resources below:

-Mary Shea – learn more about Mary’s presentations and seminars here!

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