We spent 9 years of our life in a small country town in North Queensland called Charters Towers. These are my memories of the people and events that were a part of our life during that time.
1 Samuel 1 (GNB)(2)Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not (6)Peninnah, her (Hannah’s) rival, would torment and humiliate her, because the Lord had kept her childless. (7)This went on year after year; whenever they went to the house of the Lord,Peninnah, would upset Hannah so much that she would cry and refuse to eat anything. (1 O)She (Hannah) was deeply distressed and she cried bitterly as she prayed to the Lord….
(1 5b) I am desperate, and I have been praying pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Don’t think that I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I am so miserable–
For most women their period is a natural part of their monthly cycle but for some it marks a regular time of grief 15% of couples in Australia are infertile. That is they have not been able to conceive for after 12 months in an unprotected sexual relationship. This statistic is on the increase. The reasons why it is increasing are still unknown but it is a growing issue for many couples.
April and 1 have been trying to have children for 5 years, with no success. It has been one of the hardest things we have had to face together in our marriage.
April says, “To be childless makes me feel less than a woman. Even though there are many couples that choose not to have children today, it’s still their choice. To have that choice taken away is painful. My monthly period is a regular reminder that 1 am unable to conceive and 1 feel like it is my fault. Even though the Doctors say that the problem is just hormonal and a laparoscopy found no problems nothing has seemed to work for me.”
For ourselves the medical profession has sometimes been less than understanding. This was especially the case when we first were trying to discover what was wrong and a lack of funds prevented us from getting private care.
“At first we were under the public system, that was awful. The doctor was inconsiderate of the emotional needs of a person facing infertility. He would make inappropriate comments and failed to see what he said was rude,” said April.
After one consultation with him April left the hospital in tears. To make matters worse he failed to prescribe enough of the hormone that she was lacking and for two years she didn’t ovulate properly anyway.
April says this has changed since she started seeing her current doctor. He quickly recognised the error of the previous gynaecologist and prescribed the correct dosage. But, even though he said that she is ovulating regularly and nothing can be found medically wrong she has still failed to conceive.
Another problem for infertile couples is sex can become a tedious chore revolving around temperature rises and monthly charts. “A couple of times we have decided to give it a break. Not from sex, just the constant watching for my temperature to rise and then ‘doing it.”‘
Families can inadvertently put enormous pressures on infertile couples. “There is nothing that my mother wants more than to have grandchildren. Even though she is very supportive it is difficult to face that 1 can’t give her that pleasure. Chris’s sister has three kids and his mother is devoted to them. 1 sometimes think that if we had children then we would be closer to her,” said April.
In spite of the huge advances that science has made there is still a percentage of people who will be unable to conceive. Psychologists say this loss is like actually losing a child.
“People have said to us that we are lucky not to have the hassle of having children. They say we get to do whatever we want to do. 1 wonder how they would feel if they had to go through the pain of losing one of their own children? 1 am sure if they looked at it from our perspective they might have a different understanding of our situation.”
From a Christian perspective it can often feel that God has left us out in the cold. “I often will blame myself and it is difficult to not to think that God must see me as unworthy to have children,” says April.
Once some friends took us along to a healing meeting because they felt sure the speaker had prophesied about us and our problem of infertility. We sat through most of the meeting waiting for some type of sign that it was us. At the very end he had a general type call for people to come up for prayer. We went forward and were prayed over. At the time he said a miracle had taken place but still nothing has happened.
It is difficult in this situation not to ask questions. Does this mean our faith is lacking? Perhaps we were just the wrong people? Does God want to punish us?
We have looked at the option of overseas adoption but it can be quite expensive. Now we have to wait for 12 months before we can look at options like IVF because we have just joined a medical fund and they have a 12 month waiting period.
April says that the hardest thing has been to face her infertility mostly by herself.
“Many people try to help us. Some want to tell us success stories about how they waited for so many years and then they finally conceived. Most of them really mean well. What I have to face is the reality that there may be no happy patter of little feet for us.”
“It seems like everyone around me over the past 5 years is constantly having babies. Most of my friends have families now and conversations can centre on what their kids are doing. In these situations there is nothing much 1 can contribute to the conversation. 1 have to sit silently and listen.”
Facing a future of childlessness is something confronting more and more couples. It appears to be one of the hazards of living in the 20th century. Medical research shows that sperm counts are down and sperm are much less active than they used to be. A recent report in the Sunday Mail warned of the threat toxic substances were to the human race’s ability to reproduce. Hormones used to stimulate food production may be confusing the brain’s data which controls sex and reproduction.
April’s advice to infertile couples is to remain optimistic. “It is important to keep a positive attitude. Life offers so many things to people. There is life without children. Chris and 1 enjoy many things together. At least we save money on contraception and he will never have to face the prospect of a vasectomy.”
Where is God while we are going through all of this? C. S.Lewis said once that God’s megaphone is through our pain. Sometimes 1 have wanted to get angry at God. It is not easy to admit that some things in my life lie beyond my control. Even with all the wonders of modem medicine IVF has a high chance of failure and it’s program is no guarantee that we will conceive. Ultimately we have to learn to trust that God knows what is best for us and through this experience we both will understand His voice more clearly.
Even though Hannah was blessed with a child she had to face the reality that ultimately it was God’s child anyway. There came a time when she had to give her son back to God. This is something that all parents have to face. The very thing that is closest to being our own ultimately belongs to our Creator and it is His to give or take away.