A THOUGHT for the Christian Man Whose Wife Suffers from Infertility

Hello Brother.

Your wife asked me to write this because there are a few things she just can’t tell you. Don’t worry, she loves you madly, and you’re not in trouble. You’re just like most guys, so that when your wife says “nothing” or “you know” when you ask what’s wrong, you say, “oh,” or “not that again,” and off you go. You might be longing to engage her in the conversation, or you might be sick of it, but you can’t bring yourself to get down to a deep conversation about it. I’m here to give you a little information.

The fact is, your wife has been aching for a baby for a long time now.

She suffers from baby hunger. This isn’t like a regular desire for something—such as a new pair of shoes, a new house, or moving closer to home. Those things come and go. This is a constant, profound hunger, and there’s something you need to know: hunger doesn’t go away unless it’s fed. It can’t be ignored, set aside, or toggled off. There’s no such thing as “forget about it and it will go away.” (There is, however, the mental tactic of pretending you’ve forgotten so that you can trick your body/mind into thinking you don’t care so that you will become pregnant. Irrational, yes, but entirely normal.)

Whether she’s still telling you this or not, it is true that every month when she is disappointed anew, her heart breaks. The recurring timeline goes like this:

For the first part of her cycle, that is, while she’s bleeding, she understands that it isn’t God’s will for her to be pregnant right now. She tries to convince herself that it isn’t all that important to her. She sees that it might not be important to you. After all, did you take her on your lap last time and let her cry it out? Did you say anything? Or did you try to avoid the topic? Worse, did you make light of it, toss off a trite bit of “I guess it’s not God’s will then”? Did you by word or action make her feel that she ought not to care about this, ought not to hurt, or at least ought to be quiet about it?

Well, those few days pass. A couple of weeks go by. Now it’s that time of her cycle that in other women is known as the “fertile” days. But for your wife, sir, they are known as the desperate days. Desperately wishing she didn’t have to notify you of the dates, wishing you’d take more interest in the timing, because the timing has to be right. Then, for the remaining two weeks, your wife is consumed with a desperate hope, a longing she can only keep inside her by intense self-control. She wants a baby so much, she thinks about it constantly, practically every moment, certainly every hour.

It’s possible that if you ask her, “Are you thinking about a baby again?” she might say no. Ask it a different way, “Honey, do you want to talk about babies?” is a nicer way to hear her heart. She may not bring it up all that much anymore, especially if she’s been suffering from infertility for several years already. You see, she knows by now that you don’t want to see the tears anymore. She also knows whether you’re defensive about it—whether the word fault might have entered your brain.

As the days get up to 26, 27, 28 (or 36, 37, 38, as the case may be), she can hardly stand the wait. In the end, her hope is so intense, she may get jittery, distracted. She may imagine she feels different this time. Then, hopes are dashed. Crushed. And it starts over. Month after month.

I have been rooting around for an analogy for a long time, so that I could say, “This is as if __________ happened to you every single month for years,” but I haven’t found it yet. Still, let me be so clear on this, brother, because having children is at the very core of your wife’s sense of being. It has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your other children, if you have any. She needs a baby like you need to feel like a man. It is her essence.

Nor does this longing mean she is not trusting God to fulfill her. Do you trust God to fill all your needs? Yes, you do. At the same time, you get hungry and thirsty. You feel needs. You long for things. You seek success. God does not tell us not to have desires: He tells us where to take those desires—to Himself, not to be dashed, but to find their fulfillment within His holy will. Nowhere in Scripture is the desire for a child seen to be anything but holy and right. Wanting to have babies is a good thing. She is not sinning.

Look at your wife as your dearest friend, the one for whom you work, the one who powers your ambition, and your dreams for the future. Look at her and see that she has a deep authentic need.

I want you to help her get that baby. “I’m trying, Lady!” you just shouted. Well, maybe you are, and I hope you are. But let me give you a few sisterly pointers to help you understand a little better how to do this. First of all, you must cuddle her up and tell her that you are sorry she hasn’t gotten pregnant yet. You must do this very gently and not in a hurry. If she has been pregnant, but has miscarried, you must tell her how devastated you are by that. Then, I want you to ask her how you can best help her. Maybe she needs to cry in your arms for a long time. Pray with her for this one thing specifically: that God will give you both a baby.

Now, when the tears are dried, I want you to say, if you haven’t: “Let’s go to the doctor and both get checked, and see what can be done, okay?”

I just heard you say you didn’t have the coverage or the money to pay for these expenses. You paid your car payment last month, didn’t you? You’d work extra to get yourself a motorcycle, or a fishing boat, or a whatever-you-want, wouldn’t you? Work a little overtime for her on this. Do this.

Or perhaps you said, “I know it’s not me—I have other children!” See, there’s that fault thing again. The truth is, if you haven’t been checked recently, you don’t know for sure. Do this for her. “It’s humiliating.” Stop that, sir. Think what it is for her, and be thankful stirrups don’t come into it for you. No one is sticking metal instruments into you and saying, “Now this doesn’t hurt.” Be a pal and get checked.

Then, perhaps in the same conversation, ask her: “Do you want us to start looking into adoption?” You do this. She might not be ready, but she might be. Could you take some time and look into costs for her? Different agencies? Tax credits? State stipends? Don’t make her do all the legwork and paperwork, although if you tell her, “Go,” she might just plunge in with her whole grateful heart.

Please understand that this is not about you. When Elkanah said to Hannah: “Am I not better to you than 10 sons?” he was fooling himself. That’s like asking a hungry person why he’s upset, since he has a perfectly good pair of shoes on. It’s like asking a person shivering in the cold why he’s upset when he has a bag of Doritos right there. The two are not the same. Husband does not equal baby any more than baby equals husband. They don’t fill the same need. The answer to Elkanah’s question is, “Um, no.”

Don’t worry—you’re going to love that baby when he or she arrives. That little one is going to call you Daddy. You are going to be willing to walk over hot coals or into burning houses for him. You’re going to willingly lay down your life every day of your life for her. You will also have the joy of knowing you gave your wife the one thing her soul desired: she will be that child’s mommy.

(For the dear brother and sister who both long for babies, but have miscarried—oh, this is sorrow upon sorrow, and a hope deferred that devastates the heart. I am going to discuss it separately in another Thought.)