Have you ever struggled with hope during your infertility journey? Perhaps, at times, you had renewed hope that you would finally conceive and maintain a pregnancy, only to receive yet another heartbreaking negative pregnancy test or pregnancy loss. Maybe you have been trying to have a baby for years and it looks like it will never happen.  Or maybe time has run out for you to conceive and your hope is gone. If any of this is true for you, I am truly sorry that you’ve had a complicated relationship with hope because of the anguish and devastation of infertility. 

Although many people think of hope as a positive or pleasant feeling, many people experiencing infertility find that it is a roller coaster mixed with disappointment and some even find it deceitful or painful. If we define hope as a desire for something with an expectation of obtaining it, it makes sense that maintaining hope in having a baby becomes difficult when we experience repeated setbacks or it becomes clear that it may not happen for us. At that point, we may no longer confidently expect our hopes and prayers will be answered in this particular way, which can lead us to feel heartbreak, anger, or depression. 

I’ve heard such struggles with hope many times from my therapy clients and have experienced them personally in my own infertility journey; hope can make us vulnerable to painful disappointment or despair when our journey takes another difficult turn. We become battle weary as a result of the stress, grief, and trauma of infertility and struggle to keep persevering in the goal of growing our family and we become suspicious and wary of any remaining hope. Sometimes, when our situation is particularly grim, it can be outright unwise to hope to bring home a child,  as it leaves us in a state of denial rather than facing the difficult grief and reality that may need to be accepted. Comments that “God will make it happen in time” ring hollow; indeed, although all things are possible with God, that doesn’t mean that we are necessarily going to conceive and maintain a pregnancy even as we plead and long for it.

In the midst of the darkness of infertility, hope is still possible for you and today is a new opportunity to choose to hope. Hope in what? Although you may no longer be able to confidently or safely hope in achieving and maintaining pregnancy, good things are still possible for you. Perhaps you may appreciate with renewed gratitude your marriage and choose to believe that there can be joy in the future because of your spouse’s companionship. Maybe you may renew your hope in finding purpose in other fruitful ways, such as through creative outlets (like me finding purpose in writing this blog post to you right now), relationships, parish involvement or volunteering, your prayer life, or your career. And above all, you may choose to renew your hope in God’s love for you, His grace, and the possibility of eternal salvation, even when it feels like He is distant, does not care about you, or has abandoned you, or like you are unlovable or unworthy. 

Don’t get me wrong, recognizing and fostering good things in your life does not take away from your grief caused by infertility or pregnancy loss and does not replace having children. What I am suggesting is that hope, joy, and peace can coexist with your pain and unfulfilled desire for children. Hope can remain a light in the darkness, shining in the nighttime of our lives. It may still be difficult and may not always make you feel happy to have other things to hope for, but it can help you get through those dark times when it feels like there is no goodness in your life or in your future. 

Infertility is a difficult reality to endure and challenges our ability to have hope that our lives can still be good. It can be hard to accept that God does not promise happiness in this life, such as the joy of having children, even as children are a “gift from the Lord.” He only promises the happiness of eternal salvation and union with Him through His grace, and we can confidently place our hope in that. My hope and prayer for you is that, in time, you will make sense of your suffering, you will find and cultivate sources of hope and joy in this life, and you will ultimately have hope in the next life, even if your struggle with infertility is never resolved. 

 

Edward Luersman, MA, LPC lives in Central Ohio with his wife Kate and is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Spirit of Peace Clinical Counseling. As a Catholic and counselor, his clinical focus is supporting individuals and couples in Ohio with grief, infertility, or miscarriage through online and in-person counseling. You may find him online at griefcounselingohio.com.