Sermon – Infertility and the gospel (Various passages) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Infertility and the gospel

Various speakers, , 22 November 2021

Members of our church share their experiences with infertility and how the gospel speaks to comfort, mourn alongside and bring hope to their lives.

This was recorded as part of our women's ministry series in "Life Experiences" at a recent breakfast event.

Please contact us if you would like to talk about any of the issues raised in this recording.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Good morning everybody, and welcome to Paulstone Winings breakfast. So I'll just explain for those who are new this breakfast, and I do see some new faces here, and you're very welcome. That we have just started a series about life experiences, really. So people that have been through particular experiences in their lives are sharing those. And we're really doing this for a number of reasons.

We want to see how God speaks into those experiences and how he's helped people that have been through those experiences. We also want the women the church to know how to encourage somebody that they come across that might be going through a similar experience. And we hope that the stories that we can tell will help them with that. And then thirdly, it also just gives you an indication of who in the church has been through an experience, and all the people that are standing up to contribute would be willing for you to come and and speak with them. If you felt that that would be helpful.

Or if you want to direct somebody who's going through a similar experience to a mature christian. So it gives you an idea of the things that are going on in people's lives. So last month, we had Emma, teaching on miscarriage, which unfortunately I miss, but I have very good reports about it. And this morning's subject is going to be infertility. So we are going to the main focus of this morning is going to be primary infertility, but we're also going to have At the end of our main talk, a couple of shorter contributions describing other types of infertility because we want to cover the this range of experience.

And I should also say at this point that 1 kind of infertility that we do forget about and I suppose it's it is this all infertility, but not a medical 1, is that of single women who choose to live a lifestyle of following the Lord Jesus Christ because if you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you are single, you really do rule out the possibility of having your own birth children. So that is also something I think that we should bear in mind as we are considering these things. So it's going to go like this. We're going to hear from Hannah, who's very kindly offered to share with us her personal store then we're just going to have very quickly a couple of other contributions. If we have time, we have a few moments for any questions or comments, and then I think I would like to end by us just praying on our tables.

Okay? If you're not used to praying out loud, don't worry. You'll you'll get this. I'm pretty sure you'll have somebody on your table who is comfortable to pray aloud around the face all. And then right at the very end, we'll just have notices, and then it'll be teer up, and we should be done by half past 10.

I'm hoping Yeah. That's the plan. So I'm just gonna pray for Hannah, and then she's gonna just come up and do his petal straight. Okay? So let's pray H heavenly father, I do wanna pray for Hannah right now, and I pray that you would help her to share this story of how you have been at work in her life.

I pray that you would give us listening is hearts that are willing to trust in you and to learn from these experiences and especially to learn about your love and grace and your help in these kinds of situations. I pray for any here who perhaps maybe go through a struggle with this issue, and I pray that they would be conscious that you are the god who is their perfect heavenly father who comforts and strengthens them and that they would really learn helpful things this morning. Any father. We're so glad that we have you as our father. We're so glad that you speak to us.

We're so glad that you worked in our frail and sometimes difficult lives. And I pray that that would all become clear to every single person here this morning. We are these things in Jesus' name, our men. So let's go. Dear sisters.

I've been asked to speak to you today on the difficult topic of infertility. For those of you who don't know, and you all do now, I'm infertile. Mhmm. My husband, Paul and I cannot have a biological baby we've been diagnosed as idiopathically infertile, which simply means that medically they don't know why we can't conceive. And that hurts, but because I desperately want to have a baby.

As a note, again for those of you who don't know, Paul and I are adopting, we hope to be matched with our child next year sometime god willing. But delightful that will be to have our own child in the house to love and raise desperately though I am longing for that, I will still be infertile. I will still not have the child of my body and my husband's love in my arms. But while the doctors don't know why I can't conceive, I do know why. And this is where I want to start my talk, Because underpinning surrounding and running through our journey of infertility is the Lord God.

Iron and tile because he has closed my womb for his own good purposes for my life, the lives of others, and the glory of his son. I've loved the Lord Jesus all my life. I've always known of his sovereignty and his sacrifice. And many years ago, as a student here Cornerstone, I was taught how to deal with suffering, prepare now for when the reality hits. So here is a brief summary of I know, what I have learned through years of faithful bible preaching and discipleship.

God is perfect. Holy. He is the absolute ruler of all he has created and nothing is outside his control. He has done everything necessary to make us his children through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. In his kindness to his children, he will do any good thing to make them holy like Jesus.

And here's where it hits the fan as it were. He will even send trials and suffering as a blessing to make his children like Jesus. And because he is the complete ruler of his creation, the plan he has is plan a. There is no plan b. In fertility is not God's second best for me, it's his best.

And to top it all off, he has promised never to leave his comfortless during this plan a. He dwells in us by his spirit and suffers a journey with us. So why am I repeating to you the gospel in a talk about infertility? Because without these foundational truths, it would be very easy to not want god anymore when suffering hits. So I've been learning these truths over the years, so that when infertility became a reality, I knew that suffering was to be expected, and I knew that God's character had not changed because life hurt now.

Before I move on, I should probably add that infertility is not god's design for women. We were designed to bear children and raise them to the of God. This was our creation design, and that is I think in great part why it hurts so much when we can't. We feel sorry. We feel somehow lacking and not complete.

But as a result of the fall, sin and suffering entered the world, and things became broken from their designed purpose. But god can use all things broken by the fall to work in his plan of restoration and reconciliation So now you have the backdrop and drumbeat of my life. Yes, I've grown in knowledge and understanding of Jesus, but he has always been there. So to my particular infertility journey, Paul and I were married in 2009. We had decided not to try for children a couple of years in order to cement our marriage and grow a relationship to each other.

And also to work out how marriage life was gonna work serving the church, less flexible time, all that sort of stuff. But when we decided to start trying, my cycle was wildly erratic. So I asked the GP for advice. Expecting her to ask lifestyle questions and suggest ways we could try and improve chances of conception. So it was a massive shock when instead she immediately referred me to the IDF specialists.

I was supposed to be going to work after same GP, but I had to call in to see Hillary Nichols first. I was so shocked. I was crying. I needed some reassurance, crying on the bus. I mean, we had only been trying for about 7 months and infertility had not even crossed my mind before.

My experience of the infertility service didn't really improve from there. I felt I had been treated like a sausage in a factory rather than an individual. And that feeling continued. We felt we were being processed rather than being treated as an individual couple, if you know what I mean. Oh, the consultant was nice.

Very nice and thorough trying to find out what the problem was. And they were very emphatic that plenty of Christian couples found that they could morally accept IVF because only 1 embryo is created so that none had to be disposed of and all that. But it felt demoralizing because they really just wanted to get to IVF. And I have never wanted IDF. On conscious ground, I felt it to be morally unwise choice.

That is very definitely my own opinion. Only. And I know many godly women who have been able to choose IVF. Another fact that it came later into our decision making was that I hate feeling my body cycle being controlled by drugs. I wasn't happy on the pill and when they put me on clomid to try and help increase chance of natural conception, I didn't like that feeling either.

And the clover didn't work in terms of causing conception. The next step would have been IVF. So we made a decision to stop medical assistance there. But even in the pain that difficult decision, I knew it is not a woman's right to bear a child. As I said before, our creation design has been and the old testament disgrace of infertility no longer applies because the need for a messianic line has ended with the coming of the Messiah.

Single and infertile women are now valuable because they can have spiritual children. I'm sure all this sounds very stoic commendable so far, a nicer side for facts and timelines. But obviously, it's more emotional than that. In fertility is suffering and I have suffered. We as a couple have suffered.

Let me tell you a little bit about the emotional journey as I experienced it. So first, there is that hit of not being eat woman. My body doesn't do what it was designed to do. So clearly, I'm less of a woman. And it doesn't seem fair when other women can see and give birth with such apparent ease, and in the world, many of those children are seen as a nasty surprise or an unwanted burden.

I'll have your baby if you don't want it. Coupled with that is the pain of loss. The family, I'd never doubted I'd have and the proof of my and love. So I let him down too because of me, he cannot be a complete man. And I've had those conversations with Paul when it seemed to feel like didn't feel like I did about it.

He told me that it does hurt to see his friends playing with their offspring and fathering them. We're still trained to think very much in blood lines in this culture. So below the surface, it still matters to be able to trace your family tree. And over all of that is the pain of the monthly cycle. Are still striving to make it work, praying that this time the embryo will fall and life will start Crying through this journey is pretty much a given, but let me tell you it really lowers the mood after sex.

But for me, for me, that's when the pain and the hope collide most shockingly. Because with these nopathic infertility no medical reason. The hope is always there that this time it will be different. As a sort of in a side, there was also an strain in the marriage as making love gives way to timing it right and getting the job done. And that's difficult and painful too.

Secondly, there is the pain of learning to live with this diagnosis. There's the donkey kit to the gut every time a pregnancy is in It doesn't matter if it's a private or a public announcement. Although private announcements gives you time to prepare for the public announcements. Just so you know. The kit comes again when the baby arrives and again when it's dedicated.

Then you have the embarrassment of crying in church and trying not to let people see. But also wishing that people would see and might think how much this is hurting you. There is also pain every time a parent complains about parenting. And pain when they don't quite know how to talk to you because they'll afraid of giving pain. My sister is the worst at that.

She hates telling me she's pregnant again because she knows she's giving me pain. Sisters, all of this pain is real and has rung hours of tears from me and from all to. Sometimes it still does. Although, thankfully, the tears are less after 10 years of the journey. There have been times when I've been curled up in a ball on the bed, weeping and begging god to stop the pain.

To send the child that I long for. I'm surprised the corner of our sofa isn't moldy, and it's a good job Paul doesn't dissolve. I've even cried over the phone to Paul, which is horrible. But when my second niece was born, my arm suddenly felt so empty when my sister's arms were full that I had to enter a pool at work that day. But the place I've gone most often to cry is the lap of my heavenly father I've always felt like I'm crying in his arms.

I don't know the reasons why it hurts, but he's got me held close. And I've endured because God is who he is. I've never been tempted to doubt him. I've never thought he's got it wrong. The why question falls before the answer God gives Job.

Less of an answer and more of a statement of who God is. I love that God. If I've ever once or twice been tempted to think that this is because of some sin of mine, I quickly turned away from that thought. This is not God's punishment. It's his love.

People often say that God is teaching me patience through this journey while I wait on him. And that's partly true, but I could spend my whole life waiting and still not get it right because his answer is a clear no. And it's wasteful to keep waiting for a different answer. So I don't think patience is what God's been teaching me. I think what I've really learned on this journey is that I really do have no rights as a Christian.

I give up all rights in service to my king. I have no right to a child. Even though wanting 1 is not ungodly, they are all God's gift. And more recently, I've put this to a different use. It's not my right to be healthy during COVID.

It's my responsibility to do all I can to ensure the safety of others. And I have gained an even deeper firsthand and personal understanding of how god deals with his suffering children. This has probably given me more empathy when others suffer in similar or different ways. Sometimes I doubt it and feel that this is an area that requires more teaching. Sorry sisters.

And more than anything else, I've learned that God gives us a church family as part of his dealing with us in suffering. The church family is where to turn to feel God close. The temptation when the pain was so raw was to not come to church, especially for dedication. The temptation was to walk away from the ministries of childcare and kids Sunday teaching that God had gifted me for. I discussed with Paul not going to church or changing ministries, but with Paul's help and the Holy Spirit's strength, I chose not to do that.

I chose not to walk away from God's plan a just because it was hard. The church was the only place I would get practical daily love and support. My family live too far away. And I love the babies and children in the church. I'd have been hurting myself to walk away from them.

So, few people in the church knew. Some older women in the church mathered me and some young mothers my age came beside me. I know they are the ones thinking of me in the dedication services. My sisters and brothers at Cornerstone have freely given me so many nieces and nephews in the church. Those of you who have especially lent me your babies thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In Sunday school, both Paul and I are helping to raise children in the and knowledge of the lord. And of course, not having children has enabled me to serve in other ways, especially in children's ministry. Because I have more flexible time than parents. Sorry, Christmas journey. This may be your last year for a while.

Thank you, cornerstone church family. You have truly been the hands, voice, and heart of Jesus for me. As a final few thoughts, I'm aware that infertility is never something that's announced, partly because there is always some hope that plan a will involve God opening the womb. But it does sometimes feel like it's the last great taboo in church discussion. My personal you, and it is personal.

Feel free to disagree and discuss these ideas, is that we need to be more open and honest with each other a family. I know that it's really not easy. I've been there and I still find it hard to talk to other people about it as well. But I think we need to try out of love and compassion for each other. To the infertile couple, I would say choose wisely some people to tell.

So they can pray especially for you and be available for tears and cake. Those people are amazing. And don't be offended when people ask you about when or what children, especially if they're church family. It does hurt to be asked, but very few people mean to hurt you. Yeah.

To the church family, I want say do you ask, in the context of a relationship being or already built, ask gently and lovingly, but ask. I'm just going to pause here to insert a few unhelpful things you probably shouldn't say. Don't remind me of Hannah or Sarah or Elizabeth or any other infertile woman miraculously given a child. Believe me, I already know those women Because I'm not a pre mess, ionic woman, those women provide false hope. Also, don't point out how lucky I really am not to have children when your own children are misbehaving.

I'd give almost anything to have your parenting difficulties. And in a similar vein, it's not helpful when you are grieving again to be told that God has a plan. I know that's what I've been saying throughout this talk. But in the midst of immediate pain, it really less helpful than you might think. On the positive side, you can remind me that Jesus wept at the pain in the world.

And that he still has compassion, bowel churning compassion on those who grieve. Remind me that it's to want this good gift from God. And that I'm not somehow weird for wanting the gift that I'm clearly being denied. And if you can say all that with your arms around me, a prayer to follow, I will feel the hands and the compassion of Jesus. So those are some ways you can minister to our pain.

But please also allow me into your lives. Please don't stop sharing your good news of pregnancies and births. Please tell me when you're struggling with parenting. I believe church family are there to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who mourn. You do it for me.

I'll do it for you. As I said to my sister back when she was struggling to tell me about her pregnancy, my job is the pain. Yours is to let me share celebrate your good news. I'll find someone else to cry with. Circling back slightly, you might disagree that being asked about your status is a good and necessary thing.

But personally, my greatest pain now comes from people not asking. You might infer from context Oh, they're adopting. Obviously, they can't have children or oh, they've been married a little while now. Maybe they can't have children. But I felt so loved when someone actually asked me question to make sure.

I'd rather be hurt by feeling someone cares enough to try than to be hurt by ling no 1 cares. The last way to help infertile couples, dear sisters is to please remember we exist. Infertility is a lonely and hidden grief. We're not exciting newlyweds. We're not single people who might need extra support during times of difficulty or joy.

And we're not families with children of any age to care for and worry about, but we still belong to your family. So don't forget us. Even if you don't know who we are. Thank you. That was such an honest mature, biblical perspective.

I hope that you really found that helpful, very moving. It's very hard to know what to say. Afterwards. Yeah. I think we we probably will have a a little chance for questions and comments in a minute.

So if you're happy with that, Hannah, there'll be a few others in the room that might be able to answer some of those as well. Yeah. Okay. I did say that we we were going to sort of extend slightly the range of experiences by having a couple of other contributions. So Laura was just going to come up.

So some of you might be surprised. I'm up here. As many of you know, I have 2 children. I have Caleb and Imogene. And and I guess first of all, obviously, I need to say.

Sorry. I almost made me really cry. Oh my god. I am by no means. In comparison with someone like Hannah, anyone that's really struggled within fertility.

But I guess, you know, as I've said, we wanted to kind of arrange your experiences. Sorry. I'm in the right state with with infertility. May need really to hopefully be from fun and encouragement to some of you who struggle. I have 2, but children as you all know.

But also, I guess I can said to be a woman here to say, please come and talk. If you which sounds helpful. So, I mean, for us, we were married similar to Hannah, trying for a while. No 1 really notes today. You don't start to announce to everyone.

You're trying for a child. And and it just wasn't happening. So it was probably about 8 or 10 months, I this is not quite right. I'm missing periods, but I haven't got positive pregnancy tests of what's going on. So it was a similar time I was being diagnosed with celiac's disease.

So I was pretty unhealthy, and the doctors thought it could possibly be a bioproduct of celiac's disease that just can't conceive. I had some blood tests and and I got sent for a scan and over a scan. And I feel okay. It's not quite right then. Something's going a bit wrong here.

And and I remember vividly having the scan and looking at the screen and seeing my ovary is just full of cysts, just completely full of cysts. And the lady confirming at the scan that I had something called polycystic ovary syndrome. And but then made a comment to me which has stuck with me ever since Don't worry. They can do a lot to help people like you and having children. And she meant it in a she meant it in a helpful way.

But I think the realization to me then was oh goodness. My body has got something wrong with it and there is very very real ability that we might not be be able to have children in this way. And I just remember getting into the car and not on the bus, thankfully, but getting into the car. And sobbing the whole way home, like literally sobbing. It's still in the lift in my old flat, sobbing the whole way up.

Typically, my neighbor gets in the lifts and I'm in a state. You know, and and just sitting and crying. And and I think really what I want to to share with you is that as I'm Hannah said it also wonderfully and really compared to her, this my struggles are nothing but there is a real pain and a real grief that comes with it. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests is horrible. And then particularly, you find out that you have something wrong with you, that's pretty hard.

But I think it can also become simple. I think I certainly struggled with that. I think you can wrestle with God's goodness and trust in his proper and that can really take away from it that actually he is still good and he still has a plan for my life even if that means not having children naturally. In that sense and I really struggled to hold on to that truth. I think also real difficulty was it's very easy to be consumed by wanting a baby and trying for a baby and all the difficulties Hannah said that comes with it in marriage is real.

It's horrible. It's a struggle. And particularly for me with polycystic ovary syndrome, if you change your diet and you do exercise, They say that can really help you. So things that you can kinda control. You want to control.

So you cut out refined sugar and you go swimming before work and you think you somehow control it. And then when it still doesn't happen, that's a real struggle. And I think that certainly had an effect on me during my urgency then with Caleb and then afterwards because I was terrified that something was gonna happen and that God would take this child away again. So I think that fed into a lot of anxiety problems. I mean as Hannah said, I felt enough Tom had never ever said this to me, but it was my fault.

It was my body that was gonna cause us to potentially not have children. And that was really tough particularly then when you start to talk about fertility referrals. Men have to have tests too. And they are not nice tests. So that's really tough as well.

Things I found helpful just quickly to share. You know, God does give us his word and I really really had to chew over verses about his sovereignty, his greatness and goodness and his love for me even if his plan wasn't my plan. I really had to chew over that that a lot. But I did write this before it up. But, you know, god god god does give us a church family and people.

And honestly, Hannah has been a real crutch to me through my journey with this as well. This I'm getting emotional now. You know, someone that's actually bad in a really godly way for me was Hannah. Her grief is real. The grief is very real and she went far further down the fertility treatment line than we ever did.

And just the way that she dealt with everything. So spiritually and emotionally but not let it take over her, not letting it define her. Just letting Jesus define her even even through the the pain that she was going through was a real real example to me. The fact that she knew she could be a mother in church and still serves was wonderful and just her trust that despite the pain and and it not being, you know, necessarily watched she wants, she makes the best of it. And that was hugely influential for me.

So I guess, you know, I'm standing here partly because I want to say, look at people canner and and learn from them. That's why we're really church friendly. And that's wonderful. I didn't think I'd be this up says. Alright.

And then, I guess, you know, obviously for me that all changed. So we did in the end get referred to Fertility fertility treatment. And I think you should be aware that actually GPUs won't refer you until you've at least been trying for a year. So often there's a whole year of pain that come before you even get put on the books and then you have to wait longer for an appointment to come through. So my appointment finally came through and actually a month a month before I was meant to go, we managed to conceive Caleb.

So my journey ended there in terms of that stage room fertility. We spoke about adoption. Adoption was definitely something we wanted to do. If the fertility treatment didn't work for us. I've got to think similarly to Hannah.

We personally drew the line. But this, to be fair, we drew the line without talking to a consultant and without kind of really understanding the whole process. But for us initially, we weren't sure we would go as far as IVF. Because of the by products of it, that was more our our kinda and it's cool, but we didn't explore that in great depth. And then obviously after we had Caleb, they comes.

Okay. Well, we'd like to try for another 1. And, obviously, we do have imaging but you still as I've got polycystic COBRA syndrome, never know what's gonna happen and you go through the the process again. In that sense. So, yeah, that's that's my story and look to people in the church, I would say, is my opinion.

Who are have walked through who are walking through similar things and get alongside each other because really they are a wonderful blessing from God who uses a lush goggles, I think. So yeah. Okay. Thanks. I think what Laura's contribution demonstrates is that, although her outcome is different from Hannah's.

When you're in, that's situation. It's the same pain and the advice is the same, things that she's learned are the same. And I just wanted to very quickly add my story, which is that I had secondary infertility. So I was able to have Pete and I were able to have a daughter, where he'd like daughter. And actually, she was a surprise.

This was also this is also quite an interesting lesson in my life. We were particularly aiming to have a baby at that time and I suddenly found I was pregnant. So then 2 years after her birth, I thought, okay. Well, you know, 2 years is the sort of a fairly standard gap is it. We'll try for a sibling and nothing happened.

And after 2 years, I went for infertility treatment. And eventually, they discovered that I must have had at some stage, and I still don't know when this happened a pelvic infection, and it had scarred my ovaries. And I had a 5 percent chance of becoming pregnant. And I can relate to the devastating nature of that news to discover that you you feel that probably doesn't work properly. And I've really I've really understood that we are not in control of our fertility.

You know? We think in these days of contraception and fertility treatments that we can plan our families. I mean, we Pete and I do marriage prep, you know. 1 of the questions we ask is have he talked about, you know, children and how many he would like to have. But we always say now.

But based on my experience, you know, wasn't trying to have a baby and a baby came along, tried to have a baby and and and couldn't have 1. You are not in control. It is all in God's hands, and I just love that perspective that Hannah gave, but it's not plan b. It's planning. It is for your best.

And and when we can trust god like that, that is the key, I think, to it really helping us. And so this is a whole other subject, but we went down the route of the dock and you all know Carl. Most of you will know Carl. He's we adopted at the age of 6 in his 23, and that's a whole miraculous story and another story in its own right. But I would certainly say, a doc is a really biblical thing.

It's a wonderful thing for people to be able to do. Much, much needed, you know. And possibly, you know, that's why God allows some of us to go through infertility because there aren't these children that desperately need families and families who love the lord.

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