At the Baptist Hui 2022: Ngā Mahi Whakamīharo, The spectacular Acts of God, Charles Hewlett and Kathryn Heslop spoke about our spectacular Jesus. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we see a demonstration and calling to compassion. A significant question arose from this: What makes you weep? Melissa Wilson, Senior Pastor at Beachlands Baptist Community Church, shares her response.

In our first Spectacular session of Hui, Kathryn and Charles asked the question: what makes us weep? And then we, as the gathered body, went on to weep in many spaces over our time together. I wept alongside you whānau for the people we considered and brought to the forefront of our conversations.

But there is a group of people that my heart weeps for regularly. 

As a young 27-year-old pastor, I sat in a hospital waiting room surrounded by heavily pregnant women. I was there for surgery to remove remnants of my chemical pregnancy (an early miscarriage in the first five weeks of pregnancy). My pregnancy hormones were not decreasing, which can be a huge risk of infection and, in extreme cases, death.

There I sat, my heart so broken. After four years of infertility, a round of IVF treatments, countless needles and several surgeries – I finally had my first embryo transfer. My husband and I were so excited. Two weeks later, we were absolutely crushed. Here I sat, with rounded pregnant bellies all around me, something I had longed for, for so long, and I came for a very different reason. 

I would go through three more embryo transfers that year, each one slowly eroding my soul to breaking point. The final one that year saw me as a shattered woman. After counselling and much prayer,  I was in a place for another try. With new drugs to try and much prayer, we welcomed our miracle, our daughter, into the world nine months later. And four years later, two transfers saw us have our second miracle daughter.

One in four New Zealanders experiences infertility, and one in eight requires medical assistance to achieve pregnancy. Infertility is not as rare as some think, simply because WE NEVER TALK ABOUT IT. My husband and I were very vocal about our struggle, especially in the struggle. Because of this, we have been able to walk alongside many other couples as they go through this terrible grief. 

It’s not simply primary but secondary infertility, those suffering from multiple miscarriages (some coming close to death from blood loss) and stillbirths. And the hardest for me is the young teenage girls I have journeyed with who have had to do fertility treatments to freeze eggs as they journey through endometriosis and other conditions that may render them unable to have children.

There is a level of shame, embarrassment and undefined grief that so many couples walk through. We don’t talk about it: “don’t tell anyone you are pregnant until after 12 weeks, as the risk of miscarriage is high”. So we don’t tell and then go through the immense loss alone. We hold that shame of our bodies being unable to do something that should be so natural, and so we keep quiet. I cannot tell you how many couples I know have split up from their infertility journey: those who end up unable to have any children and even those who do. The struggle to get pregnant, the struggle of pregnancy, and the struggle of newborns - it’s a recipe for divorce if you are not taking care of your relationship amid grief. 

I encourage couples we go through this journey with to be brave and vocal and build a village of support around them. I equally warn them that people will say things meant as well-intentioned but end up hurting them.

Whānau, I encourage you as you walk with a couple struggling with infertility (they are in your churches, I assure you) to think very hard before you speak. The number of people I had (all with the best of intentions) praying for my womb, assuming that I was the problem! They wanted to lay hands on me in prayer. No one ever wanted to lay hands on my husband’s reproductive parts; it was just assumed that I was the issue. 

Responses ranged from simple things like the above to full-on stupidity. “Is there something in your past you haven’t repented from?”, “why not just adopt?”, “who is the problem?”, “are you sure you are doing it right?”. A person already blaming themselves, questioning why God is not giving them a child, and barely keeping a marriage together does not need these thoughts or questions thrown at them.

So how can you best support a couple going through this journey?

Firstly, take a leaf out of Job’s friends’ books and just sit with them. Take notes from Jesus and weep with them in their grief. Be slow to offer advice and quick to offer love and grace.

Secondly, educate yourself! Spend a day on doctor Google and learn about fertility treatments and statistics in New Zealand. Watch some YouTube videos of people talking through their journey, and understand some of the lingoes. Learn some fundamentals about human reproduction, so when you speak with a couple, they don’t have to explain what they are doing in their medical assistance continually.

Thirdly, and most importantly, ask, “how can I help?” Pray for them to know God’s love. Pray for protection over their marriage. If you see that it’s been a rough day, drop around a meal and a hug. Every person walking through infertility will be different and need different things – so ask them what they may need.

Who do I weep for? 

I weep for the 17-year-old hearing the news that she may never have children as she is crippled in pain from endometriosis. 

I weep for the couple whose marriage is now broken from the silent struggle of infertility.

I weep for the mother who miscarries her child at home alone and must clean up after herself.

I weep for the husband who feels the need to be the support for his wife while he deals with his own grief in quiet.

I weep for those who have walked away from the church, from the hurtful comments that have been tossed their way in a throw-away fashion.

Will you weep with me?

If anyone may be going through infertility and needs some prayer or someone to talk to, they are more than welcome to email me at [email protected].

To hear more about Melissa and her husband’s journey, see her YouTube vlog, Myke&Mel:

Would anyone else would like to share what makes you weep? Email [email protected].

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