Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Church Recognizes Pain of Infertility

I haven't had any personal experience with this church (beyond very prompt and helpful email replies to my inquiry about their upcoming service), but ran across a post on Facebook that I wanted to pass along. They write, "Next Week (May 30th) lesson in the series of 'Family Matters' we will talk about the Pain of Infertility. Look forward to seeing you there!"

In personal email, Pastor Rob Helton states, "the main part of the message time that day will be couples sharing their stories." The service should be posted to their website after the 30th and I am hopeful that it will be a podcast that will be of benefit to many. :)

Zoar Baptist Church is a Baptist Church in Shelby, NC. "We offer a contemporary and a traditional service."
1740 South Lafayette Street
Shelby, NC, 28152

Having just posted about Infertility in the Church a few days ago, I was especially thrilled to find a wonderful example of a church that can both rejoice with those who rejoice and still grieve with hurting hearts! If anyone lives near this church and is able to attend on Sunday, I would love your feedback!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Infertiilty and the Church

Came across this article and thought it was worthwhile to share. The Lookout Magazine - Fertility Intervention and the Church

Looking for a tool to share with your own pastor? I recently posted a letter to pastors concerning Mother's Day that might be a helpful starting place.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Heaven Born

Today I've been blessed to hear of three different give-aways for moms of HeavenBorn babies. Most are time sensitive, so please go, visit, share with hurting hearts...

Give Away for I Will Carry You: the Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (1 copy randomly given away to one comment on the Holy Experience blog today, comment by 9EST)

If you don't win that copy, anyone who is willing to register for a Barnes & Noble account can receive a free digital copy of I Will Carry You here. (I did not see an expiration date, but I would expect this to be a limited time offer.)

Forever My Child $50 gift certificate give-away
from We are THAT Family ends Thursday. FMC offers:
~Memorial Jewelry for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Pregnancy and Infant Loss to honor the tiny souls that touch and change your life, but gone too soon.
~Pregnancy and Fertility Jewelry with genuine gemstones and symbolic charms.
~Hand Stamped and professionally engraved unique Mother’s Jewelry, Family Jewelry, and Men’s pieces to honor ALL your children, both on earth and in Heaven.

May I once again ask for votes for the Health Hero award? We are currently in first place, but the abortion advocate who is in second is rallying voters too and is quickly closing in on retaking the lead. I humbly thank you for standing with me for the life of unborn babies with your vote. Voting closes this Friday and it looks like it will be a close race all the way.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

History Calms Anxiety

A friend of mine posted an interesting link on the history of Mother's Day yesterday. I wasn't too interested in reading it at first, but after a quick skim was amazed at what I began to find. I pray that learning some of this history may take a bit of sting out of Mother's Day for hurting hearts and help relieve a measure of your anxiety about tomorrow. And even if this knowledge changes nothing about how you feel about the second Sunday of May, please know that you are in my prayer this weekend. {{{hug}}}

Tomorrow will mark 100 years since Mother's Day became an officially recognized holiday in the United states. I was surprise to learn that this date was actually created for and by some of the very groups of people for whom the yearly observance has become most painful in modern day.

Mother's Day was started by a single woman who never had children, to honor her deceased mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis. Ann Marie had 11 children, but only 4 survived to adulthood, so as a bereaved mom, 7 times over, she knew much great and heartache and grief in motherhood!

This Day was originally intended to be a memorial day for mothers who had died, as well as a way to bestow honor and dignity on all women who were homemakers.

If your heart is hurting this Mother's Day, please feel free to visit more articles that I pray will encourage you this week.

Friday, May 07, 2010

When Mother's Day is Difficult


On May [9]th, we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day once again. For many, it’s a time of appreciation and joy. For others, it can be one of the most difficult days of the year. This is often true for women facing infertility, families who have recently experienced the loss of a mother, and many other painful situations. I’ve learned what it’s like for Mother’s Day to be difficult through my work as a writer for DaySpring.

Each year we receive letters about our “Difficult Mother’s Day” cards. One woman expressed her appreciation and then said, “I spent seven very painful Mother’s Days longing for motherhood while dealing with infertility and the losses of eight children through miscarriage and failed adoptions. I’ve also seen my own mother’s grief and struggle through Mother’s Day after the death of her mother. And I have many friends in less than- ideal situations with their children.” [Interesting sidenote from Jenni: I'm pretty sure I was the author of that note as it describes my situation well and I do recall writing to DaySpring about their wonderfully sensitive line of Mother's Day cards.]

I’ve learned what it’s like for Mother’s Day to be difficult through my experience as a graduate student in the counseling program at John Brown University. As the final step to completing my degree, I’m doing an internship through the women’s ministry and counseling center of my church, which has almost 10,000 mmembers. I’ve walked the journey of grief with many and I’ve found that experiencing sadness on special occasions is common. These days often serve as reminders of what we have lost or do not yet have.

Finally, and most importantly, I’ve learned what it’s like for Mother’s Day to be difficult through my personal struggle with infertility.

So as Mother’s Day comes this year, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you. These are taken from my own journey as well as my training at DaySpring and in the Counseling program.

Embrace Your Emotions
First, if Mother’s Day is difficult for you then give yourself permission to grieve. When holidays come, we often put expectations on ourselves to feel a certain way. We may think, “This is a special occasion. I have to put on a happy face and make the best of it.” But it’s okay to feel sad and even cry. As the authors of The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions say simply and powerfully, “We grieve because we loved.”

It’s also helpful to realize that emotions are not good or bad. They are just messengers that tell us about what’s going on in our lives. Sadness tells us "You’ve lost something or someone important to you.” It’s not a sin to feel sad. Jesus often experienced sadness and the Bible says he was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief” (ISAIAH 53:3 NIV).

Sometimes we need to help others understand our sadness. People who are trying to comfort us may say things like, “At least your loved one is in a better place now.” Words like these can make us feel guilty for being sad. People who say these things are often really trying to tell us, “I care about you. I want you to feel better. So I’m going to say anything and everything I can think of that might help.” Sometimes we need to gently share with those around us that what we really need is for them to just be there and listen.

In Psalm 13 King David pours out his heart to the Lord and asks, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” He ends by saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Does that mean we need to go from feeling broken to blessed in just a few lines? No, absolutely not. But it does show us something important about emotions. They are meant to be detours rather than destinations. If you continually feel sad over an extended period of time, or it seems as if there is no hope, then you may want to consider getting help.

Seek Support
Sometimes we need to be alone to experience our emotions, but usually it is wise to seek support. From the very beginning of creation, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. This is especially true when we are grieving. Jesus modeled this when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought several of his disciples with him and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and
keep watch with me” (MATTHEW 26:38 NIV).

Support can take many different forms. Hopefully, you have close friends and family members who can walk through this time with you. It’s important not to assume they know you need their comfort. Unless they have experienced a similar loss, they don’t know what it’s like. So don’t be afraid to call them or tell them what you need. You won’t be imposing. They probably want to help but don’t know what to do.
Even family members and close friends can grow weary at times, so it’s helpful to have other sources of support. Counselors can be a great source of support because they’re trained to work with loss. Support groups can also provide comfort. You can learn from those who are further down the road and offer help to those just beginning their journeys.

Of course, our strongest supporter will always be God. This may not feel as if it is true, especially during a time of loss in our lives. Right now you may be angry at God, disappointed in him, or feel as if you don’t have any faith left at all. That’s normal and many godly people throughout history have experienced similar feelings. God understands that you are hurt. It’s okay to bring all of those emotions to him.
Normal grief and mourning can turn into serious depression. One of the symptoms of depression is withdrawing and isolating ourselves from others. If you find you are cutting off relationships, have no desire to be with other people, and are spending much more time alone than usual, it may be a sign that you’re experiencing depression.

Do Something Special
While doing something special when you are sad may feel a bit overwhelming, it’s important because it will help you be proactive rather than reactive in addressing your loss. Many people think that it’s better to avoid or bury their grief. But the opposite is actually true. Healing only comes when we acknowledge and embrace our losses. As Dr. Gary Oliver says, “If you bury an emotion, it’s always buried alive.”
The kind of action you take depends on your personality and the nature of your loss. For example, if you lost your mother then you might write her a letter. If you lost an unborn child, you might donate to a crisis pregnancy center in his or her honor. You and your spouse might look at photos of the sister you lost to breast cancer or visit a place where you used to go together. You may think, “But that will make me sad!”

That’s okay. Experiencing grief is part of healing. Grief and Trauma Counselor H. Norman Wright even recommends a “programmed cry” in which you set aside a specific time to grieve and place yourself in an environment where you are able to do so. He says in Recovering from Losses in Life, “Some of us have never learned to cry. We are afraid to really let go with our tears. We live with fears and reservations about crying. We cry on the inside but never on the outside.” Each time you allow yourself to grieve through tears, it will become a little bit easier to do so.
You can also simply do something nice for yourself. If you enjoy going to restaurants, then have a special meal with a friend or spouse. If you like taking long walks or bubble baths, make time in the day for that activity. Part of getting through grief is taking care of you. As long as it isn’t something harmful or numbing, doing something special for yourself can help you through a difficult day.

Hold Onto Hope
At one point in my journey it seemed as if I couldn’t take another step. In addition to infertility, I was facing several other losses. I felt as if I were in a dark cave. But then I sensed the Lord gently and lovingly speak to my heart, “You may be in a cave, but you still have a choice. You can sit in despair or you can diamond-mine your difficulties.” I decided I was not leaving that time in my life empty-handed. I was taking every hidden blessing I could find. Of course, I still had difficult days. But choosing hope made a difference.

As a reminder, I now wear two rings. The one on the fourth finger of my left hand represents my commitment to my husband. The one on the fourth finger of my right hand is a simple silver band inscribed with the word “hope” and it represents the commitment I have made to God and myself to hold onto hope no matter what happens.

The story of an inspiring woman named Terrie also reminds me to hold onto hope. She endured the loss of four pregnancies and waited seventeen years before adopting a little girl. She told me, “I think one of the most important parts of this journey is learning to trust God. I don’t mean the flippant kind of trust.

It’s easy for people to say, ‘You just need to trust God.’ It’s much harder when you’re in the middle of all this pain. But he is trustworthy. Through it all, God has given us an amazing story. I wouldn’t have chosen this road, but he has been with us. I can look back and truly say every step was worth it.”

I don’t know how my journey will end and you probably don’t know how yours will either. I also don’t know how many of you will be silently grieving your losses as we sit in church together on May [9]th. But I do know that God sees each one of us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and how many cares our in our hearts. Whatever you’re going through this Mother’s Day, you’re not facing it alone. As King
David, a man who experienced many losses in his life, expressed in Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May God surround you with love, fill you with hope, and give you strength for each moment—especially this Mother’s Day.

Holley Gerth is an award-winning writer and editorial director for DaySpring. Her new devotional book, Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times (Summerside Press), is now available online and in bookstores.
Holley is also a counseling intern for the women’s ministry and care center of a mega church with close to 10,000 members. She has been married to her college sweetheart, Mark, for almost nine years. Holley is not a morning person and once put chocolate on her alarm clock to bribe herself but ate it and went back to bed.
You’re invited to find encouragement any time of day on her blog, Heart to Heart with Holley and more from Holley specifically about Mother's Day at blog.dayspring.com/2009/05/when-mothers-day-is-difficult-.html.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Letter to Pastors for Mother's Day

Dear Pastor,

Infertility is a medically recognized disease that affects men and women equally. It is defined as the inability to conceive or retain a pregnancy during a one-year period (6 months for a woman 35 years of age and older). According to the CDC, there were 7.3 million people diagnosed as infertile in 2002. That number represents one in eight couples of childbearing age, some of whom sit in your congregation each Sunday. This number shows a 20% increase since the last count of 6.1 million in 1995. In addition, every year in the United States there are approximately 2 million women who experience pregnancy loss, ranging from miscarriage to stillbirth and infant death. Infertility and loss is often such a private matter and not openly shared; it can often be a cause of a crisis of faith. The desire to reach what many label, “God’s highest calling” – a mother and father - can be a strong one.

This letter is sent to you as a reminder of the upcoming Mother's Day and Father's Day services- special days that celebrate family. It is a definite time for rejoicing and honor, but at the same time can bring about moments of anguish for those enduring the road of infertility or loss. We’d like to ask that you please remember in your sermons and prayers those who have lost mothers and fathers, mothers and fathers who have lost children, mothers and fathers and children who are estranged from each other, and men and women who are unable to be mothers and fathers. It will not only comfort them; it will remind the moms and dads in your congregation who have been blessed that their children truly are wonderful gifts from the Lord.

Thank you for your consideration.


Hannah’s Prayer Ministries

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hope in Negative Prenatal Diagnosis

Angie Smith, wife of Christian singer Todd Smith (Shela) has a beautiful blog called Bring the Rain about the negative prenatal diagnosis, birth and death of one of their daughters, Audrey Caroline. (As a note of caution to sensitive hearts, living children are both pictured/referenced on the blog and Angie is currently pregnant).

Last week Angie release a new book called I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy. While I haven't had a chance to read it for myself, it already has 15 5-star reviews on Amazon! Since her blog is so well-written and God-honoring, I can't imagine that this book would be anything less than a beautiful source of honesty, challenge and loving encouragement to families facing negative prenatal diagnosis and/or infant death.

One reviewer lost a 15-year old daughter and said I Will Carry You is appropriate for any grieving parent. Praying this book will be a blessing to you as well. Please post and share in the comments if you have a chance to read it yourself.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Surviving Mother's Day

Mother's Day was one of my most dreaded days of the whole year while going through infertility. I've written about this one holiday probably more than just about any other. This year I want to hear what you have to say about MD? While living through infertility and/or grief over adoption loss or the death of your child, what one thing has been the most helpful, healing, or hurtful to you in your Mother's Day experiences?

If it was a helpful experience, what made it so meaningful to you and how can we learn from your story to hopefully bring encouragement to others? If is was a painful experience, what might you or others involved in your day have done differently to prevent a measure or heartache or how will you approach May 9 differently this year as a result of a prior bad experience?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Woman's Health Hero Nomination - Please Vote for me

I was blessed to be nominated as a Woman's Health Hero and I need your help! (Head's up to my friends who are sensitive to mentions of pregnancy, the sponsors of this award do promote pregnancy-related books on their website, so please be for-warned before following this link.) Out of all entries, just 20 names will be inducted into a Health Hall of Fame. Two Hall-of-Fame selections will receive special honors as either Staff Pick or Audience Choice award determined by the public (that's you!).

You will be allowed to vote on all entries between now and May 14 (extended one week from the prior May 7 deadline), 2010. The entry that receives the highest overall ranking will win the Audience Choice award. Last year's Audience Choice winner was my dear friend Lisa Copen from Rest Ministries. I would be delighted to add a similar honor to my "resume" as I continue working on writing my book on the life of Paul as encouragement for living with chronic pain/illness.

Will you please help me by heading to www.ourbodiesourblog.org/blog/2010/05/comforting-those-with-fertility-challenges-jenni-saake and selecting the "thumbs up" voting button at the bottom of my profile? Thank you so much! :)

Saturday, May 01, 2010


This week on Facebook I came across the following status update:
DEPRESSION is not a sign of weakness it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long. Put this as your status if you know someone who has or has had depression. Most people wont, but its mental health week and 1 in 3 of us will suffer some point in our lives. Show your support...♥

Depression is something very few people are willing to talk about, but I believe it impacts many more people than most of us realize. I can't even count the number of times, several just within the past few weeks, where woman have sat down with me and secretly shared their struggles with depression. It's a journey clouded in shame, something we worry others will look down on us for, judge us over. Sometimes we hide behind a facade of being outgoing, the life of the party. Sometimes it drives us deeper into our own shells.

For much too long the church as a whole has perpetuated the idea that depression is rooted in the sinful inability or unwillingness to allow God to bring joy to our hearts. I do believe that depression often is entangled with spiritual struggles, but often broken spirits comes as a result of the imbalanced hormones and true medical issues that trigger depression in the first place.

I hope to provide several resources for coping with depression in coming posts, but today I want to start simply by letting you know that if you are facing depression, you are not alone. And so I'll start by opening my heart and sharing my own story, beginning in 1991/92. At this time I don't believe I was living in full-time depression, but I did experience frequent, terrifying panic attacks in conjunction with hormonal imbalance triggered by the onset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I developed a host of fears and phobias and cried frequently, but also had times that were very upbeat and joyful.

As we progressed into 1993/94, joy evaporated. I sunk into a deep, black depression in the wake of infertility grief and all the daily losses of learning to live with debilitating chronic illness. At my lowest, I seriously entertained thoughts of suicide on a regular basis. :( God used my husband, Scriptures and the book The Ache for a Child by Debra Bridwell to begin my healing.

In hindsight I would highly encourage anyone who is where I was then to immediately seek medical and emotional aid though frank conversation with a competent physician and solid, Christ-centered counseling. It is truly a testament of God's grace that when I did not know enough about depression to understand how desperately I needed that help, that God, Himself the Great Physician and Wonderful Counselor, stepped in and brought about the miraculous healing I needed. Hannah's Prayer Ministries was born as a result of this season when God brought me up out of the pit, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and set my feet on a firm place to stand beside the quiet waters.

After our first miscarriage (Dec. 94) I had a different depressive episode lasting about 5 months. This time I was simply was void of feeling. Unlike the utter lost-ness, despair and hopelessness of the prior depression, this new grief-based depression over the death of our first daughter left me unable to laugh, cry, smile, be angry or "feel" anything - I simply was numb month after month. My breakthrough and healing here began with the final admission to myself that we had indeed been blessed with parenthood, even if only for a short season on this earth. To actually hear myself say, "I had a miscarriage," a statement that brought about days of gut-wrenching and unstoppable torrent of tears, was a huge milestone. Choosing a name of our daughter, thus "giving her an identity" I could relate to, was another step in overcoming this round of depression and beginning to work through healthy stages of grief.

Noel would be nearly 15 now and I still miss her, grief being a life-long journey. But my depression in the wake of her death was more than just a "stage of grief" and would be medically classified as postpartum depression (PPD), though I had no bring-home baby at the end. I still do not fully understand why, of all our 10 very painful losses, it was only Noel's death that triggered a full depressive experience like this, though I think some issues like our infertility, the fact that she was my first and (at that time) only child, and other life circumstances may have all been contributing factors.

Over the years depression has visited me in milder and shorter seasons, off and on, at various times, often linked to hormonal changes or health complications. My latest real journey through depression came with the conception and birth of our daughter who is now 7. (She is our second our of 3 living miracles.) This time ANGER best defined my experience of peri/post-partum depression. There were many elements that set the stage for this struggle, including secondary infertility, 2 miscarriages a year prior to her conception, a major surgery just a couple months before her conception, significant hormonal imbalance, having to stop our planned adoption due to pregnancy, high risk pregnancy with ongoing perterm labor scares and 13 weeks of bedrest, and out-of-control migraines during her first year or so of life.

It wasn't until after her 2nd birthday that I began to truly feel a connection with this sweet little girl I had prayed and longer for my entire life. I wasn't until after the birth of her little brother the week of her 3rd birthday, when I experienced the normal joys of new motherhood again, that I fully began to grasp and appreciate all I had missed out on, emotionally, over the prior three years. I was a functional mom while dealing with depression, falling into the mild to moderate spectrum of PPD this time, but it was an ugly journey non-the-less. My heart aches for several friends who have experienced postpartum (or any other kind of) depression at deeper levels, including several who have been hospitalized for their own protection (as I likely could have been in the early 90s).

If you or someone you love is walking through the valley of depression, please know you are not alone! Depression is not a sign of spiritual lack or weakness and it is a battle that can be won. Keep watching this blog for future posts spotlighting depression and offering helpful resources. And since the Bible has been my Light through my darkest days of depression (though I have to admit to actually throwing God's Holy Word across the room in my anguish a time or two) I would love to invite you to share the Scriptures that have most blessed and encouraged you in the comments section below.