Infertility :: What It Really Is


We had been trying to have a baby for a year before my husband and I encountered the medical diagnosis “infertility.” The first time I saw that scribbled on the bottom of a fee sheet, I just about crumpled in tears. I was 35 years old and saw it as a prediction of my future (“you will never have children”) rather than a commentary on my past (“you haven’t been able to get pregnant in a year”).

Nine years, seven pregnancies, two living children, and lots of conversations later, I have a much better idea of what infertility (IF) is. While not all of these apply to me, they all resonate with me and my own experience. If you have ever struggled with IF, or if you know someone who does, maybe some of this will resonate with you.

  • It is being told as a teenager that you may have trouble having children someday.
  • It is both “primary” (no living biological children) and “secondary” (after having a living child).
  • It is buying ovulation predictor kits and pregnancy tests online, in bulk, because you are going to be doing this for a while.
  • It is looking like an average family with two or three children, but the world not realizing what it took to get your miracles here and what it will take to have any more.
  • It is timing what should be simply an act of love.
  • It is bringing babymaking from the privacy of the bedroom into the doctor’s office and the laboratory.
  • It is dealing with the question, for the thousandth time, “When are you two going to start a family?” or “About time you give your child a sibling, don’t you think?”
  • It is deflecting all of the not-so-helpful advice to relax, or stop trying, or “just adopt.”
  • It is getting a baby shower invitation and doing mental gymnastics to figure out how to get out of this one.
  • It is planning your route through Walmart and Target to avoid the baby aisles.
  • It is having secondary infertility and people not understanding the pain that comes with wanting one more because you just don’t feel done.
  • It is a couple problem, not just a male problem or a female problem.
  • It is wincing at pregnancy announcements not because you aren’t happy for them, but because it just stings.
  • It is planning something else to do on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • It is seeing your spouse hold someone else’s baby, and wishing, again, that things were different.
  • It is one in eight couples.
  • It is people in their twenties, thirties, and forties and beyond.
  • It is mourning the absence of someone who never was.
  • It is leaning hard on God for wisdom and direction and comfort.
  • It is having more babies in heaven than on earth.
  • It is tossing around acronyms such as IVF, IUI, AF, BD, BFN, SI, PI, IF, TTC, CD, DPO, POAS, and PCOS without a second thought.
  • It is laughing after your miracle is born and your doctor asks about your plans for birth control.
  • It is hearing friends talk about planning their pregnancies and wishing you had it so easy.
  • It is finding contentment in the family that you have, but still wondering what might have been.
  • It is growing in compassion for others because you realize anew that everyone is struggling with something, and most of us bear invisible burdens and scars.

What is infertility in your experience? Add your definition below…

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Kristi is a pastor’s wife, mother, writer, and former public school teacher for English for Speakers of Other Languages. She grew up all over the United States as an Air Force brat, but moved to Columbia in the 1990s to attend Columbia International University, and has called the Midlands “home” ever since. Her days are kept full with the antics and activities of her children - homeschooling, church activities, American Heritage Girls, and Trail Life - as well as writing and leading her Columbia-based pregnancy loss ministry, Naomi’s Circle. Kristi is a contributing editor for “Rainbows and Redemption: Encouragement for the Journey of Pregnancy After Loss” ( and a co-author of “Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother“ ( She shares her thoughts about faith, family, and femininity on her blog, This Side of Heaven (


  1. It’s a state of mind—not in the mind! Some women feel infertile after just a few months. Some women feel infertile after 10 years of “if it happens, it happens”. For me, it was about 3 1/2 years when I first faced that I might never be a mom.

    It’s realizing your family portrait doesn’t look like you expected.

    It’s trying to answer the question, “How many kids do you have?”

    It’s lonely.

    It’s praying you don’t get pregnant after adopting because you don’t want to be a statistic that is thrown in someone’s face as “proof” that it always happens that way.

    Married 28 years.
    PCOS, PI for 12 years, 1 miscarriage
    Mom to 3: 17 (adopted at birth), 11 (clomid), and 9 (surprise blessing).

  2. Infertility is hormones so far out of whack that your ovulation predictor test (measuring the surge in hormones that should only happen to bring about ovulation, but when chronically elevated actually prevents ovulation at all) tells you that you are “ovulating” when you are just starting your period and know it to be a medical impossibility.

    Infertility is extra pounds that will not be shed, deep painful acne and intense sugar cravings.

    Infertility is squirming under the teasing of friends who ask, “You guys know how this is supposed to work, right?”

    Infertility is going to someone’s baby shower on Day 2 of another negative cycle and making a blubbering fool of yourself.

    Infertility is taking your cat to the vet to get “fixed” the same week you are taking fertility shots to try to get your own ovaries to actually work!

    Infertility is driving to the lab with your husband’s sperm sample tucked safely into your bra (gotta keep it body temperature you know) and praying you don’t get in a car accident where you will have to explain the contents to an EMT.

    Infertility is being the only woman in your row who doesn’t stand for a flower at church on Mother’s Day, then having a “pity flower” gently placed in your lap during prayer because the usher saw your tears.

    Infertility is attending a loved ones funeral and realizing you will never get to tell this person if you ever are blessed to have a child joining your family.

    Infertility is grieving another wedding anniversary, not because it marks years of marriage, but because it is a firm reminder of how long you have been trying to conceive and/or adopt.

    Infertility is celebrating months of severe morning sickness because you never thought you would get the chance!

    Infertility is being 7 months pregnant and feeling like you don’t belong at your own baby shower because this world has been so foreign to you for so long.

    Infertility is answering your two-year-old’s questions and confusion when he tells you he wants a baby sister and you tell him you want that too, but know it took years to have him.

    Infertility is trying to help your toddler grasp that their baby who was in your tummy just yesterday now lives in Heaven and will not be coming home to us.

    Infertility is when your preschooler would rather watch the adoption agency welcome video for the millionth time rather than a new episode of Blue’s Clues or Thomas the Tank.

    Infertility is hearing people tell you how perfectly you “planned” and spaced your children over a six-year-window and rolling your eyes inside because you know that the three living miracles they see are totally God’s doing and not your plan at all, part of 13 sibling (biological and adoption attempts) who touched your lives over more than a decade.

    Infertility is realizing that now you are the “mother with the most children” but still don’t qualify to claim the title in this Mother’s Day contest because the number in your home doesn’t match the number carried in your heart.

    Infertility is getting to claim some kind of title in the contest but not wanting to take the prize because you know the whole affair is hurting someone else’s heart and there is no chance to tell your story and let her know how you got here.

    Infertility is learning that I am not God.

  3. Infertility is taking a pregnancy test every. Single. Month. because you don’t ovulate so you don’t get a period. So even though it’s a wildly improbable chance, you still take the test because maybe just maybe this month a miracle happened. I’ll never forget the day that test finally had the word “not” missing above the word “pregnant” (with the help of Clomid). I bought the expensive digital tests every time because I wanted the confirmation of it actually saying the word “pregnant”.
    Jenni- the comment about the flower on Mothers Day was a shot to my heart because that was me!

  4. Infertility is

    the fight to hang on to hope even when it feels foolish.

    feeling awkward and even a sting in the midst of conversations about giving birth.

    fighting the urge to punch the Dr. who says ‘Don’t cry, you will have other babies’, right after telling you that your baby’s life is no longer viable and at 14 weeks pregnant you must have a D&C.

    sitting on the front row in church just to be able to be able to make it through a church service.

    tearing up at the sight and even thought of getting an ultrasound.

  5. It’s being asked by a coworker if you are still “trying for sextuplets” a week after your latest miscarriage. It’s wondering if anyone will come visit you when you are old and in a nursing home. It’s having people explain how wonderful children are because they assume you just don’t want any. It’s praying that no one will notice your tears in church when there is a baptism.

  6. It is a life of emptiness and struggling to fit in because of not going through the normal cycles of adulthood. It is constant sadness because there is always something missing in your life, and you don’t understand why God has given everyone else this special blessing and left you out. It is feeling like a freak who is different than all others you come in contact with. When meeting someone for the first time or going to a new church, the first thing you are asked is: “Do you have children?” (or in our case, grandchildren) Take it from someone who has been married for 30 years, it is a long, sad, and empty road…My question is Why, God?

  7. Yes to so many of these things.
    At the moment, for me… it is thirteen pregnancies in less than 8 years… with 75% of my children already in heaven…
    It is living in an enormous home, with an enormous heart, and wondering if either of those places will ever feel completely *filled* ~ and praying for that feeling to come quick.


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