Hearts of Hope
by Debbie Cazander
The birth of a baby is not only the culmination of nine months of pregnancy, it is most often the fulfillment of the woman’s greatest desire to finally hold her newborn child in her arms.
The motherly nurturing in her heart can now come to fulfilment as she cares for her little one, and the love she feels for this small person is deeper than can be explained.
Sadly for some women this joy is not realized as they have to deal with not being pregnant, and for some women who have lost the baby through miscarriage or a still born birth the pain can almost be unbearable. “Hurt, anger, frustration, pain, difficulty understanding why, loneliness among others are felt by those going through both circumstances,” says Carrie Plantinga co-leader with Theresa Heijster of Hearts of Hope support group. “There are so many different emotions when you are going through infertility and pregnancy loss.” Women will at times feel like they have failed in some way, and will blame themselves for not being able to become or remain pregnant. They may feel very sad for their husbands as well, and at times even question why God is allowing this sadness in their lives. The despondency can turn into fear that no treatments will work and they will be left childless. Heijster shares, “sometimes women will experience loneliness like you’ve never felt – you feel like you are the only one going through this, you are left out when your friends and family all have children, but you can’t. And no one truly understands it unless they have gone through it themselves.” For women who have been pregnant but have gone through a miscarriage or still born birth they may feel guilty and will wonder if they did something that caused the loss. Additionally the anniversary of what would have been the baby’s birth date and subsequent birthdays is a yearly reminder of the loss.
Although well meant, at times people will inadvertently cause pain by some of the things they say. Plantinga shares, “sometimes we are in a whole world of hurt, and it’s hard to see the good intentions behind the comments.” Besides many other not so helpful things to say are: “Just relax, it will happen, I know it,” “Just adopt,” or “It was early, it’s not a big deal. It wasn’t really a baby.” She further encourages well meaning people to “try not to always talk about your pregnancy or children. Don’t ask if I’m pregnant every time you see me – trust me, I’ll let you know when it happens! If I open up to you about our struggles, please don’t talk about how easy it was for you.”
However there are empathetic things people have said such as “I’m here for you, any time,” “I’m so sorry you are going through this, I will be praying for you.”
It is encouraging for a woman dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss to know they have people they can talk to. Both Plantinga and Heijster stress that it is “so helpful to be able to have someone you can cry with and vent about your feelings without being judged. Give me a hug. If you know I’m having an appointment or waiting for results from a test, send me a text to let me know you are thinking about me.”
Heijster and Plantinga are well acquainted with the feelings involved with infertility and pregnancy loss as they themselves are personally dealing with these issues in their own lives. It was after reading the book Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake that the Abbotsford support group Hearts of Hope was started. The two women share the organizational and leadership responsibilities which since last fall has been a ministry of the Living Hope Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford. Meetings are held once a month in the Fireside room at the church and are a casual and relaxed environment where women who are facing infertility or have lost a baby during pregnancy are welcomed and encouraged to share their concerns, questions and feelings. Plantinga and Heijster realize that a support group may not be what some women prefer to be involved in and these women are encouraged to make contact online through the Hearts of Hope private group on Facebook at facebook.com/heartsofhopesupportgroup.ca/ The website is heartsofhopesupportgroup.ca/
Women who are infertile or have lost a baby share a unique loneliness – that of having empty arms.