Tag Archives: pregnancy

Ep.2 of 6 – Alive and Living in Ireland

187x109-5Today’s programme is called, “Safe Ireland: A Land of Hope.”

We explore:

  • How safe is Ireland when it comes to receiving good care and having a baby?
  • The impact that abortion has one women,
  • And we’ll hear from three mums who’ve raised children with special needs.

So You Are Going to Be a Daddy!

PIC_So You're Going to Be a Daddy

Written by Joseph Schneller

You’re just about to find out your wife’s pregnant with your first child. Your friend, Nate (father of two), has said that having a child represents more life change than getting married. Your wife’s about to find out that babies aren’t the only ones who lie in the fetal position sucking their thumb. But let’s take this one step at a time.

For some reason, the idea of how your wife has to use the pregnancy test stick thing is enormously funny to you. The kind of funny where tears run down your face and laughing fits hit you in waves. At one point, between hysterics, you tell her that if it’d make her feel better, you’ll take a pregnancy test, too. This also strikes you as the pinnacle of funnyhood.

She, on the other hand, has been reading books such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility and realises that her husband is “attempting to cope with his anxiety.” She understands that your uncontrollable laughter is Step 1 of your coping process, soon to be followed by:

Step 2: bed-wetting

Step 3: the desire to purchase a fast, red automobile.

After waiting three minutes in which the world stops spinning, you and your wife mutter a quick prayer, look one another in the eye and count two pink lines on the stick. Thus follows the most basic and unpresuming conversation the two of you will ever have:

Wife: Is that two lines?

You: I count “two.”

Wife: Are you sure that’s two lines?

You: Well, there’s the one line there, then there’s another line by the first. So, taken together, that makes two.

Your wife looks at you and screams like a 13-year-old girl who’s just seen her best friend for the first time since yesterday. You look at your wife and scream like a camper who’s just spilled a jar of honey on himself in grizzly bear country.

After dancing around awhile, counting the lines again, crying, then recounting the lines, your wife gets on the phone to notify first-tier family and friends. Second-tier friends will have to wait until the second trimester, which apparently begins on March 28. Your wife knows this without even looking at a calendar. She then counts the pink lines again.

While she’s on the phone, you realise that the baby’s growth and development are really the secondary purpose of the nine-month gestation. The primary purpose is so that you can get used to the idea of being a father. Right now, the most profound things you’re saying are, “Wow!” and “Oh, man!” and “That’s just, I mean . . . wow!”

You see, your wife’s been meditating on motherhood since she was four years old. You, on the contrary, have been considering fatherhood for about, hmm, five minutes (if you round up). So, in an effort to control your breathing, you head downstairs and flip on “The Show Before the Show That Precedes the Pre-Game Show.” That’s when you find several items on the coffee table that weren’t there last night:

  1. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
  2. a magazine on pregnancy
  3. a baby name book the size of a cereal box

These have appeared so quickly that you realise your wife had them stashed away at the bottom of her wardrobe.

Flipping though the pregnancy magazine, you think about asking your wife if she went to the bookstore while you were, uh, blowing your nose this morning. But then you glance at a page that says your baby’s heart will begin to form during the second month.

“Really?” you say out loud. “That early?” Sitting down, you mute the TV and turn the page.

So you’re gonna be a daddy.

Joseph Schneller became a dad for the first time in July of 2007.

* * *

Why Dad is important

A husband’s involvement during pregnancy can make a significant difference in a wife’s prenatal and postpartum experiences. Research shows that the presence of an emotionally supportive husband can help a woman more quickly adapt to pregnancy changes and lead to a more positive labour and delivery; it’s even been proven to influence a mother’s sense of competence in infant feeding. A study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal concluded, ”Father involvement is an important, but understudied, predictor of maternal behaviours during the prenatal period, and improving father involvement may have important consequences for the health of his partner, her pregnancy and their child.” Whether analysing emotional, physical or relational benefits, all evidence suggests that women and children fare best when husbands and fathers are involved.

Pamela Woody

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

How Far is Too Far?

PIC_How Far is Too Far

Written by Dr. Julianna Slattery

What do I say if my teen asks, “What is outercourse? Is it sex?

The first thing for any parent to do in this situation is take a deep breath.

Push away those images of your once six-year-old playing with LEGOS® or Sylvanian Families,® and welcome the challenge of raising the teen standing before you. Like it or not, you’re in the trenches.

Outercourse is sex.

It entails any form of sexual play that does not involve anal or vaginal penetration. Common forms of outercourse include mutual masturbation, oral sex, body-to-body rubbing, erotic massage, explicit sexual conversation and sex toys.

Many sex education curricula promote outercourse to teens as a form of “safer sex” because it eliminates the possibility of pregnancy and minimizes the risk of contracting many sexually transmitted infections.

Outercourse is encouraged as a healthy activity for teens by those organizations because it teaches teens about their bodies and helps them derive pleasure from sexual activity.

With this advice coming from adult “experts,” it’s no wonder that teens are catching on to the idea. And Christian teens are no exception. In fact, I have spoken with more than one teen who has confided that some youth pastors promote outercourse as a viable way to stay pure through the temptations of teen dating.

As a result, Christian teens are getting the message that they can preserve their virginity while enjoying everything but intercourse, and they experience the thrill and intimacy of sex without compromising their purity.

This concept is referred to as “technical virginity.” To eliminate the confusion around this term, parents must proactively address the issue with teens. Your teens are desperate for you to help them set boundaries. Questions such as “What is sex?” and “How far is too far?” need to be addressed by you, not a sex-ed teacher, peers or even a youth worker.

Begin by clearly stating that outercourse is sex. Look up sex in the dictionary, and you will find a wordy biological definition that won’t mean much to a teen getting ready to go on a date.

Here’s a definition that should stick: Sex is any behaviour between two people that involves stimulating the genitals (this can include touching or explicit talk about sexual arousal). Help your teens understand that there is a clear difference between platonic and romantic expressions of affection.

People naturally express love to parents, children and friends through hugging, a kiss on the face, holding hands or putting an arm around the shoulder. Expressions beyond those, as benign as they may appear, involve stepping down the road toward sexual intimacy.

By nature, romantic physical affection is designed to build toward the process of arousal with the intended end of sexual release. Outercourse is intended to provide stimulation and release without crossing the line of intercourse. Even so, it often leads to intercourse because it is so stimulating. Outercourse is obviously sexual in nature and intended for marriage.

Teaching your children about God’s purpose for sexuality is the most important part of this discussion. Make sure you clearly define and answer questions; also talk about God’s amazing creation. Equip your teens offensively in the battle of purity by emphasising that they are set apart for marriage and, more profoundly, for God’s purpose.

Answering questions concerning outercourse or any sexual matter should always lead to teaching about the incredible gifts of being chaste and reserving sex for marriage.

Sexuality is far more precious than most people – especially your children – generally understand. God created sexual behaviour as an intimate bond between husband and wife. Expressing sexuality within a covenant relationship cements a couple’s commitment to one another.

Scripture says that it makes two people so close that they become one flesh. This involves not only physical intimacy, but also emotional, mental and spiritual closeness. God tells people not to engage in sexual behaviour outside of marriage because He wants to protect His people.

Having sex or sexual contact with someone before marriage creates an emotional closeness. After a breakup, that closeness intensifies the hurt.

Sexuality expressed outside of marriage has a devastating effect, chipping away at the emotional wholeness of a person.

From Focus on Your Child’s Teen Phases, August 2008. Published by Focus on the Family.© Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

The Pain of Infertility

PIC_The Pain of Infertility

 

As we entered the one-room country church, my dad reached to steady my mum. The explosion of colour, the thick scent of lilies and the face of my grandfather in a bronze casket had knocked her off balance.

At 9 years of age, I was too young to fully understand what was happening, but I could feel my mum’s anguish. The closer we got to the casket, the more violently she wept. Her legs faltered under the weight of her grief. There was nothing I could do to ease the pain.

Nearly 20 years passed before I again encountered such physically intense grief from a loved one. This time, the deep pain came as my wife, Kerrie, explained through tortured sobs over the phone that a medical lab had confirmed that we were unable to have children. Once again, I could do nothing. I remember thinking, It feels like someone died.

Grief is a real part of infertility. It may be heightened in miscarriages or stillbirths, but it is just as real when a couple cannot conceive. The sorrow Kerrie and myself experienced the day we received our lab results was as deep as the grief we would have felt if she had called to tell me her parents had passed away.

Scripture confirms the close connection between the two losses. Proverbs 30:15-16 tells us the grave and the barren woman are two things that are never satisfied. The sense of loss from infertility will frequently resurface whenever life situations — such as a menstrual cycle or the birth of a child to another couple — trigger painful feelings of the opportunities lost.

Journey Through Pain

We must not be afraid to grieve and allow these responses to run their course. We should, however, guard against allowing our heartache to slide into despair.

Grief is complex and usually accompanied by a myriad of other emotions. Because of its intricacy, grief can take considerable time to work through. The “normal” length of mourning, however, is difficult to define.

During our grief journey, Kerrie and I found two crucial actions that allowed us to mourn our loss without slipping into despair.

  1. We recognised grief as a process and identified where we were in it.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Sorrow . . . turns out to be not a state but a process.” The key is to keep moving forward. When stymied by sorrow, we risked slipping into despair.We see evidence of this in the life of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7-11). Because of her infertility, Hannah plunged into a state of hopelessness that lasted for years. Finally, she cried out to the Lord and found new hope. It is critical to make choices that keep us from getting permanently bogged down in mourning.
  2. We focused on the right things.Growing up, I was a track sprinter. I learned to focus on what was in front of me and ignore the runners in the lanes next to me and behind me. To win, I needed to fix my eyes on the finish line. Grief can also be navigated more successfully by keeping focused on the right things: Jesus and the race He has for us to run.

A Full Life

Physical barrenness is beyond our control, but Kerrie and I can take steps to ensure we don’t suffer spiritual barrenness. By focusing on God, we can enjoy a life that is neither “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, KJV).

Even though we’ve been blessed with two wonderful adopted children, Kerrie and I still experience feelings of loss and the sense that we’re missing out on something. But ultimately, we realize God is on the throne, and we have decided to focus on Him rather than our grief.

Copyright © 2007, Brad Nelson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Grandparents Can Provide a Dose of Wonder

Grandparents Can Provide a Dose of Wonder!

Roughly 60,000 babies are born in Ireland each year–and those newborns can bless several generations!

by Dr. Paul C. Reisser

During the months leading up to the birth of our first grandchild, my wife, Teri, and I received a lot of knowing winks and smiles from friends who were already grandparents.

You’re gonna love it,” they insisted without exception. We were indeed awed and curious as we felt this new family member gently rolling within her mother’s expanding belly. When the moment of birth arrived, all four grandparents leaned against the door of the delivery room, listening intently for the first cry. When it came, we couldn’t contain our joy and tears.

Mesmerised

Neither Teri nor I recalled this much awe and wonder with our own two kids. Most of my memories of our firstborn’s arrival involve feeling sleep-deprived, reluctant about the 24/7 responsibilities, worried about Teri’s recovery and more annoyed than I care to admit whenever that vaguely accusatory newborn cry wouldn’t subside right away. My mum, however, bestowed generous doses of awe and wonder on her grandchildren and helped us reorient our attitudes on a regular basis.

When we first learned we would become grandparents, we wasted no time setting up a nursery in our home. But during her first several visits with us, our granddaughter spent little time there because all we wanted to do was hold her. We would gaze at her tiny features, play with her toes, let her fingers grasp one of ours, marvel at the miniature nails, cradle her head, grin at her unruly storm of dark hair and wait for one of those smiles that would illuminate the room.

Room to reflect

I know it doesn’t always work this way, but I believe God intends grandparents to be the agents of an important message to young parents who may be feeling more than a little overwhelmed: This little person you have brought into the world is precious beyond measure. By the way, you don’t have to be a grandma or grandpa to do this. Interested relatives and friends can also embrace the role of providing awe and wonder, especially where and when it may be in short supply.

Without the relentless duties of early parenthood, relatives can put errands and chores on hold while they spend time with new children, knowing their home will return to quiet once again.

Grandparents may reflect on their parenting years and wonder whether they might have put a little more emphasis on enjoying the early years instead of worrying so much about messy rooms or crayon marks on the walls. With grandchildren they have that opportunity, the chance to observe and savor moments that will pass quickly.

It is an incredible gift for grown children to see their offspring through the eyes of a love-struck grandparent or relative. When Grandma’s face lights up the instant Ella toddles through the front door, it helps Mummy remember why she became a mother in the first place. When Grandpa values playing with Joshua more than watching a football game, it helps Dad renew his commitment to be a good father. When grandparents regard little ones with awe and wonder, they bless two generations at once.

 

 

Ultrasounds – God-given Technology

God-given Technology

 

Lives are saved every day by ultrasounds.

by Susan Graham Mathis

You dont have to sugar coat it. The facts dont lie. Its a baby! sonographer Tim says as told how he came to volunteer at a local pregnancy resource center and what it means to him.

While Tim was in training, a mother intended to have an abortion, even with the ultrasound information. It ripped me up. She was going to kill her baby! Tim recalls. After that he decided to volunteer at the PRC to provide the truth and promote life. In this setting, he often experiences the rewards of ultrasound technology.

An ultrasound is a presentation of reality. Hearing the heartbeat and seeing the baby echo in the parents memory, no matter what they choose, Tim says. Most often, a mum who sees her baby will recognise that its more than just tissue.

Fathers in similar situations also understand the truth about life. Bill, a member of the military, was sent overseas not long after he married Rachel. Shortly after he returned, Rachel became pregnant. Worried about her age (40) and financial struggles, she went to the PRC with a pro-abortion mind-set. A counselor suggested that Rachel and her husband come back for an ultrasound, and when they returned, they saw their baby.

Bill remembers, “When we heard the heartbeat and saw the baby, I felt nervous, scared, happy and elated. I can’t see how someone could say it’s a blob of tissue. It’s part of you, starting to grow.

Revealing truth

A large majority of women who come to the PRC are pro-abortion, says Cindy, a nurse at the center. They dont think they have a choice aside from abortion. So we give them the truth and help them understand that they have other options. We give them information so they can look at abortion realistically instead of seeing it as a quick fix. They wont get the information they need in an abortion clinic.

One of the most unusual experiences that Cindy encountered was when a mother who recently had an abortion came in to the PRC. She was pregnant. Cindy called the abortion clinic and verified that the woman had undergone a surgical abortion at eight weeks. But when the PRC had an ultrasound done, it showed a healthy 18-week baby. The abortion had failed, so the woman decided to keep the baby. I believe God hid that baby from the abortionist, Cindy says.
Saving lives

Unfortunately, many mothers see their pregnancy as a crisis. For instance, Jackie became pregnant while separated from her husband. When the husband found out, he demanded she get an abortion.

I was against abortion, but I was told it was just a blob of tissue, Jackie says. So I set up an appointment for an abortion. A few days before [the appointment], I had an ultrasound. When I saw that Sarah was a healthy little baby and watched a video on what they do in an abortion, I couldnt go through with it. I couldnt kill a human being, especially my daughter!

When mothers see and hear their babies through the technology of ultrasound, nearly 90 percent of the babies are spared. Having immediate access to ultrasound saves many babies. The visual experience of bonding with her baby stays with a mother and brings reality to her, Cindy says. Its a tool of life.

DeeAnn, another nurse at the PRC, says, “On an ultrasound, I can see a little baby’s personality at eight weeks [in the womb]. Sometimes you can see the baby waving, doing somersaults and things like that. And you can see a woman’s mind change as she views that little life. The woman realizes there’s a live being inside her. [Ultrasound] is a lifesaving wonder.

 Copyright © 2004, Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.  Used by permission.

Teen Mum-Awaiting the Transformation

 Awaiting the Transformationby Tricia Goyer

Sometimes I wish God would let me see a preview of how the ways I give, serve and love will one day pay off. Such a preview would have been helpful when I first met Kayleigh. I was volunteering at our local pregnancy resource center when her mum brought her in. At 15, Kayleigh had recently given birth to her first child.

Bad first impression

It’s easy to judge people based on their behaviour. From the first moment we meet someone, we label his or her actions. Good or bad. Challenging or trouble-free. In Kayleigh’s case, she demanded lifts to the teen-mum support group I’d invited her to. She picked out the best for her baby without a please or thank you. She clashed with other teen mums, talked instead of listened and continued a promiscuous relationship with her boyfriend. It wasn’t long before she was pregnant again. You can imagine my judgments about her.

Thankfully, God saw Kayleigh’s potential when I could not. In fact, as I turned to God about her thorny personality, He showed me what He saw: a young woman hurt by everyone she loved, but a bud He hoped to bloom into a rose.

A hint of change

God first gave me a glimpse of Kayleigh’s changing heart one night when one of the other mentors asked Kayleigh why she and Nathan weren’t married. Even though they were only 18, they’d been together three years and had two children.

“I’ve always dreamed of a Cinderella wedding,” Kayleigh said. “Nathan works every evening after school and on the weekends, but there’s never enough money.”

“Is that all? We can help you with that,” I blurted out before I had time to weigh my offer.

The very next week Kayleigh invited herself over to work on wedding plans. Together, we picked her colors, designed and printed invitations, and created rice bags with tulle. Later, I was with her when she tried on dresses.

The other support-group mentors got involved as well. We bought and prepared food, made bouquets, fixed hair, painted nails and set up chairs on the big day. One mentor photographed the wedding and gave the prints to the couple as a gift.

My husband performed the ceremony in the middle of a flower garden on a beautiful summer day. The bride glowed, the groom couldn’t stop smiling, and I sensed God’s pleasure.

Thorns and all

I discovered that the more I cared for Kayleigh, the more she loved back. The more time I spent with her, the more I noticed wonderful qualities I’d overlooked.

Feeling safe and cared for, Kayleigh began to bloom. The crowning moment of Kayleigh’s transformation came a month later. Now living as man and wife, the young couple felt comfortable attending church, and they dedicated their lives to Christ.

Now, it’s hard to remember Kayleigh as she used to be. She is a beautiful woman who calls me Mum—a child of my heart.

A preview would have helped during the frustrating times when Kayleigh’s changes were too small to notice. It would have given me encouragement to know that in five years, Kayleigh would be a dedicated Christian, a loving wife and mother to three great children. It would have encouraged me to know that the troubled teen would later be one of my closest friends and to see that she’d become a compassionate person who prays that her family and friends will discover what she’s found.

God transforms one life at a time. How do I know? I’ve seen it through Kayleigh. I also know because I’ve experienced it in my own broken past. Each of the descriptors I would have originally given Kayleigh could have been used on me. Like Kayleigh, I had my first baby in secondary school. Like Kayleigh’s, my flaws were easier to see than my potential. And like Kayleigh, I found a group of women who reached out to me, thorns and all, and showed me what the love of Jesus is all about.

Worthy of the wait

When I first worked as a volunteer in a pregnancy resource center, my aim was to save babies. These days, I’ve also become pro-life about the other people God puts in my path.

Even though I couldn’t have foreseen the blooming of Kayleigh, God has reminded me of the value of every person. Even if they don’t turn around, the “difficult” people are worthy of our attention. The teen mum. The troublemaker at church. The rebellious teenager. The family member whom no one wants to deal with.

God has a plan for every person we label “difficult.” We may be privileged to watch God’s plan unfold or be present when a new believer enters God’s family. Or we may just be the ones asked to love, care, give and serve with no guarantee of transformation.

God doesn’t give us previews. I think it’s because He not only wants us to love those who will transform but also those who might never change. He knows that when we give, love and serve, changes do happen—mainly within us.

How to Mentor Teens

  • Find ways to serve teens. Develop relationships by working in your church’s youth group, leading a Bible study or sponsoring a mission trip.
  • Be available to young mums through a maternity home or the crèche at your church.
  • Get involved with a pregnancy resource center.

Am I Less of a Man?

Am I Less of a Man_

I thought my self-image was unshakable. But then the test results came in.

  As told by Greg, age 30

I thought my self-image was unshakable. I thought I could handle anything. After all, I was a man’s man. A sportsman, a monster-truck, built-Ford-tough type of guy. But then the test results came in.

The phone rang, and I answered it with my usual “Hi, this is Greg.”

The nurse from our infertility clinic was on the other end of the line. “Hello, Mr. Roche, this is Jean,” she said. “I have the test results for you and your wife.”

“Oh, uh, okay.” I swallowed. “What’s the story?”

“Everything looks fine for Claire, but your numbers are, well” — she paused — “quite low.”

I felt my stomach twist. “Low? What do you mean by low?”

“Your sperm count came in at three million per milliliter. Normal is between twenty and one hundred and fifty million.”

Three? Only three million? “But, but,” I sputtered. “Are you sure? Maybe there’s been a mistake.”

“We’re very careful with these tests, Mr. Roche.”

“Still …”

“Have you been sick with a high fever in the last few months? Or perhaps you’ve been in a hot tub.”

“Uh, no.” My grip tightened on the receiver. Slowly I lowered myself to the chair near the phone. “So”—my voice wavered—“what do we do now?”

“Well, we can test you again in a couple of weeks, if you’d like. Other than that, the doctor will be happy to discuss options at your next appointment. You’re coming in with Claire on Monday, aren’t you?”

“Sure, I guess so.” I barely muttered the words. Three million. Only three. The number pounded through my head. I was okay when I thought it was something with my wife that was keeping us from having children. But this, this was different. I was the one with the problem. It was my sperm that were lacking, my fault we weren’t able to conceive.

I hung up the phone quietly.

“Who was that, honey?” my wife called from the other room.

“The clinic.”

“What did they want?” Claire walked into the room and tossed the towel she was folding onto the kitchen counter.

For a moment I didn’t answer.

She looked at me and raised one eyebrow, just like she always does when she thinks I’m acting strangely.

I rubbed my hand over the counter top and glanced away. “The test results are in.”

“And?”

“Low sperm count,” I mumbled, too quietly for her to hear.

“What?”

“Low sperm count,” I said again, just a little louder.

“Oh. Did they say anything about my tests?”

“Yours are all okay.”

“So now we know what the problem is.” Her eyes caught and held mine. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Absolutely not, I thought. But I only shook my head, turned, and headed towards the front door. “Have to go down to the DIY shop.” A trip to Woodies was just what I needed to gather my thoughts. If I could hold a few wrenches, try out a couple of power tools, I’d feel fine again.

So I strolled around the tool aisles. I even bought a new table saw. And slowly the implications of those disturbing test results receded to the back of my mind — until Claire and I attended a party at a friend’s house a few weeks later.

We were casually chatting with friends. Claire was on the couch with a group of women and I was standing by the TV when I overheard what she was saying.

“Greg’s got a low sperm count,” I heard her say.

Maybe it was my imagination, but the room seemed to fall silent. Quickly I looked around, hoping the other guys hadn’t heard. But my best friend, Jerry, patted me on the shoulder and gave me a sympathetic look. “Hey, that’s too bad, mate. Sorry to hear it.”

“What’s up?” Adam walked over.

Jerry turned to him. “Greg’s got a low sperm count.”

I felt myself shrinking.

Adam made some remark that I’d rather not repeat.

I tried to fake a chuckle, but it seemed to get stuck behind my tonsils and came out like a choking cough. I cleared my throat and turned toward Jerry, hoping to change the subject before it got any worse. “So how’s the job going?” I asked. “Heard you were up for a promotion.”

Jerry dropped his hand from my shoulder. He seemed nervous. “Job’s going great. Don’t know about the promotion though, but I’m glad to still have a job.”

“Bet Margaret it too.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty relieved; it was touch and go for a while.”

The conversation stayed on Jerry’s job for a few more minutes before we turned to everyone’s forecast for the Champions League. Football was a safe topic. Talking about goals and referees kept the conversation from turning back to more personal issues. Still, for the rest of the evening, I pasted on my fake smile while becoming more and more angry with Claire for sharing our private information.

On the way home from the party, my anger boiled over. “What were you thinking, Claire?” I said through gritted teeth.

My wife glanced at me with a confused look on her face. “What are you talking about?”

I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel and glared at her before turning my eyes back to the road. “Oh, come on, you know what I mean. Telling everybody about my sperm count! Don’t you think that is a little private?”

“What’s the big deal? Ann asked me if we’d found out what was wrong, and I told her.”

“You didn’t need to mention my low sperm count.” I couldn’t believe she didn’t think it was a big deal.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Claire looked somewhat amused. “If we’d found out I had problems with my ovaries or had a blocked fallopian tube, you wouldn’t have any objection to my telling Ann about that.”

“That’s different.”

“What is different about it?”

I slammed my hand against the steering wheel. “Look, my sperm count is private. I don’t want you telling anyone about it. No one. Especially our friends.”

“Okay, then, what am I supposed to say when someone asks? Lie?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. Just don’t talk about my sperm count!”

Claire shook her head and turned toward the side window. “All right, all right, I didn’t know you were so sensitive about it.”

I stared out into the rainy night. The only sound was the sloshing of the windscreen wipers. I didn’t really know why I’d reacted so severely. Of course, I was a little embarrassed. But Claire was right. If it had been her problem, I wouldn’t have thought twice about telling friends the test results. But I felt differently about it when it was my problem. How could she not understand that? How could she not understand that a low sperm count was something that hit a man hard, something you just didn’t share in a group?

Now that the sperm issue was out there, I did what I figured any real man would do — I ignored it. Oh, I swallowed a few extra vitamins, took cooler showers, and stayed away from the hot tub, but other than that I simply refused to think about it. But my friend Jerry changed my mind.

I hadn’t seen him since the party, so I thought I’d stop by and surprise him at work. But I was the one in for a surprise.

I opened the glass door and stepped up to the receptionist’s desk. “Hi, I’m here to see Jerry.”

The woman glanced up at me and frowned. “Jerry doesn’t work here anymore.”

I stepped back. “What? Of course he does.”

She shook her head. “Jerry was laid off two months ago.”

Two months ago? That would be a month before the party. Surely if Jerry had lost his job he would have told me. Something strange was going on, and I needed to find out what it was. I mumbled “thanks” to the receptionist and hurried out to my car.

I finally tracked Jerry down that night in his garage. He was lying beneath the chassis of his 1967 Mustang. “Hey, Jerry!” I called.

He slid out from under the car. “Greg! Good to see you, man. I didn’t hear you come in. What’s up?”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t know, buddy. Why don’t you tell me?”

Jerry wiped his hands on his overalls, then stood up. “What do you mean?”

“I stopped by your work today.”

An awkward silence fell between us. Jerry turned away to finish cleaning his hands on a rag. He refused to look at me. “Guess you know then.”

“They told me you were laid off two months ago.”

“Yeah.”

“So what was all that talk at the party about your job being safe?”

He shrugged and turned back to me. “I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you guys that I didn’t have a job.”

“Does Margaret know?”

Jerry twisted the rag in his hand. “No.”

“No?”

“I leave every morning and come back in the evening, same as I’ve always done. Only instead of going to a job, I’m looking for one.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I were.”

He looked like a dejected puppy. I draped an arm around his shoulders. “Wow, you should have told me. I could have tried to help, or at least prayed for you.”

“What? And have you guys think I’m a loser? No thanks.”

“Come on, Jerry. You are not a loser because you’ve lost your job. Our self-worth is found in God, anyway, not in our job. You know that as well as I do.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Hey, I hope you find something real soon. And remember to let your friends know the next time something important happens in your life, huh?”

Jerry’s eyes locked with mine. “Yeah, like you told us about your sperm count being low.”

“Well, that’s different,” I mumbled.

“Yeah, right.”

We stood there for a moment without speaking. “Look, I have to go. I’ll stop by tomorrow and see how the job hunt’s coming.”

As I drove away, Jerry’s words haunted me. I had to admit the truth. The low sperm count made me feel less of a man, just like his job loss made him feel. And while those reactions may be perfectly natural, they showed how we were finding at least part of our identity in something besides our relationship with Christ.

I stumbled on the words of Isaiah 56:3 5 and really began to understand that my identity doesn’t come from my ability to procreate, but from the God who made me the man that I am:

“Let not any eunuch complain, I am only a dry tree.’ For this is what the Lord says: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off’ ” (Isaiah 56:3 5).

If God didn’t think less of me because I had fewer sperm than other guys, what right did I have to think less of myself?

These days I find that I’m much more at peace with my condition. While I still don’t want my wife talking about my sperm count at parties, I find that I can accept the fact that our fertility problems lie with me. It’s God who makes me who I am, and by his grace I am content with that — no matter what the numbers read.


Adapted from “Empty Womb, Aching Heart,” published by Bethany House Publishers. Copyright © 2001, Marlo Schalesky. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.