About twenty years ago, I started to realize that something might be wrong. My husband and I had been married for about five years, and we had stopped using birth control for a few years. We weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t doing anything to prevent pregnancy. During those few years, I didn’t even skip a period. There was no chance that I had been pregnant even once.
A year after I had this realization, several of our friends started having kids, and I started to worry that I might never get pregnant. Since we had been “trying” for about a year at this point, we made an appointment for a meeting with our health care provider for couples that were having difficulty with fertility. I hated making the phone call. I hated the fact that this part of life was going to be so hard. I hated walking into the room with all of the other couples who couldn’t get pregnant. I hated sitting there and listening to the “process” we would go through to find out what was wrong. I hated the shame I felt that I couldn’t get pregnant, and I know that my husband felt all the same feelings that I did.
The first time we went to the specialist, I remember this sinking feeling that we were going to find out the worst news ever. They took all of our samples, and we waited. Nothing was wrong with either of us – plenty of eggs in my reserve and perfectly good swimmers for my husband. The next step was a perfectly horrible test for me – a hysterogram. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re lucky. It was incredibly painful and very invasive. As I waited on the exam table for the doctors to Xray my uterus, I wanted to sob, knowing once again that we wouldn’t get the best news. But nothing was wrong – no blockage stopping my eggs from traveling the right way to the right spot each month.
So, the doctor told us what we didn’t realize was the worst news. We thought the worst news would be that something was wrong. But no. The worst news was the answer the doctor gave us: unexplained infertility.
The next step was fertility medication for me for the next three months followed by a sonogram every month to make sure that my body wasn’t developing any ovarian cysts. For two months, I was a good soldier: I took the Clomid and waited. The mood swings were pretty bad, but the hot flashes and night sweats were worse. I couldn’t do it. We quit after two months because we felt that if God wanted us to be parents that He would make it happen without fertility medication or other medical interventions.
There are times when I wish I could go back and try for one more month. There are times when I wish that we had gone onto the next step – three more months of Clomid with IVF. What could have happened? Would we have our own son or daughter at this point in life – someone just entering into young adulthood? But there is no point in wondering. We made our choice prayerfully, believing that if God wanted us to be parents that we would be in His timing.
I won’t lie and say that it was an easy decision to make. There have been plenty of years when I have still hoped that there might be a miracle. But for the most part, I gave up about fifteen years ago. So, I mourned quietly, wishing for something that I knew would never be mine.
I won’t lie and say that I didn’t become bitter. In the years since all of our fertility tests, I have watched multiple friends have beautiful babies. In the years since I gave up hope, I have thought horrible things about people that I knew who were pregnant. In the years of bitterness, I once wished a miscarriage on one of my friends – and sadly my wish came true. I avoided baby showers and holding newborns because I couldn’t believe that God would deny me the gift of being a mother.
Before I finally found some sense of peace about our infertility, I started drinking as a way to block out the depression that was starting to sink in. I looked forward to coming home from work just to sit on the front porch with a cooler of hard cider that eventually became tumblers of Southern Comfort and Coke or White Russians.
During that time, I didn’t allow myself to feel any emotions because I was terrified that once the crying stopped that I wouldn’t be able to stop. So, I held in the bitterness. I held in the tears. I developed a pretty thick skin because I didn’t want to let anyone see that I was crumbling inside. Hope was lost.
I finally received peace about our infertility through wise words from a few people. On Mother’s Day 2008, our pastor addressed the women in the church and all of the various ways that women act as mothers in our community. It was the first time that I heard someone acknowledge the “spiritual mothers,” those who come alongside of children and youth through teaching and ministry. Slowly, the wall began to fall down around my heart.
Then, one afternoon, I received a card from my sister who had experienced no difficulty with getting pregnant and was pregnant at the time that I was undergoing fertility testing. As I read her card, the tears began to flow for the first time in a few years. The wall came down a little bit more and I could feel my heart grow tender to the whispering of the Spirit once again.
Finally, after I had opened up at a women’s Bible study about my struggles with infertility, one of the women in our church talked to me about adoption. She counseled me to only seek adoption if I wanted to help a child, not to fill a void in my own life. She said, adoption is not about you as parents but it is about the child that becomes yours.
I hate my journey through infertility. I hate the fact that my husband and I have not had the experience of our first born child or the first time our son or daughter said mommy or daddy. I hate that I can’t look at my own child and see my family or my husband’s family reflected in his smile or his nose or the way that he walks.
I want to say that I am completely at peace with my journey with infertility, but that would be a lie. All that I can admit is that God has given me some peace through years of youth ministry and the adoption of our son ten years ago. I do not want my infertility story to minimize the blessing it has been to help our son into adulthood or the joy we find in watching our former students start their own families. However, I will always wonder why God has not blessed us with our own children. I will always wonder if we missed our chance fifteen years ago when we decided to stop fertility medication. And I think that is the worst part: the wondering.
If you have struggled with infertility, miscarriages, or the loss of a child, know that God is holding you close today. Despite the pain that I have endured, I know that God trusts me to be faithful to him as I walk this journey with Him. I know that He trusts me to tell my story so that I can provide some sense of peace and maybe understanding.
Here is some encouragement for you today:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.1 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV