From time to time, we post the very real and raw stories of women in our church family who are visibly seeing and experiencing the hand of God through their life circumstances. Here is one from a dear woman who is walking a difficult road but is learning how to trust in her Savior. We hope these stories will give you hope and encourage you and more importantly, point you to Jesus.
From a place of fear to the place of peace. This is a wild journey.
Last week I found a journal from that spanned the years 2005 and 2006. I flipped open to a random page from May 2006. It said:
“I am afraid we won’t be able to have a baby.”
“I am afraid we won’t be on the same page about what to do about it.”
“I am afraid other people will be disappointed and sad too.”
May 2006 marked 11 months of trying to conceive. At 32, I was hoping somehow that I would not be among the 10% of women crossing over into the land of official fertility problems. For those who don’t know, this whole thing is officially determined when there is no pregnancy after 1 year of trying to conceive.
So I crossed over. And then my husband John and I went through testing at the Kaiser Infertility Clinic. Participating in those tests was hard because it was an acknowledgement that something was wrong. Although what we learned was that nothing was wrong. We found out, actually, that (at least where fertility is concerned) we are normal and as “middle of the road”as could be. So we tried to relax. Or rather I did. John was not relaxed.
Around this time, our paths diverged some. John was not so gung-ho about the family expansion plan. I was calculating and temperature taking. It was not a congruent time. I will spare the details. Suffice to say, it was very hard. I managed to distract myself with completing my Master’s degree in psychology and the tension around the topic ebbed and flowed between us. It was the first time in our marriage we were on different pages about a major issue and we lived with the uneasiness of not seeing eye to eye by the grace of our God and a lot of other people around us we could talk to…
Women got pregnant all around me. In fact, I especially noticed people I had baked wedding cakes for were very fertile. I ate my own cake on several occasions. Nothing. I struggled with feelings of anger, jealousy, bitterness, inadequacy, a sense of being incomplete, rejected by God and every other bad thing I could feel. I cried on the way home from baby showers. I cried when I got invited to baby showers. But of course, I tried to be fine most of the time. Jealousy and bitterness are fairly unbecoming. People don’t mostly want to talk about that. I didn’t want to be that. I desperately wanted to be happy for others. I worked hard to conjure it up. I was sincere but weak in my efforts. This whole phase lasted longer than seemed possible. When we got the dog Bubba in 2007, his puppydom provided much comic relief and comfort. He has lifted many a sorrow in his day. But, despair was in the moments.
January of 2009 something great happened. I told God, I couldn’t do this faking it anymore. I showed up at my church’s women’s retreat ready to have a good time and felt like I had been punched in the gut. Without counting, there must have been 20 pregnant women who crossed my path in about 1 hour. Some of them were my friends I hadn’t seen in a while and I hadn’t heard the good news. I felt like maybe I had become that girl you don’t tell stuff to because you don’t want her to feel bad her own predicament. That was not good. I broke down big time and told all those women in open forum that I was sad and hurting and tired of being bitter and jealous. I could do this because my God says he knows our hearts. The pressure to fake it was off. Telling God and those who witnessed I was done with hanging on to that crap set me free. Then something even better happened– The women who were mothers and wives came together to pray for the single women who desired to be married and the childless who desired children. It was a moment of weeping and contending like I have never experienced or witnessed before or since. I was known by God and a company of women in a way that I had never imagined. I was not alone. Feelings of being a rejected womb carrier significantly diminished.
Home from the retreat a woman called me out of the blue. She said she didn’t normally do that kind of thing but she had been praying for me and she felt that she had a word for me from the book of Hebrews in the Bible. She said it was Hebrews 6:14 Which states: He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” I was grateful for the encouragement and was hoping I had spoken graciously to her. But in my journal I wrote to God, now that I was used to being more honest in my dealings with Him, That is nice God, but I can’t even let myself believe that. Many Christians know the ol’ “I believe, help my unbelief” prayer but this was a straight up “I don’t believe, try to help me if you can….” Ha. God is compassionate and He has a sense of humor. If He can… how silly we humans can be right?
Three weeks later I found myself staring at the two pinks lines of a positive pregnancy test. It was surreal. With a mix of fear and joy John said, “I just know it’s gonna stick.” I was amazed that my unbelief had no effect on the outcome I was experiencing. It was a great encouragement to realize to find freedom in an honest struggle. I felt that God was showing me, “Belief or no belief, I do what I want, when I want.” I felt comforted. The six days I knew I was pregnant were quite blissful. I felt connected to the life producing women of the world and was in effortless full-on fantasy about the days ahead. But the baby did not “stick.” So on a Thursday afternoon I left work early with nurse advice to go to the Emergency room. I called my mom at work to tell her to meet me there and tried to reach John who had just left for 3 day dive trip Catalina. My momma was a great support at the hospital… and we ran into my favorite high school teacher. The admitting nurse was telling me her own fertility stories. They couldn’t tell me anything right away. I had to wait it out. By a miracle John managed to get reception in the middle of the island and was rushed home by a skiff around midnight. There was providence in all of it. When I got the news a few days later, it seemed a confirmation of what I had already begun to accept.
The months that followed really sucked. In some ways I just went back to doubting, it was all just too good to be true anyway. After John’s 40th birthday passed, I sunk. Pregnancy truncated. Big party over. I felt for a while I had nothing to look forward to. And he was trying to understand me but he didn’t. And sometimes I thought he should try harder. And it was just painful a lot of the rest of the year. Something neat happened in the fall though. Three important people in my life announced they were expecting and I was actually happy. That was a sign of hope, my heart was healing.
Enter the season of surrender. January 2010. Things went nuts. Me and John went nuts. It was not pretty. At John’s request we made a decision to actually try to prevent pregnancy for a year or until otherwise decided. This was the death of me. John had been overwhelmed, feeling a lot of pressure, fear, ambivalence, and who know what else. He had been trying so hard to come around to my way of thinking or what he thought was even the right way of thinking but he wasn’t feeling it and he couldn’t muster it up. I was angry. I found myself thinking a lot “God why can’t you just change him!!!” It felt hopeless. But I knew I had to surrender. I wanted to have a sense of: not me in charge, not John in charge, but God in charge. It just seemed right to give up and trust. But it hurt.
Things got worse before they got better. Before my eyes, my husband seemed to enter a full-blown midlife crisis. Maybe he should change jobs. Maybe we should change churches. Maybe we should sell our house. Maybe he should stop spear fishing. The hope of a baby and a future family was almost off the radar. Much to my relief I was among the things he was completely sure of. Me and the dog were solid. It was a crazy ride.
He was on his knees everyday. He took a hiatus from church. It seemed he had to wrestle with God apart from the interference of others. Sometimes that meant me too. I kept my distance as needed and tried not to ask too many hard questions. I didn’t ask very much of him but was all ears when he shared the wrestling. We learned to be with each other, sometimes tolerating each other’s pain in the quiet sometimes really bearing it. I saw him seek and find and obey the high calling of following Christ with such an intensity. One morning, during the his church hiatus I was getting up for church and I thought he had left to go diving as he had planned. I heard his voice and said, “What happened?” He said, “Listen to this, I got up to pray and opened the Bible to this page: Unless a man forsake all, he is not fit to be my disciple. So I am going with you today instead of going diving.”
That moment was not about going to church or going diving but about choosing to sacrifice. John knew I was sad to go to church by myself while he was on hiatus. He knew I liked going to church with him. He knew that God was challenging him to put God and his wife ahead of himself. And he chose to do it. And it was hard. And it continued to be hard. The reward of obedience was not immediate at all. But he was willing to persevere in it. And as I watched, my respect for him, for his honesty and his choices in the midst of the pain, grew tremendously. There was yelling. There were tears. It was beautiful. I had feelings of great pride in him and I also empathized with the pain. It was right for him to sacrifice his choices for God and for me. His actions were embodying the divine design of marriage—a man laying down his life for his wife like Christ does for the Church. I could have empathy but I would not seek to diminish the sacrifice. I believe that was his to give.
And so what happened next was both kind of expected and an incredible surprise. In May, amidst our supportive friends who gather bi-weekly John turned to me and said: “Did you tell them what we are doing?” Now our friends have of course witnessed the ebbing flowing, potential house selling, road winding, church hiatus, baby reluctance, monster walking, confusion too, so I would guess that they would be prepared for about anything. At that moment I didn’t know what he was talking about so I said, “No, what are we doing?….”
And it went something like this… “I have been praying, I have been talking with a lot of people, I know I am hearing from God. I don’t want to live my life based on fear and selfishness. I am ready to start trying to make a baby again.”
Tears. Rejoicing. Peace. Nothing actually looked or looks different. But everything seems changed. We are changed. Externally so much is the same. Still the unknown aspects of infertility. But between us there is unity. There is a sense of being known, having travailed together. Fellowship in our separate and somewhat opposing sufferings. And the paradoxical joy of what we have experienced from that mystical process of mutual submission.
I let John be.
He let himself be won over.
Multiple miracles by the God who changes hearts.
He said he was sorry for the pain his stubborn ambivalence has caused all this time. And when he said that, I actually didn’t feel he needed to apologize. It was all worth it.
And so here we are. Seven years of marriage. 5 years of infertility. And all is well. Really well. Even with despair in the moments… there is that shalom peace.
Why write this down? These are the kinds of things that you keep for the inner circle. Or maybe just your best friend. Or maybe just talk to God about it. Or maybe you tell no one. That is not me. No, me and John are not those people. And I think we have made peace with that for two reasons. 1. We believe that our story in every way, at all times, can be of value to others. As we tell the story of God’s love for us and his every present help, others may learn that He is also for them. 2. There is beauty in the mess. We are open to the mess of others and we invite them into ours. We have learned to endure the pain so that we might endure with others. This life is hard. People need people. God made us that way. Maybe that is more than two reasons. Oh well.
Another reason I write it is to say it was all worth it. And I can say that even though I haven’t got what I wanted.
I also hope that when more of our story comes to be, others will know from where we have come and when they see my belly swelling or hear of our adoption process or any other means that the Lord Jesus chooses to expand our family… they will see and know and rejoice as if this story were their own.
Lastly, I want women who are struggling in their marriage to have hope. God knows who you married. Parts of this year I looked at my husband in the not so positive way thinking “Who ARE you?” Add some explicit words to that question, even. These last few weeks I have been marveling at the beauty of who he is becoming and saying the same thing in a different way “Who are YOU!?” I never dreamed this all could happen so quickly.
Now I can wholeheartedly praise God for letting me go through this. He helped me to take my eyes off myself, my sense of lack and my pain, off my husband and his reluctance, off the world and its sense of what I am entitled to, off my friends and their babies and put my eyes on Him. And even when all my fears came true, He is good. And in Him there is peace.
And the wild journey continues…
Post script: After writing this I had John approve of me sharing it and to help me with me infamous typos. Whatever is left of the typos, we both missed. I might be ruining his tough guy image but it was an emotional read for him. He was glad for me to share it with others, stating that he felt I had accurately captured our life and that hopefully others could be encouraged to see how God has met us in the journey thus far. The writing came easy and I felt inspired to share hoping that it would bless those who know us to see where we are today and those who are struggling… we are all getting somewhere… I would love to hear your thoughts and just know that you read it…. So many of you know this up close and have been a huge support to us. As you know, we love you deeply.