Did you know that it is National Infertility Awareness Week?!
Personally, I am thankful that there is such a week because infertility can be a very isolating and devastating road to walk: as a woman, a wife, and as a couple. I know this from personal experience.
Here is our story in a nutshell:
My husband and I sincerely desired to have children, and around our first anniversary, we began trying consistently to achieve pregnancy. I thought getting pregnant was going to be easy. Jason, being the realist that he is, thought it could take up to 12 months. A year passed with no baby. Another year passed, and still no miracle to call our own. We tried old wives tales, took conventional drugs, and prayed our hearts out. I struggled with feeling like I was a waste of space. I wanted to be a mother and couldn’t imagine that God’s plans for me didn’t include parenting. It was difficult to find my identity in Christ because it was so wrapped up in needing to be a mommy.
Motherhood became an idol for me, which is a sin, but I found it difficult to guard my heart in that area. Everyone around me seemed to have expanding families while Jason and I had to navigate our way through questions such as, “Do you all want children?” “When will you start a family?” We would smile and nod, but inwardly I wanted to scream. Those questions, while asked in innocence, felt like daggers in my heart, challenging our family structure and my worth as a woman. After what seemed like an eternity, we abandoned the fertility route and decided to pursued adoption.
Adoption was the next logical choice rather than a last resort. We knew we didn’t want to pursue IVF or similar controversial treatments, and we had always wanted to adopt. We had arrogantly assumed it would be after biological babies and not before, but we were happy to change our plans. We spent months filling out paperwork and completing a home study. Our agency placed us on the waiting list shortly after we finalized our “Dear Birthmother” letter. Within a few days, we found out we were pregnant!
We were shocked!
While we were excited for the baby (although also in a state of disbelief); we struggled with a bit of disappointment that we would have to put our adoption on hold (per the policy of our agency). We had already fallen in love with the idea of our family growing through adoption and told our parents about the exciting journey. It was certainly a paradigm shift that came with a strange mix of emotions.
We began sharing the change of plans with family and friends when we were eight weeks along. Many of them had journeyed with us through the years of infertility and celebrated our adoption. We didn’t want to keep them in the dark of our ever-shifting plans, and by this time we had already had two ultrasounds that showed a steady heartbeat.
We were smitten with our little miracle.
My husband works in an Emergency Department of a hospital where he has free access to the ultrasound machine. We took advantage of that and checked on our baby weekly. One night, at the very end of the first trimester, I met Jason around midnight for our scheduled quick peek of the little one, but, this time, he couldn’t find a heartbeat. Jason maneuvered the wand repeatedly, but there was nothing. We went home devastated. We stayed up all night crying and praying for a miracle. Jason kept hoping it was his less-than-perfect ultrasound skills. The next morning our doctor confirmed our suspicions: we had lost our baby. For anyone who has not experienced a miscarriage, let me make this clear: a miscarriage is the death of a child. My heart shattered, and I was terribly confused at the Lord’s plan for our family. We went from infertility to pursuing adoption, to getting pregnant, to losing the baby. It didn’t make any sense! For a couple of months, we were merely in survival mode as I sunk into a deep depression. I wrestled with feelings of inadequacies thinking something must be wrong with my body if it can’t do what it was created to do. Despite my husband’s constant encouragement, I felt responsible for our loss.
Eventually, we agreed that we would go back to the adoption process, and we were, once again, put on the waiting list. We spent our time taking classes and learning all that we could about parenting an adopted child. Four months passed with no news or progress. Then, in a 24 hour period, we learned that a birth mother had chosen us and that we were pregnant.
We once again found ourselves equally excited and shocked for this pregnancy, but it didn’t take long before excitement gave way to fear of another miscarriage. We also worried the adoption would fall through because of our new pregnancy, thus resulting in two more losses. We shared the news with our agency who immediately said they could not allow us to continue with the adoption. We asked them to allow the birth mother to choose. If she still wanted us to parent her child knowing that we were pregnant, we begged the adoption to proceed as planned. After many meetings, they agreed to leave it up to the birth mother who didn’t waiver on her decision. She still wanted us! I remember very clearly the social worker saying, “God must really want you to have this baby because this never happens.” I was still early in my first trimester, and she was in the middle of her third trimester. We met with her several times, had a baby shower for the adopted baby, and prepared the nursery for the sweet little miracle that was growing in another’s womb. The birth mother had the baby but changed her mind about the adoption two days later. God did not answer all of our prayers for a successful adoption in the way we hoped, and the sweet girl who grew in our hearts never made it into our home.
We were devastated.
The Lord, in His mercy, allowed us to sustain that second pregnancy and we were finally able to bring home our first child — about three years after we began trying. After that, we had one more devastating loss: we conceived twins but lost one of them. Since that tragedy, for some reason, we have not struggled with infertility or miscarriage. We feel blessed beyond measure. Yet, I can instantly recall the sadness and hopelessness that we lived during our journey. While medically my infertility might be healed; emotionally I still have the scars. It is a unique pain that one can only understand if they have been there.
For those of you who have not had to deal with infertility, be thinking about those couples you know who are walking that painful road. Pray for them, write them an encouraging note, bring them a meal, allow them to share their story, and ask what they need from you (what should you say/not say, how you can support them). Buy them a copy of Hannah’s Hope or another infertility book they might want, and think about a way to make this Mother’s Day less painful. Above all, acknowledge and be sensitive to their hurt. Empathize with their invisible struggle.
I only shared the bullet points of our story. I could write many more pages filled with the details of how God has redeemed some of the pain and has indeed brought beauty from ashes. Or I could write a novel about how our infertility affected us as a couple (perhaps that would be more appropriate for a marriage blog, ha). However, I don’t want this blog post to be simply a summary of my battle with infertility. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty details of our story, look through the archives (2007-2009) of our family blog. Everyone’s story is different, and I want to know:
What is your story? What has God taught you? How has it impacted your role as wife? Feel free to share so that we can learn from, pray for, and support each other.