We all have plans for our lives – specific ways we think they should go.
We imagine that because we are good people who make the right choices, we will somehow be rewarded. Or for those of us who believe in God, we think because our faith is strong and we trust Him unwaveringly, He will give us the deepest desires of our hearts. This is true especially for those big milestone things: the dream job, the perfect spouse, or a happy, healthy family. Sometimes things seem to work out that way, but quite often they do not.
I always assumed God would give me biological children.
I have always been perfectly healthy – no strange symptoms or odd test results at my annual exams – absolutely no reason to doubt my fertility. It was a given, and only a matter of time. I made my plans for when and how we to grow our family when we got married – we would have kids about the time we turned thirty. That would give us a good five years together building a solid foundation to our relationship before we dove into the life-altering responsibilities of parenthood. These plans we make are a good thing, but we tend to want to make them hard and fast rules, inflexible mandates that we have to live our lives by. There is no room or time for major detours. We must stay the course and see them through.
Five years have flown, and over the past two years I made my peace with the transition from newlywed couple life to slowly but surely opening myself up to the idea of having kids. At the start of this journey, I found myself saying that even if we could not have our own biological children, I would probably be ok with that. But we are now in the fifteenth cycle of this waiting game with no foreseeable end in sight. After a year of trying unsuccessfully, that officially makes us a statistic. As much as I wanted to ignore the possibility, we are one in eight couples struggling with that dreaded word: infertility. My level of grief has surprised me. As Nick and I both turn thirty next month, I am accepting that life looks very different from I thought it would.
Infertility is a monthly cycle of cautious hope, fear, and disappointment.
It is a constant throbbing pain, a hollow place deep in my chest. It is a low hum in the background of our daily lives. We try to ignore it, until the end of the month when the harsh reality sets in – failure is inevitable, and both my soul and my body mourn the lack of new life.
I often find myself dreading friends or family asking me how I am doing. Some days I am fine and grateful for this waiting season – for sleeping in, time to myself, and the flexibility of my schedule. But other days the baby rabies spreads through my veins like rapid fire and I am discontent with waiting even one more day before seeing those two promising pink lines. I have stopped to ask myself why this whole-body desperation has taken over, and it comes down to this:
I believe that having a child and being a mom will give me more purpose and increase my happiness.
Look, I know that motherhood feels like equal parts insanity and overflowing love. I know it is the hardest and most rewarding job there is. It is a deep-seated dream of mine. Before I ever wanted to be anything else, I wanted to be a wife and a mother. It is the formula for the life I dreamed and expected for myself. But, like all good things, that dream can slowly tip the scales from a good desire into becoming an idol that I pursue above all else. Relying on our ability as a couple to bring a new life into the world in order to be fulfilled is dangerous. I can neither rely on my spouse nor future children for my identity, security, and contentment – those things have to come from a greater source.
So what has God actually promised us?
Since I believe God is the creator of all life, I have been wrestling with the idea that He has the ultimate deciding factor in whether or not we get to be parents. It is ripping apart whatever constructs I had around the idea of how God is involved in the process of parenthood. Children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), but they are not promised. Children are not given as a reward in exchange for proven responsibility or good behavior.
And my heart can still insist on that kind of cause and effect reasoning. I have done my part, now you do yours. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus is speaking about what the Father does and says, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Children are given to both fit parents and unfit parents. They are born to the ill-prepared and over prepared.
As we have gone past the year mark, I find myself asking the age-old questions all over again: Is God still good in the midst of pain and suffering? Does He care? Can He be trusted with my story? What does my future family look like now? How much do I trust God and his timing and how much action do I take? What am I being called to? What happens next?
I am fighting to cling to the promises I do have. God says that his grace is sufficient, and his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). He says to be content with what I have, and that he will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). He promises me His presence and his love.
If you, like me, are in a waiting period, struggling to wade through to what is next, you are not alone. If you unexpectedly find yourself in the club too, though it feels incredibly isolating, you are not alone. Community makes all the difference in the world. We all need people to walk beside us and share our joys and struggles. If you are the friend or family member of an infertile couple, the best things you can do are listen, learn*, affirm them and pray. Like any other kind of grief, it feels awkward to step into because we rarely know what to say, but just showing up to say that you care speaks volumes. After all, as the ever-wise writer Sarah Bessey says:
“The most sacred and holy moments of a life are often our most raw, our most human moments.”
Are you struggling with infertility or another unfulfilled dream? Do you know someone who is? What is the most encouraging thing someone has said or done for you, or you can do for others?