What We Think We Are Promised

img src: Phae, Creative Commons
img src: Phaedra, Creative Commons

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?

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12 thoughts on “What We Think We Are Promised

  1. Oh Erika. I have so very many thoughts and feelings about this topic. It is such a pendulum of emotions and sometimes it can make you feel as though you are going crazy. There were times when I felt upset because someone didn’t ask me about the process but minutes later annoyed that people ask “all the time”. Feeling betrayed by my body when it doesn’t do what it was created to do was a constant feeling. I read, “Hannah’s Hope,” after my first miscarriage and it gave me some comfort but honestly the most comforting thing to me was having other women to talk to about this very private, shame-filled and anxiety- riddled road we were walking. I also tried to always give people the benefit of the doubt and find kind ways to correct people when they say insensitive things. A lot of times people just don’t understand how insensitive they are when speaking about things of which they have little to no knowledge. You’re on my prayer list of girls who are waiting.

    1. Every week, and sometimes even every day I find myself at different points on the pendulum swing. I’m certainly grateful to have people to walk with through the journey, whether online or in real life. The biggest benefit of not being willing to suffer alone in silence has been the flood of “me toos” and support from friends who have been there before. Thanks for your prayers – I will continue to pray for you guys too!

  2. I talked to my sister about how sad I was that I wouldn’t get to be pregnant as our mum had loved being pregnant and breastfeeding. My sister, now with older children, said she can barely remember what it was like to be pregnant. She told me that before you have children the pregnancy part seems the most important but, once you have children, you see what a small part of the journey the pregnancy actually is.
    That made me feel very encouraged about our adoption journey.

    A close friend asks “How’s your body?” leaving it open to me to choose how I reply. She’s been doing this for several years now and I appreciate her repeated acknowledgement of the situation.

    I also changed my life goals from “have a baby” to “have a family”, something I could work toward even before getting married.

    1. You’re right, pregnancy does seem like such an important part of the process, especially when you are starting the journey to parenthood (thanks expectations!) but that is definitely an encouraging word from your sister. I love your friend’s open-ended question. You are right, there are many ways to have a family, and I am excited to see what that ends up looking like for you.

  3. PK, I did not know that you both were currently going through this but… your wisdom and perspective on the matter are proof to me that God is using you in an unexpected way to fulfill a different purpose. Amidst my angst for your situation, I find comfort in that fact.

    1. Thanks for your words, Greg. I don’t know how much true wisdom or perspective I have yet but I do already see God using this part of our story for growth despite the pain and frustration. I’m sure I will look back years from now and this chapter may look so different to me, but I’m doing my best to acknowledge that this is a refining season and if I let it, it will teach me.

  4. My family has gotten it right. They listen when I share. Follow up when they should and trust in the decisions I make to be right for me. They set no expectations on my life which frees me to trust God will lead me in each step.

  5. Hi, Love,

    Thank you for touching me and speaking truth in love to me. You have an incredible gift of delivering vulnerable messages eloquently and without fear. August will be our 1year of trying, and the BFNs over past 9 cycles have been utterly gut-wrenching. I’ve shared the same emotions and questions. Ricky and I are coming up on 7 years of marriage. We’ve “done everything right”. We waited in order to be “best prepared”. Everything inch of our plan was carefully combed thru and we believed it was the “right plan”. I look back in retrospect and I just have so many questions. I stroll into church on Sundays and see the umpteen-dozen pregnant moms who are on their 2nd, 3rd, 6th child! and immediately feel the pangs of bitterness and jealousy; “why can’t I have just one?” “I work. I tithe. I serve. I love. I pray. I obey. What’s the deal, God?”
    I’ve decides to throw my energy into something new. The stress wasn’t helping my problem and I needed to “stop holding out for something that may not happen”. I’m never going to give up, but I’m not going to keep peeing on sticks 8, 9, 10, 11, 12+DPO all the way to the absolute BFN, AF….
    I find that idle time is my worst enemy. Oh how I want to just rest and “zone out”, but the desire to be a mother creeps into my silent moments and takes my thoughts and dreams captive and I become obsessed all over again.

    I love you and believ in my heart we will be mothers one day. I may not bear my own, but I know God has seen our children and one day we will see them, too.

    Love,
    Angel

    1. Oh how I love you, sweet friend. I think God is using our deep desire to create something of meaning and beauty even as we wait. Pouring out that passion into projects that bless others and bring them joy is certainly a better way to channel that energy than focusing on all we lack. You are absolutely right – God has seen our children. I can’t wait to meet them (yours and mine) someday!

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