It’s an ugly word.
It’s not something that anybody wants to talk about or think about.
It’s one of those things that, when brought up in conversation, typically leads to awkward and uncomfortable moments.
But it exists. In this sinful, broken world, it exists.
My husband and I struggle with infertility.
Ryan and I got married in June of 2013 and planned on having kids as soon as possible. He was 35 and I was 25 at the time, and we figured we’d have at least a couple of kids over the course of 5-6 years and raise a happy little family. Things did not go as planned. Throughout our first year of marriage we were confident that I would get pregnant any given month. Then year two came and went. Still no pregnancy. Charting, tracking, careful timing, and doctor visits ensued. Still we waited. By this point, it was starting to destroy me inside. It was my best-kept secret. I was able to put on a happy face and deflect comments such as, “It’s about time to start your family” or “You guys aren’t getting any younger.” But it was tearing me apart inside. Every comment, every pregnant mom I saw, and every time one of my first graders (or their parents) asked me if I was ever going to have a baby made it harder to hold it together.
I had more than a few emotional meltdowns during these few years, in the comfort of my own home, of course. Questions and doubts constantly filled my head … What have I done wrong? … Doesn’t God think I’d be a good mom? I’d think about the fact that there are people who complain about untimely pregnancies, teens who “accidentally” get pregnant, or people who choose abortion, and I’d try to reason with God … Come on, already … Ryan and I waited for each other and followed Your plan for marriage and unity … why are You keeping this from us?
Other than a couple of family members and close friends, my husband and I kept our struggle with infertility to ourselves. My husband was and is my rock. He often reminded me of all the blessings we had to be thankful for. He encouraged me to trust God’s timing. We prayed. We read Scripture. But still we waited. Ashamedly, I waited miserably.
In January of 2016, we finally got the good news we had been hoping for—I was pregnant! It was one of the happiest days of our lives, and that October we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Eliana Lynn. She was certainly worth the wait. As I looked back on our 2.5 year wait, I was embarrassed. I had been miserable. Worst of all, I had failed to put my trust in God. As a lifelong Lutheran, I am certainly aware of the countless instances in Scripture when God came through for people who waited or, in other cases, when His plan was not the same as a given individual’s plan. I had also seen it in my life, when I doubted that I would ever find a husband. I had read devotionals and articles about deferring to God’s will, seeking His plan for you, and being joyful in all circumstances. I just hadn’t put it into practice. I was armed with all the tools, but I failed to use them when I needed them most. I promised myself I wouldn’t let that happen again.
Here I am, two-and-a-half years later. For two years now, we’ve been trying for another child. For almost a year, we’ve been seeing a fertility specialist. Frequent doctor visits, blood draws, medications, and injections, coupled with the burning desire of wanting another child, has resulted in me dwelling on this situation almost constantly. Ashamedly, I have caught myself slipping into my past rut of waiting miserably. I have cried each of the last few months when I found out that I’m still not pregnant. I have held back tears when people have asked my daughter, “When are Mommy and Daddy getting you a little brother/sister?” I have, once again, been waiting miserably.
I am a sinner. Infertility is not my sin, but it is one of the many disgusting results of a sinful world. My sin is my lack of trust in God who, time and again, through Scripture and life experiences, has shown me His power, grace, and goodness.
A New Perspective
God recently spoke to me through a Bible verse, and it has changed my view on my time of waiting. In Philippians 1:12 Paul says, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Paul, who was imprisoned, tortured, and near death on several occasions, focused on using his suffering to advance the gospel. I can’t even try to compare infertility to what Paul went through, but it made me think … Am I using my suffering to advance the gospel? Certainly not. I was using it to wallow in my own self-pity and desires. I knew what I wanted, and I wasn’t willing to consider that God might have a different plan. It is time for a change.
I have decided to strive for waiting joyfully, rather than waiting miserably.
How can I use my time of waiting/suffering to advance the gospel? I believe it starts with a change in attitude. Being joyful rather than miserable in my waiting would be a great start. I’ll be honest – I know it’s not as simple as just flipping a switch. Having another child is one of the deepest desires of my heart, and I will continue to pray daily that God blesses us with that child. I don’t believe I can just let go of that desire. But I have come up with some practical steps that I am implementing in my life in an attempt to follow Paul’s instructions to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
- Thank God daily for the blessings that He has given you. During my prayer time, it’s so easy to zip through my thank-you list and spend more time on my wants and concerns. God does want to hear our concerns. But I have found that spending a few extra minutes in genuine thanksgiving has helped my attitude shift and realize that God has blessed me immeasurably, regardless of how many more children I may or may not have.
- Spend daily time in Scripture. I have read the Bible cover-to-cover. I attended Lutheran schools, have always been a regular church-goer, and have taught in Lutheran schools for 8 years. That doesn’t mean I have mastered the Bible. At certain points in our lives, Bible verses that we may have read a hundred times may hit us in a new way, just as Paul’s letter to the Philippians has hit me.
- Surround yourselves with other Christians. Joining the women’s Bible study at my church has been a huge part of my attitude shift. That weekly hour-and-a-half is a great time of spiritual growth. It is comforting and uplifting to study God’s Word together and share prayer requests together.
- Share your struggles. This has been the hardest one for me. For years, my husband and I did not tell anyone we were trying to conceive. I’ve always been a pretty private person. When I shared with a couple of close friends, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. During this second struggle with infertility, I opened up at Bible study and shared my prayer request with those women. Hearing someone say “I’m praying for you” is one of the most comforting things you can hear. For that to happen, you have to be willing to share your struggles!
- Think about how God can use you in your current situation to further the gospel. I currently teach preschool part-time. Since I only have one child, it’s not overwhelming to go to school three mornings a week and spend two hours with 2-and-3-year-olds. (It certainly helps that my daughter spends that time in the nursery down the hall from my classroom.) If we have more children, I will probably give up teaching for a few years. Recently, I have had two different families tell me that they chose our school so that their child can learn about Jesus. That was eye-opening! I have the opportunity to minister to these children and their families, and there is no greater joy or responsibility for a Lutheran school teacher! Maybe God is giving me this time of waiting to reach a few more students and plant a few more seeds of faith!
This list is a work in progress. I have not mastered any of these steps, but I am striving to implement them regularly in my life. I do know that focusing on these things has already helped my faith grow. I also know that I will still have moments of waiting miserably. My goal is that they are fewer and further between.
I don’t know if my struggle will help anybody else. I don’t know if it will advance the gospel. Selfishly, I have written this partly for myself. By reflecting on my journey and writing out my plan moving forward, I am holding myself accountable. My prayer is that this can also help someone else. Whatever you may be waiting for—a spouse, a child, a job, a house—I hope that you, too, are able to spend your time waiting joyfully.
Photo (c) Marina Khromova/iStock