It was the Friday before Mother’s Day. It was also the two-year anniversary of my and Jared’s struggle to grow our family. It had been twenty-four failed attempts for a baby, dozens of blank pregnancy tests, and month after month of hope destroyed with a period. I was lying down on the couch, watching real housewives (I know, I know), when my phone began to buzz with texts. It was my little sister, Sarah. The conversation began with small talk, but my heart began to race because I could feel this conversation heading in a totally new direction. I looked down at my phone and a paragraph had been typed, and I knew. I knew before I read it. My little sister was fixing to tell me she was pregnant. My throat began to swell and tears began to fill my eyes. I read it at least five times. Surely this isn’t true. Surely my sister, who is two and a half years younger than I am and who I had no idea was even trying to get pregnant, is not going to be a mom…before ME. She and her husband were planning on announcing it to the whole family on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day, but she graciously chose to tell me first. She knew our struggle. She knew I wanted to desperately to be a mom. I immediately ran outside and called my dear friend, Kim. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember I could barely say it. I was sobbing uncontrollably. I love my sister. I really was happy for her, and I had no doubts that she would be a great mom. I knew I would love her baby, but my heart was broken. It was my turn. I was supposed to be first. I don’t remember what Kim said either, but I remember silence on the phone. What could she say to help? It wouldn’t have mattered what words she chose.
I walked back inside my house, trying to catch my breath, and my husband, Jared, came walking down the hall.
“What’s wrong?!?” He anxiously asked as my cheeks were red and eyes swollen.
Very simply I said, “Sarah’s pregnant.”
In the most gracious and compassionate response, he sweetly said, “Awe… That’s awesome for them!”
Awesome?!? Really?!? That’s the best you can come up with, I thought. Why on earth is he not upset about this?!? How does this news not affect him the way it has me? Am I crazy for feeling this way? I’m going to spend the next nine months watching her belly grow, being present when finding out if it’s a girl or boy, and participating in choosing a name for her baby. How am I going to get through it? That was almost a year ago. Needless to say, that Mother’s Day was the worst day in our now three-year battle with infertility. I have the most precious, beautiful two-month-old niece that I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world…even my own baby.
But every time I look at her, hold her, and kiss her adorable chubby cheeks, a piece of my heart aches. The following July, my mom, older sister Beth, and my niece and nephew were all at my house. My mom and I were going to begin a fun day of canning fresh veggies from my garden. I walked out of the kitchen with my niece for a few minutes, and when we walked back in, I found Beth and mom huddled over the sink…both bawling their eyes out. I immediately began to panic.
“What is wrong?!?” I asked.
My voice rose. “Someone tell me what is going on.”
After a long pause, Beth looked up at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. “I think I’m pregnant.”
“What?!? Pregnant? Were you late?”
“Well why on earth do you think you’re pregnant?”
“Because I had three positive tests.”
My world began to spin. God thinks He’s funny now. Both of my sisters are pregnant. Beth will be the first to tell you that this was a crazy, very unplanned surprise. If you know her, she probably has told you. Lol.
We all three stood in the kitchen and cried. I cried for the weight of unfairness of it all and for the idea that Beth has her third miracle coming, and all she could do was cry. I love Beth. We are very different, but she is one of the best mothers I know. She has the patience of Job with her children, and they are two of my favorite human beings on the planet. Maybe, I began to hope, all three of us will be pregnant together! How amazing would that be?!? Well, that didn’t happen. Beth is due any day, and my womb is still empty. Every time I log onto Facebook, a new pregnancy or delivery is announced. I have friends who have had two children in the timeframe that we have never gotten pregnant. In one day, I had two clients announce pregnancies to me. I have several very close friends who are pregnant right now. It’s always hard to hear the news that brings them so much joy…but that reminds me of my empty arms and aching heart.
This past fall, after two and a half years of going in circles with my local OB, I went to a specialist in Nashville. I finally had a laparoscopic procedure done to check for endometriosis and to see if I had any blockages in my fallopian tubes. By this point, we knew something was wrong. I had horrible ovulation pain, and we hadn’t gotten pregnant after what felt like years and years. I prayed for answers. I prayed for direction. I prayed for God to reveal causes for our infertility. The thought of not knowing our unexplained infertility was too great to bear. He answered me. LOUD and CLEAR. I still feel nauseous when I think back to the moment my mom shared the news with me…
Stage 4 endometriosis (the worst).
One fully blocked tube.
Severe damage from an infection years ago.
Hysterectomy in five years.
I’m 32. I’m healthy. I’ve always taken care of doctor’s appointments and my annual exams. How could my local OB roll her eyes six months prior, telling me that I did not have endometriosis? How could she have missed this after tons of blood work and ultra sounds in three years?!? How could I have wasted so much precious time? How could I have to have a hysterectomy? Every woman in my family has great reproductive genes. Why God, why?
Well, the truth is, God may never answer my “whys.” He may never bless my womb with children. I may never get to experience pregnancy, breast feeding, crying at two a.m., or Mother’s Day. I may never get to use the boy and girl names I have had tucked in my heart since my husband and I were dating. But what God has shown me through these last three years is something I would have never learned without going through this extremely difficult journey. In a recent sermon, my pastor said, “There are just some things God can only do with you when you’re broken.” Wow. Truth.
He is teaching me to trust. He is teaching me patience…to wait on His time. He is showing me that I am not in control. I can plan all day long, and I can paint this perfect picture of what my life should be, but it’s not the picture He’s painting. During this trial,
there have been days my faith was failing and my heart couldn’t stand any more hurt. Almost always on those days, I have received random acts of kindness by other women who have once stood in my shoes. Women I barely know promising to pray for me. Women who know the heartache and pain of barrenness. I have received random texts and emails from our church family with encouraging scripture. I have received precious words from my husband. After my surgery, we received meals from our dear friends and family. I even have had a client pray over me on the spot after sharing with her my story.
What God has shown me through all of this is His love. He has broken me to remold me. He has taken my messy mistakes, my bad choices (that have in part led to our infertility), my sinful past… and He nailed it to the cross. He is my redemption. My sweet friend, Rebecca, who also has gone down the infertility road, listened to me after crying and saying, “Is this punishment for the person I used to be? Is this God saying, ‘Cristen, you should’ve listened. But you deliberately chose to rebel against Me when you knew better?’”
And Rebecca so sweetly answered, “Of course not. That sin is forgiven. And forgotten. As far as the east is from the west. God is working all of this for the good of those who love him… So if He says all things are worked together for good… That’s including your sin.”
Jesus has already written my story. It’s a story filled with heartache (that scripture promises us we will face), but it’s also filled with sweet, sweet music. My song He’s written for me. I have five…almost six…beautiful, healthy, happy nieces and nephews who I adore. I have a husband, who may hurt differently, but who is still right here beside me. I get to walk through this struggle with him. I have parents who are pretty much the best in the world. I have wonderful friends who have prayed for us and who have cried with me. Brokenness is so hard, but it is so good. God has brought me so close to Him in the hardest time of my life. He has shown His love for me through new mercies that come in the morning and grace that fills my broken heart. I praise God for my brokenness. I praise God for the work He has done in my life, and I pray I am able to help others the way I have been helped. I pray for all the women I know and have never met struggling with infertility. It’s a club I hope you don’t ever have to be a part of, but if you have become a member, I love you. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. God loves you so much, and He holds your future in the palm of His righteous hand. No blocked tube or stage 4 endometriosis or past mistakes are surprising to Him. He already knows what life is going to bring. He knew me in my mother’s womb. He knew two months ago, my world would be rocked when I heard all the things wrong with me… but it was no surprise to Him. We have a hope that is so much greater than pink positive tests… His name is Jesus. In Him, we always have hope. A sweet family friend, who went through this struggle years ago and now has 3 beautiful kids, said to me, “I got to a point where I stopped begging God… And I started BELIEVING him.”
I got a sparrow tattoo on my foot this summer from Matthew 10:29…as a reminder that on the worst of days, God loves me. He knows the number of hairs on my head. If He is present for every sparrow that falls, then how much more is His love for me? I believe He has so much in store for my life. I believe He has a wonderful, rich love story written for me.
I also believe this promise for all of my fellow club members.
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD.