“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him Faithful who had promised” Hebrews 11:11
This passage speaks great hope into my heart, and also torments me as I wonder the fate of my own story. I too, am named Sarah. And I too, face infertility.
I am far from “past the age,” turning 28 this year, and my journey through infertility began just about two years ago.
January 11, 2014 was one of the happiest days of my life. I just knew I was pregnant and I was eager to find out. So when I woke up early that Saturday morning, I rushed out of bed to take a pregnancy test. It was faint, but there it was. The coveted second line. Just barely pregnant. But pregnant. I left it on the counter for my husband to find when he woke up. I sat in our living room, dreaming of our new life and the life that was growing inside of me. He finally woke up, and saw the test. I could feel his excitement and shock as we sat with each other and talked about our future to come.
The joy, however, was short lived. A week later, I began to have some spotting. I knew. From that first moment, I knew. We tried to stay positive, after all some spotting can be normal. But. It wasn’t. And just like that, our baby was gone.
I knew miscarriages happened. I knew it could happen to me, and I even worried it would. But I never believed it actually would. After all, if you worry about it, it protects you from it, right? Regardless, there is no preparing for that kind of pain. The heart of a mother is so strong for her child - when a child is taken…well, you either know that pain or you fear even the thought of it.
After the miscarriage, my doctor really wasn’t concerned. We were young and healthy; it was only a matter of time before we would conceive again. I struggled to grieve the loss, and there was a lot of pain, but through it I found myself craving more of God. It was as if something was missing. That something, I would come to find out, was a trusting relationship with God.
Did I believe in God? Sure did. Always. Really, I’ve never doubted His existence. But a relationship between God and I? Well, that was still pretty new to me. During a challenging time in my life a few years prior, I learned that God was what I really needed. He carried me through that season, but eventually as things got better, I moved away from Him. No longer needing Him to get through each day, I drifted.
It was now time to find my way back to Him. So I picked up a journal, and I began to write to Him.
“I do not have control over my body or my ability to conceive- and that terrifies me” March 5, 2014
I could have written that exact thing today. That entry was the beginning of countless pages I wrote to the Lord. Journaling became my prayer life. It contained the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of me that I fully share with Him. It was exactly what I needed to find Him. The pain still lingered, but I was finding strength to persevere through Him.
A few months later, our church was preparing for a Baptism service. I was baptized as a baby in the Catholic Church, so baptism wasn’t something I thought much about. But I felt God pushing me out of my comfort zone, asking me to trust Him. So I took the plunge. Literally. I remember doing my testimony video, through the tears saying, “I realize I am not in control, God is, and I need to trust Him and that is terrifying.” That sentence pretty much sums up my walk with God today. I remember hoping that I was pregnant as I got baptized. Wouldn’t that just be an amazing story?
Well. It didn’t end that way. Another month of no pregnancy.
And then another, and then a few more.
As the end of summer arrived, we agreed to start seeking some medical help. I had feared that there was something wrong for some time, but had agreed with the doctor and my husband, to give it more time. So as the summer faded we got a referral to a doctor who specialized in fertility.
At this point I was struggling, but had come to the realization that we would need some form of intervention to conceive. In the fall, we started sharing our struggles with people in our church community. I remember telling God that I’d share this story once it was over, once we had our baby. But I felt Him pushing me to share it in that moment, as we were walking our way through it. I think that was God trying to show me that I didn’t need to do this on my own.
Over the next couple of months we did all of the required testing. Bloodwork and ultrasounds were a regular occurrence. I remember really struggling before one of the tests. I sat on the stairs that morning crying. Before my husband left for work, he prayed for us, and reminded me that this test would not reveal anything that God did not already know. I felt so comforted by that. God knows, so why be afraid? All my tests were coming back normal. Hormone levels were a little low, but with some supplementation those were corrected. So things were looking good.
Even though on paper things were looking good, a year of trying had brought the worst out in me. Each month that passed, my lack of control was eating away at me and was a breeding ground for fear. My perfectionist heart hated that we had to continuously try each month, only to be unsuccessful each time. This was the first time in my life I couldn’t achieve something, no matter how hard I tried. The only thing that kept me going was my heart’s desire to be a mother. If I wanted kids, one way or another, I had to keep going. Through the pain, I was drawing close to God. I was beginning to see that He was using this hardship to speak to me and transform me. Most importantly, I started to see that this wasn’t really about a baby at all. It was about me. I needed healing, but not just in the physical sense to conceive. A baby was not going to fix the hurt, the pain, the sin that was inside of me.
A year had passed. We entered 2015 with renewed hope. I was happy to see 2014 go. It had been a year marked with pain and suffering. 2015 was the year. In January, we followed up with our fertility doctor. All the tests came back normal, and she gave us the green light to keep trying. If we weren’t pregnant in 3 months, we were to come back. What I heard: you will be pregnant in 3 months. I had some reservations about this, because I had been having some spotting during my cycle, but the doctor figured it was just stress from holidays and traveling, so no need to worry because it would go away. I felt God asking me to trust this plan, even though I felt uneasy about it. So I began to let go of the fear, and I started resting in the joy of hope that a baby would soon be on the way.
Except that it didn’t work out that way.
The spotting didn’t go away, and we didn’t get pregnant during those 3 months. I felt like I was being tormented, as if this was all an elaborate, cruel joke. I felt like a fool for believing we could actually get pregnant. I was shaken. I could tell my faith was taking a hit. I was still holding onto God, but the cracks were starting to show. The wounds of infertility were being exposed and it wasn’t pretty. I was hurting so much that it was consuming me. I knew I was supposed to rely on God. I knew the scriptures, the prayers-but I just couldn’t find my way to Him.
Eventually I knew I needed to do something so I participated in an inner healing prayer session. During that time, I was able to repent, forgive, and see the root of my struggles; the lies I was telling myself, the fears, the desire to control, all the things that were pulling me away from God, and further into the pain. Afterwards, I felt like a new person. It felt like a weight had been lifted from me. I had been honest with God about my heart, and He had given me peace in return.
After that, I went on to have another appointment with our fertility doctor. She decided it was time to try clomid. I remember in December being so fearful of having to go on clomid, wanting my body to be capable on its own. But when she said the words, my heart was overjoyed. I don’t even know why, but it just felt right. She also decided to refer me for a gynecologist consult. But in my mind, that referral was an afterthought; the clomid was what felt right, and that would surely be our fix.
Our first cycle on clomid was perfect. Hormone levels were great and no spotting. Looking ahead, the end of that cycle would be falling on Mother’s Day weekend. Clearly this was a good sign, right?
But. It wasn’t.
To add to my hurt, my brother and his wife decided to announce that weekend that they were expecting their first child. My parents were becoming grandparents for the first time. And it wasn’t because of me.
Then the following week, another announcement. A co-worker.
Then the following week, another. A close friend.
I was struggling to hold on. The darkness was starting to creep in as I wrestled with the question, “Why not me, Lord?”
And then the following week, we got another call. My husband’s sister. She was due two weeks after my brother’s wife. And would be minting my in-laws as grandparents for the first time.
My world started to fall. I was barely holding on at this point. Four announcements in four weeks. Two nieces/nephews due weeks apart. My parents and in-laws would finally become grandparents. On top of this, the following day we had our appointment with the gynecologist. So I tried to forget about all the announcements, and focused on the appointment. But really, I felt this consult was unnecessary, there was nothing wrong with me.
So to our appointment we went. After the gynecologist performed his exam, he told me that he was fairly confident I had endometriosis and would need surgery.
Excuse me? What? No, you must be mistaken. I don’t have endometriosis. I’ve spent a year convincing myself that I couldn’t have it because I really don’t have any symptoms.
I didn’t want to believe it. But I knew it was true. I remember crying uncontrollably in the car after the appointment. Feeling so overwhelmed with so much hurt, that I was bursting at the seams.
So we went home. And I fell apart. Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually - I was broken. In this darkness, I no longer saw God. I chose to no longer see Him. I was no longer interested in His plan for me. I still believed in Him, but I didn’t want a relationship with Him anymore. It was too hard. It hurt too much. I was not cut out for this type of faith. So, I took time off work, and I hid. I relied on Netflix to numb my pain, so that I could sleep at night. I ignored Him, and anything to do with Him. I would go to church and just sit there. There was no praise, there was no worship, I had nothing for Him.
I’ve never been in such a dark place. And I stayed there for about 3 months. But even though I had turned my back on God, He was finding His way to me through the people around me. For the first time, my husband finally understood my pain. My crumbling faith terrified him. For the first time, he saw me for what I really was. Broken. For the first time, I felt safe enough with him to let him see it all. And although he still struggled, he was exactly what I needed him to be. God was showing His hand although I wasn’t willing to admit it at the time.
Over those 3 months I didn’t do much praying, but I spent a lot of time figuring out why I was hurting so much. After reading all of Brene Brown’s books, I finally got it. Shame & Identity. If I was not a mother, then what was I? I was not okay, because deep down I didn’t think I was enough. Without kids, I was not enough. I felt deep shame about who I was. Having children would give me worthiness. Infertility was challenging that plan. The fear of never becoming a mother paralyzed me. I needed to become a mother. God was showing His hand again. This wasn’t really about a baby. It was about me.
Two weeks before my surgery date. I knew I needed to make some choices about my faith. God had been pulling on my heart for a while now. I had a great network of people who were trying to encourage me to rely on God, but I knew that I needed to make that choice for me, and nobody else. While away on a vacation, I sat on a beach and began to journal. For the first time in months, I wrote. After numerous pages, I came to this conclusion. If I waited until after the surgery to decide on my faith it would either have one of two outcomes. If the surgery went exactly how I wanted it to, my faith would be artificial; a faith based on receiving what I want. If the surgery didn’t go how I hoped, I feared I would have no faith left. I felt God urging me to decide on Him then, and not later. So with tears in my eyes and peace in my heart, I found Him that day on that beach.
For the next two weeks, I focused on Him. I did another inner healing prayer session, which helped immensely. I then began to bind down my fears in the name of Jesus every moment they entered my mind. I listened to the song “No Longer Slaves” on repeat day after day. I immersed myself in Him, every moment I could. I was ready to face this surgery.
My surgery came and I was diagnosed with moderate-severe endometriosis. The gynecologist removed everything he could see. I had cysts, and adhesions, but fortunately my tubes were mostly unaffected. We thanked God for the healing He was providing and took hope in that we finally had some answers as to why we were not conceiving. After the surgery, we were given options to try on our own, or do hormone suppression to further treat the endometriosis. We felt the right choice was to take some time to try on our own, and if needed, we would explore other options later.
And that is where we are today.
I write these words not knowing the end of this story. I felt God was encouraging me to share my story, before it is completed. I think He’s asking me to trust Him (again), before I have all the answers. I still really struggle to do this, but I know that’s where real faith grows. I know my heart’s desires are to be a mother. But I have also learned, that I need Him more than I need children. That doesn’t mean I won’t have children some day, but it’s a reminder that I am enough (just as I am) for Him, and He is enough for me.
He continues to bring me back to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. It’s a painful story to read. I struggle to understand how God could ever ask that of Abraham. And then I remember, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).
He gets it.
It doesn’t make the suffering any less painful. But it reminds me that redemption comes from the darkest of places. He too lost a child. And from that loss came the greatest gift of all.
I end this with saying, I am nothing special. I have not willingly chosen this path for myself, and I still struggle to find the courage to trust Him on a fairly regular basis.
I have lots of questions, and not many answers.
But there is one thing I do know. On the day He allows me to receive my child, it won’t be about my triumph over infertility; that day will be all about His glory. And on that day, I will humbly bow before Him, and praise Him, knowing it was all worth it.