I was so ashamed of my body. Despite the tests, the blood work, the shots, the doctor visits, it had failed me. And two Mother’s Days passed while I quietly waited for my seat at the mom table.
Maybe for you, you’ve been waiting for more than a couple of years. Or, maybe your friend has just begun her treatment. Chances are, either you or someone you know is waiting for her seat, too. According to the statistics, approximately one in every eight couples is faced with a fertility struggle.
So, on Mother’s Day, my heart both swells for the miracle that I’ve been given with my son – and it also aches for the mamas-in-waiting.
I struggled with being vulnerable enough to share my story here. It’s personal, and if I’m honest, it’s still a little raw. But, when I talked to women who are currently facing this reality, I realized that just maybe my pain could be used for purpose.
Perhaps, you can find hope here, hope to know that no matter where you are in your story to become “mama,” that God has not forgotten you.
I’m here to tell you, that in the depths of my hopelessness and doubt, God showed up. And He taught me lessons that I would have never learned otherwise.
Lesson 1: I’m not in charge here
My wishful journey to motherhood began in 2013, after my husband and I had been married for two years. We enjoyed the newlywed stage with plenty of travel and selfishness, and felt like it was probably time to get the ball rolling on having a family of our own. At my OB/GYN appointment, I informed my doctor of our desire to start a family soon.
When I left her office, I was full of daydreams of becoming a mom. I’d anticipated it wouldn’t take long. How hard could it be? I mean, people get pregnant accidentally ALL THE TIME.
Several days later, I was a bit surprised to see the doctor’s office number pop up on my phone. “We’re going to need you to come back in for a biopsy.”
I thought, “What?! This is weird.” So, I went back in. My doctor explained that my always-normal Pap test wasn’t so normal this time. So, I obliged with the biopsy, assuming it was probably a fluke.
After the biopsy, there was another call. I needed to come in again.
Turns out, I had High-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions (HSIL). Don’t even try pronouncing it, because I can’t. This basically means that I had aggressive precancerous cervical cells that, if not treated, may turn into cancer. The thought of leaving it up to chance was not an option in my mind.
So, the next step was a very minor surgical procedure to remove these threatening cells. Overall: painful, but no big deal.
Then, my doctor said, “You’ll need to wait six months before trying to get pregnant.”
Bam. That was the first closed door. And the waiting game was on before I realized my infertility journey had even begun.
I was beginning to learn that I wasn’t in charge. And my next step would be to build endurance.
Lesson 2: Endurance is powerful – and necessary
After learning that our baby making dreams were put on hold, I did what every logical person would do: I signed up for a marathon. In California.
Did I mention that I live in Indiana (a measley 2,200 miles away)? Or that I’d never run a marathon before?
Had I lost my marbles? Perhaps. But, for some reason, I just knew that this is what I needed to do.
I remember looking at my training plan and laughing at the 15, 16, 17 and even 20-mile runs I’d need to complete. There’s no way I can do that. No way can I run that far.
But, God knew that I needed time to refocus my mind in the waiting. I couldn’t bear to dwell on my original “plans” not falling into place. It was time to build some serious endurance.
For three months, I trained in the wee morning hours on hot summer days with nothing but music playing in my headphones to keep me company. God and I had a lot of time to get to know one another. We were growing closer with every mile.
One time, during a 16-miler, I actually ran out of water, and in a state of desperation, I drank out of the decorative fountain in the front yard of a mansion out in the middle of nowhere. I know. The problem was, that mansion was a good eight-ish miles from home, and I was still out of water.
By the grace of God, a church appeared several miles ahead. It was Sunday, and I was dripping in sweat, nearing tears. And God just showed up with that church in plain view. Those parishioners probably still talk about the weird, sweaty, not-dressed-for-church girl who came wandering in desperate for a drink.
One thing I loved about training was that it made me feel like I was actually in charge of my body in some way. What I was also learning is in those lonely, long, hot, scary runs, is that I needed to lean into God more than ever before.
When I crossed that finish line in San Francisco in July 2014, I earned more than just a medal. It was the strong foundation of physical and spiritual endurance that I would need for the days (and years) ahead in my journey to motherhood.
Every single time I laced up those shoes, I was preparing for race day, building endurance in so many more ways than I could have imagined.
Our trials provide us with a choice: feel defeated, or use the opportunity to build endurance. In this case, I chose endurance.
Lesson 3: We must stand guard against the enemy in our weakness
Soon after my marathon, my doctor cleared us to try to get pregnant. “If you’re not pregnant in six months, come on back in,” she said. Got it.
You can see where this is going. Yep, six months later, I was indeed NOT pregnant. One year had now passed since we had wanted to start a family. And we’d made ZERO progress.
So, I was referred to a local fertility specialist.
“Yep, looks like you’ve got Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS),” said the fertility doctor while doing a cervical ultrasound.
An image of Chris Farley as the bus driver in the movie Billy Madison came to mind as I thought, “Good! Great! Grand! Wonderful!” (insert palm to forehead)
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what PCOS meant (and I’m STILL learning about it to this day). Part of me was relieved to at least know WHY I was having trouble getting pregnant. But, it also meant that I had another race ahead to run.
So, we began the batches of blood work, tests, scans and ultrasounds to come up with a game plan. Finally, after a couple of months in, we underwent a Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) procedure to attempt pregnancy with doctor intervention.
Two weeks later, when I was told to take a home pregnancy test, my jaw nearly dropped to the bathroom floor. I was pregnant!
I could hardly contain my excitement and flooding questions. Who would we tell first, Alex’s parents or mine? How would we tell them? Then, how would we tell everyone else? Should we get our photos taken and do a big reveal on social media to tell the whole world?!
I was just about to burst at the seams with joy! The due date was March 17, which happens to be the same week of my birthday. It was meant to be!
At my next ultrasound, we were still so happy, but measured, just in case. This was the ultrasound where we were going to get to see the heartbeat. With the ultrasound wand moving around, an image of a sac with a small circle inside appeared on the screen in that tiny, darkened room. Alex and I peered at the image, waiting in hopeful anticipation. “There you are, baby!” I thought.
But, the doctor grew quiet, not saying a word. Just scanning and looking closely at the screen.
My nervous eyes panned from him, to Alex, and back again. I knew what his silence meant, but I didn’t want to accept it. I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe, like this wasn’t actually happening to me. This was some sort of movie, not my actual life.
“Have you felt any cramping or had any spotting?” I shook my head. “I’m so sorry. Unfortunately, there isn’t a heartbeat….. And from the looks of it, you’re having a miscarriage.”
And just like that, at only seven weeks, my birthday buddy baby was gone. Another door closed faster than I could open it.
My heart ached. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Before we left the doctor’s office, I had to pick a date for my D&C while my world was crumbling around me.
I cried in the car to my husband, Alex. “This isn’t fair! Why is this happening?!” I asked through tears. Why would God give me a baby, and fill me with so much joy, only to snatch it away?
I didn’t understand.
A few days later, I had the D&C, and I decided to continue to keep my infertility journey fairly private. I didn’t tell many others that we were going through treatment. I was too embarrassed. Only close family and a few friends knew.
I was ashamed that my body wasn’t working. I was angry that it was failing me. And I didn’t want anyone’s advice about, “it’ll all work out.” The truth is, while well-intentioned, the attempted advice would sometimes hurt, too. There were days that I just needed someone to listen – not coach.
Unless you’ve struggled with fertility, it’s impossible to fully grasp the depths and waves of despair, anger and hopelessness that can sometimes creep in when you’re least expecting it. Jealousy of expectant moms and moms with babies would catch me off guard, only to leave me feeling shameful again.
I withdrew into myself, guarded and silent about my struggle. At friends’ baby showers or when coworkers would complain about their kids, my heart winced at the sheer pain of my emptiness.
I wanted to have kids to complain about over lunch with coworkers. I prayed for the discomfort that came with a pregnant belly. It just wasn’t fair.
And that’s exactly where Satan wanted me: alone, angry, and chock-full of envy. He had snuck in and started to take advantage of my weakness.
Lesson 4: He finds us at the end of our rope
Six months is how long I spent in the darkness of this unwanted season. Then, following more blood work and testing after my miscarriage, I was cleared to “try again.” So, we settled into the doctor’s office with careful, joyful hope that THIS was it. This was the point when we would become parents-to-be.
Two weeks after that second IUI procedure, I again took the at-home pregnancy test in our master bathroom.
I don’t remember much about the “not pregnant” that emerged moments later on that small white stick.
The truth is after that, I threw in the towel. I was done with all the tests, the needles, the pills, the prayers, the hope. It got me absolutely nowhere, I thought. The darkness that I had felt over those previous months didn’t compare to what was ahead.
Never in my life had I truly experienced depression. But, here I was. I had no desire to do anything. Work went to the wayside. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and complain about my what-could-have-been life. All this pain, for what?
God must have decided to take a vacation and forgot to notify me he was out of the office.
I found myself in tears again one night on my drive home from work, replaying the details of my situation and doubting God’s goodness. As I turned off the highway onto the country road, despair had consumed my soul. I was beginning to wonder if this life was worth living at all.
And then, suddenly, I saw it.
Looking out across the farm field to my left, a double rainbow appeared above the barren winter cornfields, through the misty rain.
It was three days shy of my miscarried baby’s due date. This was not a coincidence. It was a promise.
Here’s the photo I snapped on that day on my way home:
One month later, I sat in my walk-in closet at 2 a.m. clutching another white stick.
With tears streaming down my face, I attempted not to wake my sleeping husband, while I whispered He is good, He has been good all along!
This reminds me of the story of Noah’s Ark. I was facing my own flood of despair, depression, heartache and hopelessness. And God showed up to calm the flood waters and to promise His goodness for the days to come:
Genesis 9: 11-13: I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood. The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever.
My positive pregnancy test was a result of zero intervention from a doctor. It was His promise fulfilled. He had not forsaken me.
Here’s the kicker: We learned my due date was Christmas Day. Talk about a gift!
Lesson 5: He is working in our waiting
My healthy baby boy arrived on Dec. 16, 2016, and my world hasn’t been the same since then.
While I finally have my miracle baby, I have not forgotten my journey, or those who are fighting similar ones.
Infertility is hands-down the most emotionally draining, exhausting, faith-testing journey I’ve ever experienced (next to motherhood itself).
When choosing a name for our son, one Bible verse kept coming back to me. It rang so true to my journey all along. So, we decided his name would be Roman.
Romans 5:3-4: Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope.
If you are in a season of waiting for your miracle, I hope you know He hasn’t forgotten you. He is working in your waiting, though most days it doesn’t seem that way.
If you’re in this season, I would love to pray for you. My prayer is that you find community instead of trying to run this race alone, that you trust Him even when you feel like you can’t any longer. And that you know that He is good, and that he ALWAYS provides.
I pray that when and if your season of waiting ends, that you use your endurance to share hope with others through your testimony. Use your pain for purpose.
I believe that God chooses to reveal himself through many lessons along the journey of infertility. It’s up to us to choose to see Him. Keep an eye out for those moments when He just shows up.
If you know someone in the midst of infertility, please share this with them today. And as Mother’s Day nears, come alongside them and just be there. This journey is too hard, and sometimes too long, to walk alone.