How do I keep faith?
How do I handle the bad days, the holidays, the good news for other people days?
What if we never get pregnant? How do I support a friend who is facing infertility?
How do you walk through the grief of miscarriage?
What is a husband’s role in all of this?
These are just some of the many questions I receive from around the world from incredible men and women who are navigating infertility.
Today I am 37 weeks pregnant.
It is easy to get lost along the way from the initial diagnosis of infertility to discovering a real path that works for your family as you wait for your miracle. I have found that much of life is waiting but it is in the waiting that we find who we are and who God is to us.
Infertility is a road of questions, frustrations and mystery but it’s not a wasted season.
Rich and I have been married for eleven years and have walked through infertility together for eight years. This year we were thrilled to receive news that we’re pregnant with our first child and as I sit here writing at 37 weeks pregnant, our son will be born any day now. A prayer has become reality. But just months ago it was still a hope and dream in our hearts.
It’s a real temptation to try to compare your infertility journey to others around you. But it never works. Our paths are different. Our faith is the same. Rich and I have had the help of doctors since day one of our infertility journey but today I would like to focus on our faith that kept us rooted in eternal perspective and present hope.
Circumstances do not fully dictate our life. The decisions we make within our circumstances dictate the joy and strength we hold. Every one of us have the power to decide. It is a gift from God. Free will. We have seen the power of this gift throughout history with the resilience of world changers who rose above their circumstances and chose a different path.
When it comes to our journey of infertility, there are several decisions Rich and I made that created a path of purpose in the wait. We made plenty of mistakes along the way but thankfully even the mistakes can lead you to the right decision if you don’t give up.
1. We decided to TRUST
Trust is a tricky thing because our actions reveal where our trust lies despite what we say. And trust plays a part in all our relationships, not just with our spouse or with God.
Trusting God is the message of hope throughout the scriptures. I am who I am because of the cross, not because of my own merit or goodness. God is faithful. He is trustworthy. We decided to trust God. For us trusting God did not mean ignoring the cold hard facts that my body had a deficiency or that I was in need of medical help, both of which we acknowledged. Trust for us meant releasing the facts to our creator and trusting him to lead us every step through the journey of discovering what the unique path he had created for us held ahead.
We decided to trust God’s promise. What is this promise? For us the promise was not simply that we would have a baby and then our life would be complete. The promise we held every step was that regardless of the outcome, God would be with us every step of our entire lives. The promise we continue to hold on to is the promise of eternity. The promise of a peace that goes beyond our understanding. God has done enough in our lives. He doesn’t owe us a baby. We owe him everything. The faithfulness of God wasn’t proven to us in the miracle of our child but in his presence every step of the way. Now begins a new journey of trusting him in every season to come of our child’s life. The future isn’t promised to be perfect or without pain. Every season we are able to choose to trust the real promise and that is that this earth will fade and we will spend eternity with Jesus.
We decided to trust God’s story. Rich and I came to a place of surrender where we decided we wanted God’s story, not our own. I love surprises and Rich hates them. Regardless, we both chose to desire the story only God could create even if it wasn’t the one we could imagine. Wanting God’s story eliminates jealousy. God doesn’t create duplicates. There are no printing presses… only handwritten one of a kind manuscripts. I get my own God story. I want nothing less.
Infertility can try to make you feel like less of a woman or man. But my identity is only found in being a child of God. Infertility is not somehow excluded from the finished work of the cross. It’s not a separate battle. The cross paid for it all, and my identity is secure because my identity is found in being loved by Jesus.
We decided to trust each other. Marriage takes work. And tough times show what your marriage is founded upon. Trust in marriage creates conversations of truth that bring strength. In life there are moments where one of us will have a tough day, an emotional moment, say a hopeless comment or fear led logic. It’s in moments like that, that we have to trust our spouse to speak life. Trust them enough to lovingly point out the fear, to patiently quiet the complaining or to reason with us as we find our way back to the light. Otherwise we end up together in a pit of despair and thats not the camaraderie any of us need in a spouse. Husbands who are walking through infertility, your voice of strength, faith and reason is not to be undervalued. You can speak hope like no one else can.
2. We decided to GUARD
We decided to guard our pace. We chose to create a sustainable pace for our marriage, work and commitment to ministry. I understand this is difficult for those older and concerned with time. For our journey, it was essential to allow times of rest in between the seasons of infertility focus in order to feel like myself and do the things I felt called to do. When I didn’t know what to do, I waited. Guard your pace of coming to terms with your situation as well. If you’re a friend wanting to support, don’t push to make your friend open up. Give time. Trust the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do. There have been many times in service that a pastor would ask all to stand who were facing infertility, and I decided to stay seated. You don’t know what it feels like until you’re there and if it was gonna take my heart down an emotional path I wasn’t prepared for that day, then I just prayed and trusted as I sat. All good.
We decided to guard our marriage. It’s very easy to make every conversation about starting a family. We decided not to obsess. We decided to guard our words. We didn’t talk about it every day. Our sex life didn’t revolve around it. Infertility isn’t the only thing that can overtake a marriage. Once the kids are born you can easily obsess about them and lose focus on the relationship that created your family. I believe it is important to know what season you are in and embrace that season. I decided not to spend my time shopping for baby clothes and nursery inspiration. I honestly wanted the joy of walking through that door if and when God opened it to us. Instead we went on date nights, made memories together and enjoyed one another. There is strength for you in your marriage. Make the present about the two of you, that is what God has given and your spouse is a gift!
We decided to guard our thoughts. Here’s a practical word of advice to all of you reading this on your smart phone or laptop. Don’t google your current physical issues in the search bar above. Just don’t do it. If you’re serious about finding answers, go to a health professional. This was a hard line decision we made at the beginning of our infertility journey eight years ago and last year I broke it one afternoon when I had a question and couldn’t reach my doctor. Within minutes I was in tears from reading the threads, thinking I had made a huge mistake and ruined everything with our treatment. Once I spoke to the doctor everything was completely fine, except I had lost a perfectly good afternoon to fear. Believe me, even “medical” websites can’t give the real answers you need. Every story is different! As for chat threads, they are a total drain. Don’t allow a message board to tell you what infertility treatments should feel like, much less frame your expectations for your sex life while facing infertility or your relationship with your spouse. Lots of negative, critical, miserable voices you don’t need, so don’t seek them. You can have a healthy marriage, great sex life, joyful outlook all while going through infertility. Just don’t ask the internet.
We decided to guard our hearts. People say weird things. Bizarre, uncalled for, ridiculous things. I think as I have traveled the world sharing our story that in every city someone had a word they wanted to share or the need to place their hands on my stomach and pray very loud (or creepy and quiet). But I came to a place several years ago where I decided not to let it ruffle me and just believe down deep that their weirdness came from a place of love. Maybe by “guard” you thought I meant put your hand in their face and block them but I think we can be more mature than that. Don’t take it personal! Accept and move on. After all, I need all the prayers I can get, even the weird ones! Stay grateful and guard your heart from silly offense that shouldn’t have any power. Just say thank you and smile. It works.
3. We decided to STAY
We decided to stay in relationship. How do you handle the tough days? We need friends and family. This was a huge learning lesson for me on the journey. I waited for a year before I told my parents that we were facing infertility. Something in my heart told me a sweet lie that I could fix this alone, that it wasn’t worth bothering anyone and after all who wants to be the “infertility girl”. I bought the lie and fought the fight of faith on my own and all I can tell you is that the moment I shared it with those that love us was the moment our waiting got immensely stronger. One day my mom and I sat on the couch watching movies and ate an entire jar of Nutella after receiving some tough news. And it was awesome because even in the pain, I wasn’t alone. And the next day was better. Who do you need to open up to? Yes there may be tears as you share. Yes you will be vulnerable. But what are relationships without moments like that? And then after you share, you get on with it and have people in your corner as you boldly trust God together. Way better choice.
We decided to stay planted in church. Yes we pastor a church here in Miami. But the community we lead we are also a part of. When times get tough our human nature tells us to hide. Stop serving, stop leaning into worship, stop sharing what’s going on. But if you’re planted then your roots are placed deep within the soil and even storms can’t move you from where you belong. There will be more battles along the way. But this is my community. Im not backing up in the tough times, I need my church community more than ever in moments of pain. Many people have asked me about baby showers. I think this is personal to every person. I decided to go to the showers and celebrate, otherwise I could be waiting forever and missing out on all the celebrations for years. It was a decision to get out of my head and focus on celebrating others. Realizing again that I wanted God’s story, not a copy of someones else’s brought perspective. Again, this is my journey, not the guidelines for all.
We decided to stay on mission. Big picture thought. This life is passing quickly. Even when the miracle comes to pass, the future isn’t secure. My health isn’t secure, the economy is not secure, our plans are not secure. The world is lost and hurting and we are passing through. I may not have a white picket fence and a perfect life in the here and now but that is not what I’m going for. My mission, OUR mission, is to bring the broken home to Jesus, to a knowledge that there is a God that loves them. I have decided to follow Jesus and he demands all of my heart, because He knows that my heart is only safe in his hands. As I surrender I am filled with a new vision for life that is far beyond what I could ever dream. A vision that reveals how quickly this life will fade and how quickly we will be in eternity, where there will be no tears or desires unmet.
Our God is a healer. Whether seen in the here and now or on the other side of eternity, He makes all things new. Whatever season you are in, know that Jesus decided 2000 years ago, once and for all to extend his love to you. Now we all have the power to decide to respond to his invitation. He is waiting, so if you’re waiting…what are you waiting for?