The first of January marked 3 entire years since we’ve been locked in what has been for us a heart-breaking baby-making journey…
36 fruitless cycles. The months in which I have had all the common symptoms of early pregnancy (including a missed period– geesh! Excited much?) and yet “failed the test” have been the cruelest.
This cycle we’re on Clomid again, we’re finally getting settled in England after the visa process from Hell, and my depression has been gone since about March 2017 thanks to discovering the existence of the MTHFR gene-mutations in my family and the miracle of Activated B-12 with methylfolate for my mental health. Since ovulation, my boobs have been aching and swollen, there have been all kinds of twinges and bloating, lots of having to pee, and other signs that I won’t detail for you here because, well, I already overdid it by telling you about the welfare of my boobies, didn’t I? TMI!!!
Anyway… it feels like surely this is the best possible time for two little pink lines to appear instead of the perpetual one. You wouldn’t think one tiny little line could pack such a devastating punch over and over and over again…
But, oh friend, does it ever.
Research has isolated infertility as causing the same quantities of stress on a person as living with AIDS or fighting cancer. Please let that sink in for a moment the next time someone in your life admits to you that they’re struggling to start their family. Please don’t tell them to “just relax” or “just let go.” Let go of what?! My hopes and dreams? My ever-loving sanity? Puh-lease, people, for the love of all things kind and considerate, stop saying these things in response to a hurting would-be parent. Instead, it would be perfectly appropriate to wrap them up in a huge hug– and keep your words to a blessed minimum.
I have one friend who gets this. She’s never had AIDS, cancer, or struggled to conceive, but she has lost her husband to suicide and found herself raising two tinies on her own. She’s the one person who has been most helpful to me on this journey because she doesn’t do pat, dismissive statements. She “gets” grief. And she continually holds faith for me when I lose mine. She tells me again and again what a fantastic mother I’ll be. She tells me how sorry she is when my period arrives again. She just meets me where I’m at, and doesn’t try to tell me how to be. And that makes her the safest person in my fertility story. We’ve held space for each other to grieve our losses these past years, the massively huge one of her husband’s life, and the millions of little ones in my empty-armed ache.
And then there’s my man.
I can confidently say that beyond what Christ did on the cross to redeem my life, my husband is the greatest gift God has ever given to me. And I marvel at the way He had us married just in the nick of time. Honestly, it was no sooner than the day after we returned from our honeymoon that a life-long secret came out about a pivotal man in my life, and had I learned it before our wedding, I think I might have been too freaked out to trust any man enough to marry mine– I was skittish in romantic relationships ANYWAY. And had I not had this steady, strong, supportive, tender man at my side, I don’t know if I could have survived these last 3 years. I don’t think I’m being melodramatic. I didn’t know life could be this hard before all of this.
He makes me laugh every single day (even in the days that feel like I’m walking on a razor edge, like today, waiting to find out if this month is FINALLY it), holds me wordlessly when I just need to cry, helps me process through all the emotions whirling around my heart and head. He is very quiet until he has something to say, and when he does have something to say, it is usually well-thought out, intelligent, gentle, and deep. He cares about what matters. He prioritizes his walk with God firstly, and our relationship next. It’s almost unreal to me because it’s not what was modeled to me at all. I love and appreciate how we “work” our marriage as equals, checking in with one another to decide together on everything that matters, respectful of one another’s feelings and opinions, talking things out.
And he’s tall, dark and handsome to boot. Score!!
In the midst of all that has been so dark these last too many years, I can look over at this man and think, “God, you have blessed me SO much” and I can’t tell you how absolutely necessary that has been…
Because it’s wayyyy too easy to feel like God’s forgotten me. And to start internally kicking and screaming and moaning about how unfair He is and how unkind; downright mean! Not sounding like a beloved child of the King, because, frankly, it’s hard to FEEL like a beloved child of the King when I’m not even sure He remembers that I’m here– kicking and screaming and moaning.
I think a lot about the Israelites wondering through the desert. They’d been beckoned out of Egypt by God Himself, promised a land flowing with milk and honey, and yet for forty years, their dreams and the promises of God did not come to fruition. Forty years, people. They left the only homes they knew, and then saw nothing but sand for 4 entire decades… How easy it would have been to feel God had just abandoned them, or that they’d only thought they’d heard His voice and it was actually a figment of their own imaginations. They must have felt forgotten. What had started so marvelously with walls of water being parted for an entire night so that the great nation of Israel could walk across the dry riverbed with the Egyptian army in pursuit, must have petered out by around week four, or month three, or year two… and yet, they had 38 years yet to go.
Can you imagine?
I sure can.
Our dear friend Jon gave us a commentary on Job last year by Christopher Ash, recognizing that we were facing our own version of Job’s story. I read my own heart in that great book of the bible, and especially as Ash unpacked it in exegesis. I think it’s telling that scholars consider it the oldest book in the bible– this monster subject of suffering and our relationship to it as Believers was the first to be addressed of all subjects in the world…
About the time I was working my way through the Job commentary, my sister had just fallen pregnant again by accident and wasn’t happy about it. Not only was she not happy, but she was terribly worried, and angry at God for it, and very vocal in processing her new, life-changing developments.
I truly felt like a broken heart should be able to kill you, and I welcomed the thought of being put out of my misery once and for all.
The day I got her news, I stared up at God in a depressed fog, feeling so overwhelmed by feelings of hurt, betrayal, hopelessness, and loss that I could hardly feel anything over the despair. And I felt it reverberate through my spirit; not audibly, but might as well have been. God was saying, “You can shout at me, little one. I’m big enough.”
If a soul can shout, for the next weeks and months, mine did. Poisonous, faithless things, built up over 3 and some years of incredible pain starting with the breakdown of my idea of what my family was, then the heartache of finding the path to starting our own family a difficult one, then the breakdown of my parents’ marriage and all the ensuing ugliness, the breakdown of precious relationships in my own life after the lies and deceptions of family members, then the deaths of people in my life, the suicides of people in my life, the ensuing trauma of all that, the breakdown of my mental health, the endlessendlessendless pregnancy announcements coming at us from all directions every.single.frickin.day, then the breakdown of my physical health which had me facing two unrelated surgeries within a month of each other, then just to top it all off, mistakes made by immigration on our visa application parting my husband and I for months on end… It felt like every time I MIGHT find enough strength to stand up again, something else came along to wallop me.
The hardest part was losing a sense of safety I had known in my personal relationship with Jesus since I was 4 years old. It was like losing “home”. I’d lost home literally when my Dad’s deceptions came to light and my parents’ marriage broke down, and I lost it figuratively when God no longer felt like safe place to run to– a strong tower when the howling winds of life threatened to blow everything away.
For months in my depression, I shouted internally, and I complained outwardly, and I lost the sense of trust I had always had in Him, the sense of safety I’d always felt in Him. And I felt guilty for not being able to keep it held together like other Christians did, but it was almost like, in His huge grace, He invited my honesty more than my trust just then. And He gave me space to shout out all the poison, and somehow doing so made room for Him to move in with His healing…
And I saw it in Job. God invited him to speak up, even honoured Job for speaking, while dishonouring the friends who came to try to placate him with their words. I think in the end, He honoured Job because he was being so honest. Yet, he wasn’t letting his pain and misunderstanding at what God was allowing in his life to turn him away from God, instead he used it to turn in and engage with Him. To shout at Him. To beg and ask and moan at and beseech Him. When God finally responded, after chapters and chapters of listening to the friends misconstrued lectures and Job’s mourning spirit taking him through all the stages of grief, He didn’t answer Job’s questions of why. Instead, He just told Job who He was, and gave him grace for questioning Him. And it was in grasping a bit of God’s glory that something in Job was healed.
[“Saviour, breathe forgiveness o’er us:
all our weakness thou dost know;
thou didst tread this earth before us,
thou didst feel its keenest woe…”
— James Edmeston]
Slowly, slowly, slowly over these 3 hellish years, I feel like God has become a safe place for me again. And I cannot find the words to tell you what that means.
I can’t even really put my finger on how it happened, to be honest. I decided early on that I wanted our child’s first sensations to be of his/her mother’s voice singing praises to Jesus, and as I won’t know right away when we are pregnant, that means choosing to praise every single part of every single cycle. Part of my feels like that obstinacy has held me.
And when the visa process went to pot and UKVI made mistake after mistake that left us stranded high and dry and separated by an ocean, and I thought I might seriously lose my mind as the anxiety attacks started coming strong and often, there was no where to turn but Him.
And slowly slowly, it began to feel like the only way to survive, the only way to fight my way through this, was to look at all that was going to ashes around me and defiantly choose to be blessed.
This isn’t some brain-washing technique that tells me all that I’m going through is wonderful. It’s not even overlooking the painful things so I can pretend that all is well. Honestly, I’ve tried to compare my stuff to someone with “worse stuff”, to reason the pain away. It doesn’t work for me. The pain is too deep, too real, too strong, to be covered over with the proverbial rug.
It’s looking around at all the carnage– my hopes and dreams and family and security and relationships and sense of well-being and certainties and sense of something to hope in– all of it ravaged and blackened by this endless fire that keeps roaring through, pockets of ashes where nothing’s left and the smoke wafts up, some bits still burning near by and the heat of the mighty flames not far off… It’s looking around at it all, feeling every sensation of it, and yet noticing the flower growing up through the ashes, or the treasure lying in the rubble that was miraculously spared.
I choose blessed.
I choose to not overlook the blessings, the pin-pricks of His light even in the dark.
I choose to remain in Him, and let Him remain in me. I choose to remember Who He is, what He’s done in Jesus’ life, and what true security is, even when I can’t feel an ounce of care for that eternity which awaits me because THIS life already feels like an “eternity” and it’s taking all of my energy and attention to survive it.
I cannot honestly say that I’m okay if He never gifts us with a child. I know that He has imbued both of us with the gifts and skills and desires to be parents. This endless waiting doesn’t make a bit of sense.
But I love Emily Dickinson’s line, “I dwell in possibility” and as long as we’re waiting for the gift of a person He’s fashioning to create between us, we are constantly dwelling in possibility… That doesn’t mean that I don’t also dwell in yoga pants on the first day of my period each month, curled up in a fetal position, begging the tears to stop, begging my breath to just steady itself, begging for strength to move into another day, with new hope.
I want to help people understand how difficult this road is, because so many take starting their families for granted. They have no reason not to.
But for the 1 in 6 of us who live a different kind of story, aching for what comes most naturally to most everyone else the world over– so naturally, in fact, that 125,000 people kill their own unborn babies EVERY DAY– I want to bring you a pin-prick of light in your darkness.
You are not forgotten.
I have no answers, but I know you are loved so much more than there are words for.
And I’m so sorry. The pain is unendurable and so few people “get it,” which makes it that much more painful and isolating.
Maybe you’ve got a passel of children giggling upstairs and downstairs and in every corner of your house, but you’ve got other kinds of isolating pain…
Whatever it is, hope on, my friends. May you choose blessed with me as you dwell in possibility. And may He soon turn all of our darkness into light (Ps. 18:28).