“Please stand if you are a mother. We want to celebrate you!” says the pastor. His intentions, of course, are good. Everyone is looking around at the wave of pastels and floral corsages that begin to rise among the congregation. An elderly woman smiles with hidden wisdom and outward understanding at the weary, new mother standing near her in the pew. Everyone applauds and the women are encouraged to pick up their Mother’s Day carnations at the door on their way out.
This type of recognition looks different in every church. However, from my experienced perspective, there is one thing that always remains the same — the women sitting in the same pews with somber faces, silent tears and white knuckles. Some are forcing themselves to remain in the pew while some quietly exit before the recognition and then slip back in afterward. Some of their faces are never seen that morning because they find it too painful to even make their way into the sanctuary on Mother’s Day.
The Silent Pain of Infertility
Before celebrating my first Mother’s Day in 2013, I found myself among the silent criers. I began my journey to motherhood with such optimism. My husband and I had stayed the course during our dating years and saved ourselves for marriage. We were wed and enjoyed our time as a couple. We were intentional with our family planning and by the general biblical guidelines, we sequenced our steps in the right order. We loved Jesus and looked forward to what he had in store for our family. So how did I transition from a bright-eyed new bride to a tear stained muddled mess? I imagine there are many of you who may be able to relate.
My husband and I had reached a point in our marriage where we were ready and very excited to begin a family. I always had dreams of becoming a mother. I dreamt continually about tiny baby socks, pregnancy, and the patter of little feet. I could not wait to share the news — first with my husband, and then with our family and friends. I had a dozen ways I wanted to make the announcement. We were healthy, young, and stable. It seemed that getting pregnant should be no issue. It was the natural next step.
Fast forward to sometime later when I was sitting in my gynecologist’s office. She had recently diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and had talked to me about what my body may or may not be doing. My husband’s tests came back with no consequence. The primary issue to our inability to become pregnant lay solely in me. At the end of my last visit in her office, she informed me that there was nothing more she could do and expressed that she was unsure if we would be able to have children. She then suggested we see a fertility specialist. I cried all the way home.
The Seeds of Bitterness
I fell into a dark place. We had been diligently trying to conceive and I was emotionally exhausted. My heart — once so full of hope — was empty. I could no longer see the glass half full. Negativity began to seep into my emotions and erode my relationships. My husband and I knew that we were not only battling physical factors, but also a war waged on our faith and our personal relationships with Jesus. I battled so many lies of inadequacy.
We both felt compelled to seek a second opinion. I prayed for guidance and took a chance on a new OBGYN practice. Within the first few minutes of my first appointment, I rediscovered a peace that I had been missing for so long on our infertility journey. The doctors and nurses were well versed and highly experienced with my PCOS diagnosis. They began with a full blood work up. This would eventually reveal that my testosterone levels were elevated and that I was not ovulating. I was asked questions and given answers that were never discussed at my prior practice and by the end of my first visit, I was set up for a second to develop and discuss a plan.
Testing revealed that I was not ovulating which, of course, is necessary for pregnancy. During the time between visits we looked into our options, prayed over our next steps, and went into our next appointment confident in our decisions. We discussed our goals with the doctor and informed her of our limits. We felt led to go no further than medication. We knew there were multiple more invasive options, but our hearts were confident in God’s prompting. If the medication options did not work, then we were confident that He had another plan for us. Our doctors respected our choices and not once did they force additional or unwanted information or options upon us.
I moved forward with my medicinal protocol. The hormonal changes were intense. I was already dealing with feelings of depression and the constant highs and lows of the hormone treatments only intensified what I was feeling. I could sit with you over coffee and offer hours of content about that dark time. There were moments when I believed the lie that we had been forgotten by God. I often found myself feeling like a broken piece of machinery. I could not do the one thing that I believed a woman was supposed to be able to do. I could not go forth and multiply. God calls us to it in scripture and yet, there I was with my biblical checklist, unable to get pregnant while my newsfeed bombarded me with unplanned pregnancy announcements. Can you sense the bitterness?
Bitterness Takes Root
I was more than bitter. I was angry and heartbroken. I was envious and discontent. I allowed my raw emotional state to cloud my view and develop judgements that were not mine to make. I avoided baby showers, social media, and yes, even church. At one point I stopped going for a few months because I was exhausted from saving face during discussions of motherhood woes during Sunday school and the promises of God’s goodness in the sermon. I know all of this sounds awful and completely un-Christ like — because it was. I can own that. I can also own the fact that I was not a person I was proud to be during that time. Satan had wedged his way into my thoughts and it was easier to give up the fight than try to battle on.
Mother’s Day came and went. I envied the mothers standing so proudly. I longed to join their numbers. I finally came to the realization that I may not get to live out my dream of motherhood in the way that I thought it should happen. I carried this thought with me for quite some time. I kept processing and trying to accept what may indeed be our reality.
God Meets Us in Our Dark Places
Finally, I simply broke. My heart could not handle the extensive ache any longer. My soul was weary, my marriage was starting to feel the strain, and I was emotionally spent. I had finally reached the point where I had nothing else but Jesus. My arms remained empty but my heart was suddenly becoming full again. The peace was overwhelming and I knew that however God chose to grow our family, we would accept it. If our family was to remain just the two of us, then God would make that enough. I resigned myself to hoping, but I no longer let my emotions consume me as I had been doing. I began to combat my hurt and Satan’s lies with prayer.
I began openly talking to my husband about my pain and I started to share with a couple of close friends. I began to realize that I did not need a baby to have a full life. I needed only Jesus. The ache was still there and my heart still longed greatly for a child, but I had begun to learn how to cope in a healthier way.
God First Restores Our Hearts
Little did I know that God was using that time of restoring my heart to prepare me for one of the greatest moments of my life. We would soon discover that the medication was beginning to help me ovulate and in the late summer of 2012, we were ecstatic to discover that we were pregnant. I was going to be a mom! The pregnancy came with a whole new set of anxieties, but God continued to remind me that He had brought me this far and He would not leave me in the midst of this great, unexpected journey.
I celebrated my first Mother’s Day just a couple of weeks after my daughter’s birth. Now, five years later, I am still in awe of God’s goodness. The light and life that God exudes through every giggle and imaginative story that escapes my daughter reminds me that we so often have to face dark and painful uncertainties in order for His light to shine through.
I want to encourage those of you still waiting with empty arms. This Mother’s Day may have looked similarly for you. You may have had to grip the pew to force yourself to stay seated. You may have had quiet tears streaming down your face at each baby dedication. You too may avoid baby showers and social media. It is a part of the pain. I get it. I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle and that although each of our journeys will look different, the outcome is ultimately the same. Whether we end up having children, adopting or dedicating our time to stepping in as mentors to the young people around us — God has a beautiful plan for our life and He will use our desire to be a mother for His purpose.
There is Purpose in Our Pain
The ultimate outcome is that we use our struggles to point others to Christ. While this is easier said than done, we glorify Christ when we acknowledge Him throughout our journeys. He will not bring us circumstances that He does not intend to walk through with us. My heart grieves with those of you who have suffered loss on your journey. My heart aches over the emptiness that I know every month filled with negative pregnancy tests and empty signatures on adoption paperwork can bring. I have learned that our circumstances are not sent to define us, but to refine us. It is my prayer that you too will lean into the refining process that you find yourself in the midst of, and that you will come out on the other side with testimony that will reach others for Christ. May today find you in a stronger place than you once were and in time, I hope your perspective will change in such a way that you are able to accept your circumstances so that even if your arms are empty, your heart will be full.
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