Four was the perfect number.
As we sat on that bench in the rolling hills of West Virginia, looking up at the trees, we talked about how many children we wanted, if we were able.
We were newly engaged. Nineteen and twenty-one, with big dreams and so much excitement for the future.
In an attempt to be the organized and prepared people we enjoyed being (once upon a time, these words actually existed in our lives), we purposed to discuss many life issues that we would likely encounter in marriage. There would be few surprises this way, we surmised. And that’s partially true.
The biggest surprises in marriage have come in the form of those perfect plans not working out. Imagine that. Life is fluid and rarely goes how we wish, yet our youthful enthusiasm hadn’t bee met with this reality quite yet.
When it came to planning our family, we realized that this area of life that we thought we had complete control over was actually far out of our control.
Even though I have never taken hormonal birth control in my life (and will never, for several reasons), it took long enough to get pregnant with our son that we looked into other options to grow our family, like adoption.
I was faithfully tracking my cycles and fertility by using the methods outlined in the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. But it was still taking longer to conceive than we expected.
All the Feels
The problem of young, child-bearing-aged women being unable to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy is on the rise. This can be primary infertility (difficulty conceiving a first child) or secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after bearing a child).
The causes of infertility are varied, and often multi-faceted, but no matter the cause, the heartache that infertility produces is pretty universal.
After we had our son and I was diagnosed with Lyme, I had a couple of miscarriages and once again joined the ranks of women whose Mother’s Day could be met with pangs of sorrow.
With a grateful heart, I love and embrace being a mother of one child, but that lump in my throat on Mother’s Day encompasses the death of dreams, and it’s a hard one to swallow.
Our story of attempting to grow our family eventually returned to adoption, and we experienced the death of another dream through our failed adoption in 2016. You can read about that here (part one) and here (part two).
Sometimes – okay, many times – I get asked if we’re going to have more children. These times remind me that the suffering that I often endure is not easily seen in casual encounters (most of the time, I work really hard at hiding anything that I’m going through, from trying not to walk like a drunk due to balance issues, to having a semi-normal conversation and not coming across as brain-damaged).
The whole aspect of family planning gets a little weird in a situation like ours.
For example, when you set out to adopt, you can’t just “let it happen.”
There are no surprise pregnancy test results.
Adoption takes so much time, effort, planning, filling out paperwork, and finances.
Most people don’t have the ability to finance an adoption in a short amount of time. So, fundraising, working longer hours, and other efforts to bring in the extra funds become a priority.
Becoming a parent again is pre-meditated and planned. A conscious decision has to be made when adopting.
Despite the concerted effort we’ve made to grow our family, God has reminded us yet again that we’re really not the ones in control.
Life: Lived, Not Controlled
Not being in control is so hard in a culture where conception is all about control.
From women taking daily pills to prevent pregnancy, to the pervasive culture of complaining about children and the burden that they are or can be, people act like they’ve got it all in the bag.
Plans are made about how many children people are (or aren’t!) going to have, and how far apart the perfect sibling spacing will be. Not unlike our own plans over a decade ago.
We have this assumption as a culture that this is one area of life that we’ve got under wraps. We know what we’re doing. And if you have “too many” children, you’re questioned if you really do understand what you’re doing.
But the reality is, no matter what any person thinks, we’re not really in control.
Birth control can fail, and the unexpected blessing of pregnancy occurs.
Many couples face infertility, pouring thousands of dollars into a dream that takes other couples little effort to see realized.
No matter what perception of control we might have, we’re really helpless.
I don’t know where life’s journey has taken you. Whether you’ve had the family you wanted, large or small. Whether you know the heartache of crying into your pillow, asking God “why?!” yet again.
Maybe you know the complex emotions that the words “Mother’s Day” brings, and you’re one of those women who has found it convenient to avoid church that day because it just hurts too deeply.
To the infertile, or if God’s plan for your life and fertility hasn’t yet been realized, you are not alone.
You may feel misunderstood and lonely in this place in life, but friend, take heart that you are not the only one. There are other women just like you who are going through what you are.
There are women in the past who have shared the same heartache that you do. And the best part? God has not forgotten you.
It’s all too easy to spiral into a mindset that God doesn’t care. I know. I fight this battle myself. He is the one in control. And I know that although granting our requests would be simple for Him to do, for some reason He has chosen not to give us what we want in an instant.
Others Have Been Here
My mind goes to examples that we have of the real women in the Bible who walked this road.
- Sarah (Gen 15-21)
- Rebekah (Gen 25)
- Rachel (Gen 29-30)
- Hannah (1 Sam 1)
- Manoah and his wife (Judges 13)
- Elizabeth (Luke 1)
Each of these women walked this road before you. They felt the societal pressure and knew what it was like to feel estranged in a community that revolved around a family-based lifestyle.
It’s interesting to observe the focus of each of these women who so deeply desired to have children to nurture and love.
Sarah is famous for laughing. But I wonder. Could it be that she actually had accepted God’s plan for her life, and was settled in who she was as a woman without children?
Isaac prayed for his wife Rebecca to have children (Gen. 25:21)
Hannah was very faithful in praying for a child (1 Sam. 1:10-11)
Manoah and his wife had faith in God’s specific plan for their child (Judges 13)
Despite Rachel’s jealousy and playing games, God “remembered Rachel – He listened to her and enabled her to conceive.” (Gen. 30:22)
Zechariah, Elisabeth’s husband, prayed for a child, and that prayer was answered despite their old age (Luke 1:13)
A common thread running through the stories of these people is faith.
Each of them had faith that God was the one in control, and He was the one they could go to, pray to, and trust.
Of course, they weren’t perfect. Obviously, their faith wavered (and a couple of them – Sarah and Rachel – even “fell of the ledge” completely, so to speak), but they had a relationship with the One who had power over all things, including their fertility.
Keep Moving Forward
If you’re walking the infertility road, my prayer for you is that you’ll continue to have faith. Maybe every hope and dream you have now won’t be realized, but I would love to pray that God will truly give you the desires of your heart.
How has infertility impacted your life? Leave me a comment below so I can pray for you!