**This post was originally published some months ago, but in support of the release of Katie Ganshert’s story of hope through heartache, Wildflowers from Winter, I’m re-posting my beauty from ashes story. I hope you’ll indulge me and reply with your own “beauty from ashes” story.
When I was struggling with secondary infertility (backstory here), I was at the lowest point that I had ever been in my life.
Never before had I faced an obstacle that seemed so overwhelming. Never before had I ever felt so lost and out of control.
Although my husband and I had welcomed a beautiful, perfect baby boy in the spring of 2006, my heart yearned to give him a sibling.
And as months passed without my ability to conceive, I began to obsess about all things ovulation and pregnancy. I read every book. I searched the web for every single tidbit of information, hoping that someone somewhere would give me the answer to my “problem.” And I prayed.
And when my doctor confirmed that I did have a medical issue, I felt even more despair.
When you tell a control-freak that there’s an issue with her body that she can do absolutely nothing about, it tends to sit as well as lava in an active volcano.
I simply would not accept that I would not have more children. And even though I have been a follower of Christ for as long as I can remember, at that point in my life, I was not willing to submit myself completely to the will of the Lord.
See, my life had been easy. I came from a good family. My parents had been married forever and raised my siblings and me in a loving, Christian home. I’d had a great childhood, and a pretty easy, straight path for most of my life.
I had never been challenged. I had never been really low. And although I had relied on God and known Jesus Christ as my savior for most of my life, I had never been broken.
I was a problem-fixer. I liked to be in control because I had solutions; I had answers. I always had a better plan.
I figured that I could live my life relying on God as long as his plan was my plan. I was pretty arrogant and I didn’t even realize it.
So when the fourth and final month of the fertility medication rolled around, I was desperate. And depressed. And obsessive. And more than anything, I wanted to fix the problem. I was also very, very sick as a result of the Clomid I was taking. I had trouble with every wacky side effect that medication could throw at me.
God was breaking me in a merciful way. For me, it was ALL about control. I had to learn to submit (something I was definitely not good at) and accept who was really in control of my life. I couldn’t go through life “depending” on God only when I needed to. I couldn’t lean on God only when times were tough. I had to be broken to come to an understanding that my dependence on God was to be a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment relationship with my heavenly father. And above all, His will wasn’t always going to be mine. What a major blessing it was.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9
I look back on it now and I am so grateful for the struggle. I am so grateful that heaven seemed silent to my prayers. I needed to get to the point where I was completely dependent on God, on making his will my own, no matter what that meant.
But hindsight doesn’t make the memory of the struggle any less painful.
No one seemed to understand what I was going through. When I was open with people, I got such responses as, “just relax and it will happen” or “I don’t have to pray for you because God has already given me peace about it.”
Responses like these came from family members and were equal with knives straight in my heart. (And I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to hug choke stabpunch people who said things like that.) No one seemed to get that the loss of control, even over my own body, was making me nuts. I wanted support and sympathy, not their dismissal that I need to “relax.”Relax? Really? Oh, gee, why didn’t I think of that???
**Relaxing was not an option. When any woman is struggling with infertility for any reason, relaxing is impossible. So, for the sake of every woman out there struggling with this issue, please do not tell her to relax.
One person even went so far as to say, “you already have a child. You should learn to be happy.” Ouch.
**Whether you have one child, ten children, or no children at all, a woman’s desire to have a child is the same. The longing, heart-aching need to mother is built into our DNA. It’s God’s design for us, and being denied that design for reasons beyond our understanding is overwhelming. Especially when we follow a Creator we believe holds plans to “prosper and not to harm.”
Friends simply stopped talking to me about it. I noticed when announcements about someone being pregnant were…delayed… in reaching me. I noticed when people began to get uncomfortable, even when I asked for prayer for an “unspoken.” Some of my friends stopped looking me in the eye if the topic of babies or children came up.
And I can’t blame them. No one understood because no one I knew had ever been through such a thing as secondary infertility.
**I would much rather had my friends say, “Hey, what you’re going through stinks,” instead of ignore it. Even “I’ll pray for you,” was appreciated.
The part that hurt the most is that they thought that because of my struggle I was incapable of sharing joy. Sure, I had some momentary internal jealousy when several of my friends got pregnant, but I wanted to celebrate with them. I wanted to rejoice in their blessings. I wanted to celebrate with them because I was learning that God’s will for others was not his will for me, and I had an awful lot to celebrate. I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful, precious, train-loving son.
**Another thought– just because a woman is having infertility issues doesn’t mean you should leave her off a guest list to a baby shower or not tell her about someone’s pregnancy. Those actions are even more hurtful than her situation.
Once again I turned to the internet to seek companionship from those who were suffering in the same condition. And I found it. I found hope and despair, anger and understanding. And on one page, I found a young woman who had written her story and talked about how her refuge came in praying the prayer of Hannah from 1 Samuel 1:10-11.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
So I began praying this prayer. I prayed it constantly. Aloud. I remember reciting these words over and over, begging God to give me one more child so that my son might have a sibling. I remember weeping as I drove down the road, these words pouring from my mouth.
When my fourth and final round of Clomid came, my doctor saw some problems on the ultrasound and I missed my chance for ovulation that month. I hit rock-bottom.
I sobbed all the way home from his office. I sobbed for the next week. And I screamed at God. I was furious. Lost. Frustrated. Confused. And I wanted answers. Now.
But never once did I say to myself, “He has left me.”
It took awhile, but I was eventually able to come to terms with the idea that we’d be a family of three. I decided that no matter what happened, God had not left me. He had given me an amazing, supportive husband and a beautiful son, and together, we were a complete family.
**One last side note. I want to give props to my husband who was amazingly supportive through all of those months. Even though it wasn’t his body that was causing the problems, he was just as frustrated as I was. But he never blamed me for our inability to conceive. He never pushed me away or refused to talk about it. He held me when I cried, hugged me, and listened when I wanted to talk. He was incredible.
We can’t forget the husband, even when it’s the wife’s biology causing the problem. Father’s desire to father, too. Men want the joy of children and they want to see their wives happy.
I would be a mother of one. The pain was raw, but I accepted that this was God’s will for me, and His will is always perfect. And although the prayer of Hannah had not “worked” for me, I began to pray a verse that had been important to me for years.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
And my heart began to understand acceptance. Very quickly, I saw the lessons in what God was teaching me.
During all of these months, my relationship with God completely changed. I learned lessons on control and patience. For the first time in my life, I felt God’s comforting arms supporting me, guiding me away from the path I had chosen to the one He’d laid down for me. For most of my life I had been living in my will, masking it as God’s. But now I saw the importance of making God’s will my own.
I had an intense desire to seek God–to really know Him and not be satisfied with what I knew of Him. My relationship with God has never been the same. And above all, I am so grateful for that.
Another amazing “side-effect” of my struggle with secondary infertility is that during all those months God laid an intense desire on my heart to write stories. I had written a little before, and seeking an outlet for my frustration, I turned to writing. It is because of those months, because of my desire to focus on something else, that I label myself as a writer today. A passion was born out of struggle, and it’s something else I am immensely grateful for.
God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but He always answers.
When I finally did get pregnant, the words thank you just weren’t powerful enough. God answered my prayers, but in His time, teaching me many things along the way. He always knows best.
And just because it seems I got what I wanted by adding to our family, I have not forgotten the lessons, nor would I trade that time of struggle for an easy road. Those months molded and shaped me, bringing spiritual maturity. They changed my marriage, brought us closer, and made me appreciate God’s design with fresh eyes.
I wanted my kids two years apart, but God made them a little over three. And His timing is perfect. Hindsight tells me that my family is also perfect, just the way He designed it.
As I said in the previous post, I don’t know if tertiary infertility exists, and I hope and pray that I don’t have to find out. Should we decide to try to grow our family, I pray that whatever happens, I’ll be able to recognize God’s plans in all of it.
Share with me: What other advice would you give to someone who is friends with a woman struggling with infertility? What life lessons has God used to teach you about His will and timing?