I’ve never had a single positive pregnancy test. For two years I walked—sobbed and stumbled—through the cold valley of infertility. We were eventually diagnosed with unexplained infertility—if that counts as a diagnosis. Everything that needed to work in our bodies did. But it didn’t work. Conception never happened.
Infertility was a slow, heavy torture that carried on in its own ambiguous timing. It was being in limbo, feigning relaxation, and trying to do everything right. Infertility felt as though my body betrayed my heart. It was an anticipation that consumed all my days and nights, breaths and sighs. Infertility was a disappointment that circled around for another sucker punch every month. Each time I dared to squeeze a little expectation out of my heart it smacked me down like a crude whack-a-mole. Infertility robbed me of joy and evidenced my inadequacy. It surprised me with my own ugly capacity for jealousy and judgement. Infertility became me, or I became it; I no longer recognized the fragile, raw, and exposed woman in the mirror.
Exposed. It’s the word of the infertile road. My emotions uncovered me at the most unpredictable times. Each day, I clung to calm, never knowing when grief would tsunami over my unsettled heart. When it did, I would awkwardly and inelegantly lose my hold on calm. I was also unprotected in relationships where I should’ve been safe. Many interactions were swamps—and I’m petrified of swamps—of well-meaning, but inappropriate and intrusive questions. As time went on, the questions were followed by unwelcome—and often tasteless—advice. Of course, my physical body was literally revealed over and over and over again. My legs trembled with unease as my most protected body was bared anew before curious and appraising faces. To even recall it now brings a grimace and groan. My body was almost the worst vulnerability; it had me screaming and swearing on exam tables, blubbering in the car, and knocked out midday. But the very worst exposure was spiritual. I felt alone in a desert plain—dry, thirsty, scorched—waiting on the rain-giver and shelter-bringer. The heat and the wind beat my exposed soul until I was quivering in the dust, begging for mercy. I accused my Father of giving me a desire—to be a mom—that he wouldn’t fulfil. And yet.
Yet underneath my anger, confusion, and grief I knew there was a reason I wasn’t pregnant. Even as I glared and wept heavenward every 30 days or so, I whispered to my wailing heart, “If he won’t give you this, it’s because he has something better for you.” I knew he made me a promise and, as time went on, I realized that the promise was motherhood, not pregnancy.
After two years of trying to have children biologically and researching adoption in the background, we chose something wildly different. In less than 24 hours, our hearts turned from us to them, from assurance to unknown, from simplicity to complication. Our hearts somersaulted to an option that was nowhere near the table—it wasn’t even in the house. Foster care. And I was right, by the way. For so many reasons, it’s been so much better—for me, for them, for us.
I’m a mom now. Maybe the children I hold today will be my children forever and maybe not. I’ve already given one baby back to his natural mom. But I’ll never not be a mom. And, astonishingly, it didn’t take long after meeting my first little love for my heart to radically heal. I don’t notice every twinge in my body and desperately google pregnancy symptoms. I don’t dream up pregnancy announcements or count down to potential due dates. I don’t crumble or rage when my period arrives. Sure, I wonder what it would be like for my body to carry, deliver, and nourish a baby, and a small part of me grieves that those experiences aren’t my portion or passage. But I love my motherhood and I wouldn’t trade it in, not even to escape those two years of inexplicable, immutable pain.
For this post, I wanted to write a camaraderie piece to my fellow friends of sorrow, but I’m no longer sorrowing. This, instead, is what I have to offer:
Hope has not deserted you. Though you are weary to your very bones, hope whirls within you still. Your heart may be sick with deferrals, but hope lingers stubbornly on. It won’t forsake you. Stumble steadily onward. Your feet are more sure than you feel. Your strength runs deeper than you’ve yet had need of. Your heart is a fortress of courage. You can carry on. You can be more steadfast than you’ve ever been. Your promise is coming. Keep your eyes open and your heart wide. You’re a mom waiting for whose you are. Let your love grow and expand like a tent with pegs planted wide. When your home fills, it may not be how and who you expect. But it’s coming just how it’s supposed to and as quick as it’s meant to. It will better than all your best imaginings. Don’t let go of the promise. You’re not alone on this lonely road. The God who suffers is suffering with you. His company is yours. His comfort is yours. Lean on in. This is the better way. This is the most worthwhile wait. Be brave, beloved. You. You are strong as a mother.
I see you in the valley of sorrow. It’s not your home. I’m calling you up, friend. Keep looking skyward.