Over the last 10 years I have been pregnant four times and have given birth to two biological children. The label “infertile” doesn’t seem to fit me the way it once did. I like to jokingly refer to myself as “intermittently fertile” because apparently that is how things work for us. But there was a time when a doctor looked over lab results and told me pregnancy would be difficult if not impossible without major medical intervention– interventions we couldn’t afford and didn’t feel ethically comfortable with.
I remember in the early days of our infertility diagnosis just wanting to know what the point of this whole infertility thing was. I knew God loved me and I knew suffering was to be endured like discipline- for my good and with a purpose- but this felt like some kind of massive and cruel time-out for a crime I didn’t remember committing. I wanted to fast forward to the end where God could tell me what I did wrong and this would all make sense to me.
And I wanted a happy ending, too. I wanted a story that in hindsight would make all the hold-ups make sense. I would sit in my infertility time-out, I would learn my lesson, then God would give me what I wanted– pregnancy and a baby. And everyone would see exactly why it happened the way it did. But that just wasn’t the way it worked.
There are amazing kids that have been added to my family through adoption because of our years of infertility. There are my precious biological boys who came at just the right, God-ordained time. It would be easy to think that the point of my infertility journey was so that we would someday arrive at this family– the family that infertility created. And that isn’t entirely untrue! I am thankful for what infertility did in my life so that we were in the right place at the right time for each of our children, but I have also seen a bigger picture– a picture that has nothing to do with children.
I am thankful for my biological kids, but I have come to believe they were not the point of my infertility journey. They were not the reward for me finally figuring out and conquering infertility. They weren’t the prize for choosing to adopt. They weren’t what I won by being good during my infertility time-out.
I believe God’s plan for my infertility wasn’t about an eventual pregnancy, but about refining my character and making me more in the image of Christ.
Through infertility I learned that I was not in control the way I thought I was. I could do all the “right” things and still couldn’t make a baby no matter how hard I tried. I could follow all the Christian rules for good living and yet feel like a cursed woman. Infertility showed me that life is far from “fair” but that God is still present in the unfair, working out his good and perfect purposes.
Infertility made me less likely to judge women whose lives don’t seem to be going according to plan. It taught me to offer empathy instead of my “solutions” to someone else’s deeply painful problems. It showed me that it is possible to praise God in the midst of suffering and that sometimes God seems silent, but present all at once. I learned that sometimes you have to stop trying to figure out the grand plan in order to just have peace with your reality in the day-to-day.
If there is a woman grieving her infertility today, I want to tell you that your life right now is not just about waiting, as much as it feels that way. I know you want to skip ahead to the end when this will somehow make sense, but work is happening in the waiting. Change is happening to you right now that may be slowly (and painfully) conforming you to the image of Christ if you work against that bitterness that can so easily take root.
There are lessons I learned through infertility that I don’t believe I would have learned any other way. With the precision of a surgeon, God reached into my heart and pulled out this idol of fertility I had been creating. I trusted in my fertility to give me purpose in my life, to create an identity for me, to make me a person of meaning and worth. Infertility is how God showed me that my soul is worth more than what my uterus can produce. Other women will have to learn these same lessons in other ways– ways uniquely tailored to their idols, their needs, their pains and prides.
The answer, the cure, the comfort for my infertility wasn’t pregnancy, it was Jesus.
I think it is so important to my kids and my ability to be the right mom for them for me to embrace that reality. I can’t put pressure on my children to be the fulfillment of the long and painful infertility process. I am incredibly thankful for my kids. I always felt confident I would be a mom. I was not content in my infertility, but willing to fight for motherhood because I felt certain it was what God had created me to be. That process of fighting, pursuing, and advocating has also made me the woman I believe God always intended for me to be. But my kids didn’t come into my life with a job to do or as a bandaid. They didn’t heal all my infertility wounds. They were not the point in all of this, but a happy byproduct of the character refining work God had to do in my life. Infertility wasn’t some meaningless detour on my way to motherhood, it was a vital part of the journey. It was a destination all its own with an intention and a purpose.
If at the end of this process I hadn’t had any biological kids, that would not have meant my infertility was somehow wasted or purposeless. The journey and the suffering will be redeemed even if it isn’t through childbirth.