(Normally when I get ready to type a post, I sit down and write what I want to say and hit "publish." It usually takes me about an hour to write and proofread it. This post, however, is one that I've been chewing on for several days before putting it out there. It's been on my mind this week after the combination of an article I read and an e-mail from a friend. I'd be interested in your feedback if you wish to share it!)
I wish we lived in a world where people who desperately wanted to have children could always succeed. I think it will always hurt my heart that this isn't so.
One of the many things about infertility that is so hard to grasp is that it's not the kind of journey where it always ends the same way and everyone gets a baby. I know that, and while it may be hard to hear this from me at this time in my life, that's where I thought my journey might very well go. While I always prayed, hoped, and wished for children of my own to love and raise here on earth, I had no guarantee that it would really happen one day. I had absolutely no way of knowing whether I would ever have a normal pregnancy. Even though that's what I hoped for and tried to achieve, in my mind I knew that I needed to plan for either outcome. Children or no children. That was by far one of the hardest parts of my journey, aside from losing my babies to miscarriage.
There are so many positive-sounding pieces of advice that we've probably heard all of our lives, like "If you work really hard at something and don't give up, you will succeed." Or, to quote Back to the Future (part one), "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." And there's the old standby, "Good things come to those who wait." These might work 99% of the time in business or many other areas of life, but they just don't apply to infertility. "Hang in there" and "don't give up" don't necessarily always work with having a baby. With that being said, I firmly believe that you should pray and try and seek medical help for as long as you can or want to or have the means to, if your desire is to have a baby. I think you should give it your all and plead with the Lord to intervene. But I don't think that the right combination of effort, good luck, positive thinking, and strong faith are what will make a baby.
I always would cringe when someone told me that my pregnancy would work if I had enough faith or if I just thought happy, positive thoughts. You can imagine how I felt when it didn't work. What was wrong with me? How did I manage to mess this up again? Was my faith really so weak?
While I'm not always the world's most positive person, I think I do okay at having a decent attitude most of the time. And I certainly am a person of faith. Without my faith, I don't know where I would be. But I don't think that having faith in my amount of faith will get me very far! And I don't even think that the key was having faith that I would one day have a baby, because I knew deep down in my heart that it might not happen for me. I could have faith as small as a mustard seed or as huge as a mountain, but the size of my faith doesn't affect my ability to carry a baby to term. (Stay with me here!)
Faith in my Lord's ability to act, on the other hand, is what matters. One of the lessons I learned through recurrent pregnancy loss was that I needed to focus my faith and my trust on my Savior, and on Him alone: on who He is and what He can do. My job is to believe, but it's His job to act. I was beginning to place all of my faith in having a baby someday, just knowing that if I could do that I would be happy and fulfilled. I came to see that God was the only one who could make this happen for me. He was the only one who could give me joy, peace, and fulfillment, and He was certainly the only one who could put life in my womb. Now, that didn't mean that he ultimately would make that happen. What it meant to me was that I needed to trust Him and have faith in His ability to act no matter what. As hard as it was for me to grasp, I had to learn that He would still be Lord and He would still be sovereign even if I never had children.
As I wrote about in my last post, the Bible tells us that nothing is impossible with God. This is a wonderful promise for the barren woman today, just as it was for Elizabeth way back then! I firmly believe that sometimes this is the message that might just help someone to keep pressing on when they feel like giving up. God can do the impossible, which is immensely encouraging when you feel that your situation is impossible! That's where I was without a doubt. I couldn't see how my crazy, death-trap of a womb would ever become a good home for a baby. I had tried and failed six times and had no real answer or solution, no guarantee that our seventh attempt would be any different. But we hoped and prayed for a miracle anyway, and we trusted that it was up to the Lord to give and sustain life to this baby.
Believing in the impossible (translated = believing that God could do the impossible and praying that He would) helped us to carry on and find the courage to give it another try. And by His grace, our baby is surviving. It's not because we had faith in our amount of faith (because believe me, I know I didn't). It's because God acted and because He is God. I don't think for one second that I'm still carrying this baby because I finally figured out the right formula. On the contrary, I take every opportunity to make sure that it is God and only God who gets the glory for this miracle.
(I recently read a great article about this topic of faith on the Desiring God blog that I thought was so helpful. It certainly explains things much better than I could. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out: Peter: When the Rock Sunk Slowly)
I've come to realize that there are several other places in Scripture where we see examples of this. It appears that Jesus healed many people on the basis of their faith. It would be easy to think that they were healed simply because they had tremendous faith. But if we look closely, we can see that they had faith specifically in the fact that they knew and believed that Jesus was able:
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored... (Matthew 9:27-30)
(See also Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:1-10)
Something else that I've seen in my reading this week is the reminder that there is power in prayer. I believe this with all of my heart, which is why I've prayed for so many years for our children and why I continue to pray diligently for each of you. I'm reminded of Hannah's story in 1 Samuel, as well as this verse in Genesis 25:21, "Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant." The Bible invites us again and again to approach the Lord with confidence and bring our requests to Him with expectant hope. (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15)
At this point let me say that I know that some people who have walked the road of infertility and/or miscarriage will prayerfully come to a time when they feel that it's right for them to stop pursuing pregnancy or treatment. I think this is a brave decision that takes far more trust and faith in the Lord that I can fully imagine. And I don't believe that it is lack of faith or "giving up." I don't understand why loving, caring, wonderful people who want to have children sometimes won't have the opportunity to do so. I'll never understand that, and knowing some of the truly wonderful women in my life who haven't had children and yet always wanted to will always make my heart ache. Another thing I've learned on this journey is that adoption, as wonderful as I think it is and as much joy as I've seen it bring to families over the years, just isn't realistically an option for all couples in all situations all the time.
I believe that sometimes God may be telling us to stop. I would never, ever second-guess a person who felt like this was where they were on their infertility journey. I have absolutely no doubt that it is also in His ability to give that person peace and fulfillment in their life. (That may very well be the part of your situation that feels impossible!) That is my prayer for all of us, no matter what the end of our struggle may look like.
But, unless that is where your journey has taken you, I'll be here to encourage you to keep pressing on and believing that God can do the impossible. He can change our hearts and even our circumstances. I'm living proof.