Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sovereignty of God

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from being “infertile” is that God is a whole lot smarter than us. Praise God that I’m not in control of what happens in my life. If I were, I would have screwed things up a LONG time ago! What if I had gotten pregnant when we first started trying? What would things be like now? Would we have been good parents?

I began to trust that God had good reasons for not giving us a child when we wanted it. If He was trying to protect me from permanent back pain then Praise Him! If He wanted to provide Andy with a different job so that we could be ready financially then Praise Him! If He wanted to give us a chance to grow and mature spiritually and in our marriage so that we could be better parents, Praise Him!

We began to embrace Him as our Sovereign Lord. His word gives us ample proof of His sovereignty. Whatever His reasons may be, we trust that they are good ones. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Abraham & Sarah

Abraham and Sarah must have felt out of control too. God had promised Abraham many sons, but he and Sarah were getting past the age of fertility and hadn’t had a child yet (Genesis 15). So, Abraham lost patience and took control of the situation himself. He slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who bore him a son, Ishmael (Genesis 16). This act of impatience led to jealousy, heartache, and tragedy. We can certainly learn from that!
One benefit of having the Bible is that we know the whole story from beginning to end, and we can learn about God’s character through the example of others. We know that God gave Abraham and Sarah a baby in his perfect timing. But, in their human-ness, they got confused and impatient and tried to take matters in their own hands.

We decided to go to a fertility doctor to make sure our reproductive organs were healthy. We went in hoping that this doctor would take the time to investigate us and figure out what was keeping us from getting pregnant. I went in with tons of questions about hormones, stress, hypoglycemia, and anything else I could think of. But, doctors are busy people. They don’t have time to investigate why this is happening. They want to get to the quickest, simplest solution. We had hoped this doctor would be different, that she would take time to ask questions and do tests, but after a couple of tests she said we were both healthy and she wanted us to begin fertility treatment right away.

This was not the first doctor who had recommended treatment. In fact, after one year of having unprotected sex with no pregnancy one is considered infertile. Pretty much every doctor you see after that point recommends treatment. This day our file bore the label “Unexplained Infertility.”

It seemed that most doctors assumed we wanted to get pregnant right away. But we learned from Abraham and Sarah that impatience breeds tragedy and since we knew we were healthy we knew that God would give us a child in His perfect timing and He didn’t need any help. We also had heard of a pastor and his wife who waited nine years for a child, and just when they buried their hopes and dreams, got pregnant. They ended up having three children! I couldn’t imagine having to wait NINE years, but we felt that going through fertility treatment would have been a display of our impatience. It wasn’t that we felt fertility treatment was wrong, but for us it was not right at that time.

People thought we were crazy for not accepting treatment. They said things like, “well, you’re not getting any younger. You better do it now before your biological clock stops tickin’.” I’ve heard that after 30 years of age your pregnancy is considered “high risk.” I didn’t want that. But, in the back of my mind I felt I had been forewarned. We decided not to listen to everyone else’s logic.

We say our infertility is NOT “unexplainable.” It would have made sense for us to accept treatment if we found out we weren’t healthy, but we are. You don’t go to a doctor because you’re well, you go because you’re sick—and we aren’t. There can be only one reason that two completely healthy adults haven’t had a child yet when so many others are getting pregnant so easily—God just isn’t ready for us to have a child. We felt excited about the decision to reject treatment, because we knew if we were obedient that God would bless us in a great way. We wanted nothing more than to please God, even if that meant not getting what we wanted when we wanted it.

Next Post: 4/26/07

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Out of Control!

If you think about all the people you know who have gotten pregnant or had babies, I bet there are only a handful that went just the way they planned it. Some get pregnant as teenagers, some while on birth control. Some get pregnant just before they get married, some on their honeymoon. Some have major complications during pregnancy or delivery, some miscarry. Some get surprised, some wait until just the right moment to start trying and the moment passes them by, like us.

I began to realize that pregnancy and child bearing is one area where God reminds us that we are not in control. We think we can control it through fertility treatment and careful planning, but ultimately the miracle of life can only be initiated by God. There is nothing we can do to change our situation. It is out of our hands. Only God can give life. “[God] himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25

Next Post: 4/24/07

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prayer & Sin

“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.” Genesis 25:21

Hannah prayed, “’O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon 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 the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.” 1 Samuel 1:11-20

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 113:9

Andy and I thought that we must begin to use these verses as an example of how we should pray. We began praying for God to give us a child. We prayed faithfully, daily.

After some time passed and we still weren’t pregnant, we began to try to figure out why. We wondered if God planned to give us a child with special needs or twins and He knew we weren’t quite ready. Maybe we needed some more time to mature. Maybe through our suffering we would learn more about His character. Maybe we needed to be more financially secure and God was protecting us from ruin. Could it be that He wanted to spare me from tremendous and permanent back pain that had threatened me in the past? Was it because one of us was going to die early and God was trying to spare us from excess pain by not giving us a child? Or maybe it’s because the time had come that Jesus spoke of in Luke 23:29, “For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’” Could God be protecting us?

Finally, this was the question that caused us the greatest agony; was it because of sin in our life currently or in the past? We asked God and waited days, even weeks for the answer, but He didn’t convict us of anything. Instead, He directed us to this verse many times through different sources, “’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:2-3

This insight brought us an excitement to be used by God! For the first time we had peace about not getting pregnant and about the future. Praise the Lord for choosing us to bring glory to his name!

Next Post: 4/19/07

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I’ve learned that it’s dangerous to have expectations about something that is going to happen in the future. I am a visual person and tend to picture future events in my mind; I’m sure I’m not the only one. Typically my expectations are romanticized; the most perfect scenario for the event that I can imagine. If I expect things to play out the way I pictured it and it doesn’t, I’ve left myself open for disappointment and in some cases devastation.

It's like a girl planning her wedding. She visualizes the whole affair, detail for detail. She expects this special day to go perfectly according to their plan, but when it doesn’t… someone forgot the guest book; it rained on the outdoor wedding; no one brought the knife and cake server...these mishaps can ruin a girl’s wedding day in her mind. She has such high expectations, and in her attention to detail she forgets that the goal of the day is to get married. What else really matters?

One of my favorite questions to ask people after they’ve had their first baby is, what happened that you didn’t expect? One desired with all her heart to have her baby naturally. She wasn’t able to. It devastated to her. One didn’t expect it to happen so quickly; another didn’t expect it to take so long. One didn’t expect all the nurses and doctors to be so laid back while she was in labor.

I’ve had my own expectations too. I could dream up the perfect scenario for breaking the news that I’m pregnant to friends and family and I would think, oh, that would be perfect! Of course! This is what God has been waiting on! I thought I had him figured out.

Things didn’t go the way I expected. I had a choice to make: let it devastate me, or seek answers from the only one who knew why, God.

Next Post: 4/17/07

Monday, April 09, 2007

Surprise! She's Pregnant-You're Not!

Infertility can be a blessing or a curse to friendships. You’ve been trying to get pregnant and instead your friend who wasn’t trying to get pregnant—did. How do you respond? How does she respond?

I’ve heard so many times of a woman struggling with infertility so rattled by the news that a friend got pregnant that she couldn’t bring herself to be around her friend(s) anymore. This of course is the saddest of all scenarios. I imagine the difficulty of seeing her progress in her pregnancy and the realization that your children won’t be close in age. You’ll watch her belly grow and try to muster up the words to say when she calls excited after just having heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time or finding out the baby’s gender. I could see how it would be difficult to hang around through all that.

From the friend’s perspective, you are pregnant, possibly unexpectedly, and your friend has been trying for a long time to get pregnant. You don’t want to rub it in her face. You want to protect her, so you distance yourself so that you don’t have to show excitement as you grow to love this new human growing inside of you.

After we started trying, I remember hearing that one of my close friends was pregnant unexpectedly. I remember the blood rushing through my body and I went numb for at least a second. Immediately it caused this dilemma inside of me. At first I was jealous and couldn’t see how I would be able to show excitement for her. But, then I asked myself, what has her pregnancy got to do with me? Just because she got pregnant before me didn’t mean I would never get pregnant. And, how selfish of me to be jealous that she was going to get to wear the cute maternity clothes first and she was going to be getting all of the attention. What a slug I am! By the grace of God, He redeemed me from my pride and selfishness and gave me a genuine excitement for my friends and family when they got pregnant. In fact, I loved (and still do) hearing about their experiences. I wanted to learn all I could so that I could be prepared when my time came!

My friends and family have been amazing through all of this. I saw incredible compassion from a friend who was so worried about how her unexpected pregnancy would affect me that she cried when she had to tell me. She cared so much about my feelings that she didn’t even allow herself to feel excitement right away. One friend dreamed she was pregnant and that God told her to give us the baby. She was actually open to that if God wanted her to! I attended a Lamaze class with one friend. I was invited to be in the delivery room twice! I mean, how could I not be happy for amazing women like that? No one has ever hesitated to share her excitement with me, and for that I am so grateful. I love my friends and have had so much fun watching their children grow. I know they’ll be incredibly happy for me when God blesses us with a child someday. Thank you God for these friends.

Next Post: 4/12/07

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Fault? It's YOUR Fault!

It started in the Garden. Andy mentioned it in his last post. Men and women have been blaming each other since the first day of the fall of man. It’s a natural human response to a traumatic experience or fear. During the anger stage of grief we have a need to blame someone. I have heard of couples whose marriages were destroyed because they played the blame game.

By the Grace of God it never crossed our minds to blame each other. We KNEW that God had created us to be together and that God had chosen not to give US a baby. We are one. If one of us couldn’t reproduce, WE couldn’t have a biological child. We made the decision early on that it didn’t matter which one of us had the “faulty parts;” we are one body.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Claiming the truth that you two are one can save your marriage (for many reasons). If you think about it, what good does it do to blame each other anyway? It’s not like one CHOSE to be infertile to spite the other. It’s not your spouse’s fault. God chose this path for you. We may not understand God’s ways in the moment, but we can trust that He has a reason. This trust will bond you together as a team instead of drawing a dividing line between you and your spouse.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Next Post: 4/10/07

Monday, April 02, 2007

F-U-N and Wisdom from Robert Frost

Today's Post by Andy

So the silent male finally speaks. Hasn’t it been this way since the garden?

I guess it would be pretty easy for me to ride the wave of Michelle’s last post and lay it on thick with some self-promotion. My goodness—her words combined with that picture make me seem like prince charming. I could boast that I’ve always been that attentive and tuned in to my wife’s needs. I could explain that sensitivity just comes easy to me. But that wouldn’t be the truth.

In her last post, Michelle referenced Genesis 3 concerning God’s punishment of Eve. There is something else about that story that’s always intrigued me though: Adam’s silence. There’s no protesting as the serpent hoodwinks his wife. No indication that he even participates in the conversation. It’s bizarre—we don’t even hear Adam speak until God comes looking for the couple in the garden and addresses the man specifically. And even then, when he finally opens his mouth, Adam’s answer is embarrassingly deflective:

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Translation: “It’s her fault. It’s your fault. I was just an innocent bystander!” Lame.

Unfortunately, I must admit that, like my father Adam, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

During the first year or so of our struggle with infertility, I was in la-la land. Obviously, I knew the facts of what was happening, but I wasn’t really invested in them. Here’s the thing: when you first start trying to have a baby, it’s a pretty fun process. Lots of fun, lots of the time. Then, when you don’t get pregnant in that first month, it actually gets even more fun for a little while. Then the fun suddenly gets very regimented and becomes a little less fun. Then all of a sudden there’s one perfect day to have fun amidst a bunch of other days when it’s not as opportune to have fun. At this point, the twenty something male (who’s overwhelmed with career stress and so has very little patience for un-fun things) checks out.

Maybe I wasn’t fully ready to have a baby when we started trying. It’s very likely Michelle’s enthusiasm was the only thing driving that train for the first year. I kind of wanted kids, but she really, really wanted a baby. Really. And so, passively and without protest, I complied. After all, it was fun.

The problem with all this was that a chasm was developing between the two of us that could have ended up disastrous: she wanting a baby with every fiber of her being, and I kind of wanting a baby but really just along for the ride. I was not exactly "with" her in the struggle, and it was only by the grace of God that I snapped out of my emotional coma before things got really ugly.

There is a Robert Frost poem called “Home Burial” that is basically a dialogue between a husband and wife whose relationship is disintegrating. The details are a bit fragmented, but it’s clear that the wife’s frustration with her husband is linked to his response to the death of their child. Throughout the poem, he is emotionless and matter-of-fact. He speaks of the child’s grave as if it’s just another mound of dirt. The poem ends with the wife on her way out the front door while the husband threatens to follow and bring her back by force. I was in college the first time I read this poem, and it has haunted me ever since. I think it’s because, deep down, I know I have the potential to be that kind of husband—I carry the curse of my gender.

Thankfully, much as He clothed Adam and Eve in the garden after their sin, God had mercy on me. The story of that process will come later.

So we didn’t end up like that couple from “Home Burial.” It’s funny though—I told Michelle recently that I’m probably somewhere around two years behind her in the grieving process of all this. She agreed, quickly. She didn’t even have to think about it. Ouch.

Next Post: 4/5/07 by Michelle