I was twenty-two-years-old when I was told that I would probably never be able to have children. My husband was in the waiting room and I twisted my hands, feeling very vulnerable, and laughed slightly, nervously.
I was hearing the endocrinologist describe my condition. She was telling me that my body was going into early menopause and she called it premature ovarian failure. I felt out-of-my-own-body, my mind swirling with this startling information, and was this real – was she talking to me?
My head just kept nodding, as if I really understood what she was saying. I was calm and collected and maybe even smiling politely, because you don’t go through menopause when you’re twenty-two. That’s impossible.
“Do you have any questions?” I was forced to focus and her face registered again, my mind drawn back from the swirl of thoughts to the present.
I shook my head, swallowing hard. I couldn’t think of anything to ask, but why? Her eyes were kind and her voice was gentle, “You need to talk with your husband right away. It looks like you have a very small window of opportunity to have children. I would suggest that you start trying immediately. There are some fertility specialists we can refer you to…”
My mind felt like it was shutting down, Was this real? I don’t remember much else as I walked down the hallway. I just felt stiff and wooden and robotic. Put one step in front of the other one, smile nicely to the people you walk by, just keep walking.
When Dreams Feel Denied
She had a baby, my beautiful friend, already a mama of two children. She nurtured life inside her belly and labored through excruciating pain and birthed a son. She loved him before she knew him, she dreamed of him before she met him. Two days after his entrance into the world, she kissed her child good-night, never imagining, in all her wildest dreams, that her kiss was good-bye. Her newborn son – tiny fingers and toes, soft delicate skin – never woke from his sleep.
And I stare at the computer screen with the ominous birth announcement looking too much like the insignia of a grave stone, two dates too close in time. It feels so ugly and my heart drops to the bottom of my chest. I cave. Jesus, this doesn’t make sense. THIS is not supposed to happen.
It just isn’t. And neither am I supposed to be infertile.
For all of us, life is so different than we imagine it to be. I hear other women talk about the expectations they have had for life – expectations that aren’t met, dreams that aren’t realized, hopes that dangle by a mere, thin thread.
Jesus, this is not who I am.
Jesus, this is not who I want to be.
Jesus, this is a mistake.
What is this seeming cruelty? All these passions and dreams in my heart are good and why did you create me with this personality and these desires and this ability only to take it away?
It feels like a slap in the face.
I know women who have watched their children walk away from God to live in sin. They cry themselves to sleep and wrestle in prayer and beg God, please, for spiritual protection over their own.
I know women who offer themselves unselfishly to their children and grapple with feelings of worthlessness, because what do you do with all the talents and gifts God has breathed into your heart when you are tied down with babies?
And how do we celebrate life where we are today, when it feels like we have to deny the God-place passion and calling on our soul? How do we live when dreams feel denied?
Desperate for Life
I have wailed in deep anguish and tore at my clothes and wrestled with God. If I have asked why once, I have asked it a thousand times. I have felt the ache of a barren heart and an empty womb. Can I just walk into the sunset and forget it all? Can’t I start over, rewind, erase?
My toes have curled in anger – at God – because I pick-up city children living in almost-inhumane conditions, unloved and neglected and abused, whose parents could care less for their wellbeing. It simply doesn’t make sense.
I’ve tried to bargain with God and I have begged and pleaded. In my own mind and heart, it only makes sense that we have a family and bear children. We would love them and nurture them and discipline them and give them to Jesus. My empty womb feels like a cruel punishment from God and I try desperately to arrange how I could change this.
“This is the point at which God most feels like our enemy. It seems at times that He will go to any length to thwart the very thing we most deeply want. We can’t get a job. Our attempt to find a spouse never pans out. The doctors aren’t able to help us with our infertility. Isn’t this precisely the reason we fear to desire in the first place?…So distant now from Eden, we are desperate for life, and we come to believe that we must arrange for it as best as we can, or no one will. God must thwart us to save us.”*
God must thwart me to save me?
What? What does this mean?
Save me from motherhood? Save me from a normal, good, perfectly legitimate longing and desire? Am I to believe that I need to give up this desire?
Nope. Not happening. What I want is something good. It’s not a selfish desire to be a mom. God created me the way I am for a reason. Why would He ask me to just give that up?
Playing Chess with God
I hate chess. My husband tried to teach me how to play when we were dating and it didn’t go so well. I am not sure if it was a matter of truly not understanding the logistics or that I was concentrating too much on my teacher. At any rate, I’ve played once, lost once, and tell people emphatically, “I don’t play chess.”
At least I think I don’t.
“The time has come for us to quit playing chess with God over our lives… The One who created you and set all those loves and gifts in your heart, the One who has shaped all of your life experiences (including the ones that seem to make no sense), this God has prepared a place for you that is a more than perfect fit for all your gifts and quirks and personality traits – even those you don’t know you have. Christ is not joking when he says that we shall inherit the Kingdom prepared for us and shall reign with Him forever.”*
Time to quit playing chess…with God?
It makes no sense to me why God would breathe passion and capacity and experiences and vision for something, only to withhold it from me.
I wrestle and struggle with this. All these passions and dreams in my heart are good and why did you create me with this personality and these desires and this ability only to take it away?
For me it’s the absence of motherhood, for you it’s the demands of motherhood. It’s single hood, not landing your dream job, your business falling apart, a book or article proposal rejected.
We grieve and tussle with the ugly paradox in our hearts. It makes no sense. Must it end with a forfeit?
The Freedom of Desire
“Our soul’s insatiable desire becomes venom when it demands its fill here and now, through the otherwise beautiful and good gifts of our lives…God must take away the heaven we create or it will become our hell.”*
I walked, holding my white skirt just above the water tumbling up the shoreline. The sun was warm on my neck, the sand cool beneath my toes; all beautiful grace.
I don’t understand why I must wait. There is no anger, or bitterness, in the silent prayer. I don’t understand why You’re saying no. I can’t just say I’m okay with it, because I am not sure I am really just okay with it. I don’t understand it. Why not, God?
I pushed my feet further into the sand and faced the lake and let the summer breeze tear at my hair and pull it loose. I thought about beautiful pregnant women who feel life move inside their swollen bellies and my heart ached. I thought about my nephew Alex and how soft my heart is when I watch him sleep, his little tummy rising and falling gently. My heart craves. It’s a constant ache few women know for themselves or understand. It’s a lonely place, an empty void. It is a true state of barrenness. I know personally why the Bible calls infertile women barren.
So what is this peace?
I realize the journey is just beginning, but I feel like I’ve come to the end of a valley and have found some repose.
“The paradox of grief is that it is healing; it somehow restores our souls, when all the while we thought it would leave us in despair.”*
I grieve still, a silent, unnoticed, searing grief. I still ask questions and sometimes I still cry. The longing runs unexplainably, inexpressibly deep. I embrace this as my own and the more I open my hands to this seeming ugliness, the more I experience grace upon grace upon grace.
I forfeit the game and release my demands, and hope swells and rises within me. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem fair. Maybe it isn’t? But if what I believe I believe to really be true, my Creator has prepared a place for me where all wrongs are made right. I agree with John Eldridge when he says that “our soul’s insatiable desire becomes venom when it demands its fill here and now, through the otherwise beautiful and good gifts of our lives.”
In the soul wanderings and perplexities, I offer my desire and discover the freedom of desire… that to release is grace.
All to Jesus, I surrender. My questions and struggles, the injustices and wrongs, the grief and the sorrow. All to Him I freely give.
The story is not over, and this is rest and peace.
*all quotations taken from The Journey of Desire by John Eldridge