Infertility. It’s a word that can often be thrown around in a manner less than sensitive. It’s a word that can be taboo or derogatory. It’s a word that is also almost always misunderstood and understated. Infertility is more than a condition in which a woman is unable to conceive a child without the help of medical intervention. A woman who is infertile can feel as though she is less than her fertile equals, or even less than she was created to be.
It is no secret that my husband and I have struggled to get pregnant the entire time we have been together. I got pregnant at the age of 19, and it was seemingly simple (2004). I wasn’t married, straight out of high school, so it certainly wasn’t the ideal time to have a child. I chose to continue the pregnancy and have my baby, even if I had to do it alone, and that I did. That child is now a healthy, 13-year-old boy whom we all love and adore. When that boy was three, my husband and I got married and immediately started trying to pregnant.
It happened once before so surely, I could get pregnant again. After all, that is what married women do – they have babies. After a miscarriage, a year into “trying”, I found out I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). My doctor told me that this causes my body to ovulate infrequently, or ceases ovulation all together, and that it would be extremely difficult for me to conceive and carry to term on my own. A short while later I started chlomid, a drug used to force ovulation and within three months, we were pregnant again (2010). My body was able to carry this pregnancy to term and today we have a healthy seven-year-old boy.
Two boys, six years apart, I was 27 at the time, most would be happy with that. I, however, felt a whole in my family and found myself daydreaming of having a daughter to love. My husband and I were both on board and because it took so long to conceive our second son, we started trying again right away. I was not interested in starting fertility meds again and resolved to allow God to determine the size of our family. If He wanted us to have another child, He would certainly make it happen.
In December of 2013, I took my monthly pregnancy test and this time, it came back positive. After so many months of negative tests, I received a positive test. This was after friends of ours had prayed and said God was going to give us our daughter! We were so excited, but our daughter, much like my second pregnancy, would not survive. We miscarried in February of 2014 and yet again, we were completely devastated. A failed adoption, due to miscarriage, in 2016 proved to be just as difficult and it was then that I decided I was done.
For more than 10 years I have hated my body. The label of infertility is not just some syndrome or disease. Telling an infertile mother to be glad she has kids already is far from helpful. Comments like “there are so many children out there that need a loving home like yours, just adopt” pierce right through the heart of a woman who struggles to get pregnant. The reason is not because she wants a child so badly, it goes far beyond wanting to be a mother. An infertile woman feels inadequate, broken, damaged, and less than.
Women are told from the time they are little girls that one day they will grow up and be a mommy. One day they will get married and have children, if they want to of course. Some women never choose to have children, and that is certainly alright. Other women choose to have the average 2.5 kids and call it quits. Some women choose to grow their family through the blessing of adoption before even trying to conceive the “old fashioned way”. But some women, they strive, and they try their darnedest to have a child and they fail. Over and over and over again they fail. Month after month they fail. Cycle after cycle they fail. They fail and fail and fail some more. It doesn’t take long for that woman to feel like a failure. To feel as though her body isn’t right, surely God made a mistake when He made her. It’s not a huge leap for that to turn into her telling herself she isn’t good enough for husband, and surely he can go find another woman whose body isn’t broken and damaged. Surely he can find a woman whose womb is healthy and waiting to bear a child for him. And because her self-worth is in the toilet, she will begin to think he is going to do just that.
See, a woman who cannot conceive on her own experiences grief every single month. Every time her cycle comes it is a glaring sign that she is, yet again, not pregnant. Every box of tampons is an alarming reminder that her body cannot do what every other woman’s body can do. Every negative pregnancy test is a shot to her identity as a woman, mother, and wife. Infertility is far more than just the desire to be a mom. Infertility is punch to the gut that says, “you are broken and damaged and not worth a dime.”
But God…He says that the infertile woman is worthy and lovely, just the way she is. God says that she has value and purpose in the role(s) he has put her in, whether she can physically conceive, carry, and deliver a child or not. God determines her worth, not societal pressures and norms. God, the author of life, has control over all and in that, this infertile woman can trust.
If we had carried our sweet Rosalie to term and delivered her, many things would be different today. One thing that would be vastly different is that we would not be licensed foster parents in the state of Ohio. I spent a long time angry with God because I knew He could overcome my infertility and give me the daughter I so desperately longed for. I was angry because He made this frail body broken and damaged. What kind of God does that? What kind of God makes those kinds of mistakes? But they were not mistakes at all, and in true God-fashion, He knew exactly what He was doing.
We have been fostering for the last 17 months. We started this journey into foster care with the desire to grow our family larger and love on some kids. We continue this journey knowing that every child who comes through our home will be used by God to move us and grow us closer to Him. We love to see children reconciled to their biological families and we love to be just a small part of that process. We love to sit on the sidelines and see God restore the broken pieces of these little lives. And we love/hate fighting in the trenches against the very real darkness that encompasses the foster care system.
There are still days where I struggle big time with the brokenness of my body. At this point, if it’s not going to do what it is meant to do, I would love to be rid of my reproductive system. But saddled up right next to those lies is the truth of God that says, “I made you perfectly because I don’t make mistakes.” That is the truth I must remind myself, especially on those hard days when I just feel like a failure. If you know someone who struggles with infertility, will you please be sensitive to her needs, and when she is ready, will you please remind her of this truth? Part of it is truly about having children, but the bigger struggle with infertility is about not feeling whole, good enough, or adequate.