Thank you to my friend Mandy for sharing her story (and her heart) in the guest blog post below!!
According to WebMD, 1 in 10 American couples is diagnosed with fertility problems. Some days I wish I had been told that when I was growing up. But I wasn’t, and I grew up thinking the normal order of life was: graduate from high school, graduate from college, get married, have kids, live happily ever after. I was the oldest of four. My sister Alison was born when I was eighteen months old. After a short time of rebelliously fighting to keep my mom to myself, I gave in, decided the baby was here to stay, and started protecting and caring for her. She called me “Uh, uh,” and followed me wherever my adventurous spirit led. By the time I was four, and sister number two came along, I was in love with being a big sister, and embraced the second little sister quickly!
(Grandma, my two sisters, and me – I’m the one holding right near the baby holding the bear for her.)
One year for a church event we dressed up as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I toted a baby doll around all night because I just wanted to be a mom. Junior high and high school were filled with babysitting, helping with children’s ministries at church, teaching for Child Evangelism Fellowship, and leading a school lunch Bible club. I went to college to study elementary education. When I graduated in 2005, I began teaching 2nd grade at a Christian school. A few months later I met my husband-to-be, Will, and in 2007 we were married. Subconsciously my brain was checking things off the list. Graduate from high school. Check. Graduate from college. Check. Get married. Check. So far everything seemed right on track.
In 2008 Will and I decided we were ready to have a baby. We planned it all out. Our child would be conceived in the summer. The baby would then be born in spring. Another one would soon follow, and I would stay home from work to raise and homeschool our children. I even told my bosses at work that I couldn’t commit to teaching for an entire school year as we were planning on having children.
One year went by, and no baby. People started asking us when we were going to have kids. My typical response was a smiling, “Whenever God is ready to give them to us.” All the while thinking, This was supposed to be so easy. It’s the next thing on my list. So I started to do some research. Different timing, nutrition, attitudes. But month after month…nothing.
After two years, we decided it was time to find out what was going on. So we visited a fertility doctor. We tried hormones for me and meds for Will. An IUI was unsuccessful, and no matter how much I hoped and prayed and believed, no baby came. Finally the doctors told us that the only option that would have much chance of success for us was IVF. After praying about it, we decided against IVF and just stopped. Our marriage needed some time off from fertility doctors, and we really didn’t know what to do anyway. Four years of trying and hoping and paying and waiting with nothing to show for it.
Back to the research for me. Infant adoption was out of our budget at that point, but I found something called embryo adoption that looked interesting. Will was on board, and the next stage of our journey began. We chose a Christian agency and after hours of paperwork, physicals, background checks, fingerprinting, flying a special social worker out to our house for a home study, and creating a profile book, we were matched with a couple from New York City. They had done IVF, had beautiful twins, and were done having children. Their four remaining healthy embryos were in frozen storage, and we were going to adopt them! I would be pregnant, would give birth to babies, and we would have children!
The problems started soon after the match was made. We had paid all our fees, the only thing left was to get my doctor, who I loved, and the agency in communication for making the final arrangements. One time after another the agency caused problems for my doctor, for the doctor’s staff, and for us. In the end, after making sure that the embryos would be adopted by another family, we made the heartbreaking decision to pull out of the adoption.
It was the beginning of 2014, almost six years after I had cheerfully announced to my school administration that Will and I were going to be starting a family. I had tried everything I knew to try, Will wasn’t interested in adopting a child or in foster care, so here I was, without any hope of ever becoming a mother.
The hopelessness and bitterness began to settle into my heart. I had spent the last twenty years of my life preparing to be a mom. I had a degree in teaching children. I could manage a classroom of students. I had cared for hundreds of other people’s children. Yet somehow God didn’t trust me to with my own kids? If I wasn’t a mom, then what was I?
I believe that often God brings us to the end of ourselves so that we are finally in a place where we are really able to listen. I had read II Corinthians 12 many times, but it became real as God spoke it to me in this place of hurt, hopelessness, and bitterness. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you…’” Along with this verse, came a question, “Am I sufficient for you, Mandy?”
At first, I argued, “Why can’t I have both? Other people have both. Why can’t I have you and a baby? I don’t even want a lot of children anymore. Just one is fine.”
Mercifully He responded. “That’s not the question. The question is, ‘Am I sufficient?’”
I didn’t feel like believing it. I wanted to be bitter. I deserved to be angry. I clung to my despair. But every time I went back to the Word, God spoke His truth to my heart. “I am sufficient for you. I am sufficient.” Slowly God showed me that He was truly enough. If I never had children, God was enough. If I spent the rest of my life as a no-name teacher who only took care of kids for a year and then sent them on, God was enough. It took time, but over the next few months, as God taught me that being His daughter, servant and friend was enough, He gave me peace and joy in my barrenness. He was sufficient.
A year and a half later, in August of 2015, school was starting again. For some reason, I seemed even more tired than usual, but chalked it up to busyness. Then, I started to feel queasy. Not sick, just uncomfortable, all afternoon, every afternoon. I had learned, from what was now over seven years of waiting for a baby, to dismiss pregnancy thoughts as soon as they came up. Too many negative pregnancy tests staring back at me had taught me well. When the normal monthly visitor didn’t come, I again chalked it up to stress and busyness. Then my clothes started to get really snug, right around my belly, and I allowed the pregnancy thought to enter my mind in only one context, If I’m not pregnant, I need to start hitting the gym hard. I knew I needed to be sure before I did tackle a rigorous workout routine, but I didn’t want to take another pregnancy test and end up mad at my stupid self for hoping when it showed up negative.
Finally I realized that the only reason I wasn’t finding out was because of fear, and since fear is never a good motivation for anything, I took the test. Within seconds a solid blue cross appeared. Pregnant. But I couldn’t be pregnant. We couldn’t get pregnant. Maybe the test was expired. Nope. Maybe the test was defective. One more test. Still pregnant. I would walk away from it for a few minutes, and then come back, thinking maybe I had seen an illusion. Still pregnant. My hubby bought a different brand on the way home. Actually he bought a box of ovulation tests instead, but there was one lonely pregnancy test in there along with them, so it worked for our purposes. Pregnant again. I laughed and cried. In the following days we discovered that we were actually nearing the end of the first trimester already. I had a blood test done, just to be sure. We squeaked in our first OBGYN appointment just as the trimester ended. When I saw our baby come up on the sonogram screen, I knew it was real. God had given us a miracle baby. Grandma reminded me that every baby is a miracle, which I agree with 100%, but this baby is a seven year prayed for, never expected, out of the blue, miracle baby!
I now know that God does miracles—visible, on-display miracles that show His grace and power, like allowing me to be pregnant. He also does greater miracles—quiet, behind-the scenes miracles that change our hearts, like giving me the belief that, no matter what happens, He will always be sufficient for me!
Whatever your life looks like, know that God is absolutely in control of the circumstances, big and small, and can work miracles with nothing more than a thought. More importantly, dear friend, please allow God to show you that, no matter what—He can be sufficient for you!