“I knew in my senior year of high school that, even though I didn’t know for sure what else life might hold, I wanted to be a wife and a mom.
As the last born of four girls, I didn’t have much experience with babies. I babysat some but was generally a little uncomfortable around pregnant people, babies, and kids. It was just the unknown! But I did know I wanted to have the experience of pregnancy someday, to grow a life inside my body, and to have a line of descendants through me. I think more than wanting to be a mom someday, I really wanted to be a grandmother: wise, safe, soft, and generally smelling like Jergens lotion all the time.
John and I got married in April of 2012. He’s three years my junior, but my dearest friend in the whole world, with a wild heart for Jesus that I trust. I had the attitude that if we were one of those couples who accidentally got pregnant right away, I wouldn’t be sad about it. For some reason, I wanted to be a young mom–ﬁt, fashionable, and in the prime of life. Every journal I’ve written in for the last twenty years has a list of names I have loved inscribed on the last page, and I was ready to put them to use.
John and I worked full-time for two years and then felt God calling us to go to a three-month intensive ministry school in Africa. We quit our jobs, sold our belongings, bought our tickets, and were off! I was 26 at the time, and John knew that my ideal new-mom age was 27.
I was doing all the pregnancy math. If we get pregnant at this time and it takes nine months to cook, then we’d have the baby at this perfect time. It might take some time trying, but it might not–you know how that internal conversation goes. Looking back, I can see a girl continuing on the track of life planning that she had always known. You choose what you want, you work hard to get there, and you get it. That’s what we do with extracurriculars, school, college plans, internships, jobs, and even relationships.
If I could tell that girl anything now, I would look at her with so much love, grace, and gentleness, and invite her to let go. I’d take her hands, gripped tightly around her plan, and smooth them open. I’d invite her to let go of hard-and-fast life timelines, to let go of anticipating a new identity or new life through motherhood, to let go of comparing life-track milestones with the people around her, and to not measure her value or success by life stages achieved. I didn’t realize then I was holding onto those things like armor.
We decided to stop preventing pregnancy when we left for Africa, which was September of 2014. There were ten young married couples without kids in the school. At that time, I would have never guessed that we would ultimately be the last of those couples to have our ﬁrst child.
After several months of trying, I started to get a little worried. Throughout high school and college, I regularly joked that I had child-bearing hips and would probably be a Fertile Myrtle with six kids by the time I was 35. And since getting married, we had received many prophetic words about being pregnant, having lots of children, and being parents.
When it wasn’t happening right away, I considered that this might be a long journey, or that I might have something wrong internally. And I hated that thought. I hated the thought that those prophetic words might have been to encourage us because our journey might be long, and we would need that encouragement in the process.
After one year of trying, we ﬁnally conceived! We had come home after our ministry school, traveled to Israel for four months, and were home again, temporarily living with my parents. I felt so relieved and jumped right into dreaming over how to tell our family and friends on Christmas morning, which names to use, and what the nursery would look like. We hadn’t quite made it to our 8-week appointment just before Christmas when I started bleeding. It didn’t stop. I remember sitting on the toilet and weeping loudly as I bled, John kneeling in front of me, holding me, crying and praying. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.
We hear about miscarriage, but the actual process, the logistics, get ﬁled under ‘too horrible to talk about.’ And so we don’t talk about them.
I heard every kind of consolation over the next few weeks. ‘Miscarriage happens all the time. It’s awful, but sometimes it just happens.’ ‘It happened to me between x and y child.’ ‘Once you conceive, the ﬂoodgates just open! You’ll get pregnant again in no time!’ ‘I bet if you stop trying, you’ll get pregnant.’ ‘I had a friend who [adopted/stopped trying/took this supplement/saw this doctor] and got pregnant right away! I’ll connect you!’ ‘Good thing it was so early on.’ ‘If you had kept taking this essential oil you probably wouldn’t have miscarried.’
No, I’m not exaggerating. These are real things that I heard, some of them multiple times.
I know these things come from caring intentions. I know grief is hard for us to face, especially as Americans and Christians. I know loss is uncomfortable for us to talk about and we might not know what to say, and we just want to make things better. I know stories with an unresolved ending make us search for control. I learned a lot about the power of empathy and sitting with someone in their mourning during that period of time.
I felt like a woman wrecked after war, hair frazzled, eyes dazed, wondering what I did wrong to lose something, someone, so precious to me. Proverbs 13:12 says, ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulﬁlled is a tree of life.’ For ﬁve years, my heart was sick. I wasn’t without hope, but I carried the heaviness of my journey.
It would be another four years of trying after our miscarriage before we conceived with a conﬁrmed pregnancy. I would have a couple of chemical pregnancies (when the egg is fertilized but does not succeed in implantation.) I would oscillate between months of not doing anything special to try, and months trying all sorts of things: oils, tinctures, diets, new exercise regimens, fertility tests, fertility medications, acupuncture, spiritual healing/deliverance, yoga, putting my legs up the wall after sex, and eating weird stuff like Royal Honey. Four years is plenty of time to try more than a few things to try to get things going. Each new thing I tried, I held it with open hands, knowing it might not be the breakthrough to pregnancy but was worth a try.
One of the most difﬁcult things for me was wondering what our path was. I believe in miracles and a breakthrough in prayer. I believe God honors medical intervention. I have friends who have had their kids through IVF and fertility medication. I just wanted to know–did we need healing (was something wrong inside of me or John) or was this a matter of God’s timing? If the ﬁrst, we could walk forward down that road with Him, there was a path ahead. If the second, I could feel more at peace in the wait.
Every fertility test we did came back ﬁne, and we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. To me, that was the most frustrating diagnosis of all, because there was no clarity on why this was happening and no clear path ahead. If we knew what was wrong, we could be more knowledgeable about how to move forward. I felt so stuck. Our doctor said IVF was our best option of conceiving, and we weren’t ready for that yet.
During this time many of our friends had their ﬁrst babies. Then they had their second babies, and some of them even had their third babies. I had to learn to make real space for the emotions that came up when others seemed to move forward without any speed bumps, not to push them down as being too ugly or too untrusting. Likewise, I had to learn to be present for my friends with encouragement, joy, and celebration in their season. This balance wasn’t always implemented well, and it was absolutely a learning process for myself and my friends.
I had to learn what boundaries I needed to protect my heart in this time of waiting. While I still genuinely loved taking care of my friend’s kids and loved hearing how motherhood was going, I gave myself permission to decline baby shower invitations as needed and send a note and gift in my own time. Baby showers caused emotional responses totally beyond my control–I couldn’t stop crying during and after them, even if I was in a pretty good place emotionally otherwise.
I had to learn that when meeting new women, I would let them bring up where they were on the journey of their life. I would not ask if they had children, wanted children, if they were married/ dating, or planned to be any time soon. I have become better at listening – like, really listening. Asking thoughtful questions about the soul in front of me, and then letting them talk, holding that space open for them.
That has been one of my most cherished gifts through this season of waiting. I feel like I’ve become better as seeing women as more than married/unmarried, baby-makers, home decorators, or someone to compare myself to. I see a person, with a story I know little about that has shaped them into who they are and why they are that way. They dream, worry, hurt, have relationships, stresses, and victories, just like me, just like everyone.
I’ve learned how to make space for others to be who they are. I’ve learned how to better love someone going through loss or grief. And I think I’ve become a better friend – to myself and others.
In this time, we considered moving forward with fostering and/or adoption and ultimately felt like it wasn’t the right time for us. There were many candid conversations we had about this, some more difﬁcult than others. I often would come to the end of my rope (again) and tell John I was just ready to be a mom, however, we got there. He, being slightly less emotionally driven in these conversations, would honestly tell me his thoughts, and I had to hear and respect him. He wanted to be absolutely sure that was what God was telling us, and neither of us felt like we were hearing that explicitly. So we kept waiting.
Over this past summer, we weren’t trying anything special to get pregnant. I hadn’t taken fertility medication since the beginning of the year, and I certainly was not observing any particular diet or exercise regimen. Honestly, it felt really freeing to just be me and to let myself be 32, married, and happy.
Over and over again in the last ﬁve years, I have had to choose to trust God with a soft heart. I have had to learn that Jesus was and is my very real, very best friend, and he wept with me through all of this. I had to dust off those prophetic words and say yes to them, even in the face of my circumstances that seemed quite the opposite.
In the spring, I attended a women’s conference at my church, something I’m usually intimidated by but felt like I needed. I wasn’t attending to hear from God about our fertility situation, but just to have more of Him. During worship the ﬁrst night, there was an invitation to ask God for healing. Wanting to take advantage of the situation, I asked God to heal my body. And I heard Him say, ‘You’re asking the wrong question.’ In my mind, I saw a pocket-watch over my right shoulder, and I felt Him telling me that it wasn’t a matter of my healing, but a matter of His timing. It was the ﬁrst time I heard Him clearly on this, and I felt such relief!
As if that wasn’t encouraging enough, on the last night of the conference, the main speaker ended the weekend by praying over whoever wanted prayer. I walked to the front with all the other women, and she made her way down the line, praying over each of us. When she got to me, she placed her hand on my belly and started shouting ‘PREGNANT! PREGNANT! PREGNANT!’ over me. I have never met this woman before in my life, and she had no idea of our story or situation. Needless to say, I crumpled to the ﬂoor and let myself weep–not like church-crying, like alone-in-my-bedroom crying. It was an immensely healing moment for me.
Two months later, I tested positive on a home pregnancy test. The next morning, positive again. A week later, I still hadn’t started bleeding. I took each day as a gift and sought to remain sober-minded. We made it to our 8-week appointment and saw the heart ﬂicker on the screen, one of the greatest gifts of my life! We made it to 12-weeks and heard the heart beating. We made it to 18-weeks and saw that beautiful body and learned that our baby is a healthy girl. Each step has been the sweetest experience for us. It hasn’t been without working through some fear, but I know I can trust God in this process, and I have permission to enjoy each moment.
I know I am not the ﬁrst woman to go through infertility and loss, and I won’t be the last. We waited longer than a lot of people, and a lot of people have waited longer than us. Barrenness is as old as the Scriptures in the Bible, with many of the women mentioned in its pages have experienced a long wait before conception. There is no formula for how to get through a season of waiting, and everyone’s story is unique.
Five years of praying for our family to grow. Fifty-nine months of hope and disappointment. Learning how to hold genuine joy and longing in the same breath, honoring both. A million nuanced victories, prayers, potholes, and moments collected by me, John, and God.
God’s hand is big and strong and gentle. He has walked every minute of those days alongside us. He has kept every tear, and waited patiently every time I looked at Him with bitter-cry-eyes asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ Jesus sat with us and wept over our losses, and understood more deeply than anyone what our season of waiting was really like–all it required out of us, all it tore down in us, and all it built in us. ⠀
Roads that are narrow, hidden, and harrowing are something special and precious. You might be on one of those now – a terminal diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, hope deferred. With Jesus, those roads create something stronger than steel and more valuable than gold inside of us. They create faith that is true, a faith that sings while it’s still in the darkness. I am very thankful for that.
Waiting is worship. Something I have learned is that worship doesn’t always have to be done pretty or done ‘right.’ Like Hannah, it just comes straight out of that deep gritty place, with all our mess and emotions, and that is faith that delights the heart of God!
For all of your prayers, words of encouragement, tender love and grace towards us along the way, we are so grateful. We love you and are so excited to share this new season with you! We are thankful, honored, and excited to be carrying this gift of life, our daughter, who we can’t wait to meet this spring.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Ray. You can follow her journey on her blog and Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more fertility stories here:
‘Danielle. You’re, like, really pregnant!’ I had JUST miscarried. How could I get pregnant TWICE?!’: Woman conceives 2 children naturally after infertility, donates remaining embryos to help another family birth twins
‘Once you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.’ I hated that comment. My period was late. ‘No. I’m not wasting money on a test.’ But I took one. And I was PREGNANT.’: After struggling with infertility, woman is now mom to 2 infants born just 1 month apart
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