*This post was originally published back in September, but I’ve updated it and wanted to share with y’all where we are at now. Thank you for following along with our journey. I’m super honored to be featured at the Trying Collective website today and hope that if you’re going through a similar journey, you’ll check out what they’re doing.
All my life I have wanted to be a mom. When my little sister was born, I was obsessed with her. Who knows, I may have called her "my baby;" you know how kids are. I was so so happy to have a little bundle of joy as a new addition to our family and thought it was just about the best thing ever. Growing up I didn't have a lot "normal" teenage jobs- I never worked in retail or in food service. I mostly babysat and worked at preschools. Caring for kids was just natural to me, which led me to teaching elementary school for six years.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. - Ecclesiastes 3:11
Even in my season of singleness, I always felt like I would be a mom someday. I figured if I didn't get married, I would adopt or start a children's home or go live abroad and work in an orphanage or something of the like. So when I did finally meet Rory, obviously I started thinking about kids. Duh. I was made to be a mom. I know it and feel it in my bones. As the older sibling, I've got the bossy thing down. In middle school, my peers called me "Mommy Jessi." Looking back that was probably an insult, but I didn't care. I saw nothing but positivity in that- they thought I could take care of others! Funny how your middle school (or adult) mind can twist things, isn't it? But seriously, friends. I can think of nothing I want more than raising little disciples of Jesus Christ to be fierce world changers for the Gospel.
I digress. When Rory and I had been dating for a little while, I remember him asking me if my parents cared that he was white. Obviously they didn't, but I returned the question. He said, "No, my parents don't care. My mom really wants mixed grandkids." And there you have it, folks. At this point I had not even met his mother. The man was serious though. There was another time where we were arguing about different sports and I mentioned how much I wanted to play soccer when I was younger. Soccer is his least favorite sport, so he said, "Our kids are not playing soccer." Friends we had not talked about marriage at this point, and he quickly said, "I just talked about our kids. That was weird. Sorry." TRY AND GUESS IF I MINDED. Heart was swooning, peeps.
Fast forward to the beginning of marriage when I was on the cray birth control and kind of hated life. We knew we didn't want to have kids right away, and even though we didn't want to wait for too long, it felt like a leap of faith to finally just stop taking the pill after a year when we realized the havoc it was wreaking on oh, everything. There are so many scare tactics surrounding sex and pregnancy and birth control and the like. I mean, we literally thought I would like spontaneously get pregnant if I wasn't on the pill. Oh the good old days.
During our first year of marriage, I literally would beg Rory for a baby and ask him if we could start trying. We had agreed to wait two years, but we would go back and forth on whether that meant we had to wait two years to start trying or if we could have a baby by the time we had been married for two years. After all of my crazy health stuff with the fibroids, we got the ok from the doctor and decided to start trying in December of 2016.
At this point I was feeling pretty empowered with all of my knowledge of basal body temping (just Google it) and figured it didn't take rocket science to procreate and thought it wouldn't take us too long. But it didn't happen. And then it didn't happen the next month. Or the month after that. Or the month after that. And now it’s been a year and it hasn’t happened. It's "only" (huge air quotes here) been a year. Most doctors say to give it a year. When you hear that you may think, "Oh a year isn't too bad! A year can fly by!" Which is true. Except for when you're in a season of infertility. I cannot tell you the myriad ways I have imagined in my head that we would announce our pregnancy to friends and family or the holidays that I thought would be so much brighter because of such fun news. Sadly, we haven't had the opportunity to share that news.
I say "season of infertility" intentionally, because I am not claiming or walking in the identity of an "infertile" woman but am instead believing in the power and promises of an almighty God to heal. I believe that all women have the ability to give life and that my body was created to do so, so I am choosing to believe that God will bring us our own biological child(ren) in due time. Hannah's story in 1 Samuel has been a cornerstone for me during this time, because she never gave up. She persistently asked for the desires of her heart and unashamedly begged her God to fight for and remember her, and He did. I will not give up. I will not be shaken, and I will not back down. That's the kind of faith I want to have. That's the kind of God I want to serve and know and love.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.- Proverbs 13:12
One day, I was driving to work and singing along to Kari Jobe's newest album (go listen to it right now) and these words left my lips: The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ. And then I started weeping. Because you know what? I want that. I really do. But most days I'd really rather have a baby in my belly or in my arms already.
I used to take my health and my presumed ability to procreate for granted. It seemed pretty easy for most people around me to make babies, so I figured it would be the same for me. That hasn't been the case so far. And you know what? It sucks. It really, really sucks. (Sorry Mom, I know you hate that word.) Part of me feels like I can't even write this post because we have no "official diagnosis" of infertility and there are people who have waited or are waiting so much longer than we have. My heart genuinely hurts with those friends.
But this is what I know. There is no pain like that of an empty womb. Nothing. It is the deepest and most raw pain I have ever felt. This summer I found myself sitting on the floor of our living room shaking and crying my eyes out and saying to my husband, "Nothing will make this pain go away. No matter how hard I try to busy myself with other things and enjoy other things about my life, this pain still lingers. It hurts and it won't go away and I don't know what to do. I know I have a great life. I love you. I love our house. I love our friends. But I don't have a baby and I don't know when we will have a baby and it hurts so bad."
With each passing month, I have had to lay down and surrender various hopes and dreams. Like the thought that it would be pretty likely that I would be a mom by age 30. Or the hope that next Mother's Day I would hold a baby in my arms. Or that this Christmas we would be a family of three. And the most frustrating part is that each month brings with it the icky yucky awful painful periods that I can't really do much about right now since we are trying to conceive. It seems like a sick cosmic joke.
I can't control the outcome here. I cannot perform my way to pregnancy or earn a baby. And sometimes that just about does me in. Because friends, I am really good with earning and performance measures. I have cried out to God- why them and not me? What have I done? What have I not done? Whatever You need me to do, just tell me! And you know what's He's said to me? Abide.
Ummm. Kind of don't want to do that, Lord. Seems a little loosey goosey and mystical. Just give me a checklist. Give me a program to follow. I am like, so good at following directions. Just give me a clear-cut list, please and thank you.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.- John 15:5
Much to my chagrin, God doesn't operate this way. His ways are higher, greater, and better. He is the gentle whisper to my soul in the night when I cannot sleep. He is in the lyrics of the hymns sung in the wee hours of the morning when the pain won't subside. He is in the embrace of my husband's arms when I think I cannot take one more step. He is in the words spoken at just the right time. He is in the card in the mail from a friend who knows how to comfort. He is in the date night where I give thanks that it is still just the two of us for a little while longer.
For a while I didn't talk to many people about this struggle. It was embarrassing, and I was ashamed. I felt like something was wrong with me and with my body- or with Rory and his body. I didn't want to be a downer when I am constantly surrounded by pregnant women and babies. I've questioned why some people get to have babies "on accident" or why people who don't even want to have kids get to have them. And to that the Lord has said, "That's not for you to decide." Point taken.
Three things are never satisfied;
four never say, “Enough”:
Sheol, the barren womb,
the land never satisfied with water,
and the fire that never says, “Enough.”
- Proverbs 30:16
After a year of trying to make a baby, this is where I find myself- with a barren (for now) womb that is not satisfied. But here's the thing. For the first few months of this darkness, I allowed this desire to completely consume me. It touched everything- my marriage, my friendships, my attitude, my thought life- no stone was left unturned. Baby showers just about did me in, and seeing the Facebook news feed riddled with pregnancy announcements felt like a personal affront. Some of these things are still painful, and I still have to will myself to be happy for others. That's the primary reason I'm limiting my activity Instagram right now. The mindless scrolling was producing way too much bitterness and jealousy in this fragile heart of mine. The struggle was is real, and I say that in the least flippant way possible.
When all I can think about is what I don't yet have, I'm not walking in the truth. Because the truth says that I am not lacking. The truth says that the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. The truth says that God has not forgotten me. In fact, He has engraved me on the palm of His hands. The enemy of our souls is crafty, friends. It is so so so easy to focus on what "everyone else" has. But when I do that, I'm not walking in gratitude and I'm allowing my desires to become demands. And when that happens, I've made God more like my Santa Claus. When I'm focused on my pain and frustrations, I can't love others well because all I can do is look at me, me, me. And the enemy knows that. The beautiful thing about this season, especially the most recent months, is that God has made it overwhelmingly clear that He loves me and that He is continuing to work in my life. In. so. many. ways.
“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” - Isaiah 1:17
The most beautiful thing to come out of this is our recent decision to pursue foster care. When Rory and I were dating, we both talked about how we thought it would be cool to adopt one day, but then we learned about the current foster care crisis. Friends, did you know that there are over 13,500 kids in the state of Georgia alone who need a foster home? That statistic alone is overwhelming, but the even sadder part about it is that there are not nearly enough homes for these children. Many children have to go out of their region or even have to stay in a group home or hotel when there is no one willing to step in and advocate for them.
In February, Rory and I attended a local conference about foster care and adoption called Choosing to Care. We learned about the differences between foster care and adoption and both left the conference feeling like as a couple we were called to foster care. I need to be clear here- we aren’t pursuing foster care because we just want to “get a baby.” We are pursuing foster care as an act of obedience and because we know that the Lord has given us this call as a couple. We know that we can offer love and a safe home to the child(ren) that God brings to our home. So we are praying for Him to bring the ones who need Him and for our hearts to continue to be softened and enlarged for the voiceless. The beautiful thing about our story is that if I had gotten pregnant right away, we probably wouldn’t be pursuing foster care right now. We would have continued to put it off, and our family could look completely different. But over and over, God has said that the time is now. There are children waiting who do not have the luxury of allowing me to figure out when it is convenient for us to open our home.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.- Romans 12:15
Here's what I've learned and am trying my darnedest to walk in- my story is not her story. Her happiness does not have to threaten mine. I can rejoice with others. I can walk alongside friends who are in different seasons and who are experiencing what my heart literally hurts to have. But I cannot do it alone. I have to fight for this joy and this happiness in a way I never have before. It is a conscious choice to celebrate others, but that doesn't make it any less genuine. I have to remember that the world does not revolve around me and my pain- no matter how real and raw it is. I have to remember that my God is for me even when I don't want to get out of bed in the morning because the pregnancy test was negative again. I have to remember that God is sovereign and that He loves me and that His plans for me are always only good. I have to remember that He didn't make me sick or cause my illness and that He's not punishing me. I have to remember. I have to remember. And it is in the remembering that my praise comes forth and my soul is lifted. It is in the remembering that my hope soars and my perspective shifts, because He's in the waiting.
So I buy the gifts and I say congratulations and I go to the showers because that's what a good friend does. And all the while, I hold on to hope. I say thank you to Jesus for the millionth time as I recall His kindness to me and how much He's done for me. I fall more in love with my husband every single day as I covet admire his strength and unwavering faith. And I pray like I never have before and say sorry a lot and surrender and just ask God for a deeper love for Him and a heart that looks like His. Because if there's anything I've learned in the last ten months, it's that Jesus is all that matters, and He is all I have.I lift my voice and give a sacrifice of praise and laugh at the days to come as I hope in His unfailing love. Because friends, I have been given a good life. I have so much to be grateful for. So while my womb is empty, my heart is full. Because I serve a good God, and I can say with confidence and conviction, it is well with my soul.
Sources of Encouragement
God's Plan for Pregnancy (Literally the best book about all things pregnancy- before, during, and after- and one I wish I had a year ago. I recommend it to everyone no matter what their situation.)
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast (episodes #158, #155, #132)
Mom Struggling Well podcast (episode #105)
The Shauna Niequist podcast (episode #2)
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
True Identity by Jennifer Brommett
Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth
Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
God is Able by Priscilla Shirer
The Lucky Few by Heather Avis
The Armor of God Bible study by Priscilla Shirer
Covenant Bible study by Kay Arthur
And entirely too many worship songs to count that have held me and lifted my heart.