Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sisters in the Struggle — Sharing Hope

It’s so easy to feel isolated and alone when you’re struggling through infertility.  Somehow, it helps to know that other women (and men) are struggling, too.  The community that’s built through sharing stories is invaluable — which is why I consistently urge you to set aside secrecy in favor of finding others who understand.

Of course, understanding doesn’t always translate into the kind of support or sympathy you need in the moment (that’s what inspired my last post), but it’s worth the risk.  As one reader commented,

“As one who has been through many trials, it is so much better doing it transparently. There will always be those who look at you with pity, but there will also be those who LOVE you and know you just need a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold.”

Yesterday, I discovered that hundreds of SingaporeMotherhood.com readers made their way to this blog in search of community and understanding.  They were following a link in a chatroom post that read, in part…

“Dear sisters, I am touched by the care which you have rendered to support one another.  I have been married for 12 years and am dying to have a baby of my own.  I have been praying to God to answer my prayer, and in the midst of searching for God’s voice, I chanced upon this blog last night. As I was reading it, my emotions were greatly stirred! I felt a strong urge to share this blog with sisters who have been through a tough, roller coaster ride in their hope of becoming parents.”

It is both thrilling and humbling to know that my blog posts can inspire people struggling through infertility half a world away.  The Lord knows the glory is His.  But here’s what was most exciting to me….

In 2010, the fertility rate in Singapore was the third-lowest in the world.  That makes for lots of community if you want a baby but can’t seem to conceive and bring one to term.  The problem is not quality of care.  Singapore has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.  So, what’s the problem?

And, at least as important, when those statistics define your experience, where do you turn for help and hope?

In a country where the predominant religion is Buddhism, one woman had the courage to say to others, “I found hope.  There is hope in Christ.  And you can read more about it at PregnantWithHope….”

That is God’s incredible grace.  He plants a seed of hope, meeting one need, and it generates a great harvest.  One woman in Singapore found hope – and she risked sharing it with others hungry for the same kind of hope.  One online forum post led to almost 200 new readers for this blog.  That’s the awesome goodness of God in action.

So, are you feeling alone?  Can’t find community?  Don’t worry.  God can.  He’ll lead you to it, and then use you to guide others there.  All so He can give you the love, compassion, mercy and grace you need to make the journey through infertility to parenthood – and the future He’d always planned for you.

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Filed under Hope, Speaking Up

The Need for Grace

I was driving down the road a few days ago, not aware that I was thinking about much of anything… and my eyes welled up with tears.  A minute later, they were streaming down my cheeks.  And before I knew it, mournful sobs began pouring out of a heart that had finally been overwhelmed by grief.

How could I have been so oblivious to so much sadness?

It’s taken me days to make sense of that question.  The process of wrestling with it has been painful, but invaluable.  I’ve learned a lesson – and it may help you, too.  That’s my hope.

So, here’s the story…

Years ago, the heartache of circling back to family members — who’d rejoiced at the news of a twin pregnancy – to tell them we’d lost first one, and then both babies, was almost unbearable.  We decided:  Never again.  All subsequent efforts to conceive and carry a baby to term would be in secret.

It was a choice made out of fearful self-protection, rooted in the belief that lightning had struck twice – and it could very well strike again.  We couldn’t bear the thought of an audience to more despair, and so we distanced ourselves from everyone and their expectations of “happily ever after.”

Fast forward….

We’re now in the midst of another struggle, doing our best to strike a healthier balance between disclosure and privacy.  Still, many of the people around us have no idea what we’re facing.  They aren’t riding the emotional roller coaster we are.  Their faith isn’t being tested daily.  They aren’t undergoing trial by fire.  They’re sailing along oblivious to our suffering.

And so, too often, there’s very little grace.

In a world that’s moving at a million miles an hour, there’s apparently no time for it – and no need.  No time to gently uncover the story behind the misunderstanding.  No time for a compassionate question like, “Is everything okay with you?”  No time to revisit things in any context other than the one that inconvenienced or aggravated them.

No extenuating circumstances:  No grace.

So, I’ve been faced with a choice.  I can make our struggle public knowledge and explain its consequences for my emotions, my memory, my occasionally faulty judgment, my fatigue, and my seeming disinterest in the minutia of other people’s lives.  Or, I can slap on the mask of “Everything’s great!” and do my best to meet the world’s expectations – with little or no margin for error.

You know what?  I need another option.  And I need a lot of grace.

That’s what made me cry.

I need more grace — without explanation, without resentment, without a heavy sigh that tells me I’m asking for something unreasonable.  I need it not because I deserve it, but because life is hard.

Where can I find it?

I’ve re-discovered that the world will never be able to give me all the grace and compassion I need.  But the Lord can, and He longs to.  Yesterday, I heard “Better Than a Hallelujah” for the first time.  If you haven’t heard it already, click this link.  You may hear what I did….

“Lord, I need grace” is better than a hallelujah sometimes.

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Filed under Hope, Loss, Peace, Perspective

How Far Is Too Far?

How far is too far?  That’s the question Lisa asked me this morning.  Doctors say her husband’s morphology has bottomed out at 1%, but she isn’t ready to give up on the dream of parenting.  Neither is he.  So, the RE is recommending IVF+ICSI.

Here’s the dilemma, as Lisa put it:

“I don’t know what God would want me to do.  ICSI involves the doctors “choosing” which little one they want to inject.  To me, I’m not sure this seems natural, and it’s a bit scary!  But part of me thinks God gave us this science for a reason…. Is there any insight you can offer me with this moral/ethical dilemma?”

What does God think of IVF+ICSI?  Does He want couples to pursue it?  To avoid it?  To condemn it?  If science has outpaced the literal words of scripture, how can we know if God approves, or if He’s angry?  If He will bless those who pursue this form of conception, or curse them?

Those are hard questions.

When I look at the people who struggle hardest with them, here’s what I see.  They often fall into one of three categories:  active or lapsed Catholics, scripture literalists, and those who know little about what the Bible does and doesn’t say.  These may seem like very different groups to you, but they have one critically-important thing in common:  They’re used to having someone tell them what God expects of them.

For most or all of their spiritual lives, someone has told them The Answers.  The Rules.  The Expectations.  Now, they find themselves facing a question that could open or close the door to the future they deeply desire.  What does God want them to do?  Who can tell them the right answer?  And what if they get it wrong?!

I’m convinced this moment of anxious uncertainty is actually a gift.

Underneath the fear of seeking answers from the wrong source — or worse, guessing incorrectly — there is the newly-planted seed of a desire to know God’s will more fully.  There is an impulse to seek Him out.  To go deeper — beyond rule-following obedience, into a more intimate relationship with the God who longs to be known, to bless those who seek Him, and to reveal His will in and through their lives.

This is not the journey most infertile couples thought they’d be making when they began trying to conceive.  And it is not one every couple embraces.  But, I believe it is the journey infertility  nudges us toward – one which can ultimately enrich and expand the spiritual lives of future parents prior to becoming a family.  And that is a blessing.

But, in a moment of paralyzing uncertainty, it doesn’t feel like one.

So, if you’ve reached the same point that Lisa has and you’re wondering what to do next, don’t panic.  Trust me:  This is all part of God’s plan.  Commit to seeking His will and He will reveal it to you.  And as you do, remember….

1) Those who want to conceive but also want to honor God cannot look to the Bible for hard and fast rules when faced with infertility.  What we can do, though, is look to the Bible for guidance — and to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment.

2) God is omniscient and omnipotent.  He knows our motivations, our deep desire to parent, and our intention (or lack of intention) to honor Him in all that we do.  That matters greatly to the One who is able to open or close a womb at any time.

3) God sends us help in many forms, including science, doctors, and medicine.  Those who refuse to accept that help sometimes do so in an attempt to honor Him or demonstrate their faith in Him.  In fact, they’re requiring God to work miracles — or see His offered blessings rejected.  I believe their motivation has great spiritual value , but their rejection of God’s blessings may not.

4) I believe that when our hearts, minds and spirits are completely focused on doing God’s will, and we proceed with the deep desire that His will be done, God will open and close doors along our path to see that it is so.  In other words, He will guide our steps, illuminate our path, and fill us with the peace that assures us we are in the flow of His will.

5) The best way to assure His will is done is to trust Him, let go, and pray the servant’s prayer: “Thy will be done.”  God is well able to work within our circumstances to achieve His purpose.

Of course, each couple must make their own decision about which path to take.  The only Right Answer is to seek the God who longs to draw nearer to those who draw hear to Him.

Trust Him completely; He never fails.

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If you’d like to read another post on this topic, here’s a link.  And, if you want more inspiration and cause for hope, order a copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.


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Filed under Peace, Perspective, Trust

Tired of This Journey

Ruth’s comment on my last post read, in part:  “I’m weary and tired of this journey….”  Soon after reading it, I read these words in my husband’s devotional book, Jesus Calling:

“Come to me for rest and refreshment.  The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary.”

There are moments like that of such grace, such gentle tenderness, that it’s absolutely clear to me that the Lord understands everything we’re going through.  Still, when the suffering continues, when exhaustion threatens to leave us in a heap on the ground, we’re tempted to conclude:  He may understand, but He sure doesn’t care.

Consider the next few sentences from today’s devotion:

“See it [your exhaustion] as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.  Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different.  Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be.”

That means, let go.

You have to find a way to make peace with the idea that this journey is no accident.  You are here for a reason.  It’s where Jesus wants you to be — for a purpose.  Struggling to stay in faith without knowing precisely what that purpose is remains one of the greatest challenges of infertility.

“Much of your weariness results from your constant battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.”

Sound too strong?  Even melodramatic? Think of it this way…

Are you sick of magazine cover stories about pregnant teens?  Of hearing friends and family members joyfully announce, “I’m pregnant”?  Of feeling tempted to indulge your bad moods with a few choice words, or your frustration with another bout of tears?  Of doubting your hope, questioning your faith, and wishing you did have the power to play God just this once?

Yes?

That’s the constant battle He’s talking about – and we’re all fighting it, all the time.

So, how do we renew our hope?  Strengthen our faith?  And set aside the desire to be God, so that He can do that in our lives?

“… do not give up!  Hope in Me, for you will again praise Me for the help of My presence.”

In other words, realize that your mindset determines your proximity to Christ.  He never moves.  He never abandons or forsakes you.  NEVER.  “I am with you always.”  You can choose to draw near to Him by bringing Him your burdens – of fear, fatigue, confusion, despair, grief and anger.  He has promised, “I will give you rest.”

How?  By the peace-giving power of His presence.

Do you find it impossible to sense that presence?

Then lay down.  Close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Slowly.  Rest your hands on your belly and let it rise… and fall….rise… and fall…rise… and fall.  And then ask Him, “Jesus, do you know how tired I am?  My spirit needs to rest.  Please, give me peace.”

I promise, He will.

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Filed under Control, Peace, Trust

Sharing Stories

When couples confront infertility in secret, with little or no support, aided by an expert they hope will work miracles and a faith that feels increasingly feeble, their fear is often palpable.  Isolated, anxious, afraid to contemplate “what if we fail?” – they are grateful for the smallest encouragement.

That’s why I write this blog.  That’s also why I encourage couples to share their stories with one another – and then, to seek spiritual sustenance that points them toward true hope.

If you are in the midst of a journey that seems hopeless, if you’re longing to hear that there’s still reason to believe that God is working in and through your circumstances, listen to the voices of some other aspiring parents who’ve written to me….

“Susan – I have so appreciated reading your blog over the last 6 months — often your message is just exactly what I need to hear that day and so insightful into this journey.  Thank you for taking the time to write.”  – Lisa

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“Susan – I found your site in April when I was at rock bottom with infertility.  At that point, all I needed was some hope, and your site brought that.  Going through infertility has made me grow in ways I have never thought possible.  I have truly felt God working in my life and helping me with my pain.  I found that I run to Him so much more now!  Anyway, after hitting bottom, we are expecting twins.  Thank you for your help, your resources, and your guidance.  God bless you as you continue on in this ministry.”  – Kelli

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“Hi Susan  – We are a Christian couple from Romania and we try to have children. We realized something is wrong and we consult a doctor.  He told us we are less than 15 percent to have a child. My husband was so disappointed he refused to preach anymore and turned angry to God.  Today I was wondering if I can find some encouragement and looking on Youtube I found you. I needed to know somebody understands.  Thank you for hope.”  – Elena

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“Hi Susan – Your blog is a blessing and I have recommended it to several friends in the midst of infertility struggles.  God used the words from your blog to give me perspective and to help sustain me during this journey.  I wanted you to know we are due this week with our miracle IVF daughter and are beyond thrilled. THANK YOU!!”  – Melissa

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“Dear Susan – THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE BLOG.  I don’t think I ever let God help me out cause I was too stubborn to let God take the lead. But now he’s my only hope!  Thanks for the encouraging words and please don’t stop writing. Your words have given a whole new meaning to this journey.  My life is in the hands of the almighty. There is nothing impossible for him!”  – Pushpa

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“Susan – Just to let you know that God has used your book to minister to me and I am very grateful. Sometimes, I feel like I’m the one writing.  Your book has made me realize that God did not pull away from me, but I pulled away from him.  Thank you.  Remain blessed.”  – Javita

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“Susan – I want to thank you –you have helped me have hope and faith and the desire to be more open to things and look at them differently and I thank you deeply for that.  We are perfect strangers but you put out your hand for me and I was smart enough to take it.  Thank you for the huge source of support you’ve been to me.  I wanted to let you know that our miracle has arrived!  God Bless you and all you do.”   – Andrea

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“Hi Susan – I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your blog.  I haven’t spent much time on most other infertility sites because they tended to make me feel more depressed or desperate.  But now I turn to your blog multiple times a week for a reminder of God’s love and an extra dose of hope through the struggle.

Your words hit right at the heart of the matter so many times and always provide much needed encouragement. Thanks for taking the time to allow God to speak through you to provide hope to so many who are struggling with infertility.” –  Cindy

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“Dear Susan – Thank you for your inspirational messages. I must give God all the glory and honor for leading me to find your blog – it impacts lives! I can’t say which of your stories, of many, impacted my life the most.  May God always bless you for being a blessing to so many.  Our little girl that we will welcome into our world in April is a miracle!”  – Darlene

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“Dear Susan –  It has been a dream for the past 9 years… and now, I’ve received word that I’m pregnant!  I’m amazed.  The night before I got the news, I read Psalm 139 and every word spoke to me.  As soon as I got the news, I got on my knees and thanked God about 50-75 times.”  – Melissa

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“Dear Susan – After a 10-year battle with infertility, my husband and I finally conceived and now have twin girls.  I truly believe God set us on this path to help others.  Through lots of prayer and searching for His purpose we believe we are to offer hope and support to others enduring infertility, so we are starting a support group.  Your book will be the resource we use.  Thanks so much!”  – Alesha

Wish one of these good news emails was from you?  Don’t give up hope.  Cling to the One with the power to make all things possible.  Trust that the hope He gives is always fulfilled — according to His purposes, in His perfect timing.  Let go of fear, set aside doubt, and let Him take control.  He will respond to your trust with blessings “beyond what you can ask or imagine.”

To Him be the glory.

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Filed under Blessings, Hope, Speaking Up, Trust

What Moves the Heart of God?

What moves the heart of God and makes Him want to open a womb so that an infertile woman becomes a mother?  Is it a mystery that cannot – and should not — be explored?  Or does scripture suggest that we can know?

Until yesterday, I would have said there is no way to know what moves God to make an infertile woman suddenly able to conceive.  But, one sentence in Exodus opened my mind to the possibility that God does intend for us to know – and to apply what we understand to our lives.

Let me explain…

In Exodus 1, a new king came to power feeling threatened by the potential for mutiny by his Hebrew slaves.  His solution?  Order the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn boys.  “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” [Exodus 1:17].

In an age when few dared defy Pharaoh — and those who did were killed — the least powerful members of Egypt’s lowest social class refused to obey.  He demanded an explanation.  The midwives brazenly lied to him, saying, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before midwives arrive.”  Pharaoh’s response was to order all baby boys thrown into the Nile.  But notice God’s response:

“…because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own” [Exodus 1:21].

Wait a minute….  Did you catch that?

 “Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.”  What does that mean?  What is it about fear that pleased God – and pleased Him so much that He elected to give these women children of their own?

Despite their fear… – The midwives must have known that defying Pharaoh’s order meant certain death.  Surely, they must have feared for their lives.  And, they must have lived in constant fear of being discovered – which was inevitable, since the number of live baby boys was increasing.  And yet….

… they feared God… – The midwives knew that their God would not condone the senseless slaughter of His people.  Did they fear His wrath if they participated in Pharaoh’s plan?  Possibly.  But in scripture, to “fear” God more often means to reverence and respect Him.  The midwives loved and honored the God who had breathed life into the wombs of Hebrew women.  Their hearts were right with Him, and their lives were lived in service.  It was their desire to do His will, even if it meant defying Pharaoh’s.

 …and they acted fearlessly – Their respect for God’s will spurred them to act without regard for Self.  Whatever doubts and nagging fears may have plagued them, they still acted in accordance with what they knew:  God would not want this injustice to be perpetrated against His people.  And they stood firm:  We will not do it.  They chose defiant action, and they trusted God with the consequences.

God’s response?  “Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.”

Were the midwives infertile prior to their silent insurrection?  Certainly, the text implies that they were childless in an era when family was everything. They spent their days – and nights – delivering other women’s dreams safely into their arms, knowing that the same dreams were apparently out of reach for them.  Until they put their faith into action.

Then, God gave them what their courageous action had made possible for others.  He rewarded their selflessness with the greatest gift a woman of that era could receive:  descendants who would carry on the name and traditions of their ancestors.  Children of destiny whose lives would matter to the God who’d created them.

What is the learning for us?  A right heart, selfless conduct, and a willingness to put our lives completely in the hands of God wins His heart – and it delights Him to bless us in response.  When we act out of faith, rather than fear, we invite Him to work in and through our circumstances to make the impossible possible.

He can, and He will.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Filed under Battles, Bystanders, Control, Hope, Trust