Tag Archives: pregnancy loss

Your Body, God’s Temple

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” – Psalm 48:9

When my husband and I were struggling with infertility, I was also grieving my father’s death and my mother’s new role as a widow. My job was stressful and demanding, as was my boss, and I had very little time — or emotional energy — to spend meditating… particularly on God’s unfailing love. The truth was, it felt like God was failing me pretty spectacularly. My stress expressed itself through my body as frequent headaches, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and bouts of tears that were provoked by things as random as sad commercials or turning my ankle on an uneven sidewalk. I was barely keeping it together.

I’d go to church on Sundays and wonder why God seemed so far away. Wasn’t this where I was supposed to encounter Him? But, I didn’t hear His voice or sense His presence. None of His followers ever asked how I was doing, what burdens I was bearing, or whether I could use their help. They all seemed to be absorbed in their own lives, their own prayers, and their own conversations with the God who appeared to have forgotten all about me.

Little did I know, He was with me, even so.

That church that seemed so devoid of God’s presence was not where I should have been looking for Him. True, in the Old Testament, there was a physical place in which worshipers could encounter the living God — “within your temple, we meditate….” God didn’t move; they came to Him. And plenty of modern-day churches still seem to follow that “temple model.” But God doesn’t.

Jesus/Immanuel, “God with us,” changed that forever. We no longer need to go to a physical place to encounter God. Jesus promised, “I am with you always,” and that promise is delivered — in part — by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, your body is now the temple in which to encounter God.

What would I have thought if someone had shared that with me back when we were struggling with infertility? When my body seemed to ignore every instruction I willed it to obey:  Ovulate! Conceive! Nourish! Grow! Sustain!

What if I had thought of infertility as an invitation to seek the help of the Holy Spirit within His dwelling place/my body? What if I had sought to engage the Holy Spirit there — to pour my heart out to Him, to share my thoughts and fears, to praise and thank God for His promises, and to restore peace to my spirit? What might that have changed?

In hindsight, I believe it would have changed almost everything about my experience. It would have freed me from a sense of profound loneliness and isolation. It would have given me a safe place to grieve, be confused, ask questions, and even express my anger. It would have let me stop worrying about how the world might judge my infertility, and start focusing on how God intended to use it to bless me.

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Even when I was sure that God was failing me, the Holy Spirit was with me — in me — patiently waiting for me to acknowledge His presence and engage in meaningful dialogue.

I wish I’d known then what I know now:  the Lord is always with me, and His love never fails.

=====================================================

Need more encouragement? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bystanders, Peace, Perspective

Peace Despite Negative Outcomes

I got a bittersweet email from a reader. She had written to me last month asking for prayer as she and her husband tried IVF after five failed IUI’s and a miscarriage. She told me she’d already read Pregnant with Hope once, and she would be re-reading it as they made their way toward Transfer Day because it filled her with confident hope.

Her note this morning said, “None of our embryos made it to Day 3, but I’ve had peace throughout the process.”

How did she do that? How did she sustain a sense of peace despite all the uncertainty? How did she step into the moment of disappointment when she heard none of the embryos made it… and through it?

She chose to trust that God’s best sometimes begins with “No.”

Years ago, Garth Brooks released a country song about unanswered prayer. I heard it so many times that, despite my limited affection for country music, I knew the words by heart – among them: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” It took me years to realize that song was popular, in part, because it’s so true.

For much of my life, I prayed for specific requests to be fulfilled and equated that with answered prayer.  When I didn’t get what I wanted, I took it as an indication that God either didn’t care much about me, or that He wasn’t listening very carefully.

I was wrong.

In hindsight, I can see that the prayers I thought were not being answered were actually answered very clearly:  “No, because I have something better planned.”  “No, because there are things you don’t understand.” “No, because I can see what you cannot see, and I know what you cannot know about the future.” “No, because I love you too much to say ‘yes.’”

The early part of my life was a cake walk. It was easy to love God and trust Him – because I was perpetually blessed. Only when everything possible began to go wrong did I realize that trusting God meant thanking Him for what I didn’t think I wanted. It meant finding peace in the midst of complete chaos and total uncer- tainty, by faith.

When I found that peace and learned how to live into it – despite the stressful circumstances that threatened to hijack every aspect of my life – I stepped into a new relationship with God.  And I started becoming the person He wanted me to be as a parent.

Now, I know better than to tell God what to do. I recognize and respect the fact that His wisdom far surpasses my own. And, equally important, I trust His love for me. I trust that He wants the very best for me – and all those whom I love. So, I pray for His best — whatever, and whenever that may be.

The woman who wrote to me this morning has chosen that same perspective. She trusts this “no” is one step on the journey to the child who’s waiting in her future. The one who is nothing less than God’s best. Imagine God’s delight when it will finally be time to tell her, “Yes.”

 

1 Comment

Filed under Peace, Trust

Sow in Tears, Then Reap with Joy

It can be very disheartening to hear other couples’ success stories.  We listen thinking they may spark our own hope or offer some inspiration.  But more often than not, someone else’s success just reinforces our own sense of having been singled-out for suffering – compounding a growing sense of isolation and despair.

I had no intention of including infertile couples’ success stories when I wrote Pregnant With Hopein  part, because I’d already worked for nearly a year to transcribe the messages from the infertility Bible study.  But also, I anticipated a negative response from the still-struggling couples who’d be reading the book.

God knew better.

During a long walk, He made very clear that I was not done writing.  I needed to find ten couples to share their stories – in their own words, using their real names.  “That’ll never happen!” I argued.  “No one will agree to that.”

God pushed me to try.

Amazingly, ten of the twelve couples I asked said, “Yes.”

Why was it so important to include their stories?  Because they fulfill a promise of scripture  — one  which God intends to fulfill in your life, too:  “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”

That promise is at the heart of Pregnant With Hope.  It is the common element in all ten of the stories told by the couples featured in the book.

All of them came to our group barely clinging to anything resembling hope.  Most had experienced multiple miscarriages, numerous failed IVFs, and countless trips to doctors’ offices.  Some had also undergone major surgeries, lost family members, battled cancer….  They were completely exhausted by the journey.

Experience had taught them to expect only failure and heartache.  Increasingly, the “experts” agreed:  the odds were not good, and getting worse.  So, they sowed in tears – grieving their losses while continuing to cast seeds of hope.  Some sought new doctors, new tests or new protocols.  Others felt led to plow effort into creating profiles, finding adoption lawyers and scheduling home studies.  All of them chose to trust the God of miracles.

And all ten couples reaped incredible blessings.

They’re all parents now, as are many, many couples who’ve come after them.  Whether by conception or adoption, egg donation or surrogacy, they will tell you with absolute conviction:  this is the baby who was always meant for us.

Why are their stories so inspiring?  Because all ten couples, each in their own way and in the context of their unique story, dramatically demonstrate the power of the prayer:  Thy will be done.  All of them discovered the power of letting go, of trusting God’s timing, and of believing that their infertility was not the end of the story.

On the surface, each journey may have seemed doomed and hopeless.  In the natural, there was no reason to believe joy was coming.  But in the spiritual realm, God was blessing the seeds of hope they’d sown in tears.  He was honoring their faith with His faithfulness.  And they all “reap(ed) with songs of joy.”

Live into God’s promise and you will, too.

=====================================================

Are you sowing in tears with no sense of hope?  Please let me  pray for you.  Email me:  susan@pregnantwithhope.com.

1 Comment

Filed under Hope, Loss

Where is God in That Awful Moment?

There are moments – split seconds even – that can seem to last forever.  When the nurse calls with the news you dread.  When the tech stares silently at the ultrasound image, refusing to speak what you already fear.  When the doctor delivers the baby at 18 weeks, and you know the truth before he says a word.

So many of the couples I’ve worked with have described the feeling of an unbearable moment that goes on and on….  It’s as if time stops.  The past falls away.  The future is unimaginable.  There is only the moment and the realization that everything you’ve hoped for is gone.

Grief begins to form a tidal wave in the distance.  But in the moment, there is nothing.  No feeling.  No understanding.  No faith.  No hope.  No way to wrap your mind around this awful reality.

Where is God in this moment?

The Bible says He is with us.

What is this moment like for Him?  2 Peter says, “With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”  I believe that means that God understands the agony of a moment that seems to go on forever.  But it also means that time expands and collapses, stretches and compresses, with Him.  In other words, time does not limit God in any way, nor what He can accomplish in a given moment.

We may be psychologically paralyzed, frozen in a split second that’s too unbearable for us to experience.  But not God.  He is fully present with us, providing comfort and strength for as long as this “moment” lasts.  It may seem as if He has failed us.  As if He has broken His promise to give us hope and a future.  As if He has been so slow in keeping the promise that He is somehow too late.  Or worse, as if He has abandoned us in our moment of need.

But that’s not true.

God is never defeated by our circumstances.  He is never too late  — to comfort us, to strengthen us, or to deliver joy into our lives.  The problem is that we are unable to see past this moment.  We cannot imagine that this season of suffering will ever end, and so we conclude… it won’t.

The Bible says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.”  We don’t understand why we have to wait so long, or why God seems to be moving so slowly to fulfill His promise.  We don’t understand His timing, His reasons or His plan.  He has shared none of this with us.

So, we have to trust Him.  And wait.

Thankfully, 2 Peter says, “He is patient….”  with us, with our response to failure and loss, with our self-absorption in grief, with our confusion and our anger, with our depression and our fear, with our temporary loss of faith in His goodness and purposefulness.  He is patient with all of it.  And with all of us.

In the end, the suffering that seems to be lasting forever, will be over “like a day.”  And the joy that comes with the child He has always planned for us — the soul He has already chosen to entrust to us — “will be like a thousand years.”  We will see this journey from His perspective, and the moment of heartache will be a blink… just before life with our child began.

Hang in there.

======================================================

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Loss

What’s the Worst Thing?

What’s the worst thing about infertility?  That’s a great conversation starter in a room full of infertile couples.

For many women – and men – it is often the realization that our self-images are tied up in the notion that we can achieve what we want to, when we want to.  It’s worked in the workplace.  Now, we want to switch gears and apply the same success formula to starting a family:  Effort + Intent = Results.

When we can’t succeed on our terms and our timetable, we wonder:  Why not?  What am I doing wrong?  We start to feel anxiety and resentment about the lack of control we have over this situation.  We want something desperately – we’re clear on the goal – but we can’t seem to get there.  It’s stress-inducing.  And crazy-making!

There’s another piece to this, too.

We’re not just successful people who are ready to succeed at baby-making and parenthood.  We’re also part of a culture that celebrates instant gratification and effortless success.  Without even realizing it, we’ve bought into an attitude of entitlement:  If I want it, I should have it.  Like everyone around us, we believe we should be able to chart our own course… set our own timetable… control our own little world….

So, where does God fit into that?

That’s a great conversation stopper in a room full of infertile couples.

If we think we’re planning it all and doing it all, then what’s God doing?  Watching us?  Thwarting us?  Focusing on people He cares about more than He does us?  Is He waiting for something?  For us to apologize, or redeem ourselves, or give Him an assignment?  What’s His role in all this – or does He even have one?

Struggling to answer these question leads couples to the realization that infertility brings us face-to-face with unconscious expectations.  What is it that we expect of God when we want something desperately?  How do we think our relationship with Him works – or should work?  And how might our expectations be affecting the trajectory of our journey?

I’m convinced one of the purposes of a season of infertility is to focus our attention on these important questions, and to find answers – from deep in our hearts, from scripture, and from God Himself.

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and trying to force a solution to your infertility problem, maybe you should take time to step back and consider these difficult questions.  The answers may give you some very good clues about the best Next Steps to take on this journey.

=====================================================

For more insight into the infertility journey — and cause for real hope — read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

Leave a comment

Filed under Control

The Unexpected Gift

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” [I Peter 4:10]

When I was going through infertility, nothing about it felt like a gift.  It was more like a curse that had sought and found me for reasons I couldn’t explain.  If someone had asked me, “How might this experience be a gift to you?” I would have felt patronized, defensive and angry.  No one was helping me find wisdom or insight, and I didn’t think I had the time.  I was busy trying to rush a heartbeat into an empty womb.

But, several years after our infertility journey ended, I was ready to ask some questions.  Why had we had to suffer so much to bring our children into the world?  Why had so many other forms of suffering been piled on during that same season?  What had been the purpose of all that pain and grief?  Why had it happened?

I wasn’t asking in anger (as I might have been years before).  I wasn’t picking a fight with God.  I just wondered if there had ever been a reason.  Truthfully, I didn’t expect to get an answer.

But I did.

“This happened so you would know you were never alone.”

I didn’t hear a voice.  It was more like I suddenly knew the answer with certainty, down deep in my spirit.

I wondered, ‘What am I supposed to do with that information?’

Again, there was no sound.  But my spirit received the answer very clearly: “Find those who feel lost and tell them they are not alone.”

In that moment, God showed me there had been a purpose for all we’d been through.  Throughout our infertility journey, He’d demonstrated His faithfulness – over and over – in unforgettable, life-changing ways.  He’d done it, in part, so that I could tell others with absolute certainty that He would do the same for them, too.

That moment signaled the end of one journey, and the beginning of another.

I never set out to create or lead a Bible study for infertile couples.  Or to write a book.  Or to help churches and hospitals launch groups.  Or to spend hours every week writing blog posts.  But that’s what God had planned all along.

He wanted me to tell infertile couples, “you are not alone” every way possible.  He wanted me to tell you that He has promised to be with you always, and He will be.  That He walks every step of this journey beside you – to comfort, to strengthen, to guide you.  That He has a plan and purpose, and that He intends to bless you beyond what you can ask or imagine.

I hope this blog gives you insight I never had on my journey.  I hope it gives you peace when you’re anxious, comfort when you’re grieving, and inspiration that urges you to look past each day’s struggle to the joy that awaits you.

That joy includes a child God has always intended for you.  If you’re willing, it also includes the joy of paying forward God’s goodness and faithfulness by using whatever gift you receive through this experience to serve others, “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

May it be so.

=====================================================

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blessings, Trust

Moving on After an Unbearable Loss

There is a low point that some couples reach during the infertility journey.  It is a place of despair so deep and dark they wonder if they can survive it.

What they assumed at the time would be the worst of the journey is already behind them, rapidly receding in a past that pales in comparison to the deeply painful present.  Disappointment, discouragement, bad results… it seemed so challenging at the time.  Now, it would be a gift to return to difficulties no worse than what was faced back then.

This is a valley of darkness.

“Kirsten was 18 weeks pregnant and she started having a lot of bleeding,” Mike remembers.  “The trip to the hospital is a blur.  I remember the nurse tried to find a heartbeat in utero, and she couldn’t find one.  We both thought, ‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing’ because we were in such denial.  We thought, ‘The doctor will get here and it’ll be okay.’  He got there and it wasn’t okay.

“He left the room and a minute later, the baby came.  I had to run out of the room to get him.  He ran in and four nurses ran in after him.  I remember just standing out there in the hallway and feeling very dizzy.  One of the nurses got a chair for me and said, ‘It’s okay.  Just sit here.’”

The baby was coming too soon.  His first day outside the womb would be his last.

Where is God when our dreams are dying?  When the joy we’ve longed for and struggled for is slipping from our grasp?  Where is He when our hearts cry out for help?  For comfort?  For hope?

Where is God in such darkness?

He is with us.

“I didn’t think I was going to recover,” Mike remembers.  “When a nurse grabs you and puts you in a chair, it’s because she doesn’t think you can stand.  I don’t think I was capable of doing what I needed to do for Kirsten.  But I was only sitting for about five seconds, and then somehow, a feeling of calm came over me and I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Go to Kirsten.’  Somehow I went from not being able to stand up to being able to be with her.

“I tell you, that’ll make you believe in divine grace.  I don’t think there’s a psychological ability of the brain to reboot during a crisis – you’re more likely to shut down – but this was truly instantaneous.  It went from one second, ‘I’m nauseous and I can’t feel my legs’ to ‘It all went away.’  I’m very grateful for that.”

Despite feeling completely overwhelmed by heartache, as we struggle through the very worst of infertility, we are not alone.  When our spirits cry out, God hears us.  And He responds.  “I am with you always.”

There are moments… days… seemingly endless stretches of time when we feel no hope.  When it seems as if our greatest fear will be realized: we will never have a child.  Never have another chance at joy.  But scripture says that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him….”

Mike and Kirsten withstood numerous failed IVFs and the gloomy predictions of doctors, clinging to their belief that God had planted a seed of hope in their hearts because He intended for them to become parents.

With the help of a new IVF protocol they finally conceived again.  Their twins arrived safely.  And two years later, a younger sibling – conceived naturally and unexpectedly – arrived safely, too.

If you are struggling mightily to find cause for hope in the darkness, cling to these words from the author of Lamentations:  “I remember my afflictions… and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

========================================================

If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy, click this link for support and resources.  If you are looking for help, hope and inspiration,  please visit PregnantWithHope.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Loss, Perspective