Each week I interview someone who has experienced infertility firsthand. This week, I’m honored to chat with Sara Hagerty, author of the new book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Check out my review of the book from earlier this week if you missed it.
“Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. Her book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, is an invitation — back to hope, back to healing, back to a place that God is holding for you—a place where the unseen is more real than what the eye can perceive. A place where even the most bitter things become sweet. She writes regularly at EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com.”
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I love quiet. I love to read and sip tea and light candles and pray. And, oh, I have five children. So we try and light candles on cold days and sip tea and pray and our house has a lot of stacks of books, but really my life is a lot more noisy than I ever thought it would be. And I love it.
(Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I write. It’s not at all what I’d dreamed for my life – but apparently it’s been on His mind for me and I’m finally coming around to being excited about it.)
How long did you try to conceive and what issues were you facing?
We were married for twelve years before I conceived. Like most couples, we thought trying to have children meant having children. It didn’t work like that for us. After a while we realized something just wasn’t right and pursued understanding as to the problem.
I was given a diagnosis that didn’t “confirm” that I couldn’t ever have children but which meant that our journey to having children might take much longer than we expected.
What was the lowest point in your fertility journey and how did you survive it?
It’s hard to pick one. The nature of infertility seems to lend itself to monthly low-points as reminders that your body isn’t working like it should. I remember one particular December where I thought for sure I was pregnant. For weeks. I kept it a secret and planned to reveal the news to my husband on Christmas Eve as his gift, only to find out – on Christmas Eve – that I was wrong. I was still barren. I wanted to shame myself for hoping because, at that moment, hope felt so painful. “If only I hadn’t given in to hope,” I thought for days. But after processing this bleeding part of my heart before God I realized that this December was one of the best things that had happened during my journey with infertility. I had gone against the grain of my flesh and chosen to …hope.
Hope is awkward and unwieldy. It leaves us open and raw and vulnerable before God. And everything in my flesh wanted to resist this kind of hope. It felt easier to not dream with God and ask Him, yet again, for my heart’s desire.
But I slowly realized that this place of hope had more to do with God and me than it did with any outcome. Hope kept me raw … before Him. Hope kept me open to Him and shedding tears that only He could hold. Hope moved His heart and it made mine pliable, in His hands.
How did you take care of yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually during the tough times?
On bad days, I gulped chai and sought for ways to escape the pain and forget how much it hurt to wait and wonder. I learned though, over time, that the best way through my pain was to talk to God. I carved out space to sit before Him and cry, with honesty. I found that what I needed most was to cry it out with Him and let Him hold my confused heart.
This ended up being one of the sweetest consolations of my infertility. I’d even say that this was not a consolation at all – it was the true prize. The ongoing dialogue with God, when I let His Word tell me who He really was and I cracked my heart open in front of Him started to make the “waiting room” worth it. He was so near when not “just” my body was broken.
You write very honestly and poignantly about your infertility in your new book. Have you always been open about your struggles?
Certainly not. My husband used to call me an “automaton.” It was always safe for me to be removed and distant from my emotions in front of other people but our lives got to a breaking point where I just couldn’t keep it buttoned up any longer.
There’ve been many times, since, where I feel a nudge to write something and – after doing so – I freak out. “What did I just say,” I think after I hit publish on a post. I’d like to crawl back under my skin sometimes, but this writing space has so clearly been one that God has carved for me, that I would rather be uncomfortably vulnerable in response to a nudge I feel from Him than I would to play it safe and save face and button myself back up.
This writing has been an obedience for me – one that has shown me that obedience truly sets our hearts free. When we do what He has put before us, His leadership initiates places of heart-healing that we might never have experienced otherwise.
How did you decide to pursue adoption?
We spent one summer on a (now) friend’s farm and watched a family who had both biological and children who were adopted live and do life. Within days of living there we both knew He was stirring something in us for adoption. We had no idea at that time, however, that we’d have struggles conceiving.
After receiving my diagnosis and considering the money spent on medically “correcting” my problem, it felt like a no-brainer to us. In retrospect, we jumped quick and without a lot of research – but I’m so glad, as I’m not sure we would have done it had we walked a little more “wisely” by the world’s standards of wisdom.
What was the most challenging thing about adopting?
Recognizing that His pursuit of my heart and me was involved in my pursuit of my children. So many times I’d like to blame our struggles on adoption, as if the brokenness in my children’s story is the true fissure when, in reality, I have brokenness in my heart that He is using my children to reveal.
Adoption brought me face to face with my own spiritual fatherlessness – the places where I have not invited Him to show Himself to me as father. That’s painful. But it’s also beautiful. It’s the best part about adoption. He hasn’t just rescued them, here. He is rescuing me.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering adoption?
Pray. A lot. Talk to God about His heart for you and if adoption is a part of that heart. Scoot near to Him because if He is calling you to adopt, you’re going to need to get comfortable in His lap in the months and years ahead as you invite your children to do the same.
What’s been the best part about adopting?
Him. He has peeled back protective layers of me that I didn’t realize were impeding my growth in Him, through my children’s wounds and their journey to recovery. He has truly made Himself near to me, in this beautiful mess of adoption. Seeing Him hold their hearts has been just as powerful as seeing Him hold mine. We’ve got living demonstrations of the lengths He goes to pursue the heart of His children, right under our roof.
Many thanks to Sara for sharing her story. Don’t you just feel blessed and encouraged by her writing- even just from this one interview? Ladies, I’m telling you- get her book! I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt changed after I read it. Please leave a comment below to let Sara know you appreciate her!
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