Counting Grains of Sand: Natasha Metzler on Infertility, Adoption, and Her New Book

This post contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure here. 

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I am so excited about the interview I have for you all today. I’ve been a raving fan of Natasha’s writing for awhile now and I’ve always wanted to interview her. In fact, at the end of 2015, I sat down and made a list of people I wanted to ask for interviews and she was the first person who came to mind.

But I get really intimidated when it comes to contacting people I admire. So I never wrote to ask her for an interview.

But a few weeks ago, I was contacted by Natasha and asked to be a part of a group of bloggers spreading the news about her new book, Counting Grains of Sand: Learning to Delight in a Promise-Making God. (I may have gotten a little giddy when I got the email. I couldn’t believe she actually knew who I was!).

I got to read an advance copy of the book, and ladies, do yourself a favor and buy a copy now.  This is one of those books that has you nodding along as you read, saying things like, “Yes, “That’s exactly how I feel,” and “She just put words into what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t verbalize.”  I read through most of the book in one setting because I just. could. not. put. it. down.  I thought about it while I folded laundry the next day.  I thought about it while I was driving.  I thought about it when I woke up that night because my husband was snoring so loud!  Yes, it’s THAT GOOD.

After I read the book, I decided to be brave and asked her for an interview, and she graciously agreed. And I mean it when I say that this is one of the most beautiful interviews I’ve published. I’m so thankful for her words and her heart. I know they will encourage you today.

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Q.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I honestly never thought I’d be able to write this but: I’m a mom. I still battle infertility, but we have now adopted two children, both when they were eight years old. It’s way different than anything I expected from my life, but it’s good.

I am married to a man my dad set me up on a date with (such a true story. You should totally jump over to my blog and read it.) and we are on our tenth year of marriage. It has been a joy. And I really do mean that. Super, super hard, but AMAZING at the same time because my husband is my safe place and I’d rather walk through the worst sorrow with him than the greatest happiness without him.

We live on a little farm in Northern New York where my husband works at a mechanic, repairing farm machinery for area farmers, and I write and clean the house in between homeschooling our two children.

Q.  Please tell us about your infertility journey and how has it shaped your writing?

So, I knew before I got married that there was a strong chance I wouldn’t be able to bear children. But I was young! I thought with a little doctoring, a little work, a bunch of prayers, we’d be okay.

We weren’t so much.

And my ability to handle our infertility pretty much dissolved into a heap at my feet a few months after the wedding.

I’ll tell you a secret: I really thought God would probably give us a honeymoon baby. Wouldn’t that be so cool of Him? After all, we were expecting problems—so I was pretty sure God was just going to surprise us with easy-peasy.

Not so much on that either.

But it was there, with all my failed-expectations and all my struggles and all my questions, that God met me for real.

I’m not saying that I didn’t know God at all, I did! But there is something about knowing God in the middle of sorrow and loss that transforms a person.

I always wanted to be a writer. I have a couple awesome novels sitting in computer files, in fact. But it was the story of infertility and loss that God led me to write and my writing has deepened in a way I never could have predicted. Pain does that to a person.

Q.  You’ve experienced infertility, miscarriage, and failed adoptions. How do you resist despair and hopelessness?

I cling to Jesus with everything I have.

I know that sounds like a cliché answer, but I don’t know how to put it any other way.

I recently went through a week of literally crying through every. single. day. Oh, lands. Talk about feeling dumb. At Bible study one night, I held a close friend’s newborn and bawled all over her. Then I sat through the whole meeting scrubbing at my face to keep the tears from dripping on my Bible.

My poor husband.

The root cause of it all was that all in one week we saw twins that we had once been “in line” so-to-speak to adopt but who were placed with another family, then got the news that the birth mom of our baby Annie (who was a preemie and only lived 12 days) had lost parental rights to her two year old daughter and a family with four children were adopting her, and of course, it was also the anniversary of Annie’s death.

Oh, and that was the week my coffee tasted funny and I got super-stupid excited that maybe I was pregnant because my sister-in-law, who is pregnant with her fifth child, wasn’t able to even sip coffee because it just tasted weird to her with all those pregnancy hormones rushing around…but of course, I wasn’t pregnant AT ALL, I just had used outdated half & half.

So, there were some pretty rough moments of “God, what is so wrong with me that I can’t have babies, still? Not even adopt one. Is this really, truly, a forever thing?”

And as I share in my post about the whole coffee/rotten creamer ordeal, when I stay close to Jesus, I live.

But I still cry sometimes. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you don’t cry at times, you’re probably not really alive.

Q.  You’re the mother to two children whom you adopted when they were older (not babies). What’s the best part about older-child adoption and what do you want people to know about adopting an older child?

Older-child adoption is the coolest thing ever. It’s also the very, very, very, very, very (and that’s probably not enough “verys”) hardest thing a person can ever do.

The best part is that you get to look at this child, who has faced so much heartache and loss, and you get to say, “Hey. We’re going to be family. I choose you to be part of my life and my heart and my home and my everything.” And the first time that child looks at you and their eyes actually sparkle? Yeah. It’s pretty much amazing.

But adopting older children isn’t for everyone. And it’s certainly not a “cure” for infertility.

If you’ve never considered it, definitely pray and ask the Lord if it’s something He’s leading you toward. And if He’s not? Don’t forget to support those who are walking this road. It’s a lonely, lonely place.

Part of our job as parents to older adopted children is to protect their stories until they are grown enough to deal with them—which means we’re not going to be telling the world what our child has faced. This feels awkward at times.

I’ve had people tell me they are concerned about how my husband and I parent. I even had one lady express her genuine concern that I did not fully understand how wonderful my daughter really was and I needed to give her more freedom.

If you know someone who has older adopted children, the best support is to trust that there is probably more to the story.

There are very real reasons why my eleven year old has boundaries more like a six year old. And I do really, truly, know how wonderful my girl is. She’s my daughter. The daughter I waited eight years for.

No child is adopted without trauma of some kind, and an older child has probably faced 10x the amount of trauma you could dream up. So unless you are a personal confidant of the adoptive parents, you probably have just the tiniest glimpse of what the family is working hard to heal from. So give grace and pray for us parents. We need wisdom desperately.

Q.  Your latest book, Counting Grains of Sand, will be released this month.  Why did you decide to write this book and what’s the heart of its message?

I’ve had so many people read my first book, Pain Redeemed, which is about our infertility struggle, and tell me they couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

At first I didn’t think there would be any more to the story. I was just here, unable to have children, and trusting that God would redeem my infertility and use it for His glory.

But the story of Abraham and Sarah—and all the years they spent counting the stars and the sand on the seashore, trying to believe in God’s promises—began carving its way into my life. I had this idea for a book called “Counting Grains of Sand” where I shared all the ways God “gave” me children. I was super, super excited about it.

There was a little boy who I cared for. My nieces and nephews who spent days at my house. We had a failed adoption, but then eventually we brought our daughter home! I numbered the ways God had given me what I desired.

I started writing the book back then, but soon we faced another season of incredible loss and the book just sat there on my computer. I kept thinking, this isn’t enough, God. It’s not enough to just count the ways you’ve given me children. Something is missing.

And there was. I realized I was counting the wrong thing.

His promise wasn’t about how many children Abraham had, or I have. It was all about His unrelenting love and compassion for me. His kindness.

So that’s the heart of the book. Learning to recognize (to DELIGHT) in the Lord and how it opens our eyes to see Him.

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Q.  What’s the one piece of encouragement you’d like to give women struggling with infertility?

You’re not alone, dear one. Jesus is right beside you. He really, truly is. And in Him is everything you need to survive.

I have no idea how God will redeem your sorrows, but I know He will.

It might not look like you expect it to. It might not be with a baby (and I know how hard it is to accept that!) but it will be good.

My deepest thanks to Natasha for sharing a bit of her heart with us. Please leave a comment below to let her know you appreciate her and make sure to check out her books, Counting Grains of Sand and Pain Redeemed.

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Did you enjoy this interview? You can read dozens more interviews with other infertility warriors here!

Birthed: Elizabeth Hagan’s Infertility Journey

This post contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure here.

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I can’t remember how I first came across Elizabeth and her blog a few years ago.  But I do remember being struck by her honesty and authenticity when writing about her infertility story.  I’ve been encouraged by her posts not just on infertility, but on her work as an ordained minister, her ministry, and the advocacy work she does.  I hope you enjoy her interview!

Q.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 36. An ordained minister. A wife. A member of the TTC community for 8 years. A blogger. A fan of diet soda (even though I know it’s bad for me). A great banana bread maker. A big advocate for 2-hour lunches with friends especially if Mexican food is involved. A Mom. And now an author of Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility published [last month] by Chalice Press.

Q.  Tell us a little about your infertility journey.

My husband, Kevin, and I married in 2007. We were full of all the hopes that most younger couples are about starting a family. I knew Kevin would be an amazing dad. A couple months after we started “trying” one year into our marriage, I found myself pregnant. But, it was short lived, only 7 weeks. My doctor thought it was most likely ectopic, but told me not to fear. I was healthy. I was even under 30! I would surely get pregnant again soon. What followed were two more early-term pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage. Soon we were off to the fertility doctors for answers. Again, we were told I was healthy and my husband had only a minor sperm problem that could be fixed in the lab. So every time we tried something new, we did so we a large dose of hope. We were ready to be our doctor’s success story! But, the next six years became all about fertility treatments of all kinds. Natural cycle IVF (2x), stimulated IVF (3x), IUI with donor sperm when we thought sperm quality was really our issue (3x), IVF with my best friend’s donor eggs (1x). I never was able to carry a pregnancy and at this point, I don’t think I ever will.

Q.  What has been your lowest point and how did you survive it?

When I started thinking of the “d” word in relation to our marriage, I knew were in trouble. There was so much pain. So much heaviness in our home. And so much we weren’t talking about that we needed to.

We survived these darkest days of our marriage and life by firmly planting ourselves in a community of friends and family that loved us and wouldn’t let us go. We had friends who organized a weekend away for us. We had friends who came and sat with us and cried on our couch after devastating news. We had family who understood why we couldn’t be happy for their pregnancy news (because it rubbed up against our disappointments). I even had one dear friend come over and sit in the dust with me in our backyard and pick up rocks when I couldn’t do anything else. We were saved by the love that hovered over us. It is how we found our way back to one another.

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Q.  As a pastor going through infertility, you’ve had a unique perspective.  What would you say to other pastors and church leaders about being sensitive to infertility in their congregation?

Most of all, I want to tell church leaders that someone in your congregation is going through infertility right now (or knows someone well who is). Educate yourself on what this means to endure IVF or IUI. Carefully choose your language when you talk about special days such as Mother’ Day and Father’s Days and around Christmas in particular. Avoid elevating the biological family above all else. Some of us will be called to create families in non-traditional ways and we need to hear that this is still a part of God’s plan.

When I think about my goals for my book, Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility, it’s that this is a book that makes it to every pastor’s bookshelf. So many of us suffer silently and don’t feel like we can go to our pastoral leaders for comfort. But I believe Birthed can be a great resource for faith leaders.

birthed elizabeth haganQ.  What made you decide to write a book, and what do you want readers to know about it?

I never felt comfortable joining support groups or sharing about my infertility widely online when I was in the thick of it. But, I still needed support. To cope, because I am a reader, I often ordered every book on infertility on Amazon I could find.
But none of the stories I read came in a voice that felt like mine.

I wanted to a story full of wrestling with God.

I wanted a story that told the truth about infertility doctors, bumping up against your pregnant friends and bursting into tears, and what the days were like when you found out your infertility treatment did not work.

I wanted a story where I felt like the author came on the other side of infertility not with bitterness but with joy what the TTC experience taught her—life lessons that could have not been learned any other way!

So I created what I most wanted in those dark years of infertility—a story of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday. It’s a story for anyone wondering if new life is actually possible (because it is!)

Q.  Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Full disclosure: I now have a 5-month old daughter via domestic adoption. She was a complete surprise. My book even went to press before I even knew about her! When people see me with her now many are tempted to say, “Oh, how awesome. You finally got what you wanted.” Yet, to me that comment is missing the point. Sure, I’m thrilled to be baby girl’s mother and to have her our home. But, the real birth is what my life has become. Infertility was a powerful teacher.

Many thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her story with us.  Be sure to leave her a comment to let her know you appreciate her!  And don’t forget to order her book!  

My book is on Amazon! {Plus, 3 free bonuses for you}

This post contains affiliate links.  You can see my full disclosure here.

COVER-eReader-LargeBack in June, I mentioned that my 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility eBook would be released soon on Amazon. Well, today is the big day! The book is now available in print on Amazon and as a Kindle book!

I wrote it nearly two years during a very difficult time. My husband and I had a wonderful relationship, but he was working 60+ hours a week teaching high school and coaching football. I had a very good job, but it was deeply unfulfilling. Most of my local friends were busy with their children, and most of my friends without children lived far away. We had just been through four failed IUIs and I knew that we’d be starting IVF in a few short months. I was sad and felt lonely and isolated.

Then I heard about the Write 31 Days blogging challenge. I had been blogging casually and inconsistently for a few months, and I liked the idea of writing more consistently and with more focus. So, with only one day’s notice, I committed to blogging every day during the month of October 2014 on the topic of prayer during infertility.  These blog posts eventually turned into the book.

As much as I’ve enjoyed receiving all the wonderful feedback I’ve received after writing the book, the real blessing came to me while I was writing it. I spent hours alone each evening, pouring over Scripture and praying that God would give me words for the next day’s post. Some days the words flowed more freely than others, but I never doubted that they would come eventually.

I learned so much while I wrote the book, and it gave me a new sense of hope and direction during one of the darkest periods of my infertility journey. I never imagined that the book might be able to do the same for other people in the future. But that’s how God works sometimes, right? He takes the lessons and blessings we receive during hard times and helps us pass them on to other people. I’m humbled and amazed every time I receive a message from someone telling me this book has helped them.

Because of the way Amazon works, a book moves up in the search results and recommendations when a lot of people buy it at once. So, if you’ve been wanting to buy my book, now is the time to do it. The more people who buy it this week on Amazon, the more people will see it in future search results and recommendations.

In order to say thanks for buying it now, I have some special bonuses that you can get, but only if you buy the book from Amazon by Sunday, August 14.  

Here’s what you get:

  • A PDF download of 31 Scripture memory cards that coincide with each day’s verse (a $1.99 value)
  • An entry into a raffle to receive a care package from me (approximately $25 value, U.S. residents only)

Here’s how you get the bonuses:

  • Purchase the print book for $7.99 or the Kindle book for $0.99 from Amazon between now and this Saturday, August 14.  They’re both on-sale at their lowest prices now, and the prices will go up after August 14.
  • Forward me your Amazon receipt OR the screenshot of the purchase confirmation screen. Email it to lisa@amateurnester.com by Monday, August 15. Please put “31 Days Bonus” in the subject line.
  • You’ll receive an email from me with your bonuses!  If don’t receive the email within an hour or so, please check your Spam folder.  If you still haven’t received it, you can try emailing me again or messaging me on Facebook or Twitter.  Please be patient if you message me on Facebook or Twitter.  I don’t always see the notifications right away.

Now, I know that there have been a few people who already purchased the book from Amazon before this post was published. I want to thank you for your early support, so this offer applies to you, too. Simply follow the steps above and you’ll receive the same bonuses.

Again, I’m so humbled that anyone would even consider buying this book, and honestly, it’s still kind of unbelievable to me each time I receive a sales notification. God took what seemed like a random blog challenge during a lonely time in my life, and has used it to reach many people. I pray that readers like you are continue to be encouraged and lifted up!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below!  

P.S. If you’ve already purchased and read the book, would you be willing to leave a review on Amazon?  Your review will also help the book be more visible in search results.  Not sure how to leave a review?  I’ve got instructions here!  Thank you!