Each week I interview someone who has experienced infertility firsthand. This week, I’m interviewing Cheryl from Homespun Devotions. Cheryl read my recent interview with Caroline and contacted me to let me know about some similarities between her and Caroline’s story. Like Caroline, Cheryl and her husband chose not to pursue medical treatment. They waited for over 12 years before Cheryl gave birth to their son. This is a very long interview, but I believe Cheryl has a lot of wisdom to share with her words. I hope you will find her story as encouraging as I did.
Once we started trying to conceive and realized nothing was happening, I began seeing doctors to try to figure out what was going on. After seeing two regular doctors, we decided to see a fertility specialist, who diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Disease, along with possible endometriosis. I then saw a fourth doctor (an OB/GYN), who did further testing and confirmed our fears. She found that my progesterone level was nearly non-existent, diagnosed me with anovulation due to the PCOS, and pretty much extinguished every ounce of our flickering hope of ever having a baby of our own. She told us that even with fertility drugs, there was little to no hope of me ever conceiving based on the seriousness of my health issues. She began to focus on trying to help me feel better and tried to steer me away from even pursuing any further thoughts of getting pregnant. This final and discouraging visit was on February 11, 1998, almost ten years after we were married.During those years of such disappointment, frustration, and with Kevin and me trying very hard to understand God’s purpose, my Dad had become very ill. I was always extremely close to both of my parents, and for as long as I can remember, they both had a lot of health issues that left me in a constant state of fear of losing them. When Dad became so seriously ill during our infertility struggles, I remember one night in particular, in December of 1991, that I was praying, literally flat on my face, tears streaming, heartbroken, begging God to heal him and spare his life. As I prayed, out of the blue, God spoke to me and gave me the promise that we would one day have a child. I wasn’t praying for a child…at that particular moment, but God gave me that assurance. I could never begin to say how much comfort it brought to me in that trying time. I clung to the hope with all my might…and I assumed a baby was in our near future.
Over the next several years, I lost count of how much we spent on pregnancy tests, how many tears I cried sitting in our bathroom staring at negative results, and how many times I fought bitterness towards God. Had I heard Him wrong? Did I just imagine the promise…since I wanted it so bad? Why was it taking so long?
Q. What was your lowest point before conceiving and how did you survive it?
I think my lowest point…ever…before conceiving was the day the 4th doctor confirmed our situation. It really began to sink in that these medical conditions were beyond human help. Her words seemed so final. So hopeless. So crushing. I left there that day feeling like a complete, total failure..as a woman. The love in my heart for Kevin was so intense and so genuine. I mourned, not only for the emptiness of my own heart, but for the sad void in his. He SO wanted us to have a child of our very own, and this is what I was supposed to be able to give him. It was supposed to just happen…naturally. Why did it have to be so hard for me? Why all the struggles? Why couldn’t I do the one thing a woman was supposed to be able to do without such agonizing effort?My self-esteem plummeted more with every negative pregnancy test reading, and I felt very inadequate and incapable. Though God had so abundantly blessed me with the sweetest, kindest, most understanding and patient husband, we were completely in love and happy together, we both had good jobs, and our marriage was wonderful, I still felt such a deep, aching void inside. Can anything else really fill that God-given, natural desire in a woman’s yearning heart?Hannah became my inspiration. I lost count of the times I read her story and found so much comfort in relating to the heart-wrenched cries of her heart. Her wonderful husband, Elkanah adored her and asked her, “Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Kevin is my Elkanah. Though his own heart longed for a baby, he continually comforted me in my grief. I know it was every bit as hard for him as it was for me, but knowing I was the one with the issues caused him to reach out to me in compassion.One of the most difficult aspects for me to accept was the fact that there were those in my life who were consistently able to conceive, only to choose to end their pregnancy through abortion. Oh, this was difficult for me to deal with! Kevin and I had so much love to give a child, we WANTED a baby so badly, and it was not happening for us. Yet, others were becoming pregnant without a problem, then deciding a baby would adversely interfere with their life, and making the conscious choice to end the pregnancy. This was a huge area of struggle for me during those dark days. Every time I heard of it happening, I fought deeper battles with bitterness and depression. It just seemed so completely unfair to me, and many times, I asked God why?We have been taught not to question, but I beg to differ with that mindset. Jesus understands how it feels to question the Father’s will. Remember, He cried from the cross, “My God, My God WHY hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34 And remember how He prayed not just once, but THREE times in the Garden of Gethsemane hoping with all His heart for a different outcome than the horrible night of anguished suffering that stretched before Him? He relates to every possible level of human suffering, and He understands that we are human and we can only see a limited view of the big picture. I know He understood my pain and unbelief during those moments of despair, and I never felt His scorn for having questioned.If you are there right now, don’t beat yourself up for asking why. I can so relate to how you feel in those darkest moments, and so can Jesus Christ. He loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. There is never a tear that falls from your eyes that goes unnoticed by Him. Cry. Let the tears flow from your eyes and splash onto the counter next to those negative results. Talk to Him. Tell Him how you feel….all of it. Nothing you will ever do or say will ever surprise Him or cause Him to turn away from you. He understands how you feel….every moment of it. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
Q. You decided not to pursue treatment. What led you to that decision and how did people around you react?
After the 4th doctor pretty much cast a complete blight over our hopes, she did leave the final decision in our hands as to whether or not we wanted to pursue any fertility treatment. Kevin and I both became Christians at an early age; we had sought God for years to lead us to the right person to marry, we had always placed every part of our lives in God’s hands and tried our utmost to follow His will and design for our lives, so it was pretty much an automatic no-brainer when it came to what we would do with our infertility issue. It had become a lifestyle for us to take everything to the Lord in prayer and to submit ourselves to His Divine will, for truly it had proven to be the happiest, most peaceful way to walk through life.
I remember we talked about all the doctor had said, and, to be perfectly honest, at that point, after all those years of struggle, we were both worn out and beaten down from it all. It was like we were beginning to believe that maybe God truly did not intend for us to have a child of our own and maybe it was time to give up the dream. It was like a beyond-sad realization that was beginning to dawn upon both of us, at the same time. Like a cup that could not be passed, a written law that could not be altered. It was one of the most painful issues of life that I have ever let go of and relinquished to God. Honestly, I believe it was some of the hardest words I ever uttered to Him…to reach that point of consecration on the issue that meant so much to Kevin and to me….to be able to say from the heart, “Okay, Lord, if this is really how you want this to turn out, I surrender to Your will. Not my will, but Thine be done. I will accept this. I will still love You and serve You forever…no matter what you do in this situation.”
Though everything within me cried out for a baby, though my prayers were every bit as intense as Hannah’s, though my heart ached for the sadness in Kevin’s eyes, I surrendered. I accepted that if it was just not meant to be, then it was just not meant to be. So did Kevin. We finally let it go….it took everything we had, but we finally figured out that it was the absolute only way to find peace and move forward. We realized that to continue to put so much focus on this had the potential to literally tear the two of us apart. That we needed to enjoy each other and continue to cherish our time together and to not allow this constant effort to overtake the rest of our lives. We had God at the helm. We trusted His wisdom, even when we couldn’t understand His logic. We had each other. That was enough. THAT is what sustained us and helped us to turn it loose and walk on. After putting our infertility completely and entirely in God’s hands and letting it go….the miracle happened. Not overnight. But, on March 23, 2000, a little over two years after my last diagnosis, I finally conceived! I began having morning sickness almost immediately, but the funniest thing happened. Never dreaming I could possibly be pregnant, I thought my nausea was coming from an extra, part-time job I had taken stuffing envelopes! I thought the smell of the glue was making me sick! LOL!
Ironically, Kevin became very ill at the very same time, and had to undergo a colonoscopy. On the same day he had his test, we were sitting in a booth at TGIF having lunch, when I told him my cycle was 17 days late. “Do you want to get a pregnancy test?” he asked. I remember answering “NO!” a bit too quickly. I just couldn’t bear to buy one more test and stare at one more negative result. I saw no need in wasting more money. I will never forget the feeling I had when I looked across the table and saw the pain and disappointment in Kevin’s eyes. I immediately regretted my answer. SO, we went and bought the test, and sure enough, it was positive for the very first time ever!!! I cannot put into words what that felt like. Telling Kevin, rejoicing together, then going and buying a second test….just to confirm. We couldn’t believe it! To God be all the glory! There is NO other explanation for my being able to conceive other than a Divine-intervention miracle. It was God’s will for Zachary to be born…at that moment in time. I often think about the instances in the Bible in which God opened the womb of a barren woman and gave her a son and how He always had a special plan for his life.
You know, I have thought many times that if only we had known we WOULD finally conceive and have a baby of our own, it wouldn’t have been so hard to wait. Had we known what we were waiting for, we could have coped so much better in the waiting process. I think the total uncertainty of not knowing if it will ever happen is the most anguished part of infertility.
Q. You waited over 12 years before conceiving. What sustained you during that time?
There were a few things that really sustained me during those years:
#1. I clung to the promise God gave me that night on the floor in prayer. It took a full NINE YEARS after that promise for the promise to be fulfilled, but God never makes a promise He doesn’t keep. Of course, I didn’t know it would take that long. I admit, with all transparency, that I did not always believe. I questioned many times. I struggled often. But, in the back of my mind, I had that promise…and that was something very precious and special to me…even when I doubted whether or not I had even heard His voice.
#2. ABRAHAM. I absolutely LOVE the 4th chapter of Romans. I encourage anyone struggling with infertility to READ this chapter. Get a hold of what it really means. Especially, read and dissect verses 17 through 21. Abraham was promised a baby years before. The years kept ticking away. He was seeing no fulfillment or fruition of that promise. Yet he believed. He “considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” WOW! In so many words, I might as well have been told my womb was dead. My biological clock was ticking with no hope in sight. STILL, Sarah’s womb, at 90 years old, was completely dead, yet, God opened it just long enough to become impregnated with the seed of her 100 year old husband! Okay, if that could happen, God could do this for us. If that could happen, and it DID happen, God can do this for you, my friend! I especially found inspiration in verse 21, “And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.” And if God could open Hannah’s womb after she prayed that hard, He could do this for us. I kept clinging to those thoughts….even in the face of knowing our miracle would need to overcome and defy all medical odds.
Q. What advice would you give to other women who are still struggling to conceive?
I think the single most important thing I could ever say in answer to this question is to force your eyes above what is human to the One Who is Divine…the One Who is all-powerful….the One Who can do ANYTHING, no matter how impossible with man or hopeless it is. Don’t focus on test results. Don’t obsess over medical diagnoses. Look to the power of Almighty GOD. He is not affected by low or non-existent sperm counts, low or non-existent progesterone levels, tumors, cysts, closed tubes, or any other scenario….just fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter because God is sovereign.
There isn’t a man or woman alive whose womb could ever be more barren or whose male faculties could ever be more past the point of child-production than in the case of Abraham and Sarah. Yet, God removed every impossibility from their situation. He reversed the aging process, infused the bodily functions, and He made it happen. Why do you think He did this, and why did it end up being printed on the pages of our Bible? Because God knew you and I would need proof. He knew we would need examples. We would need to know that He is able. Abraham didn’t have a Bible to read. He had no track record to go by. ALL he had was a promise from God. That’s it. Yet, he believed, and he did not stagger from believing. He knew that God was able to do exactly what He promised He would do, and He did. We have the whole Bible to read. We SEE God’s track record…not only in the Bible, but look at your life already. Trace His hand. See His fingerprints. Recall the prayers He has answered for you in the past. Listen to my story and the stories of many others…in modern day…who had barren wombs, who had disappointing test results and sperm analyses, and who were given NO hope. Choose to make the conscious effort to re-direct your thoughts to GOD and what He can do.
Don’t allow the overwhelming quest to conceive to ruin your relationship with your husband. Seriously. This is such an intensely stressful time in your life, it can overshadow and overtake and steal every ounce of joy in your marriage. Don’t let every, single thing in your life be about having a baby. Your husband, his physical and emotional needs, and your relationship with him is way too important. Remember, he is suffering, too. Especially, if the obstacle lies in his court. He is dealing with his own emotional roller-coaster and feeling his own inadequacies. What could make a man feel less like a man or a woman feel less than a woman than to be told they cannot do something that should come so automatically and so naturally? It is a complete attack on our own self-worth to find out we are the culprit, through no fault of our own, but that our own condition is the cause of the situation. Going through years-long infertility struggles is not for the faint of heart. It can either make or break your marital relationship. Make the determined commitment that no matter what happens, you and your husband were…and are a couple first. You fell in love with him to the point of making the decision to walk through the rest of your life with him, so me must be pretty special. Focus on that…on him. Do everything you possibly can to stoke the passion in your marriage, without continually obsessing and hoping this will be the magical time you conceive. Enjoy your life together.
Train your mind to NOT think of having a baby. I know that is hard to do, but believe me, it inhibits conception to be so up tight and so driven that having a baby is all you think about 24/7. Relax. Pray. Give it over to God. He knows how hard this is for you. He also wants you to savor the moments He is so graciously giving you with this amazing man He has placed in your life. Don’t allow your longing for a baby to consume the joy of living and sharing and giving yourself over to your husband. Don’t blame him if he is the one with the medical issues. Empathize and shower him with more love than his heart can hold. Take all of that pent-up maternal love and turn it into daily gestures of wifely nurturing….love him with that intensity, until it can be bestowed upon the little one God is going to bless you with. Once you have a baby in your arms, in your home, in your lives, you won’t have quite the same opportunities. Someone else will be needing those parts of you, and then it will take a concentrated effort to make time for the intimacy. Enjoy this time….with just you two. When you feel blue, make a candlelit dinner and take the time to look into his tired eyes. Be conscious of the fact that he has other needs, and let him hear you talk about something other than having a baby. Listen to him, and on the flip side, allow him talk about something other than having a baby. Remember there is more to life…even though it seems this is paramount. Don’t let your husband’s needs go unmet, just because this is not working out the way you hoped it would. There are a lot of other women out there who would love to fill your shoes…and who would take your place in an instant. Love him so much he would never even think of allowing that to happen. Don’t allow infertility to trump your love and affection for him and the other things the two of you care about. Enjoy and cherish the journey. You are together, and that is what matters. There are so many lonely people in the world. You are so very blessed to have someone with which to share your life. Don’t ever forget that or lose focus of it. Looking back now, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I couldn’t agree more with the way God allowed everything to fall into place in our lives.
Those first 12.5, early-married years Kevin and I had together before having a child were filled to the brim with love and a lot of fun and spontaneity. We actually allowed our heartbreak and longing for a child to draw us closer than we ever would have been before. We pulled together, never apart. We turned to each other’s arms when our hearts were overwhelmed and sad. We showered each other with relentless love and channeled our energies to filling each other’s needs. God blessed us to celebrate our 25th year anniversary last June. All of these 25 years have been filled with more happiness than a girl like me could ever deserve. God had it all in His control, and He knew exactly what was best and when to send us the baby we so longed for. Before, we were a couple…having Zach made us a family. God is SO good!
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
God answered my December 1991 prayer in other ways, too. He did heal Dad, and He added 8 1/2 years to his life after that illness. The ironic thing is when I was 11 1/2 weeks along in my pregnancy with Zachary, God called Dad home to Heaven. He never got to see Zach or hold him in his arms. Zachary is Dad’s one and only biological grandchild, and even though they never met, Zachary is so much like him. Knowing we had Zachary to look forward to is truly one of the only things that got me through that bittersweet time. I cried myself to sleep so many nights and had a very hard struggle with questioning God as to why He couldn’t have waited just a little while longer to take Dad. I so wanted him to see and meet our baby and watch him grow up. It took me a long time to reconcile that, and I finally had to come to the realization that there are questions for which we may never receive answers.
God has a plan, and it is always what is best for us. It is not all about me. Dad was in very poor health, and he had suffered for years. It was best…for him…to go to rest in the arms of Jesus. When I first got pregnant, I was told by so many that they felt I would have a girl, based on the way I was carrying the baby. Based on their assumptions, we went ahead and picked put a girl’s name….Hannah (of course!) Marie (after my Mom’s middle name). On the day of our ultrasound that determined we were not having a girl, by any means, but that our baby would definitely be a boy, we knew we had to pick out a boy’s name. Out of the blue, Kevin said, “I like the name Zachary. I’d like to all him Zach.” I loved it, too, so it was decided that day. The first name would be Zachary and the middle name would be Will, named after my Dad. I never even thought to wonder what the name Zachary means, but after he was born I was in a Christian bookstore one day looking at names and meanings, and my eyes fell upon “Zachary”. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments when you can’t believe your eyes. The name Zachary literally means, “The Lord remembers.” Wow! All I could think of in that moment was that night on the floor praying to God and how He had made me that promise. HE NEVER FORGOT…in all those years of waiting, God remembered, and He sent us our beyond-special gift.
If God has not given you a personalized, unique promise like He gave to Abraham all those years ago…or to me in 1991, let me point you to these, my friend. Take them as your own. They are for YOU. You can count on His Word. Every part of it. Psalm 113:9 says, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.”
And, in case there is a single woman out there reading this, hoping with all your might for Mr. Right, wishing with all your soul for the loneliness to end, staring every day at empty, childless arms…this one is for you….Psalm 68:6, “God setteth the solitary in families…” Families. Isn’t that what we all long for? Little communities of our very own? A place to belong? God promises us that. He designs it this way. Your desires are God-given. He placed them there. He will fulfill His Word. He is bound by His promises. Don’t ever give up. Always keep the flicker of hope alive, and in the meantime, enjoy life. It is precious. It is fragile. It can be snuffed out at any given moment. Love on your husband.
If you aren’t married, love on your family. Find a child who is unloved and shower them with maternal nurturing. Do something selfless and generous for others while waiting for your promise to be fulfilled. Don’t waste time or energy on regret or what might have been. Focus on what is…and what is in front of you now and what matters most. In closing, I just want to say that my heart goes out to you in so many ways. I know how you feel…I can so relate to the hopelessness…the full gamut of emotions. You are not alone. God is with you. There is nothing impossible with Him…not even your situation…no matter how hopeless and impossible it seems to you right now. If God can do this for us, He can do it for you. There is no respect of persons with God.
If you need to talk or would like to be prayed for specifically and consistently, by name, please feel free to contact us at Homespun Devotions. You are completely welcome to stop by, so we can help to carry your burden. My prayer is that each woman reading these words will one day hold their own baby in their arms….encircled by the arms of the man they love. For truly, there is no sweeter feeling in the world.
Many thanks to Cheryl for taking the time to answer my questions- while she was recovering from pneumonia! Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her, and consider pinning this image so others can find her story. You can see all my other interviews here.