Broken Womb, Broken Heart: Facing Infertility
It’s sobering hearing that your body will never carry a child. That because of infertility you’ll never know the kicks of a baby growing inside you.
By Ashley Mercier
The day our fertility testing results came back, I expected bad news. After all, we’d had zero pregnancies in six years. Surely something was wrong.
My first clue the results were worse-than-bad was when they didn’t ask me to take a pregnancy test, a routine first-step at every reproductive endocrinologist and gynecologist.
My second tip-off was the body language of the physician’s assistant sent to deliver the news. The rolling stool was across the room when she entered. She quickly grabbed it, pulling it uncomfortably close to me. Her eyes held that “I’m so sorry” look people give when attempting to comfort someone who’s recently lost a loved one. You know, when they ask, “How are you?” in that oozingly-sympathetic kind of way.
I steadied myself. How bad could this be?
Well, the answer was … devastatingly bad. I didn’t expect the emotions that confronted me. As I faltered for follow-up questions, I choked on some tears.
I thought I had these emotions in check. After all, I was already parenting two amazing children who came to me through foster care and adoption. My heart was full. The only difference was that now I knew my womb would forever be empty.
There’s something sobering about hearing that your body will never carry a child. That you’ll never know the kicks of a growing baby inside you. Knowing you’ll never see if he “has his daddy’s chin” or “his mommy’s eyes.”
My body should serve a purpose, right? Be fruitful and multiply.
Trying to fix infertility
I began looking for a way to fix the situation … pretty much my go-to instead of giving my hurt to God. We’ll adopt again! I thought. I forced this lovely idea to grow on me — with adoption. None of the physical symptoms, none of the hormones. What a win.
But the deeper I shoved my disappointment, the more torment grew in my soul. My erratic behavior unveiled my emotions: I joined online infertility groups, soon finding them overwhelming as one woman after another got her BFP (big fat positive) while I would never get mine.
I took at least 10 pregnancy tests. I got angry at my husband and kids for no reason. This little doctor’s appointment, the one I thought I’d be okay with, had unhinged my world.
Two months later, I finally heard God. Our pastor spoke about miraculous healing, reminding us it is still possible:
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16, NIV).
But he also reminded us that any earthly suffering we have can also be used for God’s glory, even infertility. We’re here to demonstrate God’s love, His ability, and to reveal His glory. So if our sickness can be used for that purpose, we may not be healed.
You see, years before, in the thick of a very hard fostering situation, God had taught me that “joy in suffering” did not mean “grin and bear it.” Joy in suffering means knowing you’re not hurting for no reason, being assured God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can have joy knowing our suffering will bring about God’s glory.
A choice to make
That fostering story didn’t end how I would have hoped. And my infertility might not end as I had hoped either. So now was the time to choose: Would I have joy in my suffering or would I choose to relish in my pain?
The pastor’s sermon ended with prayer for healing. Hand in hand, my husband and I went in faith, and following the scripture, giving our infertility over to God. The elders laid hands on us, fervently praying for physical healing. And we returned to our seats, knowing God had moved, but not knowing how long until He would reveal His plan.
Believing infertility can be healed might be the single most challenging faith opportunity of my life. See, in today’s society, women are flooded with biological Norman Rockwells in the form of gender reveals, birth announcements, ultrasound photos, bump trackers and … lest we not forget … the age-old labor stories told by any-women-gathering-everywhere. (You might notice the longer that sentence became, the more my sarcasm oozed.)
When you’re the one in eight women who can’t grow that bump, you feel each societal celebration like a grinding sandpaper on an already raw soul.
Since that day, I’ve been tempted to lean into the crazy even more, to whip out the ovulation kit test, pop on a new-fangled wrist tracker or relentlessly take my temperature every morning. I’m tempted to make healing my mission, rather than anticipate it as a gift from God.
And then He reminds me that even my desperation can be worship when I turn my trembling hands and aching heart over to Him.
Feeling all the feels
Foster care, along with motherhood, has taught me God is not a singular emotion God. I believe He is quite comfortable with me feeling sad about my infertility and divinely blessed by the children He has given me. In fact, He’s capable and comfortable with all my emotions.
The key is that I can waste a lot of energy and time directing negative emotions at Him, or I can turn them over to Him. If I do the latter, I’m assured healing in its own way. Jesus came to bind the brokenhearted — leaning into Him is the only way to navigate such a daily and challenging disease.
From a one in eight woman to another, I’m sending you big virtual hugs. We’ll wait for healing and anticipate healing together.