It was only a photograph.
Our church had long ago decided to create a pictorial directory, updated every five years, to keep track of the growing families in our community.
And it was only a photograph.
At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as we sat in the narrow hallway awaiting our turn.
Five years before I had cried over the picture that showed my face with a pasted on grin covering my quiet fight against the heartache of infertility. The me that had been taking chemically-made hormones and was miserable and depressed.
But I had moved on. I had faced my infertility with the most grace that I could muster, written down my story in a book, traveled to half a dozen churches to share my story in person, and testified boldly about God’s presence in the midst of my pain.
I walked into the hallway, five years later, with confidence. After all, it was only a photograph.
But somewhere between the hallway and the moment when our pictures came on the screen, it stopped being just a photograph. It became a witness to my years of suffering and the deep emotional scars that marked my life.
It had never occurred to me that I would still be childless when this next directory came out. It never occurred to me that I would still be fighting the PCOS and thyroid issues that had so sharply marked my body. It never occurred to me that I would still be staring at a photograph of just my husband and I and would still be feeling that sense of utter helplessness.
And the realization left me breathless with sorrow.
We left the church and my husband received a phone call. I quietly told him that I would start walking, would he please pick me up when he was finished? He nodded and I quickly made my way across the parking lot, onto the street.
The sobs hit me just as I turned on the side road. I shook and walked and ran and the tears made my cheeks sting.
My husband pulled up beside me, opened the door and said, “Are you okay?” And I nodded.
And it was the truth.
Because I’m not just like I was five years ago. I’ve grown and changed and God has reached in and touched me and held me tight in my sorrow.
But I do still cry. Harsh blinding tears.
And sometimes tears are the best healers.
There is no way to predict when hard days will come. There is no way to avoid the mourning of loss. So I’ve learned to cry. Hard. Sometimes with hands shaking and groans of pain.
And I’ve learned to stand up afterward. To allow my husband and my church family to surround me and hold me tight.
I’ve learned that God doesn’t protect me from pain, but He walks right by my side as I struggle through it. And I’m amazed at His grace.
What about you? Have you been able to give yourself grace when the sorrow of infertility feels fresh? Have you ever been surprised by what triggers your tears?
A very poignant post. It is hard dealing with infertility. The first few months and years after my marriage, every period was a disappointment. I know what you mean about the pain being fresh once in a while. 8 years and 2 amazing adopted kids later, I’m still holding out hope, but it’s not as painful all the time. Even though I love my kids and wouldn’t trade them for the world, I’d still like to carry and give birth to a child. It seems like most of my friends get pregnant without even trying, and that makes it even harder.
Oh, Mary Ann– I understand. The sharpness of the pain does lessen over time, but it’s still there, as you said. How wonderful that you were able to adopt! We’re in the process, but I’m sure you understand how much of a roller coaster ride that is!
I have a sister-in-law that gets pregnant every time she takes a deep breath. Thankfully, she is so sensitive, shares her babies with me, and cries with me over my negative tests and adoption woes. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.
“And I’ve learned to stand up afterward. To allow my husband and my church family to surround me and hold me tight.” – I love this – that you allow the people you love into your life and hurts. That you don’t just keep it to yourself. Too many people do that. Thank you for being so REAL 🙂
It’s so easy to do! I think our natural tendency is to seclude ourselves, but it is opening ourselves up that actually helps the pain heal.
I love that you shared your story. I am open about my struggle but tend to break down only with my husband. 12 years of TTC and no money left to adopt left us heartbroken. My little sister is on her third and her heart grieves for us. We love our nieces and nephews and they have brought us so much joy. It hurts though to watch my husband play with them and know how wonderful of a father he would have been. To then know the infertility is all yours to blame and nothing about him is broken. To feel like you are half the woman you are supposed to be because of the infertility. It took me until year 5 to turn over that leaf and start looking at it in different ways. We have such a deeper, stronger and closer marriage because of this. He is my rock and my support and I am his. We have both felt the hurt and grieved our loss. Once every year or couple of years it will hit me. We grieve together and then pick up and call our sisters to borrow the kids. Then we spoil them rotten, give them candy and send them home. 🙂
We have also been able to help out with all 4 kids for their birthdays and family vacations and they have instant baby sitters. We also get 9-10 hours of sleep, don’t have to worry about college (even though we set up a savings college plan for all 4), braces, changing diapers, we can go on longer more romantic vacations. LOL I know it is not much but we have been trying to find the silver lining in those dark clouds.
how wonderful that you have nieces and nephews to help ease the hurt! I do as well, and there are many days when they are literally the thing that keeps me sane.
In fact, I informed my family some time ago that since I can’t have my own babies, they are all responsible for having children on a timely schedule so that I am never lacking a baby to hold. They’ve done pretty good for the past 10 years. 🙂
I understand about feeling responsible. My husband tells me over and over that he would not trade me for anything– but it can still be a struggle to work through at times.
I”m right there with you. 9 years of marriage (7 years not preventing, several of trying, and 2 years post-trying) and no pregnancies. In our case we know that the “issue” is on my husband’s side, which limits our treatment options to a few distant possibilities, IVF, or adoption, neither of which we can afford. Some days I think the pain has mostly dulled to reasonable amounts, other days I’m sure I can’t imagine living with this hurt. I work with kids aged 0-3 and there is a particular pain to working with other people’s children while longing for my own. My younger SIL is pregnant and I’m both thrilled for her and saddened anew for us. We live far from family so we won’t get to do the borrow and return routine.
My sister had a baby this week. It has pulled up lots of my infertility pain. I try focusing on all the blessings God has given me, but I still long for a baby.
Oh, I can imagine. I pray that you will find bits of joy in each day.
Yes! This is beautiful. There is pain but there is also grace. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Michele @ Frugal Granola
Oh, Natasha, I love that you shared this. I remember doing the exact same thing. I so fervently hope for God’s blessings for you!
I don’t struggle with infertility, but I do struggle with singleness. And sometimes when I read your posts I recognize similar feelings of pain and grief.
I am often amazed at the similarities between these two places in life. The editor for my book is a single girl who would love to be married and she kept saying the same thing.
Isn’t it wonderful how God can allow us to understand each other, even while facing different circumstances?
This is so beautiful Natasha. It resonates with me so strongly, the pain and the glory. I just love your heart.
Wow. This post is beautiful.
My husband and I are coming up on 2 years NTNP/TTC, with one miscarriage (7w4d) in that time. Coming from a family of 7 children, with my mom having each one naturally without any problems (and one at a time–no twins!) I NEVER expected to be on the journey that I’m on. My sister got pregnant by accident just after my husband and I started trying, and while I was SO happy and excited for her, I was also really sad for myself. It was really difficult to navigate sometimes! But my sister is amazing about it, which really helps. And my niece…oh man. I never realized how much I could love a little person. Watching her in the first 10 months of her life has been incredible.
But I’ve been there–in those moments when the reality of your situation just slaps you in the face. It hurts. But I guess working through those things is what makes us stronger, right?
Very honest post. I am glad to hear you have reached out, and sounds like accepted, the help of those around you. I have a very hard time with this….I am trying to still accept and move past that we will be childless. People can really be exclusionary when you are the one couple with no kids. The lack of Invites to camping parties (where “families” are) etc…are hard to swollow. We are still a family and actually find it comforting to be around others with kids. Why can’t our friends see this???
I think that the infertile-community has sent some pretty mixed signals to others. And it’s understandable because sometimes we feel a bit mixed up! Sometimes we desperately need to be surrounded with children and family and what-feels-like normal life. Other times, we are struggling so badly that the thought of visiting someone with a new baby might give us a panic attack.
I think a definite key is learning how to communicate clearly– to have open relationships where we can honestly admit when we’re struggling and also help others by telling them just what we need from them.
And at the same time, I know how very, very hard that is. I’m learning… but I’m not good at it, at all.
My husband and I celebrated 6 years of marriage yesterday. We are 5 years into our journey of infertility. I have PCO and a heart shaped uterus. I always joke that it must mean i have alot of love to give. I don’t laugh i am sure that i will cry. In 2010 i had a surgery to remove a septum d(or wall) 4 mos later in April 2011 we where on top of the world as i found out that we where expecting. A few weeks later which happened to be the day before good friday i left work early and went to the hospital as i was having severe pains and started what they thought was a miscarriage. The next day being good friday i went back to the hospital for a ultrasound but thye could not tell anything. My HCG levels kept doing down which is what they are supposed to do after a miscarriage. The following week i went to the fertility specialist for another ultrasound and was told there was not evidence of a uterine pregnancy. Also my hcg levels where spiking back up and i was told that they suspected a tubal pregnancy that would have to be ended. So after two shots of methotextrate and 8 weeks later my levels where finally back to normal and all of a sudden i did not want to try again for a long time. What if i got pregnant again and what is it was a tubal. It has been my only pregnancy so far. Next month i am scheduled to have the same surgery again as the septum has grown back. Well i still have hope i am also trying to be realistic as i am 38 years old.
Oh, Erin. How difficult!
I pray that you and your husband will have wisdom as you decide where to go from here.
Thank you so much for sharing this story, and many others from your journey. So often you can put into words what I have felt or am feeling still after so many years on this road. God blessed us with a beautiful and amazing daughter almost 7 years ago now but I ache for another. But, I also feel selfish for the desirer of more when I know there are so many who never get to experience that joy even once. I also remember the church directory pictures, and family pictures for that matter, as I watch other’s families continue to grow and here we wait. BUT, God is faithful and as you said, I am not the same person I was when I began this journey nearly 11 years ago and I am SO blessed by that! I know Him better and how absolutely sufficient His grace and mercy is each and very day!
Thank you for your honesty and openness and sharing what I am often not able to! Blessing to you!
Oh, Heather- thank you for sharing this beautiful testimony. How absolutely sufficient He is. Yes and Amen.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this, I have been struggling with PCOS and hypothyroid since I was 14 myself and am now 36 and have never conceived. It’s great to hear from women who have come through it and got their miracle baby. But it’s so much more helpful for someone in my circumstances to know that someone out there has found peace and comfort while still in it. My biggest challenge in life is giving my fertility to God.
Oh, Bonnie– I’m right there with you. That is one of the reasons why I wrote my book. There are wonderful, amazing books out there for women facing infertility but the majority of them are written by couples who now have children. I found myself exhausted by the books written by moms. I needed hope for today, this moment. I can dream about the future– but I want to live fully right here!
And thank you for this. I’ve taken to calling it the “miracle myth”, and maybe that comes from my own bitterness and brokenness. It is the myth that is out there in the world that eventually all infertile couples get their miracle baby, either through adoption or medical science, or just by “giving it all to God” and all of a sudden they get pg when the doctors said they couldn’t. The fact is that there are many of us out there who are childless but not by choice, and that some of us may never get our miracle baby.
My son was born premature and lived for only 8 days. I had no trouble getting pregnant with him, and as I try for baby number 2, I’m struggling with infertility. The medicine isn’t working and I am so confused. I am really confused about God. You said that you are amazed by his grace. I wish I was there, and I am trying to get there, but after losing my son and now dealing with all this, it’s so difficult to have hope that my dream of being a mom once again will come true. I applaud that fact that you are where you are in your faith.
Oh, Amy. I wish I could hug you tight.
I wrote a little bit about my experience with loss and where God is, here: http://nmetzler.blogspot.com/2011/04/moments-march-29-2011.html
I hope it is encouraging to you.
I have not been labeled as infertile yet, but I know your pain. It’s been three long years of waiting for that picture to change. Wanting to take bump photos. Crying at the most unexpected times. But I know God has promised children to me. And I know He will hold you close. Praying for you.
thank you so much for being vulnerable, natasha, & letting me know that i’m not the only childless, weepy-eyed woman out there! we’ve been married 3 yrs., trying for 2 1/2, & sometimes i feel like our life is in a holding pattern. i want to live today, & enjoy the “bc” years (before children), but @ 32, my biological clock is ticking, & since it seems there is a problem, of course that leads to questions of if we’ll ever conceive. like you said, some days are better than others; when i’m focused on counting my blessings, it really does help…usually. i am constantly reminding myself that God’s timing & plan is best; however, it’s harder to believe some days than others. again, thank you for sharing your heart so bravely! blessings as you take the adoption journey!
This article made me cry… Thank you for being open about the pain of infertility. My husband and I have been trying for 9 years. Recently, I started experiencing the pain of ovarian cyst, yah for me & things seem to feel like that are getting worse not better + I am 36.
I tear up when I see pictures of families that have grown when it is just the two of us. I have three cousins that have gotten married and I am secretly praying that I will get pregnant before they do… Not sure if I would be able to bare the joy and pain of seeing them go through motherhood w/o me.
I go through my ups and downs with God but I still hold to my faith in Him and know He has a plan greater than my own.
I know this was written weeks ago, but I recently revisited this site after scanning it in the past. Yours is the first post I read. May I share some of the verses I read this morning? “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and the through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” God does walk with us through the most difficult moments in our life. I confess I do not completely know your pain. Yes, I too struggle with infertility. Before we were married, my doctor told me it may be difficult to conceive children. A year later, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. After struggling for a few years to regulate my cycles, we welcomed our first daughter 2 days after our 3rd anniversary and welcomed our second daughter 22 months later! PRAISE THE LORD! Since then, we have not been able to conceive another child. We have instead been led by the Lord to orphan care and are in the process of adopting internationally. Yet, the tears still come at unexpected times. Often the tears make me feel guilty. After all, we’ve been richly blessed. Last week, I had my yearly exam. I walked into the Women’s Center with a mom and her newborn. I took the elevator with a pregnant lady. It hit me anew: I still desired to conceive again, to grow a child within, to nurse during the night, etc. God has indeed graciously blessed our family. Most days, I’m content with our circumstances and overwhlemed with joy at the blessings he has bestowed (specifically dear Lydia and Clara). Yet, the morning after my appt., I too found myself flushed with tears as I set off on my morning run. The tears were a blessing in a way, a way to admit my heart before the Lord, to acknowledge that I still hurt. Yes, I trust His plan, but I’m thankful He is also my comforter. May all who read this post and all who struggle with infertility be blessed with the comfort of His loving grace. May He heal your sorrows and bless your homes with the sound of children. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be honest, it’s okay to hurt. God knows.