Faith, Infertility

How I Survived Infertility Without Losing My Faith

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For two years, I struggled to conceive naturally.  I counted days, took vitamins, and even stood on my head after sex.  For two years after that, I became a human lab rat.  Blood tests, injections, procedures.  And prayers, fasting, and reading every scripture about barrenness.  Everyone had such helpful advice as I died a slow death month after month.  “Just relax,” they said.  “Just adopt,” they said.

After five years of trying and failing, I held my baby boy in my arms.  And then more infertility.

God has used the agony of infertility to grow and shape my faith in ways I would never have chosen, and after over a decade of building my family His way, in His timing, not my own, I have come to the hard-won place of saying honestly, I am grateful for infertility.  It is a blessing.

“Many are the plan’s in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21.

But if you had told me that back at the beginning or even halfway through, I would’ve punched you.

Want to know how I survived infertility without losing my faith?  Here are four things I did during my trip down Barren Road that helped me process my feelings and stay close to God:

1. I allowed myself to grieve.

My faith in God never wavered, but my feelings did.  When you struggle with infertility, it’s like experiencing the monthly death of a dream, like your baby dies every month.  Some months were harder than others.  Some I kept going and stayed busy.  But others, I turned inside out with tears.  During those tough months, I gave myself a day to just grieve.  To feel it.  To cry out to God.  I ripped off my stiff upper lip, flung my big girl pants in a corner, and just laid in God’s lap like a sobbing toddler who dropped her ice cream cone.  My dad always used to say, “My shoulders are broad,” meaning, “I’m your daddy, and I can take what you throw at me.”  God’s the same way.  His shoulders are broad.  He can hold you together while you fall apart.

2. I was gentle with myself.

I have endometriosis, so in addition to being infertile, I spend many days in pain.  I tried to take care of myself, to lay on the couch if I needed to, especially after a tough procedure or surgery.  During a particularly rough summer when everyone seemed to be pregnant but me, I gave myself permission to miss church a few times.  Not forever, not at the expense of relationships, but just to give myself the occasional break from congratulating friends and fielding questions about my own situation.

3. I kept my heart soft.

It would’ve been easy to feel bitterness toward my pregnant friends who would innocently talk about how they weren’t even trying when they got pregnant.  One way I kept the right attitude during my infertility was to throw baby showers and serve my pregnant friends.  I intentionally tried to find opportunities to celebrate my knocked up girlfriends.  I knitted blankets, sewed baby clothes, and decorated cakes.  I washed a friend’s feet and gave her a pedicure when she was overdue and her cankles were the size of her thighs.

4. I went to counseling.

I should’ve gone during my first four years and didn’t, but after we experienced infertility all over again with our next child, I finally got a recommendation from a friend for a Christian counselor.  I showed up at her office and literally just told her, “I’m sad, and I don’t know how to be not sad.”  I spent five months with her, and God brought me to a place of healing where He could surprise me with a passion for adoption that I could not have received until I let go of my pain.

If you are struggling with infertility, God holds you close to His heart.  The pages of scripture are filled with barren women and God’s love and provision for them.  I pray that wherever you are on this journey, that He will give you wisdom and peace.

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originally published by Intentional Stewardship

image found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dustandfog

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  • Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing. I’m in the thick of this and I need to remind myself to be gentle. I appreciate your blog so much! Your humour on facebook and your posts are a blessing to me in so many ways.

    • Melanie Dale

      Thank you, Jennifer! Yes, gentleness always. I find it’s easy for me to extend that to others, but hard to treat myself that way. Sometimes you just need to wrap up in a fuzzy blanket and rest.

  • Katie

    Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to read an article like this this week. We have an awesome, amazing, perfect son. Then I got slammed with a diagnosis of endometriosis and it’s been 2 years of trying and pain.

    • Melanie Dale

      Oh I’m so glad this met you when you needed it! Endometriosis is so tough. I’m just so sorry. And when you already have a child, people don’t quite know what to say. But I have been there and know that pain, the physical and emotional. Big hug, Katie. I wish I could make it better. All I can do is say, “I see you. I’m with you.”

  • Lisa Humphries

    “Many are the plan’s in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21

    SO beautiful and so fitting for so many struggles/phases of life!

    I am so glad that you have reached a point of seeing your struggles as a blessing. I am a firm believer in The Silver Lining – aka God’s Plan. It’s always there, sometimes it just takes a while for it to shine through the darkness.

    Love and hugs to you!

    • Melanie Dale

      Sometimes it does take awhile, and sometimes we never see it this side of heaven. In the case of my struggle with infertility, I’m so glad I get to experience the silver lining every day with my crew.

  • Kristina

    This was needed by me today. A friend shared this link on Facebook this morning and it was a reminder that I am not alone in this! My husband and I have never been able to conceive a biological child. We tried fertility treatments until we felt we could no longer support it financially. We were blessed 4 years ago with a miraculous opportunity to adopt a baby girl. We know God used this adoption and time of infertility to change us and show us things we needed to see and learn.

    We would love to have another child, and are praying that God will lead us where to go. Thanks for sharing this. I feel like God sent this to me today.

    • Melanie Dale

      Oh I’m so glad we could connect like this, Kristina! I’m praying for wisdom for you right now, mama.

  • Off The Cuff Cooking

    I did all those things too, but #4. Jeff & my other friends with infertility became my therapists. The most amazing story is kind of long, but a woman that I’m now quite good friends with (whose little sister and my little sister were BFF’s in high school) sat behind me about 7 or 8 years ago at church, and was pretty sure I was her little sister’s friend’s older sister, but had not formally met me yet. As we were sitting during the sermon, she was overcome with a strong word in her head to “Pray for Jeanette for infertility and protection against bitterness.” I didn’t really get introduced to her until maybe another 6 months or a year later, and we were casual acquaintances that saw each other now and then. About 2 years ago, we were catching up after church and she said “What’s new with you?” I said, “Oh we’re about to finish our adoption applications” and said we had given our attempts to get pregnant long enough. She asked me if I had struggled with bitterness at all, and I said “You know, not really. I have been sad, angry and frustrated many times, but I was never bitter or jealous. I long for the day I’ll be a mother, but I feel confident in the process we’re going through.” At that point she started crying, and I asked her what was the matter. “Well, I wasn’t sure if you were struggling with infertility, and I didn’t want to pry, but I was prompted by the Lord to pray for you about 8 years ago at a church service, and specifically for infertility and bitterness.” I was just stunned. I said “Well seven years ago, Jeff and I hadn’t even started trying to have kids– we were still giving it another year or two of NOT trying to have kids.” Amazing. She has continued to pray about really specific things for us in the last year, and even when we had our failed adoption, she shared later with me that when we first said we were on our way to pick up the babies, she felt an overwhelming sense of grief that we were not coming back with them. She has uncanny “words of knowledge” and I don’t use that kind of expression lightly in a holy-roller sort of way, but it has been remarkable how God has used her in our life.

    • Melanie Dale

      That’s amazing!

      • Off The Cuff Cooking

        It is… she has shared other things with me, that I hold close to my heart until the time is right to share them more openly… I’m expecting some amazing answers sometime soon. At least on the days when I am on fire and pumped up. Other days I still struggle with doubt and that “I’m not even sure I want kids … life is pretty great as it is” feeling. But everything good has come to me later in life so I’m sure babies will soon take over my every day life, too. :)

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