The Burden of the Barren

Guest Post by Haley Brown:

For a lot of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve heard (or read) my exciting news of being pregnant and have seen some of the pictures of my growing belly that I’ve posted. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, “you are glowing,” or “you look so happy,” or my favorite, “Haley, you will be such a good mom.” But what a lot of you don’t know is how long I’ve waited for this moment to come and how hard it has been to wait for it.

A Harvard study has shown that women who go through infertility experience the same amount of anxiety and depression as those who have been diagnosed with cancer. But they didn’t have to tell me that. Although thankfully I have never been diagnosed with cancer, I am all too familiar with the depression, hopelessness, and anxiety that comes with infertility. For five, long years, I wondered if I was ever going to become a mom, constantly questioning God’s plans for my life and wondering why they didn’t line up with how I had envisioned mine.

Looking back on my childhood, I had always dreamed of getting married and having kids. I never considered that I would ever have trouble having a baby. I had everything planned out, and I knew that I would be done having kids by the time I was 30 … HA! Who did I think I was having my whole life mapped out before me, as if I knew the future and held it in my hand? I can’t help but think of Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” God had different plans for me.

Matt and I had been married about a year and a half when we officially started trying to have a baby. After we started trying, there was one month early on when I was really hopeful, but I found that I wasn’t pregnant after all. But I was okay with that. We hadn’t been trying that long. Yet months went by, and still nothing. I chalked it up to stress since I was in my early years of teaching and decided not to worry about it too much. Then after that, things started to slowly decline. I wondered if I could have a problem, or if Matt could have a problem, or both of us? We tried for a few more years after that, hoping and trusting God. My doctor referred me to a fertility specialist, but we shied away from that at the beginning because of a cost that we weren’t sure that we could afford at that point. We kept praying for a miracle, yet all the while bitterness, anger, and depression was secretly creeping into my heart. I was becoming a different person. Infertility was changing me. And as much as I wanted to be happy for friends who were getting pregnant at the time, I was ultimately sad and heartbroken. Every time I saw a pregnancy announcement on Facebook or saw a pregnant woman in the grocery store, it felt like I was punched in the stomach. I wanted to be happy for them; I prayed to be happy for them, for God to change my heart to rejoice when others rejoiced. But it was a struggle—a constant struggle.

Teaching was for the most part a nice distraction. After all, I was around kids all day, and they brought me a lot of joy. I stayed busy, and it kept my mind from being idle. Then one day it happened… a comment from one of my students that I will never forget. As my second graders sat at their desks making Mother’s Day cards for their moms, one little boy asked me if I had any kids. I gave him a simple, “No,” and hoped that he wouldn’t probe any further. Then he proceeded to tell me, “Mrs. Brown I feel really sorry for you that you’re not a mom.” Heart = Crushed. It was all I could do to hold back the tears and keep it together for my students. I couldn’t even respond because I was so choked up and felt like the classroom was caving in around me. Even as I am writing this, my eyes are swelling up with tears. I will never forget that feeling.

“When are you going to have kids?” “Don’t you want kids?” and “Isn’t it about time you started trying?” were some of the most frequently asked questions that I would have to field from others who had no idea of my silent struggle. Even though they meant well, they had no idea how painful a reminder that was to me of my failure to conceive a child. There were days when I would come home crying over something someone had said. People can be very insensitive to issues they don’t understand or know that you’re dealing with. Even the people who knew my situation would often say, “Just relax and it will happen,” or “What about adoption?” and my personal favorite, “It’s in God’s hands, just trust Him.” Yes, I was totally aware that my situation was in God’s hands, which was one of the reasons I didn’t understand why I was going through this. He is the Creator of the universe, the One who parted the Red sea and raised Lazarus from the dead… so why had he chosen to withhold a child from us? We were married, established, and had a desire for a child and would raise him to fear the Lord. I just didn’t get it. What was worse was when I’d see everyone around me get pregnant: some who didn’t even want to be, and others who became pregnant within the first month of trying.

We started going to the fertility specialist in October 2012. One day before I left for an appointment for yet another invasive test, I remember reading an article of a 14 year old girl who killed her baby right after she gave birth because she didn’t want to be a mom. It made me angry. Not angry at God, but angry at the fact that she could have a baby and I couldn’t, that she decided to destroy her child when there were lots of people out there that would have loved to take care of him. And here I was trying everything I could do to get pregnant. It made me sick.

Back in June of last year, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I always knew that something wasn’t right when I was missing work at least one day out of the month, screaming on the couch in pain. Endometriosis is a painful disease, one that cannot be cured, and one that is the cause of a lot of infertility cases in the U.S. Thankfully the surgery (which is the only way to confirm that you have the disease) took care of a lot of my pain and ultimately led to me getting pregnant, though it took a several months after the surgery. Our next step was to start fertility shots. Thankfully I never had to start them. I became pregnant the month before I was supposed to start the shots—the very same month that I left teaching and left a lot of my stress behind. It was a new start for me. God’s timing is truly perfect. I found out that I was pregnant on December 8. I couldn’t even believe that I was pregnant. It took three pregnancy tests to convince me. I was shaking in the bathroom asking God if this were real. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. After years of negative pregnancy tests, this was the moment I had dreamed about. Why is it that we have a hard time believing God has answered our prayers after we’ve prayed for it so long?

I am not writing my story so that people can feel sorry for what I went through. I am writing this to share what God has done in my life, not because I deserve it at all, but because He is the Giver of life. He is in control, and we have to trust him through the hard times. I also wanted to share because I know there are others out there who silently share in the same struggle. Infertility is a taboo subject. For some reason we are ashamed of it. For too long I suffered in silence, and it makes me sad to know there are a lot of women out there who are doing the same thing. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I began telling people and being more open about it. It was hard at first, but you never know who is going through the same thing. I have been floored by how many people really do struggle with infertility but who would only share after I shared my own struggle. It is wonderful to have a support group of people who understand you and can walk beside you in the journey.

If you are still struggling with infertility, I want to offer you hope, but not in things of this world, but in Christ. I cannot imagine going through the pain without him. He was my constant rock and source of hope when I felt hopeless in my situation. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried on the bathroom floor over another disappointing month or had to hold back the tears when another person told me that she was pregnant. God was there to comfort me and wrap his arms around me so as to give me peace during this storm. I was not perfect in the waiting by any means. There were days when I was so weary and depressed that I couldn’t even pray. I knew that God knew my heart and my desires, and I knew that he would provide me with enough strength for that day. I have so many people to thank (some of whom I don’t even know) for praying for us. I am overwhelmed by their selflessness and kindness in taking the time to pray.

I don’t think infertility will ever leave me… I don’t think I’ll ever forget what the pain feels like. I think that I will always be an “infertile” person in my mind, even though I am now pregnant. And I hope that my remembrance of the pain of childlessness will temper the challenges of raising children, that I will remain grateful when my baby wakes me up for the fifth time in the middle of the night, when they become a toddler and throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, and when they become a teenager and make bad choices that disappoint me. For I feel and hope that those moments will be more bearable when I think back on the time when I thought that I would never go through such moments at all.

Related Post: The Sin of Infertility



Categories: Miscellanies

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12 replies

  1. Haley,
    I am so happy for you! I know exactly how you feel, and you described it beautifully. You took me back 30 years. The disappointment of month after month after month seeing that ‘no, I’m not pregnant, again’. And some months you could be brave and say “maybe next time”, while other months you just break down at the first sign of it. In my situation, my husband simply had to switch to boxers (the old days…) and that was all it took for us to end up with 3 wonderful kids. I only had to wait 3 years. I don’t know how I would have handled 5. I’m so glad that the waiting is over for you!!

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    • Nan! Thank you for sharing your story! Infertility is so hard. I’m so thankful that God blessed you with 3 wonderful kids. What an encouragement 🙂

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  2. Haley, I am so delighted for you and your husband. My oldest daughter struggled with fertility and she now has 4 beautiful children. I am a little worried that my youngest daughter has the same thing as her older sister. But prayers do work. I can’t wait till you deliver and know that wonderful instant love.

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    • Thanks Darlene! So encouraging to know your daughter now has 4 miracles 🙂 Hoping that your youngest will not have to endure the pain. Miss you lots!!

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  3. I know the dark place you are talking about. It took me two years and a few miscarriages before I carried my sweet Andrew to term. I,too, felt the pangs of sadness when friends were having babies and I kept losing them. I wondered if God were punishing me for not doing the right things or not being good enough. It is so hard to go through all the questions and hurt. I am thankful for the two amazing gifts I have been given and I know you are going to be an amazing mother!

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  4. Haley,
    Your words brought tears to my eyes and I am so glad I got to share my story with you of my 15 year old miracle that I thank God for every day. I am so happy for you, Matt and ” this Child for which you prayed.” Love you!

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  5. Thank you for your post. I can identify with almost everything you have written, from the well-meaning questions/comments from others, to crying on the bathroom floor. At this point our journey with infertility continues and my prayer is that 2014 will be our year. Thanks again for your words of encouragement! Congratulations to you and your family.

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    • Praying that this will be your year as well! Thank you for sharing your story with me. Praying for peace and contentment for you and your husband.

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing! My hubby and I are on hear 3 of the infertility journey. It’s a pain like nothing I’ve ever experienced. But I am so thankful for the many lessons that the Lord is teaching me and my hubby through it. Your story renews hope that He does hear and answer prayer. (-:

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    • Thank you for sharing as well. I see that you have a blog and I am looking forward to reading it. Praying for your peace and contentment in the journey. I know it is difficult.

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