We wait so that we may know that all does not originate with ourselves, not even the meaning of our lives. Anthony Padovano
They called it “secondary infertility,” but it was really a lesson in faith.
A few years after our sweet Abby was born, Steve and I decided to have another child. The timing seemed right: Abby was in preschool; we both were content in our jobs; we lived in a happy neighborhood with good schools; we were part of a strong faith community and circle of friends and our marriage was healthy. What better situation for a new person to come and live?
We “practiced” often and prayed for a baby. While our first had come within a few months, this time was very different. After a year or so, I consulted my surprised doctor, who explained this as a case of secondary infertility, and suggested daily temperature charting, etc. Friends and family offered home remedies. The most popular advice was: “Just relax and it will happen.” Offered this advice one too many times, I refrained from snapping back, “Why don’t you relax?!”
For months on end we repeated the same cycle of anticipation and hope that always ended in disappointment. (Even the extra practice my husband encouraged didn’t help!) I stopped buying home pregnancy tests because: one, they were expensive, and; two, they gave bad news. My doctor referred us to a fertility specialist.
As we entered this uncharted territory, the future we’d imagined seemed to be slipping away. One night, Abby sat crying in bed, listing all the friends who’d “beat her”—not physically, but by having a younger sibling! My heart ached to give her an answer, but we were confused, too. When hearing news reports of mothers who neglected their children, we wondered why such poor parents were entrusted with a new life while we were denied. I dried her tears and insisted that Daddy and I were doing all we could to bring her little brother or sister into the world. The rest was up to God.
We endured months of hormone therapy and diagnostic tests. The turning point came as I was driving home from what would be my last procedure—an ovulation-enhancing round of drugs followed by artificial insemination. The hormone-induced feelings of despair were so profound I spent the day before in bed. As I drove along, the image of Aladdin, the animated character in one of Abby’s favorite movies came to mind. He held his hand out to me, the same way he invited princess Jasmine onto his magic carpet. Knowing my love of movies, God spoke through Aladdin’s voice and asked: “Do you trust me?” My heart opened in response—“Yes, I trust you. I can let this go.” In my personal Gethsemane moment, I said, “I’ll never stop hoping for this child, but I release the outcome to you.”
The procedure failed. I decided to stop all assisted reproductive therapies. Steve agreed, saying “Is it really worth it to put ourselves through this?” With my head clear and my strength back, we started to function as a family again. One day at the park, with Abby perched on her dad’s shoulders as we strolled along, I thought: “I can be happy with this. I can relax now.”
Early the next year, I co-presented a women’s retreat. Speaking on “Trust in the Lord,” I spoke of our inability to conceive—from our sad monthly cycle to Aladdin’s words. Nearly all of the 60 women on the retreat promised to pray for me, and I was profoundly blessed by a coincidence that only the Holy Spirit could have arranged.
During the weekend, I was reunited with the mother of Laurie, a girl I knew in high school. Sadly, she had died during our freshman year. Hearing my story, her mom assured me that Laurie would intercede for me, saying, “Laurie often told me she’d love to run a nursery in heaven when she got there!”
Just three months later, our second daughter was conceived after over four years of secondary infertility. “Way to go!” my doctor proclaimed. Excited and hopeful, we emerged from that painful, confusing time of our lives madly in love with the baby in my womb. Oh, the joy of bringing her home to live with us! This tiny infant’s deep blue eyes gazed at me and seemed to say, “Everything will be okay, Mom.”
Despite the anxiety and pain of that time, my husband and I now believe all parents should experience some of what we went through. The waiting, the disappointments, the hormonal ups and downs and medical procedures all forced us to reassess the control we have over our lives. When we started our family, we thought it was ours to plan and execute. But, while the time seemed right for a second child, God had another path in mind. Through the waiting, we got our priorities in line: God is the source of all life, and we are co-creators of that life. Ultimately, it is God’s to give, and in his perfect timing. Whether or not a second child had come along, our infertility brought us to a holy surrender with God, and this was an abundant blessing.