I hardly know where to start. It’s not often that a writer is at a loss for words. Really, I’ve got many words, but just am not sure how to communicate what it is I need to write about because there is so much to tell and so much not to tell. This is going to be a five-part series. These words have been written on my heart and have run through my head for several months now. My heart is very fragile right now, but in its broken state, I long to encourage those who may be traveling a similar journey. Much of what I will share with you comes from a very raw, once private struggle. This is not easy to talk about. But I sense the Holy Spirit leading me once again to reach beyond my reach. I need your help to share with those people. I share my story because I do not want to waste my sorrows. They’ve come at too high a price to do anything of the sort.
Everything God puts in our hands is a resource for His glory.
Moses had his staff. David had his slingshot. Paul had his tent making tools.
In this series, I will share what is not in my hands, or my arms:
my baby boy, Manuel Elias Meyer, who went to be with Jesus in August of 2014.
While most of my friends were going forward confidently into motherhood, creatively announcing their happy surprises, posting all sorts of adorable pictures of their little bundles of joy, sending out “S.O.S’s” on the really hard days, and already planning for their next pregnancies, I observed from a distance, with a hopeful, yet tired heart for my own entryway into motherhood. Our marriage has been marked by exceeding joy and love for each other, despite many challenges in the earliest of years, which include… A cross-country move. Making new friends in a now home. Starting a new job. Buying a house. Losing the job unexpectedly that we moved for. Depending on the income from a part-time job at the church I worked for to carry us. Taking on two other part time jobs while my husband searched desperately for something full time. A wreck that totaled my husband’s car and created car payment we never wanted. An attack by a dog that could not be proved clear of rabies, resulting in a series of very expensive anecdote shots. Anxiety. Debt. A couple of hospitalizations. And then, fertility issues.
We met with my doctor shortly after returning from a missions trip to Africa. We were ready to try to expand our family. At this appointment, I was diagnosed with a very mild case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The kind doctor was very hopeful that he could help regulate some of my issues through medications and put me on a more normal monthly schedule. After a year or so, still no baby on the horizon. So, he put me on some more aggressive fertility treatments. Not once did this doctor ever label my issues, “infertility.” For that, I was thankful.
But in the middle of all of that, we moved eight hours away. I was thrust into a new doctor’s office. First, a loud-mouthed receptionist who informed me that my appointment would not be covered by insurance because it was an “infertility visit” greeted me. I shuddered and explained that I had not been diagnosed with infertility, but was dealing with fertility issues. She sent me back to the only person available, a nurse practitioner. She, too, called my reason for visiting, “infertility.” I corrected her as well. Then she questioned me and seemed outraged that I had been on the fertility treatments I had for six months. I explained that I was in the middle of a move and the doctor in Nashville had wanted to continue my regimen since my levels had been improving. She stepped out of the room for a few minutes and loudly conversed with the nurse about my “infertility”and medication regimens, completely violating HIPPA. I went home crushed, feeling like an anathema, and cried because of how terrible my experience had been.
However, I was soon able to begin seeing a very compassionate doctor, who gently answered my questions and adjusted my regimen accordingly. By the end of the year, though, he shared with us that there was nothing more he could do for us in terms of helping us have a baby. He referred us to a specialist an hour away. This doctor was very kind and compassionate too. He was also hopeful. We started some more rigorous treatments and had down to the minute pre-scheduled appointments to travel back to their office for various procedures. One even happened on a Sunday morning about 6AM. Still, no baby. Don’t ask me why, but we never thought to have my husband tested until after all of this. Finally, we did, and the results were not good. His fertility levels were not only bad, they were failing. His doctor and one of the specialists we were seeing told us that though it would not be impossible for us to have a child of our own, it would be highly improbable.
In our crushed states of being, we came to terms with this and started praying toward adoption, which we had hoped even before we were married to include as part of our family growth. We shared the news with our family after most of this had happened. The struggle was private and very intense. We wanted to have our facts straight and give our hearts time to properly mourn before the onslaught of questions and suggestions came.
During this whole process, my husband was in 3 rigorous, exhausting years of graduate school to receive his terminal degree in graphic design from one of the most prestigious schools in the world. He barely slept during this whole time and neither did I. Throughout his time in grad school, he also was managing his own freelance photography and graphic design business, working for a rock and roll band, and then eventually teaching full time as a professor. Finally, though, the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen. He graduated in May, yet still had some details to work out with a very demanding thesis committee in order to have his degree conferred.
We had made the decision to start approaching the adoption process once he finished school. This also meant I had to muster up the courage to share our struggles with my side of the family. We decided that if we were going to have to keep going through the difficult task of sharing hard news, we would also share the awesome news that we were planning to start the adoption process. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, we set up a little home made photo shoot in the hot, sticky July climate of our backyard and created the most adorable announcement card to present my mom with the news that we were adopting. We shared the news with her on July 5th. And while she wept with us about pain we had endured from our fertility struggles, she rejoiced with us about the news of engrafting a new member into our family. When she saw the card she exclaimed, “You’re adopting?! Do you have a particular child in mind?” We laughed and said no, but we were starting the process.
Throughout the months of May and June, I had started to develop some pretty intense issues with stomach pain and heartburn. I knew it was bad when I couldn’t even eat the ice cream at our favorite little stand in town. I had met with my general practitioner before we went home to deliver our adoption news to my mom. He was concerned that perhaps I was having some gallbladder issues, so he had scheduled an ultrasound for July 7th. The lady pressed really hard with her ultrasound wand on my stomach to try to get good views. I was in pain for days after that. And then, I started having other pain symptoms that led me to feel that maybe I should go to my OBGYN for further examination. I waited over a week for the results from the ultrasound, just sure that I was dying. At a family dinner, my sister-in-law asked if I had heard the results and I shared that no I had not and I, in fact, was hurting and freaking out. She quarantined me in the ladies’ room and we compared notes about my pain and she asked me, “Are you pregnant?!” I was a little offended that she would ask such a question, knowing our fertility issues. But, I went home that night and took a test to appease her suspicions, and as I suspected, it was negative.
The following Wednesday, July 16th David and I went to my OBGYN. I was full of angst, worried that one of my worst fears would be confirmed and that I would be following in my dad’s footsteps of chemo treatments. I really had to use the rest room and flippantly offered to give a urine sample to appease the doctor. When he came in, he informed my husband and me that the pregnancy test was negative. This was something we were very used to hearing by this time in our lives. He did an exam on me and then was in the process of calling in some medication for me and ordering an upper body ultrasound.
We were gathering our belongings and heading out the hallway to check out. The nurse grabbed the doctor and then the doctor grabbed us and told us to stop and go back in the room. But before we were through the doorway, the nurse explained that the pregnancy test had been sitting there the whole time we were in the examination room and the results had turned to positive. I staggered to the examine table to balance myself and keep from collapsing and all I could say was an exaggerated, “Okay…” The doctor was just as suspicious as we were and said that he wanted to order a blood pregnancy test to confirm it. My husband was over the moon and only slightly dumbfounded. But I was, terrified and COMPLETELY dumbfounded.
We waited in the hallway so I could go in to have my blood drawn, texting back and forth with each other, trying to put puzzle pieces together and not to get our hopes up. My sister-in-law texted me incessantly asking what the doctor had said and in my stupor, I shared what he had said. She was fully convinced that it was for real. Later that afternoon, I got a voicemail from the doctor confirming with glee that the results were indeed positive. Still, I could not accept that it was true. We shared the news with our parents immediately so they could be praying for the levels to multiply in my repeated blood work two days later. We told my poor mom, whom we had taken on such a wild ride about our baby news the last couple weeks that we had found a baby…only it was inside of me! At this point, we thought I was 11 weeks pregnant, judging off of my inconsistent medical information due to my PCOS and the symptoms I had been having. My first ultrasound was scheduled for August 5th hard to accept that there really was a baby inside of me. Oh, by the way. Remember how my sister-in-law and I were comparing notes the day of my great freak out? Turns out, she found out the very same day I did that she was pregnant as well, only with her third child!
I was excited, but not as much as I was scared out of my mind. I could not believe that the doctor and nurses were telling me to go about my daily business, barring eating soft cheeses, unpasteurized things, raw fish, and deli meats. I was afraid to move. I didn’t want anything to hurt my baby. My husband was nervous too. He took over all the household chores and sentenced me to the couch. In the middle of June, I also had enrolled myself to start graduate school in August. I had been out of school for 8 years, so on top of already being nervous about starting back; I was worried how I would do it with a growing baby and belly. I began to panic, thinking, “What if I throw up all over my desk?! What if I’m too tired to handle it?! What if I have to go on bed rest?!”
I was exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional, and queasy. Still, it was hard to accept that I was actually pregnant after all that we had been through and all the disappointing news we had heard. After all, the doctors had previously told us that we probably would never have our own biological children.
Those are the two greatest words in the English language.
But God…He put a miracle baby inside of my wounded womb.
When everyone else, including ourselves, had given up and believed it was impossible for me to carry a baby… God did our impossible and showed us that ALL things are possible with Him.
Through some sermons and some books, I started thinking about all the cases of fertility issues in the Bible…
Sarah was in her 90’s and surely endured a lifetime of pain and sorrow that comes from being barren…she laughed, but God still gave her Isaac in her old age.
Rachel grieved as her sister, Leah, brought forth child after child after child. But God, in His own timing, gave her two sons.
Hannah…she was tormented by her husband’s other wife, who was Mrs. Fertile Myrtle and prayed desperately for a son to dedicate to the Lord, and finally He sent her Samuel.
A Shunammite lady had no child and her husband was old, but God sent Elisha to tell her she would be giving birth to a son.
Elizabeth, she was an old woman, but God told her husband, Zachariah, that they were going to have a baby. He couldn’t believe it, but God sent John the Baptist anyway.
Do you know what all of these women of the Bible reminded me? They reminded me that God really does see our private pains and desires. He recognizes fertility struggles and remembers the people, especially the women it seems, who endure them. He knows it’s a big deal. Why He allows some women to face these heartaches cannot be answered universally except to say that every thing He gives or does not give is part of His good plan. He doesn’t always give a baby, but He always remembers us. He always sees us. He is always with us. He always gives us purpose. He is always at work. He always cares about us. He always offers us His peace that passes all understanding. He always extends His sufficient grace for all of our needs.
As I thought about the women in the Bible with fertility issues, I also thought about the birth announcement that trumped all the cutesy Pinterest birth announcements I’ve ever seen: the announcement to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that she was going to have not only a baby, but God in flesh appearing. Listen to the dialogue that happened after Gabriel made this announcement to her:
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:34-38, ESV)
That verse, “nothing will be impossible with God…” Look where that’s from! That baby that came from that announcement shook impossibility to the core when His verylips, which by human standards never should have existed to move, when He answered the question of salvation by saying the very same thing in the very same book, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27, NIV).
That same “impossible” baby is the one who was purposed to make this true, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:15).
My heart has never resonated with Mary so much as it has with her question of, “But how will this be?”
The doctors had said it wouldn’t happen…I was left in a quandary with the same question, yet different premises, that Mary the Mother of Jesus had, “But how will this be?”
After remembering the words of Jesus, the embodiment of man’s idea of the impossible, I affirmed my belief that yes, all things are possible with God. My prayer from that point forward echoed Mary’s, “I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
The response to my questions of, “But how?” came from the truth of, “But God.”
I think we all have some impossible thing in our lives that could only be tackled by the One who makes all things possible. Your heart may be resonating with the journey we’re on right now. Or, you may not have any idea what it’s like to face fertility issues or a surprise pregnancy announcement. But I know you’ve faced the question of, “How?” or “Why?”
What impossible situation are you facing today that can only be remedied with these two words: But God?
For every, “But how?” there is a greater, “But God.”
Stay tuned for the next segment of this series. In the mean time, please feel free to share this post with someone who may need encouragement on their fertility journey, knowing that I am praying for God to remind them they are not forgotten, they are full of purpose, they are not alone, and they are loved with an everlasting love.
Beautiful and so brave. Praying for you daily, my friend.
Thank you so much, Catherine. God has surrounded me with the most faithful friends and prayer warriors during this. I am grateful for you!
I love you so much and am certainly praying for you throughout this journey.
Emily, I had no idea you two were going through this. I am so very sorry… You guys have had a tough road. There are no words to take away the pain, just know that you are in my prayers.
Love you, Dori
This is so raw, real and very encouraging to keep our eyes looking Up. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, whether in tremendous doubt, grief or despair… I will be reminded just how much ..”But God ” is greater- will see us through. Love you dear sister.
Praying for lives to be reached and powerfully impacted through your testimony
Thank you, all, for your encouragement and prayers. To God be the glory for all of his “buts” that bring beauty even to the ugliest of circumstances. He is in the resurrection business as I shared with a friend walking a similar road earlier today. My soul has already been resurrected from the destination of eternal death it was headed toward before Jesus. Now, He is resurrecting me on this journey from the valley of the shadow of death of my son. He can resurrect you from what ever your deadliest circumstances are as well. That is my prayer…that you may know the same power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that I do. It is real. And it puts an ellipses where a period once was by offering the simple words, “…But God…”
Your friend shared your blog with me. I look forward to following your story. The Lord has recently laid upon my heart to share my story too (that of walking through an unexpected pregnancy in my twenties, followed by 7yrs of single motherhood and learning to walk the path of obedience with Him, and most recently of how He’s carried me through two miscarriages in my first year of marriage to man who loves Jesus. Keep the courage to share with the world all He’s done for you!
Praise Him for moving our hearts closer to His through the midst of our storms, Dennika! Thank you for your willingness to use your pain as a platform for reaching others and reminding them they are not alone in this very tender journey. The fellowship of suffering is a strange, tender, beautiful thing. I look forward to hearing how God has been ministering to your heart through your own journey also. Blessings to you and prayers for God to continue to bind the wounds of your heart, sister!
I am moved and so touched by your beautiful transparency. Emily, God’s work in you is unmistakable and I praise Him for your obedience to share something so close and protected…for His glory.
I’m encouraged and challenged and reminded of truths through this letter.
I’m brought to tears in this moment and humbled by your faith.
I love you.
Thank you, dear BFF. I am finding that I am most ministered to when I find transparent people who help me know I’m not alone on this journey. It’s my prayer to reach others by doing the same as much as possible. It’s all about how His strength is so much greater displayed through my utter weakness. God created us as relational people who have a need for community centered around Christ. May all who stumble across this blog find a portion of that community! Love you!
May the God of all comfort be with you through this journey. I am also going through a somewhat-similar type of journey for the past 16 months. I have found some helpful resources like podcasts from intouch.org that speaks about trails that have been one of my sources of encouragement through this journey and it has been helpful. God bless!
Thank you so much for your kindness and encouragement, Oz. Intouch is a wonderful resource indeed! Thank you for that reminder. Praying that God’s healing grace and comfort would flood your heart even now.