Feeling Forsaken, But Not Forgotten: An Infertility Story
I met my husband, Pete, in April of 2004. We were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend who knew both of us well, and our friend thought we would be the perfect match. The only glitch, I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Germany. Pete had been stationed there for several years and had come to visit some friends in the States. That's where our story began. We met for coffee that afternoon and talked for hours, only to say goodbye--never to know if we would meet again. Several months, many emails and phone calls later, we met again and spent a few weeks together getting to know one another's family. After a nine-month deployment, Pete proposed and we were married over Labor Day weekend in 2005. Just after the wedding, I moved to Germany with two suitcases and my violin. It was truly a whirlwind romance.
Living in Germany was like a fairytale. Castles around every corner, rolling meadows, idyllic landscapes, open-air markets, and cobblestone streets were part of my new home--not to mention, the best cappuccinos ever! We traveled as much as we could and we tried to consume all of Europe in the short time we had left. After about 18 months of bliss, we left Germany to begin a new adventure. Pete had a strong desire to become a pastor so we began to pray about the when and the how of our new adventure that were ready to start as soon as possible.
Sadly, all fairytales come to an end. Joanna, Pete's 23 year old sister, was battling brain cancer for the third time, and we made the decision to move to Boca Raton, Fl, to live and work near family so we could support Joanna. Shortly after we moved to Boca, Joanna went to her eternal home where she was finally healed and made whole. It was a very long and painful goodbye, but we thank God for the opportunity we had to be with her daily.
During this time, we were also beginning to feel the weight of our inability to have children. After our first few months of trying, we thought it would just be a matter of time. As months passed, I became more and more confused. I was only 31. I thought this would be easy, but I quickly discovered that this process would be very difficult and painful. I started asking questions. Was there something wrong? Was I exercising too much? Did I need to gain weight? Did I need to change my diet? Did I really just need to take a vacation and stop stressing? When struggling with infertility, the irrational thoughts and strange questions you have never cease. Even more, trying and concerning are the dark and twisted questions you ask about your faith: Is God angry with me? Is He punishing me for my past sins? I was starting to re-write my theology and it was dangerous. When you endure long periods of silence and suffering, this is one of the greatest pitfalls the enemy seeks to weave into your life.
Every doctor will advise you to wait at least 6-12 months before seeking out medical testing and intervention. After a year and a half without success, we began the long road of tests, procedures and more questions. It is an incredibly stressful and emotional process. And for us, this process went on for the next 6 years. My whole life began to run by the calendar, my body's cycle, medications, blood work, tests, surgeries and a lot of waiting.
Where do you turn when your emotions vacillate from happy to sad in one day? What do you do when you can't handle baby showers, Mother's Day, or just seeing families together at church? I knew all the theologically correct "answers" in my head but connecting them to my heart was the most challenging part of living out my faith.
I began to withdraw from social settings centered around babies and would cry after spending time with families whose children I adored. Being a high energy over achiever (aka - a "Type-A control freak"), I naturally wanted to solve my problem quickly. I researched everything on the subject of infertility, met with several different doctors for second and third opinions, changed my diet/lifestyle, went to counseling, joined support groups and prayed fervently. We asked people in our small group at church to pray. We asked our pastors to pray, our family, friends and anyone else who asked, to pray. Psalm 121:1-2 says, "I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth." This was our answer. I knew God's promises were true and that He always hears the prayers of His people. Not always answering according to our desires or on our timetable, but always in His wisdom and time.
After 5 years of medical treatments, testing, as well as naturopathic and holistic medicines and treatments, we were still barren. We decided to pursue adoption simultaneously with treatment, hoping and trusting that the Lord would answer our prayers to grow our family. Our friends, family and church community truly carried us through this trial with their prayers and encouragement as we pressed on. Our pastor and church officers offered us a special prayer and anointing service and prayed over us, asking God to bless us with children. Next to our wedding ceremony, this ceremony was equally as sacred and beautiful. Witnessing the tears and cries of men as they pleaded with God on our behalf was moving and transformational for our spirits. We left with new life and joy in our hearts.
A year later, we had finished our adoption home study and were waiting for placement. Around the same time, the reproductive endocrinologist had sent me home with sad news - he wouldn't be able to perform another IUI (In-Uterine Insemination) because my ovaries were covered in cysts. It was in these darkest moments, that the Lord met me in the most unexpected ways. I had kept a praise journal over the many years, chronicling all of the ways He had met me. Notes, gifts, phone calls, surprise visits and many more examples of unexpected encouragement. This day was no exception. As I cried and prayed, I picked up the mail only to find a package with a book inside. A friend had ordered a book for me which arrived the very day I needed it the most. The Infertility Companion had been on backorder and arrived that day. What a gift it was my to my heart! I gave thanks to God for His faithfulness and the strength He continued to supply for my weak spirit.
The next month, I was a few days late in my cycle and laughed off the thought of a pregnancy, knowing it was seemingly impossible. A week later, I humbled myself and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I drove to the store and bought about ten more tests, to to be sure! I was filled with disbelief and bewilderment. How could this have happened?! Surely the test was wrong and had expired from old shelf life and dust in my cabinet. After the sixth positive test, I decided to get a blood test just to confirm the results. I wish I could say that I was filled with joy but my heart was anxious. We had struggled for so long that the reality of having a baby was too hard to grasp. The results came back positive. We were pregnant! And it took the entire 9-month pregnancy to accept the new reality that we were really going to be parents. God had answered our prayers in His time. Brynn Piper Whitney was born February 19, 2013 and we moved to Savannah, July 6, 2013 as Pete was called to be the Assistant Pastor at Kirk O' the Isles Presbyterian Church.
Two years later, on June 1, 2015, I gave birth to twins--a boy and a girl. I often joke that the prayers of the saints were too powerful. Ecclesiastes 11:5 says, "Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things." God had answered our prayers in the most miraculous and mind-blowing ways! And just to make sure we were removed of any doubts and concrete in our faith, He has opened my womb again at age 41 and given us another miracle that is due in 4 weeks! As if twins weren't enough for our hearts and home, our hearts are so full now they feel as if they might burst at times. Every tear, heartache and disappointment was caught and carried in the hands of God. Psalm 58:6 says, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."
Our faith has been tried, twisted, strained, strengthened and fortified tremendously over the last 10 years as we've witnessed His faithfulness in our lives! Spurgeon says, "No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God's strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through." Soli Deo gloria!
Nan Whitney lives in Savannah, Ga with her husband, Pete, and their three children, Brynn, Sadie and Landon. Pete is the Pastor at Kirk O' the Isles Presbyterian Church. You can friend Nan on Facebook.