As much as I might wish it otherwise, the news that a friend is pregnant – for the first, second or third time – is still as likely, after all these years, to leave me a snotty, crumpled jumble of tears. This painful aspect of living with infertility seems to be a recurring struggle for so many of us doing our best to wrestle our personal grief back into a box every time we are required to be delighted for another. I am grateful that more often than not these days the announcements come via text message so that I am able to hide my tear-streaked cheeks as I sob and tap out a message of joy and congratulations.
Whether the news-giver is sensitive to my smarting heart or not these days, in a way it doesn’t matter, because I still feel the weighty responsibility of swallowing my personal pain to walk the higher road. And although I may feel part-phoney, part-truthteller as I send back words of delight, I know that regardless of the streaks of sadness and envy which colour my joy for them, I choose to be positive and not bitter.
I wonder sometimes whether it’s been so long now that only those still navigating this tricky journey are sensitive enough to understand that every friend’s child’s birthday party, every Christmas, every celebration, every dedication service invitation still produces a wave of pain and yearning that hasn’t lessened despite the days and days and days that have passed. I spend time with other women who are still waiting for that blessed gift of pregnancy, and we are much the same – lost, a little bereft and muted in life’s joyfulness. Another woman’s yearning is devastating to behold.
I have stopped counting how many months we have been trying for a baby now. I know our four-year marker is looming like a dark mountain just the other side of this coming Christmas and with it my 35th birthday. I still pray that I don’t have to see in another Christmas and another birthday without a baby in my belly. Moreover, the age of 35 is when every fertility statistic ever created tilts even further away from a woman’s ability to bear children effectively. It’s as if, as the clock strikes midnight on that fateful day, one’s reproductive system takes a nosedive into the gloom of less favourable odds of motherhood.
I wonder often these days where the last four years have gone.
I wonder how my dreams that I would have a small child and a babe in arms by this point have been so thoroughly shredded by circumstances beyond our control.
I wonder why these groaning prayers remain unanswered and how much longer I should keep asking for this promise to be fulfilled.
I wonder whether I will always live with uncertainty and the gnawing pondering of whether Plan A will ever come to pass.
I wonder whether I will always be the one offering congratulations, hot meals and cute presents and never receiving them for myself and my newly-expanded family.
I wonder whether when God says He has plans “to prosper you and not to harm you”, He understands that this greatest of sorrows feels like it has eaten away a piece of me no matter how many times I try to give it to Him to redeem, lay it down at His feet or let it go.
But as I ruminated over these thoughts aloud with a close friend recently, she asked me to consider the stamina which maintaining hopefulness requires.
Hope is not an insta-switch answer to a problem; it is rooted in trust and tenacity that what you believe for is not some crazy daydreaming but that which will come to pass, even if the wait is long. Hope cultivates perseverance, stick-ability, endurance and faith. Hope requires courage and boldness to utter that which seems ridiculous to the ears of those who wonder why you simply haven’t moved on to Plan B yet…
For those of us who have made Jesus our only hope, we know that as He has promised to remain the same yesterday, today and forever, so our hope in Him never need waver. Hope in my Jesus is not a candle flame that flickers when a doubt passes by or is snuffed out when the storms start to blow. Hope lifts her head and simply re-plants her feet a little more firmly when the going gets tough because she knows that in her Saviour she will never be disappointed.
You see, one of the truly beautiful things which has been added to me over the last four years is a resilience which cries out, “I will not be moved”! In a world where we are so accustomed to getting exactly what we want, when we want it, the stamina of hope reminds us to be true and faithful, for ‘Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1)’. Until I see that little pee-stick yield its positive result, I cannot know whether pregnancy will be mine for the having. But while I am trusting God’s reputation that what He has promised will come to pass, I choose to persist in hopefulness because I trust in His faithfulness to me and I will worship Him however He chooses to provide for me.
Hope has been my battle cry since the very beginning of this unexpected ‘interruption’ to our life plans. It has been the refrain that has come up again and again when I have felt like giving up and walking away. It is the drum beat that my weary feet will march to til I have walked through the flames of this testing time and come out the other side. I cannot be anything other than hopeful because anything else seems dishonouring and disobedient to my Father.
In the coming weeks my husband and I move into our new home. We know it is the beginning of a new and exciting season of our life. And I am tickled with pleasure that the area to which we are moving happens to be called Hope Valley. I could not have chosen a more perfect place in which to be living. It is in the valley places of these last four years that I have sought out the face and love of my Father in a way that I have never pursued before. Again and again He reminds me that I am part of His revolution of hope which touches us all.