Monthly Archives: September 2021

God doesn’t have favourites

September 2021

I stood in our hallway, clutching my friend and sobbing into her shoulder.
“God doesn’t have favourites” she whispered into my ear, soothingly. I’d just
received another second baby pregnancy announcement and this one hit home so
much closer than many of the others that have been trickling in recently. Another good friend had left a message earlier in the day telling me that out of the blue she found herself pregnant again. Our firstborns are both IVF babies and over the years our timelines of miscarriage and childbirth have comfortingly mirrored one another. Until now. Her new pregnancy is wonderful news. It also happens to be my ideal scenario and my deepest longing: an unexpected, natural conception. What could be better after so many years of intentional sex, negative medical diagnoses and interventions than getting pregnant without thought or effort the good old-fashioned way!?

“God doesn’t have favourites”.

Are you sure?

Yet, that’s actually not the statement that troubles my heart the most. I’ve
blogged about this subject before and still find, to my disappointment, that
I’ve not progressed very far in better managing pregnancy announcements and
their accompanying feelings. What they always seem to unsettle within me is
what I can only assume to be my deepest insecurity, my deepest wound: does God really love me?

Why is it so very hard to hold onto the belief that God loves us when other
people around us receive what we’re repeatedly and desperately crying out to
Him for?

The struggle to conceive and bring forth children when we know God can bring
about anything easily often makes us feel overlooked, forgotten and insignificant. And for me, I think it leaves me feeling that the idea that God knows me better than I know myself cannot be true, because if He did He’d understand just how much certain things matter to me. Loving well leaves us feeling seen, heard and known. Loving well makes us feel that what we value is recognised and championed. Being left without feels like the very opposite of this. I have adored children since I was tiny. I read books to my daughter now, realising that even as a tiny child I loved the stories about babies and looking after them. Children have been my joy to spend time with since I was young. So how can the God who loves me have created me with this passionate mother’s heart, but then deny me the honourable and good desires of the very things he’s planted within?! It doesn’t make any sense.

And when prayers for children go unanswered, it starts to feel as though God
is actively and intentionally withholding them from us because he doesn’t love
us that much. Does that thought (that whispering lie) ring true for you too?

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are God’s love-gift; they are heaven’s generous
reward”. In the very next Psalm we read, “Your wife will bless your heart
and home. Your children will bring you joy as they gather around your table.
Yes, this is God’s generous reward for those who love him” (Psalm 128:3-4).
These verses leave us in no doubt about how heaven views the blessing of family and
it’s impossible not to consider them a reflection of God’s favour and love
towards us. Or lack of it. We give gifts to the people we love, and we wouldn’t
withhold blessings or gifts from our own children. And so, as we wrestle with
our lack and our waiting, the figure of the good and loving Father is called
into question. How can God truly love us if he doesn’t actually want to bless
us in this way when it matters so much in His own kingdom?

And why does it have to be so hard to feel pleasure for another’s good fortune
when our deepest and preferred wish is that we would be experiencing their
blessing for ourselves? It’s not that we don’t want others to receive good
things. It’s just that we’d rather it didn’t happen at the expense of our own
happiness. I also think it taps into a poverty of mindset, a fear that there
isn’t enough to go around, because if there was, surely we’d be experiencing
all that good stuff for ourselves as well. We fear deeply that we will never
see the fulfilment of that which we long for, but instead we must learn to live
with the torment of everyone around us joyfully expanding their families while
we go without.

And what if we’re making an effort to do all the ‘Christian stuff’ – the
fasting, worshipping and praying, reading our bibles and declaring God’s word,
claiming the promises of healing and fullness of love, sowing into others’
lives and making sacrifices – and still we don’t see what we’re asking for? We
wonder why. Shouldn’t these works be rewarded? Doesn’t it count for anything?
Shouldn’t it move the mountain? “Isn’t that what you say in your word, God?
Or has my thinking gone astray somewhere…..?”

And what about what we hear in church? There are Christian teachings about God’s timing, God’s best for us and our readiness (or not) to receive the blessings God has for us as He works within us. These words can all do more harm than good when thrown at us without compassion, empathy or care. There are many ways that we can be wounded by the very words that are meant to bring us life.

Pregnancy announcements often have nothing to do with the person who is
pregnant and everything to do with the tidal wave of difficult thoughts,
questions and emotions which they provoke within us. And ultimately, I think it
is all rooted in the issue of trust. Do I believe God is who He says He is? Do
I trust in His unfailing love in the face of sorrow, disappointment and lack?
Do I believe that though I’m once again going without compared to those around
me, God can lead me into a life that’s as rich and full whether or not I have
children? Do I believe God wants to bless me and answer my prayers? Do I really
understand what His love looks like?

And as this wrestle played out in my freshly-broken heart that evening in
our dark hallway, unbeknownst to me more pregnancy announcements of second babies would flood in thick and fast over the coming weeks. But also unbeknownst to me, God the Father, the intimate lover of my soul, was setting up an encounter with me which would buckle my knees and blow open a vista so wide that six months later I’m still taking it all in…

“Then the Lord came down in a cloud and
stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The
Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.”

(Exodus 34: 5-7 NLT)

To be continued…

Looking Beyond my Longing

How are you doing? It’s been a while! I’ve thought of this space often. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write; I have. So many things have fought for this precious place over the last couple of years including the thought that now I have a child, perhaps my voice on this subject is no longer valid. But today, as I find myself once again surrounded by the familiar strains of infertility, I find I’m back with that cathartic compulsion to unburden myself here once more.

Because these days, I find myself returning increasingly to feelings that were far more familiar before my pregnancy with Hope three years ago. You might think that having a child after so much wanting would bring a sense of closure to our story. Who am I to think I get to keep talking about this stuff when I now have what I dreamed of, right?! Let me ask you something: are your dreams small? Are they limited to the very least that you hope for? Mine aren’t, nor have they ever been based on seeing the answers to my prayers occur just once. Although there are times when I’m made to feel to the contrary, just because I’m no longer childless (and words cannot express my gratitude for that), it doesn’t mean I’m free now from the burden of infertility or the heartache for more babies. And to my shame and regret, I now realise how little I understood this or had compassion for mothers when my arms were empty.

My biggest hope for 2021 was that it might make room for us to celebrate another pregnancy, though I remember the faltering hollowness in my voice as I confided this desire to a friend last autumn. Instead, I’ve spent months chasing, waiting for and attending gynaecology appointments. Oh, how weary I am of the sinking displeasure in discovering that yet another medical problem has been found and that the ongoing fight to be seen, heard and treated will remain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely grateful for such easy access to excellent, safe, free medical care and I’m grateful the issues aren’t life-threatening. I’d simply rather not be needing the help at all, especially while our medical experts are struggling to cope with the aftershocks of a global pandemic.

But it’s so much more than the misery of medical investigations. Infertility is such a disempowering state. At its very root is a continual sense of feeling out of control – of one’s body, one’s life and plans, and one’s emotions at times. And don’t we just love feeling in control of our lives!? Isn’t that something that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light for so many people who have been totally side-swiped by enforced limitations on lifestyle and plans over the last eighteen months? I’ll be honest, I felt a little smug as I dusted down my imaginary and well-worn ‘This is out of my control’ T-shirt and shoved it on, for at least such lessons for me and my infertility buddies aren’t especially new. ‘Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken’ is the mantra of the wise in such times. We’ve all been subjected to a prolonged lesson in how to come to terms with circumstances beyond our control over this last year or so, and generally it would seem that the desperate cry remains, “Get me out of this!” Infertility is no different, but for many there is no cure and no answers.

There’s also the constant waiting which infertility brings, and man, I haven’t missed that! I might be a little more patient now thanks to the schooling I’ve had here, but I don’t like to wait any more than I used to.

There’s the growing sense of being left out and left behind, and of suspicion, resentment and bitterness towards any other mother who is lucky enough to succeed in growing her family. Slowly but surely peers and good friends are moving on again without me and those old feelings of loneliness and jealousy are growing stronger, creating distance within friendships that had been safe, supportive harbours. I’m back in the brace position, wondering which friend is going to gut-punch me next with their unexpected good news, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but…”. I know what’s coming at the throat clearing and loaded pause, long before these all-too familiar words are tumbled forth apologetically.

There’s the knotty, exhausting, clenching of faith in God to remain the good, faithful and wide-awake Presence that I know Him to be. There’s a beautiful sense of just how very good motherhood really can be and the longing to do it again. There’s the repeated, determined knock to confidence, identity, hope, marriage, self-worth, joy and peace that requires constant refilling to try to ward off any sense of lack, when a monstrous sense of lack seems to be daily snarling in my face, “I’m here. You can’t ignore me, sweetheart!”

I’m so weary again already, and I sense we’re only just beginning.

I had hoped, like many women before me, that having birthed one beautiful baby, this time further pregnancies would come swiftly and easily. So many people assured me it was likely. Several friends who struggled to conceive the first time have gone on to fire out a big brood with ease. Statistics for successful natural pregnancies after IVF are fairly encouraging. One close friend is now enjoying this fact for herself. But there are also the more solemn stories from other friends. Those who longed for more children but for whom it didn’t happen. Those who are still mourning very recent miscarriages and navigating the all-consuming grief of dashed hopes and physical loss. Infertility is never predictable and doesn’t neatly follow statisticians’ charts.

And for us… yes, we have a beautiful blonde flame of a daughter now, who cheers us daily and thanks to whom my grateful heart knows that anything is possible. I do not take for granted the utter, life-transforming joy that she is here, for there were days when we wanted to give up hoping that we’d ever become parents. It is not at all the same to be back in this place of disappointment, longing and frustration when one’s life is filled with the busy beauty of parenthood. But once again I’m sobered by the knowledge that children – and for us now, siblings – are not a right or an entitlement. And as I navigate the phone lines and corridors of hospitals, hating the waiting to secure appointments and results, trying to remain calm as I wonder what might come next and how long it will all take, I am battling the hideousness of feeling powerless all over again.

Because powerless is how all this makes me feel. It’s how it’s always made me feel. And when I feel powerless it distracts my eyes away from the joy around me and disturbs my peace. Suddenly I can’t find my focus. I can’t breathe. The chuntering of worried thoughts cranks up several gears and fears buzz loudly around like persistent, suffocating flies. My problems loom larger than all the promises of God that usually keep me grounded, paralysing me and preventing me from seeing the daily beauty which underpins everything. And most of all, my powerlessness reminds me that I cannot fix things.

How I wish I didn’t long to be self-sufficient. How I wish I didn’t need to rely on other people for help. How I wish that the experiences of infertility didn’t still leave me feeling scarred, scared and cracked wide open. I am having to remember all over again that powerless does not mean defeated. Being surrendered does not mean I have to cave to despair. I am revisiting old blog posts, turning over the ground I now stand on, reminding myself that there are good solid foundations of hope, peace and God’s faithfulness. More than ever before I know I can say I’ve seen prayers answered and expect to see more bear fruit.

But I’ve also learned, the hard way mostly, that certain seasons cannot be rushed no matter how much I want to kick against them or use my hands to push things along. Though I want to be pregnant again and settle back into that delicious time of growth and gathering, I have to look beyond my own longing to what God is asking of me at this time. And it’s hard, especially when other women seem not to need to walk this same path. It’s so difficult not to compare.

And so all I can do is show up each day, putting one foot in front of the other. I had hoped this was all behind me now, but apparently it isn’t. My resolve this time is not to fight. My inclination will always be to find glimmers of hope. My longing is to not be here for long again. But I am here. And I see you if you’re in this waiting room too. I promise that there will be blessings in this messy, mournful middle bit which leaves you with more questions than answers.

Courage, dear heart. Do not give up. Keep looking beyond your own longing to the One who knows it all. Though we may not understand His ways and His whys, we can be sure that His Word stands true, and He will have the final say.