This week is so mixed for so many. While many will celebrate this week, many others will suffer through with ache and emptiness — from miscarriages, a mother’s death, a child’s death or infertility. Today, I welcome the story of a dear friend, Denise, who has walked through both heartache and celebration and would not give back one day of either.
Baby Steps of Trust
Denise always dreamed of being a mom. While others were preparing for careers, her heart was set on being a mom. But it didn’t come easily. She went through many painful years of doctors’ appointments and fertility treatments. Those years also held great spiritual fruit, however, and she would later see all that God was doing in her heart to prepare her for a great work.
Denise had a storybook childhood, growing up in a loving and secure Christian home with no real worries. She met her husband, John, at church and they began dating after high school. After his college graduation, they had their dream wedding and moved into a cute little house. Life was clipping along comfortably as planned.
Until John lost his job. For 6 months, John could find nothing locally but was finally offered a job three states away. Crushed at having to leave her family, Denise begged God for Plan B. But she knew this job – and the move — was from God and so off the young couple went.
Denise was miserably homesick and cried every day for months. She was also actively trying to get pregnant and although she never said it out loud, Denise said she felt God should compensate her obedience in moving by letting her get pregnant. “I thought, if God would just give me a baby I’d be happy in Charlotte,” Denise remembers. God owed her this.
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But as months turned to years with no pregnancy, Denise became preoccupied by worry and what if’s. She desperately prayed for a baby. She wanted to trust God – she knew she should. But she clutched her desire for a baby so tightly that it was difficult to trust what God may have for her. What if God didn’t give them children?
It became so all-consuming she had to learn to trust God not day by day but moment by moment. She remembers it felt like a death she re-lived every month. “When you’re the one trying, it seems like everyone is pregnant around you.”
A Heart Transformed
During these years, Denise clung to Psalm 37:4 ~
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.
Her heart desired a baby. Oh, how she wanted to please the Lord so that He would give her this heart desire. “I thought going to church and doing all the right things was delighting Him. I wanted a baby no matter what, even if God didn’t want me to have one,” Denise recalls.
Despite desperate prayers, God did not change her circumstances. God changed her heart.
“I thought I was waiting on God to work or move. But I discovered that He’d been waiting on me all along to remove from the throne of my heart the desire for a baby that was taking His place. Even a good thing like my desire for a baby had become an idol in my life. It took five long, hard years to come to a place where I could say if there is never a baby, You are good and I love You and trust You.”
But God was doing much in these 5 years and the very move that Denise had wrestled against. Away from their families, she and John forged a strong marriage. Denise says moving was the healthiest thing that could have happened to their marriage. They also grew to love their church family and formed lifetime friendships. And God led them to a Christian infertility specialist in Charlotte who was as much pastor as doctor. His prayer, counsel and resources proved invaluable.
Blessings Abundant (Really Abundant!)
One day, Denise got a call from the specialist that her bloodwork indicated a possible pregnancy. As she and John watched the sonogram, her doctor studied it quietly. After years of hoping and longing for a baby, countless tests and procedures and her 9th IVI treatment, her doctor announced with incredulity that there were 5 sacs and 3 heartbeats. A week later, doctors confirmed she was carrying five viable babies.
Denise wasn’t done learning to trust God. Now she began trusting that God would keep all five babies safe and healthy. But God was already taking care of every detail. One week before they even knew of the pregnancy, John had accepted a job in their hometown. Denise and John would be back with family and countless childhood friends during the high risk pregnancy and after the babies were born.
She went onto bed rest at 17 weeks and into the hospital at 24 weeks. “Isn’t it interesting that God took a girl like me with a weak faith, who . . . worried and fretted about everything and struggled with trusting Him and He put me in a position where literally all I could do was lie flat on my back and look up to Him and trust?” At 6 ½ months, Denise developed a life-threatening complication and had an emergency C-section. All five babies – Caroline, Grace, Olivia, Ben and Drew – were small but healthy.
Parenting with Awe
From day one, Denise could tell each baby apart. When the babies came home, she had a team of helpers including grandparents and friends from church. “I look back and wonder how we did it,” Denise said. “You’d be amazed how quickly the abnormal becomes normal.”
She kept a detailed diary of feedings and diaper changes. They spent days in their playroom or backyard. On date nights, John would bring in dinner from Outback after the kids went to bed or they’d all pile into the car and eat take-out while parked in front of a carousel to entertain the kids. Because they didn’t go out much when the kids were little, they spent lots of time together, another grace that drew them close together as a family.
Despite the suffering, Denise would not trade one day of the very hard 5 years of infertility that she and John experienced. “It completely changed the kind of mom I am,” Denise says. “I had seen motherhood as a right but I came to see it as a privilege.“ She added “God didn’t have to do this and He did. There were still hard days and days I couldn’t wait for bedtime to come but even a bad day wasn’t a bad day. It was all worth it getting to parent with that perspective and getting to stand back and be awed.”
Denise can now see that God didn’t just use each trial; the trials were God’s goodness to prepare and equip her for the next step. The difficult move to Charlotte strengthened her marriage for years of infertility. And learning to trust God during infertility helped them trust God during the high-risk pregnancy and as they parented five children at once.
“What incredible blessings came from waiting on God and trusting His plan for my life. If God had given me that one baby I was desperately seeking 5 years earlier, I would have missed the opportunity to witness an absolute miracle. . . But most of all I would have missed Him — Knowing Him, His grace, His strength in such a real way.”
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