In His Time
by Ann Foster
When we are surrendered to the Lord, our trials in life become opportunities for growth in grace. The beginning years of my married life were characterized by infertility, miscarriage and daily depression; but through the pain, Christ has brought me to a greater faith in Him and a burning desire to share His love and mercy with others.
As a child I spent many hours playing with my doll family, enjoying the feeling of responsibility and dreaming of the day when I would be a “real” mommy with lots of “real” babies!
Because of my own mother’s terminal illness and early death, I was impressed by how fragile life can be and of the value of relationships with God, family, and friends. In high school, making friends and having a good time were top priorities, although I was careful to read my Bible and attend church. I didn’t understand what the Bible meant by hardships and struggles and the growth that resulted. For me, living the Christian life was great! Perhaps the struggles were for the “non Christians.” When I graduated from college, my fairy tale would be complete by marrying Russell and starting our beautiful family. How comfortable life was – a home, traveling, church activities, and a wonderful husband. Of course God was my “disciplinarian” – to keep me in line, but I had no concept of Him as my loving Father.
As our friends began to get pregnant, we too, decided that it was time to start our family. Certainly having a baby would be easy for us! As time passed, my desire to have a child became intense. What first began as an exciting possibility was fast becoming a frustrating challenge.
After a year of trying to conceive, we sought medical attention to determine if there was a problem. Russell and I under went a series of tests — mine much more involved than his. I had blood tests, a dye injection test, and numerous pelvic examinations. My physician suggested that I have a laparoscopy to discover possible internal complications, which could be contributing to my severe cramping and heavy menstrual flow. I was petrified to have the surgery, fearing I could die from the anesthesia.
The morning of surgery, I felt helpless as they wheeled me away from my husband and mother in law. As I lay on the table, I prayed that the Lord would bring something good out of all this. I told Him that if it took this to have a baby, I was ready, but that I needed His help to get through. Little did I know that my prayer would be answered in such a marvelous way. Infertility was to be my pathway into a Christ filled life, based on total dependence and faith in the Lord.
Surgery revealed that I had endometriosis (a build up of scar tissue), and a slight malformation of my uterus. My physician suggested major surgery to burn away the abnormal tissue. He felt we should wait to see if there were any miscarriages before dealing with the possible uterine malformation. He was very “matter of fact” with his information, and I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I had a diagnosis of endometriosis and an improperly formed uterus. What was that? Why were all my friends getting pregnant with no problems and I had to deal with this? Why did God create me if I was not going to be able to bring a child into the world? After all, the reason I was here was to give my husband a child, wasn’t it? I was confused, angry and felt defective, like a broken machine no one wanted anymore.
Russell and I sought spiritual answers to our questions. We read the Bible and listened intently in Sunday school and church for a clue. We were hurting and needed to hear of God’s mercy and care. While searching for answers, the Lord led us to a Bible centered church where God’s love for us, His desire that we serve Him in all areas of our lives and seek His help for everything, was emphasized. We learned how He delights in giving us strength, guidance, and answers to prayer. The thought of God actually answering prayer was something new to us! We began to earnestly pray for a baby and to wait for His answer, whether it was “yes,” “no”, or “wait.”
At the same time, we sought the opinion of a second doctor. He recommended further testing before undergoing the major surgery. We had new hope that perhaps one of these tests would do the trick. Although many of the tests were uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally, each test built our confidence that our infertility would be properly diagnosed, treated and cured. The doctor found my hormone level to be inadequate, so he prescribed Clomid, a fertility drug. Maybe God’s handiwork needed a little earthly help, so I began taking the drug with much enthusiasm. Clomid gave me several side effects, the worst of which were sudden hot flashes. These became a family joke for they occurred at the most unlikely times – in the middle of the night (covers would fly!), in church, even during meals!
After several months on Clomid with no success, the doctor felt the laparoscopy would be necessary. Here I was, back in the hospital for the second time in a year, concerned and frightened, but trusting the Lord for a successful, safe surgery. How pleased I was to learn that the doctor had treated the endometriosis and done a procedure, which would lessen the severity of my monthly cramps. That was an unexpected blessing!
My recovery was slow, but I was filled with hope that the Lord was now ready to answer our prayers for a baby. (A word to the wise: don’t ever think you have God’s plan figured out. He works on His own schedule!)
Several months later I received the news that my father had died. My sense of loss was profound! Certainly I knew God was in control, but I felt so alone with both parents gone and no children to ease the hurt. Infertility had become an enormous burden to bear.
Imagine my excitement when exactly one month later, I conceived! It seemed God, in taking one life, was giving us another in answer to our prayers. His timing was remarkable and I was so excited!
After several blood tests, we were told of the possibility of twins. Being on fertility drugs increases the chances for multiple births. Twins sounded great to me. After three years of infertility, we were ready!
A week later I began to bleed, and although the lab work indicated that all was well, my doctor put me to bed. An early ultrasound showed there were two gestational sacs and one was deteriorating. Perhaps that was why I was bleeding — I was losing one of the babies. I lay in bed for ten days, awaiting another ultrasound.
During the second ultrasound, the nurses became quiet. Although I could tell nothing from the screen, I knew something was wrong. All too quickly I heard the devastating news both sacs were empty — the babies were dead! We were heartbroken, having been through so much to get to this pregnancy.
Russell was with me and when I saw the look on his face, I knew he was hurting, not only for the loss of our babies, but for me as well. He was the one I depended on for strength and support and now he needed comfort. A husband’s role in infertility can be extremely difficult.
We were faced with the decision to have a D&C (to surgically remove the dead tissue), or to wait for a spontaneous delivery. We decided on the surgery. This trip to the hospital was not one filled with hope for a diagnosis or treatment of a symptom, but one of despair – a wiping clean of the pregnancy I had dreamed of for so long. Again the question, “Why me?” came up. I was confident this was the way of the Lord, but wondered what purpose all this pain and suffering had.
Afterwards, our next decision was to see an infertility specialist. It was so difficult each time I sat in the doctor’s office waiting room filled with happy expectant mothers. I longed to carry around one of those swollen bellies. At the infertility clinic I saw women just like me, desperately wanting to conceive and have a completed pregnancy. I went through a series of new tests and began to feel like a science experiment with all the needles and equipment used on me. The specialist concluded that my ovulation was irregular and I would need to have blood drawn several times during my cycle to determine ovulation.
After working with us five months, he decided another laparoscopy was needed to further clear the endometriosis and to remove a growth (called a septum) on my uterus, which could create problems if an egg implanted there. After surgery he recommended a stronger fertility drug called Pergonal requiring daily injections. Poor Russell patiently learned how to administer them, but never enjoyed causing me pain!
The drug put me on an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. Excitement and hope the first two weeks of my cycle, impatience and sadness the second two weeks, and finally despair when my period came.
By the end of my second month on Pergonal, my period was late. Could this be another chance after five long years of waiting?
It was good news. I was thrilled, of course, yet used complete caution in telling only a handful of family and close friends. The infertility specialist monitored me closely. As my eighth week passed without complication, and an ultrasound showed a strong heartbeat from the baby, I returned to my regular obstetrician for the duration of the pregnancy. My husband and I had planned a trip to Disneyland the next week and both doctors saw no problem in our going.
Our trip was wonderful. I wanted to go up to everyone there and scream, “I’m pregnant! I’m going to bring life into this world Praise The Lord!”
Russell drove back home and I stayed in California to attend a conference. One evening I began to bleed slightly and immediately called the doctor. He recommended bed rest. The next morning it seemed no better and I left for home, but by the time I saw the doctor the bleeding had stopped. I felt ridiculous, perhaps overreacting, but glad to be having another ultrasound.
As the ultrasound scanner went over my slightly swollen belly, that familiar silence filled the room once again. There was no heartbeat. Our ten-week-old baby had died, but was still intact in my uterus.
Tears overwhelmed us as we sat in the doctor’s office, waiting for some kind of answer from him. What could he say? Lord, I wondered, what do you want from me – a broken spirit? Well, I’m broken! Still knowing this was all in God’s plan, I wondered what it was that He wanted for us and just how much more pain the process would bring.
Further tests were performed, following the miscarriage. The doctor felt that the septum must still be intact and continued to be a problem, since the baby proved to be a perfectly healthy girl. Hearing the gender of our baby made losing her even more painful. I almost felt like a murderer and hated my defective body. Two weeks after having surgery to remove the septum, I began hemorrhaging and was returned to the hospital – to the maternity floor, no less! This time the surgery was successful and we were again able to pursue trying to get pregnant.
After eight months of unsuccessful attempts to conceive, we decided to take a break and put our energies into adopting. Until now I had only been interested in having my own biological child. However, time and pain had changed my outlook and I felt that having a child by adoption would be just as rewarding as giving birth to one. Anyway, I told the Lord I was open to anything!
Our series of interviews, references, family histories, views about life and child-rearing, feelings of having to prove our “worth” as suitable parents, became as emotionally exhausting as the infertility procedures had been. That year and a half seemed endless.
It was at this time that I reached an all-time low. Knowing that one day we would get a phone call telling us we had a baby should have made me optimistic. Instead, I only felt depressed and couldn’t pull myself out of it. We were told it could take another two years to get our phone call. We had already waited nearly seven years, two more seemed like an eternity.
For an entire week I searched my Bible day and night, asking the Lord for guidance. I also asked others to pray for us that we would know God’s will. I desperately wanted to be free of the depression and of my constant tears, which left Russell wondering how to help.
Finally, one afternoon I sensed the Lord leading me to go back on the fertility drugs for one more month. That seemed unusual. It had been nearly a year since I’d even thought about the clinic and fertility drugs. But I was convinced that this was the Lord’s will for me. I was surrounded with a feeling of complete peace and my depression lifted. That same week I was directed to read in the scripture in Luke 1:13b that says&
“& for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will give him the name John.”
I marked the verse in my Bible and shared all this with Russell that evening. My enthusiasm convinced him that I had truly felt this was God’s leading and not a crazy idea in my mind.
I picked up a thirty-day supply of fertility drugs, had blood drawn, and went home to gear up for another month of injections. About a week later, in the middle of the day, Russell walked through the front door. This was highly unusual and I could tell something was up. My first words were, “We don’t have a baby do we?” He grinned and said, “Well, I sure wouldn’t be home at this time of day for any other reason!” The caseworker had called Russell at work and given him the wonderful news that we had a baby boy waiting for us.
I was absolutely speechless. Our dream had finally come true. We had a son! A baby who would be ours! I could take him to the park, shopping, swimming, hiking, biking – everywhere and he would be MINE!
We had only a few hours that day to shop for everything we would need for the baby. My long list of things to do included a call to the clinic to find out how this would affect the workup we already had started. The doctor assured me that stopping the drugs would cause no problems. He added that he was thrilled to hear our wonderful news!
Our caseworker shared all she knew about our precious baby boy. We were especially touched by the unselfishness of his birth parents. It is impossible to express the gratitude we feel to them for this baby – the greatest gift we could ever receive.
Imagine our joy, the next day, as we flew to meet him. From our first glimpse of him lying there in a tiny bassinet, we felt an instant bond of love. I was almost afraid to touch him for fear this miracle was only a dream.
As Russell picked him up and handed him to me, the overwhelming love in my heart assured me that he was truly God’s gift to us. My suffering had not been in vain and I was able to thank God for infertility, surgeries, and even pain. Here we were, “parents,” to this beautiful baby boy. What an awesome word!
The month following his arrival at home seemed like Christmas with all the phone calls, friends dropping by and beautiful gifts. My sister cross-stitched a verse we claimed for our son.
“For this boy I prayed,
and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27
There was that word “petition” again, just as the Lord had spoken in Luke 1.
The weeks passed quickly with so much to do. I joked with friends about only having twenty four hours to prepare for motherhood, instead of the usual nine months. There was a lot to learn.
Very soon I became aware that my period was late and told myself that my “cycle” must be off due to all the excitement. Three days later, I went to the drug store to get a pregnancy test to confirm that I was not pregnant.
Imagine how odd I looked, holding a newborn and selecting a pregnancy test. The check out lady scolded me for even thinking I could be pregnant. I took the test home, followed the directions exactly, and was shocked to see the obvious “positive” results! That afternoon when I told Russell the news, he was speechless.
We now have three precious boys, each one chosen by God to arrive in His perfect time and unique way. Our love for these children cannot be measured and we feel privileged to have gone through the circumstances that led us to parenthood. I hope my story will bring you comfort, knowing that the Lord’s timing is perfect and that He will see you through all the difficult times. I thank Him for all my past hurts for they have molded me into a stronger person, one who trusts in the Lord for all things and who has learned to wait for His time.
“He hath made everything beautiful in His time&” (NIV)