(Originally posted as “163 Miles North“)
The steering wheel was wet. I could barely hold on, but the anger inside seethed and prevented me from stopping, despite my blurred vision from the tears that jumped from my face. I ranted and raved in my head. The injustice! The money lost! The months waiting! The painful nights! The fervent prayers…all for nothing!
I drove north from the fertility doctor’s office in Ann Arbor, Michigan in a silent car that was full of noise. In 45 minutes I would be telling Chris that it didn’t work. It was the end of the line. “You can wait a year and try again,” the nurse consoled.
Does she know how long 12 months is?!!!
We were at the end of the line of treatments. Four years into marriage, and nine years into female issues, I had tried the pills, the surgeries, the shots and now a mixture of them all. “Your best bet is to do this procedure within six months of the surgery,” the doctor had said. We had saved the $10,000 needed for a chance to have our own child; it would be worth it! We had only spent $2,000 (in meds), when they told me my body wasn’t responding like a 26-yr-old’s should. “Take the shots for one more month, and it will do ‘the trick’,” they said. After another yearlong month of being a chemist mixing meds at home and waking Chris so he could administer them before I left for my engineering job, I guess “the trick” wasn’t done. The ultrasound showed only one egg. “There’s not enough of a chance of in-vitro working with just one egg to extract. You can save your $8,000, and we can try again in a year,” the specialist said.
As I drove, it was as if the devil sat on my shoulder and whispered in my ear. My anger turned into a deep sadness. Negative thoughts enveloped me.
“You are unworthy of being a mom.”
“Don’t you remember the things you have done?”
“Other women would raise children better; God is leaving the job to them.”
“Chris could have married anyone who would have given him a child by now. Maybe he should just go do that.”
The tears flowed.
I passed my highway exit, intentionally. I couldn’t bear to tell Chris that we had to wait another year. I really knew deep down that another year didn’t mean better chances. I would be doing the same thing and expecting a different result: the definition of insanity.
In my despair, I lifted my eyes. I wish I could say it was in a proper way, but I lifted my eyes with more emotion than I have ever experienced “at” God. “Lord, what is this?!! I PRAYED to You! I had THE DREAM. Wasn’t that You practically TELLING me that I would be a mom?!”
I had had “the dream” a few weeks prior. I had dreamt I gave birth. In the dream, holding my new little boy while Chris stood beside me, we thanked God for answering our prayers. I cradled him in the crook of my left arm, as tears flowed down my cheeks and hit the baby’s. I told him how we had been waiting for him for so long, and God had answered our prayers. But I awoke on a wet pillow- real tears had been falling from my sleeping body. As I sat up in bed, the weight of disappointment hit, realizing that it had only been a dream. The crook of my elbow was still damp- from sweat due to heat of the imagined baby’s head. It had been so…real. I wept in bed again, this time in sorrow.
“You gave me such hope!” my raging in the car continued. “- all to lead me down this path of pain and emotion and still no baby? This is torture!! I TOLD You I didn’t want to go through all of that for nothing! I TOLD You I wanted to bring You glory by Your healing my infertility…that if You wanted me to adopt, I was fine with it. Why didn’t You tell me that it wasn’t going to work? I would never have gone through all of this. I wanted THY WILL NOT MY WILL!”
…and it hit me like a ton of bricks. He had just told me. Actually, the doctor had just told me. God’s will was that the medical procedures would not work. Period.
But what hit me was that if I was screaming, “THY WILL NOT MY WILL!” at the same time as crying, then I was missing the whole point. MY will is what was causing the tears, the anger, and the sorrow. The deep torture was self-inflicted as I was refusing to truly surrender. It was as though I thought I could secretly harbor the feelings of how badly I wanted and “deserved” to be a mother, and God wouldn’t know. Ha! God wouldn’t know? That’s just funny. He knew all along.
He knew my love for children as I babysat for over 60 families in high school. He knew my desire to be a good mom, as I told the Pittsburgh newspaper reporter who had asked why an engineering student like me would choose to work at a childcare center to help pay for college. He knew my sinful jealousy when unplanned pregnancies surrounded me. He knew my righteous indignation when a bad parenting story showed on the news. He knew I thought I was in control of my life.
And He knew what I needed in order to truly surrender to His will. He was answering my prayers of His will, not mine, and I almost missed it in my emotions.
“Infertility” in life can have many forms: a deferred college application, a business that won’t grow, a house that goes into foreclosure, a miserable marriage, a job loss, a church that slinks backwards or any time things go in a direction opposite of our desires. But in order for anything to be filled, it must first be emptied. I believe the infertility was the key to my being emptied, and therefore the key to being filled.
On my drive that day, a peace came over me, and true silence filled the car. Nature outside came alive, as I recognized white birch trees lining both sides of the highway.
“Birch trees? Where am I?” Looking to the first sign, which read, “Mackinaw Island 37 miles,” I realized I was 163 miles past my exit. Wow. What a car ride. I think Jesus had taken the wheel. 🙂
Two weeks later, we found out we were pregnant.
When the doctor recognized me in the parking lot, he excitedly said, “You have been the talk of the board meeting among doctors this week. One egg!! I guess sometimes nature prevails when science fails.”
The womb that had been empty was filled. My heart that had been filled was emptied, …only to be filled again by Him. To God be the glory.
I was a Christian before, but my heart was not contrite. At 163 miles north of my exit, my heart was broken enough, that I could watch God put the pieces back together. It was the shattering that He had allowed, and then at the right time, built it back again, stronger, holding more of Him. (Matt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”)
My favorite book, Elizabeth Prentiss’s Stepping Heavenward, which is a journal of a woman says it this way: “Thus I have been emptied from vessel to vessel, till I have learned that he only is truly happy who has no longer a choice of his own and lies passive in God’s hand.”
He only is truly happy who says truly, “Thy will, not my will, be done.”
Ps 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”