When Infertility Finds a Name

It was just seven years ago that I walked my days with an almost ever-present, searing pain in my heart. With many, many months of a silent womb to my name, the feelings of failure and barrenness had become familiar friends to my lonely days. At the time, I had no promise that I would ever bear children. I had no guarantee that Trey and I would see our desires become reality of having a home filled with the pitter-patter of many little feet.

The heartache was crushing.

If you are unfamiliar with our story, I will give you the cliff notes version in two paragraphs. After one miscarriage and nearly two years of trying, we finally became pregnant with our firstborn daughter in September 2010. At last, we felt that those days of waiting were no more! Our bright-eyed, red-faced, firstborn daughter, Kate, came screaming into the world in June 2011, and our lives were forever changed for the better. We planned to add to our family quickly, as the memory of an empty womb was still too fresh in our minds. 

But once again, the actual story of our family looked vastly different from our envisioned story. Weeks turned to months turned to years, and my womb remained empty, once again. Slowly, we were tested for fertility issues, but no clear answer ever emerged. It seemed as if heaven was silent. Along the way, the Lord opened our hearts and minds to the plight of the orphan, and we realized we had the ability to do something about it, however small our impact might be. When Kate was just shy of her third birthday, we became foster parents. With each new foster child, I would write the story in my mind of how God might weave this or that child into our family in a permanent way, but instead, each child eventually was reunited either with their parents or extended family, which is the goal of foster care. We rejoiced with them even as we grieved their departure. 

My days passed with a deep gratitude for the child God had already given us in Kate, but also an equally deep longing for Kate to have siblings and to know the richness of many in our family. Yet instead of the name of another child etched in my heart, I walked around with a very different name ever-insulting and trying to define me: infertility

It was during this time of such great personal despair that I found a strikingly honest and relatable psalm. Penned a few thousand years ago during immense personal suffering, David wrote plainly of his human frailty and weakness. Ignoring any false pretenses, he described his anguish, of how his bones literally ached due to his inner turmoil (vs. 2) and of how he flooded his bed at night with tears (vs. 6). David suffered greatly, and it is forever recorded for us to understand through this very poignant question:

“But You, O Lord,” he wrote, “How long?”

His question is especially captivating because it seems as if David forgot to finish his sentence, leaving the reader to dangle in mid-air without any explanation for such a powerful plea to God. David alludes to suffering that might have resulted from his own individual sins (vs. 1-2) or from scorn and personal attack from his enemies (vs. 8-10), but he never provides the exact reasons for his heartache. And so he penned the question — “How long..?” — without ever finishing his thoughts. 

David’s prayer was also one that I prayed on many occasions during that season of life. The label of infertility dogged me throughout my days, and I silently grieved this nagging, unanswered question.

After years of bearing the label of infertility, God in His kindness at last gave us another biological child. When Alisa was born in October 2015, I felt that perhaps our story was finished. I was content with our two precious girls, and I assumed that I would never understand why God had allowed us to walk those several painful years of infertility. But God had a different plan. Infertility found a name in our family. 

When Alisa was still brand new, Trey and I felt a stirring to take one more foster placement. We took the necessary steps to reopen our home, and just a few weeks later, we received the call. On March 9, 2016, a brown-eyed, barely-speaking boy just shy of his third birthday was dropped off at our home. And much to our pleasure and joy, he has never left. 

Today, we will stand before a judge and declare to the state of Texas that we will honor and protect and cherish this boy for the rest of his life, as if he was born from my own womb. Today, we will make official to the world what has been true in our hearts since the day we met him. Today, infertility finds a name in our family:

Justin. 

You may find yourself in the waiting. Right now, for you, there may be many more questions than answers. I can certainly understand the despondency that comes with such a situation. Your prayers might mingle with those of David, of mine, and of countless others who have walked before you: 

“But You, O Lord…How long?”

I share our story today as a testimony to the rich mercy and intimate grace that God bestows on us as His children. To those in the waiting — I understand. The waiting, the unanswered questions, they are painfully present in this life. Yet today I am reminded that we only see as in a room dimly lit, while God sees in full. We see a partial picture of the greater story He is writing, but God knows the beginning, the middle, and the end. 

I have learned through hardships and heartache that life is not so much about the end of our struggles as it is about how we conduct ourselves in our journey to get there. Life is filled with many more waiting periods than it is with mountaintop experiences. I’ve learned that the prize is not found in getting that which we so deeply desire in this life; the prize is really in knowing Jesus more. And I’ve learned that God is a good, good Father. He longs to bless us with good and rich blessings. In time we will see that His answer to our prayers is always abundantly and richly more fulfilling than what we thought we needed at the time. 

I can say these things even after walking years of infertility. I can say these things after having faced a high-risk pregnancy that hospitalized me for nine weeks. I can say these things after our youngest daughter was born with a life-long disability. I can say these things because the Truth of scripture is never defined by our life circumstances. 

Those years of infertility were not wasted, as day in and day out I cried out to God and sought Him with a broken heart. I wonder at the smile that must have danced on His face because He knew that the answer to our prayers was already living, breathing, waiting for the day he would join our family through the gift of adoption. God knew!

Infertility had a name, we just didn’t know that name yet. Infertility had a purpose, a design crafted by the loving and wise Author of our story, who never overlooks even the tiniest of details. I know now that heaven was not actually silent during those times of our desperate prayers...God was simply saving a place in our family for our middle child, our son.

And so today, with bursting pride and deeply abiding joy, I am pleased to introduce to you our son, Justin. 

“…for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:8b-9)