This What It’s Like post will have a short introduction, because truthfully, there aren’t words on my end. Today my own sister is sharing what it was like to be her while we went through our infertility journey; what it was like to love us in the midst of our sorrows and endless attempts to start a family. Her words are powerful and make my heart tender. Above all, I am so grateful for her willingness to share and allow us into her heart. Sis, thank you, I love you and we are forever thankful for your support, prayers, and love from beginning to His ending.
PS – My sister just launched a GORGEOUS Etsy shop with stunning name prints for children (and adults!). You have to check it out and snag one for a little one in your life!
Today, this conversation is for all the support people of those experiencing infertility. It’s just a snippet of my experience as a sister to someone experiencing infertility. Your story will be different, but here is mine.
The biggest thing I have learned throughout this road, is to love somebody with infertility, you go on a journey of your own. Your own grief, your own experiences, your own emotions. Your journey is valid. The pain is just as real, though experienced in a different way, the triumphs are just as glorious, though experienced from a different vantage point.
So we will back up to the beginning of this journey, briefly, because all stories need a beginning!
I was just fifteen when Josh and Chelsea got married. I had my learner’s permit for driving, was navigating the start of college searching, and just got my braces off. To say Chelsea and I were in different life stages is an understatement!
A few years into their marriage the questions from family and friends started popping up, “So when are you going to try and start a family?” (I have learned this is such a tender, tender question.) From my memory, there was talk about pills helping, and medical treatments here and there. They were having some difficulty, but were hopeful. Those early years of their journey are a blur in my memory. Partly because I really had no clue about fertility. And frankly, the topic was a bit embarrassing so I kind of blocked it out; what teenager actually likes talking about periods?!
I am most thankful for the day when Chelsea and Josh courageously stepped out to share about the infertility they were facing. To everyone who is experiencing infertility, I can’t tell you how thankful I was to know that this was a thing, and that people I loved were walking the road. When I learned the facts, I started to truly understand their hearts, and started feeling the pain of their empty arms. It was a lot to swallow as a sister. And it took me a while to process it all.
Early on, I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t know how to address or communicate what I felt. I wanted to make their pain go away. I wanted it to all be fixed. Can’t this all be fixed? In my experience, this may be one of the most difficult places to be as a support person. The complete lack of control. It’s so hard to see loved ones go through something trying. So hard. So, if you’re there today, I get it.
As a support person, there were seasons I felt helpless. And that helplessness more often than not led me into my own head. I didn’t know how to process the pain, the miscarriages, the failed cycles. I didn’t want to feel the emotion of grief and loss. This was my sister and brother-in-law. These were my future nieces/nephews. Not only was I feeling the grief for them, I was feeling it for myself, too. As a family, we were all grieving in some way after failed cycles/miscarriages. Looking back, I realize that support people need support themselves during these events. Because grief exempts no one.
Reflecting on this journey is difficult for me, and still brings up emotions of grief. Because nearly ten years of seeing my sister and brother-in-law go through repeated loss, and processing it myself, is still hard. It still has the most tender of emotions attached to it. Infertility is painful, and to love people who are going through it, is raw.
My biggest coping mechanism was prayer and journalling. And for all of you who cry out to God and ask, “Why…?” I have been there. Pages and pages and pages of being there. For all of you who feel anger surrounding infertility, I get that, too.
But woven so deeply throughout this journey were undeniable moments of God’s presence and reassurance. Songs on the radio boasting of God’s faithfulness. Sermons on Sundays reminding me that trials bring joy. Quiet times with God where verses spoke into their situation perfectly. So in the midst of the hurt, God was still there. Quietly, and sometimes boldly, reminding my heart: There’s hope. I am still good. Continue to have faith. There were times I doubted that biological children were in the cards for them. Times I felt foolish for believing “this cycle is going to be the one”. I wrestled with God. I learned about His heart for the hurting, that infertility was never a part of His original plan, and it broke His heart more than it did mine. I learned so much about God’s compassion, so much about my own heart, so much about perseverance. About faith, mourning with those who mourn, and the ministry of presence.
To say my faith was tested is an understatement. And to say my faith matured is also an understatement. Support people have just as much opportunity to dig into God’s strength as do the person/couple experiencing infertility. Chelsea’s infertility journey brought with it a unique experience for me to learn how to be in a trial for a long time, and yet, to still have hope in a God who can do anything, who loves incomprehensibly, and who asks us to pray without ceasing. I was an outsider looking in, yet connected intimately to the heart of my sister; experiencing her infertility from a different perspective, but still feeling the high of the highs and the low of the lows.
The morning of their final IVF cycle, I blared “Miracles” by Jesus Culture at work, and pleaded with God, “This cycle has to work.” And so my heart sang a song, like it did so many times before during their other important medical appointments, I believe in You, I believe in You, You’re the God of miracles. You are the same. Yesterday. Today. And forever.
And once again, I allowed my heart to be completely vulnerable before God and fully believe that God was capable. He was going to allow them to conceive. It was in the cards. And just like all of the other times before, peace settled in my spirit. Because no matter what the outcome was, God was still God and He was still good. He loved Chelsea and Josh more than I could imagine. He intimately knew how deep their desire was to have a child. And most importantly, He had the absolute best for their lives, even if had another painful outcome.
To love somebody with infertility is stretching. It changed the way I viewed conceiving. It allowed me to empathize with friends who either said, “I got my period” or “I didn’t get my period”. I now understand how both can be devastating for someone TTC.
It also significantly impacted me and my husband’s decision to try for children soon after we got married. As newlyweds, we could have tried for kids in a couple of years. But Chelsea’s and Josh’s story impacted me beyond words. It taught me time is so precious. And this baby boy I am carrying now is the biggest blessing I have ever received. I have not been 1 in 8 for our first pregnancy; and this overwhelms my heart with gratitude.
To love somebody with infertility is to let their story change you. And that is the best way I know how to honor Chelsea, Josh, and all my little nieces and nephews laughing and dancing at the feet of Jesus.
What God has done and has continued to do in Chelsea’s and Josh’s life floors me, and I am so humbled to witness their journey from the perspective of a sister. The ministry that has been birthed out of infertility is ironic, but not surprising for a God who redeems all things: Even in death, God brings about life.
Courtney is married to her supportive husband, Dave, and they currently live in the Twin Cities. She recently opened up an Etsy shop CourtneyJoyDesigns and is finding so much joy in living out her passion of art and encouraging others! Her relationship to God is her solid foundation, and puns, coffee, and potatoes make life something special.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility, be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer, be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgery, donate and adopt an embryo, be on a reality show, go through the fostering process, throw a themed dinner party , have PCOS, have had a cancer diagnosis, and be a high school teacher. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!