Thursday, 06 October 2016 19:03

I Can’t Get Pregnant

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A Story about Trust in the Goodness and Faithfulness of God. My husband Jeff and I were married in 1997, just before my senior year in college.  It was a very happy and long-awaited day for both of us and our families.

During our first year of marriage, we chose to use the Natural Family Planning we had learned as an engaged couple to avoid pregnancy.  I was finishing my senior year in Nursing School, and Jeff was settling in to running his own Financial Advising Practice.  A few months after I graduated and began work we both attended a parish retreat. As I reflect on the witness I shared then, the faith testimony of a 22-year-old newly married young woman, I can’t help but smile.  Little did I know what lay ahead and the faith it would take to get through it.

Jeff and I were blessed with a sweet and happy marriage, and we were enjoying working in our careers as well as in various youth and young adult ministries in the diocese.  Just after Jeff’s parish retreat weekend we decided to use the NFP information we had been using to avoid pregnancy to conceive and begin our family.  Unbeknownst to us, our very close friends who also had gone through the retreat with us, made the same decision at the same time.  We were thrilled for them when we heard the news of her pregnancy, and we joyfully awaited the opportunity to share our own good news.  Six years later, when those same friends had just delivered their 3rd child, Jeff and I still had not conceived.  

I can’t quite put into words the sadness and discouragement we experienced during that time.  How many times did I hear, “Don’t worry about it! You’re so young!”, as if being young would make it better. I wanted to say, “If I can’t get pregnant, I can’t get pregnant—it doesn’t matter how old I am!”  How many times did dear family and friends announce pregnancy after pregnancy while that chance simply eluded us?  

When I gave my retreat witness in the spring of 1999 I was striving to “live in the light of Christ”, but now, 17 years later, I have so much more appreciation for what that means.  What does it mean to “live in the light”?  It means, just as in wedding vows, for better or worse, in good times and in bad, I will choose to live as a child of God, trusting Him with my whole heart even when life is difficult, even when my heart is broken.  For me, it was trusting Him in the teachings of the Church and not taking the advice of well-meaning friends and family who encouraged us to try the in vitro fertilization, that, we were told, was the only way we would be able to conceive.  “Surely God would understand and not have you suffer in this way”, they would say.  It meant rejoicing with dear friends and family on their own good news of babies on the way; it meant blooming where I was planted by finding joy in my current vocation as wife, while I awaited the fulfillment of the vocation of motherhood for which my heart so longed.  (It is hard to explain the loneliness and confusion of physically not being able to embrace the vocation to which you know deep in your heart you are called!) It meant turning to Him as my Savior and loving Father in my most heartbroken moments, rather than turning away from Him and succumbing to the darkness of discouragement and depression. It meant seeking and accepting help when I needed it, through counseling and even medication for a time.

On February 26th, 2004 I was at a place where I simply did not think I could go on praying for our future baby—I had reached the end of my strength.  While in the chapel on a retreat I wrote in my journal, “Is it time to stop praying for this?  Please let me know if you just want me to move on and let this hope go.”  Shortly after, I got my answer.  God is so very good and faithful.  The very next day, our precious daughter was born prematurely at 32 weeks gestation.  She would be my patient in the hospital where I worked, and a few days later become our daughter through adoption.  

One journey had ended, and the journey of parenthood had begun!  God showed His faithfulness again and again as family and friends rallied around us to help us get our adoption home study completed and our home ready for a baby. A few years earlier in our journey toward parenthood we attended a Christian adoption seminar called, “The Spirit of Adoption”.  During it the host couple explained their experiences of adopting 2 little girls from China.  I will never forget one of the phrases they used, “Adoption isn’t Plan B”.  They meant that the blessing of becoming parents is the plan, and whether it comes about biologically or through adoption, your child is your child, but ultimately on loan to you from the Father in Heaven.  After being placed with our daughter, I was amazed at the truth of that statement. How quickly my heart opened to her; how quickly she became our daughter in our hearts, no questions asked.  I did not have the experience of seeing my child for the first time after months of pregnancy and hours of labor.  But I did have the experience of holding my child in my arms for the first time and feeling love for her in my heart only God the Father can give.  What a blessing to be given the gift of motherhood/fatherhood—that is Plan A.

alison mall familyThe Lord proved to us through His faithfulness that following Him was and is worth it, despite the tears and heartache along the way.  Two years after our daughter was born, we received a phone call out of the blue: “A little boy was born this morning…are you interested in adopting him?”  That little boy turned out to be our beautiful son.  What a gift to our family!  We cannot imagine our lives without his high energy, silly sense of humor, and sweet love for us.  

I originally wrote this article in 2011—5 years ago.  Our children were 7 and 5 at the time.  God’s plans have not ceased to amaze us as our story has continued to unfold.  Two years ago, while on an anniversary getaway, I discovered for the first time in our 17-year marriage that I was pregnant!  What a shock and an amazing surprise!  And so now, at the time of this update, we are the blessed parents of three miracles—Elizabeth (12), Jeffrey (10), and Patrick (1).   I can hear my baby in his room right now, babbling in the way that toddlers do, and I still smile, laugh, and shake my head in wonderment and awe at God’s plans!  What joy He has brought to our family!  Perhaps this joy is even greater because of the sorrow of infertility that we had experienced over the years. 

We now live the busy, and at times stressful, lives of parents, seeking to raise our children in the faith—knowing, loving, and serving the Lord all their days.  Now more than ever before, we need to trust Him—His goodness, His love for us, His mercies which are new every morning.  And it is our hope that the story of His faithfulness to us will bring hope to the hearts of others who are struggling on their journey toward parenthood.

AllisonMallAllison Mall is a registered nurse and certified Natural Family Planning instructor.  She and her husband, Jeff, live in Jacksonville, FL where they are raising their three children.  They are the co-founders of a family ministry called Families Following Christ and are involved in both their parish and diocese as leaders seeking to encourage men, women, and families in their Catholic faith.