Ever since our last attempt at IVF failed, my husband and I have been engaged in part two of who-knows-how-many-parts of a long, expensive, and emotional journey to parenthood. Between June 25, 2019 (my husband’s birthday, which was the day we found out we had a “chemical miscarriage”) and March 25, 2020 (the day of our second embryo transfer), we endured another round of egg harvesting, three monthly shots to suppress an
autoimmune disease in my uterus, one surgery to remove fibroids and cysts, and four delays in my transfer date. For months, my body felt like a pincushion, and my hormonal state resembled that of a 16 year old’s on a no good, very bad day.
This embryo transfer, however, felt entirely different than everything leading up to it - and miraculously so, at that. From the little things, like the fact that my husband’s cancelled work travel made him wholly available to administer my nightly progesterone shots; to the big things, like the fact that my clinic was the last one open in all of San Diego, and willing to proceed with the transfer – everything fell into place perfectly, as if to say, “This is it, Denise! Go for it!” Best of all, one of my dearest friends in life had an embryo transfer a week before mine. Nothing excited me more than the idea of us being pregnant together at the age of 43.
So this time, Josh and I felt confident enough to do everything differently than we did the first time around. I learned from our last transfer that embarking on a secretive IVF journey, with just a small group of our core friends in the know, made me feel like I was hiding. This time, I did the opposite, telling everyone - from random strangers on the street (back in pre-corona times when we could casually engage in conversation), to our banker (who kindly offered to pray for us, probably just to end the conversation), to people I met in group (work) emails - that I was having an embryo transfer. I didn’t want to live in the shadows anymore, and as a result, I had all the support I needed and more. Friends, old and new, prayed over me and checked in regularly for months. When we went in for our transfer, I took great comfort in knowing they were with us in spirit.
Fast forward eleven days to last Sunday: our day of reckoning. For the prior week and a half, I’d been so busy with work that I hadn’t thought much about our impending pregnancy test. In fact, I hadn’t thought much about anything other than getting through my daily to-do lists. Aside from 72 hours of bedrest, I worked non-stop while the rest of the world ground to a corona-induced halt. The only thing I noticed in in the time that elapsed between our transfer and our pregnancy test was that I didn’t feel any differently than I did before the transfer. All of the IVF blogs said not to stress about it, since not everyone “feels” pregnant even if they are, so I barely gave it a thought.
Instead of stressing, however, I did something entirely different; something I wasn’t even aware of. Subconsciously, I distanced myself from God to protect my heart from being disappointed or angry at Him if our transfer didn’t work. I didn’t know this then, but I realize now that I was trying to reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths: that the God I knew and loved could say “no” to something my husband and I so desperately wanted, and still be a good, perfect, and loving Father.
This seeming dichotomy was an actual topic of conversation with my friend Tobi, just a few short weeks ago. As we pondered the suffering that inevitably comes with being human, we talked about how hard it is to wrap our minds around a good God who loves us, but still allows us to experience pain. What it all boils down to, we concluded, is how we view God: as an all-knowing Father we can submit to, recognizing that His will is best, or as a genie in a bottle we can somehow manipulate into giving us what we want.
For much of my faith life, I’ve been more manipulative than trusting. For years, my prayers were of the “gimme gimme gimme” ilk. I gave lip service to wanting His will, but secretly, I wanted my own. Whichever one I wanted more was made clear whenever the two were at odds. And every time, God gave me a choice: to go my own way, or to follow His.
In this case, I chose to follow His – and more importantly, to go all in when it came to trusting Him. That switch only flipped, however, while we were waiting for our test results. As I prayed in desperation, I got down on my knees and submitted my will wholly and utterly to His. I cried as I prayed, because I still really wanted mine, but I wanted to want His more. So I asked him to bend my will to His - whatever that might entail - even though my heart yearned to hear the words, “You’re pregnant!”
When the call finally came, I was as prepared as I could be spiritually, but totally unprepared emotionally. It was devastating to learn that our pregnancy test had once again returned void. Our dreams of raising a little boy were dashed in the span of a 30 second phone call. I cried for two hours straight, as my husband and I held each other and grieved.
When I woke up the next morning, I was still sad, which made perfect sense. I needed time to mourn. But even as I wallowed in misery, there was a glimmer of hope deep in my soul. I knew that no matter how sad I felt, I still had reason to hope, because my God is always working everything out for my good. His character is unchanging, and He specializes in miracles. He may or may not choose to give us a child in the future, but either way, His plan is better than anything we could ever hope or imagine.
This morning, I was surprised that when I woke up, I felt not only fine, but good. Like, really good. Joyful. Expectant. And totally at peace. I guess that’s to be expected when we submit our hopes and dreams to His perfect will; after all, that’s exactly what He promises. I’m just surprised and grateful that it happened as quickly as it did. And I’m so thankful that today, a mere two and half days after our heartbreaking news, I can say without any emotional or spiritual reservation that I’m excited to discover everything He has in store for our future…whatever that entails.
As I write this, I’m listening to a song my friend Jenn Johnson wrote and so beautifully sings, called “The Goodness of God.” I love this song, even more for its lyrics than Jenn’s beautiful voice, because of this verse:
All my life You have been faithful.
All my life You have been so, so good.
With every breath that I am able,
I will sing of the goodness of God.
It’s true, you know. Every word of it. All my life, God has been faithful. All my life He has been so so good. I may temporarily lose sight of His goodness because of the pain and disappointment I feel in the moment. But His goodness, Jenn reminds us later in the song, is always “running after” us. He can’t help but pursue us with love and compassion, even when we run away from Him. His goodness is real, whether I feel it or not. And it’s the only sure thing I can cling to when nothing else in life makes sense.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance of what we do not see.
- Hebrews 11:1