2/18/14

Pursuing fertility treatments and surrendering to God's plan

Recently a reader reached out to me and asked if I would write on the subject of infertility and God's plan. Specifically she asked me to address the questions, "Why is infertility a problem other than basic desires and wants?" and "How can a journey to solve infertility be reconciled to a surrender to God's perfect plan?"

On the subject of God's Plan and God's Will there are countless articles and books and wonderful godly minds behind them. In no way could I ever compose a blog post that would contain all the right nuances or explore all the right intricacies this topic deserves. What I want to do instead is what I always do here: share my journey. I want to share the questions I've asked, the things I've learned, and the wisdom I've heard on this subject. I have certainly prayed through these questions many times, asking God to reveal his will, questioning why he hasn't lifted this burden of infertility from my shoulders, wondering if I'm doing something wrong, asking him to just take my desire for pregnancy away, wondering what the purpose of all of this is or if there even is one at all.

I hear so much of myself in the words of biblical women like Hannah who, in her deep anguish, begged the LORD for a child saying, "If... then..." If you give me a child... then I will... As if I had anything to offer God that he did not already possess.

I've been Rachel, too, desperate and angry crying out, "Give me children or I will die!"

I've been Sarah: scoffing bitterly at the idea that God has a plan for me after these years of unmet cries.

I've doubted. I've believed. I've bargained. I've been angry. I've been bitter. I've tried to accept. I've fought. I've given up. I've carried on.

"Why is infertility a problem besides the basic desires and wants?" How I wish infertility wasn't a problem! How I wish and how I've prayed that I could just accept it and move on with my life. I believe I will find healing someday, but I do not believe it will come by pretending that infertility is not a problem. The second part of this question ("besides the basic desires and wants") I think is something worth considering:

The "basic desires and wants" are what makes infertility a problem. I believe the desire to procreate is something God has placed in the human heart. While I don't believe it is essential to being human, it is a very basic human drive. In fact, the very first command God ever gives to human beings in the Bible, is to "be fruitful and multiply." Not only that, but the very first thing Adam and Eve are recorded to have done after the Fall when they leave the garden, is to have a child. They ate from the tree and felt the shame of their sin, but then hear the promise of a savior and in response, they make love and conceive. Having a child is not just a basic human drive then, but a spiritual act of faith and hope. Faith in God and hope in his plan of restoration.

If having a child is both a basic human drive and a spiritual act, then it follows that infertility would present itself as a major problem in both our humanness and our spirituality. Indeed, it is. As vulnerable as it makes me feel to admit, I have questioned what it means for me to be a woman if I can't conceive and give birth. My potential to bring a child into the world has always been intrinsic to my sense of what it means to be a woman. As I wade through the murky pool of infertility, I am having to answer very deep questions about my worth and identity as a woman. Men, too, often have feelings of inadequacy and shame if they face infertility. Just hearing the results of a semen analysis can be one of the scariest moments in this journey for them. It is no surprise to me that the divorce rate for couples who struggle through infertility is higher than average; deep feelings of shame, anger, and low self-worth can tear down even strong marriages. Having children is so basic to our perception of what it means to be human that failing to conceive is a major life crisis.

Spiritually we come up against an entire other set of questions, many of which I have already expressed. We ask why from deep within and when the only answer we hear are echoes around the chambers of our own souls, we come face to face with our deepest spiritual fears and doubts. Infertility calls deep upon our hope and our faith in God.

While the problem of infertility is serious and real, these deep and difficult questions we face in midst of our pain are perhaps the best thing infertility offers because they bring us to the end of ourselves. I've found that it is at the end of myself where true faith begins. As I've dealt with infertility, I've had to learn that this life is not about me. I've had to come to terms with the reality that life cannot be about having children or fulfilling my womanly potential through pregnancy and childbirth, or even receiving answers to my many, many prayers. Life is about what God is doing, but it's not about what God is doing for me.

Yes, infertility is a problem for me, but infertility is not a problem for God.

There is one truth I come back to over and over again and it's this:

Nothing will prevent God from accomplishing his purposes.

Whether I conceive or not. Whether I give birth or not. Whether I have faith or doubt. Whether I write a blog post that speaks the truth or whether I post with selfish pride. Nothing will prevent God from accomplishing his purposes. Nothing. 

When we accept this blessed truth, we have only one question to ask ourselves: do we want to live in accordance to his purposes or not? Remember- his purposes will prevail! We're only asking if we want to live our lives in harmony with these purposes or rub up against them. We will not escape the hardships of life when we live in harmony with God's purposes, but we will secure the joy of knowing we are living for something with eternal significance, something larger than ourselves.

Personally I am constantly fumbling around with the answer to this question, but I can tell you that when I determine to live in harmony with God's purposes, I find a joy and a peace that is truly indescribable.

When I determine to live in harmony with God's purposes, I am still left asking myself the same question submitted to me by my reader, "How can a journey to solve infertility be reconciled to a surrender to God's perfect plan?"

If I seek treatment for infertility, am I bucking God's perfect plan for my life?

If I spend my time, energies, and money trying to conceive a child, am I sinning?

Am I saying no to God's plan and yes to my own?

I believe the only broad answer to this question is maybe but not necessarily.

The goal of fertility treatments is to bring forth life. God loves life! There is nothing inherently sinful about seeking fertility treatments. Infertility is a medical problem and there is nothing wrong with seeking medical solutions to medical problems.

Here's where the surrender comes in: whenever we are working to achieve the desires of our hearts we must ask 1) if those desires are in-line with God's will as expressed in scripture and 2) if pursuing those desires will prevent us from doing God's will as expressed in scripture and/or God's plan as understood by his calling in our hearts.

These are very broad concepts so again let me come back to my own journey on each point.

1) As I stated above, I believe that pursuing fertility treatments are in-line with God's will as acts of healing and acts that bring forth life. However I personally also believe that the deliberate destruction of an embryo is the destruction of human life and the scriptures tell us that God does not desire the death of anyone. Accordingly, if we ever pursued a treatment such as IVF I would need to make provision for each embryo created to have the opportunity to grow and sustain life. Those are the basic perimeters around what I believe are "fertility treatments in-line with God's will as expressed in scripture."

2) The second point requires great sensitivity to God's leading. I could spend a whole separate blog post writing on the subject of hearing the will of God, but in very short let me say this: when you spend time reading and studying the scriptures, you are getting to know God and his voice. Over time God's voice becomes familiar, like that of a friend, and you become more and more sensitive to that voice when you hear its promptings in your heart. In the Christian life, I believe reading the scriptures are essential not just because of what they explicitly teach, but because they soften our hearts to hear the implicit voice of God's Spirit inside.

Again, it takes great sensitivity to know when pursuing fertility treatments are preventing you from living in accordance to God's will in general and his plan in particular. God has placed a special burden on both my and John's heart for orphan care. In our particular journey, John and I are always asking whether or not pursuing fertility treatments are preventing us from answering God's call to a second adoption. We pray over the financial aspect, asking God if he has given us the money in our back account to pursue fertility treatments or if he wants us to save it to put toward another adoption. We heard his call in 2011 to put our fertility treatments on hold in order to adopt our little boy. We pray and ask him to make his will for us clear if he wants us to do that again.

It is hard to pray these things. It is hard for me to imagine putting our fertility treatments on hold again to pursue another adoption because I hear my biological clock ticking. So far, to the best of our understanding God has not directed us to stop our treatments. I am grateful for that. However, I know that if he calls us to stop the treatments in order that he might accomplish his purposes through us, there can be only one answer: YES, LORD! And I trust that even when the journey is hard, we will find great joy there.

The truth is that whether we as God's people are pursuing fertility treatments or a dating relationship or a new job or choosing a college.... we are always having to figure out how to reconcile our wills to God's. I will leave you with this familiar passage from Romans 12:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Have faith. God does not desire to hide his will from you. As you offer yourself as a sacrifice to him- as you seek to live in harmony with his purposes- he will be with you. He will never leave you. He will place his Spirit on you and you WILL be able to test and approve what God's will is. 

Blessings on the journey as you seek his face. 

xo 

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous2/18/2014

    I just wanted to share some of my journey which has ended in a true miracle.

    My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over 2 years. We both have felt that we just didn't feel like IVF was God's plan for us, so our treatment options were limited. We were on a cycle where I was on Letrozole (Femara) and I was ovulating from my right ovary. I only have a tube on my left side, so we had mentally moved on to the next cycle. On top of it all, my lining was regularly thin for no apparent reason. The doctor told us that there was no medication that she could give me that wouldn't stimulate too many follicles and result in a canceled cycle. She said that we'd reached a point in our treatments where IVF was really our only option left. To me, this was telling me that I would never have my own biological child.

    I was devastated. I had everyone praying for me. I mourned for days, but I continued to pray that God would show me his plan for my life. I wanted to understand what he wanted from me if it wasn't to become a mother.

    This was about a month ago. I know now, that the very next day from when the doctor told me that I needed IVF, I conceived a child that I'm carrying now. It was a complete miracle for that egg to travel across my belly to the opposite tube, meet with one sperm (that was several days old) and implant exactly where it was supposed to in my uterus. I was shocked when my period didn't start and I had a positive test. I immediately knew that this was not my baby, but it was God's. I know that He has great things planned for this child, even if that means taking him/her home to heaven early. I know that this is a true miracle, and I want to share it with everyone I know! (As soon as we're sharing the pregnancy news!)

    I almost feel like God blessed us for listening and waiting for his plan. We didn't jump into IVF, because we didn't feel like it was what He wanted. I know that this won't be true for every couple, but for us, He gave us this blessing. For that, I will be truly and forever grateful. I hope I can remember this joy and gratitude forever. As I am only human, I will falter and question God, but I now know that I can only feel true peace when I surrender it all to Him.

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    1. Wow what a miracle!! I am astonished by your story. Congratulations and enjoy sharing the news with your loved ones!

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    2. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

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    3. Beautiful, thanks for sharing!

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  2. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Amen!!! I have been blessed with the miracle of twins through a journey of 4 IUIs, 2 IVFs, and 5 ZIFT. One of the ZIFT worked! It was a very emotional journey and never in my life have I felt that close to God. My twins are now 15 yrs old and well aware if the miracles they are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. What a journey! It is funny isn't it, that it is during the trials of life that we most clearly feel God's presence? I can relate to that. You are blessed to have your twins as I'm sure they are blessed to know how much they were wanted! Thank you for commenting!

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  4. "Life is about what God is doing, but it's not about what God is doing for me." Love this. :)

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    1. I'm sure you know this well Denay. :-) xoxo

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  5. Jill, your faith is something that is a constant source of joy and peace in my life, I am often encouraged and inspired to return to God in certain areas of my life after our chats or times when I am blessed by your writing.

    Thank you. Thank you God for this friendship and for this wisdom so freely given in this space.

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    1. I feel very unworthy of your lavish praise, but I thank you for it. What an encouragement Leanne! Thank you!

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  6. Anonymous2/19/2014

    Wow, what a thoughtful and thorough post. Brings me back to when I was dealing with my infertility ~ 10 years ago. How I longed to have a bio child in addition to adopted children, and tried a few procedures, before deciding that having a bio child was truly selfish, and unnecessary and that what was really important (to me, after some time) that I was able to be a 'mom'. So, being adoptive mother I was. I am. And I can't imagine it any other way. (Although I completely understand and have total compassion for anyone going through infertility.) What I do have a hard time understanding, though, are those couples who do not have children because "it just didn't happen for us"...and somehow they just accepted it without doing the infertility treatments and without doing the hard, hard work to adopt. They just accept being childless, and I just can't imagine myself having done that. Ever.
    I think that you are a blessing to many of the other couples out there dealing with infertility, since you are not afraid to "talk about it". I know that I would have appreciated your blog immensely 10 years ago. (I am still inspired today!) I wish you success!

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    1. Thank you for your comment and good wishes!! I love hearing from women who are years further down the road than I am as it gives me hope for my own future and finding peace. Thank you!

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  7. Thanks for the words of wisdom. You are such an encouragement to me on my own journey of infertility and adoption!

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  8. On one of my off days as a mom, where I could not seem to comfort my cranky adopted son, I asked my husband if God knew all along I would be an bad mom and that is why I was infertile and I just chose to take matters into my own hands. I felt like we were Abraham and Hagar. Thankfully the hubs reminded me that was not the case at all. He even reminded me of all the fertile women who abused their babies when I worked in the PICU. If what I was saying is how God worked, then those women would never had babies.
    We are in a broken world were sometimes things (including ovaries) are just broken. :)
    We did not take matters into our own hands. Instead infertility softened and prepared our hearts to say yes to God call to adoption. And I am now mom of the WORLD's cutest little boy!!!!! Hopefully someday we can add to our family again either biologically or with adoption.
    But infertility can leave you so insecure sometimes that it can all get mucky in your brain on those bad days.

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    1. Sounds like you married a good man!! We ALL doubt ourselves as parents from time to time, adoptive or not. "We are in a broken word" ---> yes. So true and so important to remember!!

      So glad you were led to adopted your little boy!! Little boys are the best aren't they?? ;-) Thank you for your comment!

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  9. Jillian, you have a way with words. Beautiful post and just what I needed to read today. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart and bless those around you.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement!

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  10. I'm learning that if we feel His peace and can rest in the decision we make, it's from Him. Sometimes I want a yes or a no but instead I'll feel a pull out of peace and rest that tells me it's not from Him. The enemy can fake a lot of things, but he cannot fake peace!

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  11. Beautifully written post! The end of ourselves is a beautiful place!!

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