“In 10 to 15 years of trying, you probably have one chance at a natural pregnancy.”
My husband gripped my hand tightly. Seated in a pair of chairs facing the big, wooden desk and a wall of impressive medical degrees, we watched the man in the white coat shuffle quickly through our two-inch stack of medical records.
“Not impossible,” he continued, “but really, really unlikely.”
We’d been trying to get pregnant for five years. Every option we’d been given so far had failed. This infertility specialist was our last hope. We’d received poor prognosis many times in many doctors’ offices, but this was the place where we thought we’d find an answer, hope.
Everywhere I went, my infertility followed me with the quiet absence of what I had hoped would fill my future. The doctor’s “one chance in 10 to 15 years” prognosis was incorrect. In 15 years, I’ve never seen a positive pregnancy test. I wish I’d known then that hope was never going to be found in a doctor’s office in the first place.
Though I carried a dire prognosis, for many years I still rode the wave of hope and despair each month. I lived my life in two-week increments. Though each month ended in disappointment, a tiny light of hope always resurrected itself for the next cycle. I both loved and hated that hope.
I loved it because the doctor had said, “not impossible.”
I hated it because it was exhausting.
Sometimes I felt it would have been easier if the doctor had said, “No chance ever.” Then I wouldn’t be so determined to ride the surge of hope only to be swallowed by it when it crashed. Which it always, always did. I wanted to get beyond the wake, past the place of rising and falling hope. I longed for the peace of calm waters where there’s a stillness down to the very depths. I equated lasting hope with pregnancy.
Securing all my contentment to a broken body that would never do what I wanted, I was hoping in something that would always disappoint me. For too much of my life, my hope was regularly washed away in the despair of perpetual childlessness. Which is to say, hope was a substance I couldn’t hold on to for more than two weeks at a time.
That’s no way to live.
But it’s how I lived.
I wish I’d known that hope can’t be tied to a favorable outcome. It must be more than something so uncapturable as that. We need hope to be something stronger, something that can withstand the sorrows that wash over us with regularity. When you think of all the weight we put on hope, it could never be found in a child. No baby could bear the responsibility of that much longing.
But God can.
What far outlasts our infertility is our eternity. Pinning hope to an unfulfilled desire might mean that you spend your whole life chasing a dream that just won’t come. It’s not wrong for us to want to have children. But that can’t be where our hope is anchored.
If infertility is leading you down a hopeless path, I encourage you to take a step back and consider where your hope is rooted. Is it tethered to the desire for a positive pregnancy test or an ultrasound picture? Is your hope anchored to feeling a baby kick for the first time or to breastfeeding? Those are good dreams to have, but any of one of them can be held and lost in a moment. Hope can’t be found in what we pray for. Hope is only safely secured in the One we pray to.
The author of Hebrews tells us about this unchangeable hope. We may think hope only lives in the answered prayer for a baby, but the Bible tells us that our hope in what God has done for us at the cross is so sure, so steady, and so certain that it’s like an anchor for our very souls.
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone …” (Hebrews 6:17-20).
Because Jesus paid for our sins, we have hope of our future with God in heaven. This hope is tied to the finished work of Jesus – it cannot be severed. And it cannot slip from our grasp every month. Paul says in Romans that this is a hope that we learn through sorrow, and it does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5). This hope tethers us to heaven. It is an immovable, fixed point when the sufferings and trials of earth rob us of certainty.
Infertility may seem like a sea of disappointment for you right now, but faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is an anchor that plumbs the depths of every sorrow and holds us fast with real, steadfast hope.
Glenna Marshall is married to her pastor, William, and lives in rural Southeast Missouri where she tries to keep up with her two energetic sons. Glenna is the author of “The Promise is His Presence: Why God is Always Enough” (P&R, 8/1/19). You can connect with her at www.glennamarshall.com/ where she writes about suffering, biblical literacy, and God’s faithfulness.