Answering the ‘baby’ question

The way I work through things is different to how many others do. I experience something, think and pray about it and when I feel that I’ve heard God about something, I write about it. Sharing what God has taught me in challenging situations is like the ‘acceptance’ phase of grief. This blog post has been several months in the making and tells the story of something that we have battled with in 2012. But in the end, there is great hope.
A strange thing happened after Willem and I got married. Babies started to act differently around us. They’d giggle and smile at us and coo adorably. We would never hear loud wailing or witness tantrums, only sweet parenting moments like a mother and baby giggling together or a father taking his daughter out for a stroll in her pram.

It was like a conspiracy – these babies sensing our newly-married-ness and using cuteness propaganda to convince us that we wanted one too. They’d look at us with an expression saying, “Have one of us, one of us.”

Then, the family and friends joined in by asking us questions like, “So when are you going to have children?” When you start dating everyone questions you about when you are going to get married and as soon as you get the wedding band, the baby question comes up. It’s like people are constantly pushing you into the next life stage. They have good intentions, but sometimes they aren’t aware of the pressure that places on people.
Willem and I have been married for five years. We have our own place, secure jobs and a steady income. He’s in his early thirties and I’m in my late twenties. This makes us prime candidates for the ‘baby’ question. I have even had a friend tell me that my biological clock is ticking so we should hurry up! So, why haven’t we started a family yet?

We can’t.

That’s the simple answer, but the journey to this answer has been anything but simple. It started over two years ago when Willem and I decided that we were ready to start a family. We were emotionally, financially and spiritually ready to enter the next life stage – parenthood.

Almost immediately, life became all about schedule and watching the calendar. We changed our diet and tried to get healthier. Life became about sacrificing anything that could get in the way of us having healthy children. I even refused to take any medication that wasn’t safe for pregnant women in case I was pregnant. I made mental lists of pregnancy symptoms and every hint of nausea became a sign.

It was an emotional time of negative pregnancy tests and anxious prayers. It was so difficult to be disappointed every month. During this time of heightened health awareness, Willem discovered a lump in his testicle. It was malignant – he had testicular cancer.

He had surgery to have the lump removed. Thankfully, they managed to remove all the cancer but he went for radiation treatment as a precautionary measure. It was the most difficult experience that we had been through as a couple (you can read about how we got through this time by reading my blog post ‘The One you can cling to.’)

Willem’s treatment finished and all his blood work came back clear. Earlier this year we had a scare, but, praise God, the cells they were concerned about were benign. We felt comforted by the fact that the cancer was gone, and that the treatment wouldn’t have affected our ability to have children.
But still, I was not falling pregnant. In our desperation, we decided to get professional help. We visited my gynaecologist and Willem’s urologist and went for several tests. Willem also went for a biopsy. In a two week period it was discovered that Willem’s body does not produce sperm cells and that our chances of having a baby are very close to none. The only possibility we have of conceiving is a very expensive and invasive surgery with a very slight chance of being successful.

It’s difficult to describe how I’ve felt since getting the news. I’ve gone from feeling devastated because I’ve always had the desire to be a mom, to feeling guilty for not being strong enough for my husband whose own sense of loss was magnified by my sadness. I’ve had mornings when I just wanted to stay in bed and cry.

I have learnt that I am not strong enough to deal with difficult times but that God is the one who is strong and I’ve needed to draw on His strength daily.

Our friends, colleagues and family have been so amazingly supportive. Our church family has been so wonderful with their prayers and encouragement. The first place we went to after we got the bad news was church where our pastor’s wife prayed for us. It was just what we needed – to stay God-focused during such a painful time.

I’ve had people tell me not to give up, that it’s God’s will for us to have children. Others have encouraged us to adopt. It’s been tough to really figure out what to do. I really felt strongly that God wanted us to have children and I’ve had prophetic words from others backing that up. I started to question whether I heard from God or if it was just my voice, or whether He meant that one day we would adopt and that’s how we’d become parents.
I’ve had to let go of the schedule, ignore the calendar. It may seem strange to find this difficult. For two years I had made trying to have a baby a huge priority. I’ve had to let go – and it’s been hard. I’ve learnt that it gave me a sense of control and being able to have this control made me feel more secure.

The truth is that we can’t control this situation. There’s nothing we can do to fall pregnant. This is out of our hands now. It’s been very frustrating…but also freeing in a way. We have to take a step back, there’s nothing we can do. We can only leave it up to God. After months of pain, I feel at peace with this. I feel secure in trusting God with this matter.

There are times when I do get emotional about the situation and all the pain floods back, but I then run to Him for comfort. My focus is on entering into His rest – a place where I don’t forget His promises amidst the negative situation I’m in. He has promised to give me life, and life to the full (John 10:10.) He has promised to prosper me and give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11.) Whether these plans include us becoming parents, or not – they are perfect.

So, if someone asks me when we are going to start a family, I will say, “I don’t know.” I don’t know if we will conceive naturally of if we’ll adopt. I don’t know if it’ll happen next year or when we’re in our forties. All I do know is that I trust in a God of the impossible, in a God whose timing is perfect.

It’s all in His hands now. And I’m finally okay with it.

I’d really like to thank my dear friends who have been on this journey with us- friends who I have confided in from the beginning; friends who comforted me when I’ve struggled or had moments of weakness in the marking room, who have asked me if I was okay when I needed to vent. Thank you for your support and prayers, thank you for your understanding and patience. You are amazing blessings.

[to connect with Melanie or follow her and her writing, you can visit her blog here]