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On Practicing Patience and Waiting for Children

image source: Stephan Pasch, Creative Commons

image source: Stephan Pasch, Creative Commons

There are many things Uganda changed in me, but of all the things this one is perhaps the most life-altering.

It flipped my baby switch to “on.”

If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have been slowly working my way through my fears of becoming a mom. The year I got married, I declared No Babies ’til 2015. I was Staving Off the Baby Rabies. And earlier this year, I admitted to the Trepidation of Urban Motherhood.

Last year I would walk to work every day and pass moms and nannies pushing strollers. I would ask myself: would I enjoy that more? Would I find it more meaningful? Am I ready to take responsibility for a little life? I did not feel ready to take that leap, but the question loomed in the forefront of my mind, all day, every day.

After talking to God about this for a good 10 months, I went to Uganda. I experienced Him in the little things in Africa – in the hard work of the mothers with entrepreneurial spirits, in the sweet faces of the children and the joy of their laughter. Spending time in Uganda stirred up dreams and renewed my passions. It made me ask, “What is it I was put on this earth to do?”

I came home with the renewed desire to pursue the things I know I am made for: to be a writer, a wife, and a mother. After years of continual consideration of the pros and cons of parenting, and wrestling with desire matched with fear of equal weight, I finally had a breakthrough. Certainly there were practical arguments, but at this point in the journey, almost three years into marriage, I recognized that my largest excuse was that I was afraid – of the unknown, of failure, of change.

I was still scared, but I was ready.

I sat on my newfound desire for motherhood for two months before ever mentioning it to Nick. I did not want to get his hopes up. Terrified it was a false start, I was sure that I would soon revert back to my questions.

But it did not fade. It only grew stronger. At Christmas, I found myself thinking: Wouldn’t our family gatherings be even more delightful with a little one?

Last December we decided we were open to the idea of having kids, but we were not going to obsess over trying right away. Then three months passed without any suspicious signs of pregnancy. I decided to become more proactive. I started charting my temperature and taking ovulation tests.

Three more months passed.

Nothing.

I finally went to see the doctor for my annual exam this summer and told him where we were in the process. Going into the appointment, I felt level-headed. I was ready to hear what I thought was the standard, “Well give it until you have been trying for a year and at that point we will begin running some tests.”

Instead what I heard made me feel like I had the wind knocked out of my lungs.

After hearing that my husband and I were both 29 and had been trying in some capacity to get pregnant since January, he told me the fact that were not yet was “concerning.”

Nick had always told me he wanted to start trying for kids at 28 in case we had trouble. And here I am at 29 realizing that maybe he was right.

This was not my plan.

I know that not everyone gets pregnant quickly, but the statistics are as follows (according to babyzone.com):

  • 30 percent get pregnant within the first cycle (about one month)
  • 59 percent get pregnant within three cycles (about three months)
  • 80 percent get pregnant within six cycles (about six months)
  • 85 percent get pregnant within 12 cycles (about one year)

My logic goes like this: My maternal grandmother had four kids from one fallopian tube after a tubal pregnancy burst her other one. My mother got pregnant with her three kids on the first try nearly every time. Nick is the youngest of four brothers. If family history was an indicator, we should have had no problem.

I know that we are still young, and I know we still have time. But I made no room for waiting in my formula for my family life.

In the first three years of my marriage, I wanted us to have time alone, and I wanted to work through my hang-ups before diving into motherhood. I tried to do things the right way, the way I had peace about, and now, instead of being rewarded for taking things slowly and prayerfully, I feel like I am being punished for waiting. I am embarrassed that I am not taking this with more grace. I honestly thought I would be fine, even if we found out we could not have children biologically.

On the best days, I smile and try to practice gratitude for this season of life.

On the worst of days it seems like a cruel joke.

I know that is not the character of God – just like he does not give spouses as a reward for good behavior, neither does he bestow children to people once they have earned enough potential parenting points. But I put in the hard emotional work, and now I want the payoff.

As humans, waiting is not our strength.

With whatever it is you are waiting for, you tell yourself you are fine with waiting, until each month that passes comes with more questions, then you realize the time you have been waiting is beginning to feel substantial.

You begin to wonder if you are waiting in vain.

You talk to God, you voice your frustrations. You tell him you trust Him, and you do. But you are terrified if His plans for you turn out to be vastly different from the ones you had for yourself.

You laugh at your former five-year plans, knowing life has headed in an alternate trajectory from it did five years ago, and will look even more different five years to come. Nothing is as you thought it would be, and you are wrestling with whether that is good, bad, or just is.

What if you find out your life’s ambition is no longer possible?

Do you have to start over? Dream new dreams?

What if you always planned on playing a specific role in life and you discover it is a longer, more difficult process than you imagined?

My well-laid plans are dissolving. Everything is slipping through my fingers and I am desperately trying to hang on. After what seems like endless waiting, how do you hold on to hope that soon things will be different?

I hesitated to write about something so personal for a variety of reasons (the largest of which is just plain FEAR) but…

I need to know I am not alone, and I suspect that maybe you (or someone you know) needs to know too. I have to hear from those who have been there and come out the other side.

31 comments

  1. Oh my sweet precious friend, thank you for your beautiful honesty and vulnerability. It’s been a torturous year, but somehow we’ll get through. I’ve been reading “Bittersweet” and I cant thank you enough for gifting it to me and for writing these words I needed to hear today.

    Love you sweet friend. So much.

    • I love you heaps. Thanks for your encouragement to do this, and for going before me in blazing the path of vulnerability. You are one of my soul-baring heroes.

      So glad you are reading ‘Bittersweet.’ It feels like such a gift from Shauna, doesn’t it? She makes me brave.

  2. You aren’t alone Erika. By any means. Thank you for being vulnerable and willing to discuss the emotional roller coaster around desiring a child. The mind game is confusing and sometimes consuming. I’m blessed by distractions of focusing my love on others while His plan for children is worked out in my life. Its the only way I’ve found sanity 🙂

    • Love, love, love you Susi. I’ve heard it said that service is the best possible way to push through our own pain and find meaning and hope in the midst of it. I am trying to figure out what what means for me, and talking about it openly in hopes that it might help someone else is a start!

  3. Wow, Erika. What a brave young woman you are! You certainly are not alone in any of your feelings. I don’t know any Christians who haven’t been frustrated with God’s “inaction” at various points in their lives. Good for you for being honest about your feelings and not putting on a “churchy” front – that doesn’t help anyone, especially you. Confronting your fears, allowing yourself to be vulnerable before God and your friends, recognizing that His plan or at least His timing doesn’t always line up with our own – now that’s helpful. I don’t know why God is making you wait, but I can tell you from personal experience, that He knows what He’s doing. I often wondered why God allowed me to wait 7 years before having my 1st child and 6 years before the next one – that was certainly not my plan, but it was His and over the years, I’ve especially seen that the gap between my girls has been a HUGE blessing in so many ways that I could have never imagined. Even now God is making me wait for something that I’ve been praying about for many years. Is it frustrating? Yes. Have I ranted at God at times over it. Embarrassingly, yes. Do I believe that God sees more than I see and may have a better plan than me, I have to say yes to that too. So, I breathe a heavy sigh and keep on praying. (And I have to say there’s something about being persistent in prayer, it does change you.) So, hang in there sister and know that you’re not alone. And I’ll start knocking on God’s door for you as well!

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your own journey Marilyn! Writing this felt more terrifying than brave, but I’ve been in the company of some seriously amazing, vulnerable role models this past week, so I blame it on them! I am fighting hard against placating, “churchy” answers – I’m even guilty of feeding them to myself at times. So instead, I’m trying to figure out how to sit with the pain, and offer it to God and ask him questions in the midst. Because I know that this, right now, is where He is loving me and teaching me. It’s not just about the triumph on the other side, it’s about learning to ask questions and listen to and lean on Him all the way through.

  4. I’m in tears over your beautiful heart and willingness to share your story. It’s so vital to everyone around you. Thank you, dear friend!

  5. Oh, Erika. I won’t tell you I understand your experience, because I can’t. I can’t stand with you in the place of waiting for a baby, but I can stand with you in the place of watching life unfold in a way you never thought it would. And sometimes that can hurt in ways that only someone as eloquent as you could describe. Our experiences aren’t the same, but you are not alone. I know the pain of watching your hopes and dreams seem to disappear, of feeling punished and not knowing why… and all I can offer you is a promise that God has ways higher than ours, and I love you 🙂 Our places in life may be vastly different, but I am walking with you, always.
    And you are brave, and strong, and I think you’re amazing. <3

    • Dear friend, I will take you standing with me in whatever place life takes us – dark, light, and the in-between. Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond. Your words encourage me immensely. I love you so much!

  6. I know we don’t know each other well but I get linked to your blog every now and again through our big group of mutual friends. I feel everything you have said in this post times two years–that’s the time lapse from how long from when we decided we were ready to when God decided we were ready to grow a little one. I haven’t worked it all out yet why we were supposed to wait but in the final weeks of pregnancy I can tell you that I have appreciated and been more aware of myself, my faith and my growing child more than I would’ve been if this gift was just handed over with no lessons of patience and waiting first. It was the hardest thing that I’ve ever endured watching close friends and even strangers have the experiences we wanted so desperately, but the joy and anticipation we have right now is incomparable. I haven’t shared this much because I haven’t come up with any grand lessons or encouraging words for anyone experience this level of heartache but I do know it sucks and trust is hard and thank God for His faithfulness. Thank you for sharing and further re-enforcing that we are never, ever alone.

    • Thank you so much for reading and stopping by to share some of your story.

      What you said echoes my own prayers: “I have appreciated and been more aware of myself, my faith and my growing child more than I would’ve been if this gift was just handed over with no lessons of patience and waiting first.”

      I know without a doubt, however we end up adding children to our family, that I will appreciate the gift of that far more having walked through the pain and desire of wanting that and not having that longing immediately met. Even now, some days I can find myself being grateful for the pain because I wasn’t sure how long it would take to finally experience the desire for children.

  7. Oh Erika, so hard. I will be praying you can feel God directing your path. Keep looking to see his hand guiding you through this time. My sister went through this and it was hard. But God is in the midst and His presence is a blessing.
    Mzungu Love to You,
    Vicki

    • Thank you Vicki! I deeply appreciate your love and prayers. I know there is light to be found on the other side of the darkness and God is faithful even when I can’t decipher what He’s up to.

  8. Erika, they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles. My plan for my life was to get married at 25, have my first baby at 27, my second at 29, one boy, one girl, and life would be grand. I didn’t meet Scott until I was 30, married at 31, we tried for two years before we had Samuel (I was 34) and for one month (ONE MONTH) to get pregnant at age 38 with Stephen. God is the one with the plan. Wait and trust, He will show you and it will be wonderful. Love you dearly, precious niece. Susan

    • Thanks for the love, Aunt Susan. Waiting and trusting sure is hard. In this season, I am trying to practice it daily. I cling to the character of God, knowing whatever lies ahead, He is able to be trusted.

  9. “I am embarrassed that I am not taking this with more grace.” Erika, this is such a beautiful and graceful post. I feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me by your post and my love for you in reading it. It is just piercing to hear you say exactly what you want and there is so much goodness in being honest even in your struggle. There are no guarantees. I had an uneventful pregnancy and delivery with my first and then experienced complications which almost killed me. I spent a long time angry, sad, unfaithful, and so many other bad adjectives. I tried to just hang on, waiting for some light. It took 6 years to have our second and I felt scared, embarrassed, audacious, stupid, risking the choices and consequences. There is healing but there are also scars I carry with me. I don’t feel like I got any great life lesson out of it either. But, you are not alone. Keeping you in my heart and prayers.

    • You know I almost didn’t put that line in there? It’s been hard to wrangle the words I needed to communicate this into submission. Nothing felt quite like it was doing it justice.

      Thank you for sharing your heart and experiences with me. It means the world to have friends and Mamas like you who have gone before me in the crazy adventure of motherhood. Lots of love for you, friend!

  10. Thank you for sharing this with us Erika! Girls are definitely more vocal about children but guys can feel the pull from time to time too. Now for some comedy relief–I was totally expecting a picture of baby Happy to make an appearance! Maybe you can use that in a follow up post. 😉

    • Jeff! Thanks for reading my friend.

      And yes, that would have been such a better picture to use. I totally didn’t even think of that. Baby Happy was such a highlight of our trip 🙂

  11. You are not alone!
    Right now my story is that we are pursuing adoption to grow our family. At my ‘advanced’ age we decided before we even got married that adoption was something we were open to. After many doctors appointments, tests and months of taking my temperature we decided not to intervene any further for a biological child. This is how we have come out the other side. Maybe not in the way we or you hope to, but we are out the other side.
    I still mourn the loss of having a biological child, but I think it’s ok to continue feeling sadness while accepting and moving forward with life.
    The part where God amazes me most is in being able to celebrate with friends whose path to parenthood has been more swift, and seemingly easy.

  12. My sweet friend, I can only imagine the longing and waiting for a child but I feel your struggles in my own heart. The questions of why? Haven’t I been _____ enough? Am I not deserving? Being 29 and single doesn’t always have its perks, many nights I struggle to sleep with unanswered questions about a spouse or my own children and how far off that timeline seems. Despite the struggle, (and the confessing of the struggle makes you seem normal, honest, and humble, not something to be embarrassed by), the beautiful part is what is revealed. Your need for Jesus. To be poor in spirit and to recognize your need for the Savior. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Your need (and my own need) for Jesus, for His comfort, wisdom, peace, and perfect timing, is a beautiful realization. So take heart, my friend, for He is working a good out in you that is far better than you can imagine. Love you!

  13. Oh Erika. I felt as though you were writing my thoughts for the past 7 years. We decided after a year of marriage we didn’t want to be actively preventing a pregnancy and I immediately got off my birth control- only to get pregnant immediately- and miscarry early in the second trimester. That led us to years of (ongoing) infertility, another miscarriage (unexpected) and much, much heartache. But it also led us to adoption and a little boy that has rocked my world ( and another one, soon!)

    We had our plans laid out in the order we saw fit and quite frankly, God just didn’t give a rip. He has stretched and shaped us more in the past 8 years of our marriage than I ever thought possible but He has never, not one single time, not fulfilled His promises to us. It is in the waiting that He reveals to you yourself- you see your flaws and failures, your strengths and shortcomings, but most importantly your constant need to return to the Rock that doesn’t move or waver or flinch.

    I won’t lie there was a time when parenthood and the means of how to get there was unbelievably hard- torturous even- and there are still some days when I feel morose over my plans of having a biological child not panning out. But I am then reminded of how all the “failures” of my plans turned out to be a blessing in God’s plan for our family. I am praying for you and Nick and that The Lord will guide your steps and make it very clear the direction and plan He has for your family.

  14. We had a very similar experience over 20 years ago….my first baby will be 21 in December! My carefully scheduled plans and timetables did not happen and I experienced many of the questions and fears that you describe. I eventually got pregnant at the most inconvenient time possible! Looking back, it helped me prepare for the lack of control and powerlessness that I found to be the reality of raising children….the most exciting, frustrating, rewarding, terrifying, out of my control, beautiful experience of my life. You did an amazing job of describing the fears and frustrations of the place you are in right now. It took me back to that time in my life and allowed me to marvel in gratitude at the ways that God’s timing, while often frustrating, is always just right. Prayers and virtual hugs, new friend!

  15. I saw your post from a friend on facebook. You’re not alone. So not alone. My husband and I are 4.5 years into not being able to conceive. We have since adopted our sweet son and plan on adopting again, but his presence doesn’t heal the pain of our infertility. It comes and goes in waves. I don’t understand God’s story for us but I ask every day he help me trust him in it and give me the strength to move forward. Praying the same for you and your husband. Thank you for sharing your heart ♥

  16. When I read your post last night I had a tear in my eye. I wanted to respond but did not know what to say. I thought about it for quite awhile. I have never had the issue you are dealing with but the one thing that kept coming back to me was the doctor who said this was ‘concerning’ and the statistics you listed. I’m sure the doctor meant well but that brought a memory of my own back that I couldn’t shake. About a year after my head injury, I was being seen by a doctor in Pittsburgh to treat my severe dizziness and burning in the back of my head. I was asking him about making my third appointment when he said “You don’t need to come back. You’re as good as you are going to get.” I was devastated. I couldn’t read, play the piano, do accounting work, etc. My good friend, Andi Farrell, had driven me because I couldn’t drive that far. I went out into the waiting room and told her what he had said. Very indignantly and loud enough for the entire waiting room to hear she said, “He obviously doesn’t know what our God can do.” And marched me right out of there.
    Those words have gotten me through lots of things including almost complete healing from the head injury. And I pray they will get you through this time. My experience with statistics is that even though 85% is a high number, you could very well be in the 15%! Hold on to that.

    For anyone who is not a devout Christian this may sound trite but I truly, truly believe that God has a plan that is way better than anything we plan. Patience is so hard but things will work out. As always, you and Nick are in my heart and in my prayers.

  17. You are definitely not alone! My husband and I have been trying for about five years! We wanted a honeymoon baby! We took tests and found out we were fine… It all came down to God’s timing. Earlier this year (in May) we found out we were finally pregnant! We could hardly believe it! The thing we had been waiting to happen for five years FINALLY came true! Our prayers had been answered!!

    Unfortunately about 2 months ago (September 21) I gave birth to my baby girl and she went to be with Jesus that very same day!! I say this to say that it really is about God’s timing above all else! And just because my baby girl is with Jesus doesn’t make me any less of a mother!! I have since had dreams of my baby boy that I will have sooner than later as well as have had a number of friends confirm my baby boy is coming!

    As I continue to heal from the heartache of my little girl not being here I am strengthened by the fact that God is who He says He is and that He didn’t cause my pain and heartache… Now it’s up to me to figure out what I am going to do for God to combat what the enemy has stolen from me knowing full well that God will restore what was taken but in the mean time I still have to live my life for the One that matters most!

    I hope this helps you in your waiting… just know that God’s got it covered… REGARDLESS of what the outcome is!

  18. E, thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing your whole complete self with us. I’m crying because my heart hurts for your heart. It breaks my heart to think that you may be blaming your self…God didn’t stop His plan because you’re plan was different. I’m praying that God bring you and Nick babies…and peace while you wait!

    • Thanks for reading, friend. I think most days I am clear-headed and not blaming myself for waiting. But of course, there are the hard days when I think, “What if?” Thank you for your prayers and support <3

  19. Dear Erika,

    My friend, I understand the heartache you are feeling. It hurts when you want so much to be a mom and it doesn’t happen as we expect.

    Though my circumstances differ a bit, my story began when my husband and I knew your Daddy Will and your Mom in our mid twenties. You and your sister were already here, both so sweet. Rich and I married at 22 and waited 7 years before we felt ready to become parents. We figured, too, that once decided upon it would be a done deal. Once begun, we didn’t wait years for a pregnancy. But we did wait years for a child. I was pregnant at the same time as several good friends in our young couples Sunday school class. What fun to share that. But then, when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, my baby died. He was beautiful once born, 9 lbs 10 1/2 oz, 21 inches long, fair-haired and pudgy. Unfortunately, he never opened his eyes, so we never knew what color they were.

    To say we were brokenhearted is an understatement. We learned that the process of grieving is one that you have to go through. And we learned so much about our loving Father through that process.

    We felt God’s presence with us. We felt His constant comfort. He could handle our feelings, our grief, our anger at times, our frustration. We shared our grief with others and experienced the embrace of the body of Christ through them. We realized that we had each other and vowed to place greater value on our marriage, whether kids came along later or not. And we were eventually able to comfort others in their grief. To let them know that such grief was survivable.

    We did eventually have two other fair-haired, pudgy little boys. We felt fortunate every day, and still do. Our sons are grown now. One is married. But we have not forgotten our first little boy. My husband still cries when he hears the theme song to “My Three Sons.” I still struggle around his birthday.

    I am sorry you and Nick are hurting at this time in your lives. It is my hope and prayer for you that you will not have to wait too much longer to become parents. In the meantime, though, crawl into your Abba’s lap. Let Him put his arms around you. Let Him listen to your hurts and dry your tears. He will be your Comfort, your Daddy, your Counselor, your Peace.

    • Ms. Penny, thank you so much for sharing your story. I (of course) had no idea about your first little boy. I can’t imagine losing a child, let alone at 8 1/2 months of pregnancy. Thank you for your encouraging words. I am definitely camping out in God’s lap these days.

  20. I’m at the doctor’s office reading your beautiful post and the comments of brave women that understand your pain. He is God Allmighty and His will is perfect, even when it means not getting what we want. The needles, all the medication, all the visits, the tears, the questions, will never be greater than the love and strength that comes from knowing that we are daughters of the King and we are loved. Thank you Erika for being vulnerable.

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