I can still feel the chill of the small room, the icy stirrups under my heels, the sweetness of Sprite® lingering on my tongue as I lay on the examination table. I tried to sit up too quickly and nearly fainted when I saw the specimen, and a tidal wave of nausea pinned me back down to the bed.
The endometrial biopsy didn’t last too long, but the intensity of the pain was unlike anything I had ever felt before. The medical instrument shot a sensation through my lower abdomen that instantaneously seeped into my lower back and hips that was sharp, dull, hot, and cold, all at the same time.
Lying on the table with clenched teeth, I cried out to Jesus in my heart, I’m not sure I can even handle having kids if it’s going to be worse than this!
It’s hard to believe that was almost exactly two years ago this month; both the physical and emotional sensations are still so readily accessible.
My journey with infertility actually started back in January 2015, the year I would turn thirty. I felt a heavy weight as I entered into a new decade. I wasn’t in the camp of my girlfriends from my hometown of San Francisco who were steadily building careers and making six figures, nor was I in the camp of some of my girlfriends in Nashville who were SAHMs and on baby number three by my age.
During these years of officially being diagnosed with infertility, the hardest news for me was that even after the endometrial biopsy and several other painful testings (and awkward testing for my husband), we still had no explanation: Nothing was broken, and everything was “normal.”
“That’s great news!” a lot of friends would say. “There’s hope!”
But those words often hurt more in the moment than they helped. Proverbs 25:20 says, “Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda” (CSB).
I felt violated and angry that God allowed me to experience such pain and that I agreed to have it inflicted on my body. Instead of being relieved and grateful for a good report, I felt shame and humiliation because the negative results didn’t help explain why things weren’t adding up. I felt like the living definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
It was hard to explain to friends—and even my husband—why I was hesitant to go further with any other invasive procedures that proved to help people we personally knew. One friend asked me, “If you really want this, why wouldn’t you just do it?” Though in my heart I know she meant well, it triggered shame in me that I wasn’t doing enough and caused me to wonder if I was being stubborn and prideful in not wanting to go through with it.
But the fear of disappointment and inviting in more pain is something I’ve always wrestled with in any situation, and in regards to having children, one of my friends said it best: “Something that should be free and enjoyable is turned into something expensive and painful.” Double whammy.
I wish there was a clear yes or no answer in the Bible about this topic because having to deal with decisions most other women will never have to make is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. But when I have gone to God’s Word and read stories about real women who also struggled with infertility, I’ve found them to be surprisingly relatable, endearing, and comforting. I wish I could have coffee with those women and ask them for wisdom on how I can wait, hope, and pray better, how I can navigate my options, and how I can graciously deal with people around me who don’t seem to understand how much of a roller coaster infertility can be.
Two Old Testament women I’d love to chat with in heaven someday are:
- Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Sarah tried to take matters into her own hands by suggesting her husband sleep with her maid, Hagar. When Hagar gave birth to a son, you can only imagine what kind of resentment and drama ensued. (See Gen. 16.) Later, when she overheard God telling Abraham she would have a child herself (at seventy-five years old), she laughed at God—then had the audacity to deny she laughed when He called her out on it! (See Gen. 18:10-15.)
- Hannah, Elkanah’s wife. Hannah was in the temple praying in such a way—where her mouth was moving but nothing was coming out—that the priest, Eli, literally accused her of being drunk. She responded that she was just “a woman with a broken heart . . . praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment” (1 Sam. 1:9-16, CSB).
The fact that God chose to include these and many other stories of barrenness and hope in His Word—and spend so much time detailing them—encourages me that God truly does care about the heart sick from waiting. (See Prov. 13:12.)
Through Sarah, who took matters into her own hands and then laughed at God’s seemingly ridiculous plan, God displayed His great love, forgiveness, and faithfulness. And through Hannah, who was honest about her resentment and bitterness, God showed how much He valued her heart’s trust in Him, and He rewarded her by giving her freedom from her despondency.
If I’ve learned one thing from these two women, it’s that God knows our human frailty and loves us anyway. We can come before Him with broken hearts and know He won’t be turned off or say something hurtful. Most importantly, He’ll do what He’s going to do—because He is faithful.
I love that both Sarah and Hannah’s stories ended with each of them being blessed with children. I still hope and pray that our story ends that way as well, but already, this gift of infertility has revealed God to me in a way I would never trade for anything else. He is enough for me.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me” (2 Cor. 12:9, CSB).
Amanda Mae Steele is a writer and photographer, and serves on the B&H Publishing team at Lifeway. Born and raised in California, Amanda Mae ultimately ended up in the Nashville area – probably because of her double name, as well as her and her husband Nick’s background in music. She is a proud dog-mama to Dino and is passionate about people, creativity, and different cultures.