I work professionally as a software engineer, primarily writing code that powers websites. A routine part of my job is to fix “bugs” – behaviors in the websites that don’t work as intended. It’s common among programmers to joke that some of these so-called “bugs” aren’t really bugs, but instead are “features” of the software we may have designed. Sometimes, a bug in our software actually produces behavior that’s even better than what we planned. So, I’ve often laughed with my coworkers when we discuss some of the unintended behaviors and oddities in our website, “Is it a feature or a bug?”
From the beginning of my journey with infertility, I’ve seen it as a “bug.” Infertility was never part of the plan that I had for myself or my family. As I’ve watched family and friends conceive very quickly time and time again, I’ve wondered, “Why doesn’t this natural process happen easily for my husband and me?” And when I received a diagnosis of severe endometriosis over a year ago, again I thought, “Why did God allow my body to become broken in this way? Why can’t my womb foster new life, as it’s intended and designed to do?” I’ve always seen infertility as a mistake, an unexpected deviation from the intended design of marriage and our biology.
Recently, a friend made a well-meaning but hurtful comment that some people “have to” adopt to grow their families. I found myself feeling disquieted by the comment and tried to process the emotions I was feeling in prayer. My husband and I are pursuing adoption to grow our family, and we’ve had a desire to adopt since before we married and discovered our infertility. I felt uncomfortable at the insinuation that adoption was something we “had to do,” as if it was a last resort or a substitute for biological children. And as I prayed about this comment, I received a thought that pierced my heart in such a way that I knew it had come from the Holy Spirit: “Feature, not bug.”
I realized that just as I see our adoption journey as a feature of our family’s story, a beautiful thread we are lovingly and intentionally weaving into the fabric of our family, so too does the Lord see my infertility as a feature of my life and marriage. Our infertility is not a mistake that He made when He created us. Rather, in His wisdom, He lovingly designed our lives and our marriage to include infertility. I know that Christ shares our deep sorrow in our infertility, but I am comforted that for as long as He asks us to carry this cross, I can trust that He has always fully intended for us to live through this experience as a part of His wondrous design for our lives.
It’s not always easy for me to hold onto this perspective change, and especially on the difficult days – when I receive my period yet again, when I hear of another pregnancy or birth announcement – I try to hold fast to this conviction that He has not made a mistake. And I pray that someday we’ll be able to see clearly how this suffering was the most perfect design for our marriage and for my husband’s and my salvation.
Elizabeth Tinen lives in Orange County, California with her incredible husband and best friend, Connor. Some things that bring her joy are trying new baking recipes, reading fiction, and going for long walks or hikes on sunny days.