When I hear people’s stories of infertility, particularly if they align with mine, or when someone shares a diagnosis I’m familiar with and asks for encouragement and for hope, my instinct is to respond: I’ve walked a similar path; I understand your struggle – yes, I can offer great hope! But then I remember, it is not the hope she wants. She is looking for stories of someone like her, but who after treatment had all the children she had dreamed of, or at the very least a beautiful miracle baby. She wants me to tell her the surgery will work, that there is abundant hope for children. That is certainly what I wanted to hear when I first began this journey through infertility. But that is not the hope I have to offer.

I cannot offer hope in that form of testimony. What I can offer is the truth that I am living with, the experience of abundance in the life she does not want. I am years on and more than one surgery in. Yes, I had had a Nook surgeon; and, yes, I have had a NaPro surgeon. But no, my arms still have not held the children I long for. And yet I have more real hope now than I did when this journey began.

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For years I thought I knew what hope was: believing every month that a miracle might happen. But this hope led to despair and desolation. The ups and downs of countless negative pregnancy tests and painfully regular but fruitless cycles left me scarred and embittered. At best hope seemed futile, but more often it felt like toxic positivity offering a temporary high only to leave me to crash under the crushing sense of my own idiocy. I felt betrayed and like I had failed. If only I had faith the size of a mustard seed, wouldn’t my prayers be answered then?! Instead, my faith felt weaker as the months went by, and the Lord seemed further away.

Occasionally a new treatment or a new devotion would temporarily raise me to a peaceful place. But the passing weeks inevitably led right back to that same dark cycle of hope and despair. Until finally I broke under the weight of it all, the lie that this is what hope looks like. My preconceived notions of God and His goodness, marriage and motherhood, healing and hope, faith and fruitfulness lay shattered before me, and I passed them over to the Lord. And I waited. I stopped resting my hope in each cycle. Some would say I gave up hope, but that suggests hope is a pendulum swinging between holding fast to dreams or utter emptiness. But the other end of hope is not an abyss of despair; it is surrender. Radical, hard-work, heart-rending surrender of every last shard of my hopes and my heart into the hands of God. And then waiting on the slow, sure revelation of what real hope entails: new life in God and joy beyond what answered prayers can bring.

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So now I’m overflowing with truth that she does not want to hear. This is one of the hardest paths I ever could have conceived of walking in marriage. I have never uttered so many desperate, seemingly-unanswered prayers. My heart has never been so shattered, but also so restored. I have never felt so weak and broken, yet I have never been so strong. My loving God has never seemed so far away while silently drawing so near. I have been broken down and open and experienced deeper healing than I knew I needed. I have wrestled with the Lord, and now I cling to Him, swearing I will not let go until He blesses me. He blesses me, and I hold fast anyway.

I have hope to offer – not the hope she wants but the hope she needs. Our loving Father hears every cry of her heart, holds every tear she sheds. Her life is meaningful and beautiful and blessed. Whatever the outcome of her diagnosis and journey, the world needs her and the fullness of her gifts. She can have a life of abundant fruitfulness and she can experience joy in moments and seasons she never envisioned could be happy unless God gave her the children she had prayed for. Infertility does not need to impoverish her soul or her marriage. “Carry on bravely,” as St. Zelie Martin says, for the hope is very real and very near. The Lord will turn His face upon you and bless you as you hold fast to Him.

Bernadette has been married since 2018, works part-time as a technical research analyst, and resides in Ohio with her husband and Golden Retriever. She loves reading, baking, and watching sunsets from her kitchen stoop.