Surrender. For most of us the word has, to a greater or lesser extent, a negative connotation. Those of us on this path of infertility and loss know just how seemingly impossible and yet unavoidable the reality of surrender is. Yet what does surrender in a season of infertility even look like? This question is one I’ve pondered repeatedly over the past five years. Does surrender mean discontinuing even morally acceptable treatments? Does it mean giving up the dream of ever having any (or more) biological children? If I’m truly surrendered, would I stop praying for the miracle of a child? While the details surrounding surrender still remain mysterious to me, I’ve begun to feel that ultimately it is an attitude of acceptance and quiet hope, confident in the goodness of God’s plan, no matter what it might be.

In the first few weeks after my diagnosis, I was energized with a conviction that if I did all the things I would get pregnant. Despite great fears and huge lifestyle changes, I dove 100% into the diet, the exercise regime, the supplements and the prescriptions. There was almost no doubt in my mind that we would eventually have a child. After all, I was taking all my doctor’s advice and so many people were praying for us. In my characteristic stubborn and choleric way of thinking, I assumed that if I had enough willpower, I could achieve conception despite my body’s brokenness. 

After several months and significant health improvements but no baby, I began to wonder if I really would conceive after all. I remember sobbing on the floor of my bedroom while my pregnant sister-in-law chatted away in the living room. “Why, Lord? Why her and not me? Am I not pursuing all the right treatments within the laws of the Church? Have I not sacrificed enough? Will You not bless my efforts?” The hot, angry tears of someone trying to brute force her way into her own will coursed down my cheeks. I felt cornered. The Lord was not answering my prayers the way I wanted Him to, and I felt there was no other option than to give up my dream.

As I began to consider that maybe a child wasn’t in my future after all, I stopped praying for a baby altogether. If God wouldn’t answer my prayers then I would stop asking. Gently, however, through the Springs in the Desert content and my husband’s wise counsel, I started to see that my refusal to ask for a child wasn’t true surrender, but a shadow of my lingering self-will. I had stopped praying for a child because it hurt too much and because I felt rejected by God – not because I didn’t still want a child or because I truly was at peace with my experience of infertility. 

Only the passage of time and the grace of God slowly softened my heart. As I began to acknowledge that there are other gifts besides biological motherhood, I could see there were so many good things the Lord was lavishing upon me. My marriage was good and beautiful, and the fruit of our shared suffering was starting to ripen. There were ways my husband and I could be fruitful together, and goals to pursue together beyond parenthood. Our cross of infertility was a beautiful gift Jesus had given to us. My desire became to accept all the Lord had planned for us. The angry, backed-into-a-corner submission was replaced with a feeling of surrender and peace. I could trust the heart of the Father to give me only good gifts, so I could stop attempting to control what they were. 

Still worried about whether it was fitting to continue praying for a miracle baby, I asked a priest during a retreat if it was okay to keep praying for the gift of a child. Now almost three years out from my diagnosis, I was ready to admit that while I still deeply desired a child, my primary aspiration was surrender to the Will of God. Not the defiant, angry “well, fine!” submission of that sob-session on my bedroom floor, but the hopeful, quiet peace of leaving it to Our Lord. “Yes,” said the gentle priest, “it is good to continue asking for a baby when that’s on your heart. And it is also fine that some days you no longer feel the need to ask. Your prayer can reflect what you’re feeling on a particular day.” And that quiet openness and receptivity is what I believe lies at the heart of true surrender. “Grant that I may love You always, and do with me what You will.”

Katie Summers and her husband Matthew were married on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2019 and live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She enjoys early morning Holy Hours, cooking with Matthew, listening to podcasts, and drinking vanilla lattes.