I’m embarrassed to say that my reaction to my positive pregnancy test wasn’t what I’d dreamed it would be. After seven years of battling infertility with varying degrees of fervor, I’d told myself that I was peaceful with a life without children. I was happy in my role in full-time ministry. I had free time and a flexible work schedule, plenty of quality time with my husband, a decent income that afforded me the luxury of a daily iced coffee run, and the freedom to live my life exactly how I wanted, more or less. But last July, I stared at my first-ever positive pregnancy test with fear and dumbfoundedness. My reaction to the new life within me collided harshly with an aspect of infertility that I haven’t seen talked about much: my fear of the loss of my own life. (Not in the medical way, but in the Luke 17:33 way!)
While I was in the season of infertility, I could hide from my fears about losing my independence. I could appear to others to be free and surrendered. And while parts of that were true and authentic, parts of it were a mirage of interior peace to cover up real fears about motherhood that I was happy to not have to confront.…until I didn’t have a choice but to face those fears head on with a positive pregnancy test! And positive test or not, my wounds and fears keep me from being truly generous with my heart. Infertility was a great excuse to keep my heart protected by some walls, a good excuse to keep my love from being too generous or self-denying. I was comfortable with the demands of infertility, despite how hard it was. But the insecurity of becoming a mother and the fears that I wouldn’t have what it takes remained hidden in my heart.
I came across this line in my second trimester that I’ve prayed with often: “He is worth everything you are afraid of losing.” As much as I feared what motherhood would demand of me, I was invited by Jesus to lean into trust of Him even more radically. A few lines from the Litany of Trust echoed often in my heart as I prepared for the arrival of my daughter:
“From the fear of what love demands, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I won’t have what it takes, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute, deliver me, Jesus.”
But, as Jesus always does, His love fills the gaps. I was always worried that I wouldn’t have enough love. But His grace arrived right on schedule, and He supplied (and continues to supply) the grace to meet me in the demands of love in physical motherhood. He proved to me that I don’t need to protect my heart, because He has enough love and He is our Rabboni who teaches us how to love, no matter the season.
Now my coffee runs include a little human, my quality time with my husband happens while stuffing cloth diapers, and my holy hours include more spit up than they used to! But Jesus has proven over and over that His plan for my present and for my future is worth everything I was afraid of losing; but it turns out I haven’t lost anything because He remains with me.
For those of you who are still in the active space of primary or secondary infertility, you may notice the walls of self-protection come up in a different way, even (or especially) when reading this article about someone else conceiving. I invite you to be curious about what you’re experiencing interiorly and notice what your heart is doing. If you notice self-protection coming up in the form of hopelessness, despair, cynicism, hard-heartedness, or if you are hearing lies from the enemy, I invite you to visit the Litany of Trust and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal which aspects of trust He is inviting you to lean into. Do remember: God plays no favorites, and He cherishes you.
Some questions for reflection:
- If I’m honest, where do I see myself protecting my heart out of fear?
- What fears about physical motherhood remain in my heart? Have I been honest with myself about them? How do these affect how I live my life and love others?
- In what ways do I still “love my life” and how might Jesus be inviting me to detach?
Abby lives in South Bend, Indiana with her husband Zachary, their daughter Magnificat, and their corgi, Violet. She is an honest-to-goodness Iowan at heart who can’t imagine living anywhere but the Midwest. She spends most of her time discipling young women and equipping apostles at her parish, hanging with her crazy family, and horseback riding!