It was normal day. Another afternoon, relaxing in the living room, talking about what we were going to do that day. Ring, ring… Unknown caller. When I answered it, I realized quickly that it was the doctor. Doctors never call. The nurses call. I sat down on the couch next to my husband and put the phone on speaker.
“I’m sorry, but you will never be able to have children. Your husband’s body does not have a single sperm.”
Those words. Those words from that one man have never left my mind. The tears came without notice. What do you say next? “Thanks, Doc.” No. I didn’t say a word. My husband said, “Ok” and we hung up. Time stopped. It wasn’t a normal day anymore. It wasn’t just another afternoon. Our world as we saw it changed. Minutes felt like hours. We didn’t move from the couch. We sobbed. We grieved our plans and our desires. The only words uttered were, “I’m sorry” from my husband. Our three-year-old, climbed up on the couch and cried with us. He knew something was wrong.
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It was the Summer of 2003 in a conference room with hundreds of other High School students when I heard the Gospel for the very first time. I was a senior, and already had my long list of sins that counted me unqualified. My whole life I searched in all the wrong places for love. Anything to make me feel like I worth something. But that night a man came and stood in front of me and shared Christ in such a surreal way. He didn’t know me and he didn’t know my pain, but God did and He spoke directly to it through this man.
“You are a daughter of the King. The Creator of the universe thinks that you are beautiful. He sees you and knows you.”
Go back and read that again slowly this time, because it was those two sentences that captured every broken piece inside of me. That night I surrendered my life to Christ. Little did I know what was ahead. But God! He knew and He still chose me.
I went off to college a few short months later with no Bible, no believing friends, and no real sense of what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. I joined a Bible study on campus and it was great, but I was afraid to speak, quickly realizing my biblical knowledge was lacking. I saw something different in them. They were always kind, and encouraging. It was not the norm. There were my Bible study friends and then there were my other friends. It was like a tug-of-war. I knew I needed a change and I really began to search for the Lord. I decided I would transfer to a Christian university in Florida. It was all looking so promising. The only bend in the plan was that around this same time I was in a relationship…
The little girl inside held me captive. I craved love and attention from my parents. When that didn’t happen, I settled on a man. An outsider would run away as fast as they could. But when you’re in it, you don’t see clearly. Of course, at the beginning he was thoughtful and, well, smooth. I fell, and I fell quickly. He was everything I said I wouldn’t do. Over a year later and hundreds of miles apart, we were still together. I will spare you the roller coaster of emotions and stories of abuse that took place during that season.
Then July of 2005 hit me like a ton a bricks. “I…I… I think I’m pregnant.” Soon I was packing my things and headed his way. I took numerous pregnancy tests and did blood work and everything confirmed it was true. The next day we headed to a clinic to get a check-up. Well, at least that’s what I thought.
He dropped me off and left saying, “Go take care of this; I’ll give you the money.”
“What?” I sat in the parking lot for what felt like forever and cried. “No” I sobbed. There is a life inside of me. Everything in my being stood against it. No! An abortion was not an option for me. I could barely breathe. I pleaded with God. I begged Him. “Do you still love me?” I asked over and over and over again. I pulled myself up off the ground and walked into the clinic. To my surprise it was a Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center. It was as if God was answering my prayer saying, “Yes, I love you!” I sat on their couch and sobbed while several counselors tried to comfort me without success. I had made up my mind regardless of the cost. I was going to be a mother.
That winter of 2006 I was exhausted and anxious for what the future would hold. Just three months shy of my due date, with legs up in stirrups doctors came rushing in. My heart began to race. “What is going on?” With no response the doctors began their lingo… “12 o’clock and 1 o’clock.” They moved what looked like a telescope closer to me. Maybe it was my young face with no ring on my finger, or maybe my government health care, or maybe their ignorance? Whatever the reason, they felt it wasn’t necessary to tell me what was going on and also that it was somehow okay to bring medical students in to observe me like a test subject. My inner parts were looked at, examined and talked about as if I wasn’t there. Is this normal?
My thoughts were interrupted with the doctor’s voice. “Is there anyone here you would like us to call back?”
”Umm…yeah, my friend.” Thoughts went racing through my head. What could this be? What’s wrong with my baby? Why didn’t they tell me? With a knock at the door and my friend at my side, the doctor sat quietly and pulled out a pamphlet. All I saw was the C word.
C-A-N-C-E-R. Wait, what? I’m 21 years old. How could this be? Maybe it is my punishment. I couldn’t make my mind stop.
At some point the Doctor asked, “Leah, do have any questions?”
“I don’t understand… what’s going to happen to my baby?” It was the first time I felt like a mother. I was concerned for another being I had never met. All I remember was the doctor explaining that he needed to get the cancer cells out, and get them out soon.
“But what are the chances I will lose him?”
“I cannot guarantee anything; the cells are surrounding your mucus plug.”
“But I only have a few months left! No! No, I’m not having the
Tears streamed down my face. I made a follow-up appointment as urged by the doctor, but to everyone’s surprise I was comfortable with my decision. I didn’t care if it got worse, I would deal with that when it came. I went home and sat in his room. It was filled with my love already. I remember putting together his crib and the changing table I worked an extra shift to buy. I held the teddy bear that I gently laid in his crib for the day he would come home. It was worth every struggle.
And I knew this was just the beginning.
In spring of 2008 I had a perfectly healthy two-year-old boy. We faced our fair share of struggles. I was working full time, going to college, and trying to be the best single mom with no financial support from anyone. On top of the daunting efforts of daily life, we also dealt with court dates, restraining orders, and fear. After failed attempts using steroids and other medications to clear the cancer cells, it was time to make a decision about surgery. This time the decision was not mine alone, because I was newly engaged.
The weight of the decision burdened us greatly. I would not be able to have any more children after the surgery, because they would have to remove too much of my cervix. We prayed, we grieved, and we agreed. I was not getting any better and this was the next step in the process. The surgery date was scheduled and completed. I felt like I let my soon-to-be-husband down before we were even married. I wouldn’t be able to bear him children. Again I wondered if this was my punishment.
In August of 2009 we became one flesh and we were finally doing family life! It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was so hard I wanted to give up several times. I only knew how to be broken. I only knew how to be independent. I only knew how to be a single mom. Thank God our marriage didn’t depend on me or on my spouse. We had to become fully dependent and focused on Christ or we would fail. 2009 came and went. 2010 came and we got a miracle. We moved to a different state, so I scheduled an appointment with a new OBGYN. I was getting used to seeing them often, as I had to go every 6 months. But this time was different. I received news only Jesus could bring.
“If you didn’t tell me you had surgery, I would never have known! You don’t have any scar tissue or anything. You’re perfectly healthy.”
Perfectly healthy. Those words still haven’t left me. Being sick so much of my life, I held tightly to those words. We had the clearance to have babies. And I desired babies! Yes, plural. I wanted a house full of children. We praised God for the miracle of healing. The burden we were secretly carrying around was now lifted. But 2011 came and went. 2012 came and went. With each passing year we got better at focusing on Christ and letting go of our expectations for each other. But one thing remained: I never got pregnant.
Every late period was a letdown, every craving I thought I was having was all in my head. Every ovulation thermometer was a waste of time and money. With every baby I held, jealousy arose. Every prayer focused on getting pregnant had a hidden sense of false hope. We were officially labeled infertile. But I was perfectly healthy. What was wrong? Maybe I was being punished again? After much persuasion, my husband went to see a specialist for men and he underwent surgery to check his sperm count and clear any blockage. But, you remember that call. The one that changed everything. The one that stopped time. The prayers got harder and more desperate after that. I was angry. I was disillusioned. I was dissatisfied.
“God! Why? You healed me, to bring us to this?!” The conversation would start this way and end in tears of shame and guilt. This must be my punishment. We were prayed over so many times. We prayed such prayers of faith, believing God would heal and restore him. We prayed that we would conceive many, many times. My husband has always been better at this than me. I never really made it a place where I could accept the fact that we might not get pregnant. My conversation with God has always been one-sided. I do all the talking and waiting. Neither my husband nor I feel like God answered with a yes or no. Silence is harder. Silence leaves you wondering. Silence keeps you hanging on to the possible miracle. Silence keeps you in your cycle shame of guilt and perceived punishment. Silence doesn’t allow you to move forward.
Mixed into all the waiting, 2010 started our journey on the mission field. We tell everyone we have never learned so much about ourselves, marriage, and God. We have served overseas and stateside as house parents to at-risk youth. Those years were stretching both mentally and spiritually. There were many times the enemy would taunt me with the thought that I wasn’t worthy to have more children; only good enough to care for others’ children. These thoughts would always lead to a path of destruction and internal anguish.
Countless times people would ask, “Why don’t you have more children? How many of these children are actually yours?” Their questions of ignorance would burn with searing pain into my heart, but God was using that as prompting. God was stirring my heart to set me free of my past.
I knew I needed to tell my son, Isaiah, his story. I knew I needed to come face-to-face with my guilt and my fears. Fears leave you paralyzed. They leave you stuck and unable to move. This story was a part of him and it was honestly beautiful. We all deserve death for our sins, but God gave me life instead. He gave me a child I didn’t deserve; a child who would remind me that God loves me. Isaiah is handsome, sensitive, caring, artistic, and so loving. His story is one of love, grace, and forgiveness. The story that was once filled with pain is now filled with redemption. It is true that the truth will set you free. And freedom is weightless. It allows you to move.
In 2015, I became a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. God’s grace was sufficient. Every girl I met reminded me of myself with their questions, their worries, and their shattered hope. I saw myself again sitting in that same chair. God did amazing things that year. My story was no longer a secret. I was at a training seminar in Georgia and in walked the speaker. My whole body froze. I knew her. I knew her well. She was the woman who didn’t pass judgment. Our eyes met. We began to talk and the memory of those moments came back to her. She was the counselor at the pregnancy center who met me in my moment of despair almost a decade before. It was an absolutely redeeming day. I thanked her over and over for extending Christ to me in my darkness.
As we recalled the details of that day, she was unaware of how I had found the center and ended up in their parking lot. She was overcome with emotion and said, “Planned Parenthood is right next to us.” It was as if God shed more light onto the power of His divine intervention and faithfulness that day and I’d never even been aware of it. God was there before I was. He knows everything. God had brought my story full-circle.
God has continued to allow me to serve his children and display His love in the different ministries and countries He has called us to. This was not my punishment, but a privilege. God gave me the ability to love without restrictions. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). He remembers my sins no more as far as from east to the west.
There is power in our tongue to speak life or death (Proverbs 18:21). Before, in the darkness, I hung onto the words of mere man and affixed myself to their damage. All along I needed to anchor myself, my mind, my emotions, and my attitude to the One who speaks truth: the One who is truth. I want to crawl up into His lap like a child, and be wrapped in my Daddy’s arms. I want to be taken and held captive by Him and the Word that was so precisely written out of love for me. Fellowship. Affection. Closeness. Tenderness. Romance. Satisfaction. Trust. Confidence. All wrapped up in this one relationship with Jesus Christ. Oh, how grateful I am that I have this now. No man could ever treat me better or change the love I have experienced. Nothing will ever compare. Not even being pregnant.
I am reminded that NOTHING can separate me from the love of God. Not even infertility. It doesn’t mean God loves me any less or someone else any more. It doesn’t mean God hasn’t heard my prayer, or that I’m not praying hard enough. It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough or forgiven enough. Those are lies straight from the pit of Hell! My hope was displaced. I had hopes to be pregnant, hopes for healing, hopes for receiving a positive test. But ultimately my hope had to be found in the One who brings hope; the One who is immovable, confident, and does not disappoint.
I still feel so disqualified to write my story. I had my chance. The enemy has reminded me of that with every line I write. I am reminded by every grieving woman I meet who hasn’t yet experienced bringing a child into this world. I am reminded when I share with the few people I confide in about our infertility. I see the confused looks on their faces because we already have a child and then endure the probing questions that will inevitably follow. My shame and guilt rise up and sometimes I excuse myself from the conversation, which only defeats the courage I need to ever try to share it again. The grip of the enemy I know too well. He had power over this for too long.
Yet here I am. I will not submit any longer to his deceitfulness and lies, but instead I will come under the grace of God. I want to tell my story and be free, because the truth will set you free. I know that God loves me and there is nothing I can ever do to change that. I know that God is for me and not against me. The fact is, my husband and I can’t get pregnant on our own. The truth is, God can do anything! And even if God chooses not to, He is still God and worthy of my praise. It is not what God does that makes him worthy, but who He is. And that changes everything.