Would I Ever Be a Mother?


Through years of childlessness, I learned that if I had patience and charity, the Spirit could help fill the void in my life.

“Did you hear that Sister Tanner is having another baby?” my best friend asked at her own baby shower. I was happy about the news, but at the same time, I couldn’t help aching inside. It was Sister Tanner’s fifth pregnancy, and I had been waiting and hoping for years to hear a similar announcement made about me.

Feelings of isolation and loneliness flooded over me as I listened to other women talk about their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. How I wanted to share in their lively conversations! In the past few years I had spent endless days feeling sorry for myself. I had had enough of tests, temperature taking, charting, and graphing to last a lifetime.

But the day I nearly gave up turned out to be the day that gave me even more reason to carry on. I had an appointment with a specialist in a town fifty miles away, and I arrived at the doctor’s office hoping that it would be my last visit. What I did not know was that I was not going to see my regular physician; he was on an emergency call and his associate would be filling in.

The substitute entered the examination room, looked at my chart, and glanced up only long enough to say his name and make sure I was who I was supposed to be. As he examined me he spoke briskly, saying, “I don’t even know why you’re here. I don’t think you will ever get pregnant!”

I was speechless. How could he be so insensitive! His words “I don’t think you will ever get pregnant” echoed in my brain long after I left the office.

It was a miserable ride home. Is having a baby worth all this? I wondered as I sobbed uncontrollably. But as I was feeling this doubt, the Spirit spoke to me clearly and distinctly: “Find the bright side of this adversity.”

It was as if a light had turned on inside my brain. I began to regain my composure. Instead of feeling defeated over my most recent setback, I was filled with gratitude. I was healthy, I was married to Don, a wonderful priesthood holder, and we still had plenty of years to continue to try to bring a child of God into the world. I determined then that I would be happy no matter what happened.

That experience turned out to be the best medicine I could have received. It was then that I began to seek the positive and sometimes even humorous aspects of my infertility. Doing this changed my whole attitude and gave me new perspective for dealing with my challenges.

Take, for example, the difference in how I handled the question friends and family always asked, the one I dreaded most: “Are you pregnant yet?” I knew they meant well, but the follow-up responses to my negative answer—“Well, Susan, I’m sure in the hereafter you’ll be a mother” or “Just don’t think about it, and I’m sure you’ll get pregnant”—didn’t offer much comfort. But I began to use this question as an opportunity to share an informative, interesting, or humorous piece of knowledge about my condition. This took the pressure out of the situation and helped me better appreciate everyone’s concern for me.

I soon began to see the positives of the seemingly endless doctor visits and tests as well. Since my physicians were always behind schedule, I learned to be productive as I spent hours in waiting rooms. I read the Ensign, New Era, and Church News from cover to cover on a regular basis. My nails were immaculately manicured, my bills were always paid on time, my checkbook was always balanced, and I never owed a friend a letter—some people even said that I wrote back too soon. My mending stayed caught up, my recipe file was in order, and my purse was free of old receipts and shopping lists. Sometimes I wished I could have taken my ironing board with me without looking suspicious.

At first, I shunned personal contact with anyone in the waiting room because most of the women were pregnant, and I felt envious of them. But when I changed my attitude, I began to enjoy the people I met and the things I learned from them. Because I spent so much time with pregnant women, I gained great insight into what I had to look forward to—like not being able to fasten my shoes in the later months of pregnancy and not being able to see over my stomach to read the scale. (That seemed to be a blessing in disguise!) I learned to enjoy listening to their stories, and I took mental notes for the future. In turn, the other women often asked why I was seeing the doctor, and their interest in my dilemma helped give me strength to keep trying.

Don and I were grateful to have the gospel to guide us as we considered each new medical discovery about infertility. There were some amazing breakthroughs, but some of them raised moral and ethical questions. We prayed and relied on the Spirit and the standards of the gospel to help us make decisions.

These were challenging times for us. Even minor surgical procedures brought financial burdens, emotional stress, physical discomfort, and periods of recuperation. How could I find anything positive in those times? Evaluating what was really important helped to ease the strain. When I would start to feel pressured, I would ask myself two questions: Does the financial burden interfere with paying a full tithe or with meeting financial obligations? Does the emotional or physical stress interfere with my Church activity or with doing the Lord’s work? If I could answer each question with an emphatic no, I knew that the Lord would sustain me and that the sacrifices were just temporary inconveniences.

One of the most important things that came out of our trial was the bond Don and I developed. My greatest physical and emotional strength came from my eternal companion. He was always optimistic, and he never complained. He sacrificed alongside me financially, emotionally, and physically.

Don’t get me wrong—there were still hard times. Mother’s Day at church was always the worst time. It was difficult for me to hold back the tears as each mother received a flower. But with each passing year, I held fast to my hope and continued to look for the positive, knowing that someday I would stand among them.

Six years of not giving up led to our dream coming true. I finally was able to join in those conversations at baby showers. But being blessed with a child has not lessened my empathy for other women who may never give birth here upon the earth. There are many faithful, righteous couples who seek medical help as we did but are still unable to conceive. These couples face the painful challenge of accepting that fact.

I remember that pain. I know that I could not have endured without the companionship of my husband and the comfort of the Holy Ghost. I feel certain that whether or not we are blessed with the ability to bear children, we can reap the blessing of peace if we are faithful and endure to the end—in a positive way.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark

Susan Zimmerman serves as a Sunday School teacher in the Visalia California Stake.