I have the incredible privilege of being a mother, by adoption, to two beautiful daughters, ages seven and four.
I had always dreamed of being a mother. As a small girl I was very maternal, subjecting the family cat to hours upon hours of riding around in my doll’s pram. As a teenager and young single adult, I found that children gravitated toward me, and I loved to babysit, teach, and play with others’ children. Children were a source of joy for me, and I was firmly committed to living the commandments, marrying in the temple, and becoming a mother in Zion.
After my mission I married a wonderful man in the temple. Being unable to have children never entered our minds, and little did we know that we were entering a seven-year roller coaster of infertility, interspersed with recurrent miscarriages.
Our journey was a lonely and heart-wrenching one. We prayed and fasted constantly for the opportunity of parenthood. My faith sometimes wore thin, but I clung desperately to stories in the Bible of Hannah, Elisabeth, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, all of whom the Lord finally blessed with children through their patience and faith. I pleaded with Him to heal me like He healed them. I imagined myself many times as the woman in the crowd with the issue of blood, reaching to touch the hem of Christ’s robe, fully believing I could be healed of whatever was gynecologically wrong with me (see Matthew 9:20-22).
As the months and years moved on, so did our peers. They married; all had their first babies, and then their second, and then their third. Though it was no fault of our friends, my husband and I felt left behind and unable to continue to relate well to other couples who were simply at a new and busy stage of their lives. Their children of course occupied all their time, thoughts, and conversation, and they tended to mix exclusively with other young families.
Others frequently misunderstood us. Many assumed that we were trying to become financially established and that I was putting my career over motherhood, when in reality I was simply aching inside for a child and would have given up my career in an instant to be a mother.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were difficult. People were unsure whether to hand me a flower at the door of the chapel or not. And the talks from the pulpit would sometimes be painful to listen to. We were happy for others who spoke of their joy in parenthood—but when would it be our turn? What were we doing wrong? I am ashamed to say that some years I would feel the emptiness so deeply that I would forget to focus on my own mother or father.
Baby blessings in sacrament meeting were difficult too. I often wept when everyone else was rejoicing! Baby showers were also awkward to attend, and sometimes I would not even be invited because people did not wish to hurt my feelings. Somehow not being invited hurt more.
Christmas morning was always quiet and lonely. We desperately wanted to hear that excited little pitter-patter of feet. I longed for a little friend with whom I could bake cookies, read about the birth of Christ, and share the excitement of opening gifts!
Other difficult times were our miscarried babies’ due dates, which loomed heavy in the months and even years following each miscarriage.
Through it all, I often felt angry with my body for letting me and my husband and children down.
Despite the aching emptiness infertility can bring, I have come to understand that life can still be full and rich and that it is worth the effort to make it so. One of the positives of childlessness is that there is relatively more downtime to focus on such pursuits as spiritual growth, service, education, and the development of talents. Below are some things I personally found helpful during our battle with infertility.
Draw Closer to Heavenly Father
I believe, in hindsight, that though very painful, infertility gave me a unique opportunity to prepare spiritually and temporally for motherhood. The quiet time that is so rare when one is a parent of young children is fairly available to a childless couple. My husband and I tried to use these opportunities to counsel frequently with Heavenly Father in prayer, ponder blessings and questions, and seek direction.
Search the Scriptures
Two main blessings came to me as I searched the scriptures frequently. First, I found much-needed comfort in the words of the Lord and His prophets and through Holy Ghost. Second, I was able to learn many helpful infertility-related principles by the Spirit. For example:
- I learned how, despite her immense grief, the childless Hannah remained faithful in her duties, in particular regular temple attendance (see 1 Samuel 1).
- I learned also that some of God’s most elect children came to parents who had been especially prepared for parenthood by the Lord through the refiner’s fire of infertility and that there is always purpose in the Lord withholding blessings for a time. The Lord is able to extend His “great mercy” (Luke 1:58) and show forth His power by way of miracles, proving to His faith-filled children that, in the words of Elisabeth, “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
- I read how even the mothers of prophets had their tearful moments during their infertility. Hannah fretted so much for want of a child that she “did not eat” and “wept sore” in “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:7,10). I feel sure that she must have found it especially hard each time she watched Peninnah bear and nurture a child. Rachael also ached deeply (Genesis 30:1), as did other “barren” women. Their stories have helped me realize that it is OK to cry about childlessness and that the experience is heart-wrenching for even the most faith-filled women.
- Of course, there are other, more general principles to draw from the scriptures. I particularly found hope and comfort in Doctrine & Covenants 98:1–3: “Fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
“Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
“Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.”
Build a Celestial Marriage
My husband and I consciously made every effort to build a strong marriage, which has proved to be a wonderful foundation upon which to raise our children. We took a celestial marriage class together at institute and discussed and incorporated the principles we learned, such as making deliberate and continual efforts to display loving behavior and use loving words. We strove continually to understand and love each other more. We dated frequently, which is an easy thing to do without children! All of these things, along with the extra maturity that comes with the passage of time, have been invaluable in becoming a strong parenting team.
Find Things You Enjoy Doing
I decided to use my free time to pursue hobbies and wholesome leisure activities. My husband and I went on vacation to places we knew would be difficult visit when we had young children. I also loved regular jogging, developed a keen interest in vegetable and herb gardening, and took a variety of fun night-school classes to learn new skills.
Pursue Additional Education
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) counseled members of the Church to gain as much education as we possibly can.1 I unfortunately passed up an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree because I was convinced that motherhood would come soon. But year after year, that did not happen. Planning and timetabling for the future in specific ways was nearly impossible for us in our position. My husband and I certainly made decisions prayerfully and using the best judgment we had at the time, but in hindsight I wish I had used that time to pursue postgraduate education.
Church callings are a wonderful opportunity to enrich our lives, but many other community-based service opportunities are available as well. In addition to participating in such service, my husband and I sponsored an underprivileged child from a developing nation and found great satisfaction in receiving letters about his health and educational progress. It was hugely refreshing to focus on people other than myself.
Seek Counsel and Priesthood Blessings
I gained much strength from the counsel of my husband and my parents during my childlessness. I sought priesthood blessings when I felt I needed extra strength, assurance, and direction. Some of the counsel in my patriarchal blessing also became clearer to me in light of my situation with infertility.
I found “nesting” activities surprisingly helpful on a practical level in dealing with infertility. Creating a sanctuary of our home and garden somehow helped me continue to prepare and hope for a child. I created lovely things for our home and kept it neat and clean. I purchased simple things for the baby I knew would come to us somehow, sometime, and I put them away lovingly in a special place. This helped me to keep my faith and hope alive and continue to look forward to motherhood.
I found it very therapeutic to write poetry and music about the things I was feeling and principles I was learning from the scriptures. I believe it is important to make the most of quiet, uninterrupted time. After all, when children come, quiet moments are few and far between!
Celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
My husband and I decided early on that we would celebrate these special days regardless of the current presence, or absence, of our children. Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26) even before she bore children, and I was so touched the first time my husband decided to do some special things for me on Mother’s Day because I was the mother of his children!
I also believe it is important to try, despite whatever personal grief we may feel, to focus on our own parents on Mother’s and Father’s Day and express gratitude to them.
As difficult as it can be, I know from experience that it is imperative that we try to be understanding of others’ lack of understanding. Some comments or questions can be extremely hurtful, but it is important to give others the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time, thoughtless comments, while painful, are well-meant.
Keep a Journal
I found it very healing to frequently write down my thoughts and feelings about my childlessness and my struggles with infertility. As I read back now, I can see the clear pattern of growth and spiritual development that emerged as I pressed on in faith, and I can see clearly how the Lord’s plan for me and my husband has unfolded perfectly in the Lord’s own time and way. Specifically, I have been able to see the hand of the Lord as I have read back over the thoughts, impressions, and events I recorded in the months preceding the birth and adoption of each of our daughters. One day when the time is right, I will let each of them read my journal, and I know they will be in no doubt that the Lord did indeed carefully and miraculously orchestrate their coming to our family.
To conclude, I believe that in some unique way, infertility, the lonely struggle that it is, can be a wonderful opportunity for growing, enriching marriage, developing knowledge and talents, and serving others. My faith has been renewed, and I can see in hindsight how perfectly the Lord has orchestrated His plan for my husband, our daughters, and me to become a family, and how He has prepared my husband and me, through infertility, to raise these special children.
I have also come to better understand how much Heavenly Father loves me as His daughter. I know I can fully trust Him to answer my prayers in the way and in the time frame that will ultimately be best for me. I have learned experientially that it is far better to “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart” rather than to “lean . . . unto [my] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
God did not heal my body like I initially pleaded for Him to do, but He has nevertheless healed my heart and my Spirit. I now rejoice with Hannah: “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27).
- See Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 2.