Fathom Mag
Article

From Barren to John the Baptist

Seeing Elizabeth through my own new eyes.

Published on:
April 22, 2019
Read time:
3 min.
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In October 2015 I went in for an ultrasound and came out with an appointment for surgery to finish the miscarriage my body wouldn’t acknowledge was happening. Two more miscarriages followed. I filled the time between the two miscarriages with specialists and surgery to correct what was broken in my body—hoping that it would be enough. The third miscarriage proved to us that it wasn’t.

The Work of Reading

Three years of loss and medical procedures left us exhausted. We decided that 2018 would be a year to heal and hope. We bought our first home—thrilled to leave our grief-soaked rental behind. I renovated the new rooms. I removed the wallpaper and painted. We uncovered original oak floors on our first night. I loved how sunlight poured through the large windows. 

I found myself wondering about Elizabeth. After conceiving, she hid herself and her pregnancy for five months. A note in my Bible states that the reason she hid was unclear, but I have a guess.

I chose 2019 to be a year of working on my mind and heart and made lists of books, excluding the easy refuge of romance novels. I didn’t put the Bible on my list. I could list excuses: We hadn’t found a church. I didn’t think I’d find anything particularly relevant. I didn’t want general assurances of comfort. But mostly I avoided the Bible because I was a different person than I had been. I didn’t know how to approach the book the girl I used to be grew up reading. 

So I put the book on my shelf and endured the pain. Yet that pain brought prayers—prayers that could expose the wounds I’d hidden but had gone unhealed. And turning to God in prayer sent me turning to God in his word. Bible in hand but no less lost, I needed a reading plan to guide me. I started reading, uncertain that the Bible had anything for me. Then my plan took me to Luke 1, and the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist. 

Understanding Elizabeth and Trusting God

I shouldn’t have been surprised that grief would change how I interact with the Bible. But as I read about Elizabeth’s barrenness, I stopped. Barren. 

My husband and I have learned that if our struggle comes up in conversation, people assume that we can’t conceive: that I, like Elizabeth, am barren. I went to an infertility specialist, after all, even though my fertility had repeatedly been proven. Sometimes we correct them. Usually, we force a smile and change the subject. 

I found myself wondering about Elizabeth. After conceiving, she hid herself and her pregnancy for five months. A note in my Bible states that the reason she hid was unclear, but I have a guess. With each successive pregnancy and loss, the circle of people we told grew smaller and smaller. Both the hope and the sorrow of others was too much for me. If I was “advanced in years,” years full of loss of children or of hope, wouldn’t I have hidden away, too? Was Elizabeth escaping the sympathetic eyes of her neighbors, the well-intentioned questions that still cut, the trite sayings of “comfort” that made her want to scream? Did she wake up every morning and hope that she would have one more day with her baby, a day no blood appeared on her robes? 

Surely she needed that long to believe that maybe this time would be different. Maybe she chose five months on the safe side, not knowing when to start counting the months.

The amount of time stood out: five months is well into the second trimester. As someone who once came close to the magical second trimester only to have it end in a wash of crimson at a Christmas party, five months seems like a miracle. Surely she needed that long to believe that maybe this time would be different. Maybe she chose five months on the safe side, not knowing when to start counting the months. 

When Elizabeth finally gave birth, her neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her. These people had likely seen her grieve over the years. Tears of happiness flowed down faces shining with love for her, not just for the baby in her arms. 

Her story wasn’t the one she dreamed of, but I’m sure she wouldn’t have changed anything. And as I fix up our home in preparation for the adoption we’re currently working toward, I pray that God continues to show me that he is writing a beautiful story with my life, even in the midst of the barrenness of a still empty nursery. I’ll keep reading my Bible, even as life changes me into a different person. 

Allyn Bachran
Allyn Bachran is a Southerner trying to settle into life in Ohio. When she's not writing, you can find her obsessing over pie crust, talking to her cats, and trying to convince her husband that books are better than football. You can follow her on Twitter @allynbachran

Cover photo by Katarzyna Grabowska.

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