Fathom Mag

Staining Shattered Glass

On the grief and goodness through infertility

Published on:
February 8, 2017
Read time:
6 min.
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I lay on the exam table, trying to slow my breathing and focus my thoughts elsewhere. How did I end up here? Has it really come to this?

The emotional weight in that moment was more painful and more intrusive than the actual procedure. Then, the doctor studying the x-ray screen spoke.

“Well, everything looks normal!”

He nonchalantly took off his gloves and prepared to walk out of room. 

“Oh! Really?” I asked, trying not to sound too disappointed. 

As I walked out of the office and into the elevator, I found myself sobbing.
Samantha Barnes

I never thought it would be such a difficult thing to hear a positive prognosis at the doctor’s office, but as I walked out of the office and into the elevator, I found myself sobbing. I had just received the results that most people hope to hear. But for me, that was the last thing I wanted to hear.

When everything is normal it means there are no answers, no next steps, no changes to make in hope that we could determine why we haven’t been able to get pregnant after two years of trying. 

An Ambiguous Loss

Infertility, my counselor tells me, is an ambiguous loss—you haven’t tangibly “lost” something, but the grief of not being able to conceive is just as strong. It’s recurring as well—the pain echoes each month when my body tells me, once again, that it is grieving along with my heart.

When we started trying to get pregnant and it didn’t happen right away, I felt firmly grounded on the truth that it was ultimately up to the Lord. And if you look through scripture, there are actually several women who are described as barren, and the language around their barrenness or their conception recognizes God’s sovereignty.[1]

God is the one who opens and closes the womb. I have no doubt about that. He might use doctors and procedures and medicines, but it is ultimately his hand.

Yet as my husband and I have gone deeper into this season my confidence in God has begun to waver—not that he is scratching his head wondering what’s not working, but that his goodness isn’t playing out in ways I think are good.

Into the Darkness

What does it say about God when we say that he is powerful and loving, yet has kept me in this place of darkness and pain and confusion? He’s the only one who can change my circumstances, but he just seems passive.

I want to see the beauty in the storyline.
Samantha Barnes

This is the first time I’ve been in the darkness so long that I don’t quite remember what it’s like to be out of it. The longer it takes to get pregnant, the more unlikely it seems, and the harder it is for me to even imagine myself as a mom. Doubt persuades me to give in to despair, and while I know in my head that God is able, holding onto hope has been exhausting.

I want to see the beauty in the storyline. I want to trust the Author. I want to be one of those people who can write about the mosaic being made from shattered shards of glass.

But right now, all I see is the shattered glass.

Where is God?

A few months before we started “trying,” we joined a new small group with our church. At that time the other five women in the group were all pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant. In my mind, this was perfect: we weren’t ready quite yet, but by the time we were pregnant, they would be just enough ahead of us where they could share hand-me-downs and newborn advice before they thought about baby number two.

So, all five babies were born, and we started trying for our own. I sensed that the Lord was in a way training me for how to be a mom by allowing me to watch these friends and how they each handled the challenges of motherhood. I learned tricks to calming a crying baby and wrapping a swaddle. I listened to them talk about sleep training and making time for their marriages. My heart finally felt a strong desire to be a mom myself as I held their babies close.

I discovered that I was the only one without kids.
Samantha Barnes

I tried not to worry as the months passed, but then all the babies turned one. I found myself at a birthday party for the youngest, and as I looked around the room at the friends this couple had invited to celebrate their growing one year old, I discovered that I was the only one without kids.

The conversation around me began to swirl, kind of like in a movie where the main character is starting to space out or feel overwhelmed and the pictures and noise fades in and out around them. I excused myself from a conversation about Mother’s Day and almost ran to make it to a quiet spot before the tears came.

I sat in a rocking chair in the nursery and just sobbed.

A few months later, those friends all started to talk about trying for a second child. It makes sense: if you want your kids to be close in age, you start thinking about adding another just after the first birthday. Several of them weren’t able to get pregnant right away. It took a few months, and they started to worry about something not working right, but then they all started announcing their pregnancies again, and I wondered where God was in my story.

Seeing through Shattered Glass

For a long time, my prayer had been for the Lord to provide women for me to walk through pregnancy with. I wanted a community to raise children with, friends to be able to relate to in each new stage, people who could tell me, “I know exactly how you’re feeling!”

But every time I would get on social media and scroll past pregnancy announcements, or have coffee with a friend and hear her exciting news, I would question if God was aware that all of the friends I was supposed to be pregnant with were leaving me behind.

“I know exactly how you’re feeling!”

Then, one day, I had a friend whom I hadn’t kept up with after high school reach out to me on Facebook, sharing that she heard about our struggle and wanted to connect with me because she and her husband had also been struggling through infertility.

A couple of days later, I was hanging out with another girl, and she revealed that she and her husband had been “trying.” They were just a few months behind us, but it wasn’t happening for them either—and she hadn’t felt comfortable sharing this struggle with anyone else.

This happened a few more times before I started to see that God hadn’t forgotten about me or left me behind. He was providing community to walk with through a difficult season; it just wasn’t the season I expected.

I now have a long list of women I am praying for who are waiting, whether in the hope of getting pregnant or the pursuit to adopt, and every time I pull out that list to pray for them, I am reminded of the overwhelming fact that I am not alone. While these women are scattered across the country and each have a different story, we are united by this unmet desire and this question of how to see God’s goodness in the midst of recurring disappointment each month.

Maybe my idea of God’s goodness is too limited. Maybe that’s why it’s been so difficult for me to see how his character remains constant even while going through pain. We ask, “How could a good God allow this to happen?” but we often can’t see the whole picture. It’s like stopping in the middle of a book but still expecting to understand the direction of the narrative.

But God is God, and he doesn’t change. He is just as good in seasons of fulfillment as he is in seasons of despair. His goodness extends beyond our circumstances and beyond our line of view. Isn’t that what Joseph was referring to when he told his brothers that God meant their evil for good (Genesis 50:20)? And isn’t that the promise we cling to from Paul when he states that, despite our suffering, we have a Spirit who intercedes for us and a God who is working all things together for good (Romans 8:23–28)?

God’s goodness is constant, yet it’s played out through a process. While I’m in the middle of the process, I’m not quite able to see his goodness in full—but I can see bits and pieces of it when I let go of thinking I know exactly what this goodness should look like.

I am grieving over these shattered shards of glass, but I am also growing in hope as I trust that his goodness is being revealed in part and that, one day, it will be revealed in full.

[1] The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ’Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” . . . The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. (Genesis 18:13–14; 21:1–2 ESV)

And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Genesis 25:21 ESV)

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. (Genesis 29:31 ESV)

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. (Genesis 30:22 ESV)

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (Ruth 4:13 NIV)

And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:19–20 ESV)

Cover image by Veeterzy.

Samantha Barnes
Arkansas born and raised, Samantha spent her time in college earning a BA degree in Creative Writing and calling the hogs. She now works for Cru as a writer and an editor as well as campus ministry staff. She and her husband Eric enjoy taking their border collie pup Ridley on outdoor adventures, and she writes at samanthacbarnes.com.

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