Trusting God When It Hurts
by Natasha Gayle
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13–14, ESV).
For many couples, having children is easy. They don’t spend a lot of time considering the complex and miraculous process of getting pregnant. But for couples like my husband and me who struggle with infertility or pregnancy loss, having a baby is anything but easy. The miracle of childbirth is not something we take lightly. God does a mighty work to make it come together, and when it doesn’t, we are left with questions. Fortunately, we are not without hope.
My husband and I sat and talked about whether we were ready to start our family. Yes… No… I don’t know. YES! We were as ready as we’d ever be. It was time to trust God with our family’s future.
I wasn’t feeling like myself. Fatigue. Nausea. Headaches. Maybe I’m pregnant? I thought. The next day, I took my first pregnancy test and couldn’t believe my eyes. The second line started to color! Pregnant.
I could barely hold back my excitement. I smiled. I laughed. I couldn’t wait to go home to tell my husband. Wanting to do something fun to tell him the news, I found a little stuffed elephant and put it on the counter along with the positive pregnancy test—and waited for him to come home.
When he walked in the door, I tried to wait patiently on the couch. He came up the stairs, saw the stuffed animal on the counter, picked up the pregnancy test, and looked at it for several minutes. Then he turned to me and said, “Does that mean you’re pregnant?”
“Yes!” I cried. We were both so excited. We couldn’t wait to tell people. I went to the doctor a few days later who confirmed the pregnancy but said it was still very early. That night we went to dinner with my husband’s parents and shared the good news with them. While we were at dinner, my stomach started cramping. I had read that could happen in early pregnancy, so I tried to ignore it, but a sliver of fear crept in. What if I’m miscarrying?
A few days later, I woke up with more stomach cramps. Worse still: I was bleeding. My husband took me to the emergency room, and we received the gut-wrenching news that we were losing our first baby.
I cried so much. Why was this happening? The months that followed were painful. A coworker in my office was pregnant, and it pained me to see the joy and glow of her smile every day, and her growing belly. I cringed when I heard her complain about her different pregnancy ailments. How I wished I had that to complain about. I had to excuse myself often to go to the breakroom to cry or take a walk around the building.
I sought comfort from friends and spent time in the Word and prayer. I painted and crocheted. I found comfort in worship songs that spoke of the Lord being with us in our suffering and our waiting.
I was busy planning my husband’s birthday when I started feeling similar symptoms to what I had experienced in February. Fatigue. Nausea. Headaches. I took a pregnancy test and discovered I was pregnant. But my excitement didn’t last long. I started bleeding just a few days later. I hadn’t even confirmed the pregnancy with the doctor. But I knew I was pregnant, like before.
My heart sank. I tried not to dwell on the pain as much as I had before. I knew this might happen again. My doctor in the follow-up appointment after my first miscarriage had told me as much. I was at risk of miscarrying, but a successful pregnancy wasn’t out of the question.
I found out I was pregnant again at the end of July. I was excited but tried not to get my hopes up. I prayed so much that this would be it. That this pregnancy would last. That this baby would be okay. Please let him or her be happy and healthy, I prayed.
Every day I was anxious. Every day I thought I would wake up bleeding like I had before. Every day I tried not to tell anyone about my pregnancy. I didn’t want to welcome people into the heartache I was sure was coming. But every day I woke up and I was still pregnant.
I learned a lot about trusting God in this season. I had to. I had absolutely no control over the situation, but I knew God did. The time came to get an ultrasound at the doctor’s office. I went in. I was so anxious. Anxious there wouldn’t be a heartbeat. Anxious they would tell me I was miscarrying again. Anxious I wouldn’t get to meet this baby either. Instead, I heard a heartbeat. “A healthy little heartbeat,” the technician said. I started to cry.
On March 31, 2016, I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl. It was amazing how much love filled my heart when I saw her and held her for the first time. Our little girl. The child we had prayed for, hoped for, and longed for.
“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him” (1 Samuel 1:27, ESV).
Oh, how this verse had meaning for me. I imagined the anticipation, fear, and excitement Hannah in the Old Testament must have experienced when she finally got pregnant. Every day of my pregnancy I prayed that our daughter would be healthy, and she is.
We had just moved out of state to be closer to friends and my family. I felt exhausted but figured that was normal with the move. I fell asleep quickly that night and awoke the next morning feeling a little dizzy, a slight headache, and nauseous. I took a pregnancy test and the result was positive.
Woah. My first feeling was unbelief, the second excitement, the third panic. I rushed into the next room where my husband sat working and showed him the test. His eyes grew wide and he smiled. My mind began to race: Maybe we shouldn’t put your office here. Maybe this would make a better nursery. What about the cruise we have planned with my family? We probably can’t go now. “We’ll figure it out,” my husband assured me.
Weeks went by and I kept my pregnancy a secret. Since it was still early, we decided to wait to tell people. While visiting a friend, I shared the news of our pregnancy. I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer! I told her it was sort of unplanned, that we weren’t expecting it to happen, and it threw off some of our plans—but we were excited!
Shortly after, I excused myself and went to the bathroom. Then I saw the blood. Was it because I said the pregnancy was unexpected? Was it because I was disappointed that we didn’t get to go on a cruise with my family? Guilt and worry flooded my heart. I held it together a bit longer and cried all the way home.
The next morning, I started having significant pain in my side which didn’t feel normal. I didn’t know if I should go to the hospital so I asked my mother-in-law to pray that God would lead me in the decision. When the pain worsened, I decided I should go.
They took my blood. They sent me to get an ultrasound. I waited for the doctor. The doctor came in and explained that there was no baby in my uterus. My HCG levels were high though. I was pregnant, but the baby was not in my uterus. A small mass was in one of my fallopian tubes. I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
My heart sank and my face paled. I had read about these when I miscarried years ago. There is no way to save the baby, and if left to grow, the tube will rupture, and I could die. “What do I do?” I asked, trying to hold back tears. “We need to treat you for an ectopic pregnancy,” the doctor said.
It’s hard to fully explain my emotions over the next several months. I went through treatment, wrestled with finding doctors for follow-up, spent nights lying awake—afraid the treatment hadn’t worked, afraid my tube would rupture and I wouldn’t get to the hospital in time, afraid I would leave my daughter motherless and my husband to raise our daughter on his own. All the while, I was heartbroken over the baby I was losing.
Again, I was left with no control. I couldn’t control this situation. Fortunately, I wasn’t supposed to; God was. I spent many nights in prayer. I prayed God would help me trust Him in this, that I would be able to sleep, that I would trust whatever He had planned for us.
Finally, my HCG levels started to go down at the rate they needed to go down. I had taken all the steps I needed to take to get through this miscarriage. All that was left was to grieve. Grieve the third child I had lost.
My husband and I agonized over what to do in the year following my last miscarriage. Do we keep trying to get pregnant? Do we pursue adoption? We wanted to adopt. It had been on both of our hearts for a long time. The only question for us was when.
There are so many children in this world without parents and homes. As I think about trying to grow our family, I am continually reminded of the children who might be out there right now waiting for us to come for them.
I by no means want to neglect that call, but I also want to pursue this time of childbearing while I’m able. My husband and I decided we would wait a year and discuss next steps at that time. We needed time to recover emotionally, physically, and financially. Once a year had passed, we talked and decided we would try again, but if it resulted in another ectopic pregnancy, we would be finished.
For some reason, I knew we were pregnant long before a pregnancy test told me so. I just had that feeling. Also, our three-year-old daughter who doesn’t like to pray started asking people to pray for her baby sister or brother in mommy’s tummy. Her prayers were consistent. Every night at bedtime she would pray for a baby brother and sister. And I would think that maybe I really was pregnant. Maybe my daughter just knew somehow.
Finally, enough weeks had passed that I could take a test. We were pregnant. We asked our friends to pray. I tried not to be anxious. I tried to trust the Lord and pray with confidence. I truly saw this as an answer to our prayers and our daughter’s. This was it; I was sure of it.
Then, it started happening again. I was losing our baby. It’s difficult to fully describe the feeling. As a woman, you’re used to bleeding every month, but a miscarriage adds so much more intensity and so much more emotion. I was watching my child slip away and there was nothing I could do about it.
I quickly scheduled a doctor’s appointment—to make sure this pregnancy wasn’t ectopic too. Fortunately, the doctors got me in right away and were able to start testing my levels. Relief flooded my heart when I found out it wasn’t ectopic. But it was still heartbreaking, and I didn’t want to think about going through this season of Christmas with such heavy hearts.
That night a friend sent me a group text. She had just found out she was pregnant. Of course, I was happy that my friend was pregnant. But why, oh why, did God answer in this way and in this time? Why did I have to know in the middle of this miscarriage that my friend was being given a child she would likely get to keep—a child who would be born the same month as mine would have been. My heart hurt so much. I sobbed on my husband’s shoulder.
The Anger & Bitterness
I think it’s common when experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss to feel some anger and bitterness. You see other women and families with what you had hoped for yourself. There’s disappointment and heartache.
I wasn’t angry with my friend. But I started to wrestle with anger toward the Lord. How could He do this? Why was this happening? Like Job in the Old Testament, I knew I could confess my feelings to the Lord. He knew them. He would meet me in them. So, I just prayed to God that He would help me understand. That He would help me through.
I’ve just begun working through the grief and heartache this last miscarriage has brought, but God has not abandoned me. I’ve felt His presence and His answers even when I’ve felt confused and angry and upset.
I looked for a book to read that could help me work through some of these emotions and feelings. The first book to pop up in the Kindle Book Store was a book by Lysa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered.
Lysa reminded me that to suffer is a privilege God calls us to—to rely on Him more deeply, to comfort others, and to make Him known. We experience suffering and the extent of suffering in different ways, but He has called us to it and will be with us in it.
So, while I have a lot more to process and a lot of questions to answer, I pray for increased strength and trust in Jesus as I’ve seen Him get me through times like these before. I pray for joy when I don’t feel joyful. I pray for patience with others when it’s hard. I wait in expectation for the day I get to meet the four little children I’ve lost—the day I get to learn who they are, and the names God has given them.
And I take comfort in knowing that God is with me in my grief.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, ESV).