Thursday, April 29, 2010

The School of Suffering

"...And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5: 2b-5, NIV)

The other day, a woman I'm acquainted with through Twitter posted the comment, "Infertility is not for sissies". This thought took me back, as my husband and I went to great lengths to conceive our first two children. During what seems like a lifetime ago, we suffered through repeated miscarriage, surgeries, humiliating tests and "stupid human tricks" to finally arrive at the gift of our now 13 year old daughter and also our 10 year old son.

That season of our lives was fraught with emotion. Days felt like weeks, and weeks felt like years. The constant temperature taking before ever rising from bed made child-bearing the premier subject of each new morning. The repeated disappointment each month we didn't conceive was heartbreaking. Procedures were not only causing stress through their expense, but were also painful and embarrassing. I wanted to hurt people with their trite statements like, "Just relax and you'll get pregnant." Even clergy were annoying in their response. The ignorance and coldness of others was astonishing!

During this infertility journey, I would spend countless hours praying, reading scripture and questioning why God wouldn't want us to have children. After our last miscarriage, a friend had invited us to a Bible study that truly changed us forever. How the attendees of that Bible study ever put up with me, returning week after week only to hear me crying and angrily questioning God's promises, I'll never know! Still, something in me knew that I was on the right path by pursuing God's truth through Jesus.

Eventually, both my husband and I came to a place of surrender where our only desire was that God's will be done. That was a huge step! We began to walk down the path of adoption at the same time we were in the final phases of our infertility treatment, knowing that God would either make us parents by some means or would remove that burning desire to be parents from our hearts. It was a phase of liberating joy and peace.
Eventually, our journey resulted in a successful pregnancy and the birth of our eldest daughter. Immediately, I could see how infertility treatment had matured me and made me a more self-less mother. Since she did not come to us easily, every challenge with her was a treasure, a gift. I know that had I not gone through that, I more than likely would have treated my child like just another possession or goal checked off a list. It's terrible to admit that, but in reflecting, I can readily see the track my life was on.
In conceiving our second child, we went through even more trials and procedures than the first. Foolishly, we thought that these troubles would exempt us from any further trauma, despite the fact that we knew hemophilia, running in my sister's family, may be a possibility. Fortunately, during that pregnancy, I read a book that remains one of my favorites to this day, THE HIDING PLACE, by Corrie Ten Boom. The book overwhelmingly showed how God had prepared this family in advance for their ministry in the World War II German concentration camps. In one chapter, the author describes her frustration with her sister who exclaims, "Thank you, God, for fleas," but then finds that the fleas in their dorm provide them with protection from the guards at the camp.
Because of that remarkable story, my husband and I, through tearful eyes were able to in turn profess, "Thank you, God, for hemophilia," when our son was diagnosed the day after his birth. We didn't know why we were thanking God, but through our infertility treatment, we were able to gain the insight to know that our Loving Father would use this terrible disorder for our good and His glory. (Read Romans 8:28!)
It didn't take long to see how useful our infertility journey had been when we came to live with our son's bleeding disorder. As we sought to become parents, we learned to be our own best medical advocates, seeking answers and options. I was able to quickly do the same when it came to hemophilia. During infertility treatment, we learned to weigh all the options and make the best choices for our own personal lives in light of the information we had combed through. We had discovered how to be respectfully assertive when we didn't agree with doctors. We had gained experienced at steering our own treatment, forging paths that hadn't been forged before. Because our previous infertility trials had strengthened us and given us wisdom, we found ourselves more than once being a family of "firsts" -- "first family to bring their own infusion medication with them to the emergency room for more prompt treatment," "youngest child in the state of WI approved for home venipuncture," and so on.
In turn, it's not been hard to see how God has used hemophilia in our lives! The entire ministry that was launched came about as the result of our need in parenting a child with this bleeding disorder. God, in His wisdom and our foolishness, sent US to serve others, not be served like we had originally desired. Countless families have been able to connect and receive resources as a result of our suffering and my gift for gab.
As I'm sure you can see, I could write an entire book on this topic, and someday I may. But please, please come away from this realizing that there are certain lessons we can only learn by being students of "The School of Suffering". If God can use a silly house-frau from the suburbs like me to do His great work, then He can use YOU and your challenges! And every tough step you go through is merely another tool in the tool box that makes you a more effective person in other people's lives.


  1. In the school of suffering, I learned that pain is inevitable, and suffering optional. I wasn't supposed to be able to bear children to term, but am now blessed with 7 of them. "He makes all things beautiful, in His time"...and so it is with the kids' disabilities. He sees the beauty of them, and He makes them shine beautifully. :) Thanks for this post today!

  2. Boy, Barb, I am at such a similar place (as you were when you experienced those fertility issues) right now. All that I can think about is the desire for another baby and the feeling that my family is not finished yet. (For me fertility is not the issue, but carrying the genetic disorder that my son has.) Thanks for your post - one more reminder that God has a plan!

  3. I think it's sooooo true. God truly did prepare me for being mom to a SN kid---of course none of us sees that at the time! ;)

    My theory is that God REALLY thinks that I'm special to give me so much trust...and faith.

    Big hugs to you!

  4. I can completely identify with the thought of experiencing trauma exempting you from future trauma. A beautifully worded statement that truly captures my thoughts when placed on bedrest at 20 weeks (with my second childe) only to deliver at 25 weeks (and my older daughter born at 24 weeks). Thank you for sharing.