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Faith: Answered Prayer
A Christian woman's experience of infertility
Is it possible to reconcile a loving God with a sense of personal loss? What do you do with ethical questions when it personally impacts your own life and happiness? In our guest blog, 'Mary' shares her faith journey through fertility treatment.
"I married Ian when we were both in our early 20s. We had the usual expectations of increasing mortgages, bigger houses, advancing salaries, and of course a family. Our plans progressed well. Within two years we had moved to a bigger house in a nicer area that had a good-sized third bedroom. Ian gained a promotion at work that secured his job and I now worked nearer home. Only one thing was missing, I was not pregnant.
"At first it did not seem to be a problem, just a matter of time. But the more it did not happen, the more I wanted a baby. We tried to conceive for about 12 months before I took my problem to my GP. I was soon diagnosed with endometriosis, which in my case caused very painful periods and probably led to my inability to conceive.
"At least now we had some hope. If we knew the problem, we could treat it, couldn't we? I had various drug treatments to reduce the endometriosis and then further drugs to stimulate my ovaries. But still, I could not become pregnant.
"Whilst I was not getting pregnant, our friends at church were. My frustrations increased every time I saw them. Churches are wonderful places for families. But I would often leave in tears. Our pastor did not help when he announced one Sunday morning that you were not really a family unless you had children. People were sympathetic, but they did not really understand what I was going through. I got very angry with God. It did not seem fair. I felt that life was ruled by my body and its inability to do what it should.
"Ian and I decided to try Artificial Insemination by Husband (AIH) at our local private hospital. The procedure is a few steps down the scale from test-tube baby treatments but it is no less traumatic when you wait for the results. The treatment course was for six attempts based on my egg cycle. It was like an emotional roller coaster. I would go for pre-injections and scans, Ian would donate sperm and I was then inseminated with his sperm at the most fertile point of my cycle.
"Each time we tried the expectation was still there. The sense of disappointment was beginning to recede after the fourth failure. Maybe we were not meant to have our own children? Maybe we should consider adoption instead? Perhaps God wanted us to look after other children? The fifth treatment had also been unsuccessful. Before our sixth and last treatment, we had decided to look more seriously at adoption. We both found that decision hard to take as we had not really accepted that we were not going to have our own child.
"Our planning was simple and straightforward as usual. We went through with the sixth treatment, concluded it had not worked, posted an adoption application form to Dudley Social Services, and went off on holiday to France with my parents. Our plan was to use the holiday to forget about fertility treatment and concentrate on the adoption procedure.
"I felt unwell for most of the holiday and was glad to get back. The day after our return Ian decided to cut down the bushes in the front garden. It was a perfect opportunity for me to just check that the last treatment really hadn't worked. Except it had! To this day Ian assures me if he closes his eyes he can still remember me announcing I was pregnant, whilst he held a pair of garden shears outside our front door.
"My pregnancy was very closely monitored initially at the private hospital where I was scanned at 8 and 12 weeks. I spent those initial 12 weeks taking life very quietly: I wanted nothing to go wrong with this long-awaited pregnancy. We then relaxed, and I blossomed. Our son Josh is the best son I could have wished for. God had tested us but led us through. It was as though by letting go of the possibility of having children we got to the point where the only way to conceive was by a miracle. That miracle then happened.
"However, that is not the end of our story. Another six years on we decided to try the treatments again. My endometriosis had returned and the chances of success were just as slim. I was allowed six treatments but this time there was no precious baby at the end of the process. We decided God was leading us in a different direction this time, one he had suggested to us six years ago.
"We decided to look at the option of adopting again. The procedure is not easy and the interviews are intrusive. But we were accepted as prospective adopters and less than one month later our link social worker asked us to consider a 21-month-old girl.
"We saw a video of Sarah, were provided with background information, and made the decision to meet her. We were matched with her just before we went on holiday. We came back from our two weeks away to decorate her bedroom and get kitted out for a little girl. Our introductory period took place in September and she joined our family at the end of the month. Where Josh took six years to arrive Sarah jumped into our family in eight months. This is almost unheard of and left us feeling that it was meant to be.
"The process tested our faith but has strengthened it - we worship as a family at our local Anglican church and are very involved in the life of that community. Life still has its difficulties but we are very thankful for our family and enjoy watching them grow up and become increasingly independent."