For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1
Anyone experiencing infertility can tell you how completely it takes over your life. The “big picture” is quickly crowded out by temperature readings and cycle charts and testing and planning and waiting. Waiting. Time passes in increments of degrees, cervical mucus, blood levels, and appointment dates. If you raise your head from the chaos long enough to look around, you are amazed to see your friends and acquaintances blissfully sailing through what you imagine to be their lazy days of worry-free leisure.
A year and a half into our own arduous journey, I conceived through IVF, but lost the pregnancy almost immediately. To say that I was devastated cannot fully describe my feelings at that time. Crushed. Defeated. Hopeless. This had been our first IVF cycle, and the journey to that point felt like it had been so long – tests, appointments, research, questions, vitamins, acupuncture, insurance companies, naturopathy, bloodwork, ultrasounds, shots, pills, and procedures. I felt as if I had climbed a mountain only to find that I was shoved back to the bottom and told to climb it again. Even if we tried again as soon as we could, I knew we had been set back by three months – the amount of time it would take to get back on cycle and get the needed medications to make our way back to the table for an egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Three months. I couldn’t bear it. My clock ticked too loudly for me to accept “wasting” another three months.
The context of my life at the time offered little support. My father had died two months before, and I had found the fertility circus to be a rude distracter from grieving Dad’s death and protecting a place in my life for his memory. As a social worker, my work involved investing little pieces of myself into others on a daily basis. Emotionally, I had nothing left to tap. I was empty. I moped around work and home. I felt like no one understood my grief, because infertility and pregnancy loss are not things one talks about, and I did not know when or with whom it was “appropriate” to share the extent of my loss.
One Saturday I donned my gardening gloves and hat and set myself to weeding a flower bed in the back yard. It was a hot day in late August and it wasn’t long before I’d worked up a sweat with my digging and tugging. As I stood to stretch and take a breath, my gaze lingered on the dense greenery growing at the yard’s edge. I noticed the grass in the yard turning brown, and admired the azaleas that had been covered in blooms a few months before. The trees were still full of leaves, but I knew in another month the green leaves would change to yellow and brown and carpet the lawn at my feet. In my head I counted the seasons we had seen pass by in the years we had lived in our house. What was a season? Three months. Three months was the time between now and when I would see the first snowflakes fall. On the coldest day of a Massachusetts winter, one knows that three months is enough time to fill in the floor of the winter-stripped woods with lush spring-green ferns and see the first blooms venture out from the once frosty ground. How many of these seasons had flown past with little notice from me? How many of these miracles accomplished in three-month increments had I disregarded?
On that late summer day, I found myself washed and healed by the rhythm of God’s world around me – a world that would keep spinning and cycling through season after season. My tired heart began its turning from grief to hope, and in that moment, I knew I could climb back up the mountain. I didn’t know how many times, or how long the journey would take, and I had no idea what would be found on the other side. But there was nothing to do but climb. My hope that day sprang from the promise that the path would rise to meet my steps, as God’s miraculous earth turned steadily, reliably, beneath my feet.