The following post was written by Jacqui Jackson, iHope’s co-founder and CEO, on her Grateful Mommy blog. It can be accessed here: http://www.thegratefulmommy.com
So friends, this idea has been bubbling around in my overburdened heart for many months now. To be fair and frank, I want to state unequivocally that I know I am a daughter of the King. Being able to state that is important as a Christ Follower, but even more importantly, I want to share that I claim the way Jesus sees me. I am endlessly grateful for that, for in my mommy heart, down deep where the truth of me lies, this princess views herself in a particular fashion. I try not to let this view define me, thinking that the physical circumstances surrounding this view are simply a part of my design which serves to keep me compassionate, prayerful, and passionate about all things mommy and child. But it is a struggle! So here it goes:
When I look at myself, I see Infertile Myrtle. This is a nickname I read somewhere close to a decade and a half ago. At that point, I was already receiving dream-squashing news that my heart's desire to be a mommy was no guarantee from experts in white jackets. It was highly unlikely that I could become pregnant, and if I did, it would be an unexpected gift. Even before I was told these things, I somehow already knew that although I desperately wanted to be a mommy, it would be no easy thing. Since I already knew this, it seemed almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy when the doctors told me.
Even when I was young, I knew I was probably facing a disease called endometriosis. I had all the classic symptoms, plus some fun ones that were rare and gnarly. "Take a vacation" and "don't stress so much" aren’t fixes for your garden-variety illnesses (although the stress can inflame anything!), but these two pieces of advice were loving thrown at me for years on end. Once the pain of the disease wore me down and surgery confirmed that I indeed suffered from stage four endometriosis that was tearing up a good portion of my innards, I didn’t feel vindicated. I did, however, feel an incredible relief after years of inexplicable pain...And my heart? That wasn’t fixable by surgery.
You see, when I get to heaven, there will be several little souls there I'll be looking for to hug and to love on that I’ve never held before. When a woman goes through a miscarriage, a little part of her soul is released to heaven as well, and although I’ve never held those children and never seen them, I truly love those little ones that I prayed desperately to meet this side of heaven.
So herein lies my current situation: I am nine months pregnant with my fourth miracle baby. Every one of our children has come into our home with their own little testimony and after years of prayer. When a woman waddles into the grocery store, the gym, or any other public place heavily pregnant with several littles in toe, the looks and responses one garnishes are interesting. Comments about the Duggar Family, about lifestyle choices, sometimes about being impressed (i.e. “I could never do that, you’re amazing!”) or being overwhelmed by the mere sight of me and my kiddos (“Wow, I’m tired just looking at you!") are commonplace. When I walk into a room with only one of my children, the immediate comment thrown my way currently seems to be, “Oh, is this your first?” Responding with a little smile and saying, “No, it’s my fourth,” seriously shuts down the conversation. Almost exclusively, the consensus seems to something along these lines: Oh, you’ve done this multiple times. You’ll give birth and be out in the rice paddy by dawn. It seems that every random person who has seen me and commented on my bump assumes I’ve had an easy road, am highly fertile, and that every one of my kiddos is biological.
And in that moment of assumption, Infertile Myrtle rears her head straight through my heart. I know most people do not mean to be offensive in the slightest, and they do not realize that this topic is especially sensitive to me. I feel almost compelled to explain how I am a momma because of the gift of adoption, the miracle of God speaking life after years of loss and heartache and wondering. I see friends and friends of friends whom I know are walking a similar journey down the desolate paths called Wait and Try Again, and my heart literally breaks for them. I feel this because I resonate with them more closely than I track with the girls who have never walked those lonely roads. Those roads are truly so incredibly lonely.
I feel so grateful that I can talk knowledgeably with understanding about two specific ways to build a family, but in sharing one aspect, I always feel I am not giving my whole truth. The truth is that outside of God’s power, outside of Him speaking life four times — twice over our sweet birth mothers' bodies and twice over me — I would still be waiting, wondering, and wandering.
Those who know our journey sometimes ask me, "Why do you think God let you become pregnant now?” Or others assume that we walked through extensive infertility treatments to achieve these last two gifts. Firstly, after doctors in several states looked me in the eye and gave me a 98% chance of being unable to conceive and carry – even with intrusive medical intervention – I know conclusively that the only reason I am pregnant is God! And He didn't allow this just to bless me, to answer my prayer, or to give me a miracle, for I already had two full-out miracles I was parenting and praying over and had had several pregnancies I had released straight to Him!
For me, I believe His point was to take my Infertile Myrtle view and move my broken heart toward the passion and calling He made me to handle. It was to help me find my Kingdom work. During both of my pregnancies and both of the adoptions, I have had the genuine thrill to speak intimately with birth mothers by sharing my heart to become a mommy. I have bonded with them over feeling life within and knowing what it means to surrender that life at some point, which is a calling and a position most of us will never face. Speaking with birth mothers who are scared and hurting and overwhelmed – I totally get that. Praying over women who have suffered loss, broken dreams, and empty arms – I so get that too.
This is just God taking me from test to testimony. 15 years ago, I truly thought that season of empty arms were going to be the worst and most defining of my life. Having lived more life and experienced more in the last decade and a half than I probably wanted to, I realize now that it was all my then-fledgling-faith could have handled. It was a season that seemed to last years, but it all makes sense now.
About 20 years ago, I remember overhearing someone asking my momma a similar question, querying, "Why do you think you couldn’t have children?" And Momma said, “I did! The only difference between me and other mothers is that I wasn’t physically there when they were born.” I loved that and have used that pat answer more than once. With me, when people add in their question of “Why would God allow you to have healthy pregnancies now?” I add on to her answer, saying, “because my journey was a bit different from my momma’s. He allowed this so I can touch the hearts of birth mothers and of mothers in waiting. Without both experiences, I might have sympathy, but this provided empathy, for I get this total feeling of 'I get where you are because I have been somewhere similar.' My experience has been passion building, life altering, and totally Godsent.” Be careful when you ask me about children, for I get wordy and long winded!
So for every mother who has chosen life and released the gift to bless other mothers with empty arms, I send love, prayers of healing, and unending gratitude. Though I will never be able to thank my own birth mom in this life, I am so humbled to have been able to minister to, love on, and pray over the ones that God has brought into my path. For every mommy-to-be suffering from empty arms, I pray that God moves mountains in your journey. I pray that He moves quickly and connects you with the child you are waiting upon, the child you already love, because I get that too.
So when you see me struggling out of an overloaded minivan with the dulcet sounds of hangry (hungry and angry) children filling the air around me, know that for even those moments of chaos, I am grateful. This family has taken 13 years of praying to almost get us all here, and wherever you are, I may get it, but even if I don’t totally understand, I am praying for you too!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers: birth moms, expectant moms, mothers of preschoolers and beyond, and most especially to all waiting mothers. I'm praying your empty arms are filled so very soon. You are loved, and you are prayed for. Amen and Amen.