Last night I went to a Ward Pioneer Day Dinner with my parents. Although I had my son in my arms, my heart still felt somewhat empty as I looked at girls I knew from the ward who are much younger than me who have had two or three children already. My heart ached as a well meaning sister who used to be my Young Women's leader came up and exclaimed "Oh I am so glad you are finally a mom." I know she meant that in the nicest way possible but to me it felt like a statement of pity rather than one of congratulations which was her intent, I'm sure. You see, adoption does not cure the heartache of infertility. I still struggle everytime one of my friends or family members tell me they are expecting or talk to me about their plans to conceive in the near future. I feel abruptly brought back to the reality that I am still struggling with infertility. So I looked for resources today on Lds. Org that might provide some solace or encouragement and came across this article on infertility. Hopefully you have had a chance to read it. It is from the June Ensign article entitled "Learning to Cope with Infertility" by Carolynn R. Spencer. I really took comfort from this article and thought I would share a portion of it about what we can learn from the scriptures regarding infertility and handling it with faith.
Sister Spencer writes: From Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who “was barren; she had no child” (Genesis 11:30), I learned that miracles do happen, that nothing is “too hard for the Lord” (Genesis 18:14), and that the Lord’s timing is critical. I learned that even when we think the time has completely passed for a miracle to occur in our lives, it still can: “For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him” (Genesis 21:2).
From Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, I learned I needed to keep trusting in the words of my patriarchal blessing, recognizing that blessings aren’t always fulfilled in mortality or in the ways we expect. I learned that if my prayers weren’t answered right away, I still needed to keep praying. I could also ask loved ones to pray with and for me. Rebekah had been blessed that she would “be … the mother of thousands of millions” (Genesis 24:60). Despite this blessing, she too had no children until “Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21).
From Elkanah’s wives, Hannah and Peninnah, I learned some unexpected lessons (1 Samuel 1:1–21). I instantly empathized with Hannah because of her childlessness, but I soon realized she wasn’t the only one suffering. I was moved by Hannah’s pain in her barrenness, Elkanah’s pain in Hannah’s unhappiness, and Peninnah’s pain in her loneliness, which despite her many children must have been great as she understood she was less loved by her husband than was Hannah. From Hannah and Peninnah, I understood that we each have trials and challenges; we each have secret sorrows and pain. Was Hannah’s pain in her barrenness greater than Peninnah’s pain in her loneliness? I didn’t know. I couldn’t say. But I suddenly realized that I wouldn’t trade trials with Peninnah. For me, it was a revelation.
I learned from Hannah’s despair that it makes no sense to let gratitude for the blessings we do have be crowded out by sorrow over the one thing we lack. I wondered if Hannah recognized how blessed she was in her marriage, despite her childlessness. Her husband, Elkanah, wondered the same: “Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). We each have joys in life despite our trials; what a waste to fail to notice or cherish or celebrate all the reasons we do have to rejoice. Our gratitude helps us recognize that Heavenly Father loves us and does hear and answer our prayers in many, many ways—even if it’s not always with a “yes.”
Finally, I learned from Hannah to continue to seek peace at the temple. I found special solace in doing initiatory work and listening to the sacred promises given during that ordinance. I understood that these promised blessings pertaining to motherhood were not limited to mortality; motherhood was an eternal role I would always have, no matter what happened during this life.
From Zacharias’s wife, Elisabeth, I learned that infertility was not God’s punishment for my imperfections, weaknesses, or unworthiness to be a mother. In Luke, we find that Zacharias and Elisabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
“And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years” (Luke 1:6–7).
Elisabeth remained steadfast and immovable despite the fact that her dreams of motherhood went unfulfilled for so many years. How could Elisabeth have known during those long years of waiting that she would one day become the mother of the forerunner to Jesus Christ? From Elisabeth, I learned patience and faithful endurance, and I learned that God’s plan for our lives might just be greater than we could ever imagine.
From all of these women in the scriptures, I learned that I was not alone in my heartache; other women who had gone before knew just how I felt, and surely there were others surrounding me who knew as well. Most of all, the Savior knew; not only could He comfort me in my burden of sorrow, but He could ease it for me as Isaiah promised: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).
Further, Isaiah 54 taught me about joy. I knew this passage of scripture had a larger, deeper meaning encompassing the redemption of Zion, but as I searched for understanding and continued to liken the scriptures to myself, I learned that it would still be possible to find joy even if I never had children. I clung to the fact that the Lord spoke of mercies and kindnesses—and above all, peace—for both the barren woman and the children her future eventually held. (Excerpt taken form Lds. Org, article written by Carolynn R. Spencer 2012)
I hope that you can take comfort from the miracles and faith of these women of old and allow your heart to open to the peace the gospel can give us when dealing with heartache and trials. I feel so blessed to have the scriptures to turn to and to be able to find comradery with these amazing, faithful and steadfast women. Happy Sunday!