Humiliation and Trust

There I was, in the cold exam room. My toddler in her stroller in the corner, watching tv on my phone. The tech began the ultrasound exam, only this wasn’t an exciting adventure of an ultrasound, checking to see a tiny human growing safely in my womb. No, there weren’t any heartbeats to hear today.

“Now, here’s your uterus”, she said, moving the wand over my empty womb.

“Now, your ovaries”, as she moved to first one, then the other, taking pictures and making notes. And clear as day, not a tiny life taking root, but the telltale “string of pearls” on each ovary, the confirmation of a disease I already knew I had.

I’ve had a lot of ultrasounds in my life, but never one like this. Sorrowful, yes; the one when we learned our first baby had died. Joyful, yes; the one when we saw Maggie for the first time, and every time after. And now, now, humilation.

The humiliation of seeing proof positive my broken body. Confirmation of this cross I tolerate, but have not embraced.

I managed to make it to the car before the flood of tears came. Sitting there in the minivan we bought when we thought our family would soon be growing, I wept. I looked in the rearview mirror and wept for all the empty seats, taunting me in their barrenness. Empty, like the uterus I just saw on screen.

Infertility is humiliating. It’s blood draws and ultrasounds. It’s medications taken to make your body do what it should do on its own. It’s trying to walk that fine line between enjoying sex with your spouse and turing it into a science experiment.

It’s the humiliation of plastering a smile on your face for the 20th pregnancy announcement in a row, and then crying for an hour on the bathroom floor. It’s the humilation of knowing that at the same moment you are trying, some drunk teenagers in the back of a car are co-creating new life, a life which they will promptly distroy. It’s the humiliation of hoping month, after month, after month, even when you know it can’t be true.

The hope is humiliating.

It makes me want to drink. It makes me want to eat everything I shouldn’t. It makes me want to shop, to buy things for this one child, this miracle, the likes of which may never pass this way again. On a good day, it compels me to the cross, to the apex of humiliation itself. But I have to honestly admit, those days are usually few and far between.

I recently prayed a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, because I had heard it was a powerful one. Atticus and I prayed it together, that any knots keeping us from conceiving would be untied. In the weeks since that novena, I don’t know if much has changed physically, but spiritually, I have seen something stirring.

On two seperate occasions I was prompted to think of this humiliation as an opportunity to grow in trust.

First, I received a “virtue” for the year from my women’s group: trust in God’s infinite goodness.

I laughed out loud and almost cried when I saw it. You win this round Holy Spirit.

It’s hard for me to remember this simple truth: God is good, even when it hurts. God is good because He is goodness itself and because He stands with me in the very heart of my sorrow and doesn’t flinch, not because he has to, but because he wants to. The creator of the universe wants to hurt with me, because that’s what love does. When my tiny human heart can grasp this, just a little, peace rushes into those broken places.

My humiliation in this cross is an invitation to trust in God, his goodness and his plan. The second occasion was a wonderful book I recently read saying, “It takes humility to assent to follow God even when he refuses to install flood lights on your path or tell you where it will lead.”

This humiliation of infertility is an inviation to grow in humility, because it forces me to realize that I can’t do everything. That we can’t do everything. That control is an illusion. I can’t make myself pregnant; we can’t make it happen just by willing it. In our, “you can do anything if you set your mind to it and work hard enough” culture, it’s humiliating to admit that, no I can’t. I can’t do this one thing that doesn’t exactly require rocket science to accomplish.

Ever since Eden, we humans have struggled with saying, out loud, three very powerful words: I need God.

Infertility forces me to see, to accept, that I need God. It challenges me to answer a challenging question: Is God trustworthy?

If the answer is yes (and it is), then what is there left to do other than to let go, surrender to humilty through humiliation, and trust that His goodness is enough for me, for us. On a good day, I’m learning to do just that.

Our example of humiliation and trust in the Father

How is God inviting you to cultivate humility and trust? How do you answer the question: Is God trustworthy?

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  • http://www.freetotalfaithfulfruitfullove.blogspot.com Katie Jo

    Thank you for this. It just says everything I wanted to say for a long long time. I, too, am familiar with that string of pearls. Imagine all those pearls; because they are in your ovaries, they are in your crown!

    The fact that you’re writing this is a testament to your faith in Him. My prayers are with you.

  • http://catholicmutt.blogspot.com Catholic mutt

    Those are tough questions. Yes, I do think He’s trustworthy, but I also think that sometimes that doesn’t mean what we want it to mean.

    • Sarah B.

      Absolutely. Just because God is trustworthy doesn’t mean I’ll get what I want. That’s why its so hard to let go!

  • http://www.eccefiat11.blogspot.com Ecce Fiat

    Thank you for this post, and for your honesty. I echo Katie’s comments above – you put into words a lot of thoughts that swirl around in my mind and heart all day. Infertility is a big challenge to my faith – a huge one, one that feels insurmountable some days. And your interplay of “humiliation” and “humility” – wow. That’s powerful. “Humiliation” is such an apt description of infertility – I’ve felt embarassed, ashamed, and yes, humiliated that I can’t conceive when others make it look so easy. The call to humility…still learning that one. I would add acceptance to that list too. Praying for you to have ever greater trust in God’s goodness!

  • http://learningalittleway.blogspot.com learningalittleway

    I finished reading this post and just said, YES. Thank you for putting into words and making better sense of thoughts that just swirl frustratingly around in my head at times. As humans it’s hard to trust God because we can’t see the whole path, like you said. I think this applies to our pasts as well. If we perceive Him to have failed us in the past, then we struggle with trusting Him with our present and future. At least that’s the boat I’m finding myself in. Thank you for writing this! PS. we bought a house with lots of bedrooms and a minivan after #1 that both give me hope and mock me at times.

  • http://cathofeminism.blogspot.com/ Jess@Cathofeminism

    Very poignant. Sarah, I am on my second round of the novena. I say go for it again and get more things stirring! Prayers.

  • http://www.theroadhomewv.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Oh, so much to say to this, but mostly, I hear ya friend. I so hear ya. I will never forget that ultrasound to check my “structures” for as long as I live, that empty uterus on the screen (in a room clearly set up for ultrasounds of sweet babies – big screen hi-def TV on the wall, couch in the room for family/friends). Quite possibly one of the worst days on this entire journey.

    Yes, God is trustworthy. And sometimes just being able to say it is a stronger act of faith than most will ever realize.

    Love you!

    • Sarah B.

      Thank you. Yes, those exams are quite a ride. Felt like I should have at least gotten dinner out of it first. 😉 Love ya!

  • http://littleoneofgod.wordpress.com littleoneofgod

    Sarah. My heart feels so many emotions after reading this. I was once in your place. I remember OH SO WELL the struggles and the tears. I know just how hard it is to trust God and in your heart to BEG Him to answer your prayers with what you so desire and know to be good — to have a child to raise for Him! I also have that “string of pearls”. Even though I had to have a hysterectomy 2 1/2 years ago, I still have my pearls! (still don’t know why the doctor left them, but he did) I especially remember the struggles to try to accept God’s answer of ‘not right now’ each cycle and to lose the loving give/take in our couple time because everything became so sterile and so intentional. I remember all of it and even though I am years past that now, my heart breaks for those still suffering through it. Through multiple doctors and through God’s grace, we did eventually get pregnant — usually when (in my mind) it wasn’t the right time. But, now as I watch my oldest finishing her final semester at FUS and preparing for life as an adult and watch daughter #2 prepare to graduate from high school this May, and daughter #3 juggling high school demands while also now being diagnosed at the age of 15 with PCOS as well, I know that all things work in God’s time. Which is why I now have “3” groups within my family (a total of 5 children ages 21, 17, 15, 11 and 8). There are huge age gaps (not what I wanted within my family) given to us by God’s design which have become a huge blessing that I never could have foreseen 22 years ago. At the time, I cursed my body. Now, looking back – I can see the hand of God forming the perfect family for us. Please know that those of us who have lived the same crosses, still remember and pray for you!

    • Sarah B.

      Thank you! This comment really gave me peace. Sometimes I forget that I’m still pretty young (29 next week) and that a lot can happen between now and menopause. It’s hard to hold on to that hope, or to think that I might be going through all of this again at 45. But thank you so much for sharing; your family must be beautiful!

  • http://andrewandjuilesadoptionstory.blogspot.com Julie

    I understand. As one who has been TTC (open to life) for almost 12 years with ZERO positive pregnancy tests and almost a dozen failed adoptions…I have realized that God rarely gives us what we want…if He did, then we would think we didn’t need Him anymore.

    I wrote a post about this today…not about infertility…just about the fact that my family has not turned out as I wanted it to.

    • Sarah B.

      Thanks Julie! You are so right. I was just telling husband the other day that if we didn’t struggle with fertility, then I would pretty much have everything I’ve wanted, and what would I need God for? Your family may look different than you hoped/expected at the beginning, but they are so beautiful and precious.

  • http://justthinkoflovelythings.blogspot.com Katie

    I have been thinking lately about the control aspect of IF. I know that God wants me to grow in humility, and especially by taking away my control–I’ve always had a very hard time with that. I think that is how He is inviting me to cultivate trust–by letting go of a number/timing for children, and being at peace with His plan.

    • Sarah B.

      Katie,

      Thanks for your comment. YES, surrendering the control is so HARD, and so radical, because our society says we should have ABSOLUTE control over this area of life, which is of course, a myth. Prayers for you!

  • Pat

    “Trust in the Lord. Do God’s work. We are Jesus’ hands in the world. Do not worry. God has a plan for your life. Be thankful. God answers our prayers, but not always the way we expect or want. Prayer is listening.” These are words I have heard in church all my life. My prayer is that people find peace and contentment and love in the many bounties that God does provide.

  • Jennifer

    A friend sent me the link to your blog post via Facebook because I’ve been struggling with this for some time. I sobbed when I read what you had written. The summation of feelings and your response to them is like reading a book of my life for the past 19 months. I truly do not know what is next for my husband and I on this journey but trusting God is a must. And, I’ll be praying for you. I hope you’ll be praying for me since coming to terms with accepting this humiliation as a part of God’s plan for me will be difficult. Thank you for sharing about this topic that is associated with so much stigma and thank you for being so honest. It touched my heart.

  • http://www.anabellehazard.blogspot.com Anabelle Hazard

    Sarah, how do you get confirmed for infertility? I haven’t had a baby since my last miscarriage and hadn’t thought to check.

  • http://abigails-alcove.blogspot.com/ Abigail Benjamin

    I am hugging you with both hands over cyberspace. I have subfertility.

    For me it was a head spin. 4 pregnancies lightening fast (one child lost in a second tri-mester miscarriage.) So I had 3 happy babies. Then finally (I’m an adult convert, so changing from career girl to happy stay-at-home Mom was not an easy mental transition for ,e) but when I finally said “Okay God, I’m all in. The more babies the better. Lets go!”

    Nothing

    3 1/2 years of painful undignosised secondary infertility

    I cried and cried and cried.

    It sucked.

    What no one ever tells you is that when you have one (or three) kids you adore mothering everyday infertility just stares you in the face and hurts every second. You’re kid does something cute. You laugh. And the you think ‘I’ll never see this again….” Or you’re at a birthday party and the other pregnant ladies start complaining “what will happen when I have four or six….” and you try not to cry thinking “our fertility can disappear in a blink of an eye”

    It’s hard to have something you love to do and then feel like the rug is out from underneath you.

    And you feel alone b/c people say “but you have one great kid… or 3 great kids, why are you so sad? you should be grateful for what you’ve got!”

    Anyway, God is trustworthy ALWAYS. There is not a girl who has walked this road or primary or secondary infertility that didn’t feel at the end like God’s plan for her life was perfect.

    For me–I got the beautiful fourth baby. After becoming a Third Order Carmelite. She almost died, and needed to go in the NICU and I was so grateful for every single second of infertility because God and I were close. I could do 2 rounds of emergency surgery on my little newborn because I trusted God. Totally.

    Keep going!

    I’ll be praying for you!

  • http://boysbooksandballs.blogspot.com/ Erica S.

    I followed a link to this post from another blog. Your post is absolutely beautiful. I will be praying for you. I have PCOS, and I have 3 children. There is a 7 year age difference between my first and second boy and a 5 year space between my second and third. We are still praying for more. You hit the nail on the head when you describe infertility as humiliating. It is humilating when your doctor looks at you and tells you that she is not going to put your most recent miscarriage on your chart because 6 is more than enough to have to remember. It is humiliating when the new mom at your Catholic homeschool support group asks you, “you do have more right?” and “are they by the same father?”. Thank you for your beauitful words. You are right, God is goodness, He is in control, and I need to trust Him. I know this, but some days, it is hard for me to remember. God bless you.

  • Sarah G.

    I just found your blog post and sobbed. I am so sorry for your struggles but I feel like I finally found someone who understands my pain. My husband and I are blessed with two boys aged 6 and 5 and have been open to life ever since. We always assumed that since we were open and so valued human life that God would bless us with a large family. That hasn’t happened.

    We prayed and felt led to pursue adoption. We were all ready to go with a foster care placement when we had to make an unexpected move to another state. The month after that I found out I was pregnant. We were so overjoyed and felt we understood why the foster placement fell through.

    I had two ultrasounds and our baby’s heart was strong and everything looked great. At 13 weeks at the third ultrasound our baby no longer had a heartbeat. Our son was gone. It has been 8 weeks and I am just so devastated. I have to keep saying over and over to myself that God is good and trustworthy even though I don’t feel that at all.

    My sister, sister-in-law, and most of my friends have new babies right now. It is so painful to be around them especially when they all talk about what a cross it is to have so many little ones. I imagine that must be hard but it is a cross with joy. I don’t feel any joy in the loss of my son or years of ttc. I just keep being told that it wasn’t God’s will for my son to live by women who are juggling a healthy baby on their hips.

    I want to know “why” even though I know I will never get an answer. I just have to trust that in spite of this intense suffering that God loves me just as much as these other women who get blessed so many times. It is hard to believe that. I have serious complications from my miscarriage and my health is in a much worse place then when we started. It is hard for me when my friends flippantly tell me that it will happen, God will surely give me another baby. He might not and I am struggling to be okay with that. I am trying to accept this horrible emptiness and longing if that be His plan and to offer it back to Him. I am trying to say everyday “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me acccording to your word.” I am hoping someday I will mean that. It is so hard to accept His will especially if His will doesn’t include the gift of another child.