24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” Luke 1:24-26
This is the story of Elizabeth (she & Mary, Jesus’ mom, were cousins and got pregnant around the same time), the mother of John the Baptizer who was thought to be barren, finally becoming pregnant. She was an older mom in those days. I’m not sure how old that might mean, but I’m guessing in her late 20’s or 30’s. Elizabeth is one of the many women in the Bible who I feel like we need to remember and talk about out loud. There are several other named women who also struggle to become pregnant or have no children at all. I know of at least Sarah, Rachel, and Hanna. And when the Bible writes of this many named women struggling to have a child, that means there are SO many more.
Elizabeth’s words break my heart. “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” ugh. Oh, Elizabeth, I’m sorry you have endured all that – and in silence. I imagine she might have added the word FINALLY. Finally God looked favorably on me.
There is a unique kind of ache, pain, longing, hope, fear, and grief for those women and men who want to be pregnant and have children. I have read that the depression that can grow with fertility issues is similar in feel to being diagnosed with a terminal illness. You feel you have no control over your body and it is really hard to imagine or maintain any sense of hope for the future.
I felt like Elizabeth when we were trying with all of our life to get pregnant with Dinah. I felt old. My husband even older. The disappointment with my body and with God was often too much to bear. It wasn’t something that I could talk about in casual conversation, but it was all that I thought about. I remember my sister-in law leaving a message on my phone saying that even if I didn’t feel like I had any hope left, she still had lots of hope for us to become pregnant. It somehow lifted so much of the exhausting work of trying to be hopeful off of my shoulders knowing that she was hoping and praying for us.
Then one day we miraculously became pregnant (with a little assistance). Despite the fact that when I peed on the stick I was “5 minutes pregnant” — that 5 minutes was SO distinctly different than the 5 minutes before I peed on the stick.
And today is the day that I come out and tell you that we are pregnant again. We are so grateful and amazed. And just like while I was pregnant with Dinah I experience some pregnancy guilt. I know that there are so many women who are silently grieving right now, and the sight of my growing belly or the excited words of congratulations from friends & family adds more weight to the sadness they carry on a daily basis.
I’m only 11 weeks along so I’m really not “supposed” to tell people yet. I’m not supposed to tell because in the first trimester the pregnancy is still quite vulnerable and I have the greatest chance of miscarriage. So, that means if I miscarry I wouldn’t have to burden all of you with my disappointment and sadness. I wouldn’t have to tell anyone or talk about the fact that my hopes and prayers ended inside of my very body. Ugh.
I’m telling you now because I need you to know that something big, wonderful, and kind of scary is happening to my body and our life. And if something dreadful happens I will need your support, love, prayers, and courage.
I can only imagine how many of you understand the heartache of not getting pregnant, miscarriage, losing a child, or the feeling that your window of fertility has closed. I want to say to you again and again that you are a blessed, beloved, and beautiful child of God. Your body is good and whole. And I’m sorry that you have known such sadness in your body.
I realize this post has gotten quite heavy, but I think you can handle it. We need to handle it. We have to support each other in times of great joy, in struggling for hope, and in grieving sad ends. You are not alone. We are all in this together.
Peace on your head. Rachel