“You sure have your hands full!” was a common observation, as, with a very pregnant belly, I unloaded a double stroller, before unstrapping my toddler, and Kindergartner, each from the confines of their car seats.
Borrowing from my friend Deb‘s words in her amazing book, The Ache for A Child, “Better full than empty!” I would reply, with a still-awe-stuck (granted, often rather weary, as well) GRIN.
Rick and I truly understand how incredibly blessed we are to have been allowed to raise three living miracle children. Yet the three in our home hint little of the 13-year journey to their births, or the *10+ losses of their sibling who are not here.
* I only “count” confirmed pregnancies or adoption attempts that were expected to imminently lead to children added to our home. The “+” represents the handful of suspected early miscarriages and dozens of potential adoption opportunities that were obviously not God’s plan for our family, fairly quickly into the exploration process.
Despite the frequent compliments on how wonderfully we timed our children (2 years, 11 months between the first two, 2 days shy of exactly 3 years between our middle and youngest), this “perfectly-spaced” family had nothing to do with our planning abilities! If fact, the journey to parenthood was anything but perfect, easy, or trouble-free!
How laughable we still find those spacing comments. Yes, the design of our family is very intentional, but God was the only architect!
Infertility was an ugly crisis in my faith. I had wanted nothing more than to “be a Mommy” since my earliest childhood memories. I felt worthless as a woman who was unable to achieve something as “basic” as reproduction.
The medical invasion into the most intimate aspects of married life rocked our world. The grief of loss upon loss, children and dreams slipping away at a dizzying pace, left us unable to recover from one trauma before the next was upon us. Not even two years in, I was already suicidal.
It was my husband’s prayers, along with Deb’s aforementioned book, The Ache for A Child, that God used to pull me through those darkest days of pain and loss. Hannah’s story, found in the Bible, in First Samuel, chapter one, also became a lifeline to me. (Though this story initially made me ANGRY and added to my grief, rage, and sorrow.)
By Thanksgiving 1994, God had brought enough healing to my heart and our marriage, that Rick and I were ready to reach back and help other hurting families through this bewildering maze of infertility, pregnancy losses, and infant death of all forms.
Hannah’s Prayer was officially incorporated in early 1995. Our small little support group quickly grew into an international ministry, offering support to tens of thousands of hurting couples. We were continually encouraged in the realization of how very “not alone” we were in this isolating trial!
In 1999, we brought home our 4 pound, 13 ounce, first living son. After more painful losses, our only living daughter (who has kept us busy with medical specialists in three states, throughout her childhood) joined us in 2003, the same year I would later be offered a book contract from NavPress.
A week after Mother’s Day, 2005, Hannah’s Hope was finally published. (Archived blog available at HannahsHopeBook.blogspot.com and still-updated fertility-related facebook page is /HannahsHopeBook along with very active primary author page at /HarvestingHope.)
At the time Hannah’s Hope released, I was newly pregnant with our surprise “bonus baby” (remember that whole thing about us not being skilled at “planning” our children – that applied to both conception and prevention, as well as the unique set of emotions each bring!) who would turn out to be our third “sticky” pregnancy and carry to viability at his pre-term but healthy, live birth in early 2006.
In 2011, much of my active advocacy involvement for couples facing fertility challenges came to a screeching halt with an accident rupturing an artery in my neck, leading six near-fatal strokes. I continue to recover, having regained ability to breath, swallow, sit up alone, see, hear, walk with little assistance, and talk fairly clearly. My biggest remaining losses (as of late 2018) are inabilities to drive, homeschool my kids, or type with both hands (yes, I’m blogging here, and working on my next book, with single-handed tenacity). I must stay consistent with physical therapy at least twice a week, or I experience skill regression within three missed classes.
By God’s grace, Hannah’s Prayer continues to bless hurting hearts through our Community Forums (message board community with over 70 specific sub-forums – info on main ministry page and at facebook.com/HPCommunityForums).
I was overjoyed in 2017, when Hannah’s Hope released in audio format, meaning grieving hearts may now listen to these words of hope, even when reading is too tedious or tiresome.
May God continue to shower you with assurance that you do not walk this way alone. He loves you and cares deeply!
Jennifer now hopes to make the same kind of experience of Christ-focused support through friendship and community, that is available through Hannah’s Prayer, accessible to all her friends. Those facing fertility challenges are absolutely welcome, but the idea is to make these friends-closer-than-family bonds accessible for all readers, relate-able in all of life’s heartaches. Please visit the In Darkness Sing page for more information about this exciting resource, striving to walk with readers through every painful season. The In Darkness Sing community launched the last weekend of September, 2018.