After two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, Nicola Jackson and her husband are wondering if they will ever be parents. She shares how she is holding on to faith through her disappointment and what she is learning through it.
Fertility problems are too often a taboo subject. It was only after two miscarriages (over a year after trying for a family) that my husband and I started talking about it more openly, and even now, after an ectopic pregnancy as well, I still haven’t opened up to some friends and work colleagues.
This wasn’t really because of what they’d say; in fact, it probably would have been helpful, avoiding the unknowingly hurtful comments and questions about when we were going to have children. I never thought I would suffer from fertility problems – we had no history of it on either side of the family – and I wanted to make the happy three-month announcement, without admitting my ‘failure’ in the earlier stages.
When I did choose to tell people, the most common reaction I experienced – as well as real sympathy and kindness – was the ‘encouraging story’. People tell you of someone who had the same problem, but has since had children. I haven’t minded, but nor have these stories had the desired effect. Reading newspaper articles, people seem only to admit to miscarriage after they’ve had a successful pregnancy. I would much rather hear from other women who are still going through it.
It is women in the same situation as me who can encourage me the most, and yet they are the ones who are invariably silent. Yet I, too, was remaining silent. So I decided to write this article, hopefully to encourage others in a similar situation, to say that there are other people going through those same experiences.
As a Christian, my faith has been a major part of my experiences. Everyone reacts in different ways when faced with hard times: some find their faith challenged, others find it a source of strength and encouragement. I have experienced a bit of both.
I have always felt comforted by the belief that God has a plan for my life and sees it all laid out before me. When my husband and I first started talking to Christian friends, the same verse kept coming up – Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That really resonated with me.
Also, I have always had a strong belief that I will have children, and that has not wavered. I may not be having those children at the time I would like them, but I still believe that they will come. I trust that there is a good reason why I am going through these experiences. I believe that I will be able to look back and see why God wanted me to have children at a certain time, or why it was right to have gone through the heartache of infertility and miscarriage.
Even in the immediate aftermath of my ectopic pregnancy, my third pregnancy loss, I was able to see some of the positives, and I still can. I have grown as a person. My life up until this point has thrown up few real challenges. I achieved highly in education, have a good job, and was brought up in a loving and stable family. I met my husband young and have a very happy marriage. I haven’t faced many problems, but this has been a brick wall. Yet facing it has enabled me to become more resilient.
I was naïve before, not realising the potential pitfalls of trying for a family, nor the frustration of facing a situation that cannot be improved by my own efforts. This has been a new experience for me. Previously, I just worked harder and would usually succeed in the end, so facing something I cannot overcome has enabled me to develop coping strategies. It has also taught me to trust God rather than my own wisdom or abilities.
Infertility was hard, but miscarriage has been far, far worse. The hormone crash following both my miscarriages was overwhelming and, having suffered from depression as a teenager, I was fearful of returning there. Thankfully, this has not happened. However, after my second miscarriage, I was in a dark place, and so decided to receive counselling. The pregnancy crisis centre was superb. I attended fortnightly sessions until recently, and these kept me going. I am still in touch with my counsellor, and know I can call her for another session if ever I need one.
My husband has also been a steadfast support. Before we started trying for a family, we attended our church’s marriage course, and subsequently helped lead it. We already had a strong relationship, but this course gave us an even greater insight into our marriage, and what we could do to support and encourage each other, and this has really helped over the past two years. While I would not say that our fertility problems have strengthened our marriage, they have given us an opportunity to face, and deal with, a challenging situation together. We have weathered, and are still weathering, the storm, and we are doing it together.
Opening up about my problems has been hard, and I have felt let down by people. Friends I expected to be there for me have not always been, or not as much as I would have liked. As I have thought about this, it seems that most people respond in a way that suits their personality, rather than considering what response would work best for me. This realisation has helped me feel less hurt and let down by some reactions. I have also realised that my problems will not be on everyone else’s mind as much as they are on mine. I think about it every day, many times a day; I cannot expect my friends to do the same.
However, many people have been amazing. Our family have dropped everything when we have needed it. Our Christian family in particular has been the shining light. We told people in stages, but at every point the prayer and support we have received has helped us to keep going. Being able to open up to someone, and knowing that they will pray for you, even when you cannot pray for yourself, has meant so much.
After my first miscarriage, I asked my vicar what was the ‘right’ Christian response – how would a ‘good Christian’ act? He was wonderful, and said that God loved me, and I could cope in whatever way would help me get through it. This took a big weight off my shoulders – I didn’t have to act in a certain way, and it left me space to heal. I wish I could pray more, and could turn to God more, but often I can’t. However, I know that God is in this, and that others are praying for me.
I have also learnt to plan less. If you talk to anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I’m organised. I love to plan, particularly a long time in advance. I had planned when I wanted to have my children, what age I wanted them and, on occasions, the finer details of which month was best to have a baby. My natural propensity to plan has made this even harder, but it has also taught me to take each day as it comes.
Now, I try not to look too far into the future because I do not know what it holds, and that terrifies me. If I look eight months ahead, I don’t know if I’ll be pregnant, or have miscarried again. It is easier, therefore, not to look eight months ahead. Much to my surprise, I am enjoying living in the present. We are seeing a lot more of our friends, and are enjoying the freedom that comes with not yet having children.
I even took the difficult decision to change jobs. This, although terrifying, has given me a new challenge, and a new focus. With my most recent pregnancy loss, I was able to encourage myself by knowing I could throw myself into my new job, and that I had a challenge to keep me occupied. I don’t want life to stop, or stand still, while I wait for a family. I need to keep going forward, so have tried to find ways to do this.
Ultimately, I do not know if, or when, I will be able to have children. We had an appointment with our doctor recently, who for the first time started to talk seriously about IVF. My husband and I have also begun speaking tentatively about adoption.
I still desperately want a child. I have lost the innocent happiness I had when life was going as I wanted it. However, whilst I’ve lost that happiness, I am not unhappy. I have come to terms with the fact that you do not get everything you want in life and I trust that there is a reason why I am going through this.
I know that I am learning, and that I am growing as a person and in my faith. I have made new friends, and have a new job I never would have had if I’d fallen pregnant straight away. Children change your life, so this has given me more time to enjoy the life I have now, to enjoy my husband’s company, to go for spontaneous meals out, to see friends every evening, and go on crazy holidays.
I try to focus on the positives. I know that God loves me, that he weeps when I weep, and rejoices when I rejoice. I know my faith isn’t perfect, but that God loves me regardless. He is not punishing me, or challenging me for the sake of it. There is a real purpose, and it is a good purpose. And maybe, it could be that I can help and support others because of these experiences. That would be a real blessing, for me as much as for those I could help.
+ Crossway Pregnancy Crisis Centre receive a number of enquires through their website and can put people in touch with local services. Visit www.crosswaypregnancy.org.uk or call 020 8892 8483.