Like one of my favourite songs, “Let it Out” by Switchfoot, I’m gonna take a deep breath and just let it out…
It’s been so hard to write. down. anything. So much has happened, and continues to happen, that sometimes it’s just easier not to say anything at all. Josh and I have been trying to figure out how to say this for a long time, so I’ll just start from the beginning.
More than two years ago, Josh and I were sitting in a beautiful spot overlooking the bay in Cape Town as we decided that we would try to start our family. What a beautiful time that was. We were full of hope and excitement for a future we were looking forward to. That week, I bought a little pair of leather baby shoes decorated like hippos, and when we moved to our new home in Uganda, I tucked them away in my bedside table. Every so often, I would pull them out, pray, and just gaze at those tiny shoes with anticipation.
After a few months, the tears started coming with each passing month. I would cry, and the emotions just intensified as time passed. The longing grew deeper, and the ache more painful. Josh was always our cheerleader, encouraging and hopeful.
As a woman, I was able to connect with my dearest friends, many of whom were going through something similar, until one by one, they each got pregnant and had their beautiful babies. I was left more and more alone with each celebration.
When we first moved to East Africa, we would miss marriages when we were away. For a while now, we’re missing babies being born, families growing left and right. But we stayed a family of two.
We live in Uganda, one of the most fertile countries in the world, where the cultural significance of bearing children is ever-present. It’s the very definition of what it means to be a woman, and to be part of a marriage.
Josh and I have been married almost 8 years, and we are both 30. We’ve grown accustomed to “how many children do you have?” being asked whenever we meet someone new. We often hear “when you have children…” as a forgone conclusion, rather than the hope that we’ve desperately chased for years now.
When we were back in Canada this past Christmas, we were finally able to get tests done to see what was going on. It was a month full of hardships, with my mom being sick in the hospital, which meant when we got back home to Uganda, we were recovering from the emotional, physical, spiritual toll that we suffered and have been suffering with for a while now.
Shortly after our return, we got word that the results were in, so we made a Skype call to the doctor’s office. We were nervous that there might be some challenges, wondering what we could do differently, but we weren’t prepared for what we were told:
0% chance of getting pregnant. None. Our family physician had never even seen results like ours, she’d only ever read about them.
In that moment, both our worlds shattered. We passionately wanted to be parents more than anything else in the world. I took the little leather hippo shoes out of my bed side table and packed them away.
This is like a death to us. A loss of many things. The loss of the privilege of feeling what it is like to have a human growing inside of me. The loss of a child with the perfect mix of both of us. For Josh, it’s the loss of being able to say “she has my wife’s eyes.” It’s the loss of giving nephews & nieces to our siblings, cousins to their kids, and grandchildren to our parents. It’s the loss of that bond between a couple when they create a new life together. It’s the loss of getting to see part of yourself in another person. It’s the loss of being able to give birth and hold a brand new life we’ve created in our arms. It’s the loss of having some sort of normalcy in our lives. It’s the purest and deepest form of loss we’ve both ever experienced.
We are broken and hurting. We don’t know why this has happened to us. Why a couple who so passionately wants to get pregnant can’t and why people who don’t want to get pregnant do.
It’s yet another difference in our lives, something that sets us apart from those that we love.
One week after we got the news, we were driving on the highway and were stopped by the police for some silly thing. When the officer looked in the back seat and saw our dog, he asked why we don’t have children. Our response, as always, was “we hope and pray for them.” His response was, playfully, “you must be doing something wrong.” He meant no harm, but his words stung.
The month of January was the toughest. I was absent from work a lot. I slept a lot. Josh struggled at work, sometimes just sitting at his desk blankly. We didn’t want to talk to friends and family much, because it was too painful. We had never felt quite like this before. We were grieving, and we still are. And we may be for a long time.
We were angry with God. So angry. As the grief progressed, the realization of loss set in, all we could ask was “why.” Why would I have this deep passion to bear a child, if He knew it would never happen? Why am I in a job that focuses so much on maternal care, as I’m just discovering I can never get pregnant? Why did we feel so hopeful for so long, when it was never going to happen? Why does that person get to be pregnant, and not me? Why, Why, Why?
In our devastation, we both wanted to walk away from God. Until, one day I found myself talking to Him without even realizing what I was doing. He never left us, even as we wanted to turn away, as we hurled our hurts and frustrations at Him, as we shed our tears. He was there, tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me of his presence, even if I didn’t care.
A couple months later, and we both feel “better,” although that sure is a relative term. There is still an open wound in need of healing, but we both feel like the bleeding has stopped.
Our frustration with God remains, but we are being reminded and are seeing his blessings woven throughout the pain and sadness we still feel. We don’t know why this is happening to us, but we both have faith that we will one day.
Our family and close friends have been really supportive and incredible during this time. They’ve been there for us in the sharing and in the silence.
It hurts deeply, as our arms remain empty, to see our friends and family blessed with beautiful babies of their own. We need each of you to know that while that pain is present, it is not as powerful as the joy that comes alongside it. We are happy for you, and we share that joy for all of our loved ones.
One thing that Josh has said to me during this time, was that every month, as we shed tears together over each realization that we weren’t pregnant, we got another lesson about how precious a gift children are. It’s a lesson we’ve paid for with deep sadness, but we’ve found it’s increased our capacity to love children around us.
This past month, LifeNet sent us to Thailand for a two week conference run by the Christian Medical & Dental Association, where we were able to live in community with other medical workers like us, and where we took every opportunity we could to receive counselling and support. We added on a week in Vietnam for some time just to enjoy each other and have some fun, and now we are back home in Uganda and back to work.
We are doing ok. There is still lots of joy in our life, especially all the laughs we get from each other, and Belle, our puppy. Our marriage is as solid as a marriage could be. No blame, just love and support. We’ve gone through so much together. I truly believe that our love story is an epic one, and I know that it will bring something beautiful to our lives.
We all go through our own trials, our own losses, and all of us experience grief like this in different forms, and carry burdens that others can never see or know about. This is ours, for the time being. It was hard to share, but we know that we needed to. Who knows, maybe someone is going through something similar, and if they feel less alone through reading this, then maybe that is a good thing.
Please pray for us, we desperately need it. Pray for healing in our hearts, and too for our families, as we know that they share our grief with us. Pray for our marriage, that it continues to remain strong and grow stronger. Pray for our work, for focus and energy, so we can remain devoted to the mission God has given us. Pray for our future. We don’t know how we will grow our family, and what it might look like, but we know we want one.
For now, we’ll keep on talking about Belle like she’s our child and that will be good enough.
Thanks everyone for beginning to walk this journey with us through prayer.