Breathe it in and let it out.

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.

Nadine.

13 thoughts on “Breathe it in and let it out.

  1. Dear Nadine,

    You may/may not remember us at all from Haiti, but we have kept up to date with you and Josh through your emails – thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. Rest assured – there is hope and God’s love story for you will be so much better than the love story you created in your own mind! We will be praying for God to continue to heal your hearts as he prepares you for a different way – his way! God loves you!

    PRAYING PRAYING PRAYING!!!

    Love Amy Sharkey (Boycott)

    ________________________________

  2. Hello Josh and Nadine I am not sure if you have previously received my answers to you but I always put an aide mémoire as a prefix to say how we met at the Gitega orphanage and endeavoured to connect baby kid and mother goat.Josh you were quite poorly at the time.

    I really want you to know how much your news has touched my heart for you both.and how brave you have been in sharing it so openly beautifully and with deep reality of human frailty and honesty

    It is heart wrenching for you and I trust that Beloved Daddy God will heal the pain..and wounds of grief in the speed at which you can cop.

    I can identify in a similar way to say that I know of excruciating pain and grief similar to yours.. Plus feelings of deep loss..the pain deep inside being unbearable. I too have known the tears flow in anger at God and asked why am I so different..what is wrong with me what makes me different from other people.

    When church is where everyone is supposed to be family yet I know deep isolation surrounded by people who say others have problems too. Similarly to yourselves when asked by someone “how many children have you got” a look of shock covers their face when I say I am not married. I sincerely don’t want to hurt you in your already. broken hearts..singleness is compounded by never being a family but always an appendage to others.. Not having that one person who is especially emotionally physically yours..the lack of human intimacy and being special to one person.

    The pain comes when one sees the arm of closeness go round a shoulder as an expression of the deep love that lies deep inside

    I have asked a leader and his wife how do they consider that a single female receives all the benefits of a married woman…the covering, protection,emotional, physical support..sadly they had no answer..,

    I am so blessed that you have a lovely strong and loving marriage and I am sure I don’t need to say it but do be so so so so grateful for each other.

    I always believed you have a unique love together ( secretly been very envious) when some of your photos have gone out with your info.

    Only very recently Beloved Daddy God has shown me that I am a person in my own right and have my own identity..I know I have to work this out with my beloved God..at the moment I know the pain can creep back, in subtle, ways and I will believe what He told me and did in me. My love reaches you both in the power of our Beloved comforter Holy Spirit and I prayer that you will be able to get into the inner heart of Beloved Daddy God Kathleen Maureen / MO Collings Hereford UK

  3. Dear Josh and Nadine,

    Thanks for your heartfelt sharing which brought me to tears.

    Lynda and I sat in front of you at Alex Gitungano’s Graduation in Buja.

    God’s love is still unfailing and he still is in the business of the impossible. So we pray Proverbs 3; 5-6 for you:- “Trust in the LORD with all your heart(s), lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways (continue) to acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

    Much love and mutual prayers.

    Peter and Lynda Taylor in Denver, Colorado.

  4. My heart goes out to you both! Your Love for each other and your faith will get you through this! Why…who knows but as you say sure God has other plans,they just have not been revealed yet! Hugs! Judy

  5. Dear Nadine and Josh,

    Thank you for sharing the story of the last few months in your lives. I was excited when I saw that you had sent an update, and I feel blessed to have read what you shared (and what others shared in response to your letter). I was going to email only you back but I think I’ll respond here, in case my response encourages others as I was encouraged to see the previous responses.

    I will be praying for you! God never leaves us; He always remains as or Heavenly Father ready to comfort us.

    I can relate to Kathleen’s post above, as I am a single lady in the church; I find the church to be one of the hardest places to be single. I used to want to be married and have kids but I’ve allowed God to help me be content in this season and He’s totally changed my perspective. It’s not that I don’t want to be married; our Father showed me that if I was married, I’d be too easily distracted to learn to be disciplined in following His voice. I’ve learned that for now, God wants me to disciple others and be a spiritual mom of sorts (which takes a huge amount of time and commitment; something I might shy away from if I was married and/or starting my own family). I also learned that just because kids are in a home does not mean all their needs (spiritual, emotional, psychological, etc.) are being met. I can play a very important role in other young girls’ lives, if I keep listening to God’s voice and direction. God is helping me reshape my life and my schedule so I can be involved in every area of His plan for me, now and in the future. It’s pretty exciting and better than I imagined!

    In no way am I sayting that you’re not listening and trusting God. I’m excited that you have an awesome marriage and I’ll pray that God keeps it strong. I just wanted to share my experience to say I can relate to feeling frustrated that my life wasn’t going how I thought it would be cool if it went. I’m now happy that I’ve had those challenging moments because I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything else.

    “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
    – ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬‬
    http://bible.com/59/isa.55.9.esv

    Thank you again for being open! I think it’s amazing whenever God uses technology to help His church love and support one another around the world. I’ll be praying for you, for your work, for your families, and for your future.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Jennifer

  6. Thank you for sharing Josh and Nadine, we will continue to pray for you, we love you and miss you! Love and prayers always.

  7. Hi guys, Thank you so much for your openness and honesty in writing this latest letter!! We took time yesterday as the pastoral staff to pray for you both and I want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as you journey through this difficult time. I can only imagine how much this has meant to both of you and there are no awesome words that I can say to remedy the situation. I want you to know that having gone through a near death time in my life, I have experienced God’s grace, comfort and his strength as he walked with me along that very difficult 18 months. My prayer is that you too will experience God in a deeper way and that you will know his grace each and every day as you walk through this very difficult time.

    Romans 8 : 35-39 and 2 Corinthians 4 7-12 are passages of scripture that come to mind and hopefully they will be of some encouragement to you!!

    I’d love to Skype or FaceTime soon with you guys!! let me know what you think.

    Iain

    Iain McAuliffe Executive Pastor iain.mcauliffe@centralbaptist.ab.ca W; 780-466-7461 C; 780-554-0876

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  8. Hello Hello I am sorry to hear of where you are at and your situation at this present time. I have some other friends who were given the same diagnosis and about 6 years later had a baby. I know that it is hard to pray for something when the “possible” outcome is opposite of what you desire. I will begin to pray for favour in your lives. Tim

  9. Hi Nadine,
    The pain you both went through has no substitute. We don’t have all the answers but I’m sure of one thing, every prayer prayed and tear shed has reached heaven. Isaiah 43:26 shows a God who is asking us to converse with Him in our situations as they are. Hold on!! Don’t give up on the prayer to have children. He brings beauty from ashes. My wife and I pray that your faith in Him who put the desire to have children in you stands taller than the doctor’s report. He is the God of Gideon and Moses you know. When He does something, it’s obvious. Keep smiling because He is!!

    Lots of love

    (,Btw, we would love to get in touch with you as our church is running a school in Bujumbura and we would love to hear your side on how to better run this organisation out there)

  10. Hey Josh & Nadine,

    i will continue to pray for you guys as you navigate all this….my love, prayers and thoughts are for you both!

    May the God of All comfort gard your hearts& minds in Christ Jesus!

    Much love and prayers stew

  11. Hey Jon,

    It’s really good to hear from you! Thanks for responding and offering up encouragement. It’s been a tough time, but Nadine and I just recently compiled a full list of all the supportive messages of love and prayers and solidarity that we’ve received from so many since we published the blog.

    Your email just made the cut haha. So it’s in there and it means so much to us!

    Hoping we can find time to connect soon. We will be home this summer perhaps in August but we hope we can connect with Iain and maybe a few of you guys soon.

    Take care!

    Josh Guenther Uganda Country Director LifeNet International Mobile: +256 79 110 8556 +256 77 577 1754

    Visit our website at: http://joshandnadineinburundi.com

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