Motherhood: Michelle's Story
Updated: May 29, 2020
Michelle became a mom at age 40, and is now 41 with a 15-month-old boy. She was 36 when she got married, and her husband was in his forties. Both of them have always longed for a family, she said, but they decided to wait to begin trying to conceive until they had a few years of marriage and her doctoral studies behind them. They struggled with infertility, failed in-vitro-fertilization (IVF), and a miscarriage before she got pregnant.
Tell us a brief version of your journey to becoming a mom. What were some of the hardest times? What were some of the most joy-filled moments?
My husband and I are (begrudgingly) referred to as "Geriatric" parents. By the time we were ready to work toward conception, I was considered to be well in the throes of "Advanced Maternal Age." My OBGYN recommended we give it a few months and then consider a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
Those few months didn't result in any pregnancy announcements. We headed into the office of a sought-after fertility specialist with optimism, determination, and a heckuva lot of naiveté. Thus began a two-year physical and emotional roller coaster of pokes, prods,"two-week waits," questions, hope, and heartache. Three failed IVF cycles, one miscarriage, and buckets of tears later, I couldn't take any more disappointment. We decided to take a break to grieve and regroup.
Several months later, we agreed to get a second opinion from a different RE. The night before our appointment, I found out I was pregnant.
I was dumbfounded when I saw the "plus" on the pregnancy test. Wanting with all my heart to believe it but scared to have yet another heartbreak, I did my best to remain cautiously optimistic yet somewhat emotionally detached. At the first sonogram, however, I was sunk— totally in love with our baby. I was full of anxiety during the first trimester, but with each milestone we hit through pregnancy, I began to breathe a little deeper sigh of relief. Maybe, just maybe, our dream would be fulfilled.
Pregnancy was an incredible journey. Given that I had all but given up on ever experiencing the miracle of growing a human being inside of me, I cherished every moment of it: the nausea, the extra pounds, the sore body parts, the fatigue. All of those minor inconveniences meant that one of the deepest dreams of my life was in process. It was nine months of delight and wonder, and I'm forever grateful I had that privilege.
Eventually, my prayers turned from "Lord, please bless us with a child," to "Lord, help me to trust you are good, no matter what."
What were some of the ways you processed and grieved those hard times?
"Infertility" and "miscarriage" are two words I never anticipated would be penned into my story. Having dreamed of being a mom my whole life, for a while it seemed as though that longing would remain just—a far-off, unattainable, cruel dream.
The journey made me doubt the two most foundational elements of my life—my faith in God and my identity as a woman. My seminary training couldn't answer the questions that emerged from the depths of my soul. Never had my faith been tested so acutely, because never had I been disappointed so greatly. As God continued to seem elusive, I turned to my husband, family, and close friends to have faith while mine withered. Their prayers and presence carried me through the most difficult moments. Eventually, my prayers turned from "Lord, please bless us with a child," to "Lord, help me to trust you are good, no matter what."
It's a difficult tension to both surrender a deep desire and yet acknowledge it as real and good at the same time. Before going through infertility and miscarriage, I felt that to truly surrender the desire meant I must no longer yearn for it. Through the journey, I learned to sit with this incredible tension and go to God with it: "Lord, I really want this AND I trust you your plan for me, whether or not that includes biological children."
Daily, I have to remind myself that I'm doing this thing in partnership with God and my husband; our role as parents is simply to love our son and point him to Jesus.
What was your experience of meeting your child like?
Meeting Alexander was the most phenomenal moment of my life. I cried right along with my newborn son as he emerged from my womb and was laid on my chest. My husband was involved in every step of my pregnancy and kept his eyes locked with mine throughout the birthing process as he gave me encouragement and support and watched the miracle unfold. We both wept as we examined Alex's face and every bit of his 19-inch, 6.4 lb body!
What did you think motherhood would look like before you became a mom? What were you surprised by?
I honestly didn't have a ton of expectations about motherhood—except that it would likely be more wonderful AND more challenging than I anticipated. Both are true. Each day I experience so much love for my son I think my heart might burst, AND I feel the gravity involved in raising my son to be a godly man. But, just as I had to trust God before I had children, so must I trust Him with my children.
One aspect of motherhood that surprised me is the loneliness I felt, especially in the early months. I went from a career filled with meaningful relationships and rich conversations on a daily basis to just me and my little guy. My husband was able to enjoy some paternity leave time with us but quickly had to get back to work. Thankfully, my mom, who lives 6 hrs away, visited us often. I would cry every single time she pulled away from our house. Part of my tears were due to the fear I felt of caring for him on my own. I very much felt like a 'rookie' mom, and sometimes the feelings of inadequacy were overwhelming. I was also sad that I was the only one enjoying him. I wanted to share the wonder of him with someone. Having a front seat to my son's life has been my deepest joy, and joy takes a greater depth when you can share it with others.
What have you learned about yourself through motherhood?
I've learned that feeling competent at whatever responsibility I am engaging in is a really high value to me. It's good to strive to do your best, but my tendency is to really take it hard when I "fail." In the task of motherhood, that can become dangerous territory, especially if I'm rating myself on my son's actions and responses. Daily, I have to remind myself that I'm doing this thing in partnership with God and my husband; our role as parents is simply to love our son and point him to Jesus. I've also learned that I can survive on three hours of sleep and a cup of coffee! Motherhood is both physically and emotionally taxing. It forces you to put yourself aside for the good of someone else.
Share with us the biggest ways God has worked in your heart and shown himself to you through this journey of motherhood.
From our struggle with infertility to ongoing attempts to teach my son to not throw food, the journey of motherhood has been a daily reminder of my dependence on God. I like being able to control outcomes (cue laughter from anyone who has ever had children, or has even been around them). God has used this experience to help me open my hands and release control. He's also taught me to be more in the moment. Rather than try to squeeze every spare minute of productivity, God's taught me to rest, relax, and enjoy the beauty of my son discovering the world.
My favorite passage of Scripture describes the character of God as "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." As I experience those qualities as it relates to my son, I'm more profoundly aware of God's character as it relates to me. And, as my son eagerly accepts and unashamedly demands my love, I'm learning to accept and receive God's love in a deeper way.
Thank you for reading Michelle's motherhood journey. I hope, as we continue the series, your life will be enriched by the stories other moms share.