You know the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”…well this could sum up our journey to parenthood in one sentence!

I was the youngest of 10 kids and always dreamed of having a large family of my own. I wanted to be a mom since the time I can remember. I was the little girl that played with dolls (until way too old probably) and absolutely loved babysitting. I always had a deep desire and dreamt of the day I would be a mom and the day I would have 20 kids (okay maybe not 20, but at least 10)!

We were so excited to start our parenthood journey! As weird as this sounds I can still remember the last time I took my birth control pill and threw the packet away, I felt this immense excitement! With each month that passed and each negative test (I don’t even want to know the small fortune I have spent on pregnancy tests) that excitement and hope slowly was stripped away. Looking back to the beginning I can see that girl, who was so hopeful and naïve and who was so full of excitement and joy and I just want to put my arms around her tightly. I would tell her that the months and years ahead would be some of the darkest, hardest, most faith testing years of her life-but that she would make it through and would be a stronger person because of it. With each month that passed a little bit was stripped away until I became so completely raw. After a long time of trying, I went to see my doctor who explained to me that He didn’t feel we would be able to get pregnant on our own. I went home and fell on the ground-I sobbed and begged with God to “not let this be our trial, PLEASE GOD, don’t let this be the thing we have to endure, I am not strong enough to do this, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this! Please God, No!”

God did not make this better, He did not change our situation-but He did not leave us alone either! As I think back to our infertility journey there was so many people (Earthly Angels) that were put in our paths and who truly helped us through these hard, dark, sad, hopeless days. One of those Earthy Angels was a stranger I stood in line behind at the checkout at a local grocery store. We stood in a long line and somehow a conversation was sparked up with this older woman behind me. Children became the topic of our conversation and I opened up about the journey we were on with infertility. Tears swelled up in her eyes and she explained her own experience with infertility. Her advice and experience gave me a whole new perspective and gave me some much needed hope and strength. She told me “ You can either choose to look for the things you have lost with infertility or you can choose to look for the things you will gain with it. You can either let infertility harden you and you can choose bitterness or you can choose to let it soften you!.” Her words I have heard over and over again in my head. Infertility is hands down the hardest, darkest, saddest, most gut-wrenching, frustrating thing I have endured in my life, and yet it is something I am grateful for because it made me who I am today, in some ways I feel like it was exactly what my soul needed for it to become what it needed to become. Her words “you can choose for it to soften you” has played over and over in my head. It has truly made me a more empathetic person realizing that although some people don’t have to endure the pain of infertility they have other painful things they have to endure. Infertility taught me that everyone truly has something hard they have to endure-their own battle to fight. The real, raw, intense sadness and pain that I felt with my infertility caused me to soften and to view the world as a place where I can help others endure their real, raw, intense sadness whatever may be causing it.

Infertility plagued my life for 13 years. It was hard on my marriage, it was hard on my body, it was hard on my social life, it was hard on my faith and my relationship with God, it was hard on every single aspect of my life. We became well aquatinted with real deep sadness, with wanting a child so badly it physically hurt, with anger and frustration beyond what we had ever experienced before, with negative test after negative test, with the pain of miscarriage and overall with the sense of zero control over something you desire with such intensity. My heart aches for those who have to deal with infertility. We have been some of the lucky ones that although have dealt with infertility have been successful with infertility treatments and been able to have children. Each day, but especially each Mother’s Day as I look at my children I am so overcome with gratitude but I am also so overcome with sadness. I think of the many women who spend Mother’s Day in their bed crying because they can’t become a mother or want to be a mother to more children. If you are one of these women I am talking about-please know I think of you often, please know I pray for you and plead your case with God. You are strong and your day will come, keep the hope and the fight! Your babies will be so lucky to have a mama who fought so hard for them!

As I think back to my conversation I had with that lady so many years ago at the grocery store line, I often think of what she said “Choose to focus on the things you gained from infertility”, I am grateful she helped me to see that as hard and awful as infertility is, there are also some “gains” from it. I would say my biggest gain is that I truly am beyond grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother; I realize not everyone has the opportunity no matter how hard they try. There is truly not a single day that goes by that I am not extremely grateful for the wonderful blessing I have of being a mother-even on the hard days I am grateful! Infertility taught me to cherish and love Motherhood with every ounce of me. I find the deepest form of joy and happiness in being a mom. I came to learn that being a mom is such a privilege! I truly believe that this perspective I have is because I had to work and fight so very hard for every one of my children.

Even though we have now closed that chapter in our lives of having more children, the scars of infertility are still there. Every time I see a pregnancy test at a store I still get sick to my stomach or even now when people announce their pregnancies I still feel this sense of sadness. I think I still feel that way because for so many years those two things brought such intense heartache. I think the scars of infertility will never fully heal because they are so deep. But those scars are what make me who I am, they are part of my journey and they tell our story of how our family became what it is. So again I say to the women who are struggling with infertility “You are strong, your day will come-keep the hope and the FIGHT!”

-- Lara Vanhille