Rachel Whaley Doll: On the Wilderness of Infertility

Sit with me in the darkness; not because it is easy,

but because your Light will brighten my world

and our friendship will strengthen us both.

Whether serving as a Christian Educator or that other full time church job, minister’s wife, I have spent most of my adult life in the ministry. It has been an amazing journey, filled with beautiful connections and relationships. I have taught and learned with children, youth and adults in three states, and continue to enjoy serving the Presbyterian Church (USA).

I thought all those things would have prepared me to have faith no matter what.

I was wrong.

When my husband, Aaron, and I decided to start a family, we believed that we would be holding our baby within a year, just as all our friends seemed to be. As month bled into month with no pregnancy, we quietly reached out to a few close friends. As year bled into year and we experienced a miscarriage, we became more public with our struggle to conceive.

Most of the ways friends and family reached out were helpful, and I know all of it was out of love for us. But some of the advice and comments were just hard to hear, and made it impossible to go to church at times. Looking back, glimmers of hope and a connection to God were always there, but some days they were not visible through the tears.

When we encounter someone in pain,

it is so easy to go into fix-it mode.

But what is needed is much harder.

I called my friend Marcia and told her we needed to go out for sushi. She knew that meant the in-vitro attempt had not worked, as I could not eat raw fish if I was pregnant.

Marcia is a fellow minister’s wife, and her friendship was such a gift in those dark days. She hugged me tight when we met for lunch, no words needed. We sat down at the sushi counter together, and watched the chefs work their magic.

Then she quietly said, “This just sucks. I had words with God today about you.”

Until that moment, no one had ever simply met me where I was. She didn’t try to fix anything or offer suggestions for success. There was no pity in her eyes when she looked at me. No other words were said for quite a while.

Later, we talked about how her flowers were doing, what was going on in Congress and lots of unimportant things. But the simple act of showing up and sitting with me touched me more deeply than any words could have.

I also had a rocky relationship with God during those years.

At first I turned to scripture looking for comfort. I found stories of women whose wombs were “opened by God” for a variety of reasons.To me this said that if I could find the right combination, of patience or ‘giving it to God’ or whatever, the door would finally open for me.

I even read books that actually said if I had enough faith, God would give me a child. That is horrible theology on a variety of levels, and only serves to add insult to injury for someone dealing with infertility or the loss of a child.

God seemed silent and distant, and I began to look elsewhere for connection, but never felt courageous enough to really tell God all of what I was feeling.

One aspect of prayer that we never talk about are the times you are just pissed off – at God! God actually knows you, and expects a bit of steam from time to time.

Infertility is a dark and painful pit (as are war and cancer) and God has heard a few expletives already!

The most amazing thing happened when I finally got mad at God.

Yes, it was uncomfortable for awhile. Yes, it took some time to ‘make up’ and be friends again.

But the shiny plastic coating of our relationship had shattered, and I felt I could move freer in my own skin. Getting real with God took our relationship to a much deeper level, and once I knew it was safe to be honest with God, I could be honest about everything, even with myself.

Whether you are walking the journey of infertility,

or loving someone who is, know that you are not alone,

and that no matter what, God will not leave you.

Rachel Doll

Rachel Whaley Doll is an educator, Biblical Storyteller, and lover of beach sand. She is also the author of two books, The Exquisite Ordinary, 2012, and Beating on the Chest of God; A Faith Journey Though Infertility, 2014. Connect with Rachel at rachelwhaleydoll.com.

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