Allow me to introduce you to Marlo Schalesky, award winning author of seven books including the wonderful resource Empty Womb, Aching Heart: Hope and Help for Those Struggling With Infertility and several fiction titles including her newest release If Tomorrow Never Comes. You can read my book reviews on Amazon, so I'll now turn this blog over to Marlo for a guest post on her personal journey through infertiltiy and how her own story has impacted the storyline of If Tomorrow Never Comes...
Infertility. I’ve lived with it for most of my adult life. Walked with it, fought with it, bargained with it. It’s challenged my faith, robbed my bank account, and made me into a stronger, braver woman. From it, I’ve written a nonfiction book on infertility (Empty Womb, Aching Heart) and a novel exploring the affects of infertility on a marriage (my newly released If Tomorrow Never Comes, the second of my Love Stories With a Twist!). Today, I find that most everything I know about God, His love, myself, and the wonder of a life lived with Jesus, I’ve learned on the infertility journey.
But it wasn’t always that way. Early in the journey, for months upon months, my Bible sat on the shelf, unopened and unread, my prayer journal lay unused, and my attendance at church became sporadic at best. I didn’t want to talk about God, I didn’t want to read about God, and I certainly didn’t want to pray.
Then, one day I was cleaning out the closet in our spare room when I found a box filled with college treasures. In it was a small book with peonies on the front. I opened the cover and discovered pages and pages filled with my own writing. I sat on the floor, with my back against the closet door, and rubbed one hand over the first page. “Junior Year,” it read in big purple letters. Purple had always been my favorite color. I flipped to about half way through and began to read.
I saw the sunrise today, Lord. It was amazing. I wish I could say that I saw it because I was up early to pray, but as You know, I had to pull an all-nighter to get that paper done. But it was worth it to see the streaks of orange, red, and gold at the dawn of a new day. I stood there and thought to myself, I know the One who made that sunrise. The same One who lives in me. You know, I can feel You there, Lord, in my heart. Some days, like today, Your love is a tangible thing, like a warm blanket that wraps around my insides. In these moments, I feel like I could shout to the stars about what an awesome, incredible, super-wow God You are. I can’t believe there was ever a time when I turned my back on You. What a fool I was. But everything’s different now, God. My life, my heart, is filled with the wonder of knowing You. I’ll never forget this feeling. I’ll never forget to keep loving You. I promise . . .
Tears came to my eyes as I read the words and remembered the day I wrote them. I remembered how nothing else mattered as much as knowing and loving God. But a lot had changed since then. Too much had changed.
I sat there, with my back pressing against the closet door and the old journal resting against my knees, and realized how much I missed my relationship with God. There was a pain, a loneliness, in me that went even deeper than not having children. In these last months, I’d lost something more precious than my hope for a child. I’d lost my closeness with God. And that had made my heart even emptier than my womb. Yet, even though I missed my relationship with God, I could still feel the anger that was lodged in my heart like a huge stone, burying me in my self-made tomb. How could I ever be free? How could I ever get past my pain?
I rose from the floor slowly and grabbed a pen from the top drawer of the desk by the door. Then, I reached up and took another journal from the shelves above. I blew off a layer of dust from the book’s cover, sat down at the desk, and began to write.
God, it’s me, you know, the one who keeps asking you for a baby. Well, I’m so mad at You I could just spit . . .
I wrote for an hour, pouring out my bitterness, my anger, my hurt. And with every word I wrote, I drew a little closer to God. He drew a little closer to me. So I continued journaling my frustrations, my prayers, my hopes. And as the months passed, I began to see God’s hand at work in my life. God hadn’t abandoned me as I had once thought. Instead, He was taking me on a life path that would help me to see more clearly, whether I was blessed with children or not. And on that road, God was asking me to love, to trust, even in the midst of my pain.
That day when I opened my journal, I began a long, slow journey back to God, a journey that’s reflected in the main character in my latest novel, If Tomorrow Never Comes. There, Kinna Henley faces the same questions, the same doubts, and a similar journey back to God. She, too, finds a new kind of strength and sacrifice through her journey through infertility. She finds that God understands her anger, hears her fury, accepts her hurt. And she discovers that true strength and bravery is found in choosing to love sacrificially, instead of clinging to her dreams.
Infertility taught me to see God’s love for me in new ways, not linked to whether or not I would have children, but rather how this life of mine fits into the whole of God’s Kingdom. I’ve come to think that might be the question that really matters.
In the end, my infertility taught me that it’s good to wrestle with God for the answers I need. It’s good to cry out, to keep turning to God with all my doubts, all my anger, all my pain. It’s better to shout than to be silent, better to call God unkind than to not call at all.
And it’s only when I learned that, only when I surrendered all my dreams, doubts, and difficulties to God, that He eventually gave me children through extensive treatment. Today, I have a nine-year-old daughter born after infertility surgery and an intrauterine insemination, another daughter born after a miscarriage, a year of failed inseminations, two failed in-vitro fertilizations, and finally a successful frozen embryo transfer, 3-year-old twins born after another frozen embryo transfer, and finally a miracle 5-month old born after four miscarriages and all our frozen embryos were used up … a long journey with 11 years before the first was born followed by nine more years of treatments with a few successes and a lot of failures – a lifetime, practically, molded by infertility, the journey, the doubts, the struggles, the difficulties … and the lessons that I wouldn’t have learned, couldn’t have learned, if God hadn’t taken me down that long path.
So, today, through my life journey, and through Kinna’s, I share that God doesn’t condemn us for those doubts. All He asks is that we bring our frustration, fears, anger, and questions to Him. He can handle it. He has big shoulders, as big as the sunrise.
FOR MORE ABOUT MARLO . . .
Please visit her website at www.marloschalesky.com and check out the audio interview, infertility resources, and other goodies there. She would love for you to sign up for her e-newsletter, "which I put out a few times a year (or whenever there’s exciting news like a book release!). You can sign up on the front page of my website." There’s a sign-up box there on the right hand column above the audio/video player.
Also, please visit her blog at www.marloschalesky.blogspot.com. About once a week she post news and hopefully helpful info on rekindling the wonder in our walks with God.