“Some women know why // Feeling ill brings so much hope. // The greatest let down.”
I’m not a poet, but I love haikus. Several months ago, I wrote this haiku at the end of a highly-symptomatic two week wait that ended in failure. False hope is something that any woman trying to conceive for more than a few months faces at various times during her journey. Generally, our false hope comes in the form of having multiple pregnancy symptoms that – no matter how convincing or plausible – turn out to be the result of something other than pregnancy. But for some of us, false hope shows up in other ways.
About a year ago, in the middle of August an old friend’s husband, that I don’t know very well, approached me through social media to inform me that God had told him I would conceive within a year’s time. My first reaction was surprise that someone I never speak to would contact me to tell me this. My second reaction was skepticism.
I told my husband about what had been said, and although I think he was a little put off by the fact that another man approached me about my fertility – he kept an open mind and said that we should pray about it. After all, we do believe that prophecy can be real. I just happen to believe that most of the time, it isn’t.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to think over some reasons for and against belief. The pros were that (1) As far as I knew, this man knew nothing about our struggle with infertility, (2) he had predicted – or prophesied – the conception of his own child, to the month, well before it happened, and (3) as far as I could tell, this man and his wife are devout believers in Christ who, even if they’d mis-heard God, would not intentionally lie to me.
The cons included questions like (1) why would God speak to some other man about our fertility instead of speaking to my own husband? (2) why did the man’s wife not say anything to me about it – since she is the person with whom I am actually friends? and (3) what if the man did know about my infertility via his wife (who really didn’t know much herself, but could have speculated)? What if they had been praying for us and were just trying to make us feel better, as opposed to actually having had a revelation from God?
I was afraid to believe in something that would turn out to be untrue, but I was also afraid not to believe something that God may have said. I thought it would be better to err on the side of faith, but still wasn’t ready to make that leap. So I discussed my dilemma with God and asked him to confirm whether or not this prophecy was true.
The following month, on the same date that I had received the first prophecy, a woman from my mother’s church revealed that she had seen me and was struck with the impression that I would be pregnant “soon.” Could this be the confirmation? I was still doubtful. I asked God to forgive me if this was supposed to be my “sign,” but I told him that I needed more confirmation than that if I were going to start believing that this prophecy had been true.
For a long time, I got nothing. I wasn’t sure how to interpret God’s silence. It could have meant that God was telling me that the prophecy was not true. It could have meant that the prophecy was true, and God was telling me not to ask for further confirmation since He’d already given it to me. Or, it could have meant that God’s response was to not respond at all in regards to whether or not the prophecy was true. My biggest concern was that I did not want to believe in something that God had not actually promised. What a waste of time that would be!
During this time, I started to mature in this infertility process. I went from naively hoping to be pregnant each month to understanding that ultimately, I want God’s will to trump mine, even if that means I will never conceive. If I’m being honest, I was skeptical of this prophecy for the majority of the year, and my doubt made me feel guilty. I kept remembering the story in the Bible where Jesus did no miracles in Nazareth because the people there did not believe. I started putting effort into believing this prophecy. Every time I thought negatively of it, I tried to correct myself and change my thinking. Whenever I imagined future events – upcoming vacations, relocations, anniversaries, birthdays, etc – I tried to imagine myself either pregnant or with a child in tow. I tried to picture how I would plan to accomplish certain tasks or obligations around this future, mystery baby. Whenever someone else got pregnant (at least fifteen people in my life announced pregnancies during this time period), I told myself that, according to this prophecy, I wasn’t going to be very far behind them.
Still, I struggled with doubt. And the fact that I had received no additional confirmation of this prophecy caused me to believe that most likely, it wasn’t true.
One afternoon I was reading the Bible when I came across the story of Abraham and Sarah. God had come to them and said, “I will return to you this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:10). A similar prophecy was made in 2 Kings 4:16, when Elijah prophesied that someone would have a son the following year. I didn’t go looking for these passages, I didn’t even know about them prior to having randomly found them. I wondered if these scriptures could be the confirmation that I had been waiting for? At the very least, they confirmed that God does in fact allow prophecies of the type that I received.
As month after unsuccessful month dragged on, I felt increasingly torn between skepticism and belief and I had no idea how God wanted me to handle it. On one hand, I am skeptical by nature. And although I believe that God can do anything – I need to make sure that He actually said He’d do it before I go around putting any faith into it. On the other hand, I’d heard so many stories in my life of people who had, against all odds, held onto their faith that something would happen and were proven right! I wanted to be on that side of my story. I didn’t want to be the one who gave up. So, finally, in the last five months of the year in question, I decided to put aside all doubts and just believe.
The final cycle in which the prophecy could be fulfilled arrived in August, 2014. By this time, my husband and I had been dealing with infertility for a grand total of four years (depending on when you start counting). We did everything we could to meet the prerequisites for conception, and the two week wait began.
It was one of the more difficult two week waits, for me. It wasn’t just the anxiety surrounding whether or not this would be the cycle. It wasn’t the fact that I literally had no symptoms of pregnancy that month. It wasn’t just the question of how to proceed medically if it didn’t turn out to be the cycle. It wasn’t just the fact that we’d attended our first foster/adoption meeting during this cycle. It wasn’t just the fact that we visited friends whose daughter was conceived at the same time that we’d actively begun trying. It wasn’t just hoping that, even if the prophecy had been false, God would make it true because we’d spent an entire year striving to believe it.
It wasn’t just the fact that I started my period on the day of a family friend’s funeral.
I had erred on the side of faith and had trusted in something that wasn’t God. And yet, God had allowed this to happen. With His complete understanding of all the over-analyzing that goes on inside my head. With His full awareness that I forced myself to believe this untruth because of a desire to please Him in the first place. With His absolute knowledge of whether or not I will ever be a biological mother. Instead of telling me, “Elisabeth, this prophecy is not from me.” He allowed me to believe in a lie. And if a ‘next time’ ever comes around, how will I know whether or not God has truly spoken?
Is it too trusting of me to say that there must be a reason He allowed this? I’m not mad at God. I’m not mad at the false prophet. Things are what they are, and I accept that. But I can’t help but wonder – what is the purpose of wasted time? What is the purpose of false hope?
Is there one?