I am so excited to have the opportunity to share Jill’s story with you! Jill is 36, and has been married to her husband, Mike, for 16 years. She is the mother of 13 year old son Sean, and a 18 month old, Zac. You may have noticed the large age gap between Sean and Zac. Jill long struggled with 11 years of infertility and was recently blessed with an incredible miracle.
This is her story, and I hope it encourages you as much as it does me. She has been a blessing and an encouragement in my life, and I hope her story will be the same for you.
I sarted off by asking what infertility was like for her.
It was a weird process. I got married when I was young. We started trying to have a baby fairly soon after we got married. I knew it was going to be kind of difficult to have a child, it took us a year and a half with Sean. I was only 21 at the time, but a year and a half wasn't a long time in the grand scheme of things. Eventually we had Sean, and I guess I figured, now we could have all the kids we wanted. I assumed it wouldn't be that big of a deal…but it just never happened and after years of trying the old fashioned way, I sought treatment and answers as to why I couldn't get pregnant. I remember Sean was 3 when I went to the doctor and got an ultrasound. I remember very clearly seeing my ovaries on the ultrasound screen and they were just speckled all over, they were covered in cysts. Of course, that makes having a baby a lot trickier.
But it was still possible, so I went on five different runs of clomid, a fertility drug, and took the highest possible dosage. I did injectable types of drugs and still nothing. I never even ovulated, so there was no chance. It was a hard process to go through, just being so conscious of the situation makes you feel crazy and those drugs make you feel out of your mind. I wanted to have another child SO badly, and never even to ovulate one little egg. It reached a point to where treatment was too expensive, and too emotionally exhausting; it wasn’t working at all so we just gave up on the idea.
So we thought, "We’ll adopt! How wonderful, how noble; let’s adopt.". So we did foster care for a year. During that time we found out we were going to get a baby. I remember exactly where I was when we got the call and they said, “We have a baby for you”. I remember the day she was born. We brought her home from the hospital, and we had a little beautiful baby girl, Allison! We thought we were going to be able to adopt this little baby, we were so happy.
Despite my excitement, the first time I walked into the hospital and saw this baby girl, I picked her up and I said to myself, "Is this going to be my daughter?" and I felt the Lord say, “No,” very clearly. [laughs bitterly] When you get those moments though, you tell yourself you don’t really know, or ‘I could be being pessimistic’. So we attached and we bonded. After having her for 6 months, we found out that she was going to go live with her biological family. We were led along believing she was going to go up for adoption, but then her grandparents wanted her. They were capable loving grandparents, and they won out. Blood trumps anything in the system, as it should; if they wanted her, they should have her.
It was the toughest phase of my life by far; this was the valley- the pit of despair. Allison went home January 15, 2006. The next two weeks was just the most horrible span, it was like we had had a death in the family. The atmosphere was so grim, everyone was just so horribly quiet.
Exactly two weeks to the day after she went home, while I was at work I started feeling really, really crappy all day. I left and got into the car and drove away realizing something was seriously wrong. I couldn't get home, I knew I was in a emergency situation so I pulled over, and I ended up calling an ambulance. It was a very weird experience to have them come and take me, carry me out of the car, and go through my purse.
I sat in the ER for a long time because they couldn’t do anything with me, they didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t go to the bathroom even though the hospital staff kept pressing me to. Finally my belly had swollen so much to the point that it looked like I was six months pregnant. No one knew yet that this was because I was bleeding in my uterus internally. When I tried again to get up and go to the bathroom, I passed out. So they rushed me to the ultrasound tech, and the tech had the wand on me for like two seconds before she called someone up saying, “You need to get this girl into surgery right now!”, because I was internally bleeding to death. They got me in to surgery, and turns out it was an ectopic pregnancy.
No one outside of the doctors knew at this point what was going on, but what was weird is that Mike called my dad to get him to come to the hospital and my dad said to Mike, “It’s an ectopic pregnancy and she’s going to be fine.” He was right, and I was fine, eventually. I received six units of blood, but I came out of surgery okay after a long, complicated process. When I got out of the hospital I had a rough weekend at home. I had just been in the hospital for five days and came home only to have a pulmonary embolism after being home for just two days.
I had to go back to the hospital. They almost sent me home, but I knew there was something wrong with me. They finally did a cat-scan, and found that I had a blood clot in my lungs. So I was in ICU four days after that.
I was just beside myself! I could not figure it out. I was asking, "God, why, why, why, why do I have to go through all this?". I could not stop crying. The nurse, God bless her, walked in and saw that I couldn’t stop crying. She was like, “it’s not on your orders but I’m putting you on a [tranquilizer]. I thought, "Thank God," and I just slept it off. When I came home again I still kept asking, "Why is this happening, why do I have to go through this? Just two weeks ago I lost one baby, and the only other confirmed pregnancy I’ve had almost killed me? Why?" I was so, so hurt.
We had a ton of blizzards then, so I was snowed in, even though it really didn’t matter because I could hardly move. It was a strange capsule of time, it was just so horrible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so depressed my whole life, I just laid in bed all day long.
After all that happened I really had lost hope of having another baby, and then my tube exploded on the right side, so I don’t even have a functioning fallopian tube there, so now my chances are really blown. I pretty much had given up at that point, and we didn’t want to adopt anymore, we were so burnt out on that. I knew I couldn’t pursue it in anymore.
But Spring came along, and you know, you have to keep moving. I knew I was extremely depressed, and I didn’t know what to do about it, so I prayed, a lot. I tried for the first time in my adult life to study the Bible. I’d just look up things like “despair” [laughs] and read all about despair, and then I’d look up agony, and read all of those verses. Thank God for a concordance, I wouldn’t have even known where to begin without it. It was helpful, it really was, I still have many of those Bible verses written on the inside of my cabinet in my bathroom from nine years ago- that horrible time in my life, where those verses were the only thing getting me through. You just try to put one foot in front of the other and go forward. That was six ago and I didn’t find out I was pregnant until April 2013.
If you were to write a story about your life what would be the climax of that story?
Definitely the miracle that is Zac. Not being able to have a second child was kind of the theme of my life for such a long time. I tried so hard, and I wanted to so badly. I prayed for him so much, and I was just so desperate. I couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening.
Tell me about that moment when you finally found out you were gong to have Zac.
The day before I found out I was pregnant with Zac, I had this weird cathartic moment- I was flipping through Sean’s baby pictures and I surprisingly didn’t have that longing feeling like, "Man, I want a baby so badly". It was this moment where it seemed to not bother me anymore, I was feeling so glad to have Sean. I felt so much better about it, and it wasn't a painful thing anymore.
Later that day I was flipping through the Bible and I got to the part where Elizabeth finds out she’s pregnant, and Elizabeth says, “the Lord has done this for me...” [Luke 1:25] and that really struck me. I don’t know why- but it did. The next day I became really nauseous, I would turn green at the sight of food. I didn’t think much of it but I thought, "You know, I should just check, it’s probably nothing, but who knows?". So I nonchalantly bought a pregnancy test at the store, and decided I’d take it in the morning.
That night I was lying in bed and the thought came to me as I touched my belly and wondered, wouldn’t it be weird if I were pregnant? And it was like something out of the Bible, I felt the baby leap in my womb (it was very distinctively different than gas). [laughs] I felt God clearly say, “You are pregnant; and be prepared”. He also said this baby was going to be like a warm blanket for the cold that is coming. I knew that meant I was going to lose someone close to me. Despite those things, I was very excited in that moment.
First thing in the morning, I took the test and it was positive. I just… I don’t know. [It was somewhat difficult for Jill to get some of these words out because she was still feeling the joyful, powerful emotions that she must have felt that day she found out about Zac]. It was the most unbelievable moment of my life, I mean I fell down on my face and just thanked God. I thought, It’s really real? Like for real?”. I could not believe it…I look at Zac now and I still can’t believe it. He’s really here.
I called Mike as soon as I could (after crying for about 10 minutes) and said, “You’ve got to come home. I'm pregnant! I don’t care what you have to tell your work". I’ll never forget at that first ultrasound Mike was sitting right next to me, holding my hand. The screen lit up and I could see this little tiny dot. I still have the pictures of that little dot that was Zac, he was just a few cells then but it was so unbelievable. We were both in awe, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much!
We also found out which ovary the egg was released from and it was the right side where I don’t even have a tube. We looked at each other dumbfounded! I knew it was a miracle. I think God did that just to show off, you know? It’s like he was saying, “I get to say when children are born; you don’t even have a fallopian tube on this side and I can make it work.”
Once again, it was such a cathartic moment. I remember I could not stop crying, because I could physically feel that spiritual wound being healed. [at this point she spoke through tears] I’ve never known a feeling of relief like that, and I'd had that wound for so long and become so used to it, that I didn't even realize how much it permeated my whole existence. What joy to have it just be gone- maybe not completely gone but… it was smoothed over. For so long I had this gaping wound and all the sudden, it was just a scar. When you suffer through something for so long and you get to see the end result, you nearly forget the pain.
Tell me more about your pregnancy and what that taught you.
Anytime you have a blood clot, a spike in hormones causes higher risk of another clot developing, so they had to put me on a blood thinner during my pregnancy from the get go. I had to take injectable blood thinners and inject my belly twice a day. It burned and it was no fun, but still it was one of the most joyful times of my life. I remember telling people, “I’ve never been so full joy, and so full of stomach acid”. [laughs] Every night in bed I’d lift up my shirt and watch him, or feel him. It was awesome time of waiting and anticipating.
Describe that first day with him.
In that first moment when they give you your baby, you can’t really see him, you can’t even really look a him, and they’re so small you don’t even know what to do with them. [laughs] But when they took him away and they were cleaning him up, I was looking at him thinking he was the cutest, most precious, gorgeous baby; my teeny, tiny, little potato. I was shaking so badly from adrenaline, and one of the nurses said, “You look terrified”. I look like I’m 12, so I know everyone was thinking, “Is this teen pregnancy going to work out?”. [laughs] I said, “I’m not terrified, I’m overwhelmed… I just can’t even believe he’s here, he’s so gorgeous!”
I thought, now life really begins!
Was it true that Zac was a “warm blanket”? Did you lose someone?
Yes, losing my grandma last year was so hard for me. Then we lost Mike’s grandma a month later and my uncle Tony the month before. Having that sweet little boy to smile at and to take care of was literally a Godsend. I'm so happy that both grandmas got to see Zac and enjoy him for some time.
Do you feel like God gave you Zac in that time because you had finally made peace with the idea that you may never have another child?
I guess so, yeah. You don’t get to plan the way your life goes. God gives us a lot of control and free will, but it says in Proverbs, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps,” [Prov. 16:9]. You know a lot of us, we plan that we’re going to have a house, have a child, have another child, this and that, but God could have a completely different thing in mind, and you kind of have to be square with it one way or another. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you have to trust in Him. He knows what’s best for those big, big things in your life. I don’t think we have much say in those kinds of things at all.
God is 100% in control. I know I wouldn’t have appreciated Zac as much, and it would not have been such a miracle, if he came on my time. Sometimes we have to go through some really hard stuff, and sometimes you have to wait a really long time, but then once you see the reason, it just becomes so crystal clear. I’ve gotten to a place finally, where I completely trust God, whatever he wants for me, that’s what I want. It’s so wonderful to get to that place.
So how are things right now?
It’s so wonderful and so much fun! Life is now extremely busy, but I’m much easier on myself as a mother and more patient now with the kids. I've stopped trying to control who they should be, or how perfect they should act. I’m so much more relaxed. I'm able to appriciate Zac; I look at him, even when he’s being horribly naughty and think, "I can’t believe I have you, you’re really here!" It’s amazing.
I think that’s why the family pictures you took a few weeks ago got to me so much. I really did not expect to react that way, I mean, I bawled like a baby! Every time I look at them, I just can’t believe this is really my family, we’re complete now. Hopefully in 50 years we can look back and see that this is us, we’ve finally come into our own- this is the way it was meant to be.
Do you have any wisdom or advice for anyone struggling with infertility, or perhaps someone stuck in a “waiting period” wondering, "What does the Lord want for me?"
I would say two things helped me more than anything. First, being content where you are, and knowing that where you are is temporary. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Phil 4:12-13). That verse really resonated with me, it’s one of the ones on my cabinet. Even if you’re going through a time where God’s not really giving you what you want, or not giving you an answer, you just have to go through it, God knows the desires of you heart, he knows where you want to be. You have to go on His timeline, it’s better that way. That’s hard to grasp when you’re in the thick of it, but it’s true.
Secondly, 2 Corinthians 12:9 that says, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” You’re not going to get everything out of this world, you don’t get to plan your life out the way that it is in your head, but you do not need to despair because, “…my grace is sufficient for you.”
No one whom God uses greatly has not gone through a great trial. It’s not when we’re at the top of the mountain that our blades are sharpened, but it's when we’re in the valley that your soul is sculpted into who God wants you to be. I can endure hardship, and I can be rewarded with the prize at the end. Now that I've fully understood that, I can fully grasp how truly wonderful it is to have that little boy.
No amount of birth control or any amount of fertility drugs could have altered this path; Zac came when he was supposed to, that’s how it is for every body. There are lots of people who are on birth control who get pregnant, there are many people who are perfectly healthy and normal and “should” be able to have children, but can’t. Not a one of us was born on accident: God chose our timing, to be born when we were. God gets his way.
Happy Mother's Day Jill! You're an incredible mother and a blessing to so many.