If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that a few weekends ago I attended the Choose Joy Conference here in Southern California. The conference is geared toward people who have faced infertility or have grown their family by means of adoption. It was my first time at this kind of event, but it certainly won’t be my last. Although there was a broad range of experiences represented by the attendees, there was something incredibly refreshing about being in a room with hundreds of other individuals who have- one way or another- fought to grow their families.
Since the conference my mind has been reeling- with inspiration and encouragement, fresh hope, new ideas, and ways I want to challenge myself to grow in this season.
One of the presenters I had the honor of hearing speak was Beth from the organization Sarah’s Laughter. She shared about the power of sharing our stories. She encouraged each of us to speak up and be willing to share our experiences in infertility with our friends, our family, and even with strangers.
She so eloquently reminded me of the power of story. She talked about the story of Hannah in the Bible, crying out to God for a miracle baby. She said “sometimes you need to read that story and be reminded that no, you’re not the only woman who has ever cried so hard you’ve lost your voice.”
She then went on to say that based on the prevalence of infertility, she could say with a high degree of certainty that somewhere within small radius of where we physically sat, there was a woman at home, who is crying into her pillow- because she’s just received a devastating fertility report. Her heart is breaking.
She needs to know she’s not alone. She needs to hear your story.
And she described a teenage girl who is out there just living her adolescent life- whose biggest concern right now is the number of “likes” she gets on her Instagram posts. She’s a teenage girl, like I was 15 years ago, confident in her future and not knowing the struggles of infertility that lay ahead of her.
One day, she’ll need to hear your story too.
I heard so many stories this weekend. These stories came straight from the mouths of people who had lived them- and were living them. (Which I find so much better than the stories your hairdresser wants to tell you about her second cousin’s neighbor’s sister who did IVF)
These were stories of heartache and heartbreak, stories of struggle, and stories of triumph. These stories brought me to tears, but they also brought me encouragement and hope.
Hearing the stories of how people have grown and have fought to grow their families had a tangible effect on my heart in several ways. First, it reminded me that I am not alone in the battle of infertility. And gosh, even with all the support I’ve found online, it still has such an impact on me to be reminded that I’m not the only way facing this battle or having experienced this heartbreak. There are other people out there who are surviving this season, and even flourishing in it. I can be one of those people.
These stories also summoned a new level of empathy in me. In general, I’m a very empathetic person, but to hear some the heartbreaking paths people have walked down, garnered an even deeper sense of compassion in my heart. It took my focus off of myself and the hardship I was facing and made me focus on the life of another. Even more than that, it reminded me that God’s grace is sufficient for all circumstances. There were stories and struggles that were so different than mine, and yet despite the overwhelming circumstances of so many stories I heard- God was bigger still.
These stories challenged me to a new level of faith. One line in particular from a story told by a husband-wife couple in one of the group sessions has been playing on repeat in my head and in my heart for days now. (I’ll be sharing more about their story and how it’s challenged my faith in ways in my next post, for now, I will simply attest to the fact that faith can be birthed in the hearts of those who hear your story– and I am living proof of it.)
Before this conference, I had felt a yearning in my heart to be more vocal about our experiences with infertility, IVF, and our journey to grow our family. It’s still a delicate subject and I am still choosy about who in my life can know the dirty details of what all we’ve been through. And yet, more than ever, I am convinced that this story must be shared. And the reason has nothing to do with me.
A while back I wrote a post focusing around the question- What would the world miss if you didn’t tell your story? The short answer isn’t that the world would miss knowing about my own struggles or triumphs- it would miss knowing the God who has brought me hope through them- and it would miss knowing that there is hope for their own journey too.
Here’s a challenge for you today: Take a step toward telling your story- even if you’re not ready to completely share your journey quite yet. Pull out a pen and notebook (or pull up a blank note on your computer) and begin to document your own story. If writing your whole story feels too overwhelming, then just write about one cycle or one even just one week or day of your story. Writing it down will help you feel more confident in sharing it. If you’re not sure you want to share it with anyone yet- that’s ok, but if you’re comfortable, please use this link to contact me, I’d be honored to hear your story.