My Story | Kimberly Irvin
A story of infertility, loss, and God’s redemption and goodness.
My relationship with God has always been something I’ve struggled for. My biggest struggle has been with prayer. I never believed my prayers worked. I experienced catastrophic loss through high school. My grandfather, my uncle and young cousin, my horse in a barn fire. I cried out to God in anguish asking him to fix it. He didn’t. I stopped believing he was good. I didn’t believe prayer worked. Then, I got married. A couple months later, I got pregnant. Pure joy! But as I sat alone at a routine 12 week visit trembling as the doctor searched for a heartbeat, my joy was leaking through a black hole. Once again, I believed God had turned a deaf ear to my prayers.
A little over a year later, we found out we were expecting a second baby. There was joy, but it was not unbridled. I had lost the naive innocence that believed this pregnancy would be joy-filled. I didn’t trust God. So I prayed, unbelieving, for God to give us a baby in July. A week before my birthday, I relived the horror of that 12 week visit. Silence. Baby dead. World crumbling. Daniel and I made a fast decision to have surgery only 2 hours after that damning check-up so that we could get answers. So I went to sleep with my second baby still inside of me, and woke up empty… numb. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t yell at God. What was the point? I was so numb, I didn’t feel God move.
I cried at church a couple of weeks after the D and C, and a woman I barely knew sat and let me cry on her shoulder. She felt my pain as deeply as I did. She had said goodbye to two babies as well. Her two rainbow babies, one adopted, one biological, and only 4 months apart, were little beams of hope. She told me that she wouldn’t change losing her babies. She told me that one day, I would see how good God was, not in spite of my miscarriages, but he was good in my miscarriages. I wanted to believe her. It sounded so much better than the anger, pain, and hopelessness.
On our second wedding anniversary we got the answers we were looking for. Trisome 13. Not compatible with life. Carrier. Will probably happen again. We sat dejected on the porch. What now? Do we try again? We should’ve been toasting our marriage and talking excitedly about what this new year would bring to our union. We should’ve been decorating a nursery in our new home. Instead, we were slapped in the face with the reality that we would probably relive the nightmare again. We chose to press on. To pick up the pieces and keep trying. It was messy… there were a lot of pieces.
I spent the next couple of years numbly coming to accept my infertility. Not only was I losing babies, now I wasn’t even able to get pregnant. I’ve been a sculptor for over a decade: adding lumps of clay to skeletons of wire, watching the beauty of God’s animals take shape in my own interpretation: worship with mud. I turned the empty room meant for a nursery into an art studio. It was the only way I knew to heal. Then one day, I tried a new kind of sculpting. Instead of adding clay, building up my medium until I was satisfied with the emerging creature, I aggressively carved deep into a small block of rock-hard wax. Digging deeper and deeper, gouging out the pieces that were hiding the beauty that lay beneath. It was purifying. In those moments, I had a deep understanding of how the Master Artist had been sculpting my life. He was carving away the ugliness that was concealing the beauty he wanted to reveal. It is finished. Wax shavings scattered, littering the table like a battlefield. Two sparrows. Two humble sparrows to represent my fallen babies. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29. My two sparrows seemed so insignificant to so many people. God loved them… deeply. I cast them in silver and hung them around my neck. I vowed I would tell the story of the sparrows to whomever asked.
God directed our path to a new church. I was scared and reluctant. I had been hurt deeply by brothers and sisters in church who cast us aside when they should have been the first to pray us through our pain. Christians don’t like to talk about miscarriage, it doesn’t fit in a pretty God-package. The first day at the new church made friends. They invited us to lunch with them. They wanted us in their ragamuffin group of misfits. I have never known such friends. All with messy, hard lives. All trying hard to trust God and to bask in his love. These friends listened to our story, they prayed for us. Genuine prayers not just for a baby, but that God would work in our hearts no matter what his will turned out to be. My heart of stone was growing softer… it was starting to beat again. Miraculous.
Our ragamuffin friends rejoiced with us when, after three years of waiting and trying to conceive a third child, we learned I was pregnant. They prayed over us and our child. They asked God to be glorified through this pregnancy no matter how it ended. On October 20, 2011, I called my dearest friend. Pray with me? The next day, I was going to the doctor for my 12 week appointment. I was scared, fearful, knowing that I had a choice to make. I had to choose to trust God’s plan. I needed to choose to trust in his goodness no matter what. So, on a park bench on a perfect autumn day, we talked and prayed hardprayers. The sun rays shone through the amber leaves, warming me like the peace that was thawing the fear.
October 21, 2011. 5 years to the day that Daniel knelt in the dirt to ask me to marry him while we embraced in the boughs of the massive magnolia tree where he had carved his love for me into its branches. I lay bravely on the table listening to the sadness in my doctor’s voice as she confirmed what a small part of me already knew. It was over. I remember only two things from that day: the doctor’s office and crying quietly on the couch longing to be with my babies. I cried, talking wordlessly with God and choosing to not let my beating heart turn back into stone. I remembered I had to give thanks, even when it was hard. So, I said thank you, not because I was happy, but because I felt his carving knife on my heart, and I knew that he was sculpting.
Through all of my loss and grief, I have learned this: faith is a choice and not a feeling. We choose to believe that God is who he says he is. When the path set before us feels insurmountable, an Everest to our mustard seed, God calls us to believe he can move Everest. November, December, January, February all crept by. Still, in faith, I gave thanks for the sculpting. A new feeling blossomed in spring: joy. I had come to wear my childlessness well. I had accepted that I could be happy without babies in my arms. The ugliness was falling away from the carving knife. Then, in April, I stared in disbelief at two pink lines, emotions surging hot. Why now, God? This isn’t funny, Father. I just learned to be happy! Trust Me.
It was time to see what my mustard seed could do. I opened the big, leather journal I have been writing in since Daniel and I were newly engaged. The first entry tells of a dream I had 4 months before we said our vows. Daniel and I walked hand in hand down an old market street. He wondered away from me and Jesus came up to me holding a ribbon in his calloused hand. Wordlessly, he tied it around my waist. It fell to the ground. Twice more he tied it, only for it to fall back to the dirt street. So, once more he tied the ribbon, placed his hand on my belly and said, “You will have to loosen it as you grow. I have answered your prayers for a child.” He embraced me, and I woke up. I turned the pages, reading through my journey of 5 and a half years of growing up. Searching. I was looking for Ebeneezers. Stones stacked by the old miracles to remind me of God’s faithfulness. I found many. Then, I wrote a new entry. I poured out a prayer in black ink into the journal filled with tears. I asked him to help me believe the dream-promise.
The day of my first appointment came. I believed I was 11 weeks pregnant, and was relieved that the period of waiting would be over by the first appointment. The sonogram told a different story. 6 weeks. My heart sank. I thought I was done with the first trimester, only to learn I had 6 more weeks to go. The tech laughed, “Your due date is Christmas Eve!” My Christmas gift to you. I could never put into words the peace I felt. I knew this was God’s way of reassuring me.
4 more weeks came and it was time for another checkup. The checkup that always ended in tears. My doctor walked us straight to the sonogram room to avoid any trauma with the doppler. I blessed her silently. Up on the screen was the most amazing image of a tiny, 10-week old baby. Even the doctor was astonished by the clarity of the image. We were watching our 2-inches-tall miracle dance! 8 weeks later we learned our miracle was a healthy daughter!
In the midst of the miracle pregnancy, we decided to sell our sweet little home to be closer to our ragamuffin friends and our jobs. As my belly grew, we scoured listings, looking for the right home to bring our Lily home to. Too expensive, too many repairs, wrong neighborhood, too small, too big. I posted a dejected status on Facebook, “I wish we could just pick our home up and move it!” One month later, our pastor called with a proposition. He had seen my whiny status (though he had the grace not to call it whiny), and he and his wife felt like they needed to sell us their home. Their home was the same floor plan as the little home we loved so much, and it was exactly where we wanted it to be. I was getting the chance to pick up my home and move it. I told Daniel about my reservations of doing business with friends. I didn’t want to negotiate. The pieces would have to fall in to place perfectly or I was out. We toured the home. It had the layout we loved plus a sprawling, well-kept back yard with a covered porch. Then, my friend took me to her daughters’ room. I was struck first by the paint color: pale green. The exact shade I had planned to paint Lily’s nursery when we found a home. Then, I saw the tree lovingly painted onto the wall, and perched in its branches were three tiny sparrows. My heart stopped. This is your home, Kimberly. God all but spoke the words aloud. So, we walked back to the living room to meet our husbands and talk about how the sale would go. 30 minutes after we walked through the front door to take a look, we agreed on the price that our friends asked for the house. No negotiating. God had already worked the deal out.
We moved in 1 month before Lily was born. Closing the front door behind us felt like closing the chapter of grief and loss. We were starting a new chapter. A chapter that is filled with challenge and hardship, but the theme is joy! Shortly after Lily’s first birthday, I stared once again at two pink lines filled with promise. October would bring another miracle. My Willow. I was still learning about faith, and belief in God’s goodness. But the stone in my chest had been chiseled away to reveal a beating heart, filled with faith and trust in a loving God.
When Willow was a little more than a year old, I would learn I was pregnant again on one of the worst parenting days I have ever had. In the chaos I begged God to help me be calm as I stared at the test, obviously positive. I was scared to death of having three kids. I was also scared of losing a fourth baby. I prayed myself through 12 weeks of pregnancy. At peace with God’s plan, but still scared. The night before the 12 week appointment, the appointment that sends me into panic attacks, I was driving to my parents’ house because Daniel was across the country for work. On the radio, God began to minister to my heart. The songs playing spoke of His goodness, His faithfulness, and how no matter how hard how I would trust Him. I knew then, that our sweet baby was gone. But God was there. I felt Him there, and I was going to be ok. I walked, trembling and alone, into my doctor’s office only for her to confirm what I knew. Still I will trust in His goodness.
3 days later, I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, losing blood quickly after passing our tiny baby’s body. In the quiet hospital room, Daniel and I talked and prayed. We were done having children. While I am at peace with the decision, I am mourning the loss of this season. This recent loss has been the hardest, knowing that he was our last baby and that we will never see our son grow up to be like his father. God is still working. He has shown me that prayer is meant to unify my heart with His will. I never imagine I could feel joy in such immense heartache. And I have seen our marriage strengthened in the midst of the hardest times we have ever been through. I have watched my little girls dance and giggle and felt the agony of 5 years of infertility fade away into a memory. He’s a good Father. I will praise Him.
For more stories from Kimberly, visit her blog here.