Foreword by Jennifer Lambert: A year ago Doug and I retired from our ministry careers and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. We have been blessed to worship with many wonderful brothers and sisters in the Hampton Roads Church, including our sister Marlana Cherry. Marlana is one of the most extraordinary servants I have ever met. Early in 2023, Marlana reached out to me to have lunch. I asked her if there was any particular reason she wanted to meet with me, and she told me that she wanted to hear from me how I kept trusting God after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She told me then about her battle with infertility. Recently, Marlana and her husband Brian shared the communion message and we were all in tears. I thought that many more might be encouraged by Marlana’s story.
On Friday, November 11, 2022 at 2:12pm I received the worst phone call of my life. On the other line was the Physician Assistant from my doctor’s office. She said, “Mrs. Cherry, I am sorry to inform you that you are not pregnant.” My mind filled with rage. “GOD!” I yelled, “How could you do this to us? Why would you allow us to go through this whole process for it not to work? You mapped out everything perfectly, the timing was perfect, you sent people to tell me I would be pregnant this time! Everything was so clear, how could you pull the rug from under us like this? You are a liar!!!” I was so angry, hurt and confused. I wanted answers from God and I wanted them immediately!
My husband and I have been struggling with infertility for 10 years. We have been to the doctor a number of times and no one can seem to tell us why I can’t get pregnant. In September 2021 I was told by my OBGYN that I had some blockage in my tubes going to my ovaries. So I had a surgery to get that corrected in hopes of getting pregnant. But a year went by and nothing happened. Then, the opportunity to do IVF came about and we gave ourselves wholeheartedly to about 8 weeks of grueling procedures and emotional ups and downs. As scared as I was to do IVF, I knew my faith and actions had to be working together. In Revelation 21:8 the Bible talks about the cowardly, and I didn’t want to give in to my fears. I purchased baby outfits, and I clung to the words of friends who told me it would all work out and I would soon have a child. Brian and I have fostered 22 children through the foster care system and we were so excited to finally have the opportunity to have a child of our own who we wouldn’t have to give back to the “real” parents.
The next couple of months after that phone call were very difficult. I was in critical condition spiritually. I cried a lot. I doubted God’s word; I considered whether God was even real. I was in a very dark place. In my 14-year walk with God, this was by far the most difficult time. When I would go to service, I couldn’t even sing, the words would get stuck in my throat; I just couldn’t seem to get them out. Every time someone would ask me, “What’s next? What are you going to do now? Are you going to adopt or do IVF again?”… I just wanted to scream! I could barely get through the day, never mind figure out future plans for a baby! Going into the fellowship was like going into the lion’s den to get devoured sometimes. I do believe people mean well, but they don’t understand the emotional turmoil that comes along with not being able to conceive. Lots of prayer is needed in these difficult situations. Asking questions like, “What are you going to do now?” just creates more trauma.
After praying and crying a lot, I realized that I could not stay where I was. God had shown up in my life so many times before and I knew in the back of my mind, that God was still there, with his hand held out waiting for me to take it so he could help me. I started to reach out to my sisters and get with them one-on-one and talk about how I was feeling. I had to be gut level honest.
I went to the scriptures for strength, and I joined Grief Share. Grief Share is a 12-week group that our church hosts to help people process the loss of a loved one in a way that is godly. Brian and I felt like we had lost a child. We were certainly grieving that loss. Someone suggested that I read the book Empty Womb, Aching Heart by Marlo M. Schalesky. I read it, and it truly changed my life. Reading that book was like roses raining down on me from God every day. After doing all of that I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My “Why me?” turned into “Why not me?” I had to ask myself, “Why do I think that because I am a disciple that I shouldn’t have to suffer? Why do I think that I am exempt? Jesus was perfect and he suffered on the cross, so why do I think I shouldn’t?” I had to do the work and allow God to correct my wrong way of thinking.
Through faith and perseverance, I now see infertility as a gift from God to me. God showed up in ways to help me that I never imagined to let me know that he was there, holding my hand. He cares and he has not left me alone for one second. My relationship with God is stronger than it has ever been since I became a disciple. He is my rescuer, my place of solace, my strength when I am weak. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know God in ways I never did before through infertility. If God has me in this position because he wants me to be able to help other women with the same condition according to his word, then I accept my assignment! I want to share something from the book that encouraged me to my core:
The writer says, “Finally I began to realize something that I’d never known before. God, it seemed, was less interested in my happiness than he was in the strength of my faith. Suffering and sorrow were not the enemies I had once thought, but were tools in the hands of a loving God, tools that could mold me into the woman God desired me to be. I only needed to keep seeking him, to keep pouring my pain and my doubts out to him.” (Empty Womb, Aching Heart, page 89.)
I don’t know if God is saying no for now or no forever when it comes to my having children, but what I do know is that me and Brian’s life together will not be wasted. God has work for us to do and with God’s help, we will do it. Amen.