captive words, freed + captive heart, redeemed

Category: Trying to Conceive

On Chicken Soup and Hope

Some days, I wake up feeling equipped to handle that little negative strip. Other days, I wake up feeling like my heart might fall out of my chest if I have to see that single pink line again.

Today was the second kind.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who’s been walking this road longer than me. We talked about hope, in the context of infertility. In fact, we talked up, down and all around hope. How to find it, how to keep it, how we’re scared of it. And we both agreed that it was hope that had wrecked us so many times, but it was also hope that kept us going. And so we concluded that we must keep hoping.

And then, this morning, I woke up, got another negative and wanted to chuck hope into the trashcan right along with that test strip.

Instead, I grabbed my to-do list and set out for normalcy. I succeeded for a few hours, tackling some simple, mundane tasks. Then it came time to tackle some tasks that required a bit more brainpower. That’s where things went south.

I won’t bore you with details of a person trying to glue their behind to a desk chair and their eyes to a computer screen when their brain is floating eight feet above. I will just tell you that I ended up taking my dog for a walk in my neighborhood.

It started well. I sorted through emails and then found a recipe for dinner, all while walking. Productivity! And then I slid my phone in my pocket, and I wish I could say I walked for a while, contemplated life, etc. etc. and then the tears fell. But that’s not what happened. It took about two minutes. My poor neighbors.

I came back inside and walked to the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so I’d grab something and eat it at my desk.

But nothing looked appetizing. And I was still freezing from my 40-degree walk. And, so I did what any sane person would do, and I set out to make a warm, hearty soup with precisely all the contents of my frig and pantry, for lunch.

Baby carrots, a boatload of celery, an onion, fresh garlic, a few sprigs of thyme, some leftover purple potatoes and chicken. Simple enough.

But oh! I saw an open bag of peas in the freezer, so I threw that in. And that random russet potato wasn’t going to do me much good all by its lonesome, so I diced it and tossed it in. And, really, did I want to cook dinner after cooking lunch? Definitely not, so I needed to make enough for later. And, oh — I should probably add bacon if I wanted my husband to eat it. Come to think of it, he’d really love it if it were less soup-like and more stew-like. Can do! A splash of milk. A handful of flour.

An hour later, my stovetop was covered in bacon grease and I in flour. My largest pot was about a tablespoon away from overflowing, there was a hunk of onion stuck to my shoe and my tongue was basically singed from my expert taste-testing method. Just about every spice I own was decorating the countertop to my left, and a gorgeous pile of peels —onions, garlic and potatoes — was decorating the countertop to my right.

I was stirring furiously, tossing carelessly, inhaling violently.

And that’s when it hit me.

I fully expected this soup to taste fantastic. Honestly, I had zero doubt it would. This medley of bits of pieces, odds and ends, exiles and leftovers, it would be good. I knew it.

So when did I start believing that I needed a full-course meal of hope for it to be sufficient?

That solo russet potato? Pretty boring on its own. That last splash of milk in the gallon? Not super helpful in a heaping bowl of cereal.

But together, these bits and shreds of food made something worthwhile.

And so, I concluded, there will be days like today. When I take my anger out on an innocent pot of soup, and my neighbors wonder if that really-steep hill just got the best of that girl in sweats.

But that’s OK. Because yesterday, I spent an hour with someone who speaks my pain without saying a word. And this week, the nurse told me my levels were up again. And last week, God painted the sky red on our evening stroll. And the week before that, my four-year old nephew prayed for our future kids, unprovoked. And I’ll take all these shreds, and I’ll stir them together. And I’ll have a pot full of hope. And I think God might say that it’s good.

When It’s Negative, Again

Seven months ago, I was in this exact place, doing this exact thing. Sitting in this very chair, at this very desk, attempting productivity and failing miserably. One eye on my work-filled computer screen, the other on my phone — which is and was set to ring at its loudest volume, so I’m not really sure why I watch it. But I do.

Again, something is wrong, and I wait to hear how badly. Again, there is an abnormality, and I wait to understand its gravity. Again, my body is failing me, and I wait to see how severely.

I have been knocked down, again, and I cower, waiting for the impending hit, because I know I’m about to be knocked down again.

This is the story of infertility.

I’ve been scared to tell this story. It’s been there, ebbing and flowing, scarring and healing, but I wasn’t sure how to tell it. I’ve been so terrified someone might look at me and say, “How dare you feel this way?” But I’ve come to realize something. This story isn’t all my own. The details are mine. The timeline is mine. But the pain I carry? It’s so far from being just mine. I wish I had realized that sooner. I wish I hadn’t let the fear of judgment silence me. The details aren’t what matter. It’s the carrying of this pain that matters. It’s that we learn to carry it bravely. It’s that we learn to carry it together.

And so, maybe this post isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK. It’s for the champions of the bathroom floor, for those who choose to stand back up when the devastation of the test-filled trashcan seems more than they can bear.

Last night was the third night in a row I sprung alive, drenched in sweat, overcome with fear. My night terrors are back. I’ve struggled with them for years, but it had been months since I’d had one. Stress will do that.

Stress — did you say stress? That’s terrible for trying to conceive!

Thanks, I know. But in fact, you telling me makes me feel more stressed, and you see, this is all out of my control.

Control — did you say control? Let go of it, honey! It’s in God’s hands!

Oh, how I know this on the deepest of levels. I’m going on month eight of zero control of my own body, so whether or not I wanted to let go of it, it let go of me a long time ago.

You understand now, when I say this post isn’t for everyone, because everyone can’t understand it. Everyone wants you to feel better. They want to say what they can to package you up neatly and leave you with a smile. Oh, I don’t blame everyone — I really don’t. I’m thankful they care enough to say anything at all.

But the truth is that it’s ugly right now, and pretty words can’t mask the mess.

Life, it moves, and it sort-of feels like you’re standing still, watching. The places and people that once held shared dreams now hold a dichotomy: dreams fulfilled in tiny, new exhales and dreams halted in long, slow inhales. There’s a wedge now, where you once shared hope — two bellies, one swelling with life and the other swelling with emptiness. Two bellies, born of the same hope — how can they look so different?

You wish for moments of ignorance, for blocks of time where you could forget. But there’s a toddler laughing in that shopping cart and a fertility bracelet advertisement on your computer screen. There’s a stroller pushed past your window and a screaming baby in that church service. And you wish these things were inconsequential to you, the way they once were. But the toddler’s laugh feels like a punch in your gut and the baby’s scream feels like a knife in your heart.

You wish you could blot out the ache and pour all your attention into life’s positives. There are so many, after all, and day after day, you thank God for them. Thankfulness changes you, without a doubt. But you’ll still come home to another medical bill and wake up to another one-lined rejection. You’ll still “keep your hopes low this time,” and you’ll still cry on that wretched bathroom floor all the same.

You’ll gear up for another month on this road, garnering strength and hope, again, only to feel them fade, again. You’ll watch disappointment paint across the face you love the most, and you’ll hate yourself for putting it there. You’ll remind yourself that you didn’t put it there, really, but you’ll never actually shake the feeling that you did.

You’ll visit the doctor, again, and sneak glances at the other women in the waiting room. Do they feel this way, too? Or is just you? You’ll extend your arm, again, the black-and-blue crease a reminder of the time before, and before that, and before that.

Your eyes will all-at-once be drenched for days, then dry for days, just as your heart will feel pierced for days, then numb for days. You’ll order pregnancy tests more than you order takeout and check your fertility app more than you check your social apps. You’ll feel isolated, in this strange world of hidden pain.

But you’ll carry on with your life, day after day, even when the new medicine makes you feel sick and the two-hour doctor appointment leaves you working at night. Because that’s what you do. You keep going. You keep walking. But it won’t be long on this road before you realize something.

You aren’t walking alone. You never have been.

The specks of his faithfulness dot this sorrowful journey. Where you find hurt, you also find hope. Where you find disappointment, you also find provision. Where you find pain, you also find strength. And I beg you to pay attention.

Because this road isn’t one way or the other. It’s both. That’s the heartbreaking beauty of it.

I fought it for so long. I didn’t understand how the two could coexist. I thought hope and joy and peace were supposed to take all of this pain and wipe it out. I thought I was supposed to walk in these things and leave that ache behind. And to that, I said, “I can’t!” And to that, Jesus said, “You don’t have to! I will show you how to walk in both.”

Let me be clear — He’ll be showing me forever. This isn’t something I’ve mastered. I just understand now, that it’s something. He doesn’t disregard this pain. He doesn’t want me to pretend it isn’t there. In fact, I think, he’s in heaven crying with me. He’s a God of deep mercy, not indifference. He knows this world is broken, and he wants to show us how to walk in the messiest, ugliest parts of it.

But it’s important that we pay attention — that we look for where he is and where he’s been. That we cling to the story of his steadiness when our future feels shaky.

It’s important that we treasure the random surges of hope, because we will, undoubtedly, feel the pang of grief again. It’s important that we speak the unchanging truths of Christ, because we will, undoubtedly, hear the lies of defeat again.

For so long, I believed this story needed a happy ending to be beautiful. Now, I understand there’s beauty here in the trenches. It’s a story as old as time, I think — a story that will be told again, and again. We find ourselves believing that God only lives in the beauty, only to understand, all over again, that he is the king of suffering. That he’s promised to meet us here, and that if we pay attention, we might know him better than ever here.



I’m an idealist, but if you had told me that a few years ago, I probably would’ve shrugged, unsure of the idea. That wasn’t something I knew about myself. But it’s something I’ve learned — a realization born of necessity, an insight steeped in pain. It’s not this particular piece of me that matters all that much. It’s the way it’s shaped my thoughts that matters, the way it’s informed my dreams and fueled my fears.

I think it’s part of the reason I struggle to live in the in-between. I’m always grasping for what’s next, regarding the not-yet as the objective. And all too often, the grasping becomes gripping and the regarding becomes revering.

Dreaming for the future is normal and healthy, but I have a way of turning those dreams into unrealized concrete realities. There, in the depths of my mind, are checkpoints and destinations, but no speed bumps, no stop signs. And you know what happens when you’re flying down the road, looking far ahead, paying little attention to the pavement directly in front of you? The unexpected speed bump jolts you out of your skin. The sudden stop sign leaves you screeching to a neck-breaking halt.

Here is not a place I thought I’d stop. Here is not a place I thought I’d be. It’s a foreign place that feels lonely. It doesn’t seem to look like anyone else’s here. I feel pain that eats away at my being, resentment that eats away at my soul. My body is broken here, and much of the time, so too is my spirit.

But right now, God has asked me to live here — not wait here, not fight here, not pine here — live here.

Two temptations fight to threaten this. They contradict each other, and I waver in the middle, struggling to walk the ground that barely exists between them.

One tells me to stop, to stand in place, to pause. “Living can wait,” it says, but I know it’s a lie, because none of us can ever really afford to wait to live.

The other tells me to run, blindly, furiously, carelessly.  And most of the time, I want to run, but I can’t. I can’t outrun the ache, and I am all at once angry and glad for that.

The ground in the middle is muddy. The steps are one by one. It’s a deliberate way of walking, of living. I want to flit ahead to dry land, but what I’m realizing is that there’s someone guiding my steps here, someone walking alongside me in the mud, gifting me with strength, moment by moment. So, as much as I want out of here as quickly as possible, I am learning, day after day, to love the hand that guides me and grasp the strength it provides me.

Our heres are all different, but they all bear a common thread. No matter yours, I encourage you to walk in it. Live in it. Be there in all your confusion and brokenness. Peel your eyes away from there, and meet the one who walks with you here.

© 2024 Allie King

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