Bringing Sexy Back to Infertility [NIAW]


“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

Resolve to know more. This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested.

Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once. 

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.

Keep Calm & Grab a Pee Stick

Infertility brings a lot of, shall we say, interferences. Things like thermometers and ovulation kits and charts can quickly take over your nightstand. Se-xy.

You might be dealing with the super-se-xy side of infertility if …

… you call out “hey Babe, can you grab me a pee stick?”

… a romantic whisper in your ear is “hey, did your temperature spike today?”

… you HAVE TO COME HOME RIGHT NOW. No, seriously. Like right now.

… balancing your chart and your checkbook take the same place on your things-I’m-not-excited-to-do-today-list.

In the midst of making trying to make a baby, sometimes you gotta fight for the sexy.

Today’s letter is in honor of all women everywhere who have turned to the help of thermometers, baby-making-charts, or a smiling pee stick to tell her if she’s ovulating.

Dear pee stick,

Yes you, the one with the smug smile. You’re such a punk. And I think you know it.

I just got you and your smug smile out of the box a few months ago. Because I don’t need you. Or so I want to believe. It’s no big deal having you around when you stare blankly. But on the day you smile, well, I kinda hate you on that day.

I want to throw my hands on my hips and tell you “you’re not the boss of me.” But then you smile patiently, and remind me that you are, actually. You call the shots here and tell me when it’s go-time.

By morning, you’re a science teacher, telling me something interesting about the chemicals in my body and that ovulation is nigh. By mid-afternoon you’re the obnoxious coach who won’t stop with the whistle – alright, already! By evening, you’re the wench in my bedroom.

The hardest part about having you in my life is that I know I will probably see your smug smile again next month, when we are trying. Again. I know this because 48 months of trying have taught me well. We will smile at each other, but only one of us will really mean it. 

So let me tell you something. I’m taking sexy back. I’ll patiently listen as you share your opinion. I’ll heed your advice. And I’ll happily give you credit if you ever earn it. The bathroom is yours, but the bedroom – that’s ours.


For more information on infertility, you may visit:


That Time I was Given a Label [NIAW]


Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested. Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once.

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.


“Oh, so you’re infertile.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa – let’s not go throwing labels around there, Doc.

The objection was clear in my head – the actual words that came out of my mouth were a bit more stutter-y … “I, uh, well, I don’t know, if, well, but, I … we’re just … under a lot of stress right now.”

“You’ve been having unprotected sex for a year and you’re not pregnant. So you’re infertile.”

And BAM, just like that I had a label.

The doctor wasn’t wrong, he was stating clinical fact – and it’s not that I need to be coddled – it’s just that, well, it wasn’t a label I was ready for. It took me another year to use the label for myself. Somehow, taking on that label felt like an admission. An acceptance. Of something I was all too unwilling to accept.

The thing about labels is we know that they can’t capture who we really are. We know that. But still we fight against them as if they will brand us permanently.

Am I infertile? No, I’m a woman who is experiencing infertility. But also yes, I am infertile. Will I be forever? I don’t know – that’s not part of the diagnosis. I just know I have been for seven years.

Some of my reasons to avoid the label “infertile” included:

  1. It would mean admitting I was truly actually trying. That’s a vulnerable thing. To declare to the world that you are trying at something that for many comes naturally – or even accidentally.   Not just casually you-know-whatever-if-it-happens-it-happens. If I’m the married girl who doesn’t happen to have kids yet but isn’t trying, I’m just a happy childless girl. But if I’m infertile, it tells the whole world that in my most intimate of relationships and desires, I am trying – and coming up empty.
  1. Labels suck. They just do. They can’t ever be fully true. And a lot of them are painful. Widow. Orphan. Cancer patient. Infertile. They describe something we’re experiencing, but not who we are. Somehow, though, the person often gets lost in the label. I was afraid of getting lost. No longer being me, but being the infertile girl. A stigma. Something to be pitied.
  1. Infertility is awkward. Let’s just admit it, it is. From the lame jokes about “are you sure you know how it works?” to the uncomfortable silence when a friend tries to find the words to tell you that SHE’s pregnant while you are not. It’s awkward. Procreating is one of the most natural human experiences and involves the most intimate of human interactions, so whether you like it or not, placing yourself out there as an “infertile couple” is going to be awkward, because your sex life just became open for discussion.

But perhaps most of all, hearing that label – pronounced so abruptly – left me feeling broken. I could no longer hide behind “we just didn’t get the timing right this month”, or “we just have to get through this stressful season” or “I ate the wrong foods this month” or the myriad of other excuses you come up with when answers aren’t making sense.

Now, six years after that fateful labeling-moment, there’s no doubt that the label fits. There are no medical explanations, but our bodies don’t make babies. After I learned to accept the label as a description of part of my life but not my whole life, using it became easier. But sometimes – somedays – there’s still that bruise from the initial label. It’s usually when something breaks. A couple weeks ago I set out to bake. I rarely bake. But I’d had a few days off in a row and I thought I’d celebrate with a morning baking project. I diced the mango and mixed the oats and started dreaming of the smells that would fill my home, the smile that would cross my husband’s face when he came home to his little Suzy-homemaker, not to mention the nom-nom factor I was expecting for my own tastebuds. Then I opened the oven. Which was still cold. Though I’d turned it on 20 minutes prior. Broken.

I know, I know – it’s just an oven. But it’s a broken oven. I want to label it “Broken” and call up the shipping company to haul the brand-new-oven-turned-piece-of-junk out of here. See, my tolerance for broken things changed when I realized that my uterus was one of them. It’s just an oven, but it’s a trigger, too. Reminding me that some things are just supposed to work – and they don’t.

This week’s letter is one I penned many moons ago as I discovered that we had a new label awaiting us: “Unexplained Infertility”, which affects about 10% of infertile couples. I know, I know, we’re in the top 10% of something – woot!

Dear Doctor,

I will do it. I will give you more blood. I am 100% powerless in this, so I will comply with your process – again. You’re not the first doctor I’ve talked to, you know. Probably won’t be the last.

You’re not the first to start the conversation with a sympathetic nod and insightful questions to “figure me out”. You probably won’t be the last to finish the conversation perplexed, since my reproductive system hasn’t offered a lot of clues.

So, here is my blood. Take it, analyze it. I’m pretty sure I know what you’ll find. I think you’ll tell me I’m fine, and healthy, and “would make such a damn good mother”, yet here I sit, with nothing but a skimpy gown between you and me, looking at a calendar and analyzing body fluids, informing you of all the intimacies of my healthy sex life, including date and time.

I remember when I used to be scared of what you would find, what the results would show – something terrible that had to be fixed. Or worse, couldn’t be fixed. I didn’t really think of this option: finding nothing wrong. Having no “answer”. Having nothing to fix.

I like you, doctor. I really do. I appreciate all your efforts and tests. I just need you to know, though, that at the end of the day, I think we are both playing here – playing house, playing doctor – you remember the games. Because if we’re not playing, then it’s real. And I hate remembering it’s real.

So, when you call or email me and tell me that all the results are normal, that I’m perfectly healthy and we just need to “give it time”, I will smile and nod, because you see, I’ve played this game before.

Post-script: Email from Doctor the following week read: “Your blood test looks good.” Called it.


Welcome, Friend


Easter Sunday is, to me, like welcoming a good friend. A time to throw your arms wide and say “WELCOME, LIFE!”


Sometimes it’s a fling-wide-the-door and run outside with an exuberant “welcome!” as you dash into His arms. Perhaps when we are least self-conscious.

Sometimes it’s a sigh-filled “welcome back” after a long absence. Perhaps after a particularly long Friday-season.

Sometimes it’s a shy “you’re welcome to be here”, because sometimes it’s still so surprising that He WANTS to be.

Sometimes it’s a “welcome, make yourself comfortable in the mess”, because the mess is all we have to offer.

Sometimes it’s a simple, whispering “welcome home”. Perhaps when we are most sure that He belongs.

Sometimes it’s with balloons and flowers and a long-line of friends holding “welcome” signs, because you’ve been eagerly watching.

Welcoming Sunday is about welcoming the God who took death, and made life. And who is still doing so today. Jesus, the Bible says, was the first prototype of life coming FROM death, not just AFTER death.

Whether from an empty tomb, an empty womb, or any other empty place that Friday revealed, God is – STILL – in the business of bringing forth life. What a God of mystery. What a Hero to worship. What a Friend to have in Jesus.

Welcome, Sunday. Welcome, Friend.


Infertility: Remembering Friday – My Messy Beautiful


Sometimes I wish I was still oblivious.

I wish that I didn’t know what the effects of child abuse looks like.

I wish that I didn’t know what a last breath sounds like.

I wish that I didn’t know what an empty womb feels like.


Unplanned Unparenthood

While I’ve discovered beauty from ashes …While I’ve learned to embrace the rain as much as the rainbow … While my heart swells when I pay attention to all the ways love wins …

Sometimes I’d still rather just not know about the battle love had to fight.

And to me, knowing is what Good Friday is all about. It’s about stopping, pausing, and being honest for a minute about the days that aren’t bright and sunny. The days that bring questions and sometimes shocking, painful answers.

Like the day that Jesus died.

I so get Peter. I so totally and completely get Peter. He watched Jesus be arrested and then killed on a tree. And he spiraled.

Good Friday was the biggest disappointment of all time. And Peter was an eye-witness.

I’ve spiraled, too. My big disappointment – my Friday – hit like a mack truck when infertility became part of my story a few years ago. The pain is no longer raw, but neither does it just go away. And Good Friday is simply a day to remember.

It’s interesting to me that it coincides with the beginning of  National Infertility Awareness Week this year. Just as Good Friday is a day pause and take stock, to be aware of what redemption cost, NIAW is a week of intentional knowing about infertility.

Sometimes awareness is used as an excuse to build sympathy, or worse – guilt. Lord spare me from that train-wreck.

I’m a fan of Henry David Thoreau’s idea of awareness when he asks “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

So in honor of Good Friday, Messy Beautiful Warriors everywhere, and NIAW – but most of all in honor of the story I’ve been given to tell – I’m going to invite you to see through my eyes for an instant.

Each day next week, I’ll be sharing snippets of letters I’ve written over the years as I’ve tried to give voice to a silent pain. My hope is not so much that you understand me better through it, but that you’ll be able to see a glimpse of just how sacred loss can be, and discover with me the majesty of a God who dares to breathe life into death.

Today’s letter was penned just after I got home from a Good Friday church service a few years ago. I had listened to more than just the Pastor’s words – his body language was screaming as he squirmed with discomfort talking about the day Jesus died.

Dear Pastor,

I know, I know, you aren’t comfortable with Friday. You want to rush through the devastation of Friday so you can get to your Sunday sermon.

But some of us are experiencing our own Friday. Some of us are sitting here with broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken expectations, and broken plans – much like Peter was.

Peter was one of Jesus’ best friends. He walked on water. He proclaimed him as the Messiah. But that Friday, he was the guy who denied even knowing Him. That Friday, Peter saw things about himself and his God that he didn’t want to be true. That he couldn’t believe were true.

Peter saw Jesus die.

And I bet there were still days – even after Sunday – that Peter wished there’d been no Friday. I bet there were days he just wanted his friend back.

Because Friday hurt. Friday was dark, and painful, and ugly, and terrifying, and opened places of his own soul that Peter wishes he’d never seen. And certainly wishes no one else had seen.

Each of us has our Fridays. Those days, weeks, months, or years of broken dreams.

And I have to tell you – I take comfort in knowing that Jesus gets it. He gets me. He’s had other friends with broken hearts and broken dreams, and they made it through. Which tells me I can, too. But first they survived Friday.

And to be honest, most Christians I know want to jump to Sunday – to skip the pain and get straight to the celebration. I can’t help but wonder if Peter would have punched someone in the face if they’d tried to tell him on Friday just how “good” it was.

I guess the thing is, Sunday didn’t erase Friday. In fact, Friday is really what made Sunday matter.

So all I’m asking, Pastor, is to just let it be Friday sometimes. Let the dream be broken. Let the disappointment be felt. Let it hurt. Let it suck. Let it be confusing.

Let me know that there’s a place for me here, whether I’m in a state of Sunday-praise, or Friday-pain. 

*This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!


Life in the Lunch Line


There I stood.  One of hundreds.  Standing in line to satisfy one of the most basic needs of all.  Food.  We all just wanted food.

Lunch Line Pic

The lunch line.

I’d just sat through Donald Miller’s encouragement on how to handle disappointment.  I’d heard Mike Foster talk about the difference between hurt and hype, and how hope is found somewhere in between.  Randall Wallace gave insight not only into the skill of kilt-wearing, but into the soul that he brought to writing William Wallace’s “FREEDOM!!!!!” in Braveheart.  I’d just finished sharing life across texts.  Important life.  Life that includes reminders of deep truth and questions about angels cradling lost babies.

And then I got in the lunch line.  By the time 60 minutes had passed and I made my way into the cafeteria – the altar at which I had waited to bow – I found myself in wall-to-wall people and I was ready to use elbows if needed.

I can’t tell you how many days of my life go just like this lunch line.  I hear/read/think something great, something inspirational, something revolutionary, something Truly Important.  But then I get in a line – often on the freeway, sometimes on the internet, or sometimes just in my own head.  I get busy taking care of basic things and basic needs.  And I get frustrated and annoyed and ready to throw elbows.

As I sat down with a plate full of food to finally satiate the beast, my husband asked me this most obnoxious of questions:  “So, how do you apply what you just heard to this moment?”  Grrr, the bane of a pastor’s wife’s existence.  Actual application of spiritual truths.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Well, Don just taught on facing disappointment – to list both the griefs and the blessings.  I can name a few blessings that came out of that hour in line – can you?”

“Wait, I get to list my griefs first,” I said.  Wait.  I get to list my griefs first.

While at the moment I was being snarky, I was about two minutes away from one of those deep “aha” moments.  My lists went like so:

Grief #1.   I grieve inefficiency.  Seriously, wasted minutes are like nails on a chalkboard to me, and I’d just wasted 60 in a line.

Grief #2.  I grieve feeling overlooked – all of a sudden I felt like a number instead of a person attending this conference.

Grief #3.  I grieve the loss of time with friends.  Meal-times were the breaks I’d counted on to debrief with friends at the same conference.

“Okay”, he said, “those are all valid.  Now list the blessings.”

Blessing #1.  It didn’t rain on us in line, even though it had poured all morning long.

Blessing #2.  A good friend that we hadn’t even known was at this conference stood in line with us for the full hour even though he’d already gotten his food.

Blessing #3.  I got a one on one lunch date with my husband.  These are far too far between in our daily lives.

Blessing #4.  I was looking at the ocean the whole time.  I mean, seriously, could there be a prettier campus than Point Loma?

I know, I know – it was a lunch line.  For an hour.  Epiphanies can show up in the oddest of places.

As I sat there, giving my husband snarky but real answers, I realized just how important both lists are – those of griefs and those of blessings – though blessings get more press.  “Count your blessings, count them one by one.”

And don’t get me wrong – counting our blessings can be crucial to mental and spiritual health.  But permission to list my griefs gave my list of blessings context. 

Here’s what I mean.  If I’d had to start with a list of blessings, I can guarantee you that they would have come out of my mouth with an undertone of resentment, because I was upset.  But not totally clear yet on what I was upset about.  So I would have shrugged and sighed my way through the blessings, and felt like because there were blessings, I wasn’t allowed to be upset.  I’ve done that a lot in my life – the “resentful blessings” list.

The two-list method is far healthier.  It’s like getting to exhale before I inhale. 

And sometimes the lists are small and take minutes – like griefs from a lunch line.  Other lists are much bigger and take much more time – like dealing with death and loss and major-life-disappointment.

I’d call Infertility my First Great Grief.  I started out to fill a need almost as basic as food.  I mean, let’s be honest, making babies is about as simple as it comes – until it’s not.  And I found myself in a seven-year line that has no end in sight.

For a long time, I didn’t give myself permission to list my griefs in this.  Because I knew my life had blessings, and I knew I was supposed to count them, and I had this unhealthy sense of equating grieving with whining.

But then.  Oh then.  God called me out.  A couple of years ago, He told me it was time to go INTO my grief, to stare it in the face, to dare to see what I could find by looking at it instead of stifling it.  He told me to air my griefs to Him, to list them one by one.  He can handle it.

And I’ve learned so much.  So.  Much.  About myself, my God, my grief, and yes, my blessings too.  See, when I tried to see only my blessings, my griefs were in the way and blocked the view.  But the interesting thing about looking at grief is that it’s a window, not a wall – it allows you to see through to the other side.   And yes, even infertility has its blessings.  Would I have chosen to learn them this way?  No.  But can I count them? Yes.  My life is so full despite my womb remaining empty. 

So let me encourage you in this today, friend – if you have griefs, small or large, on the lunch-line or life-loss scale, count them.  Count them one by one.  And then your blessings, too.  One rarely exists without the other.

P.S. I’m now rather passionate about encouraging others to “go there” with God – to dig into their grief and be willing to be surprised by what they might find.  If you or someone you know is walking through the grief of infertility or infant loss, share this link: – yours truly will be talking about choosing joy even when you want to punch it in the face.


Unplanned Unparenthood


Loss comes in all shapes and sizes.  Mine has come in the form of unexplained infertility.  Last year, I wrote this letter to a friend as I began a journey inward:  a journey into and through my loss. A journey of looking loss in the face and daring it to have something for me.   

This week, I’ll be sharing what I’m learning.  For all those that have faced a future different than what they’d planned, Thursday night will be an important conversation:  Join us for Unplanned Unparenthood and spread the word!  


Dear Alli,

Your eyes stopped me in my tracks.  Your eyes hold ache.  An ache I know.  An ache I never ever wanted to know.  And my heart breaks in knowing you are now holding this pain too.  Your eyes woke me up to the almost sacred union of infertility.  We know what many women don’t know.  Won’t know.  Can’t know.  The sisterhood of the empty womb.  Not quite as sexy as traveling pants, but what are we gonna do?

We know what it’s like to spend our first few months trying, giggling with our husbands because, well, trying can be quite fun.

We know what it’s like when it stops being fun. When you have to bust out the thermometer, and the calendar, and seventh grade biology books.

We know what it’s like to experience a slow surprise when, month by month, you realize that everyone else’s normal may not be your normal.

We know what it’s like to hit the one-year mark and gasp.

We know what it’s like to literally ache from emptiness.

We know what numb feels like.

I hate knowing these things.  And I know you do, too.

You are on month 20.  I’m on month 50.  Yes, five-zero.  I probably represent your worst fear.  Between us is another thirty months of disappointment.  After just six months of trying, I was so scared that I’d still be sitting here years later.

And here I am.

Fears do come true.  Infertility makes you face that head on.

I hope your fears don’t come true.  I hope your story of infertility ends this month with a pregnancy test.  But if in thirty months you’re still waiting, I want you to know…

That thirty months later you won’t cry as often.

That thirty months later your life will be full, even if your womb still isn’t.

That thirty months later your marriage can be stronger, and more beautiful, than you’d ever imagined.

That maybe you’ll be asked to love an orphan.  That maybe your longing will teach you about theirs.  That maybe you’ll learn how to love by choice instead of by birth.

That maybe you won’t parent at all.  And you’ll learn to celebrate that path, too.

But I guess the reason I’m writing isn’t really to comfort you or scare you or even challenge you.  I’m writing you because I’m just learning how to talk about this.  I’m just learning that we need to talk about this.

Maybe there are things to gain through loss.

Maybe there are gifts and miracles and promises we haven’t understood or discovered before.

Maybe there’s a freedom we can’t even envision.

I’m ready to find out.  And by “ready”, I mean totally terrified.  But let’s go, step by step, and see what there is to see on this unplanned path.