Faith

Waiting for Emma

Salt&Light wishes all families a Happy Children's Day!

Michelle Tan // October 7, 2021, 11:45 pm

Screenshot 2021-09-29 at 10.26.04 PM

Michelle and Baby Emma Josephine, whose name means "entirely beloved and whole" (Emma) and "the Lord will add" (Josephine). Photos courtesy of the Tans.

Pregnancy. A seemingly natural, straightforward, joyful experience that so many others easily celebrate and at times casually joke about, became a clinical, drawn-out, painful journey for my husband and me.

Needles, vials of blood drawn, tests, scans, injections, medications – with each hospital visit, I tried to numb myself to the loneliness and sadness in my heart, sometimes guising it with a pep-talk to “be strong/have hope/it’ll be okay”.

At my lowest, I found it hard to worship and to read His Word. Where was the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes?

Some days I masked my tears in the shower, left my pillow uncomfortably soaked, cried out to God.

Where was He? Was I forgotten? Did He not care? Why was I being robbed of joy? Where was my child?

Everything did not feel okay and, on days when the pain hit hard, it felt like everything within me got knocked down and I literally couldn’t get up. Anyone who has walked this journey would know the feeling.

In what seemed like such a private struggle, something not often nor openly spoken about, I struggled on my own, wrestling with questions and comments – “You love kids so much, how come you don’t have your own?” “Wow! your sister has three already, you’ve got to catch up!” – coupled with that stage of life where pregnancy announcements on social media seemed to pop up every other week.

At my lowest, I found it hard to worship and to read His Word. Where was the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes? (James 1:17; Mark 7:7-11)

My weary soul did not know how to proclaim “our Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness, my God that is who You are”. I could not see Him making a way, I could not see a miracle at work.

Where is my child?

Personally, the years of waiting led to my taking six months of no-pay leave last year for assisted reproductive treatments (ART).

I wanted to give my body the best chance to be successful, what with the emotional and physical investment of going through daily injections and frequent visits to the hospital.

To my dismay, the first cycle was unsuccessful, and the second one cancelled indefinitely because of the Circuit Breaker due to Covid.

I conceived naturally in what I now realise was the one window of opportunity that I thought to be the most impossible.

The hope that had been held out from the treatments faded and I felt desperation and disappointment sink in.

With no clear indication of when the suspension on ART would be lifted, it looked like the six-month sacrifice was going to be wasted.

The beauty in this pain, of this posture of not being able to hold yourself up, is that God shows Himself to be strong when we are weak.

A month after the painful realisation that my leave may be wasted by not being able to maximise the number of treatments, God allowed a miracle to happen.

I conceived naturally in what I now realise was the one window of opportunity that I thought to be the most impossible.

I had all but given up on the chance of a natural pregnancy. This was truly God telling me that when the circumstance seem most impossible and unknown to man, it is possible for Him.

He could breathe and bring forth life – physical, emotional and spiritual – into this situation. This humbled me greatly, and I recognised that my Creator is the one who knows me the most intimately. Every tear, emotion, thought was not hidden from Him.

Choosing faith

To the one looking to support a friend:

Letting them know you may not be able to fully understand what they’re going through, but simply offering to pray for them and  turning up for them when they need a listening ear will speak volumes.

Your friend has likely exhausted or considered all sorts of medical means, best practices and advice.

Sometimes they may withdraw and need space to heal. They may be deep in the trenches of pressing on in faith.

They are all too familiar with: “Trust in God’s timing/continue to have faith.” Trying to make them feel like they aren’t missing out with “You should be glad you have time to yourself, children drain you” really does not soothe the wound for someone yearning to be a father or mother.

Your physical or emotional presence is the support they’re looking for over the well-meaning problem solving.

Sometimes they may withdraw and need space to heal. They may be deep in the trenches of pressing on in faith.

Bolstering them through gentle check-ins, or letting them know you’re there for them during their grief, may bring encouragement and comfort during such a time.

To the hopeful mother, the hopeful father:

I wanted to share a passage from a book written by Marshal Segal: “You may have to walk through pain, disappointment, rejection, and suffering for seven or eight (or 70 or 80) years.

“The brighter (and prevailing) side says God never makes a mistake in choosing good for you. Everything you experience – expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, pleasing or painful – is God’s good plan to make you his own (John 10:27–29), to give you himself forever (Psalm 16:11), and to use your life to reveal himself and his glory to the world around you (Isaiah 43:25; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Through injections, scans and medications, Michelle and her husband, Samuel, would discover that “the beauty in this pain is that God shows Himself to be strong when we are weak”.

“God has given us himself, his Word, and each other to bring faith, comfort, and strength in the midst of our pain, even the most severe and unique pain.”

Our God is the God of Love, Joy, Peace, and the giver of life – claim these in faith over your marriage and in your desire to grow your family.

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t expect such pain and you certainly didn’t want it; you don’t know how to keep persevering.

Would you choose to believe that He is able to do a new and good thing for and through you even through this suffering?

I know what it feels like to be consumed by your anxieties, fear, doubts. It’s easy to compare, to feel it’s unfair.

Our God is the God of Love, Joy, Peace, and the giver of life – claim these in faith over your marriage and in your desire to grow your family.

Each sob that shakes your body, He holds you. Each anguished cry that has no words to it, He hears you. When at times your friends, your spouse, let you down, He is the one extending His unwavering grace, understanding and love.

God does not leave us on our own – He gives Himself to us, his Word, and the community around us to call upon faith in an impossible situation, to bring hope when we lose hope, to surround us with comfort in the midst of sorrow, and strengthen us when we do not know how to go on.

Never late

As time passed, God gently encouraged me not to bear my burdens on my own and opened opportunities for me to take that step of courage and faith to share with the people He had brought into our lives.

Granted, at times I wished I could just hide and not have to share the pain and shame I felt – not everyone understood, not everyone had an encouraging word.

It was a big step to share such a personal and painful journey.

God reassured me that it wasn’t that my child didn’t exist, or that He had forgotten me, but that He knew the best timing for our child.

Looking back, we are so grateful to have had friends who came alongside us to bolster our faith, to hope for us, to hold and encourage us.

It was deeply freeing to bless His name from a place of peace and surrender, even as we remained in the valley with dark clouds overhead – to be able to proclaim that our unfailing God has not, and will not, change. And that, in the waiting, the same God who has never been late was indeed working all things out for our good. (Yes I Will, Vertical Worship)

We believed in faith that His Word, His promises, are true and that our pain was not meaningless but would reveal His character to be true and magnify His glory.

Through relentless cries of asking “Where is my child?”, God gave me a vision of a child being held in His arms – a reassurance that it wasn’t that my child didn’t exist, or that He had forgotten me, but that He knew the best timing for our child.

During my pregnancy, whenever I worried for the precious life forming within, I was comforted by this image of God seeing and knowing each of Emma’s days (Psalm 139:15-16).

In His arms is the safest place she can be, and He cares for and loves her as her perfect Father and Creator.


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About the author

Michelle Tan

Much to the disbelief of those around her, Michelle is an introvert. When travelling, she makes time to hunt down good coffee and magnificent hikes. While one does not simply walk into Mordor, she has done so.

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