My name is Charissa, it is from the Greek word “Charis” and means, “grace and kindness.” My parents chose this baby girl name last minute in the hospital. So sure they were having a boy, the only name they dreamed up was Eric Jason. But they did a good job raising up their daughter to know God and the meaning of grace. Maybe their desire for more boys skipped a generation because I went on to have 2 boys of my own…
Jack is my first born son and he is 9 years old. As names go, Jack is a form of John. The name John means, “God is Gracious.” God was gracious to me and my husband in bringing us through our journey to parenthood. Our younger son is 4 years old and he is named Zachary. Zachary is a form of Zecharia, and means, “God has remembered.” When it seemed we would only have one child, I believe God did not forget our desire for a second child and against the odds blessed us with him as well!
Sharing our challenging, humorous and testosterone filled life with my friends and family is so much fun. But, it didn’t start out like this right from the beginning.
Sometimes people see you from the outside, one snapshot of your life today and think that is all there is: two healthy kids and your average share of trials and smiles. However, my journey to becoming a mom was almost a no starter.
We married at 30 and 31 and then put off having kids for a few more years. By the time we decided to try for kids we were anxious for it to happen quickly. But months kept passing and the despair and disappointment was growing instead of my belly. Driving to work alone in the morning, the infertility ache would come and fill my heart up. I would frustrate myself by thinking of all the women who recently became pregnant. My self pity increased when I recalled my friends excitement, “It happened the first month we tried!” I was able to keep fueling my own despair cycle as I focused downward on my problem.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18
In this season of my life, my husband and I were at a good church, learning about the bible and growing in our faith. So I began to pray and talk to God about my desperate feelings as an outlet for my pain.
While I continued to confide in my husband, he stayed focused on the clinical level of how to solve our problem and was not able to connect with me about my emotional pain, or my feelings of inadequacy as a woman. I also had fears about what else I needed to endure physically and most of all, the biggest fear that all our efforts could become a waste of time and money; fruitless.
After nearly a year on this dark path, Mother’s Day came. It was a day of bad emotion immersion. But that evening, I was sitting alone outside, all cried out and quiet and then it happened. God spoke to me. All at once this thought came to mind and it surprised me. “I have a special plan for your life.” It had so much presence and weight. I knew in my heart, God just spoke to me and these words were based on scripture.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
It was a supremely personal gesture that made me feel found. It was evidence that God in heaven was aware of my pain and cared enough to give me his comforting words. That scripture made me feel like I mattered to God. Secondly, it challenged me as a Christian to look up and start becoming a person of true faith. Because if God sees me, and God has a good plan, and I believe Him, then it is not really appropriate for me to continue to live in so much despair. I decided that night to adjust my gaze toward heaven and have hope in what could be.
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
So with that one amazing encounter, I had turned a corner. I let go of my old way, and I was freed up to start hoping in God. For the first time I began to make decisions to where I felt God was gently drawing my attention.
There were changes to be made in my work-life, and medical treatments ahead. I journeyed along for weeks and months. On occasion my fear would begin to sneak back in and cloud my thoughts. But I would pray and then I would hear just the right sermon at church, or have a particular conversation with a doctor, or something else would happen that would restore me and keep me on my path of faith and in peace.
Although time was passing, I could sense a progression toward wholeness. There were many small but significant experiences taking place consistently. For example, after I was first told that I was not really a good candidate for infertility treatment, I learned how stress can play a role in negatively affecting the chemistry of some women. I began to become aware of the sources of stress in my life. Then a lateral management position came open at work that would allow me to focus on projects and leave behind the stress of managing so many teams of people. I took the job and the next month my chemistry levels improved. I was on the right path. A few months later, my company noticed I had several weeks of unused vacation time and asked me if I wanted to use the leave because my area would be between projects during the next few months. Essentially, they came to me and said, “Would you like to rest completely, for a while?” God was at work. I agreed to take the vacation days and scheduled out my next InVitro Fertilization attempt to coincide.
I became convinced that God’s plan whatever it turned out to be, would indeed satisfy our longing. So after a job change, some significant rest and my 3rd effort with InVitro Fertilization (IVF) I finally produced “good” eggs. They resulted in embryos, which resulted in a pregnancy! My very first pregnancy and later that year, I delivered a healthy baby boy, who we named Jack, more proof that “God is Gracious” to me.
My pregnancy was not complicated, but the birth was hard! They had trouble getting my epidural to take, so it didn’t. I experienced the undiluted form of child-birth. Wow! I was so unprepared for that part. I remember saying, “I cannot believe women do this?!?” And in the moment was pretty darn sure, I would never allow myself to go through birth again. But joy pours in and memories fade, and I had a somewhat easier birth 5 years later.
Not long after Jack was born we were very hopeful about having another child. The ability to get pregnant was now possible, but then sustaining a pregnancy became my new obstacle. In those next 4 years I struggled with miscarriage. Though there was grief and loss, I avoided losing hope because of my newly developed faith muscle. In the years leading up to Zachary’s birth, I learned about God’s timing, waiting on the Lord and trusting Him for the future. In times of waiting I wondered, “Did God forget I am trying to have one more baby?” So for us, the baby boy name Zachary fit so well when we learned that it meant, “God has remembered.” Truly the Lord did not forget me or the desires of my heart!
Today I am grateful that God gave me peace in the midst of my painful days and direction to make decisions that eventually lead me into motherhood. I often say these 7 years were the best season of my life and that I would never trade it because of how it pushed me to a place where I re-discovered the God of my youth. God was still very much alive, and as I trusted in Him fully, the places where I was stuck in circles began to straighten out. Faith in God does not usually bring instant fixes and it is not a magic formula. But there is supernatural peace and moments of experiencing the miraculous. And that is so significant and life changing that it inspires me to let others know, so that they might put their trust in God as well. Everyday I have a real choice about whether to live by faith or live by my own efforts alone. My struggle with infertility was about more than growing a baby, or growing a family, it was about growing my trust in God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5-6