Infertility can shake a marriage to its core. Today on the broadcast, pastor Michael Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute, and his wife tell how they faced this challenge and learned to rely upon God in a new way.
Infertility can shake a marriage to its core. Today on the broadcast, pastor Michael Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute, and his wife tell how they faced this challenge and learned to rely upon God in a new way.
Cindy: I had always wanted four kids. I had the plan for my life, of course, and so as we began trying for number two, month after month after month went by until finally at a year my OB said, you know, "You're infertile." I remember, because it was as if someone had put a stamp across my head that said "Failure," "Reject," "Not Worthy to be a Mother."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 13th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today how one couple's experience with infertility meant hope for three orphans.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. This week our focus is on the plight of the orphan all around the world. As most of our listeners have heard us mention, there are more than 140 million orphans all around the world, and so the need is great, and there are a lot of ways that folks can respond to that need.
Some folks are sponsoring children who are orphans, some churches are sponsoring whole orphanages, there are short-term missions trips being taken by churches to help with the needs of orphans around the world and one way that some folks respond is through adoption. And, actually, what opens the door for a lot of these couples to consider the possibility of adoption is the reality of infertility, and that was the case for our guests on today's program.
They experienced what's referred to as "secondary" infertility, where after having a child they were unable to conceive a second time, and that's when their hearts were first turned toward the possibility of adoption, and we may be talking to a lot of couples today who are experiencing infertility in their marriage.
Dennis: And yet this whole issue of infertility is a huge issue within the Christian community, it's a big issue within the culture. About one in six cannot get pregnant when they want to get pregnant, and one in 10 are permanently infertile.
And so that brings about a whole set of issues that we'd like to visit on the broadcast, and with us in the studio are Michael and Cindy Easley. Michael, Cindy, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Cindy: Thank you.
Michael: Thanks, Dennis.
Bob: I don't know how many of our listeners picked up on it just from hearing you say, "Thanks, Dennis," but a lot of listeners know your voice because Michael is the host of the daily radio program, "Proclaim," that's heard on a number of Christian radio stations all across the country. You serve as the president of Moody Bible Institute and have been there for the last four or five years after pasturing a church in suburban Washington, D.C. for a number of years, and the two of you have also spoken around the country at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences. So a lot of our listeners have heard Michael and Cindy talking about what the Bible has to say about marriage and family.
And I know, as you spoke at these conferences, you talked about the challenges you went through in your marriage with this experience of infertility. Cindy, did you have any trouble conceiving when you got pregnant the first time?
Cindy: Absolutely not. The first month we didn't use birth control, we conceived or daughter, Hannah.
Bob: Whoa, right there, huh?
Cindy: Right there, because no one had told us we were infertile.
Cindy: We didn't know it.
Dennis: We're laughing, but …
Cindy: She is a miracle. She should not have been conceived, but in God's grace she was conceived.
Bob: You mean there were medical issues that should have prevented the conception?
Cindy: Should have prevented the conception.
Bob: What were they?
Cindy: Well, we found out later, of course, that a lot of it was my hormones. They were totally out of whack, and later we discovered that I had imbalances in both progesterone and estrogen. No matter what our physician tried to correct infertility later, he was unsuccessful.
Bob: You weren't even aware, then, of infertility until a few years after Hannah was born, and you were trying to conceive a second time?
Cindy: About a year after, we decided that it was time to try for number two. I had always wanted four kids. I had the plan for my life, of course, and so as we began trying for number two, month after month after month went by until finally at a year my OB said, you know, "You're infertile."
Dennis: Cindy, do you remember that appointment with the doctor?
Cindy: I remember, because it was as if someone had put a stamp across my head that said "Failure," "Reject," "Not Worthy to be a Mother." That's how I felt at that time.
Dennis: Michael, were you in that doctor's appointment?
Michael: I was not in the appointment, but I do remember her coming home with the news and, again, going back, Cindy said "We're going to have four kids," so we got married, and so the first one – boom – I thought maybe we were going to have 15 children here, and it was when she said, "Okay, it's time to gear up for number two here," and those months turned into years, and it was a very interesting process to discover, "Okay, there's a medical reason for this."
Bob: When you learned from Cindy that the doctor had declared you infertile, said there are problems with conception, you had two things to deal with – you had your own disappointment or whatever you might have experienced emotionally at that time, and then you had a wife who was, as she said, was stamped with the failure mark on her forehead. How did you deal with both of those factors?
Michael: First, I don't know how many men feel this way, but I think most men feel if you have a pretty good job and, you know, "Hey, we had one great daughter," I was okay with that, I really was. I didn't lay awake at night thinking, "Oh, I'll never have a son." I didn't worry about having one child. I mean, yeah, a little disappointment, but that was not the end of the world for me.
But as those months turned into years, there's a verse in Genesis 30:1, where Rachel says to Jacob, "Give me children, else I die."
Dennis: You know, it's interesting, before you get to the second half of Bob's question, you've answered that first half of the question typically as a man would. We define our lives in so many different arenas, it's different for us to truly experience it like our wives do when they feel like they were created to be mothers, they were created to give life.
We're protectors. We are guardians in the marketplace.
Bob: It's almost, for a man, like somebody saying, "You'll never have a good job again."
Michael: Exactly. Or "You'll never work again."
Bob: All of a sudden, it's at the core of who you are, isn't it?
Michael: Because my identity, no matter what I know theologically, is tied up in what I do, what I accomplish, and that's not true for Cindy.
Dennis: And this is one of the first wedges that gets driven between couples, because he's not experiencing it on the level that she is, and if they're not careful, she may resent him for not entering into her sorrow, and he may resent her for not getting over it quicker.
But in your relationship, Michael, how did you enter into what she was feeling with this stamp on her forehead that she was feeling?
Michael: Well, typical male, "Let's fix it." You know, let's find – let's diagnosis the problem, and let's fix it. And so we started going to her OB and talked to him in detail about what do we do now to try some different approaches when you're diagnosed with infertility.
Bob: Cindy, were there options?
Cindy: Yes, there were. We sat down with the most godly OB. A wonderful guy. He wrote down on a piece of notebook paper these are the steps, these are the things we can do starting with the least invasive to the most invasive. And after he went over the paper with us with both of us together, he put his pen down, and he said, "Now, these are the things I can do for you, but only God puts a baby in a womb," and that was a wonderful statement for us, because it brought us back to this is all in God's hands.
And it gave us the trust of knowing this guy is also looking for God's will in our lives. So we started with the least invasive, which, a lot of it was medication for me, shots for me, things like that. We, of course, had both of us tested but quickly found out that it was my hormonal problems that were the issue.
Bob: Michael, some of the things on that list may have been things that you were uneasy with, especially down near the bottom of the list. I mean, there is so much going on in reproductive technology and health today, Christians are scratching their heads and going, "Is it really okay to do in vitro fertilization?" Is it okay to do some of these things?
Michael: Listen, well-meaning people will give you bad advice. You have got to really steer your way clear as a couple on what you're willing to do and not do, and for us, as Cindy mentioned, the physician that we had secured was tremendous in giving us reasonable guidance.
Now, even by the time, you know, six months from now, this is going to be history. Technology is leaping at such incredible rates in infertility, and you've got to get with your spouse and the Lord and say, "What's for us?" And I don't expect the world to necessarily cry along with me and worry about every little infertility issue every couple has. God is doing something in your soul and your family that you've got to hammer out as you walk through infertility.
Bob: When you guys faced the issue for the first time you examined the medical options, you considered what was appropriate; what wasn't appropriate; what, as a matter of conscience, you could participate in; what you weren't going to participate in. You went down that road and explored some of those options. You went through that ongoing cycle that you described, Cindy, of hope and despair and hope and despair. There came a point where you said, "Apart from the sovereign miraculous work of God putting a baby in the womb, we are done with whatever testing we're going to do, and we're moving on."
Cindy: And what a relief that day was for me.
Bob: Was it? I would think, in one sense, it was like going to a funeral, though, wasn't it?
Cindy: No, no, it was an incredible release because, you see, I knew that we could not use our resources to both go through infertility and adopt, and the day we said, "Thank you, Doctor, you've been great, goodbye," was the day I didn't have to worry about grieving again.
I mean, yes, I was still disappointed, and I still had the hope that, "Oh, maybe I'll still get pregnant, anyway," but I wasn't planning for it. I wasn't working for it. And I knew that when I started adoption, there would be a baby at the end. Infertility never gave me that guarantee. It only gave me the guarantee that I would try one more month.
But the minute we said, "Let's contact an adoption agency," I knew that within a matter of time, I would have a baby in my arms.
Bob: Was there any apprehension, Michael, about beginning the pursuit of adoption? I know some people go, "I don't know if I can do that."
Michael: I'm ashamed to tell you this, but I've got to lay it out. I didn't want to adopt.
Michael: You know, there's – in this whole thing of having children and identity and all that again, I had my beautiful daughter, she was a wonderful child, we were perfect parents, and why add to the complication? And there was a part of me, I am ashamed to tell you, that was – I didn't want to do it. It was somebody else's child, it wasn't mine. I didn't know what I was going to get, and I'm dragging my heels.
Fast forward in the time we're in a group setting with four other couples through a wonderful United Way agency down in Dallas, Texas, who was helping us, and they're talking about "How do you feel about adoption?" I'm listening to four infertile, no-children couples wax eloquent, and I'm sitting here with the perfect child at home saying, "I don't need this."
And it was a process. Fast forward in time some more, we have just adopted our second child, our first adopted child, and we had this welcome home thing. Now, we had five years of infertility. We've had friends who have walked through those waters with us and been wonderfully supportive. We got this huge party at the house, people are coming in like crazy giving gifts and, you know, and I'm sitting there holding this little infant, and this woman comes up and sits on the couch invading my personal space in a big way, and she leans over to me, touching my body right beside me, and she says to me, "Michael, everybody's second child is different."
And I was stunned. The woman could read my face.
Dennis: She knew what was going on inside?
Michael: She could see my soul.
Dennis: She could see the discomfort?
Dennis: What'd you do?
Michael: I just sat there. I was stunned, I was shocked, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed, and it was a tough time.
Dennis: It's evident you feel that pretty deeply. You all went on to adopt not one more but two more.
Michael: [chuckles] Yes.
Cindy: That's right.
Dennis: Was it the same process again, or were these grafted into your heart?
Cindy: We did adopt two more at one time because we always wanted four kids. I said, "Look, let's not do this one at a time anymore, let's just get them and go on with life."
You know, we knew now that we could love an adopted child. There was no doubt. Jesse and Hannah, we tease people, they say "Who's adopted?" We say, "We forget."
Dennis: Yeah, we don't know, that's right.
Cindy: We don't know. And so, no, there was no reticence this time. This time it was just "Oh, boy, let's get some more kids and create some more chaos in our home."
Dennis: And so you did it?
Michael: And, boy, the next two are just the most precious little kids.
Dennis: A boy and a girl?
Michael: A boy and a girl.
Bob: And through some unique circumstances, right?
Cindy: Yes, in fact, we had decided we would adopt again and were actually considering adoption through Russia. We had finished our home study, we had gotten pictures and videos of two Russian children, a boy and girl. And we had just one little thing we needed, and that was $20,000. Just a small thing to finish the transaction, but I was just – I just knew that if this was God's will, He was going to provide those funds. I mean, what is $20,000 to God?
Well, we got a call one day, though, from the director of this agency that did our home study and said, "I have two children right here in the D.C. area. Would you consider them?" So I called Michael, who was out of town at lunch with someone and said, "You wouldn't believe the call I just got. What do you think?" And he said, "Well, of course, we're going to look at these children."
So I called the agency back and said, "Yes, we will, please. We would love to hear about this little boy and this little girl." So we met with them, they showed us the pictures. Instantly, I am in a quandary because I love them and the Russian children, and Michael said, "We can't have four more," so we make the decision at that choice to go with Devon and Sarah who, at the time, were two and three. They were children who were in the custody of the welfare department in Washington, D.C., and are now Easleys.
Michael: During this whole process, this 20 grand kept coming up, and Cindy kept saying, "Well, God can drop 20 grand in our lap." And I said, "Yeah, He could do that." I said, "He could also drop two kids in our lap."
So when the phone call came, it was a real no-brainer to me.
It's what we were praying for all along.
Dennis: Well, and you think about it, the Lord could have done either one.
Michael: That's right, that's exactly right.
Dennis: And there are some of our listeners going, "20 grand," but, you know, the Lord owns the cattle on 1,000 hills, and He does sell them and occasionally send the money to some of His saints to do His work.
Dennis: And one of the things I'm especially proud of our speaker team, the couples who speak at our FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, nearly 60 couples, is the number of couples on that team who have done, like Michael and Cindy, they have adopted children.
Adoption may not be for every couple. I'm not saying that at all. But it's interesting to see how many of those couples have taken a sacrificial act of bringing a child that was not theirs biologically who quickly becomes theirs, and just to watch how God is using these 60 couples and to watch their families grow up.
I had the privilege of meeting the four Easley children, Barbara and I did, just the other day, and what a delightful family, what a crew. I mean, you'd never know. They look like they've been there since day one, and that's the stuff of God's spirit.
Cindy: You know, Dennis, one of the most wonderful things about adoption is if people do say, "Oh, that's such a wonderful thing you've done for those children. Oh, it's so altruistic of you to do these things," but the very truth of the matter is that they are giving us much more than we could ever give them, because they've filled an empty place in our hearts, where we wanted, desired, felt, that it was God's call that we have more children.
So the things we do for them, we see as minor. They're our children. Of course, it's – frankly, when I look at them, it's hard for me to believe that they were not in my womb. I can't believe it. They are mine.
Dennis: Well, this is a happy ending to a tough situation. Infertility is, for those who are listening right now and who are going through it, it may not be the happy conclusion right now for them, and they may be in the midst of going through the process that Michael and Cindy have already gone through.
Michael: One of the little neat stories that has happened in our life with Devon and, of course, he was in foster care for three years of his life. And so when we brought him home, I started this little routine. It just started being kind of a fun bedtime event, but it's turned into a ritual.
And every night when I'm home, Cindy and I share the devotion time with the kids, and so I spend time with the two little ones, and I put them to bed, and I would put Devon to bed, and I would tell him, "You know what?" And he would say, "What?" And I would say, "I love you," and he'd smile. I'd say, "You know what else?" He'd say "What?" I'm glad that you're my son, because before you came, I never had a son." And I'd say "You know what else?" He says "What?" I'd say, "I want a kiss." And he kisses me. Then I say, "You know what else?" And he braces himself, and says "What?" And I just tickle the hound out of him. Every night.
Well, we had Devon and Sarah for quite a while, and, I don't know, maybe three or four months. They'd been living with us full time now, and one night it was one of these pandemonium nights, you know, brush the teeth, get them in bed, duct tape them to bed, get them in their rooms and batten down the hatches. And so I was in a hurry, and I go into his bedroom, and I said, "Devon, you know what?" "What?" "I love you." "You know what? I'm glad you're my son?" "You know what? I want a kiss." "You know what?" and I tickle him for a minute, and I walk out, and he goes, "You didn't do it right." I said, "What?" He said, "You didn't do it right, Daddy." I said, "What do you mean, I didn't do it right?"
And he's really ticked, and he's standing up on his bed, and he said, "You didn't say I'm glad you're my son because before you came I never had a son." And I dropped to my knees, and I started over, and I went through all of them again. And, you know, the power of being a dad to a little boy who didn't have a dad – now, Cindy said, you know, we wanted children, that's true, but you know what? That little boy's got a daddy, and I've got a son.
Dennis: It doesn't get any better than that.
Bob: You know, as we think about how many little boys, how many little girls there are in the world today who don't have a mama or a daddy, that's the reason that we come to this particular week each year and say we need to get the word out. And, as we've said, not everybody is going to be called to adopt. Not everybody listening is experiencing infertility, but everybody who is listening can care about the kids who don't have a mama or a daddy and can do something about it, whether they adopt or not.
They can become foster parents for a period of time, they can get together with others from their church and go on a short-term missions trip to help care for the needs of orphans. They can reach out financially, there are churches that are either building or supporting orphanages all around the world. I think the message we're trying to make clear for our listeners this week is that you can do something, and all of us need to be asking what is it the Lord would have us do?
Our team has put together a kit that we call the "Hope for Orphans Kit." It includes 10 ways that every Christian can care for the orphan and the waiting child. It includes a booklet that walks couples, step-by-step, through the process to considering adoption. There is a book on how to launch an orphans' ministry in your church. It comes with a DVD that you can use to help get things going in your church.
And there is also another DVD with a message, Dennis, where you and Barbara speak to the needs of orphans around the world and call people to action. We want to get this kit in the hands of as many people as possible this week, and so we're making it available to any of our listeners who call or go to FamilyLife.com and request it, and all we're asking is that you make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and to help us cover the cost of getting this out to you.
You can donate on our website at FamilyLife.com. When you fill out the donation form on the website, you'll see a keycode box, and if you'll just type the word "orphan" in that keycode box, we'll know to send you the "Hope for Orphans Kit," or call 1-800-FLTODAY and mention that you'd like the "Hope for Orphans Kit," and, again, we're happy to send it to you this week. We hope that God will use it to help direct your steps as you think about how you can be involved in helping to care for orphans and how you can encourage others to do the same thing.
So, again, donate online at FamilyLife.com, write the word "orphans" in the keycode box or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the "Hope for Orphans Kit," and we'll make sure to get it sent out to you.
Now, tomorrow we want to talk about some of the very real challenges that adoptive parents may experience. I know you guys have experienced challenges as you've raised your adopted kids, and, of course, we all experience challenges as parents, but there are some unique challenges for parents who adopt a child. We'll talk more about that tomorrow, and I hope our listeners can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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