It was hard to go to church. I knew I needed precious worship time, but everywhere I turned young families and new couples boasted cute baby bumps. These women truly glowed from the new life sprouting within them. The fact that we toted our 4-year-old, all spiffed up with his hair gelled and wearing a bow tie, didn’t take my pain away.

In fact, it added “guilt” to my ever-increasing burden of feelings. Why couldn’t I just be grateful for what I had? How could I possibly envy these women who seemed to find joy in complaints about their pregnancies? I actually hadn’t felt that guilt over longing for more children until, one day, I voiced my jealousy to a pregnant friend.

“Wow,” she said. “You really don’t appreciate Trevor, do you? I mean, why don’t you focus your time on him and on what you do have, instead of what you don’t have?”

I never spoke those envious feelings out loud again. But that doesn’t mean the feelings went away. With each passing month and piles of negative pregnancy tests in our trash, my pain increased.

This Sunday meeting, an elderly visiting woman spoke. She introduced herself, and I felt the same envy creeping in, as she spoke of her five children. We were a young congregation, so she spoke of tools to use to keep a spirit of love and peace in a home filled with little ones. I’d hear the low roar of chuckles when she’d talk of toddler antics so familiar to families with multiple children but completely foreign to me. She spoke of sibling rivalry, and my heart physically hurt. My only child is being robbed as much as I am. Fighting tears and the urge to leap off the pew and run away, I felt a hopeful peace settle over me when her speaking changed gears.

“Early in our marriage, we were told we would never have children. But in my heart I knew that was wrong. Our five children came to us in ways we never could have planned. As we prayed and researched, acted and worked, we were inspired and directed.” I didn’t really hear the rest of her words. I felt them. I knew the doctors were wrong about our family, too. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I now had secure hope and trust that it would.

Our fertility struggle stayed with us forever, but eventually all the bedrooms in our home were filled. I was able to let go of the guilt because I let go of what others thought of me. I knew I appreciated my little Trevor. But just like I’ve felt a hole in my life when one of my children has grown and left home, even while other children are still at home, I felt holes in my life before these children came. And that’s ok. It’s ok to miss children before they arrive, and it’s ok to miss them now after they’ve left.