The Legacy Project: The Vanover's Story

I met Jen when we started our birth class last year, she was the instructor (if you're in GR and looking for a great class, she's awesome and teaches the Bradley Method)! Our classes were 12 weeks, so we had a chance to get to know each other a bit. Then, when I reached out about this project, they were interested and definitely candidates. Here is their story.

Andrew and Jen met in 2001 while on a short term missions trip to Mexico. They married in 2004 and started checking things off their bucket list. They traveled to National Parks in the western U.S., went to Europe, and ran a marathon together. Andrew worked full time with missions trips and then went to Seminary. Jen was a nurse in labor and delivery and loved the joy of helping families welcome little ones!

At this point they decided they were ready to build their family and add some children to the mix. According to the professionals, they should have been able to achieve pregnancy within six months. Of course, six months came and went and then nine months, and then a year and they still weren't pregnant. There are actually a lot of couples in this situation right here, oftentimes it does happen within that year but the reality is that a lot of times, it doesn't. Jen struggled going to work to help other parents welcome their babies while Andrew continued with seminary. They started to feel the strain of waiting and wondering and, as Jen says, "a chasm began to emerge between the life we longed for and the life we lived."

They discovered what a lot of couples discover at this point, that intimacy becomes less intimate as you realize something is wrong with one or both of you. It becomes more like work instead of something to be enjoyed. It takes the romance right out of your relationship. They went through testing and there was nothing to be found and they were officially labeled "unexplained infertility". This applies to about 20% of infertile couples. While it's a good thing to not have anything wrong, it's also heartbreaking because you can't fix it. I totally understand this sentiment. Human nature wants to be in control and in times like these you realize, that we aren't as in control as we like to think we are.

I'd like to share an excerpt from Jen's blog during this time:

"You'd think that knowing it's coming and being prepared would be half the battle, but how do you prepare for this emotional tidal wave? I've been down this road. I feel weak and tired, but isn't that how I'd feel if I were pregnant too? Month after month I've played these games with myself. No matter how much I tell myself that, rationally, this is PMS not early pregnancy, my heart is still battling with my mind. I know that if I were pregnant there would also be other signs, but somewhere deep inside I cannot let go of hope. People always talk about hope as a positive thing, it's the thing that keeps you going. Why do I feel like hope is destroying me? If I could only let go of this hope, I would be more emotionally stable, which would help me feel physically stronger. But no, hope has it's grip on me, and I can't shake it, even if I desperately want to. Logic will not win the battle against emotion, especially with the current hormone cocktail I've got brewing."

They were desperate and angry, hurt and confused. And at that moment, they were pregnant and didn't know it.

They now have three beautiful children. They became pregnant the first month they tried with their next two children and they are forever grateful to be through this challenge and onto new challenges in life.

I asked them what their greatest takeaway was during this time in their life and this is what they had to say, "Being unable to conceive was probably the darkest period of our lives. Perhaps the greatest gift was realizing I do not have as much control in my life as I think I do or that I want to have. Another gift was realizing the mystery of God in this isolating, envious, and heartbreaking time of life. Despite my inability to see God in the dark, God was still there with me. Even though I did not have words of hope or promise, God's word of hope and promise remained."

I know that when you're in the midst of this journey or any journey of waiting, it's incredibly difficult. The journey is never easy... but I asked Andrew and Jen what they would say to someone going through it and this was their reply:

From Andrew:  "I would simply say thank you for letting me speak with you in this low time of your life. I would offer no platitudes or aphorisms. I would probably ask a question like: What are you learning about your heart's desire? Where do you think God is in all of this? Is there anything you would like to tell me that you have been holding onto for a long time?"

And I will end with Jen's statement because, honestly, it's true. 

From Jen: "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you are going through this. Your thoughts and feelings are valid. You're not crazy. And you're not alone. Most importantly, YOU are not forgotten."

For more information about The Legacy Project, click here.

To read more stories, click here.