Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are so excited to share this interview with you with Courtney Reissig. She is a wife and a mom to three little boys, one set of twins. In this show, you are going to hear about her journey through miscarriage and a two-year season of infertility. She talks about how her suffering has purpose, and not to just be living for the next season or hope that God is going to give her something good now because she’s been through something hard, which is a mindset we can all fall into. Listen in as she shares about how she is looking ahead to the day where her body will no longer be under the curse but will be healed, and she has so much good encouragement about our future hope in the gospel. If you have been through a season of infertility or you’ve experienced miscarriages, we hope you are going to be blessed by this. Even if not, this is still a show full of encouragement for anyone who’s in a season of waiting or suffering, or is struggling under the weight of the hardship that everyday life brings. Definitely listen in. We are so excited for you to hear this interview with Courtney.
Laura: Welcome to the show Courtney. We are so happy to have you here on Risen Motherhood today.
Courtney: Thanks for having me.
Laura: Can you dive in and tell us a little bit about yourself? You’re a writer, a speaker, an author, give us a little bit about your background and your family make up and things like that.
Courtney: I’m a wife and a mom. I’m married to Daniel, he is a lay pastor in our church here in Little Rock. For his day job he is in sales so it’s a multifaceted life. Sometimes we’re doing ministry and sometimes he’s on business trips. We’ve been married for seven years and we have three children. We have twins who are three and a half; their names are Luke and Zach, and we have a 15-month-old boy named Seth, so we have a lot of budding testosterone in our home. [laughter] I’m also a writer. I wrote the book The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design a couple of years ago, and continued to write and continued to speak as I have availability – as I can fit it in during that time and [laughter] when they go to bed. I have a new book coming out in April. It’s called Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God. It’s along the lines of the faith in work discussion; showing how our work in the home is valuable to God and is a vital contribution to society. It’s taking all the stuff that we have out there on faith and work, and applying it to the work at the home.
Emily: It’s going to be so applicable.
Courtney: I hope so. I’m so excited about it and I feel like maybe I’m too excited about it. I don’t want [laughter] to burst with excitement but I’m really excited to get it out there and hopefully encourage people.
Laura: It sounds like something that would fit right in with all of our Risen Motherhood listeners so that’s definitely something we’ll all want to check out.
Can you share a little bit about your journey to motherhood with us? We know you’ve experienced some seasons of infertility and miscarriage. Can you tell us a bit about your story?
Courtney: When we got married, I always knew that we would probably have a hard time getting pregnant. I had endometriosis and so I had known that prior to getting married. I’d had some surgery and some treatment with it. We didn’t wait super long to try to get pregnant because I was already in my late 20s when we got married. We got pregnant fairly quickly so we were thankful, and then we miscarried really quickly after that. I had pretty high hopes that I would get pregnant again, pretty fast after the miscarriage, and was completely blindsided by the miscarriage because it was obviously our first time.
It took us two more years after that to get pregnant and a lot of treatment. I had more surgeries, I had some medical treatment that put me in menopause for six months, which was crazy, so now I have empathy with women are in menopause. They talk about being in menopause and I understand, and they think, “Oh, you poor young person, you don’t understand,” [laughter] and I’m like, “No, really, I understand what it’s like being in menopause. I always say I hope I’ll be more sanctified when I go through real menopause than I was [laughter] when I was 28 going through menopause.
Then we started trying to get pregnant again after that and got pregnant; we were totally surprised. It was my last month of trying without any drugs to get pregnant and I actually didn’t think I was pregnant. I was taking a pregnancy test for formality because I was like, “I’m not pregnant,” – and I was. I was so excited and so nervous because it was our first pregnancy after two years of waiting and then after the miscarriage. We went in for our ultrasound and we just wanted to hear one heartbeat. The sound tech was smiling and she took a while, and we were like, “Can you please say something?” and then she said, “Well, there’s one heartbeat and there’s the other heartbeat.” I was like, “Why are there two heartbeats?” [laughter] I didn’t understand. I thought, “What is wrong with my baby that my baby has two heartbeats?” and today we have twins.
We were completely blindsided there – identical twins. They shared a placenta so it was a high-risk pregnancy. I felt like my journey to pregnancy and then my journey through pregnancy was the Lord teaching me again, to continue to trust Him, to continue to trust that He is for my good, and that He is caring for me. They were born eight weeks early, really unexpectedly, and they were in the NICU for five weeks. One of my sons had about eight months of therapy and then had to wear a helmet so we had a lot of doctors’ appointments that first year. Then I wanted to get pregnant quickly and then I miscarried again. That one was really complicated and so it was prolonged. The baby wouldn’t pass and I almost had some hemorrhaging and then had to have D&C finally at the end of it.
The end of that made us really think, especially my husband, “Do we even want to do this again? Do we even want to try to have a baby again?” God changed our heart and eventually opened our heart more to, “We do want another baby,” and so the Lord gave us Seth. We had Seth. My pregnancy with him was fairly normal but I get diabetes when I’m pregnant. His delivery was really complicated but he is healthy and he was healthy, and he was big and he was probably the best baby I’ll ever have. [laughter] I don’t think I’ll ever have a baby as easy as him again.
It’s been a lot of ups and downs. I feel like pregnancy is the Lord’s way of confronting me with … living in a broken world and confronting me with my expectations of what I think life should be like, but also confronting me with my need to trust him. I am completely out of control in this situation.
Laura: That’s an incredible story Courtney and thanks for walking us through that. I don’t think I’ve heard that in its entirety. I’ve just read bits and pieces.
Courtney: One of these days I need to write the whole thing down.
Emily: One of the things we wanted to talk about on this show was, you’ve explained your journey through miscarriage and infertility but also, it wasn’t like there was this magical ending when you first gave birth to those twins. Was that what you were expecting, like, “Okay, I’m pregnant now. I’m getting ready to have these babies. This is our family story as we imagined it.” Or how did that go for you?
Courtney: It was nothing like I imagined it would be. One of the things I was really confronted with after I had them was the expectation in my heart that somehow because I’d gone through all I had gone through, that this next experience was going to be easy. I deserved an easy experience because I had had infertility and loss and a difficult pregnancy, and God did not give that to me.
We had the five weeks of a NICU stay and I had a lot of difficulty trying to nurse them. They were really small and they were really, really hard babies. Then to be confronted with Luke who needed therapy and having to go to therapy with him. We didn’t have family around so I was trying to find sitters for Zach and then take Luke to therapy and fit these into a schedule of twins, and I was so bitter. They got sick a lot so we were always at the doctor.
I got so bitter and thought, “Lord, I deserve something easy. You took me through this hardship and now I deserve to smooth sail through having babies,” and that’s not what God gave me. I realized how much I was viewing my previous suffering like this consolation prize; getting these kids instead of viewing the suffering that I endured as preparation for continued suffering throughout my life.
I wish I could say I’ve learned that lesson, I haven’t, [laughter] but that’s what it was doing, is it was shaping me and molding me and teaching me to trust the Lord. It was purging me of all the expectations and idols and sin in my life that was keeping me from seeing God for who He was, so that when another trial came, I could then respond in a way that was more worshipful rather than resentful. I’m a really slow learner so it takes a really long time unfortunately. [laughter]
God keeps giving me the same thing over and over and over again and I’m like, “Okay, obviously, you want me to learn this lesson,” but that was the biggest thing I was confronted with; thinking I deserved something easy.
Laura: That’s common in so many situations where we go through a season of suffering and we do expect it to let up. Like you said, it’s often preparing us for more and for us to further identify with Christ in those sufferings. What would you say were some of the things you had to preach to yourself or say to yourself, maybe some lies that you believed and how you could counteract them with truth in those seasons?
Courtney: I remember after our second miscarriage, lying in bed the night after. We’d gone in and we were not expecting to have miscarried because I had symptoms and everything so we thought this was just normal. We went in for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat.
I remember lying in bed and repeating over and over again, “I know God is good. I know He’s good.” I have to remind myself with those things regularly in those seasons of loss or when I was dealing with infertility and I would see another person get pregnant. People were having one and two kids when we were dealing with infertility. They would have their first and then they would get pregnant with their second.
When you’re having to walk through, “I have gone through a couple of seasons of pregnancy with people and I still don’t have a baby,” I had to remind myself that God is good. That He’s not withholding anything good from me; He is only giving me good things. Those are really hard things to come to terms with when the good things you want are a baby, or a baby that you were pregnant with to hold in your arms. Those are hard things to come in terms with for people like us who are pro-life, we’re like, “But babies are good. We love babies and we value life,” and yet God is saying no to that thing.
I had to continually remind myself that He’s for my good. He is not for my evil, that this is serving His greater purposes for me, and that one day I’ll look back and see why He was doing it. Maybe not until I’m in heaven but one day I’ll look back and see that He had a good purpose in this.
In Knowing God, J.I. Packer talks about unanswered prayers and how when we have unanswered prayers, we think that God doesn’t care about us or that He is ignoring us. Packer says that our unanswered prayers, if we were God, if we had all the knowledge that God has, we would only answer them in the way He answers them. We would never answer them in the way we want them answered. Again, those are hard things to come to terms with when you’re asking for a very good thing but it’s another reminder that God is God and I am not.
Emily: It’s like, “Could God work another way besides through suffering and hardthings?” but those are often the things that cause us to be the most dependent on Him and to render Him in prayer and to get on our knees. I was telling Laura, yesterday I had a hard moment with parenting earlier this week, and I’m like, “This reminds me that I am not superwoman and I do not have it all together and this hard and I need Jesus.” I know that on varying levels, that happens every day and that’s God’s mercy for us.
Laura: I love remembering that there is meaning in suffering. Like you kept saying, there is purpose and it’s not meaningless, remembering that all of these things are building us towards that eternal way of glory. Like you said, we may not know until we’re in heaven but there is purpose today, here and now, for us to suffer well, and that our God is an intentional God.
Courtney: Daniel - Daniel’s my husband - early on, we were very intentional and we were very committed that we were going to walk openly through these things. We wanted to value the life of the babies that we lost and so we were going to talk about that and not shy away from that. I’ve always written openly about these things. A friend of mine recently miscarried. She’s a writer friend of mine. We’ve actually never met in person but I’ve been emailing her back and forth talking about it.
She emailed me and she said that the day she miscarried, the first thing she thought of was how much I had talked about it, and how much she wanted to talk to me about it because she remembered the things I had written. When I read her email, I started crying because I felt like six years later, the Lord is redeeming the pain. She was saying she hopes the Lord will redeem her pain in the same way. That’s my hope in the midst of it.
I also write openly about it because if I retreat into my own hole, I feel like I would wither and die. [laughter] If a bunch of people know I’m struggling with something then maybe that’s enough protection that I’m not going to fall off the deep end or something. It was a really encouraging moment to see that the Lord, again, is not wasting anything in our life.
Laura: A lot of our listeners are moms now and many have travelled through these same seasons like you have. How have the sorrows that you experienced presented themselves now in motherhood after the fact? Do those things come back or do you think about them?
Courtney: Yes, I do. One of the things I think about a lot, that still gives me some sorrow and some grief is that none of my pregnancies have been what you would call textbook normal. None of my ways of getting pregnant have been textbook normal. Those are always hard for me when I see people having babies in a way that seems normal. I can tend to be really self-pitying and struggle with, “It’s not easy for me. I’ve had miscarriages or I’ve had difficult pregnancies or I don’t just blink and get pregnant.” [laughter]
In my worst days and in my most sinful moments, I do struggle with the reality that my body is broken. Everyone’s body is broken but I’ve had to really come to terms with the reality of the curse in a way that I didn’t ever anticipate in my own life. My husband and I often joke, “The curse on women is alive and well in my body.” [laughter]
What it’s done is drive me to the scriptures and drive me to see how that’s not the end of my story and that’s not the end of anyone’s story. We’re all cursed. We all face the curse but Christ came and reversed the curse. I’ve had to continually remind myself that, yes, my body is broken, my body is fading away but one day, Christ’s going to redeem this body and then this is not my home. Even if I have issues my whole life and I’m living with the reality of a broken body, that I get eternity with one that’s not broken, which is more exciting. [laughter]
Emily: That is exciting. That’s something to look forward to.
Courtney: It is. It’s really propelled me to long for the new heavens and the new earth more than I probably ever would have. I was a pretty even-keeled person, llife wasn’t super hard, I didn’t have any issues before all this happened. I feel like the Lord has definitely used it to humble me, and to really bring me into myself and see my need for Him and my dependence on Him, and so I’m thankful for that. I would have been a different person if pregnancy would have come easily to me. I would have probably been a far less empathetic person if that had come easy.
Laura: That’s true. Suffering and trials definitely have humbled me and made me more empathetic. Where I can relate to others, where before I probably would have, unfortunately, judged them or unfairly thought things even in my mind. Suffering levels that playing field, doesn’t it? [laughter]
Courtney: Yes, I thought I was the best parent ever before I had twins and then I had them. [laughter] I thought I knew everything about parenting. I feel like having twins totally leveled me and I’m like, “I have no idea how to be a parent.”
Laura: I’ll tell you though, one levels you as well. [laughter]
Courtney: Yes, I’m like, “You figure it out as you go,” and somehow they make it.
Laura: Everyone’s the best parent until they become a parent; it’s how it is.
We want to close with, what are some encouragements that you would say to a mom travelling through this right now? You mentioned you have a friend you’ve been emailing back and forth with, but what would you say to a mom who is in the midst, maybe in between children longing for another child? What are some encouragements you would give her that are Gospel-centered?
Courtney: Again, one of the things that I feel the Lord did in my life was drive me to the scriptures throughout our infertility and miscarriage season. I was so helped by the long list of women in scripture who were barren. God is preserving His line, God’s preserving His promise in the Messiah through this family line and through these women. These women couldn’t bear children and so he chose the women who were despised by society. He chose the women who couldn’t do what everyone expected them to do. He opened their wombs and He gave them children and then he continued with the line of bringing Christ into the world.
I found great kinship in those women as I read my Bible. I found great encouragement in those women. What I continually came back to is that God didn’t forget them. I think of Hannah, who is praying in the Temple and remaining faithful while she is despised, and she is barren. God meets her there and gives her a child. Elizabeth and Zachariah being faithful in their old age and God gives them a child.
It’s not a formula for getting pregnant obviously, because that’s not how God works, but I found so much hope in the fact that God didn’t forget these women who were despised far more than any infertile woman in our society would be despised. That God not only didn’t forget them but he used them in his greater purposes to bring Christ into the world. The same God who didn’t forget them, doesn’t forget us either. He doesn’t leave us to ourselves in our suffering and in our loss and in our waiting.
Then again, encouragement of that this season is not a stepping-stone to something greater. It’s God’s good purposes for us now, and so there are things to learn and things to see about His character that He wants for us in our suffering. He wants to use our suffering to shape us and to make us more like Himself. Often, suffering is what He uses to chisel away the sin, and to mold us more into His image. That’s what He wants for us.
It can be easy for someone to look on the outside of it, now that I have children now, but everyone has suffering that they’re facing that God is using to make them more into the image of Christ. For some that’s infertility and in that moment, we don’t want to waste it. We don’t want to look back and say, “I pined away and I didn’t see what God had for me in that moment.”
Emily: That’s a good word for anyone listening who is going through some season of struggle, or suffering or waiting, or, “Why has God not given me this good thing?” I tend to think in terms of like, “If I just get through this struggle, if I get through this season ...” Like you said Courtney, I think, “Everything’s going to be okay for a while or God owes me a good season.”
Remember, that is not what this life is about. We will have a season where we are resting in Christ, where we are having joy in our work, where we are no longer waiting because everything we could ever have wanted is here but that’s not now. That’s a little hard for us to grasp, but I appreciate your encouragement to look at suffering as a merciful tool that God uses to draw us nearer to Him, and give us hope and remind us of who He is, and what He’s doing.
Laura: Courtney, I feel like we could talk to you forever. [laughter] I love hearing your wisdom in this and your openness. I think that’s so commendable; that you really are proclaiming the gospel in the midst of that suffering and using your trials well. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Courtney: Thank you for having me.
Laura: Wasn’t that an incredible interview? We loved having Courtney on the show. Even though I haven’t personally experienced infertility or miscarriage, I still felt like there were so many things I could take away and apply to things and trials that I’m going through right now. I loved how she talked about the purposes in waiting and remembering God is always good, that He is never withholding good things from us in a trial as we wait, but that He has a higher plan.
That as she talked about, the J. I. Packer quote, that if we had all the knowledge that God had, then we would understand the decisions and that we would make the same decisions that He had but we see so little here on this life. We can all look forward to one day when all will be redeemed and restored. When all will make sense because we have a purposeful, meaningful God, that lets nothing go to waste.
If you want to hear more from Courtney, you can find her on her website, courtneyreissig.com. We will have a link to that on the show notes so you can easily find it there. In addition, definitely check out her book, The Accidental Feminist, that’s on Amazon. Again, we’ll have a link in the show notes, and of course, look forward to her new book, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Our Work in the Home Matters to God coming out on April 30, 2017.
In addition, you can find her on Twitter, @courtneyreissig. Again, everything could be found in the show notes; all the things that she mentioned today on the show. We’ll also have some additional things that Courtney has written. She writes for a lot of big websites so she has great articles on this topic that will really help support the interview today. If you want to find out more, head over to our website risenmotherhood.com. In addition, please find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all those social media sites. We are there sharing the word about everything we talk about each week on the show. We have built a really wonderful community so we’d love it if you joined us.