NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, April 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming up next: Infertility.
One in eight couples in the United States is struggling to conceive, so it’s a widespread problem. Last fall, I traveled to Tennessee to talk with a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and his wife about their struggles starting a family.
With Sunday marking the beginning of National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought now’s a good time to share this story.
On my visit, it’s a Saturday morning, and 8-year-old Ella Kate has been up for hours. Wearing a hot pink polka dot top, jeans, and a huge royal blue ribbon, Ella plays with a neighborhood friend.
MYRNA TO ELLA KATE: So what is this game? Guess Who. Yeah Guess Who. You’re trying to guess the other person’s play by asking yes or no questions.
FRIEND TO ELLA KATE: Can I ask you one? Yes. Is yours a girl? yes…
Wobbling towards them at full speed and dressed just like her big sister, 18-month-old River.
RIVER COLLIDING WITH ELLA KATE AND FRIEND: River, river…(crash) Game Over!
After 14 years of marriage: spills, tumbles and lots of giggles finally fill David and Natalie Leonard’s Tennessee home.
NATALIE LEONARD: We tried about three years to get pregnant with Ella.
DAVID LEONARD: Once we started trying again, it weighed on us pretty heavy because we knew what it meant to be parents. We knew what it meant to have a little one running around. It was something we desired greatly and as much as we wanted it, there was nothing we could do to fix it.
The 37-year-old high school history teacher says she dealt with the disappointment and grief by marking the months of infertility.
NATALIE LEONARD: It was 35 months. Years seemed so short, but like the constant every month expecting and then being let down definitely became numb to it. I didn’t want to talk about it because then it was real. There were also seasons that I was really sad because nobody would talk to me about it. And I didn’t want to reach out.
David mourned through music. First as a touring member of the Christian rock band, NeedToBreathe, then as part of the duo, All Sons & Daughters.
ALL SONS & DAUGHTER’S SONG: It’s your breath in my lungs and we pour out your praise, pour out your praise
In December of 2016 David and Natalie experienced both the highest and lowest points of their lives.
NATALIE LEONARD: I had just had my miscarriage, so within a week of me coming back to work after that is when we found out that he was nominated. It was this really weird emotion because I was within a week of being out of the hospital.
Nominated for Christian Album of the Year, the couple traveled to California for the awards ceremony, though they didn’t bring back the Grammy. Natalie flew home, while David decided to drive the 30-plus hours back to Tennessee.
DAVID LEONARD: The big struggle for me in all of it was feeling seen by God. There was this desire that we wanted to have a kid and to have the miscarriage felt like the rug was kind of pulled out from under us.
While making his way through the Mojave Desert, David says he was overwhelmed by both the physical and symbolic darkness that surrounded him.
DAVID LEONARD: I don’t remember stars. I don’t remember cars on the road. I just remember kind of being really overcome by fear. I could see this light starting to shine over the horizon. I thought I was coming to a city, but it just kept getting brighter and brighter and all of a sudden the moon broke the horizon and it was like God just threw on a big flashlight and just said he saw me.
David says the experience inspired a new song and the name for their youngest daughter.
DAVID SINGS SONG I WILL WAIT: Your hand will hold me, your love sustains me through the weight. I will wait on you Lord. I will wait on you Lord.
DAVID LEONARD: We knew we wanted to name her River. We were able to work it into the song. “Oh the burdens that I’ve carried. They are too heavy, too heavy to hold.”
The Leonards say they learned to trust God through and beyond their infertility battle.
NATALIE LEONARD: It was a complete surrender once again. After having a miscarriage and being in complete fear, in having to trust God in every single day and to say, I give this pregnancy to you, healthy or loss or whatever. It’s yours.
AUDIO: [GIRLS PLAYING]
As the Leonard sisters head downstairs for a new Saturday morning adventure, David and Natalie seem to cherish the commotion because they know that many couple’s stories don’t have happy endings.
NATALIE LEONARD: But I just like want to eat her up all the time because after years of anticipation and now she’s finally here. I’m like savoring every little breath of hers.