Listen: Sheridan Voysey chats to Leigh Hatcher about his journey through infertility.
Sheridan Voysey, the founder of the faith-based radio show ‘Open House’ , was at the top of his game and reaching audiences Australia-wide, when he suddenly announced he was quitting.
It was 2011, and he and his wife Merryn packed their bags and moved to the UK, to start a new chapter full of unknowns. At the time, he couldn’t fully explain to his audience why. But now Sheridan reveals the broken dream behind his sudden departure: a 10-year journey through infertility, that had ended in heartbreak.
On the launch of his revealing memoir, Resurrection Year, Sheridan chatted to his Open House successor Leigh Hatcher about that heart-wrenching journey. He says that when he first learnt he had a fertility problem, it quickly became a heavy burden—particularly for his wife.
“That hit at Merryn’s soul because she wanted to be a mum,” he said.
- Find Life After a Broken Dream: Sheridan Voysey’s One Day Conference
- Family Of Two: Sheridan & Merryn’s Journey Without Children
- A Guy’s Guide to Infertility
The Ethical Challenges of IVF
While he and his wife explored the IVF option, for a long time Sheridan found it hard to work through his ethical concerns.
“This was a difficult one for me because I didn’t want to go into IVF without really thinking through the ethical ramifications,” he said. “I found it so hard to have this conversation with people. On the one hand you had folks who didn’t know anything about the process, and said ‘Oh just do it, God overlooks the details’. I couldn’t accept that. On the other hand, the people who did know, like the Christian doctors, seemed hesitant to tell me their view.
“The question for me was, ‘is any life lost in the IVF process, because if so we don’t want to do it, or we want to do it in such a way that will avoid that’. And none of them were very keen to tell me if it was good or not.”
His hesitation caused great tension in his marriage.
“I was taking my time trying to work this out and sometimes it was too hard for me, and I’d give up,” he said. “And Merryn was feeling like her whole future was basically waiting on my decision, and here’s Sheridan dragging his heels.”
“We Tried Everything”
In the end, the couple decided they were willing to do IVF, but only if they limited the number of eggs they would fertilise—thus limiting the number of embryos that could result.
In their minds, this would prevent any unnecessary loss of life.
Over the 10 years that followed, the Voyseys tried ‘everything’—from several rounds of IVF to chiropractic therapy, to special diets, to prayer ministry sessions that gave them great hope. The constant process of trying for a baby was often a heavy burden.
“Merryn put down the phone, walked into our bedroom, and curled up in the foetal position.”
“There were times I came to work on a Sunday afternoon to do the Open House show when maybe Merryn had been in tears and I’d been holding a sobbing wife,” said Sheridan, “thinking ,‘how on earth am I going to get through another three hours of Open House’?”
Sadly, their miracle never came.
Sheridan describes the end of the road as a tragic moment.
“At the last minute it looked like all was well and like after 10 years we’d finally been successful,” he recalled. “Mum squealed, Dad yelled for joy, all of our family and friends were texting…but sadly on Christmas Eve 2010, we received a phonecall saying it was a false alarm.
“Merryn put down the phone, walked into our bedroom, and curled up in the foetal position, and that was the way our journey for trying to start a family, ended.”
Finding a New Dream
Their dreams shattered, the Voyseys needed a new beginning, and Merryn asked Sheridan if they could follow the only other big dream she’d ever had: to live and work in Europe.
“That was a difficult conversation,” Sheridan recalls. “She wanted to get away and start again somewhere, wipe the slate clean. But for me it would mean leaving Open House, leaving this exciting opportunity to speak at conferences, leaving publishing. Because authors need a profile, a platform for a following of readers.”
The decision didn’t come easily, and in the days after his emotional on-air farewell, Sheridan felt lost.
“Our identity should always be based on the fact that we’re children of God…nothing can take that away.”
“The next day was when I thought, ‘This is it, Sheridan, you’re washed up, you’re forgotten’,” he said. “It was a hard time. There was a crushing sense of ‘Who am I now?’.”
And yet, being at a loose end was a positive thing too, he says.
“I have to say that is a good thing to go through because I don’t think people in Christian ministry should ever build our identities on a ministry, a church, whatever it is. Our identity should always be based on the fact that we’re children of God who love us. Nothing can take that away from us.
“In some sense it was a gift in terms of having those false notions stripped away.”
A Season of Restoration
For some months , the Voyseys took time out and travelled, with a couple of weeks spent at the famous L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. It was a chance to restore their souls and their faith.
“A big question for Merryn was, ‘Why would God not give us a child, why would he remain silent all of that time?’ She read Phillip Yancey’s Disappointment with God, and some indepth theology about whether God is perfectly in control of the world or allows other forces to have a say.
“The big question about God and suffering has been the big question of the aeons. There’s a lot we can say theoretically, but to the person who’s going through grief, they are just answers for the head that can’t transfer to the heart.
“Merryn didn’t come away with any clear cut answers, because those are very hard to find, but she did come away with a sense that ‘Maybe God isn’t as mean as I was starting to think he was’. God is sometimes silent, it doesn’t mean he’s absent.”
Reluctantly Sharing Their Story
Settling in England, Sheridan began writing, but had trouble finding any publishers who were interested in his work.
It was thanks to one of his favourite interview guests, the UK-based poet and comic Adrian Plass, that he decided to write a memoir of what he and his wife had been through.
“It’s amazing, the healing coming to people as they read this book.”
He was resistant to the idea at first, telling Adrian, “I don’t want to be known as the infertility guy’”. In his wisdom, Adrian told him, “It’s not a book about infertility, it’s bigger. It’s about broken dreams, and holding onto God even when he doesn’t make sense to you, starting again, having a new life after death, a whole heap of things.”
Now on bookshelves worldwide, Resurrection Year has already had an impact with its readers.
“We are starting to see a real surprise come about after our story,” he said. “We never wanted to share this story, it wasn’t our idea, but it’s amazing, the healing coming to people as they read this book. God is redeeming the pain we’ve gone through so others feel they’re not alone, that maybe they can have a new beginning too.”
Hope For Anyone Experiencing a Broken Dream
Sheridan believes the book will be helpful for anyone who’s experienced a broken dream.
“It’s for couples with infertility struggles, single people who wanted to marry but never did, the person whose career hasn’t taken off, the artist whose art never made it to the masses. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one or a child, or maybe you’ve been able to have one child but not a second. A number of couples have got in touch with us along those lines.
“I think by the time we reach our 30s and our 40s most of us have got a broken dream. We don’t have any simple answers, life is more messy and God is more mysterious than that. What we can say, is that there is a new beginning after a broken dream if you walk with God with this.”