Embracing a Quieter Home
Faced with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, Kiley Crossland wrestled with her definition of success and desire for validation.
Kiley (Humphries) Crossland (PPE ’08) was sitting inside her 1960 cul de sac house in the suburbs of Denver. Her husband Caleb was outside in their yard, building a swing set with their four year-old son, James. It was a Saturday in early January and this family scene was a quieter one than what Crossland had expected for life in her early thirties.
As the oldest of four, Crossland remembers her childhood house bustling with nearly constant movement. “I love a busy, full house—lots of energy and laughter and mouths to feed.” When she got married in 2012, Crossland hoped her home would brim with the same energy. But in 2015, after two years of trying to conceive, Kiley and Caleb were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Despite the diagnosis, Crossland became pregnant a few months later. This first pregnancy was a gift and a surprise, which neither they, nor the doctors,
But a year after James was born, in 2017, the Crosslands found themselves back at the doctor’s office as they were trying for a second child. Painfully, the diagnosis was the same as two years earlier: unexplained infertility. For Crossland, the diagnosis has meant a different kind of family life than she had expected. It has also been an invitation to wrestle with her idea of success.
Graduating from King’s, Crossland had a perception that life would be an upward trajectory—more influence, more success, more fun. With a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics degree in hand, her first job was as an assistant to the Provost at King’s. A couple of years later, Crossland decided to switch gears and pursue a law degree. She took the LSAT and applied to a few schools. But she decided to delay law school when she came across The John Jay Institute, then hosted in Colorado.
A fellowship at the Institute was her next move. Crossland recalled the experience fondly: reading 100 to 200 pages of material a night, writing a paper to discuss the next day, sharing meals together, attending morning and evening prayer. “And then we would buckle down with our books and a cup of tea and start all over again.” It was a PPE major’s dream.
But those days were also full of reevaluation. While she was enjoying the studies and conversations, she also had doubts. Did she really want the life of an attorney: the initial debt, the race to pay it back, highly competitive culture, and then the pressure to work full time? What about marriage and family? So after completing the fellowship, Crossland decided to work for a year at a boarding school for at-risk teenagers in Kansas City while dating Caleb Crossland, a fellow from her cohort at The John Jay Institute. In 2012, they married and settled in Boulder, Colorado.
For Crossland, stepping into family life did not mean stepping away from her professional ambitions. She continued to work remotely as an alumni coordinator at the boarding school. After a few years, she got a job at Horizons International, a non-profit missions organization. And in 2015, she transitioned into working remotely as a writer and editor for WORLD Magazine’s digital edition.
As she settled into her job at WORLD, Crossland began to form ideas about what success should look like in the family realm. She dreamt of becoming a mom who had a house full of kids, but who still had space to host a church community group; a mom who poured love into her children, but who always had a heart to give more; a mother who was admired for how much she could achieve.
The infertility diagnosis put these dreams into question. Even after miraculously giving birth to her first son, James, the Crosslands returned to the doctor’s office in 2017 and received the same diagnosis as two years prior: unexplained infertility.
Frustratingly, the issue was completely out of their control. “It’s wild that in 2020 we know so little about how conception works,” Crossland said. “No one really knows why we can’t get pregnant.” Despite experimental chiropractic treatment, vitamins and supplements, diets and hormones…none of these efforts could create new life in her womb. And with the loss of control, came mourning. Some days the mourning looked more like frustration—frustration at how much time and money they had poured into the ultimately unfruitful treatments. Other days it was simply a quiet sadness.
“Some days I really feel the loss of not having more children and James not having any siblings,” she shared. “Other days I find a lot of comfort in believing this is all in God’s hands, and the story isn’t over yet.”
Crossland admitted that the process of infertility has stripped away what she thought would make her life valuable. She might not ever get the approval of others looking admiringly at her productivity or accomplishment as a mom. “Still none of this struggle is outside God’s control,” Crossland reflected. “That has been a challenge and a comfort at the same time.”
This year James started preschool. Both Kiley and Caleb feel peaceful about where they are right now as a family: open to more kids but not actively pursuing treatments. And in each new season, Crossland continues to look for what serving her family in the circumstances that God has given her can mean.
This season, it looked like a job change. Having spent most of her free moments over the last five years doing research and writing, Crossland decided to quit her job at WORLD Magazine. Instead, she’s partnering with her husband in building his telecommunications company.
While telecommunications isn’t her passion, she’s excited to serve alongside her husband in a helpful role.
Her perspective on what counts as worthwhile has grown to see all of life as faithful service to God: “Regardless if you’re working part time or full time, or not at all, you’re still working,” she says. “It’s okay if it feels humbling. It’s okay that it feels like a little bit of dying.” While this surrender to a new story doesn’t look glamorous, doesn’t come with praise or admiration, and doesn’t seem to have an upward trajectory, it comes with peace.