GOLDSTON — Heather Gaines’ dream of being a mother hasn’t come true yet, but a vision inspired by her experience with infertility has: a place where women struggling with life and faith can find support.
And a measure of beauty, as well.
Her boutique store, Faithfully Fruitful — the first new retail business to open in Goldston in years — is that place, a passion project which had its genesis in the difficulties she and her husband Mitch, married since 2014, have experienced in trying to start a family.
“God led me to ‘Faithfully Fruitful,’” Gaines says. “It took all the things I was passionate about — which was women and their struggles with life and their faith, and also helping women to feel good about themselves through fashion and style.”
The store, which opened in June on North Main Street in downtown Goldston, sells clothing, accessories and jewelry. But it’s a gathering place, too, and a refuge. Gaines calls it a “faith-based boutique and ministry” designed to serve women of all ages, and all walks of life, and “a purposeful place” where women can “find the true beauty in a Father that clothes you in His magnificent and unfailing grace.”
Owning a retail store in Goldston wasn’t on her radar when she and Mitch were newly married. Starting a family was her goal, but along the way, the Gaineses failed to conceive. Six years of trying, of exams and tests, a surgical procedure, and three failed intrauterine insemination procedures — a type of artificial insemination use in cases of infertility — produced no results.
Doctors have described the Gaines’ case as “unexplained,” she said.
“Growing up I had always dreamed of being a mom, and I never thought that I would ever face not being a mom or the potential of not being a mom,” Gaines said. “That, mentally, is very hard for a woman.”
About 15% of all couples trying to conceive in 2020 struggled to become pregnant, according to a UCLA Health report. In the United States, one in 10 women are affected by infertility, and 48.5 million couples globally face infertility.
And while the statistics show millions of women go through the same hardship as Gaines, she said she’s felt alone in her journey — and secluded, in a way, from friends and other women who aren’t affected by infertility.
“It’s very isolating,” she said. “You just feel like you’re somehow not womanly.”
So Gaines leaned on her Christian faith and began to look for ways to connect with other women struggling with infertility for mutual support. She created a blog, called “Faithfully Fruitful,” which became a place for her to vent and to express the emotions of the experience; she also connected with other women and couples through social media having similar experiences.
“I could just kind of put my thoughts into words that I couldn’t verbalize when I first found out that we were struggling to conceive and that we were labeled as a couple with infertility,” Gaines said of the blog.
That blog then turned into a Facebook group, and in time, the idea for Faithfully Fruitful — a business and ministry — took shape. Gaines envisioned creating a safe space for women, a way to intertwine her faith and her compassion for the community of women who face the same hardships she has.
The name “Faithfully Fruitful” has a special meaning for Gaines, one she wishes to share with other women. She says while she and Mitch haven’t conceived at this point in time — though she remains hopeful — she strives to be driven by her faith.
“Even though you may not be fruitful physically, then being faithful through that, no matter what happens, we stay true to what we know, and to trust him (God) through all things faithfully,” Gaines said.
That message is reflected in items in the store. From the Biblical names of the clothing items — such as the Water to Wine Midi or the How Great Thou Art high neck sweater — to its motto, “Clothed in His Grace,” Faithfully Fruitful aims to be both a place to shop and a women’s ministry.
“There a lot of times women come in, and we just share our stories,” Gaines said. “I may talk about my infertility, and they may talk about walking through cancer or losing a loved one or whatever they might be facing. We just want them to know that we’re here for them.”
Former Goldston mayor Tim Cunnup said the store has added “a sweet presence” to downtown.
“Heather has provided a wonderful boutique and a much needed service,” Cunnup said. “Not only does she have beautiful products, they’re also reasonably priced.”
But the best part of Faithfully Fruitful, he said, is its owner.
“Once you meet Heather, you immediately connect with her sweet, gentle spirit, and you know this is someone special,” Cunnup said. “Heather loves the Lord — not in an overbearing way but in calming caring way that is sincere. We are so happy to have her here.”
Faithfully Fruitful also gives back to communities and organizations which support women’s health and other issues. One of those is Cry Freedom in Goldsboro, a nonprofit aiming to help eradicate human trafficking and support trafficking survivors. Cry Freedom helps female victims of human trafficking by providing a place to live, clothes, food and other necessities one may need. Gaines has donated clothes, jewelry and other goods to help these women start a new life.
“They have nothing but the clothes on their back, so we love doing stuff like that and just loving on women in any type of way,” Gaines said.
Gaines said she hopes the business will be a resource for women who are struggling — whether with infertility, faith or another issue — and provide them a place where they can authentically express themselves. She said the community around Goldston has been nothing but supportive of her effort.
“Some people will just pop in and just ask how the business is going and I almost feel like being from Goldston — they almost take it personal that this is part of their community,” said Gaines, who’s originally from Princeton. “I just love that small town feel where we just take care of each other.”
Gaines said thanks to the community, Faithfully Fruitful can continue to provide a place for women to not only support one another but also feel confident about themselves.
“Faithfully Fruitful is just so much more than a place of beautiful things,” Gaines said. “It’s truly a place where when you walk in, you find your true beauty inside, and you find your true identity and a Father that clothes you with His grace.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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