Infertility: Tina’s Story

Have you every had a moment when you were graced with a chance to see why you were called to something? That happened for me with Tina.

We were acquaintances who attended the same church, but different campuses. We ran in the same circle of friends, but were not close friends ourselves. After publishing my final post during a series on infertility, I invited women who wanted to connect and talk about their experiences to get together one evening. I remember Tina so brokenly telling us that only a few hours prior to our meeting, she had learned the gender of the baby she would never get to meet.

What a heart-wrenching, yet beautiful, moment that was. We wrapped our arms around Tina and prayed with her. And that’s when I knew. All this writing about infertility, a topic I knew little about, was all worth it so that she could have support from these women who could relate.

And now, it is with such great pleasure, that I let Tina tell the details.

Infertility: Tina’s Story

Tina 1

I guess my story really began before I even knew I had a story.  Early pain and suffering associated with my menses during adolescence was my first indication of the more difficult road that lay ahead. At 25, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis which could indeed impact my fertility, but could also be treated with surgery. I underwent my first laparoscopy and my symptoms improved significantly. Over the years, the birth-control pill disguised my symptoms so well that when I began considering marriage in my early-mid 30s, I felt the chance of infertility was minute for me.  However, I was wrong.  While engaged, we sought the advice of experts; in order to know what challenges, if any, we may face trying to conceive once married. Indeed, we learned my AMH levels were still very low, much like those of a woman 10+ years older than me. We stayed prayerful and hoped for a miracle as we began our married life together.

Approximately 5 months after marrying, I discontinued the birth-control pill and our conception journey began. Many months of trying on our own, months of trying with the help of oral hormones, and months of trying after having a 2nd laparoscopy ensued. By this time, I was over 35 years old and knew my chance of conceiving was decreasing rapidly. I cried a lot. I’ve always been the type who remained in control, but THIS was a game changer. I found my reliance truly could no longer be on myself and instead would have to fall into the hands of the Most Capable.

In January of 2016, we decided to proceed with IVF.  By February, I was given the highest dose of hormones possible because the outlook of conception was bleak. The doctor was quite surprised to retrieve 10 eggs, 9 of which were considered usable. Of those, we had 4 to fertilize! After 17 months of seeing negative pregnancy tests with no response from other forms of treatment/procedures, this was truly a welcomed surprise. About a week later, following the incubation period and some testing, we were told our 4 fertilized embryos would not be suitable for transfer. Just like that, our IVF journey ended and my hopes were dashed.

Over that next month, my husband and I had deep discussion about what to do next. We shed lots of tears together, but remained prayerful. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in God, though.  Why? Well, ironically, at the end of 2015 during Open Enrollment, my company announced that for the first time, they would be introducing a fertility program with limited coverage for eligible employees to receive a financial benefit for IVF. After investigating further, I found that I qualified for this coverage. We were ecstatic! We felt God was on the move on our behalf. We believed this window of opportunity to receive financial assistance for this extremely expensive procedure was an answer to prayer.  To know that over half the cost would be covered was a huge relief and we were very thankful for this opportunity. Therefore, when IVF failed, we were left confused, and wondered if we had misinterpreted this window of opportunity. Personally, my faith was at a low.

In March, I missed my period for the very first time ever. I was scheduled for my annual gynecology visit and it was there that I found out I was PREGNANT!! I was beyond emotional; overjoyed, flabbergasted, and most of all thankful. I passionately, with my whole heart, thanked the Lord for our miracle. To me, this baby was a sign that my body was capable and this was God’s timing. At my 9 week visit, our 2nd ultrasound revealed no heartbeat. Our baby had stopped growing over a week before. Following my D&C, one day after our wedding anniversary, I entered into a whirlwind of emotions that would continue for months. Moments of thrashing anger, constant questioning of God as to “Why” he took our little girl (Ivy) haunted me.  Yes, we chose to have genetic testing of the fetus to see if we could identify the cause of my miscarriage and in the process learned we lost a baby girl. I had days of true sorrow, some of sheer discontent, and others of deep depression. I found it hard to pray during that time; after all, I had little gratitude in the midst of my pain. My husband would quote scripture, pray for us, and research sermons about infertility and miscarriage to pass my way. He was, and still is, my Hero. We sought the help of our Pastor, a Christian counselor, and an Infertility group for me, as we knew we could not go at this alone.  I also began to learn more about environmental toxins, even in our skincare/beauty products, that expose us to greater risk for infertility and hormone disruption. Because of this, I decided to make some positive changes in my regime, while becoming an advocate for safer products. The support of close friends, even new friends from my infertility group, family, coworkers, and my newfound endeavor brought light to this dark journey and made the healing process bearable.

The summer of 2016 brought forth several attempts at IUI. It was our final attempt in August, with a switch to a new doctor and new medicine that we conceived our precious son that I’m carrying today!  With each kick and flip he does, I’m reminded of when John leapt in his mother Elizabeth’s womb!  This journey has taught me that I never was alone. God was with me, had gone before me, had placed special people on my path, and anticipated all my needs. He allowed me to feel ALL of the emotions for myself for a very important reason. He knows my story will bring hope to someone and is a testament to His power and provision. He is still in the business of performing miracles and I’m devoted to glorifying Him with our little miracle!

Tina 2

Infertility: Lara’s Story

Lara and I know each other from when we were in school. We now live in separate states, but thanks to each other posting about infertility on social media, we have recently become reconnected.

I appreciate Lara’s vulnerability in her writing. She speaks of struggles that I’m sure are faced by many in the battle of infertility. There are still a lot of unknowns in her story. A lot of questions yet to be answered. With so much of her story yet to be written, I am honored that she would be open herself up so that others in her situation would not feel alone.

Infertility: Lara’s Story

This is a story that is not yet finished.

It’s about a girl who fell in love with a boy. They had their ups and downs, like all couples do. They moved in together, got married, and started to plan their life. It was tricky at first; the boy was in the Navy and the girl had yet to find a stable job. They moved a couple of times but decided to settle in Virginia, and then decided to start building their family.

Lara 1

Something wasn’t right, though.  Something was horribly wrong with the girl and she knew it. But like anyone who doesn’t want to receive bad news, she ignored it-until she couldn’t anymore.  Until the boy said “Find out what is wrong. You can’t keep living like this.” And so she did.

She was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), the culprit for all her troubles.  She tried to fight it, tried to beat it down, but PCOS was strong and nasty and dug its ugly claws into her and snarled “You can’t get rid of me so easily.”

All they wanted was a baby, a child to call their own. Someone to love forever, someone they dreamt about. But it never happened. And it never happened. And her heart broke over and over and over again.

She was transferred to another doctor, a specialist, feeling like she was being separated from the “normal” women. Because of course, she was no longer normal. She was infertile.

She was given many more tests, many more medications. She was poked and prodded, she had her blood taken, she had ultrasounds, she had shots and shots and more shots. For months, she was stuck in a vicious cycle of ultrasound, shots, ultrasound, shots, ultrasound, shots, test, no baby.

And it was in these months that she sank into a deep, black darkness… 

If you haven’t guessed already, this is a story about my own infertility journey. I stopped here, not because this journey is finished, but because I wanted to describe, in the first person, this particular chapter.

Lara 2

I’m going to say a word; a word that we shy away from because there is a stigma attached to it. But there should be no stigma, because it is a disease. Do we shy away from diabetes or heart disease? No.

I was depressed. When I look back on those months all I remember is a blackness that I felt in my heart. I could think of nothing else besides how I was a failure. How I could not do this simple thing of making a baby. I saw my friends and family members have their second and third babies. I knew that I was being punished for something. This is all my fault.

“You are a failure.” 

I heard this inside my head, every day. Every single day I told myself that I am a failure. No wonder I was depressed. You tell yourself the same thing over and over again you begin to believe it.  I blamed myself. Sometimes I still do. But then something happened…

She remained stagnant in that darkness for what seemed like forever, watching everyone else live lives she couldn’t. Screaming at herself. Not saying anything.

Then one day she saw the boy. Really saw him. Even though he had been there through all the doctor appointments and injections. She saw that he was hurting, too. She saw that he was angry that he couldn’t fix it, couldn’t make her happy. And with his help, working together, they pulled each other out of the darkness.

They made a promise to each other that they wouldn’t leave the other behind again. They were a team and they were going to get through this together.

Their story doesn’t end here. They are still fighting: together. They are still on their journey: together. They still are: together.

This is not an easy journey, and I speak as someone who is still writing theirs. I have been where you are. I am going where you have been. No one should have to walk alone. So I am making you a promise. I promise that I will always be there for you. We may not know each other, but I make this promise to you regardless. I won’t tell you not to blame yourself; this is easier said than done. I won’t tell you that your journey will conclude the way you want it to. I will tell you that you will get through this. I will tell you that you are strong, you are awesome, and you are worth it.

And you are not alone.

Lara 3

Infertility: Marcy’s Story

I first met Marcy through church. We attended the same campus and would often see each other at a midweek small group for mommies and littles called “Baby Praise”. This was a chance for parents and kiddos to chat together while learning songs and lessons that were being taught in the preschool age on Sunday mornings.

Not knowing her story, I admired Marcy greatly. She had a set of very young triplets who were all potty training, and another little baby boy to boot. Watching her mother her little ones motivated me in the mothering of my own. I knew I could learn a great deal from her!

When I first posted about infertility, I learned the miracles behind all four of those precious babies. It is a great honor and privilege to be able to share her story with you today.

Infertility: Marcy’s Story

Marcy's Wedding

Our breakthrough came at a time of surrender. After my 5th loss, we decided to go on a mission trip to Colombia, South America. My husband, Allen and I thought it would be a great chance for both of us to get away, change our focus, and do something we’d felt called to do.

Our introduction into infertility had begun  three years prior. We had decided we were ready to start having children and were surprised when that didn’t happen right away.

After trying a few rounds of Clomid, we still didn’t get pregnant and we were officially referred to a fertility specialist, where we learned I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The doctor was confident that with intervention, I should be able to get pregnant quickly. A few weeks later we were thrilled to learn the treatment had worked – I was pregnant! We told our families and a few close friends; eagerly looking forward to our ultrasound. When the day finally arrived we were nervous but excited. Our excitement quickly faded when the ultrasound began. We immediately knew something was wrong. The doctor explained that even though I was 8 weeks pregnant, they couldn’t find a baby. Testing determined I had an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. We were crushed.

Despite our devastation, we were eager to have a baby. As soon as we were cleared to try again, we did. Two months later, we found out we were expecting, only to lose this baby too. This pattern of pregnancy and loss continued. In total, we got pregnant five times and lost all five babies. Our hope was wearing thin. During this time, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join an infertility support group. It was such a gift to be able to share and talk with women who knew my hurts and hopes. They were a pillar of strength for me throughout our  journey.

It was after our 5th loss that we decided to take our mission trip. The trip was life changing. We went with a wonderful group of people, met many others and experienced so much. Our faith grew exponentially. I began to realize how much bigger the world was outside of me and my trials. I began learning how to focus less on me and more on others.

Marcy's Mission Trip

Shortly after our trip, a few of us had the opportunity to share our experience with others in our community. At the end of the night, I also shared my infertility story with some of the ladies. Before I left, these women prayed over me. Something changed that night. I left feeling hopeful and sure that I was going to be a mother, somehow, some way.

Just before our trip,  we had  met with a new doctor, who’d diagnosed me with endometriosis. He set us up with a new plan and with our renewed hope  we were eager to try it.

As we went through the “two week wait” of not knowing if this attempt had worked, we would pray daily for the child that we hoped was growing in my body. Allen would jokingly pray for the “babies” and even went as far as to pray for 4 babies. I remember telling him, “I don’t think I could handle four. Three, maybe, but four at one time? No way!” Little did we know, just a few weeks later, we would find out we were expecting…TRIPLETS! We were excited, nervous, scared, hopeful, fearful, you name it – we felt it. Again, we turned to our team of prayer warriors and asked for prayer over our sweet babies.

Marcy Triplet Announcement

Seven months later, at 30 weeks and 3 days, we welcomed Hallie, Hannah, and Caleb into the world. I was so overwhelmed and in awe of what God had done. Never in my dreams could I have imagined this would be our story. Just a year prior, we were questioning if we would ever have a child at all. Our hearts were so full.

Marcy's Triplets

Despite having been given so much, Allen and I would often talk about having one more child, “Bennett”. It was a name we loved and we both felt our family wasn’t quite complete. We would mention it from time to time, but we had no desire to go through fertility treatments again. If we were supposed to have another child we trusted God would open the door. This wasn’t something we were ready to pursue, but merely a thought in the back of our minds for “someday”. Much to our surprise, when the triplets were 18 months old we learned we were once again pregnant. Due to our history, we were overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. We reached out to our closest friends and family for prayer and support. 9 months later, we welcomed our baby boy, our “cherry on top”, our Bennett!

Marcy's Family

When I am asked what I want other women battling with infertility to know, so many thoughts come to mind. I remember being in the thick of it, hearing other women’s stories, appreciating them, but knowing they weren’t my own, questioning if, how, and when I would get my happy ending. What I want women in this battle to know, is that yes, every story is different. No, I can’t promise how yours will end, but what I have learned through my story and the stories of others, is that God is writing a perfect story for YOU. Despite how it may feel and look right now, God works all things for good and he can do abundantly and exceedingly more than we can ever hope for or imagine. My best advice is to find a group of women who can understand and support you. Lean on them, share with them, pray with them. Above all, hold on and trust God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Infertility: Sissy’s Story

About a year ago, I did a series of posts on the topic of infertility. Strangely enough, this isn’t something I’ve personally battled, so if you are interested in reading more about why I began writing on this subject, you can find that here.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with even more women who have experienced infertility; demonstrating that this struggle is actually quite common. As such, I’ve asked five women to share their story this week. Infertility doesn’t have to be fought alone, it isn’t shameful, and even in the midst of the struggle there is life to be found.

Today’s story is written by my friend Sissy. I first got to know Sissy when we taught at a charter school together, and then our paths intersected again when she and I started serving on the same team at church. She has been a valuable resource to me as I’ve asked questions and sought to learn more about infertility. I am so grateful for her and her heart!

Infertility: Sissy’s Story

Sissy's Family

In the past seven years I’ve talked about and written about infertility A LOT.  It seems to come up in so many ways; with family, with friends, with co-workers and sometimes with strangers in waiting rooms.  The thing is, though, that I’ve never really written down how God changed me in the process of dealing with being barren.  That part, I’ve discovered, seems really personal.

When Amanda called me about sharing my infertility story, I thought about the blog I kept during that period and foolishly believed sharing this would be easy.  But see, those words were sent out into the void to be commented on by strangers; other women dealing with infertility and hoping to adopt like we were.  I think maybe two people I knew in real life were reading the blog, so there was this curtain of privacy around what I was writing.  I was pouring out all these private and personal details, but not having to deal with people confronting me with my own words and emotions.  I find that part makes me nervous.

When Charlie and I were dating I thought it would be a good idea to ask him about his feelings on possibly adopting children.  You see, I somehow knew that I would have trouble getting pregnant, and wanted a future spouse to be on board if that came to pass. I believe God placed that knowledge deep within me, and I know it helped me later.  My cycles were never regular; always very sporadic.  I knew that wasn’t a good sign for fertility, and while I never thought of myself as damaged goods or anything, I felt it was important to bring it up.

About three years after getting married, we started trying to get pregnant.  I talked with my OB-GYN and we discussed any factors that could hinder my fertility.  She did some tests and I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. I didn’t ovulate. This diagnosis confirmed what I’d felt from the beginning, that getting pregnant wouldn’t happen for me.  My mind and my heart were moving towards adoption.

However, when I talked it over with Charlie, he asked if we could try getting pregnant with Clomid. This was a pill my doctor mentioned had worked for others.  Having a natural child would be less complicated and less expensive than adoption.  We talked and prayed and came to the decision that yes, we would try, but I could determine when and if I was done with the treatments.  I decided that I would be happy to take any kind of pill, but would draw the line at shots.

We did four rounds of Clomid and I did not ovulate.  I was charting my temperature to track my ovulation and the doctor was doing blood tests. The school year ended and I agreed to add another medicine to boost the Clomid called Metformin.  My pharmacist warned me that Metformin can mess with your stomach, and I certainly found that to be true.  If I ate something, I needed to be at home.  It made me so sick.  I spent that summer being drained of energy, run down, and unhappy. Finally, in August, I ovulated!  It took seven rounds of Clomid for me to ovulate once.  Sadly, I did not get pregnant.

That was enough for me.  I had to go back to teaching for the new school year and I knew I could not take the Metformin and be at work.  It made me miserable and I immediately felt better once I stopped taking it.  I told Charlie that I was done, and he was okay with that. I grieved knowing I would not be able to carry a natural child, but the Lord’s preparation of my heart years before helped me work through this easier than if I had been blindsided by my diagnosis. He provided hope in that season.

At that point we began looking at adoption agencies. Our adoption story is a longer than I really have here to share.  From signing up with our agency to bringing Jackson home, was a total of three years, seven months and 22 days.  We had two placements that fell apart right as the babies were born; tearing me apart and leaving me broken.  The waiting was painful.  During this period I probably attended eight or nine baby showers; which ended up being an opportunity for God to show me His love.  It was hard to put on a brave face every time, but the Lord really showed me that not being able to celebrate for someone else would only harden my heart, and I didn’t want that. I vividly remember leaving one baby shower in tears, but I felt covered by His love in that moment.  I knew my time would come.

Eventually we brought home our baby boy, one designed just for us, and in our blessing God used us to bless someone else.  Jackson’s birth mother was a young woman who wanted her child to have more than she could provide; including a mother and a father. In our brief time with her at the hospital, I prayed that God give me my words, and that I would only speak what would give her peace. I knew that we might never see her again, so I wanted her to know just how much we loved her and her child.  Her parents were also there. I know this was difficult for them.  Thinking back, I know the Lord ordered our steps and he hovered over that moment, bringing so  much joy instead of hurt.  When I took Jackson in my arms, his birth mother leaned in and whispered, “You’re gonna be great.”  Those words have stayed with me, lived in me, filled me, and God brought it to fruition.  His plan, His perfect plan, brought together a couple dealing with infertility and a woman in a hard situation, and made something beautiful.

*Sissy and Charlie kept their adoption of Jackson a surprise from their family until they brought him home. This is a video of their moms learning that they were now grandmothers!*

When God Laughs

I have long believed that God has a sense of humor. Not the sarcastic type and definitely not the crude type. More of a… laughing along with us at the silliness of our days and taking great joy in seeing the unseen gifts when we don’t understand it all just yet…type.

I’d like to provide you with two examples from my own life.

Example #1:

When I was in college I had a crush on a boy. I was convinced without a doubt that this boy did not reciprocate said crush and I did all within my power to put my girly emotions to the side and concentrate on other things. This lasted say… 2 1/2 to 3 years.

At the 2 1/2 year mark, a friend and I got together for some quality time. All was good, all was happy, until she named the aforementioned boy. I had not confessed to her my feelings (I was ignoring them), when she shared, “[Aforementioned Boy] used to like you. But don’t worry, he doesn’t any more.”

Oh goodness did those feelings of mine go haywire. I pretended to be completely normal, but on the inside my heart was elated and crushed in the same moment. When I got home that afternoon, I wrote in my journal, “God, if you think this is funny, I’m not laughing!”

I absolutely believe that God felt every bit of that was a little humorous, because said boy confessed his true feelings that August and he is now my husband.

Okay, so I don’t actually think God was watching me from above going, “har-dee-har-har!” as He gleefully toyed with my emotions. Quite the contrary. I believe He was with me in that moment, grinning from ear-to-ear just thinking about how fun it would be to watch us exchange vows on our wedding day. In my moment of uncertainty, he was in the process of excitedly wrapping up one of the best gifts He could give me.

Example #2:

I have a beef with the woman of Proverbs 31. Girlfriend has some mad skills and can accomplish more in one day than I can in a month. Okay, a year. Maybe a lifetime. She is the definition of a hard worker and has joy to boot. I mostly ignore her existence so I feel less bad about my lack of measuring up.

But one day here recently, I decided it would be in my best interest to stop ignoring her and maybe follow her leadership. I prayed in my journal that day for God to make me productive. I wanted to be a wife of noble character.

Do you know how God answered me? This is where the laughing comes in. He turned off the electricity in my house for maybe 4 hours. Umm, Lord, don’t I need electricity to be productive???

I don’t believe He was snickering and saying, “let’s watch her be productive now!”, though he may have chuckled at the irony of it all. Nope, I think His laughter was such that He knew I would not expect that answer to that prayer. Again, He had something better in store for me.

The lack of electricity forced me to be productive in ways I hadn’t even considered. Sure, I managed to fold the mound of laundry on my couch, but He saw greater opportunities for me. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous, so the girls and I got to spend much of our morning outside running around the yard. We took advantage of the lack of power to meet my hubby/their daddy for lunch. Then we meandered around the outdoor portion of the science center on what could have quite possibly been the most perfect day of the year.

And He knew how much fun we would have. He knew how good it would be for our family to connect relationally instead of marking off our checklist. It brought Him delight to gift us extra bonding time that day.

He answered my prayer in a way that communicated I don’t have to be a clone of Proverbs 31 lady to fulfill His purpose for my life. He also whispered that maybe I should consider turning off the electronic devices sometimes so we don’t miss out on something greater.

When God laughs, I think it’s for the joy of knowing we will too.

“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21