Things You May Not Know About Infertility

Things You May Not Know About Infertility
Image by Brett Redgate

In the time I have spent discussing and reading about the topic of infertility, I’ve discovered quite a few things that I had never before considered. Today’s post is intended to share with you just a glimpse of my findings and what the journey might look like.

It Can be Lonely

Infertility isn’t exactly a standard topic of conversation. There is a stigma that seems to be attached to this issue that makes it hard to talk about. Women struggling with infertility often feel ashamed or embarrassed, making it difficult to reach out to others. Sometimes, even after reaching out, the loneliness remains. Friends may be switching life stages as they begin families of their own, making the absence of a baby even more evident. There are times when people simply don’t know what to say, and end up avoiding a conversation altogether. No one wants to feel excluded or left out, so if you have a loved one in this situation, it may be better to risk saying the wrong thing, than to say nothing at all.

It Can be Expensive

Insurance companies vary immensely, but one thing I was shocked to discover is the lack of coverage regarding infertility. Some companies cover only certain procedures or medications. Certain businesses may not have infertility included on their policies because it keeps the rates lower. When coverage is provided, there is always a limit. This can come in the form of a percentage or a cap on funds. What does this mean? It’s a lot of money out of pocket for very expensive treatments. One round of IVF can cost anywhere from $15,000 – $20,000, so unless there is stellar insurance coverage, this can be a huge hit to families that makes seeking further treatments seem impossible.

Everyone Responds Differently

Some people may jump at the chance to talk about all the details, while others want to keep it all to themselves. Some women may attend every baby shower and want to be included in all the baby talk. Others would appreciate being invited, but may not attend an event for the wave of emotions it could bring. For everyone, there are good days, hard days, hopeful days, and dark days. Not sure how to support a friend or family member? Ask. Find out if they have books or resources they would recommend you read, if they need a support person on days they make an office visit, or if they would like to get together and talk about anything but infertility.

Medical Advancements Often Bring More Questions

Let’s say a specific issue causing infertility has been discovered. Now what? Should treatments be sought? What type of treatment should be pursued? How many times should the treatment be attempted? Is adoption an option? When choosing IVF, how many eggs should be fertilized? How many fertilized eggs should be implanted? What happens to the ones remaining? All of these questions take on financial, emotional, and spiritual weightiness. Our society has a great gift in being able to pursue these options, but also a great responsibility when it comes to making such decisions. If you or someone you know is in the process of deciding, pray for wisdom and direction from the Lord. In all things, He knows best.

There is Hope

No, there isn’t a guarantee, but there is hope. Hope beyond our circumstances that God ultimately is in control and knows what is best for His children. Whether He brings a child in your life or not, He loves you, cares for you, and has a plan for you. You are treasured and adored as a daughter of the King. Cling to Him and trust Him because He is GOOD.

Resources

There are so many more things I have not begun to touch upon in connection to infertility. Curious to find out more information for yourself? Here are a couple of Christian based websites I found that you may be interested in checking out:

www.hannah.org
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/facing-crisis/infertility/infertility

I would also like to extend an invitation. It seems infertility is lonely for many, so I’d like to help set up some connections. If you are interested in meeting local women who have experienced infertility, clear your calendar for Friday, May 13th of 2016 at 6:30pm. Contact me privately if you have my information, or leave a comment below and I will respond with the exact location. When you comment, I am the only person who is able to see your email address! I hope you will find a community of support and encouragement as we honor one another.

Infertility: Ashley’s Story

Not every story ends with the miracle.

I wish I could look everyone in the eye and say with 100% confidence, “God is going to answer your prayers with a fulfillment of your dreams.” But the truth is, that isn’t always the case. For reasons far beyond our knowledge, and with a love far surpassing our imagination, there are times when God chooses to respond to our plea with a simple, “No.”

In this series on infertility, I wanted to make sure I included a different kind of story. I believe it would be easy for Satan to speak lies and convince women that her baby had not come because she was not worthy, or loved, or righteous enough. This is so far from the truth.

If nothing else, please hear this: God loves you and he cares for you. He sees you in your pain and he has not left you to fend for yourself. The Jesus Storybook Bible says it best, God loves you with a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

I am forever grateful to Ashley for her willingness to share her story.

Ashley & Mark

Ashley and her husband, Mark, had been married for three years when she discovered she was pregnant. This was surprising, yet exciting, because even though they were not attempting to prevent a pregnancy, they had not planned for one at that time.

Ashley grabbed some literature to read up on pregnancy and the accompanying symptoms. She remembers having read the term “ectopic pregnancy” but not giving it too much thought.

A few weeks later, Ashley began to complain of some stomach pain. In just a short amount of time, she went from feeling a little gassy and crampy, to being doubled over by a severe amount of pain. She and her husband rushed to the emergency room.

It was quickly determined that Ashley’s baby had not attached to her uterine wall, but had instead become implanted in a fallopian tube. Her baby had continued to grow so much, that the tube burst and she had to have emergency surgery to remove the tube.

The situation was a shock for Ashley and Mark. Yet, during the healing process, her body seemed to have prepped itself for carrying a baby. Three months later, Ashley was pregnant again.

Once an ectopic pregnancy has occurred, the body is at risk for it happening again. This time, due to the life-threatening nature of this type of pregnancy, Ashley was under heavy monitoring and had to take weekly blood tests to identify whether her baby was growing. The results were positive, so they set up an ultrasound to determine where the baby had attached.

It would be Ashley’s second ectopic pregnancy. Her baby had attached in her remaining fallopian tube. It is impossible for a baby to survive more than a few weeks in this exact situation, and ultimately, it would be her second loss.

At the time of passing the fluids and tissue that come along with pregnancy, Ashley’s senses were flooded with emotion. Though unrecognizable, the idea of her baby being in a toilet was surreal and unnerving.

Only a few months prior, starting a family had not yet entered Ashley and Mark’s minds. However, after their two losses, they began to be determined to have a family. Her first two pregnancies had come quickly, and were lost tragically. The next 17 years would be a fight for a third pregnancy; each month bringing hope and then disappointment.

They considered medical interventions, but decided against IVF due to cost and the possibility of moral questions should the process result in numerous healthy embryos. There was also the chance of failure, and that felt unbearable.

Adoption was also a consideration, but cost was a significant factor. They toiled with becoming foster parents and then adopting, but what if they were not allowed to keep the child? At one point, Ashley’s dreams of becoming a mom seemed to be coming true. They had been contacted to potentially adopt what would have been the fifth child of a single mom who simply could not feed an additional mouth. About five weeks after the conversation began, Ashley was informed that the mother had chosen abortion and had already gone through the procedure.

It seemed every road would lead to heartbreak.

Only a few months ago, Ashley had to undergo a hysterectomy due to a large fibroid growing on her uterus. It would bring finality to their story.

Why did their miracle never come to fruition? This question may never be answered.

Ashley & Mark 2

Ashley and Mark were both very committed to the Lord and to their church throughout the entire process. There were some dark days, but Ashley is thankful for their strong marriage. She says her husband was her rock and was able to pull her out of darkness and lead her back to the Lord.

Sometimes, the hardest moments came when reading of all the miracles in the Bible. The words that were intended to bring life, were being used by the enemy to bring devastation. While Satan may try to convince us otherwise, God’s words are still true and his purpose is good.

Throughout their experience, Ashley found healing by surrounding herself with babies. She served in the infant room at her church. She celebrated new life through baby showers. Even now, she is in the process of becoming a doula. Ashley may not have been able to carry a baby of her own, but this fact does not discount her from being able to take care of others. She loves being as close to the miracle of life as possible.

Ashley’s prayer is that her story and circumstances are used for a greater purpose. For anyone currently facing the obstacle of infertility, Ashley suggests giving yourself permission to grieve and acknowledge any feelings of guilt. But then, turn to the Lord. Upon doing so, He will give you the hope to get through the day, and provide the strength that carries you in your weakest hour.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11; NLT)

Infertility: Jenni’s Story

When I first got the idea to write about infertility, I thought I might be a little crazy. I knew if I was going to actually do it, I would need to enlist the help of someone who could provide critical feedback. Someone who had actually gone through it.

My friend Jenni has been so kind to help me prepare my words and understand a little more of the details behind the struggle of infertility. She has also granted me permission to share her story.

Everyone has a different story. Everyone’s story has a different ending. In sharing stories I hope to shed light on how common infertility can be. I also hope to create a community that strengthens and encourages those who are facing such a hard thing, wherever they might be in that process.

Today, I bring you Jenni’s story.

Jenni & Evan

I first met Jenni and Evan way back when my husband and I were dating. We were in small group together and I always loved the joy and warmth they added to our group. When Eric and I got married, they joined several of our friends in helping set up for our ceremony. This is a couple who regularly used their time and efforts for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Jenni was a very successful business woman with hopes of adding “Mommy” to her resume. A year after they decided to begin a family, however, she began to realize this dream might be harder to come by than she once thought.

The journey of seeking the help of medical professionals officially began. When a couple is dealing with the concept of infertility, the first question that must be answered by doctors is, “Why?” There are tests to be administered, results to be waited upon, and often various medications to try. It was several years before Jenni learned the reason for their waiting.

The answer was discovered after a reproductive endocrinologist administered a blood test to determine Jenni’s AMH levels. This is a test usually reserved for older women, which is why it took so long before her doctors considered offering it. In her case, the test revealed that Jenni’s body held an abnormally low amount of eggs. So low, in fact, that it was likened to a woman nearing menopause. Jenni was still in her twenties.

According to her doctors, Jenni had a less than 1% chance of ever becoming pregnant without medical intervention, and her chances with IVF were barely an improvement. After years of failed attempts, tests, and procedures, they were at a crossroads.

Questions flooded their minds. “What is His heart on this issue?”  “Is the cost of IVF worth the chances?” “How will becoming parents ever be possible?”

Jenni says these months were an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to this unending yearning to be parents, they were facing the repercussions of a natural disaster that almost totaled their home. There were days she was numb to the idea of parenthood and ready to give up.

Ultimately, they decided to give IVF at least one shot. The process is designed to harvest eggs that can then be placed in the best environment possible for reproduction. Jenni’s experience was a disaster. Her body had an adverse reaction to the medication and shots she had to inject daily. After one month, zero eggs were harvested. None. No hope of a baby. They concluded this was not the right direction for them.

As Jenni and I talked about her experience, she shared with me the discovery of how much God loves to create life and how she felt released to run after having children in less conventional ways. Through these painful circumstances, she was learning about various medical advancements that can allow couples to become parents.

Some women, once learning their womb is unable to carry a baby, become mothers by having a surrogate carry their new life for them. Other families might have a situation similar to Jenni, and choose to adopt an embryo available from someone else who has gone through IVF. Still others, might have the opportunity to become pregnant through the process of egg donation.

Jenni loved the idea of adoption, and equally loved the idea of carrying her child through the 40 weeks of pregnancy. With much prayer, she and her husband decided to visit one more office before ending their 6 year journey of fertility and proceeding with adoption. They were also considering the concepts of egg donation and embryo adoption.

Before the visit, Jenni penned the following thoughts. Her words bring tears to my eyes:

“At the beginning of learning how grim our outcome was, I asked God to teach me more about who He is and to understand him. Here is my take away: the Father gives good gifts. He is the giver and sustainer of life and he gives GOOD gifts. This doesn’t explain why we don’t sometimes receive something we want, but I know my Father gives only good. I know he holds every tear I cry. I know he loves us and his angels are singing over us. I believe it is the Father’s heart for us to have biological children even if that isn’t what we receive. I still believe it is in His heart and nature to give life. We live in a world where we can’t explain our circumstances and we aren’t promised a life without pain. As Evan and I look back over the past very difficult years, we are not thankful for the pain, but we know it has deepened our character and how we respond to others and we KNOW our Father loves us! We know He has given us amazing hearts that can grieve, heal, and dream new dreams.”

It was a standard visit. They were seeking a second opinion about whether there were any other steps they could take to have a child of their own. The nurse took Jenni’s blood just to ensure she was not already pregnant. Jenni assured her this was not necessary.

Later that afternoon, Jenni answered an unfamiliar number and the words, “You are pregnant” sang through the speaker. Jenni dropped to the floor in tears as the seemingly impossible became reality in her life.

Nine months later, after 10 years of marriage and 6 years of walking through infertility, they welcomed beautiful and precious Evie into the world. What the doctors had said to be impossible, God had made possible.

Jenni’s story is unique. She believes God gave her a miracle and wishes each person’s story was able to have the same miraculous ending. She gives God all the glory and hopes his plans for her will include more children.

Jenni, Evan, & Baby

Infertility in the Bible

Infertility in the Bible
Image by Brett Redgate

It may surprise you, but the Bible has a LOT to say on the topic of infertility. What began as a curious observation in my youth, has now morphed into a fascination at how deeply the Lord cares for women going through the struggle of infertility.

Today, I would like to share with you some stories and passages that come straight from the Bible. I hope that the things I share with you today bring life to your soul. If you are currently in this battle, please take heart in knowing that you are not alone.

Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-6)

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, gave birth to Isaac when she was 91 years old. We aren’t given details about her hopes of having children, but we do know that she laughed at the idea when God first told her she would have a son. She was too old. It was too impossible. But God had other ideas. He would use her and Abraham to create the line for His chosen people.

Abimelech’s Wife and Female Servants (Genesis 20)

Sarah shows up in a second infertility story. You see, Abraham told a little white lie that made King Abimelech believe that Sarah was actually Abraham’s sister. Abimelech took her for himself, but God revealed the truth to him in a dream before anything happened. God’s punishment for Abimelech, should he sin with Sarah, would be to keep his household from producing children. The king handled the situation honorably by returning Sarah to her husband. Abraham then prayed on behalf of Abimelech and his household was able to be fruitful once more.

I am moved by how these two stories interweave. Ultimately, God was looking out for His people. He was going to produce heirs in a situation that was impossible while simultaneously preventing heirs for those who would get in the way of His plan. He always has a plan.

Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-26)

Abraham’s son, Isaac, through whom a multitude of generations were promised, also had a wife who was unable to bear children. After her husband prayed on her behalf, Rebekah was able to give birth to twin boys. God had made a promise and nothing was going to stand in His way.

Rachel (Genesis 29:31-30:22)

In this story, there are two sisters married to Jacob; he was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. See the trend? Anyway, Leah was unloved so God showed her love by allowing her to have children. The sisters were rivals and constantly trying to outdo one another. They made poor choices. But in the end, God felt for Rachel and listened to her prayers so that she could have a son. His name was Joseph. This was the same Joseph who would one day rescue God’s people by providing for them during a famine.

Hebrew Midwives (Exodus 1:15-21)

The Israelites moved to Egypt and eventually became slaves. The King of Egypt was fearful of their numbers and strength, so he ordered the Hebrew midwives (whose names were Shiphrah and Puah) to kill all the baby boys and let the baby girls live. But the midwives feared God more than they feared man, and did not follow the king’s orders. The Bible says, “because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

It is not clear whether these women struggled with infertility, but we do know that they were blessed with children in an impossible situation. Sometimes, I believe God loves to reveal His power and love for us by moving in ways that we never thought possible.

Manoah’s Wife (Judges 13)

There came a time when the Israelites were being oppressed by the Philistines. God was ready to bring a leader to rescue His people, so he sent an angel to appear to the wife of a man named Manoah. Manoah’s wife had been infertile, but the angel promised her a son. This son would be set apart by the way he lived and by the things he would do. The couple believed the angel and made a sacrifice to the Lord. Manoah’s wife soon gave birth to a baby boy named Samson. Samson would be used by God to lead the Israelites and defeat thousands of Philistines with a supernatural strength.

Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2:21)

Most of us have heard Hannah’s story. She was desperate for a baby and would seek the Lord year after year, pleading for a son. She vowed that should God grant her request, she would give her son back to Him. God allowed Hannah to give birth to Samuel and she kept her promise by sending him to live with Eli the priest when he was still a small boy. Samuel would grow up to be a great man of God, and Hannah would go on to have 5 more children. Three boys and two girls.

The Woman from Shunem (2 Kings 4:8-37)

Elisha the prophet went to the town of Shunem and stayed with a wealthy couple. They took great care of him by feeding him and building a special room for him to stay whenever he was in the area. Elisha wanted to bless them for their kindness, and after discovering they were unable to have children, he promised them a son in a year’s time. His promise came true.

Elizabeth (Luke 1)

I love how God works in unexpected ways. In preparation for His Son to enter the world, God blessed Zechariah and Elizabeth with a miracle pregnancy. They were a righteous couple, yet had never been able to have children. God chose this couple to give birth to John – the man who would teach the people that salvation was coming through Jesus.

I encourage you to read these stories for yourself, as many of them have extra details that I could not possibly provide in one post. They are a beautiful representation of how God can work in the lives of His people. I pray they bring you hope and a comfort to know that God sees your pain and He is listening.

“He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9; NLT)

Starting a Conversation About Infertility

Starting a Conversation About Infertility
Image by Brett Redgate

Not too long ago, I discovered that this week in April is known as Infertility Awareness Week. I’ve had it on my heart to post on infertility and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Therefore, this week you can expect one post per day Monday-Friday under the following titles:

  1. Starting a Conversation About Infertility
  2. Infertility in the Bible
  3. Infertility: Jenni’s Story
  4. Infertility: Ashley’s Story
  5. Things You May Not Know About Infertility

So today, I simply want to let you know why I’m opening up the door to this conversation.

When I was very young, I was greatly intrigued by a trend I noticed in the Bible. I had regularly heard about Sarah and Mary’s miracle pregnancies, but every so often I would notice yet another woman who had struggled through infertility. These observations may have started as early as 12 years old, and continued through college.

I was so struck by the number of women who were mentioned to have been barren, that I believed God was preparing me to go through my own battle with infertility. This was not the case. When my husband and I decided to have children, I quickly became pregnant and had easy pregnancies and deliveries.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to think these revelations from the Bible may have been for a different purpose.

Though I have not personally fought through infertility, I am tender toward those who have. My heart bleeds for women longing to have a child but who are unable to conceive. I ache for those who have experienced miscarriage. I have wept openly for anyone who has found the joy of pregnancy, only to have to say goodbye to their precious child before ever leaving the hospital.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers. I couldn’t possibly begin to explain God’s intentions for specific people. I believe every person, situation, and circumstance is different and God has a divine plan for each and every one of us. I believe “… that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28; NIV)

The topic of infertility is heavy for so many. I hope to write with tenderness and love. My goal in this is to acknowledge the struggle, bring encouragement, and ultimately give glory to God for He is always good no matter our circumstances. I want to share with you some of the stories I have observed in the Bible as well as some of the stories of women who have recently faced infertility and/or loss head on.

So, bear with me, the next few posts may be hard to read at times. But I pray that as we tread these murky waters, God’s light shines through and brings life to the hurting.