Have you ever heard the sound of complete despair? It’s a DEEP, LOW, LOUD, GROWL, WAILING from the gut type-of-sound.
I was a complete mess in my bedroom; sobbing and snotting, distraught and shattered, and just not able to pull myself together like I had done so many times before. “Is that sound really coming from me!?!”
I was living what seemed like a fairytale. I married my college sweetheart one month after graduating. We were young and in love and life had an enviable comfort to it. My husband Ken graduated from the University of Delaware three years before me and was establishing himself in the engineering field. I was in grad school – we worked hard, but we played hard too.
We had frequent vacations, date nights, house parties…just good old fun. My life was amazing and growing our family was the next logical step. A family of six seemed picture-perfect, however, the fairytale soon ended. Starting our family didn’t just fall into place as everything else had up to that point. After months of trying to conceive, we landed at the office of Dr. Wu at the Delaware Valley Institute of Fertility and Genetics in Marlton, NJ.
I was super nervous approaching our first visit. What if they told me something I hadn’t considered – that I would never be able to conceive? Ken and I sat nervously at the small round conference table. Dr. Wu asked us lots of questions about our lifestyle, our health history, and our love story.
He didn’t seem overly concerned about our situation and we walked out with his plan of “action”, or inaction as far as I was concerned. I remember feeling very disappointed, as I expected more than the below instructions we were given:
1. Relax – We were super young. I was only 22 years old. “You have plenty of time to make a baby,” he said.
2. Breathing Exercises – Before bed each night, complete a series of five deep breaths to relax. “Stress does not make babies,” he said.
3. Movement – Take three 20-30 minute walks every day. “It’s good for your physical and mental health to help make a baby,” he said.
4. Supplements – We were given a list of supplements. I can’t even remember them all, but I know they included prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and fish oil. “It will help your body get ready to make a baby,” he said.
5. Track menstrual cycle and ovulation – Write everything on a calendar to find out your fertile window. “You are newlyweds…just have fun making a baby,” he said.
That’s it? I felt like he wasn’t taking us seriously enough. Relax! How am I supposed to relax? I needed him to DO something! Why didn’t he have the same sense of urgency that we did? I wanted him to find out what was wrong with me NOW.
Still, I decided to follow his little plan since the next visit would include bloodwork. Thankfully, the testing revealed that I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes women to have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. Because of PCOS, my ovaries developed numerous small follicles that failed to grow to maturity and regularly release healthy eggs.
Symptoms of PCOS included irregularity or absence of a period, an extended period, skin tags, excessive facial and chest hair, and difficulty with weight loss (due to inability to break down carbohydrates).
My infertility journey was an extremely lonely one. I was the first of my friend group to get married, and they were supportive. However, I just didn’t feel like anyone could relate, especially since no one had ever heard of PCOS. The generation of women before me in my community didn’t talk about this kind of stuff.
Even though people knew about our situation, I would still get unsolicited and insensitive questions like, “You sure you don’t have anything cooking in there?” I know they meant well, but it was still hurtful. And left me feeling like I was the only person this was happening to.
But I kept pressing, putting on a brave face in public while crying behind closed doors. It affected my marriage as well. The joy we experienced in those early years of marriage was replaced with my fixation on getting pregnant.
I always knew God was there, but I didn’t feel like He was listening or that me having a baby was a priority to Him. I remember waking up one morning and the fact that I wasn’t pregnant weighed so heavily on my mind. The longer I thought about it, the heavier it grew until it just became too much.
I wanted a baby so bad and there was nothing I could do about it. I had always taken so much credit for everything I accomplished – graduating at the top of my class, a full ride to UD. This was the first time I felt like I didn’t have control over what was going on in my life.
By the time Ken left for work, the pain had just become too much. I remember curling up in a ball on my bed and all I could muster up were horrific sounds until I finally uttered a one-word prayer, “HELP!” I repeated it over and over again – “Help…Help…Help”, until I drifted off to sleep.
That day was the first time I had ever surrendered to God. When I woke up, I knew that God heard me. I could feel it, something inside me had changed. A few days later, I was at my student teaching assignment when I received the call from my infertility doctor with miraculous news, “We are pregnant!”
After all the combinations of metformin, tamoxifen, and clomid, it had finally happened. At that moment I knew that God had been listening all along. Ken and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl who we named Ciana, which means God is gracious. All He wanted was for me to let go and release my infertility over to Him.
Ciana brought us so much joy, and two years later we were ready to expand our family again. The doctor told us that our previous treatment plan would not work because scar tissue had blocked both of my fallopian tubes; in vitro fertilization (IVF) was our only option.
I soon found myself right back on the emotional roller coaster of why? Thinking back to the plum-sized, deep purple, green, and blue bruise on my left arm from giving blood from the same vein every week for months, I remember crying, why? And each month I wasn’t pregnant after ovulation, I thought, why me? And then after others started getting pregnant around me, I thought, why not me?
I vividly recall having another breakdown, this time at my sister’s house. She was pregnant with my nephew. I wanted to be completely happy and excited about the new addition to our family, but inside lived an ever-present sadness that was sometimes still like a pond and other times raged like a river.
When she walked me into the nursery space she created, I completely fell apart. The levees inside of me broke and I was inconsolable. I decided at that moment, I just couldn’t do this anymore – we said no to IVF.
I buried my desire to have another child as far as I could and completely focused on being a mom to Ciana. I was semi-successful in doing this for another two years before I got up the courage to try again. We walked away from a new set of infertility doctors with the same prognosis – IVF, to which we declined one final time. The uncertainty of it all was just too much for me to go through again. It was easier to walk away because we already had one miracle baby. And our daughter gave us so much joy; we were inseparable. If you saw one of us, you saw all of us. To the point we were nicknamed The Three Musketeers.
The next phase of my infertility journey was a process of healing. My prayers shifted from ‘please let me have a baby’ to ‘please take the pain, void, and sadness away.’
Slowly, my prayers were answered. As time passed, I felt more and more content and at peace with our family of three. I still desired another child, but I was not in pain anymore. My heart was just so filled with gratitude that God gave me the gift of Ciana that it filled in all the gaps.
Ten years later, our idyllic life was interrupted. Physically, something felt wrong with me. My underwear felt tighter, although I hadn’t gained any weight. My belly just didn’t feel right. I decided to Google my symptoms, which all appeared to indicate cervical cancer. Nervous and fearful about what I had just discovered, I called my doctor to schedule an appointment.
During the ultrasound to check my uterus, the technician asked if I took a pregnancy test. Huh? “No”, I responded, as I knew there was no way I could be pregnant. She turned the monitor around and on the screen was a WHOLE baby with a GIANT head!
Even though we had not been praying for another child, our circle was. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until the end of my first trimester, with no pre-natal vitamins, no special diet, and no exercise, yet God still blessed us with a healthy baby boy. Kenneth Jr. was an answer to all who had been praying on our behalf!
So, in the end, we did wind up with our family of six – two beautiful children and two dogs, Max and Ella.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I know for sure, God was with me all along. He was there well before the lowest point of wailing in my bed. That incident was just the first time that I was present enough to feel him.
And now that I am healed, and can freely share my story, I have learned there are so many women with their own infertility journeys. There are similar parts and then other parts that are so very different. But something can be learned from every part of our stories, allowing us to support each other and know we are not alone. We have each other and God is with each of us.
PRAYER FOR MOMS:
I know that not everyone’s infertility journey ends with children. For each of those women, I say this prayer for you…
Dear Heavenly Father,
Please send your Holy Spirit to every woman who desires to have a child. Open their hearts and minds to surrender to your will. Take away all that is not of you – all the fear, the hurt, and the sadness. Fill the void with love, light, and gratitude. Reveal yourself in such a way that they know they are not alone. Increase the courage of every woman who has experienced infertility to be vulnerable enough to share our stories, so that we may support each other.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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