Monday, November 18, 2013

Our Struggle with Infertility

I know that this here blog is generally pretty peppy and positive place (woah that is a tongue twister!).  I try to make this blog like that; I want LWTH to be a place of encouragement not just for you, but also for me.  If I’m being honest, things are not always cheerful on the inside, and you know that, that isn’t some new genius concept of mine.  But it does lead me to today’s post.  If you’re not into something deep, that’s okay; come back tomorrow for some positivity (I won’t hold it against you).Our Struggle with Infertility
God is good all the time...and all the time God is good.  This is something that I have played over and over in my head for the past few years.  For those of you still here, I want to tell you about June 8, 2010.  This day will forever ring in my heart as a day of confusion and deep unending sorrow.  I remember every detail of that day and for the following days.  I had just completed two back-to-back 16 hour brain surgeries on two different deer.  I was teaching a summer course at UH, Psychology Research Methods.  I was wearing black pants and a blue shirt with sheer ruffles on the sleeves.  I had just gotten a haircut to deal with the summer heat.  My sister was getting ready to come visit in a couple days.  I recall the night before the 8th, that I was organizing the books in my home office, when I had sudden paralyzing back pain until I just had to laid down.  The next day I was passing back papers for a quiz my students had taken the day before when I had a sensation like I had wet my pants.  I remember thinking “I’m so glad that I’m wearing black pants.”  As soon as class was over I ran to the bathroom and knew exactly what was happening.  I was losing our first baby.  I remember being so deeply sad, so empty and alone in that dingy old bathroom stall.  I called the doctor who later confirmed the loss.  I remember coming home and sitting on the couch to tell my husband that our first baby would never breath his or her first breath on this earth.  We were devastated to learn that our sweet baby had quietly left us to go home to be with Jesus.  We loved this baby so very much- our hearts hurt to know that we won’t get to meet our first baby on this side of eternity.

We never told anyone, not our families, friends, or smallgroup at church.  The loss happened just 2 days after our nephew was born and we didn’t want to be “Debbie downers” so we waited.  We didn’t share it with our smallgroup because I was in the middle of planning a fun cowboy themed baby shower for the next month, and another girl announced she was expecting, and again we didn’t want to rain on someone else’s parade.  The timing was just off and timing was everything in our case for comfort.  So I did the typical Southern Woman coping strategy and just put on a fake smile and went through the motions until everyone had had their babies.  Then it just seemed ridiculous to bring something up that had occurred almost a year ago.  Wouldn’t they think I was crazy for still being upset?!  Wouldn’t they question why I never brought it up, and why had I waited so long? Would anyone really believe me?  Would anyone understand my feelings? Why was I not over it yet?  So instead I let it just eat away at me, and my bitterness and grief grew.  I read other blogs about miscarriages and babies born sleeping and really connected with their emotions despite never really spilling my guts to anyone.  So in the past when I have said that blogging has become a great source of encouragement, I really do not exaggerate.  Blogging became a source of comfort and a place of peace for me where I didn’t feel so alone in my grief. 

A year went by, June 8th came and left again..still no baby and I was still devastated.  I don’t consider myself a great actress either, but I managed to put a smile on with every friend and family member that announced they were expecting.  And to be honest, I was thrilled for them, and I really did have genuine joy for their new adventure, but I was so sad for my loss, my inability to conceive, and was often envious of the ease of others to conceive.  Why was conception such an issue for me? Why was my body not doing what all the textbooks said it was designed to do? If I lost a baby, I knew conception was possible at one point, but why was this so difficult for me now?  Would there ever be another baby, or did we lose our only baby?

While we waited there were some triggers that made infertility so tough for me personally.  I would get so frustrated with women that would complain about sleepless nights because of their children crying.  This stung so deep because I laid awake many nights crying to myself wishing I could hear the crying of my own child that I could rock back to sleep, but instead only heard my own snuffles amongst the pure silence.  Yes they probably would have censored their venting had they known what I was really feeling, but again, I felt like it was too late to express that and I was too frustrated with their complaining.  It was hardest when someone else became pregnant.  Of course I was over the moon joyful for them, I was just so sad it isn't me.  Watching tons of my friends become pregnant with their first and even second child in the same amount of time I had not been able to conceive once was the pits....seriously the stinkin’ pits.

The following 3 years were challenging to say the least.  But God is so good.   From the moment I told the Mr.  that a) we were pregnant and b) we had lost the baby, he was completely supportive.  I was overly sensitive to everything.  I know I must to have confused the heck out of him, because I remember feeling relief at the very beginning.  Please don’t take this to mean that I was joyful that our baby was gone by any means, but I knew deep down that it was not the best time for us and the Mr. and I still had some work to do before we were truly ready.  So yes I felt glad that our desires matched God’s, but I still didn’t like this struggle and still desperately wanted that baby. Does that make sense?  So with the back and forth and extreme emotions that washed over me at the very site of another woman’s beautiful baby bump, I understood that God had a plan for us.  I always knew he had a family for us which may not come in the conventional way, but if we would just wait on Him, in His perfect timing we would receive the best gift of all.  So we waited and waited…..and waited.  During this period of waiting the Mr. and I grew to be better friends than we ever were.  He wasn’t just the man I married, he was the man I depended on for comfort and guidance.  He was the machine that kept my heart beating when I thought I could no longer do it alone.  He prayed over me as I cried over and over again for the next few years.  I know now looking back that the storm God provided us was good for our marriage.  He allowed the loss of a child and the loss of ability to conceive so that we could grow together and be a better team for the next step.  All of God’s provisions are, and were, for good.  Beauty does rise from ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3), and that’s how our story goes.    And while we held onto hope that we might have another child, the truth is that it would never replace the one we lost.  Still, we knew that beauty would rise from our ashes and sorrow.  We knew that He could open my womb and we just prayed that He would.  And that while we waited, we prayed for Him to fill us with peace, joy, and wisdom for how we should wait.

We spent a lot of time on our knees praying; Christ was the solid rock we were standing on.  We prayed for the doctors and nurses to have wisdom with our case, for our marriage to be strengthened, that our storm would be used to bring Him glory, and that we would find joy in this storm.  We were never angry at God.  I think a lot of people would say that about my bitterness, but not one time did I ever get angry at God.  Yes I was very frustrated with our situation, but anger was not an emotion that I, personally, encountered.  While I did not find this experience to be good, I knew that it was for His kingdom, and if nothing else, I should be happy about that.  That He would use our story to bring others to Christ.

When we decided to start looking into other avenues to grow our family I was petrified.  This was just not how I planned this family-growing process to go (God has been teaching me for decades that I’m not the one in control; I will get this concept one day….hopefully!).  Before we were married, the Mr. and I had decided that adoption was something that we felt called to do, but I struggled with the timing on this.   We even began the paper work and interviewing adoption agencies in Texas.  Adoption is something that we still feel very strongly about for various reasons I will expand upon another day, but after many discussions and lots of prayer we lacked peace with the timing.  So we started seeing our fertility specialist.  I remember a day in one February when the doctor looked at me square in the face and said, “ Mrs. Hawley, you will never conceive”.  She said it so matter of factly; I remember balling in her office, being escorted out of the office, and crying all the way home.  I remember that evening telling the Mr. the doctor’s report, and watching his face lose the hope we were so desperately looking for.  Those words stung more than any “Not Pregnant” pee stick result.  She said that she was willing to work with us despite her prediction, so like most couples who first start fertility treatments, there were a lot of tests that both the male and female have to pass, and some of these tests and procedures are not the most pleasant of experiences.  After all of these test my doctor called us in and she said, “Everything looks perfect!”  This time she was very chipper.  At first this made me very excited, after all, that was exactly what I wanted to hear.  But with some more time this made me very frustrated.  If we’re so “perfect” then why is this hole conception thing not working? Why are we still waiting? Why do I feel tortured with every baby I see at the market? Why?!?!?!

One morning while I was reading my devotional book, Empty Womb, Aching Heart (which I like to call Chicken Soup for the Infertile Soul), the Lord placed (Matthew 21:21) on my heart.  He can and DOES move mountains, and I must believe it.  I should not put my trust in a doctor, or charting, or even fertility treatments.  The barren woman will NEVER be satisfied (Proverbs 30:15-16) and God knows it.  He knows and acknowledges that incurable pain and He is okay with it.  This verse made me finally, after years of bitterness and depression, realize that it was okay to be upset, in fact God says it’s okay.  He was okay with my frustration and much bigger than my frustration, but He just wanted me to acknowledge it and give it to Him, not to put my trust into something or someone else.  He was and is the Ultimate Physician (and Ultimate Fertility Specialist).  I should also mention, that during this struggling, my husband gently recommended that I start going to counseling to help me sort out my emotions and deal with my bitterness, grief, and depression.  I love that my husband knew that this was something that I needed and brought it up at a time when it would be well received and supported me in this process by not only asking me about it, but even helping me find a counselor that would tend to me while respecting my background in science and relationship with Christ (which in the science world is VERY hard to find).

So we started fertility treatments, but our trust was not placed in whatever the doctors advised, instead our focus was on Him knowing that if He wanted this to work He would make it happen.  So when we started on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for infertile women (not to be confused with postmenopausal women; totally different treatment plans), we were relying on Him and looking forward with great expectations (2 Corinthians 8:5).  Now I have to be very honest, I really struggled with the idea of using hormones to conceive.  Charting, peeing on sticks daily (and sometimes multiple times a day), blood testing, hormones, timing, injections, really took the romance out of conception.  I was concerned that this baby would not be born out of love but out of a bunch of pills and syringes, but now I realize that with every day that passed as we waited, my love for the child we prayed for and desired only grew.  The intimacy of waiting has provided this baby with more love than I could have ever imagined possible.

The Mr. and I determined a timeline with HRT, since the hormones were pretty dangerous and do increase the risks of cancer.  How horrible would it be if we conceived only to find out that I was diagnosed with cancer?! I was not down with that!  If we conceived I wanted to stick around for this thing called parenthood.  When we were 3 cycles away from the end of our timeline, the Mr. and I reached a conclusion, that we were ready for this to be over.  We were physically and psychologically drained; we were completely worn out and were ready to reach the end of our timeline.  We were at peace with crossing the finish line without conception.  We gave it our best shot, we prayed, we actively waited, and still there was no baby and we had peace.  This was September of this year, and two weeks later, on 9/22/13 we found out that the Lord had blessed us with the gift of conception.  To say that we’re excited, and filled with joy really just doesn’t do the Lord justice.  There are no words in any language that describe how grateful we are.

So why do I say that God is good all the time and all the time God is good? We know that this is a miracle baby, and we know that God has and is using us for His kingdom and we know that this was all His doing.  To see the shock on our doctor’s face when she confirmed the pregnancy and telling her about Christ reminds me that He did have and still does have everything in control.  There are no coincidences or trials that go without merit.  His works are for good!

So how has infertility changed me?

I know that not everyone’s struggle with infertility looks like mine; I acknowledge that this is still part of our story, that the fight isn’t over, that the anxiety isn’t gone, but for now we find peace.  Everyone’s struggle with infertility is different and everyone processes it differently; however, a loss is a loss, grief is grief and it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, it always hurts.  From my personal experiences this is what I’ve learned and this is how I have changed:
  • Upon the diagnosis of infertility, you start to wonder why infertility has happened to you, and feel like less of a woman. You get mad at those who undesirably get pregnant (usually those under the age of 18 or on drugs), and wonder why a loving couple like you can’t create the miracle of life. You get jealous, crabby, bitter, and you change. 
  • You dread baby showers, and sometimes you avoid people who have children because seeing them hurts too much. If it is going to add stress to you, and cause a lot of emotional pain, I say politely decline the invitation.  If you still want to send a gift, you don’t have to go to Babies R Us, just order something online and have it sent to her house.  You never have to hold the gift or see it in person.
  • Just because someone has had a hard road with infertility doesn’t make them any more entitled to sad feelings than you. When you’re doing everything right, I don’t care how many cycles you’ve gone through or how many miscarriages you have had, or how many children you have had born sleeping, infertility is hard. No one has more “rights” to sadness or grief.  Grief is grief. Period!
  • You aren’t crazy; every single woman you know really IS pregnant.  Every friend on Facebook is going to start posting pictures of sticks they have peed on with that magical second line or the glorious word pregnant across the screen.  A few months later all the ultrasound pictures will pop up followed by beautiful birth stories.  You will undoubtedly torture yourself over every announcement and every picture.  I wish I could tell you to stop but you won’t.  Instead, let yourself mourn each time you read or hear the news of a new pregnancy.  One of them will be your sister or your best friend, so get ready for that one.  Cry, scream, yell, whatever it takes, do it.  But then you have to move on.   They are experiencing a joyous occasion in their lives and it’s important not to shut your friends or family out; you need their support.  I wish I had learned this one sooner (in fact I wish I had started counseling much sooner so that I wouldn’t have missed out on sharing the joys of others while I was lost and drowning in my own depression).
  • It’s okay to be vulnerable and raw with your emotions.  It’s okay to acknowledge that some days are bad days.  Sharing my story with others that have experienced loss has been so healing for me.  It has helped me to feel comfortable in my misery.  It has brought peace to my heart, and brought beautiful women into my life that will forever be my best friends and sisters because we share a path of struggle together.  Pain and suffering are what makes us grow as people. Through pain, we learn to empathize better. Through suffering, we realize that others too might be suffering and we can relate and share about the difficulties of traversing the day with the weight of pain, failure, and loss bearing down on us. The stronger we become, the more we can stand with others in pain, allowing them to suffer but not to suffer alone.
  • Pain changes a person and although the cause of the pain is often a terrible tragedy, the change a person experiences is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think back to the person I was before I suffered from infertility and failure after painful failure. As I reflect on the person I was before I had to watch everyone around me get what I wanted while my body continued to fail me over and over again, I realize that I am a better person now because of my struggles. 
  • Before infertility, it never occurred to me that people may be smiling on the outside but dealing with a painful, soul-crushing loss on the inside until I was one of those people. I am now hyper aware of other’s feelings and forgiving of people’s shortcomings because I realize that they may be fighting a silent battle too.  Just like I was putting on that fake smile, many others do that as well, offer them grace and mercy.
  • I never thought about how hurtful certain statements could be: this was meant to happen, this was all in God’s plan, it will happen someday, why don’t you just adopt? I think before I speak now. I don’t try to change or justify the pain because this doesn’t help anyone.  It actually takes power away from them.  I listen more because this is what I learned that I needed during many of my hardest days.
  • In the past, I always wanted to stop and fix pain, rather than hug people and to tell them it was ok that they were hurting. Now, when people experience pain I tell them that they hurt because what happened mattered. Having experienced pain that seemed so meaningless and feeling “dumb” for being sad for what could have been but never was, I can understand that sometimes pain just needs to sit because it represents what was important to us but is now gone.
  • I feel that I have always been a kind person. I have always cared deeply about others and I have never meant to intentionally hurt anyone. The person I’ve become is a deeper, more sensitive version of this person.  I feel more, I cry more, and I love deeper. I’ve maneuvered my own grief, which has opened up my heart to other’s grief. I’m stronger and realize that soul-crushing pain, while it takes my breath away, will not crush me.  Suffering breeds experience and something beautiful can come from the darkest experience.
Through infertility I have been changed; I’m not who I was before and I’m glad that I will never be that person again.  I’m not thrilled that I have walked so many years through infertility, but I’m happy with the outcome.  I’m glad that I depended on the Father to carry me through this storm, and I’m blessed to have had a husband who constantly pointed me back to Jesus.  I’m glad to be taking a break with this struggle and while I know that life is so very short and precious, I will try my best to embrace everyday that the Lord gives us with this baby.  If you are struggling with infertility, loss, or grief, I hope you know that I pray for you on a daily basis that God would fulfill the desires of your heart and fill you with peace and joy while you wait.  You are a very special population that I am proud to be a member of to love on and pray for.

27 comments:

Pamela Graves said...

I am sure that this post will help so many women. God Bless! and congrats!! Love happy endings (or beginnings!)

Joy said...

First, I'm so proud of you for hitting publish! I know God had his hand in all of this post, and I know it will help so many understand your feelings, and maybe help someone else going through the pains you have been through.

Second, I remember the day you called me after I received my news at the dr. That phone call was the day you told me about your first baby. And through the few weeks before we received that news... you were my #1 fan of our pregnancy. And I had no idea that my joys were your sorrows. That's a true friendship!

Third, I will never forget our conversation at your dining room table that Friday morning. Our tears and pain all dished out in front of each other because we both knew of a hurt that not all women go through. I pretty sure our friendship/sisterhood was taken to the next level that day.

And fourth, I'm so thankful for your prayers for us as we attempted to get pregnant, and so thankful for your joys and support when I called you that Tuesday afternoon in July. Even though you were still going through your pain, you helped me get over my anxiety.

And nothing will ever make me forget the day (that Tuesday) that you told me you were indeed PREGNANT!!!! So thankful He placed you in my life all those years ago. I'm enjoying going through this pregnancy WITH you. And I can't wait for our babies to each be husband and wife, or bff's!!

Love you, and again... so proud of you for this post. We give HIM all the glory!!

Ashley said...

Great post!! I'm soo happy you have overcome this struggle as well. Our journey was difficult and yes it's hard to look back on, but I wouldn't change it! It's made me who I am today!

Jessica said...

my heart breaks for you and so many other women who have lost precious babies, or have been unable to know the feeling of expecting a new life. my mom miscarried 4 times, and every time she got pregnant she would just hope and pray that this time she would be able to keep it. thankfully, God blessed her and she now has 4 of us (yikes!), and she knows when she is in Heaven, more kids will be there waiting for her. i'm sorry you've had to know that pain, but i am so glad you also know the joy of seeing the "pregnant" stick! and seeing and hearing your baby's heart beating! and soon you will know the "joy" of a baby crying in the middle of the night. i don't mean that sarcastically! while being frustrating and maddening at times, it is always a joy to hold and rock your baby : )

Jessica K said...

Thank you Darby. I can't imagine how hard it was to write this, and actually publish it! If I can just learn to let God have the control... that can sometimes be the hardest part. I am so happy for you! Your angel is heaven is definitely watching over you and Little Peep! Thank you again. So much. For these words. And sharing your story.

Jane Craske said...

This is such a hard thing to talk about and you're totally right-God is good all the time but it is hard to constantly remind yourself of this.

'Helpful' suggestions from a variety of people both close to us or nearly strangers did not make things easier.

I had four miscarriages (each early and each mourned) and was told it would never happen for us.

I went through menopause and then...had a flu that was not a flu. It took us 10 years but we now have a lovely 3 1/2 year old that is our living miracle.

Whitney H said...

Thank you so much for publishing this post. While Nick and I are not yet trying for children, the fear of this happening to me is almost crippling. It almost makes me terrified to even try to have kids, to have the fear of it being taken away from me so suddenly. I'm truly so so happy for you two and this post made me even MORE happy for you.

Heather said...

Darby, I am so happy for you! I had no idea what you've been going through the past couple years. But I do know that God has some incredible plans for you and that baby!

Lauren said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Darby. Is there a right thing to say in these circumstances? Also, you are always so sweet and pleasant but I hope you gave your doctor a playful "Suck it!" when you got your positive test!

Nadine Lynn said...

Thank you for sharing your story, I am sure it was hard to share something so personal. I can't imagine a pain so great and putting on a happy face for others shows your strong character. I am so happy that you have been blessed with this pregnancy!

Sarah said...

I am so proud of you for sharing your story. Your faith in the midst of grief is so inspiring, and I hope to find just a fraction of your grace. I'm afraid to say I'm not quite there yet. Love you friend!

Ashley Smith said...

Thank you for publishing this! This will help so many women out there! I'm not good w words but god bless you. You know our road miscarriages a baby and more miscarriages. A loss is a loss and it hurts and you must grieve that loss! It is very hard ! Even though I've been through a lot of what you have been through you truly have a positive outlook on everything! I remember you telling me not to let others steal my joy! So well said. God bless these little blessings finally growing inside of us! And if another person asks why we waited so long to have another one I might just slap them! It's not our plan its gods plan. Hugs

Taylor Brione said...

Darby, I admire you for sharing this. Since you day I met you...you have been nothing but positive and encouraging, yet all the while you were struggling with such a heavy burden. This post had me in tears and I'm so grateful that God has blessed you with this new baby! I'm praying for you a healthy pregnancy! You are such an awesome, strong lady!

Taylor Brione said...

Darby, I admire you for sharing this. Since you day I met you...you have been nothing but positive and encouraging, yet all the while you were struggling with such a heavy burden. This post had me in tears and I'm so grateful that God has blessed you with this new baby! I'm praying for you a healthy pregnancy! You are such an awesome, strong lady!

ari @ whatarisaid said...

Oh Darby, I just want I give you a great big hug right now. I'm so sorry that you went all that, what a long journey... But what a journey you have to look forward to!

Uh and what is up with that doctor being so obnoxious and saying you will never conceive? Ick.

Bet said...

:) xoxo
thank you!! Praying for you guys and I love the book you recommended. It's wonderful! :)

Jamie said...

What a beautiful, heart wrenching post. I'm so glad you decided to share it because there are NEVER enough posts about hope, hope, hope even without a happy ending. Keep moving. I'm SO happy for you!

Amy @ A Balancing Act said...

I can't even imagine how much you've had on your heart these years. Thank you for opening up and being vulnerable. I am sending you so many thoughts and prayers. I hope He is helping to heal your heart! I am beyond happy for your pregnancy. Such a joy and a blessing for a beyond deserving women of God!

Rachelle @ Inner Loop Adventures said...

You're very brave for writing and posting this, but I'm glad you did. For me and other women. I really like your point at the end about how it's ok to just comfort someone and acknowledge their pain. They don't always want someone to fix it. I'm sure there are a lot of women out there who have similar issues who can't talk about it publicly, but reading this is helpful. Everyone's journey is different and it can seem scary/daunting when, unfortunately, you aren't blessed with fertility right off the bat. Or if you have medical conditions that may complicate fertility. It makes you feel less alone on the journey.

Stro said...

Very well written. I needed this as I trudge through the infertility journey. Thank you. :)

Tiffany
Keithandtiffanymesser.blogspot.com

Jessica Reyna Brogan said...

My husband and I struggled with infertility, too. Our journey was different than yours (and no two women have the same experience whether or not a struggle to conceive is involved), and I want to thank you for sharing your story. Infertility is more common than people realize and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, it hurts, yes, it is frustrating, and yes, it is hard to share, but I think it is important to share these struggles. Infertility shouldn't be a taboo subject and every time we share our struggles, it makes it a tiny bit easier for someone else.

Neely said...

I loved reading this from you. Its interesting to read peoples journeys. As A and I talk about having a family its something I worry about will I be able to have a baby? What if I cant? I know there is a group of women waiting to support me either way and reading your journey is wonderful.

Mel the Crafty Scientist said...

I starred this post because I wanted to take time and really read it and I finally came back to it today and I'm so glad I did and I'm even more glad you wrote it and could help and reach out to other people going through this. The Mr. and I aren't trying to do this yet, but it's honestly one of the scariest things I can imagine... how powerless you are, how little what you've done and means (unlike when you apply for jobs or grad school, per say), etc. I'm so thrilled and happy for you both and excited to read about all that happens on this part of your journey! : )

-Mel the Crafty Scientist

Tiffany said...

This touched me! Thank you for sharing your story and also for glorifying God in it! I am so happy for you and your husband!

Tiffany said...

This touched me! Thank you for sharing your story and also for glorifying God in it! I am so happy for you and your husband!

Erik & Sarah Hervoyavich said...

I found your blog through Pinterest. Holy cow, God knew I needed to see this! Thank you for your words, I was sincerely touched.
We've been trying to conceive for almost 2 1/2 years, and we've just barely started seeing a dr that knows what he's doing. Reading your post, I realized I need to keep reminding myself Heavenly Father is in charge, He'll figure this out, and that the dr is merely one of His tools in helping us out.

Jen said...

Darby, I haven't been great about following blogs since I stopped mine quite some time ago. I used to follow yours daily, and I still follow you on Instagram. My husband and I also struggled with infertility. We went through two failed IVF cycles (with the first one resulting in an ectopic pregnancy). On our third cycle, we were blessed with a little one - a baby girl due 6/16/14. I had to come back and read your story, and I'm so glad you shared it with the blogging community. I'm so excited for you and your husband to welcome Little Peep in just a few short weeks. I just wanted to thank you for your post - it's something that not many women can admit to so strongly. Bravo!

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