How is it that one moment life can seem to be dragging by day-by-day, and then the next moment, it flies so fast that you refuse to blink for fear that you will miss it? It’s one of the miracles of life, this slow-fast speed mystery. But somehow in the slow times, the days that you pray would move faster, that you slow down enough to find the center of your strength, value the relationships around you, and pause to reflect on what a faithful God we serve.
I have honestly wanted to just forget this post. I just didn’t know how to begin, or how to write it, or even how I would relive the memories that now seems so distant in the past, but at the time felt too overwhelming to bear. I have had to be fearless to share this intimate part of our story with you, but there are two main reasons why I must write this story. The first is as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and love. I believe that your trials will someday be your testimony, a way to share strength and hope with others who are going through the exact same difficult days. I also believe that there is a healing time between your trial and when you can share it as a testimony. And there are always different lengths of time it takes to heal a heart. So the first reason is to share this story with others.
The second reason is so that I can remember. I can remember the hard details, the joys, and the miracles along the way. I can remember and share this story with my son when he is grown up. With my grandchildren. Most of all, so I can remember that God always comes through on His promises and the dreams He puts in our hearts. Although the path is not always the one we would choose for ourselves.
And so that’s where this story begins. (Caution: this was hard for me to write. I still have tear tracks down my cheeks. But it’s real. And it’s deep. And if you know someone who’s struggling with infertility, or has in the past, or maybe it’s you, please pass this on to them to help encourage them and help them know they are not alone, and it’s not hopeless.)
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A little over 6 and a half years ago, I was head-over-heals in love with the man of my dreams. I knew he was the one I was meant to share my life with. He had just asked me to marry him, and we were busy planning out our lives together. We didn’t know a lot of the details, but one thing we knew was we both dreams of having children. Along the way to getting married, God put an amazing Plan B business into our lives, and the biggest reason why we took on a Plan B, which required a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment, time, and growth (for me especially), was because we saw it as the only way I could be a stay-at-home mommy someday. And my amazing husband Jesse could be a stay-at-home daddy. And we could raise our family and have not only quality but quantity of time together. The paths we had been on could never afford us the abundance of time and finances for our family that we dreamed about. And so we took a leap of faith.
The first few years were hard. We had too much debt and too little wisdom, and even though we had our Plan B, it was hard. Jesse got laid off during our first year of marriage and never went back to work. I was in school full-time and taught part-time. But even though things sometimes looked like we were going backwards, we never ever gave up. Because I knew there were no other options for us to be full-time parents to our babies someday. We had to press on and make this Plan B work.
Along the way we met amazing friends that poured into us, believed in us. Our income was growing. Our dream was getting closer. I remember circling March of 2012 as the finish line for all this hard work. That was the date where we could quit birth control, and I could start my dream of being a mom!
Being the natural researcher that I am, I went online and ramped up on what we needed to do to maximize our chances of conceiving each month. After all, I studied and taught biology in school. This couldn’t be too hard to get right. First month…not pregnant. Friends of mine encouraged me and told me that sometimes it takes a while to get pregnant, even up to a year of trying. So I not-so-patiently waited. Second month…no. Sixth month…no. Tenth month…still no. No, no, no, no, no.
Soon a year went by and each month’s disappointment became harder and harder and harder. People who were well-intentioned asked us when we were going to start having kids. Each time my heart dropped. I would go on Facebook and see so many sweet friends posting about their positive pregnancy tests or expected due dates or newborns, and it hurt. Of course I didn’t blame them, but instead I started to blame myself. What was I doing, or not doing, wrong? Each month Jesse would comfort me, but there was really nothing, nothing he could do to fill the hole in my heart.
Finally I decided I had had enough waiting. I picked up the phone, which felt at least 30 lbs heavier than the day before, and called the Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine (FIRM) in Jacksonville and made an interview appointment with Dr Duffy.
It was not easy walking into that office, feeling like there’s something wrong with you. Jesse and I walked into Dr Duffy’s office and he explained that the first thing to do was to undergo a series of tests for both of us, to diagnose if there was a problem somewhere. We agreed, knowing that we wanted to find out what was wrong no matter how much it cost, and we schedule a series of appointments throughout August 2013. Resulting diagnosis of all these tests: unexplained infertility. Translation: nothing was out of the ordinary for either of us, and there was no explanation for why we weren’t pregnant already. Part of me was happy about the news, but a much bigger part of me was angry, disappointed, and frustrated that there was no simple “fix” for our diagnosis.
So the next step forward was minimal intervention. We tried insemination 3 months in a row with a drug called Clomid, which was meant to increase my egg production from 1 each month to 3-4 to up the odds of fertilization. That September-December was a long, long, autumn. Each month I was excited and filled with hope that it was going to work. And each month, disappointment and sadness overtook me. Honestly, I started withdrawing from my friends, from my church, from our business, from the people who loved me. It was too difficult to let everyone know what was going on, but on the other hand, some days it took everything I had to “keep it together” around groups of people so they wouldn’t know the sadness and hopelessness I was going through. Each month, I prayed I would get pregnant by that Christmas, and each month, it wasn’t to be.
After the third failed insemination at the end of December, we had another meeting with Dr. Duffy. He sat us down and explained what In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was and how it worked. He also explained to us the cost of just one cycle: about as much as what one of our cars was worth, and due up-front. Thank God, again, that we had a Plan B. The cost was of no consequence. There was no decision or struggle. It was simply, how soon can we start?
January 29, 2014. IVF Start. I had it circled on my calendar. That was the day I had to start my shots. For IVF, you have to stimulate your body with hormone shots to produce as many eggs as possible, with the hope that you will use some the first cycle, but if it doesn’t work the first time, you have some frozen embryos to use when you try again. I had never given myself shots before. And it was often multiple shots each day. I have a husband who would do anything for me, and so he agreed to administer my shots in my stomach each night. I’m sure there is nothing fun about giving your wife shots, especially when the medicine burned each time it was injected under my skin. Sometimes I would have tears. Often I would ask Jesse to sing me a song while he did it to distract me. Frozen was a new favorite of mine, and my dear husband knew the words to each and every song. Each time, he loved me enough to let me feel pain because this pain was temporary and there was a bigger dream ahead. I’m sure there’s a lesson that parallels to Christ in that…
12 Days of shots later and several ultrasounds every few days to view how many eggs were growing, I was ready for my “egg retrieval”. I was so excited and nervous. Excited because on the previous ultrasounds, it looked like I had at least 15 eggs to retrieve. Nervous because this was a procedure where I was put to sleep with anesthetic and was on bed rest the rest of the day when I got home. I’m not good with anesthetic. The only other time in my life I’ve had it was when I got all 4 wisdom teeth out at the same time and Jesse remembers I was crying and shaking before they put me out.
The night before the retrieval, February 9th, I had to take a final shot, a “trigger” to mature my eggs and get them ready for fertilization before they left my body. I was ecstatic to take my final shot! The next morning Jesse took me in, the put me out, retrieved the eggs with a tiny needle, and when I woke up again, they gave me the report.
3. That was it. That was all the eggs they were able to retrieve during surgery. I was heartbroken. I had encouraged myself with the though that even if this first cycle didn’t work, we would still have enough eggs frozen for a second, third, however many times it took to get pregnant. But we only got 3. It was explained to me that the trigger shot I had taken the night before hadn’t worked. I was one of the 5% or less of women it doesn’t work for. Only 3 eggs matured and that’s all they had to use.
Of course they took those eggs, fertilized them with Jesse’s sperm, and told us they would call in 48 hours with the result. That 48 hours was torture. I was certain it hadn’t worked, that nothing would work, that all the pain I’d already gone through wouldn’t even result in the one thing I wanted. One February 12, the Dr called me and said 2 out of 3 had fertilized and were ready for transfer back to my body the next day. Praise God.
Emotionally I was a wreck as we walked into the Dr’s office the next morning. Jesse was with me when the Dr came in and told us the 2 embryos they had looked great and had already divided several times (a great sign). As the Dr. transferred the embryos back, Jesse and I both watched the ultrasound screen as two, tiny white dots slid into place in my uterine wall. It was a surreal experience, knowing that at that moment, I had two living embryos in my womb. I was so hopeful. And so scared. But only one thing was required as we waited 12 days to see if they had implanted successfully, and that was lots and lots of prayer and distraction.
Jesse has always been a rock in my life. His faith is unwavering in the power of our God, and his love for me is almost overwhelming. Those next 12 days were of course difficult. Every little feeling I had I would question if I was pregnant or not. Am I overly tired? Are my breasts tender? Am I feeling bloated? Was I just nauseous? It’s amazing how your mind plays games with you sometimes.
On day 12, we were in Atlanta at Raven and Casey’s house (Jesse’s brother and sister-in-law). We had been up there to throw Raven a baby shower for her sweet baby Grace. Not easy when you’re desperate to be pregnant yourself, but we are both so glad we were able to be there for her first child!
Anyway, day 12, February 25th, we were headed back home from Atlanta for my blood test – to see if we were pregnant or not. But I couldn’t wait. I was one of the “naughty” ones who took a home urine test before the blood test. I was again, nervous, scared, worried, on the edge of joyfulness and heartbroken-ness, I just didn’t know which. As I waited the 2 minutes for the test to work, I had every emotion possible. But the one thing I kept remembering was the promise in Psalm 112:1-2 that I had circled months before: “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” (More in circling promises from God in another post).
When I looked down, I saw a “+”! Quickly, I returned to the bedroom, crawled into bed with Jesse, who was doing his morning devotionals, and with joy beaming out of my eyes, I showed him that we were pregnant! I was afraid to believe it!
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I have to leave this story off here, because there is more I want to add to this story (and I promise I will in the coming months), but I need to share a few things with you that I have learned along this long, long journey.
First, life as a Christian is not always going to be “highs”. There are valleys and peaks along our road. And for myself, I am reminded of how deeply my God loves me in the valleys. Honestly, I hate struggles and valleys. I wish life was always roses, but it’s not and I’m thankful for that, because it’s God who carries us through the valleys and draws near to us. I had two choices when I was waiting to get pregnant. I could have blamed God for not loving me enough to “snap” his fingers and produce a miracle right away, or I could draw nearer to God and have him draw nearer to me. God promises us that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…” Jeremiah 29:13-14 and to “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8 I am living proof that this is truth from the Scriptures. God came near to me, and found me in a big, big way.
Second, cherish the Christian relationships God has put into your life. This is one of the ways I knew God was with me through all of this – he brought dear friends and mentors into my life to love me, pray for me, cry with me, and give me wisdom on how to keep trusting Him. One relationship I always take too much for granted and will never be thankful enough for is my husband. A woman couldn’t ask for a better husband by her side, who will love her and pray for her and cry with her and sing her Disney songs when she’s upset and take her to Sweet Frog just to sit with her and play Scrabble with her on her phone. To be her best friend when it’s so painful she doesn’t want to be with anyone else. To understand without words. And to unquestionably remind her of God’s unfailing love. God has used a struggle that in some relationships has the potential to tear husband and wife apart, but He has used it to cement ours in a beautiful way.
Third, I am aware that even though God has promises to bless his people with children of their own, our journey is not everyone’s journey. Not everyone has success with IVF. Not everyone has a pregnancy that is healthy. Some are never successful in getting pregnant, some suffer miscarriages, some suffer death of a child. I know that many amazing, courageous families decide to go the route of adoption. Their hearts are so big they increase their family by children not of their blood. I have so much respect for these families. Who knows, God may yet bring us to that place in the future. Wherever He leads I’ll follow.
Regardless of all that, I know that for now, He has given us an amazing gift in our own child, who is currently almost 19 weeks in my belly. As I write this, from time to time, I can feel little flutters from our sweet baby. What a miracle. What a testament to God’s undying love and faithfulness.
What is your testimony? How can you point to God’s undying love and faithfulness in your life?