Today marks the day that I’m officially stepping out of the closet…the infertility closet. It’s a subject that isn’t always the most comfortable to talk about but I finally feel strong enough to share our story (with Andrew’s consent, of course) and where we are in the journey for children. There’s a lot of vulnerability in this post and some may cringe at the thought of sharing such personal details. Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that writing on this blog has been extremely therapeutic for me. I also see this blog as a forum to reach others in a way that extends past my inner circle. If one person finds comfort in my vulnerability and our story, my mission is accomplished. We are all going through this life, struggling with something, carrying that burden, suffering in silence because most don’t want to share what they are up against. I have carried many burdens over the years but the one that is bearing down on us right now is infertility.
Starting at the beginning seems the best place but prepare yourself as this is a pretty long post.
After my Mom’s initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, I moved back to Baton Rouge from Southern Florida, taking an administrative job at Emery Equipment where Andrew worked as well. Soon after, we started dating and both knew early on we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together but didn’t want to rush into marriage. Since we both desired more financial security, we dated for almost 3 years until our engagement at the end of 2009. Andrew and I married in 2010 and both agreed to enjoy being married before we even considered children.
As you can see, we both clearly don’t rush into things. We are certainly researchers and planners. Not only did we want to enjoy being newlyweds, but I was also battling severe episodes of psoriatic arthritis early in our marriage and giving myself Methotrexate injections once a week. If anyone has heard about Methotrexate, it is usually in reference to cancer treatments. Methotrexate is also used in smaller doses to treat different autoimmune diseases such as psoriatic arthritis. In addition, it is used to terminate pregnancies. Therefore, as you might guess, getting pregnant wasn’t an option at all during that time. It took some time for me to get my body healthy and in a place to carry a child.
I finally switched medications, got my arthritis under control, allowed my body ample time to shred any remnants of the Methotrexate, quit smoking, and started living a healthy lifestyle. This was all in preparation for our new baby that we would conceive after 3 years of marriage. I pulled out all the stops. I knew carrying a child would be one of the most important jobs of my life. I didn’t want to mess it up and I wanted my body to be in the best shape. My ideas of a family would all come to fruition now that my body was ready and I thought we were ready. Little did I know what lie ahead of us. Month after month we were disappointed but we kept the faith and kept trying. Since we were still young, we knew to give it a year before looking into it further. Finally after a year, we decided to have Andrew meet with the urologist and go through normal analysis. His results weren’t what we were hoping for but his urologist gave his recommendation of vitamins and possible surgery down the road which gave us some hope. In our minds, it was easily fixable and we wouldn’t have an issue getting pregnant once his levels improved with vitamins and possibly surgery.
Andrew switched jobs at that point and was traveling a lot for work. There was a lot of disconnect between us and major issues began to surface. We went through what I call our “battle period”. I will admit there were times when I didn’t know if our marriage would survive for many reasons and our infertility exacerbated underlying individual issues. Andrew and I worked very hard on ourselves and our marriage during this time. We set aside our plans to have children. We both knew we needed to take care of ourselves, heal our wounds, put the broken pieces back together, work on our marriage and truly place God at the center of our life before traveling down that path again. We have always been believers of Christ but it wasn’t until our marriage was tested and at the brink of extinction that we submitted our hearts to God 100%. As I’ve mentioned before, God performs his greatest masterpieces in our darkest period. And in our case, He did. That was a turning point for us. I believe God was preparing us for what we were about to walk through together. He knew we would need to be united in Him in order to step into the next chapter of our life. We would need Him in our life more than ever.
We proceeded with Andrew’s surgery and continued trying to conceive, knowing it would take some time for his levels to bounce back.
What a trooper he was that day. More months passed by and nothing – no success. Stress began to mount with the purchase of the farm earlier this year which was followed by unexpected house projects but we pressed on, never losing faith that God’s timing was the perfect timing. Meanwhile, more pregnancy announcements popped up all around me. My joy for others was smothered by my intense sadness for us. Each announcement and each month that passes is a harsh reminder that we are without a child. The deep sadness that surfaces in waves is unbearable at times. You try and hold it together so that you can cry quietly in the bathroom, the whole time reminding yourself that your turn will come. God’s plan for your life is bigger than you can imagine and the wait will be worth it. He brought us through the fire many times already and He’ll do it again.
Recently, I received a second opinion from Dr. Barrios at Baton Rouge General regarding our status and whether there was a need for an intense work-up on me. Up to this point, I haven’t experienced any irregularities other than a simple cyst which was determined normal and nothing that would impede conception. After Dr. Barrios reviewed Andrew’s recent analysis results, she was very compassionate and gently explained to me that she didn’t want me to waste any more time. We were dealing with a severe case of male factor infertility and doctor intervention would be required for conception, regardless of any mild issue with me. My body could be in perfect condition to carry a child and we would still need reproductive technology to help us conceive. Natural conception wasn’t likely and Dr. Barrios recommended I see Dr. Dunaway, a fertility specialist in town. She proceeded to explain the different fertility treatments available for couples dealing with this type of infertility.
I sat in the room with Dr. Barrios, clasping my hands in front of me and the tears began streaming down my face. I wasn’t ready for those words – fertility specialist, fertility treatments, IUI (interuterine insemination), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), and IVF (in-vitro fertilitization). Every single fiber of my being wanted to run and hide. I didn’t want this for us. I wanted our child to be organically conceived without any doctor intervention. The idea of our child being conceived in a doctor’s office or a lab made me very emotional. I wanted something to be simple and easy for once. My heart hurt for Andrew because I knew he would take on the burden of our infertility. He would feel as if it was his fault even though he has NO CONTROL over what is going on in his body. I knew he would remain strong for me while secretly falling apart inside.
On that day, my husband’s unwavering faith in God stands out more than any other day. He reminded me that God healed our marriage and He will heal our brokenness and broken hearts. God hears our hearts’ desires and we need to believe God’s promises to bless us. We have to trust in Him and rejoice in the good times as well as the bad. God is preparing us for that wonderful blessing. I will never forget reading those texts from him. His firm response to my cries not only encouraged me and lifted my sorrow but also was another reminder of God’s glory. Andrew was speaking like a true spiritual leader. He was right. We can’t lose our faith in God’s power over our life. We can’t doubt our God. Regardless of which path we may end up on, God will bless us. We may not know what the path looks like right now and it may seem very scary and overwhelming and far away but knowing that God has us in the palm of His hand just as He always has is comforting. We know our heartache won’t be wasted. This is all a huge reminder that no matter how much I prepare or how many plans I make, God is the one in control. His path for us may be different than what we see for ourselves. And I’m okay with that.
To help me on this infertility journey, I have joined an infertility support group called Sarah’s Laughter. We meet the 1st and 4th Thursday of each month in Baton Rouge and provide support for one another for infertility and loss. Men are even welcome on the 4th Thursday meeting because they are walking through this infertility journey too. I am friends with a beautiful group of ladies who have walked through fertility treatments, are currently walking through them or have experienced loss you can’t even imagine. I have listened to their experiences of hormone treatments, pharmacy logistics, financial strain due to fertility costs, IUIs, IVF, embryo adoption, adoption, and miscarriage. It is all overwhelming but having this group of women to vent to, lean on, laugh with and share all my fears and anxieties about this process is invaluable. These women “get it”. They have been there crying in their doctor’s office at one point or another. They have longed to feel life in their belly just like me. They have collected baby clothes over the years in hopes to use them one day for their own child just like me. Some have even experienced the disappointment of failed IUIs, IVF, and miscarriages. There is a lot of heartache among us but the support, love and encouragement in those rooms is absolutely beautiful. It’s a safe place for us to find the support we need during our infertility walk. These women were right there to pick up my spirits when I left Dr. Barrios’ office a few weeks ago, loving me, encouraging me and letting me know I’m not alone in any of this. I don’t know what I would do without them.
I hope to provide encouragement to women and couples struggling with infertility in our days ahead. You aren’t alone in this battle and it’s a walk you shouldn’t do alone. If you are in the Baton Rouge area, I urge you to attend a Sarah’s Laughter meeting. It will replenish you and hug your hurting heart in ways you didn’t think were possible. It is one of the greatest gifts I have received in this journey. There is also an upcoming infertility workshop this weekend on August 27, 2016. The infamous infertility blogger Elisha Kearns of Waiting for Baby Bird is the keynote speaker. Dr. Storment and Dr. Dunaway (both fertility doctors), Sarah’s Laughter’s very own Beth Forbus and a few others will have their own round table discussions. If you are interested in attending, please register here. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
We have since seen Dr. Dunaway and he recommended IVF as our best chance for conception. We are awaiting a few test results but IVF will ultimately be the path for us. Treatments are very expensive but I’m praying for God’s guidance through all of it. Of course we are still praying for our little miracle but are also ready to face these fertility treatments with a brave face. I have my “big girl” panties on!
As I evolve, grow and change, this blog will evolve with me. As we move along in our fertility treatments, I will keep you updated on everything. I’m taking off the mask of infertility and stepping out of the closet.
Come wander with me y’all…