Welcome to National Infertility Awareness Week. Millions of Americans are uniting to remove the stigmas and barriers standing in the way of building families. Join us each day this week as we share some of our most tender feelings. Together, we can change how others view infertility. #FlipTheScriptFrom an early age, my mom would tell me I loved babies. I would play with them and always wanted to hold them. This hasn’t changed in my journey of 36 years.
I’ve been what some would consider an over-achiever. The formula in my head said if I put in the work, I would get results. Sometimes it would take extra effort, but it always paid off in the end. This was until, after several years of marriage, we still couldn’t conceive.
The Journey Began
We saw my OB/GYN for some initial testing, and medication was offered as the first step in treatment. After a few months, I still remember blinking over and over again at the pregnancy test to try and see if it was actually two lines or if I was fooling myself. I was pregnant, and wanted to tell the world! I already checked Craigslist for a crib and knew how we would decorate the nursery.
Then, two weeks later, my symptoms stopped completely. I knew something was wrong and it turned out I was miscarrying. It was physically painful and emotionally heart-wrenching, and all I could think of was the unfairness and anger that swelled within. This anger took a toll on my spiritual health, and I couldn’t bring myself to really remember to ‘count my blessings’ or ‘look on the bright side.’ I held onto the bitterness for months, until life got busy with school and work, and more months of trying for another baby.
Two years passed, and with more fertility treatments, we were pregnant again. Things were going to be different – my husband and I both felt it. That was until one morning, at 14 weeks along, I woke up to a severe bleeding that continued for several hours. I was miscarrying again, and I pleaded with my Father in Heaven to please not let it happen again. It was so shocking that I felt nothing. I was numb and empty. We rushed to the Emergency Room after I miscarried, as the pain became unbearable. It was a Sunday morning. Mother’s Day. I hadn’t cried until the nurse came in and helped me onto the bed and mentioned it being the holiday, and we both burst into tears. The ugly cry overcame me until the numbness returned.
Understanding my Emotions
Once we got home, I didn’t have anger or bitterness this time around, as I learned those emotions did not serve me well. I felt in complete denial that this was happening. Again. Yet, I was also open to help from above to know how to comprehend our situation. I didn’t know how to proceed, and I didn’t exactly want to move forward.
Two days after our second miscarriage, I had a profound experience that has carried me through our years of infertility. I was laying in bed, in need of some answers for our plight, when I heard a sweet, child-like voice say, “I’m so sorry, Mommy.” The sorrow and heartache transformed into empathy for this soul that was unable to join our family here on earth. I had never considered the feelings of those who prematurely return to heaven, and I felt such an overwhelming love for God and His pain, and our Savior, and His Atonement.
The Passing of Time and New Options
Years passed, and life moved on. My husband attended dental school, and we moved across the country, away from family and friends. I earned my degree, as well as a Certificate in Sonography. I worked in hospitals and scanned many pregnant women. There were times when I would envy these women, and times when they were suffering from situations very similar to my own. I listened to their dreams and cried when the news wasn’t good. I learned how to comfort, and really hear them. And, I started to realize that my miscarriages were allowing me to help, support, and strengthen my patients. I discovered I was far from alone in my heartache, and I became more grateful that the Lord trusted me enough to rise up and serve those in need of a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
We decided to try to adopt, a situation fell into our laps, and we were thrust into the adoption process. It was grueling, and when the baby was born, the birth mother signed temporary rights, and we brought home our little boy. My parents had come a few weeks prior and set up the nursery, and my mom stayed to welcome us home. We spent the next couple days on pins and needles, waiting for the legal rights to be signed and the process to be complete. The birth mother delayed, and we worried but felt so sure about our choice and this gorgeous child in our home.
Four days later,
I received a call from our caseworker who simply said, “the birth mother has decided to parent, and we need to know when we can come by to pick up the baby.” I said, “anytime” (how I got through that conversation without so much as a raised voice is incredible). I told my mom, who cried first. Then I texted my husband, who was in his dental clinical rotations, he needed to come home and say goodbye.
Feeling Broken Beyond Repair
Reid returned home, and we held one another and cried on the couch. I didn’t have the energy to think or feel. I was beside myself with grief, and my heart broke for this little boy that was returning to a tough situation himself. How could we let him leave this safe place?
I stayed in bed for the rest of the night and wanted to crawl into a hole and never see the light of day. Fortunately, my mother was staying with us, and she pulled me out of my stupor and forced me to talk. I remember telling her I was tired of being the poster child for infertility. Tired of trying, and hoping, and trusting. I yelled at her and was insolent in nearly every response, and she listened and loved me in a way only a mother could.
What we learned from the failed adoption is still a mystery to me, and I’ve accepted it as just that – something that doesn’t make sense at this time.
IVF: Our Last Option
About two years after this experience, we moved to Tennessee, where Reid began work as a dentist. We decided to try IVF as our last option, and despite the cost and distance to the specialist, we felt it was time. The process was straightforward, thanks to many, many years of procedures and attempts. My expectations and fear and worry were minimal, as every loss before this prepared us for the worst. A failed IVF attempt wouldn’t even make a dent!
The positive pregnancy test several weeks later was a welcomed surprise, and the pregnancy continued with minimal complications. I tried to stay positive and hopeful and spent evenings poking my belly to make sure someone was still moving. We welcomed our son on Thanksgiving day, and have been so grateful for him ever since.
Our journey has been a unique and lengthy one. I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for success stories and even horror stories to help me get through my darkest hours. Some important lessons I’ve learned through it all include:
Allow yourself to mourn.
Everyone’s experience is different, and one isn’t necessarily better or worse. During our second miscarriage, a cousin lost a child to SIDS and my father said something along the lines of, ‘at least you didn’t have to go through that.’ I know he meant well and was trying to provide perspective, but it minimized my own pain instead. A month of attempting to conceive and seeing a negative result on a pregnancy test can be devastating. Miscarrying might seem worse and losing a child the ultimate in suffering. Yet, each disappointment is difficult for the person experiencing it. You have every right to go through the steps of grief, and when the time is right, move forward. Which leads me to my next lesson.
Help your loved ones by letting them in.
My parents never struggled with infertility, and never expected to have two daughters face years of it. During my first miscarriage, my mom didn’t say much. I needed someone to tell me they were sorry, and offer a hug, but my own mother was MIA. For a time, this really hurt, and I brought it up to her months later, only to discover she didn’t know what to say, so she stayed quiet! It was enlightening, and we were able to talk about each of our needs. My second miscarriage was much different, and my parents now knew how to comfort and support. We all are learning, and need to allow everyone to grow and improve.
Focus your energy on self-improvement.
This doesn’t mean to throw your hopes and dreams of having children to the wind. Rather, during the times when you are worrying about something you cannot control, try to learn a new skill or discover a talent. It took us nearly 12 years to welcome our son, which is a LONG time. I only wanted to be a mother and had every idea under the sun of how I would sew baby clothes while my angel children napped, and the gourmet meals I would prepare before the cherubs awoke.
Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until a few years into our journey that I didn’t know how to sew or how to really cook! Yes, it is tough to divert energy away from infertility treatments, but it can be refreshing. I learned to sew, and made several dresses for friend’s girls. Dipping my toes into watercolors and other painting methods, I also learned calligraphy. After our adoption failed I spent months making Halloween costumes out of cardboard. The work and service were a healing balm. As fun as it is to wallow and worry about what the future might bring, it’s more enjoyable to create beauty along the way.
Serve. Serve. Serve.
Along with self-improvement, focusing on service to others can bring much-needed joy to an otherwise unhappy time. Every time I shared my story with patients going through miscarriages, I felt my broken heart start to piece back together.
We are happy to say that despite the many challenges, we keep moving forward. Grateful for our little boy, we have felt more joy in our lives and have more fully comprehended the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We understand long-suffering and have faith in a loving God who knows each one of us and our individual desires.