What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is from my friend Shannon.
We started trying for our second baby when our son turned 1. It had taken about 9 months to get pregnant with our him so we thought we should get started. We kept our disappointment in check the first several months since we didn’t really expect it would happen that quickly for us, but as month 9, then 10, then a year passed, my disappointment turned into confusion, sadness and panic. I was certain there was something wrong, it shouldn’t take this long! I had heard of secondary infertility and now here I was experiencing it.
First, I went to see my OB-GYN where they ran some blood tests to check hormone levels throughout my monthly cycle. The result was that nothing was out of the ordinary. Due to my “Advanced Maternal Age” of 36, they recommended I see a fertility specialist as soon as possible, since I wasn’t getting any younger!
I have a strong Christian faith and I believe in this big God who can do anything. I knew that if God created me, he could create a little life in me but, He wasn’t doing it.
I felt this frustration in my faith, I told God, “why should I have to go to a doctor to help create this life, you can do this!” But, still the months passed with no pregnancy.
Before taking the giant step into the medical world of infertility, I decided to take the natural route and began seeing an acupuncturist a friend recommended who had helped in her struggle with infertility. I would lay on the table with needles poking all over me and cry. I was hopeful, yet skeptical, but mostly sad. After 6 weeks, I decided to stop going sensing that my body wasn’t at a place to accept this healing.
A few months later after 15 months of trying to conceive, we finally interviewed 2 infertility specialists (which I think is odd, shouldn’t they be fertility specialists?) and chose the one who was closest to our home and also came highly recommended. Proximity is key as there are many early morning and daily appointments throughout the process.
Both specialists gave us a very high probability for success, we were still fairly young (many couples who go through this process are in their late 30s, early 40s), healthy and had already experienced a healthy full term pregnancy. So, this should be easy, right? The first doctor suggested we go straight to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) siting that in his experience Inter-uterine Inseminations (IUI) were not as successful. The second, whom we chose, gave us an overall plan...3 IUIs maximum then move to IVF if not successful. We were hopeful that perhaps we just needed a little help in getting the swimmers to the right place at the right time, afterall, they have done it before, right? We completed one unsuccessful round of IUI and found that my progesterone level drops early in my cycle, so for round two we boosted those levels with regular progesterone shots starting mid-cycle.
I was sure we had found the “issue” and was really excited that this could be it! We settled into the nightly shot routine, which really wasn’t that bad and my husband enjoyed the close up of my tush even though he was sticking a 2 inch needle into it!
Two weeks of shots later, I hit my lowest point ever in the process. We learned that round 2 was also unsuccessful and our next step was to either repeat the process again or move forward to IVF. I was extremely crushed and so emotional. I knew that no matter what we decided to do, nothing was going to work, at least not then. Just as it had been with the acupuncturist, I knew I was too emotionally stressed, I knew my body was not going to truly receive anything, so we decided to take a little break and re-group.
This was an extremely painful time for me and I felt very raw. It was difficult to talk with friends or family as most people had their “take” on things - “time a vacation for when you are ovulating;” “take up a hobby and forget about it for awhile;” “oh, it will happen, just be patient.”- and it was just too painful to hear. No matter any one’s opinion on the situation, this was my experience and I felt no one really could quite understand. I found that even my friends who had gone through infertility but were on the other side of it (successful IVF stories, or natural pregnancies) were not as comforting as I would have hoped.
For the first time in my life, I felt a deep hopelessness. Again, I struggled in my faith wondering why God wasn’t answering my petition for a child. I wondered if God wasn’t providing naturally then why would I think he would provide through medical help? Was there another plan he had for me?
It was around that time when a good friend of mine adopted her son. I listened to her story and I began investigating other stories of adoption and as my husband and I learned more that dark hole of hopelessness began to fill again with the light of hope. I had so much dread that we would go through the rigorous process of IVF only to have it fail. Now through the hope of adoption, I knew it was no longer if we would have a child, but when.
We dove into the process and 6 months later (I know not all adoptions are this quick) we brought home our precious, long awaited, baby girl! We were thrilled and as time went on things continued to confirm that she was made for our family and us for her. Yes, her arrival filled the void we felt in our family and we were so grateful for the gift of adoption, however, a successful adoption does not erase the pain of infertility. When a woman is pregnant it is like a great confirmation of her womanhood - a stamp of approval that she is worthy to create life. I still had that lingering feeling of being passed over, of somehow not being worthy of that gift (that may sound severe, but I am sure I am not alone in this feeling).
I found that I was still carrying that torch - a hope that one day perhaps I would get pregnant again, or that perhaps going down the infertility route would seem right to us. But for the time being, I was content with my role as mommy of two.
A month after celebrating our daughter’s first Birthday, we found to our great shock and amazement that we were pregnant with our second son! I was still reeling from our daughter’s amazing adoption story, and now this! We felt extremely blessed!
As we shared with people our news, we often heard “oh, isn’t that always the case? Once you stop thinking about it, it happens.” I couldn’t disagree more. I now know that my struggle had a purpose, that although I felt God was withholding from me, He was actually giving me an amazing gift, one that we could have never “produced” on our own. The timing and placement of our daughter was so perfect that there is no doubt that our inability to conceive was the catalyst to open our hearts toward adoption at just the right time for our sweet girl. Conceiving again gave meaning to the confusion of my secondary infertility. And that meaning is our daughter.