Let me start by saying that our journey with infertility has been easy compared to the difficult road walked by many people I know. I don’t pretend to understand what some people have gone through during their struggles to get pregnant. For most infertile couples, the heartache is unspeakable. Sometimes they want to share but don’t know how to begin. I have friends who tried or have been trying to conceive for five, seven, or even twelve years. The three years it took my husband and I to conceive added to the time we’ve been hoping to get pregnant again since our son was born, pales in comparison to the years of doctor appointments, infertility treatments, and emotional roller coasters experienced by many infertile couples. I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to encountering the trials that accompany infertility, yet the pain I’ve experienced is deep, weighty, and, at times, seemingly unbearable.
I’m not usually so open about my personal issues on the Internet, but after my first post on infertility, several people asked me to write more about our experience with it. If you’re unfamiliar with infertility, I hope to provide you with some insight into what it’s like and to give you an idea of how to talk with those around you who are experiencing this awful disease (Yes, it’s defined as a disease). If you’re reading this as a person who has always been able to conceive easily and give birth to healthy children, give thanks to God! If you’re reading this as a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’re experiencing infertility yourself, I hope you’ll be encouraged in your struggles and reminded of God’s good plan for His children, for those who have been called according to His purpose. If you’re battling infertility but don’t know the unending, unchanging grace of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to trust Him with your life today. As I said in my first post, He is the only one who can bring ultimate satisfaction; not health, wealth, babies, or anything else this world has to offer.
Our story starts in January of 2011. Corey and I had been married a year and a few months at that time, and we decided we wanted to start a family. What an exciting time it was — dreaming of being parents and having a child of our own! I was finishing up my third year as a second grade teacher, and Corey told me I could quit teaching at the end of that school year and could start working part-time until we had a baby. We had always planned for me to stay home with our children one day, and we assumed I’d be pregnant within a few months. When I wasn’t pregnant by the time school let out in May, we just thought it must’ve been because teaching was a stressful job; I simply needed some rest and relaxation. Surely we’d be pregnant by the end of the summer. We were both healthy, exercised regularly, and ate well. We shouldn’t have any issues getting pregnant, we thought.
The year 2012 rolled around and we still weren’t pregnant. By this time we had done hours of research, tried several natural supplements, and talked about our different options. We were starting to grow more concerned but remained hopeful that our time was coming very soon, if we’d just be patient. We decided then that if we weren’t pregnant within another year we’d make an appointment with a fertility specialist. The months passed by and we were met with disappointment after disappointment. It was truly a roller coaster ride of highs and lows: anxious hope, followed by heartbreak and sorrow, followed by more hope that the next month would be our month, the month we’d been waiting for.
Throughout this time, well-meaning people would say things like, “You can always adopt.” Well, yes, we want to adopt; Corey and I have planned to adopt since before we were married, since before we ever knew we had an issue with infertility. Our idea has always been to have several biological children of our own and then to adopt a couple of children once our kids were a bit older, but adoption doesn’t necessarily change a woman’s desire to carry a child in her womb. Another statement I heard often was, “Don’t worry – it’ll happen!” To which I would reply, “How do you know?” There are many women who have lived their whole lives, longing to birth a child of their own. Plenty of women have lived and died and never had that desire fulfilled. Some individuals will declare, “You just need to have more faith.” Is that what you would say to the Apostle Paul, who pleaded with God three times that He would remove the thorn from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8)? Did Paul not have enough faith? Is that why his prayers weren’t answered? And still others would say something like, “You need a vacation. Go on a nice, long trip, and just relax. Don’t focus on trying to get pregnant.” Oh, how I wish it were that easy! My friend who struggled with infertility for a couple years used to poke fun at all of this advice and say, “You know, just stand on your head, stick out your tongue, and touch your nose. That’s what you need to do!” I know these people meant well with their suggestions, but I can tell you that a simple answer is usually best. All a person needs to say is a kind and sincere, “That must be so difficult. I’m praying for you.”
During this emotional time God was gracious to bring some wonderful women into my life who had experienced or were experiencing infertility, as well. I have one sweet friend who, at one time, I called my “infertile friend.” We were on this journey together. She and her husband had started trying to conceive around the same time as us. I’ll never forget the day she sat me down and told me she was pregnant. Somehow I already knew that was why she had asked me to meet her. God’s grace again. It was such a bittersweet time for me. What joy for her and her husband! I was so happy for her. Yet it was a reminder to me that I still wasn’t pregnant.
Corey and I plodded on, walking the road of infertility. In January of 2013 we had reached the two-year mark. It was now time to schedule our appointment with a fertility specialist — but we couldn’t do it. Making that appointment would mean acknowledging that something was really wrong, or could be. What would the doctor find? How could two seemingly healthy people like us have a problem conceiving a child? Would I never be able to get pregnant? Would I never carry a child in my womb?
It wasn’t until September of that year that we finally made the appointment. “No Children Allowed” it said on the door to the doctor’s office. They wanted to be sensitive to their patients, knowing that the presence of children could cause deep hurt for some people. We checked in with the front desk and waited anxiously for our names to be called. E! News was playing on the television in the waiting room, and a mounted waterfall flowed down the wall behind a table of magazines. We sat in silence, nervous about what was to come. Finally, it was our turn. We met the doctor, a very nice woman. She performed an ultra-sound, and I breathed a sigh of relief when the exam showed that nothing looked out of sorts. She laid a calendar on the desk in front of her and told us, “You need to have relations here, here, and here,” as she marked X’s on specific days. In that moment, something beautiful and personal had become methodical and forced. She wanted us to perform a task at a specific time in order to bring about a desired result.
She sent us for more tests. When we nervously met with her again after she’d obtained the results she told us “Everything looks normal, but I’d suggest you go ahead and do IVF (in vitro fertilization).” She said it was better to do it now while we were both young. “If you wait five years and then come back, you won’t have as much chance for success,” she said. Then she sent in a nurse to discuss the different options and the prices for each. Not only were these treatments insanely expensive, but we didn’t really know if we needed them. Everything looked “normal” after all. Corey and I decided to wait. We’d already tried many natural supplements and cleanses, but we didn’t feel like we’d exhausted all of our options.
So, in October 2013 I started a new vitamin and mineral supplement, which was recommended to me by a local chiropractor. She told me she’d seen many couples who were successful in getting pregnant after taking the supplement only a few months; couples who had been trying to conceive for five years or more. “It’s worth a shot,” I said to myself, though by this time I’d heard similar stories and was reluctant to believe this would be any different. In addition to the supplement, I did a fertility cleanse, started training for a half marathon, and tried to focus my eyes upon the Lord and His faithfulness, trusting in His goodness regardless of the outcome.
I’ll never forget the day we found out we were expecting. It was early in the morning on March 3, 2014, just over three years since we first started trying to get pregnant. I sobbed uncontrollably when the “+” appeared on that pregnancy test, thanking God for this answer to prayer. I tear up even now as I recall the emotions of that moment.
And suddenly I was completely humbled. All at once, I realized there had been a part of me that felt God owed me this, that I had earned a baby after all this time. Our prosperous, American way of thinking leads us to determine that God owes us things, that because other people have something, we should have it too. In her book, Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Butterfield points out that it is difficult for American Christians to see that God gives some people one cross to bear, while others carry a different cross, or even what would seem to be an unfair load of many crosses. “Indeed, this violates our sense of fairness and justice. But we don’t get to choose the portion that God gives to us.” God’s Word says in Romans 9:20, “Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?'” Did I have any right to question God? Had I really earned a baby after all this time? Did I really deserve a child? Absolutely not. The only thing I truly deserve is death and hell because of my sin toward a holy God. All I could do in that moment was drop to my knees and praise the Creator, the Giver of Life!
And here I am again, desiring a baby but knowing that another pregnancy may not be in God’s plan for my life. I may get pregnant next month, next year, or never again. All I can do is trust God, knowing that He is good. Some people may say, “How can you complain about infertility? You’ve had a baby.” And how do I know they might say that? Because that’s what I used to say before I got pregnant the first time. I would think, “What is she whining about? She already has a child of her own.” And now I’m experiencing it for myself. Many people told me that after I got pregnant once it would happen much easier the next time. For me, it hasn’t happened that way. It’s something called secondary infertility. I won’t go into it in detail, but if you’re interested you can read more about it here.
So, yes, I’m still facing the same fears, the same unknowns, and the same feelings of loneliness and helplessness, but I have learned a few things along my journey. I’ve learned that one in eight married couples in the United States has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy (www.resolve.org). That means it is very likely that someone you know is struggling with this disease. Infertility occurs in both seemingly healthy and unhealthy people; those who exercise, and those who don’t; those who eat well, and those who don’t. There are supplements, cleanses, and medical treatments available, but nothing is guaranteed to work. Just when I was confident that I’d found my “magic answer,” I did the same cleanse and took the same supplements again, but this time they haven’t worked. God has been gracious to provide humankind with natural supplements, and He’s also given people the ability to discover reproductive technologies that have changed the world of infertility, but our hope and trust cannot be in these methods. Our hope is in Christ. He owes us nothing, yet He gives us everything. Jesus gives us abundant life (John 10:10); it’s not found in the job we work, in the stuff we own, or in the number of babies we have, but only in Christ alone.
And, there you have it: our journey with infertility. As I said, our experience is by no means the worst of the worst. I asked my husband if I should even share our story. I told him it isn’t nearly as dramatic or heartbreaking as the stories of some people we know. He said, “Share it. You can’t worry about that. Someone, somewhere will always have it worse than you.” That was a humbling statement in and of itself. But he’s right. Compared to others our story is easy, simple, short. But I’m hoping that maybe it will open people’s eyes to this silent battle fought by many couples throughout our world. If God can use our story to encourage or inform even one person, it’s worth it to tell.