Tell us a little bit about you and your infertility journey:
If you Google the top causes of infertility then you will find our biography. I cannot even answer the simple and common question of “How long did you try for?” because technically you need to ovulate to “Try” and that is something my body simply doesn’t do. All I know is that we were ready to grow our family through adoption or by having children, but we faced closed door after closed door for over two years. Before finding out anything was wrong, we started the process to adopt through foster care. While undergoing foster care training, I decided I would figure out what was going on with my body because I had a gut feeling that something was wrong. I am a data nerd; I thought I could “fix myself” and tried every trick in the book including natural remedies and non-sexy post intercourse routines. I continued to push off making an appointment with a specialist despite the recommendation of my doctor. One day, I received a phone call that alerted me that our plans to adopt would have to be postponed. This was yet another door painfully slammed in my face. I then returned to my OB with stacks of graphs I used to track my body temps, weird cycles, and the ONE time I had possibly ovulated over the course of a year. My sweet doctor saw my internal struggle with pride, and proceeded to make an appointment for me with a specialist. Hesitant and afraid, I complied and started undergoing testing. The results were devastating: PCOS, blocked tubes, Endometriosis, and MFI. We felt like the doors had been closed on both growing our family biologically and through adoption. We couldn’t get on board with our foster care case worker, nor could we afford IVF, and refused to take out a loan. Thankfully, Jesus is never concerned with closed doors and He made a way where there wasn’t one. Insurance agreed to help pay for ONE single round of IVF. If it failed, that was it for us.This was our one chance, our only shot, and the stakes were so incredibly high. Glory be to God, our story wasn’t over…You can read more of our story on my blog thegracehaven.com
Do you think your infertility journey is going to or has shaped the way you parent? Infertility was and is our saving grace as parents. There is just something about knowing the pain of empty arms and silent rooms that changes you and changes the way you parent. The sleepless nights from round the clock feedings or upset tummies are nothing compared to crying yourself to sleep at night wondering if you will ever be a Mom. The tantrums that exhaust you mentally and physically do not seem so challenging the moment you step into the room where you used to give yourself your hormone injections every night. Infertility has filled us with complete gratitude as parents. We know that our two beautiful daughters are literally heaven sent, and that we had no part in bringing them earth-side. Infertility has also brought us into a community of some of the strongest people I have ever met, and it is an honor to continue praying them through their wait, or celebrate with them through their triumphs.
What is/was the hardest part of this journey for you? Honestly and shockingly, the hardest part of our journey was not dealing with infertility. We never in our wildest dreams thought we would experience a chapter that was harder than the years of waiting, testing and finding out we couldn’t get pregnant, undergoing several surgeries and hundreds of injections, or being hospitalized for OHSS and needing my stomach drained. In no way do I ever want to minimize the absolute hell that infertility is, because sister I GET IT and I HEAR YOU! Our journey was just different. For us, the most difficult part was the premature birth of our twin daughters and watching them go through various trials as a result. Infertility made me feel broken, but going into labor two months early made me feel like I failed as a Mom. I wasn’t able to protect them from the world of pain that they faced in their 9 week NICU stay, or the pain from their GI issues they still face 7 months later. I went to the doctor one morning because I just felt kind of funny, and within an hour, I was life-flighted to a hospital over an hour away from where we lived because we needed a higher level NICU. I managed to stay in active labor for one more week (yes, I do mean that I had contractions every 3-5 minutes for an entire week) thanks to magnesium and Terbutaline before our Lani and Libby were born. Lani went to a level II NICU, and Libby was rushed to a level III NICU where I could not even touch her for the next 48 hours. I went from feeling my girls every move inside my tummy to having my daughters over an hour from home and at opposite ends of the hospital. Libby’s lungs kept closing up, so they had to increase her method of oxygen support and clean out her lungs frequently. After recovering from that scary hurdle, Libby was moved to level II with Lani where we thought “The worst was over” and we could finally experience being a family of four. 3 days later, I got a call at 1:30am, telling me that something was wrong with Libby, and that I needed to consent to them giving her a spinal tap immediately. I cannot even talk about or write about the details of the 48 hours following that phone call without sobbing. I can recall every detail of the room we were in, the sounds of the monitors going off, the doctor’s face when he delivered more bad news followed by more bad news, and the feeling of my heart beating in my throat. All we knew is that Libby had a severe infection and Lani, who was held next to her the day before the infection appeared, was also in imminent danger of falling ill. The situation became dire because they could not get medication into Libby fast enough, while the infection had clearly gotten into her blood stream and possibly her brain stem. We did not leave the hospital or sleep for over 36 hours. There is something that changes you forever as a parent when you almost lose your child/children. My husband and I laid in the hospital bed that night, wondering if we would still be parents the next day. We were only held together by our strong faith in the Lord’s plan and the fervent prayers of so many loved ones! I would endure IVF, all of my complications, and my week long labor a thousand times over if I could have prevented what my daughters faced. Glory to God, our Lani and Libby survived, and they are the strongest most fierce warriors I have ever met! They overcame sickness, learning how to breath, and learning how to stay warm. They also overcame learning how to eat, despite painful acid reflux and esophagus damage. I thought the pain I endured to get pregnant would be our biggest hurdle, but God had a different plans. Rather, I had the honor of giving birth to my own heroes.
Did you choose open or closed embryo donation, adoption, or sperm/egg donor? Why? This is a very sensitive topic so before I answer please know that 1) This is something that you are asked to think about in the absolute worst of circumstances. You just want to become a parent, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to get there. 2)That being said, I know several people who have regretted how they proceeded with this part of fertility treatments, and I need them to know that they deserve SO much grace and love. As if fertility treatments didn’t suck already, decisions on what to do with the results of those treatments is incredibly difficult. 3) I honestly do not think there is a universal way that fits everybody’s situation or needs, but I do believe that more voices need to join this difficult discussion so that people can hear about other people’s struggles and triumphs and make better informed decisions as they proceed.
Our approach was not a conventional way of doing IVF, but I am very grateful with the end result. We sought council from the beginning and determined that we would not be comfortable with having extra embryos after our cycle. I say that we are grateful because I over-stimulated during IVF and ended up with 30 eggs and a painful hospital stay. That would have meant around 18 or more extra embryos. Before our cycle even began, we decided we would only fertilize 3 eggs and leave the rest unfertilized. We would then take however many of the 3 that made it to the blastocyst stage and transfer them. We found it incredibly helpful to make this decisions before starting hormone injections and after seeking council from people who were not afraid to ask us questions that got us thinking beyond our immediate desire of wanting kids. We believe that life begins at conception and we are thankful that we got to honor our beliefs during this process. We ended up with a triplet pregnancy, but I unfortunately miscarried Charlie at 10 weeks.
I can honestly say the discussion of what to do with our extra eggs was far less painful for us than if those eggs had been turned into embryos. I had an incredibly difficult and risky pregnancy, so it would be unwise for me to get pregnant again. I am grateful to have the space to grieve over this fact without the added pain of deciding what to do with precious embryos. Again, I recognize that our approach is not conventional and doesn’t work for everyone. I just wanted to share our outcome in case it helps anyone else in a similar situation or at least keeps the discussion going on this topic. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions!
What would you like couples or women who don’t struggle with infertility to know about infertility?
That it doesn’t “just happen” for 1 out of 8 of us. We don’t get to have a glass of wine and a carefree adventurous night and suddenly BAM!… we are pregnant! It is hard to not feel like something is inherently wrong with us just because something is clearly wrong with our body. Please practice mindfulness and listen more than you advise. I do not need to know how easy it was for you, or hear your plans on how you are going to time your pregnancy “just so,” because it has never been an issue for you to get pregnant. I also do not need to hear how your cousin’s hairdresser got pregnant after going gluten free and taking up yoga, or other trivial happenstance methods. I do not need to “just relax” for things to work out. I also need you to know that just because we had a successful IVF cycle does not mean infertility isn’t still a part of who I am. I cannot get pregnant again and that is still a loss I need to grieve. I do not need you to help “fix me.” I just need you to love me.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers? Closed doors are a set back, but they are not the end of your journey. You are walking through fire and will have so much strength because of it. You can skip the parenting classes or books if you want, because you will learn far more important lessons when you are fighting with all of your strength just to become parents. You are not broken, you are a freakin’ warrior!