Thursday, April 24, 2014

national infertility awareness week: a guest post

today i have something a little different to share with you. did you know 1 in 8 couples of child bearing age experiences infertility? i've had a few friends who are going through infertility (or did in the past) and it breaks my heart that these wonderful women are struggling to become mothers, something that so many women take for granted. this week one of my good friends lauren, who i met through blogging, is hosting a blog link up for women to share their infertility stories. to reach the greatest audience, she asked a couple dozen bloggers who are not currently going through infertility to host these women as guest posters. so, that's what i'm doing today. 

meet melissa (yep, melissa!) :). she is the blogger i was paired with and from just reading her blog, she seems like an awesome person. i'm so happy to lend my blog for her to share her story in hopes that it might reach others who are going through the same thing as her. while i do not know what it's like to go through infertility, i know from my experience with my dad's cancer diagnosis, there is nothing more comforting than talking with someone who knows what you are going through. so here she is...

I waited a long time to meet my husband. At least, it felt long to me. I spent my twenties a single 
woman, something I wouldn't change for the world right now, but at the time it seemed like torture. All my friends were meeting their future husbands, all my friends were getting married, and I was asked to be a bridesmaid more times than I can count. I thought God had abandoned me. I thought He had forgotten about me and my desire to be a wife and mom. I thought God had forgotten about the romantic side of me. I thought God really didn't care that I was going to die an old maid. 

But God did care and he hadn't forgotten. My husband & I met (for the second time – long story) when I was 29, we married when I was 30, and everything was perfect. I learned a lot in the waiting process. I grew closer to God. I made wonderful friends that will last a lifetime. I got involved in our community theater. Everything worked out. So, I got married later than I had originally planned, so what? Everything ended up just as it should have. I was going to marry the love of my life, we would spend two years just the two of us, and then start popping out those babies. I still hadn't hit 35, so I still had time. Right?

Well, that's not what happened. At 32, my cycles wouldn't regulate after coming off the pill. I knew it could take six months for them to regulate, so I waited patiently, all the while reading “Taking Charge of your Fertility”. I figured by May they would have regulated, and we could start trying. But in May, my next cycle WOULD NOT START. It ended up being an 80 day cycle, and I went in for testing. Come to find out, I had Insulin Resistance, which can mess up your cycles. They put me on Metformin, assuring me it would help regulate my cycles, help me lose weight (something that had been and still is a struggle for me) & increase my fertility. Perfect! I figured after a few more months, everything would be fine & I would finally be pregnant. But I was wrong.

Instead, I went in this past September. I had lost weight, and my doctor agreed it was time to move me to some fertility treatments. She ordered an ultrasound for me, and a sperm analysis for my husband. This is all very standard. I figured everything would turn out fine, she would put me on clomid, and WA-LAH! I would finally get that baby I had been longing for. I am sure you can guess by now that this isn't what happened either. 

I got my ultrasound results back and we found out that I have PCOS. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, one of the number one causes of infertility. A couple weeks later, we got my husband's sperm analysis back. I got the call when I was having dinner with some friends & their mothers. The entire conversation around the table centered around being first-time moms or first-time grandmas. I didn't expect to finally hear from my doctor, as it was after hours. But my phone rang. When I saw it was my obgyn office, I hurried outside to take the call in private. “Melissa, we got your husband's sperm analysis back... he has low sperm, instead of just doing clomid next month, we are going to need to go ahead & do an IUI.” 

Um... I'm sorry. What? Run that by me again? 

It killed me. It crushed me. I didn't think any less of my husband at all, of course not. It was just that I thought at least everything on his side was okay. At least it was only one of us. If we could  just get my issues under control, everything would be fine. But this felt like another mountain in the way of our dream to be parents. 

We had our first IUI with my obgyn in October. It did not work. I called and left a message that I had started my period and was ready to move forward with IUI #2. They called me back and explained that instead they would be referring me to the Reproductive Endocrinologist. No! I said. I didn't want to. I love my obgyn. She knew my whole story. I trusted her. I wanted to stay with her. But my nurse explained that they could only do so much. An RE's specialty is getting women pregnant, he does it all the time, he knows exactly what to do. Most of the girls in my support group went to the same RE and all of them absolutely love him. But it still was just another THING to me, another step in this world called infertility. Most people start seeing an RE a year after trying on their own. This had already been 2 ½ years since we had started trying to conceive. Really, it was about time. But I walked outside of my workplace, sat down on the curb in the parking lot, and cried. I felt so alone and sad and confused. How could this be happening? Doesn't God understand that I have wanted to be a mom since I was a child? Doesn't He understand that I'm already 35?! 

We got our first appointment with the RE for the first week of December. We both liked him instantly, although much of what he said went right over my head. Everything started happening right away. I started my period a couple weeks after we met with him. I had an HSG test to make sure my tubes weren't blocked – they weren't. We had tests run to see if we were carriers of any major diseases. We weren't. I had my IUI late in December. It was unsuccessful. It was much harder on me than our first failed IUI. 

I feel like this is getting way too long. So here is the short story version of 2014. I had my last IUI on the last day of January.On February 17th I found out we were pregnant. On February 27th   I found out something didn't look right, that I was possibly facing ectopic pregnancy. On March 3rd I found out it wasn't ectopic, but it was indeed a miscarriage. We lost the baby at 6 weeks. The pain was unbearable. Devastating. Heart-breaking. There are really no words. 

And that brings us to where we are now. There are still moments of grief, but for the most part I am doing really well. God has brought me an incredible amount of peace since those first days following the miscarriage. I am so thankful for that. Right now, we are waiting for our next procedure. 

Apparently your body is a little confused after a miscarriage & it takes a little longer for it to get back to normal. So we are in a forced break. This break has turned out to be a really good thing for us, though. It's HARD because it just seems like our dreams of becoming parents keep getting pushed out of sight. But it's been good to be able to take a breather from the emotional ups and downs you experience while in treatment.

To end, I would like to share a little list of ways you can help support those you know who are dealing with infertility. First, though, let me say that there are many people who are going through this that you don't know about. It's 1 in 8 couples, and many of those couples keep their stories private. This means that there is a good chance that people you know are dealing with infertility & you have no idea. We have been going through this for 3 years now, but I still have people telling me, “I had no idea you were going through this!” You just don't know what people are going through. That being said, please stop asking couples when they are going to start having babies, even as a joke. If they have been married less than a year and are young, it is safe to assume they aren't battling infertility yet (since it isn't considered infertility until they have been trying for a year (6 months if over 35). The question is annoying to newlyweds, sure, but not PAINFUL like it is for those who are privately battling infertility. 

But here are ways you can support those who you do know are going through it... 

1 – Respect & understand that baby showers & similar events are very very difficult. 

They just are. Some infertiles avoid baby showers like the plague. For me, I continued going to them until sometime last year. Before that, they weren't hard for me. But at some point that changed. It wasn't the guest of honor or baby bump or all of her presents that was hard for me. It was being SURROUNDED by mothers. Moms who could only talk about motherhood. I can't blame them. They're moms & we were at a baby shower for crying out loud! But it was SO overwhelming for me. Painfully overwhelming. To the point of feeling like I might have a panic attack. The best gift you can give a friend is to let them know that while they are welcome to come to your shower (or your kid's birthday party or whatever it is), you completely understand and are not offended if they do not make it. I have had 3 friends have this conversation with me – two who had been through infertility and one who had not. One of them mailed the invitation but sent me a text to let me know they understood if I couldn't make it. It meant SO MUCH to have them let me know that I was invited but that if I chose not to attend that would be okay. It was a huge relief. 

2 – Avoid certain phrases (see examples).

“Just relax & it will happen” or “If you don't think about it, it will happen”

These sayings do a lot more harm than good. First of all, they're just not true. Everybody knows somebody who just relaxed & then got pregnant, but guess what? That person wasn't dealing with infertility! Infertility is a medical condition. It's about PCOS or endometriosis or low sperm counts. You can relax from here to kingdom come, and it's not going to change what is medically wrong! Also, saying that tells them that you think they AREN'T relaxed. Me, personally, there have been times when I have been stressed about it but there have also been months where I have been full of great peace. It still didn't happen! And someone insinuating that I'm NOT relaxed & that's why i'm not pregnant... well, it sucks. It hurts. I kind of want to reply “I was relaxed until you told me to relax! Now I'm not feeling very relaxed!”

“If it's meant to be, it will happen.” or “If it's God's will, it will happen.” or “Maybe you're not meant to have children.” 

Yeah, I see you with your mouth hanging open. YES, people actually say these things. I am a christian. I know that when it's God's timing, nothing can stop it! But putting it like “if it's His will” or “maybe it's not meant to be” is AWFUL. First of all, if it's NOT God's will then HE is going to have to show me that in his loving way! That's for Him to tell me! Second of all, going by this logic, the people who stick their babies in garbage cans or leave them in the basement to starve (real recent news articles) are MEANT to have children just because they had them. Come on, now. 

“Just adopt!” 

Adoption is a beautiful thing, and we are not at all opposed to that idea. However, newsflash! Adoption is not an easy button! It is a roller coaster of emotions. It is money, lots of money. It is paperwork and interviews and home studies and meeting babies & holding them in your arms and having birth moms change their minds. It is WORTH IT in the end when it works, when you have your forever baby, but it is still not an easy way out! So to just flippantly toss it out as the answer to all infertility problems is ignorant. Adoption is a beautiful or wonderful thing, but a couple may need to grieve their dream of having a baby with daddy's eyes and mama's nose. And that is okay. It's between them and God. It's a decision they come to on their own. 

3 – Don't feel the need to give a solution (like those above). You don't have to say anything. But if you need to, say something like this: 

I love you. I'm so sorry y'all are going through this. We are praying for you. I don't know exactly what you are going through but I am here if you ever need to talk about it. Or if you just wanna go get ice cream or something. 

Notice how these are different from the things you shouldn't say. These don't offer a half-hearted solution. They just let the person know they are loved & supported. And that's all we really need.

thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers, melissa! 


~Dawn~ said...

So well written, Melissa. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story!

Melissa said...

Thanks, Dawn! :) And thank you, Melissa, for opening your blog up for me to share!! xoxo

Aubrey said...

Melissa- thank you for sharing Melissa's story! XOXO

Erika said...

Great job, Melissa. I totally concur with the fact that the hard part about baby showers (or many all-women gatherings) is just being surrounded by moms who are only talking about their pregnancies/birth experiences/babies. That's really tough. I so appreciate the times when people notice I'm around and change the topic to something less painful and more inclusive to those who don't get to experience those things!! :)

Bridget said...

Thank you Melissa for sharing your story and Thank you Melissa for allowing her to do so on your blog. Reading all theses stories makes me understand more and more what some of my friends are going through...


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