Guest Writer Wednesday: Sarah's Unexplained Infertility Story
Sarah spoke right into my heart with her guest writer post. She reminded me why I started this blog in the first place - when you read the words of somebody else’s story, and the experiences and emotions parallel yours, there is healing power. Validation. Feelings of not-aloneness. Sarah shares her story about unexplained infertility and multiple unsuccessful infertility treatments. She shares her reflection on how infertility impacts relationships and how confused she is about feeling alone through this process. I would love to hear some of your perspectives about why those people often distance themselves from those dealing with infertility. Please welcome Sarah to the Unicorn Mission!
What About Us?
October 11, 2018, 12:09pm – I am anxiously awaiting my test results from our first IVF transfer, obsessively checking my email with shaky hands every 47 seconds.
That morning, I had gone to the local hospital to get my blood taken for the 28th time in the past two years, this time to check for pregnancy. (As per usual, I received a lecture on how awful my veins are due to dehydration – Do you ever even drink water?! YES, I drink more water than a FISH!) At this point, Greg and I have been to three doctors to learn I have a lower than average ovarian reserve but am otherwise perfectly healthy with perfectly functioning ovaries and uterus, therefore by default placing us in that dreaded pool that is ‘unexplained infertility’. At this point, about 10 days after the transfer, I have been on birth control, daily injections, pills and patches for about two and a half months all in preparation for this one transfer. I impatiently wait another 20 minutes before checking again and finally see I have a new email from our doctor’s assigned consultant. I quickly skim through the first few sentences of apologies and know I needn’t read further – our first transfer has been unsuccessful. The devastation of the news hits me a little differently than I expected. I’m sad, but I don’t cry. I won’t shed any tears until I gather the courage to call Greg at work to share the news because I can’t wait for him to get home. Then, the flood gates open and won’t be closed for weeks.
Greg and I have been through much more than most people realize in recent years, but IVF is supposed to have really high success rates, right? This was our attitude going into 2018, with our new confident world-renowned doctor on our side and our heads held high on IVF hopes and dreams. This was supposed to be our big shot – treatment that was bound to work for us healthy, strong-sperm and beautiful-uterus people – but something is still not right. We are still not pregnant. After trying naturally for a year followed by one HSG test, three months of trying while on Clomid (no need to google it – it’s the devil’s hormone medicine), 2 sperm analyses, one saline test, one hysteroscopy surgery to remove a uterine polyp, 2 chicken pox vaccines (nope, I never had it!), 3 failed IUIs, 2 IVF egg retrieval procedures and one FET (frozen embryo transfer), we are still not pregnant. I’ve taken a total of 167 pills (not including 5+ months of birth control) and had 62 needles jabbed into my stomach and butt. But I’m still not pregnant.
So, the question I keep coming back to is – Why us?
If everything happens for a reason like so many of us tend to believe, what is the reason Greg and I have to go through years of such suffering? What is the reason so many people who have yet to even experience adulthood are receiving this miracle without wanting it, but after 8 solid years of growing as close as two people can be, we are not worthy? What is the reason so many babies are born into a world where they are neglected, while we are borderline going broke just in hopes that we can get the chance to prove we’d be better? What is the reason this is not happening for us, not even with the continuous help of medical experts? Where is our miracle baby? When will our anguish end?
What about us?
“As you don’t know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you can’t understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5
The thing for me that has admittedly taken the biggest hit from all this in my life (aside from relationships) is my faith. I spent the entire first year of us trying to get pregnant praying like there was no tomorrow. That prayer seemed to do nothing more than open more doors to emptiness and letdowns. I have always before trusted God in what was happening in my life, good or bad, but for the first time I felt unconvinced of His power. There were even times that comments from others such as, ‘I’m praying for you’ caused me to get angry and scoff at their foolish belief – “Yeah thanks, I’m sure your prayer will get us that baby we’ve been wanting!” I’d sarcastically think while rolling my eyes. I know they are just being nice, I know they are trying to be helpful. But I stopped believing in prayer, stopped believing God was going to help us. I saw everyone else around me getting their chance to shout their announcements from the rooftops, some more than once; but what about us? My faith in God’s timing and trust in what is meant to be (or not be) for us is a continuous work-in-progress. After all – how can you be a believer in God, the creator of all things, and not trust that His will be done?
There are not a lot of words that can be spoken to explain away the unfairness that is infertility. So many encounters, phrases, actions – even at times the absence of these things – have felt like daggers in my already broken heart.
This leads me to the relationships side of this difficult journey. People treat you differently when you are going through something like infertility. I recognize the difficulty some people have in approaching those who are experiencing grief or hardship in their lives. Perhaps it’s about feeling awkward or not knowing what to say; perhaps it’s a matter of believing those suffering need more space and wish to be left alone. But when I really think hard about it, do I actually understand the other side? The simple answer is: no. The seemingly constant detachment that those walking this path receive from others is still to this day something that baffles me and keeps me up many nights. If I’ve learned anything through this experience, it is that you cannot force people to act the way you want or need them to, or say what you want them to say. It doesn’t matter how many posts you put on social media in hopes that friends will come running, or whether you sit your closest friends down and explain the hardships you’re enduring in hopes that they will become your support system, or how many times you flat tell people ‘I am struggling and need help.’ When it comes down to it, if people aren’t comfortable or willing to make the time for you through your bumpy ride, then they simply won’t.
Finding strength in yourself alone is not easy, but feeling strength through others’ support is what every person experiencing infertility needs right at this very moment. If my voice reaches people about any topic through all this, I would hope it would be in regards to this.
I oftentimes reflect on how I’ve handled everything myself through all of this. Being in our shoes, it’s easy for us to look out into the world with envious eyes and a bitter stance when considering our situation (emphasis on bitter). I think of all the times I see pregnant people and have to turn away due to my impulsive tears; the times I’ve avoided social media because the number of pregnancy announcements and baby pictures has reached an excessive volume; the heartbreak I experience when I watch my husband play with his sister’s kids, or just simply considering how he may never get to be a dad
But are the things I feel and think towards others valid? Am I being too selfish? (Is this why God is punishing me?!?) Does my perspective need to be altered? What about…
The times I actually felt envious of those who miscarried, despite the pain they were undoubtedly experiencing? (How lucky you are to have had a miscarriage. What I wouldn’t give to be able to say “I had a miscarriage.” At least then I’d know I could get pregnant.)
The respect I’ve lost for the people, friends, even family members who avoided me or quit reaching out altogether (most of them pregnant people), choosing their own comfort through avoidance over the support and friendship (and normalcy!) I desperately needed?
The thoughtless comments meant to be playful jabs made to us over the years? “When are you guys gunna get going?!” “Do I need to come over there and show you how it’s done?!” (No, I’m not making these up.) Yes, we know how to have intercourse. Yes, we know that we are ‘old’ to be married with no children. And, more than anything, Yes – we need support and respect more than ever before. (And no, these aren’t the same things as avoidance and distance!)
What about all this? Does this justify my pain?
So, while most people we know today will get to sit down next week at their family’s Thanksgiving tables, give thanks for the miracle they’ve received so effortlessly and gaze at their beautiful children’s faces across the table; get to listen to their small voices chatter on about how thankful they are for their superhero parents; maybe get to reach down and hold a swollen belly with butterflies of this image destined to develop sooner than later – Greg and I are heading into the holiday season with heavier-than-normal hearts filled with uncertainty after 3 years of unavoidable heartbreak and the loss of 2 beautiful embryos we will never get to hold. Sure, we have so much to be thankful for – we are both perfectly healthy, have jobs, brand new vehicles this year, a nice new home, supportive families and a rock-solid marriage. But the constant realization that we may never get to stare into crystal blue eyes that came from their daddy and a striking nose they got from their mom (yes, Greg, my nose is dynamite!), and that we may always be *just a family of 2*, consumes the hole in my heart more than one blog can explain.
“Real courage is moving forward when the outcome is uncertain.”
So, what about us? We will keep going, keep getting out of bed every morning, keep smiling even when we feel like crying, continue to take care of ourselves as best we can. Keep growing into the strongest human beings we’ve ever been through this hardship. And continue to hope for a better tomorrow filled with love and good people, not only for us but for all of us walking this path.
Because if you are walking this journey too, it is not one you are meant to walk alone. It’s not just about ‘Greg and I’ us – it’s about all of us.
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Bio: Sarah and Greg live with their dog KC in Lawrence, Kansas. They got married in 2013 and are both Kansas State alumni. Sarah graduated with an architecture degree and has been working in architecture firms since graduating. She also has her own business designing stationery and graphics for weddings and parties. Greg studied horticulture and is the Director of Agronomy at a private golf club in Lawrence. They both enjoy spending time with their families in Kansas and Colorado, and watching their energetic GSP pup run around the golf course!
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