The singing had just ended in church that Sunday morning and we settled into our seats. I had my Bible ready, waiting for our pastor to announce the passage from which he would read. Instead, parents with babies and toddlers began lining up at the back of the church in a single file line.
At first I was curious. The pastor had mentioned something in his announcements for the last month something about “The Baby Day Parade.” We were still fairly new in the church and since it did not apply to us, I ignored it. But when the parents began walking up to the platform with their babies, my eyes began to fill with tears.
The pastor introduced each parent and the baby. A small pink or blue New Testament was given to the parents for each child.
We were in our third year of infertility treatments and no one knew.
No one asked.
Here was what I deeply desired being “paraded” right in front of me. As little boys and girls in handsome outfits and frilly dresses marched by with proud parents, my throat constricted with each breath that I forced myself to control.
For me, signs of a complicated medical history leading to infertility began at a young age.
Starting my menstrual cycle at age 15 was a red flag that something was wrong. My friends told me I was lucky. Somehow, I knew that could not be true.
When I was in college, I started having other health problems that I was tried to ignore. Lactose intolerance, TMJ, fibromyalgia in my feet and legs, and an elevated SED Rate and ANA rate (two blood markers which indicate inflammation in the body). It could be arthritis, infection, or even Lupus.
Finally, I graduated college and two months later I got married to my man. We decided it would be best to try for a baby right away, realizing that my chances of getting pregnant would decline in my mid to late twenties with my health condition.
It was our third year of marriage when I finally got a formal diagnosis of PCOS.
The doctor pointed out that my right ovary was surrounded with little white dots. It averaged 12 cysts on my right ovary. It was fascinating to see it so clearly and yet so bleak. “There it is. That’s supposed to be my eggs.”
I remember being on the table and the doctor talking to me, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. My own thoughts were too loud. “Is there really any point?”
The doctor sent me home with a prescription for clomid and assured me that would work. Several months later and still no dice, it was back to the doctor’s office. He then changed my medication to metformin. It’s generally used to treat diabetes, but as PCOS is an insulin resistance it is effective for some women in the infertility battle.
I finally decided to seek infertility treatment at a specialized clinic. I thought this was it. This was the answer.
And I had every faith in God that He, the Almighty, could give us a baby.
I dreamed of that day when I could tell my husband, “Guess what? You are going to be a daddy!” I even knew that I would buy those shirts that say “World’s Greatest Grandparents” on them and send them in the mail to announce it to my parents.
We went to the infertility clinic and the doctor was encouraging.
My blood work looked manageable and everything checked out with my husband. We chose to do Intra Uterine Inseminations (IUI’s). I was prescribed several injectable drugs which were prefilled in one pen. Based on blood which is drawn in the morning, I was told what time of day to inject myself at home (I almost hyperventilated the first time I had to do it). Then I was called into the office and the sperm was injected into the womb at the time when I was supposed to be ovulating.
The first month I had the IUI done; the nurse called just as we were going to lunch, my pregnancy test was negative. My eyes filled with tears. There was no baby.
As the months passed, I became despondent.
I also gained weight by this time. The infertility drugs turned me into a basket case and my appetite was out of control. I knew it wasn’t working and the more I prayed, the clearer God’s voice was telling me to stop the treatments.
I did one more round of infertility treatments. Again my pregnancy test came back negative. By this point, I was tired and emotionally overwrought. God had made His point. I needed to stop. When I finally gave in, I woke my husband up in the middle of the night and I will never forget the only thing I was able to get out “There’s not going to be a baby.” That’s all I could say in between sobs. “I am sorry,” I blubbered. “I can’t give you a baby.”
He just held me until I calmed down. I felt broken and useless inside.
It was one of the darkest times of my life.
I demanded answers from God.
I begged Him to explain Himself, but the heavens were silent. “What was wrong with me? Why did this happen to me? I did what you said. I followed your will for my life. I have tried to please you. Why is it that those girls at the high school could get pregnant and I couldn’t? Why do you give children to parents who abuse them and nothing happens to them?”
I was grieving deeply and I did not know it.
It took me several years to realize what was happening. I spent so many nights awake crying. I felt broken, somehow less than a whole woman. I found a book entitled Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey. It was the first time someone acknowledged that when you decide to end treatments it’s just as painful as the death of a loved one.
I had done what every woman does when you first start trying for a baby. I had begun to think of names, wonder who the baby would look like; and even began to plan nursery decorations. I could hear the childish laughter, feel baby soft hands pressing into my own.
But with the decision to end treatments that dream was over.
I could not begin to process my feelings until I realized first that I was grieving and realized that I was allowed to grieve.
I’ve learned much through my journey through infertility.
1. Despite my doubting, God has always been in control.
2. My self-worth as a woman and wife is not determined by my ability to give birth to a child.
3. You are allowed to correct people when they say insensitive things. And I have heard plenty:
- “If you just relax and forget about it, you will get pregnant in no time.”
- “Don’t give up! I just know God is going to bless you. I am going to pray that God is going to give you a baby.”
What should you say to a friend who has been unable to have a baby?
1. “I’m sorry.”
2. Never assume you know the reason for infertility. You’re not her doctor.
3. Never offer solutions to her infertility (especially ones of a sensitive nature, as nearly all solutions relating to infertility usually are).
4. Don’t rush healing when she may not be ready.
We truly believe that I will never give birth to a baby. If it happens, I will be pleasantly surprised, but at this point God has given me peace otherwise. That might mean foster parenting or adoption and that is okay with us. That might even mean none of the above.
Perhaps the most significant lesson of my journey through infertility is that my infertility was not a punishment from God, as I once assumed. It was an undiagnosed medical problem.
And God’s grace is sufficient for that, too.