Journey to Grace: A Story of Infertility

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.

contemplating life

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.

I prayed.

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.

pacifier infertility

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.

infertility can make you feel broken

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.

allow yourself 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.

Julie writes from her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and pet rabbits.  She enjoys laughing with friends and eating gluten-free.  You may contact her here.

 

 

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Erin

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Comments

  1. The grieving process reminds me of some of the tunnels in VA and NC. They are built into the side of a mountain or sometime through it. As you enter the tunnel, the weather could be cool and drizzly. Inside the tunnel, it is very dark as the weight of the mountain surrounds you. Even though it has lighting, you still have to turn you headlights on in the middle of the day to see through the gloom. finally, you reach the other side. You are surprised by the change in tthe weather and the bright sunshine. It was the mountain itself which acted as a physical barrier to allow the weather to change on the other side. You had to go through it.

  2. Thank you for sharing Julie! I hope your story encourages many others who are unable to have children.

  3. Grandma Becky says:

    I’ve never had to deal with infertility, quite the opposite, but I believe I too would be in a deep depression and grief if I were unable to conceive a child. We do tend to be so hard on these ladies just as some people are rude to those of us who have had more than 2 children. I won’t repeat what they say but you can understand what I mean. We need to pray for and with these ladies, not give them more grief for their pain.

  4. Naturally Erin says:

    Thanks so much, Julie, for sharing your story. It’s hard to live in a society that has ideas of exactly what your family should look like (and freely shares their ideas). When the Man and I were in premarital counseling, the pastor told us that we were a family, regardless of whether we ever had children or not. Wise man. Somehow, word needs to get out.

  5. Yes, many times grief is mistaken as rebellion against God or a lack of faith. We like to quote the wonderful verses , the poignant verses in the book of Job. Then we forget the verses in the beginning of the book where he said he mourned the day he was born. It was grief. God understood and blessed him in spite of his lack of understanding.

  6. Southerngirl2 says:

    Julie,

    Thank you for sharing your heart on this subject. Too much of our culture is wrapped around husband+wife+ kids = family. I really appreciate everything you said. It is encouraging. I have found myself lost among many of these thoughts over the last almost 3 years. I pray that God will continue to reach those with your story that need encouraged.

    • Thank you for the encouragement. Feel free to contact me personally if you feel the need to do so Southerngirl2 or anyone else. Also, i have a Christian support website recently from which i have gleaned so much comfort. It is restministriessunroom.com. Lis Copen started the site as a ministry to chronically ill people who are often “forgotten” by friends, family, and dare i mention our churches :/ I bring it up in connection with this post as there is even a support group on the site for women dealing with infertility! I encourage anyone struggling with chronic illness or infertility to check it out. I now have friends on 3 other continents praying for me. Why? B/c we share a bond. We all know the struggles we face on a scale i could never aptly explain.

      • Southerngirl2 says:

        Thanks Julie! Your are so right, support is a HUGE part of dealing with any major problem …especially health issues! I would love to check out the page on infertility. I have several friends also struggling with this same issue. :( Such a tough subject…that seems to hide in the closet. :( You are so right…even in our churches. That’s not the way it should be.

  7. Blesssings Southerngirl2! If you look me up on the support website, i am listed as
    julia s.e. Hope to see you soon over there.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story Julie! It is very moving to me as one who had to wait a while before being able to conceive. What an important word that a woman’s self-worth is not affected by her ability to bear children and that you are allowed to grieve. May He continue to be close to your heart.

    • Emily,
      It took me a long time to get past that. Some men are so caught up in being fathers. When my then fiance and i started talking about the future, i just busted out one day with it. I was shaking. I told him I would probably never be able to give him a baby. He looked at me and said, “i am marrying you b/c i love you, not b/c you can give me a child.” Here i was scared that he might dump he, but he just looked me in the eye as if i said they were serving hotdogs in the cafeteria that night. So many times i put more stress and guilt on myself than it was ever necessary or worth!

  9. Julie,

    It breaks my heart to read about some of this painful journey you’ve endured. I’m so very sorry. You and your husband have always been truly beautiful people in my eyes. I enjoyed working with you both for a short time in the kitchen at ABC. Your husband was always a kind rebuke to me that left an impression on my heart in the area of trusting the LORD. Julie, you are no doubt an encouragement to many others who silently grieve in the same way.

    I had a question for you. I have several friends who struggle with infertility. It is horribly painful for them to experience the news of other pregnant women. I have been blessed with three children, but have struggled with multiple miscarraiges and two private burials.

    I can’t completely understand what these women are going through as I have three children among my losses, but I can relate to the grieving and insensitive comments. I say this because many pregnant moms come to me not knowing how to deal with announcing their news. Then during their pregnancy and following they become disconnected with the woman who is struggling.

    They want to be happy and rejoice because they are excited, but then they have a hard time being happy and enjoying their pregnancy when they know it is causing someone else so much pain.

    Could you tell me how to guide these women? I have always told them to not say too much (as an insensitive comment usually arises somewhere in the conversation), but to act as they would normally with the individual, letting her know that they understand that their news may be painful and that they are praying for her. Most usually just avoid the individual and the individual avoids them. It’s so tough.

    I’ve always been able to be a listening ear to many struggling women, but I wish that I could help more in this particular situation. I think it would help others too who are pregnant as I know they want to consider these women but just don’t know how. I have one friend who can’t even go to church after the death of her only child ( little girl) that took her so long to conceive.

    Jess

  10. First let me ask, did you hack my texts? Just kidding! I just texted Erin about something as is has brought up some emotions that i thought were done and dusted. I have been able to cope very well concerning this topic for about 3 years and then for a specific issue to resurface took by surprise.

    You asked a difficult question. That happened to me once. I sought comfort from someone that had gone through infertility treatments and miscarriage and she too was “disconnected.” There was very little support there for me when I desperately needed it.

    I only know my heart and once I have walked a path in life, I rarely forget it. When Christ was asked what was the greatest commandment, how did He respond? He said we are, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” What did he say was like unto it? “TO LOVE THY NIEGHBOR AS THYSELF.” I believe we have often forgotten this in modern day Christianity. We need to remember to put on our nieghbor’s shoes once in a while and ask ourselves, “How do they feel? Are there any holes? Are the soles talking to me? Is there AC in these shoes when there shouldn’t be? What would make my day if these proverbial shoes were mine?” Don’t forget where have from. Use it to help others and encourage them.

    Btw Jess, my man will be happy to know that he rebuked you many times! Haha!

  11. That should have been- don’t forget where you have come from. Grrr!

  12. I should mention that the book which i mentioned in the post has a chapter for written to pastors and how to sensitively deal with this subject. It might help to purchase the book and then lend it to your pastor to read. There is also a chapter about how to deal with family and friends who say insensitive comments! It doesn’t hurt to lend the book to family members either.

  13. Thanks, Julie!

    I recognize this is a tough question, and I truly appreciate your imput. I will definitely buy the book to have it on hand to lend to others. It will also come in handy for those insensitive comments. I did have a good book and lent it out. It never did find it’s way back to me. Mrs. Sheets gave it to me after one of our more invasive losses in which a woman came up to me in church , after carrying the baby for 30 weeks, she said “So, are you all cleaned out yet?” I literally melted to the floor with sheer emotional pain. Is that all my baby was to people? It took me many years before I could really forgive that woman. She never meant to be insensitive, she just didn’t know what to say. At that moment, I determined to get through the loss and help as many women that I could. I felt desperately alone in my grieving. I’m blessed to say that I have been able to be an encouragement to many since, yet I believe it’s the LORD who enables that personal healing to take place before a woman can truly move forward.

    Blessings to you, Julie! I’ve told my husband stories about your husband. Somehow I always equate him in my mind as a pesky adopted brother :) But yes, his life experiences and ease in encouraging me to trust the LORD was just what this spoiled American needed at the time. He has a great girl for his wife.

    ((HUGS))
    Jess

  14. Jess,

    The day you wrote the last message, my internet was goofy. I had it all written out and then it would not send.

    I can not believe someone said that to you. That is a HORRIBLE thing to say. I think ppl dont grasp the concept of dealing with infetility, miscarriages, or invisible illnesses for just that reason. They can not see it nor do they try to put themselves in one another’s position. These precious losses are just as real and just painful. There is another book that helped me alot. The title is “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb.

    Even for a person who has a major life change such as being diagnosed with a chronic illness or retiring due to health reasons, they to grieve to a certain extent. Thier life will never be the same. If you look up invisible illness week 2012 on youtube there are archived videos from last fall which can help explain these difficult subjects.

  15. I randomly found this story but it helps with what I am feeling right now. I just had another miscarriage from another failed IVF and it is the loneliest I have ever felt. My own family has simply left me alone because they don’t know what to say. Two weeks and only one missed call from my mother and those that have found our seem to want to send me quotes about it’s OK if you are never a mother, or take my kids. For some reason no one can see that I’m grieving and need to grieve this loss and the past losses and the reality that I may never have children. Why does our soc
    iety want to downplay this grieve. As a religious women it can sometimes be worse because then you are judged for not having enough faith and getting over it. I am seen as ungrateful and dark. Why can’t I be sad without being judged?

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