Monday, October 3, 2011

Lessons From Infertility

Alot of you who follow this blog know our story. Some of you have been with me since day one of my journey with Rod, some sixteen years ago. However, most of you aren't familiar with the road we've traveled.

Today, for some reason, I knew it was time to tell the story.

Rodrick and I started dating in August of 1995. We got engaged in February of '96, and married on November 9, 1996. It was the beginning of a beautiful thing. After being married for a year, we decided we were ready to have children.

We had no idea what would come next.

When you get married, you give little thought to "what happens if we don't get pregnant?". It never even entered my mind. Not for a second. So you can imagine when, after one year of trying flew by, and there was no baby, I was a little surprised. Year two rolls by, and I was concerned. Year three, and I was panicked.

This is the part where most people say, "Why didn't you do something medically by then?" Our lives were busy, to say the least. We were full-time youth and children's pastors, and our house was literally a rotating door of teenagers all the time. We were not "prepared" for infertility, because it was kinda just a given that we'd have kids because we were kid crazy. Life moves on. And really, it took three years before the reality hit me.

We were dealing with infertility.

Oh yes, I went to doctors for my yearly check ups. I'd tell them my symptoms and concerns, and how I was worried about the fact that we had no baby after trying for three years. The response, without fail, was "You're young. You've got time."

Almost seven years into our marriage, we (I) finally mustered the courage to begin fertility research, to dig deeply into why this wasn't happening on its own. Rod had his tests. My first appointment was scheduled. A few days before, I decided to take a pregnancy test, to skip a step, as I knew before we proceeded, they'd want to know if I was pregnant or not. I peed on the stick. Turned the shower on. Grabbed my towel. Glanced at the test.

There. Were. Two. Lines.

I'm pretty sure I sank to the floor. Two lines. TWO LINES. And here she is.

Three months after Abi was born, we decided to start trying again. Hoping and assuming it would happen easier this time, we ran into parenthood raising a newborn daughter and believing God for a sibling for her to grow up with. Well, the same story takes place in this second act. Months turn into years and we found ourselves seven years down the road again, and no new baby. We make the doctor's appointment. A trusted friend and mentor of mine asked me, "What month are you wanting to be pregnant by?" I said, "I can wrap my heart around July."

We go to the doc. He looks at records, does his own assessments, and decides to put us on Clomid (an ovulatory drug). Month one, no baby. He discusses with us that if nothing happens by the third month, he will refer us to another specialist. Second month, double the dosage. I wake up one morning, knowing I needed to take a test.

There were two lines. TWO LINES. AGAIN.

It was July 5. And here HE is.

For most of the world, fertility is as natural as breathing. It's 1+1=2. For the other part of the world, the lows of infertility are unspeakable. This is a foreign world to most of you, so on behalf of those struggling, can I educate you for a few minutes?

Here's the deal.

When people you love are around you, rejoicing in their conceptions and welcoming new lives into the world, you want to rejoice. But you want to run. And scream. And punch them. And rejoice. All at the same time.

When the holidays roll around and Christmas cards of chubby babies in Santa hats come to your mailbox, you want to rip your mailbox out of the ground.

A man and a woman are a FAMILY. They are no less a family than a "family" with 5 kids. Children do not define a family unit... the marriage union does.

When people tell you they're pregnant, and they apologize for being so, it doesn't help matters at all. Do not apologize for being pregnant. You did nothing wrong. And please send the desiring mom the invitation to the baby shower (if she is your friend), as awkward as it sounds. People who have a hard time getting pregnant don't want to be made exceptions to the rule. Avoiding them, refraining from talking about the baby, and pretending you aren't excited about your coming arrival only makes the struggling woman feel even more of the "odd one out." Just be normal.

Never, ever, EVER ask someone who has been married a while, "Are you guys not going to have children?" Or, "So, when's a baby coming?" Your intentions are good, I know. But really. That's one of those questions that may not have a pleasant answer. It's like rubbing salt in a wound everytime a person struggling with conceiving has to answer it. Because there's no answer. I cried MANY times after that question was asked, in my car or bed, after the fact.

Avoid phrases like, "Well, it must not be God's will for you to have children." SERIOUSLY? Another terrible thing to say is, "You can always adopt." Adoption is not a runner up option. It's not a consolation prize. It is beautiful and wonderful, and believe me... if someone "needs" to adopt, they know it, so you don't have to give them that option.

Mother's Day is hard. If you're CLOSE to someone, send them a note. Otherwise, just walk away from that. It's just one of the 365 that aren't easy to get through if you're struggling.

Don't assume since someone isn't a parent yet (or ever) that they need to borrow your children. Babysitting is one thing, and most are glad to offer it. But your children are not their children, and "loaning them" to them is not filling the emotional hole in them.

Encourage-- don't harass-- them. Special Bible verses, handwritten cards, and sweet texts now and then will really lift their emotions. But don't see them as a charity case. They need empathy, not sympathy.

If they want to give up, let them. They will most likely come back around in their own time. Some days are easy, and some are extremely difficult. It's a roller coaster ride. And not a fun one. Sometimes there's cotton candy at the end and sometimes there's nada. Zilch. Nothing.

Those who have struggled with infertility see stretch marks, ligament pains, morning sickness, and uncomfy kicks as reminders of God's favor. And when you say things like, "Whew, I'm glad that stage is over for me," it really does sting. Because for those of us who struggled, we longed for what you had day in and day out. It's something that once we have it, we don't take it for granted.

Not long ago, I was in Atlanta with our youth on a retreat. In the CNN building, I saw this monument. And though it was honoring the military, I found its truth to be paralleled to what infertility feels like.

Am I saying those of us who dealt with infertility and then had a baby or two love our children more than those of you who got pregnant effortlessly? Absolutely not. Am I saying our children are worth more? Definitely no. Let me close with this truth.

If you've ever fought for something- for love, for a job you want, for freedom, for a baby... the price you've paid carries GREAT weight in the understanding you have of the value of that prize. So, when you're complaining about running from soccer to ballet to Scouts to football, please remember. Someone near you would give anything to make those drives in the evenings or get up with a crying baby in the early morning hours. Someone close by would give all their earthly possessions to have to deal with the snotty noses and snotty attitudes that make you want to get on a boat and sail far away. Someone right around the corner would love to be able to snap their fingers and hear, "MOOOOOM, LOOOOOOK!!!!!!!" five hundred and eighty-seven times in three hours.

I was that girl.

To all of you who are struggling-- my heart is full for you.

And I get it.


  1. So glad you shared your story. There is something beautiful and healing about sharing our struggles with others. I loved your advice for how to respond to those dealing with infertility. It was definitely helpful to hear from your perspective.

    I know how strong the desire for a baby can be. Even a few months of trying to get pregnant felt like an eternity for me because I just wanted it so badly, so I cannot even begin to understand how difficult it must have been for you to wait all of those years. I'm so happy God has blessed you with 2 amazing little ones! Just reminds me of the scripture verse going around Pinterest, "For this child, I have prayed". What a beautiful story. Lots of love to your family.


  2. That was so beautifully written Jill! I was one of those little girls that LOVED playing with her baby dolls, I clearly remember praying - with great faith - that when I woke up in the morning one of my baby dolls would be alive. "-)

    Wheverever we went, church, someone's home, etc. if there was a baby in the room, I was asking the Mom if I could please hold him/her. I started babysitting when I was only 12 years old and babysat every chance I got - I even got to babysit in college for President Bush's first cousin, I was supposed to babysit for his sister but a tropical storm kept them from visiting their grandmother, who lived about 15 min. from here, so that never happened. "-) I loved every babysitting job I got. Even with four young kids of my own, I love babies to this day and have a great time holding and playing with the babies in our church!

    I got married in my late 20's and we waited three years to start trying (I was a nanny for a family and looooved my job, my husband was working in a CPA firm in New York City and we were working hard to save money) and I still remember that once I went off the pill and nothing happened for a couple of months I suddenly thought for the first time in my life "what if I can't get pregnant?" and the terrifying feeling it was. I did get pregnant very soon after and then never thought about it again but I clearly remember how I felt when those thoughts crossed my mind. But I can't begin to imagine how it must have felt to realize you WERE dealing with infertility, especially when you long to have children - not someone who says "if it happens it's okay and if it doesn't it's okay too" but someone who longs to have children.

    I've walked that road with family and friends and it's heartbreaking to see the pain they go through. I'm so glad God has blessed you and your husband with your daughter and now a son. I'm really glad you wrote this post - it is a great reminder to me and others of what helps and what doesn't. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Mary Ellen