Sometimes it’s hard to put painful emotions into words. And though I’ve taken time to delve deeply into my grief, disappointment and heartaches of late in order to work through them, it’s still difficult to explain sometimes. Writing this is both a long overdue post, an explanation to any readers left out there and a cathartic exercise for me. Most of you know my father passed away last February. Then my husband and I moved in July. Then we helped my mom go through and ready her house for the market, then moved her to Charlotte in late September. We did all of that while we were also in the depths of unknowns with our adoption process. Everything they say you aren’t supposed to do within the first year of losing a loved one we did. Some things were planned and others just sort of happened. To say the least, it was an extremely tough year. My husband and had been struggling with infertility for way much longer than a year. Which kind of made everything tougher. You get to a point where you know God CAN do it for you, but you just aren’t sure if He WILL. Some of you know this entire story; most of you don’t. So here it is – the good, the bad and the ugly. But it’s my story so I’m owning it.
At one of my last Grief Share meetings, it was suggested that we write a letter about all our hurts and pain of losing a loved one. When I sat down to type – although I missed my dad enormously and still do – this is the story that came out. I think it needed to come out. I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time. There are so many more details, but for the sake of brevity I’ve shortened some seasons to just a sentence. For better or for worse, here it is:
For the past 10 years, my husband and I have been trying for a baby. Close to our one-year anniversary, I called the doctor’s office to get some basic baby-making advice. They told me how to count the cycle days and when to “try.” It sounded like a pretty simple process. We were relatively young and healthy so I thought we’d get pregnant right away. That’s how it happens, right? You get married, you talk about when to have a baby, you try for a baby, and then you get pregnant and have a baby. Oh so little did I know then about the “miracle of life.”
We tried on our own for maybe 3-4 months – honestly I can’t even remember now - but no blue line was to be seen on those dang pee stick tests so I asked my doctor what else we could do. I was starting to get concerned about timing, as we weren’t spring chickens and we thought this would already be happening. She prescribed me Clomid, which made me a total basket case. I remember being mid-sentence screaming something at hubby and thinking, “Why am I screaming? Why am I mad? I really don’t even know!” We both reduced our caffeine intake and I started using ovulation predictor kits since the original person I spoke to told me a certain day of the cycle was “the day” and come to find out I was a late ovulatory, so we had basically been doing it wrong for months. Ugh. So after 3 months of Clomid and not one positive pregnancy test, we started investigating fertility treatments. I was very fortunate to work for a company that covered nearly all of the enormous costs so after much prayer and consideration, we decided to move forward. But WAIT! Before any fertility treatments can be started there are a bunch of things you have to do first. You are required to get a mammogram to ensure you don’t have breast cancer, an HSG to ensure your fallopian tubes aren’t blocked and probably a few others that I’ve forgotten at this point. After those results came back ok, we met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) and made a plan to get pregnant. Over the course of a year and a half, I drove an hour to get my arm poked every other day during the treatment time, looked like an intravenous drug-user because some nurses just aren’t gentle, I endured shots in the abdomen which contained drugs that made me feel crazy and cry all the time and my all-time favorite was the insensitive and hurtful questions from well-meaning people (DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED, that will have to be a whole separate post). There were more tests after the stimulation cycle was complete, then one IUI, a surgery to remove a giant fibroid in my abdomen, two rounds of egg retrievals – one that resulted in two eggs that were transferred but failed to attach to my uterus and another round that resulted in three viable eggs that were to be transferred but didn’t make it past day 5. And waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. After each unsuccessful attempt there was the waiting for your next cycle. Which for me would sometimes be late due to stress. When I stupidly shared this with people who had never been through anything like that I was told, “Just relax. It will happen.” I wanted to punch them in the face. Not because it’s bad advice or because they were being malicious. But because the flippant comment belittled everything I was going through and also made me second-guess myself. Maybe I WAS too high-strung, I would think. Maybe that’s why I’m not a mom yet. Maybe God is trying to teach me patience. UGH – then I would toss those lies aside and get mad at the people who commented. What those well-meaning people didn’t realize is that pregnancy really is a true “miracle of life” – SO many things have to come together at the perfect point in time then so much needs to happen after that for the pregnancy to go full-term. I was reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” at the time and was absolutely shocked at how little I knew about how my own body worked. I hesitantly recommend that book to people who are trying because it’s pretty militant with regard to all the things you can do/check/try…ugh. Let’s just suffice it to say that they basically teach us NOTHING in Sex Ed in public school. I will probably write another post entitled, “What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Trying” but for now I’ll say this: if you are a woman who got pregnant the first time you tried or someone who knows nothing about infertility please don’t EVER try to give advice to someone struggling with infertility. And no, it doesn’t matter what your brother’s cousin’s wife did. No, it doesn’t matter that you are “just curious” – that’s what Dr. Google is for. The ONLY appropriate thing to say to them is “I’m SORRY.” Or, if you know them well, “I’m sorry, this sounds really hard.” Or “I’m sorry. How can I pray for you?” Or, sometimes the best thing of all – say NOTHING. Just give your friend a hug or sit silently with them. Sorry for the rant, that subject gets me riled up every time!
After our third unsuccessful attempt, which we knew was our last, we didn’t know what to do. That day, after receiving the call that our embryos didn’t make it to Day 5 (on our way to the treatment facility, no less), we drove to the beach in a new car that wasn’t even ours yet and allowed ourselves to rest and begin the healing process. It was one of the worst days of my life. I remember exactly where we were when the phone rang. My heart sunk, as I KNEW no one else would be calling so early on a Sunday morning. I also knew it was not going to be good news. For so long we thought if infertility treatments didn’t work we would immediately move right into the adoption process. But I was so hurt and angry that the mere thought of yet another process to get a baby – something that my body should be doing on its own (and without incurring major costs!) - was more than I could bear. After another few days, I tried to research and started looking at adoption websites to help me understand the process but they were all so overwhelming! Do we go international or domestic? Do we adopt a newborn or an older baby? What about all those disabled or brain-damaged babies available on the site? Again, it was too much to bear. So with tears streaming down my face, I closed the computer and after talking with my husband later that night, we decided to close that chapter of our lives. Again, we didn’t know what to do next. So we did nothing. Sure, we gave it the “old college try” for a few more months but with no positive results, we began to focus on accepting the fact that it might just be the two of us. Forever. No children. Ever. The road to acceptance was a long and painful one, but after many months of grieving the loss of a dream we finally got to a point where we could accept it. After a few more months, we were even were happy with our childless status. We would talk about the positives of being child-free and high-five each other for not having to pay for anyone’s college or wedding costs. We dreamed instead of traveling to fun places every year and doing what we wanted, when we wanted. We stayed in that acceptance for almost a year. But then both of us – at just about the same time - started feeling like we wanted to explore options again. A friend of mine suggested foster care. That seemed to resonate with both of us. It could be risky to our fragile hearts, we knew, but we read about how we could opt to do something called “respite care” – where we could relieve current foster parents so they could have a weekend or longer to catch their breaths. We agreed that sounded great (“We can be ‘cool Aunt Jen & Uncle Ken forever!’”) and started down the path of becoming foster parents. That process took nearly another year with required classes and then waiting on other classes to become available. Always with the waiting. By the time we got accepted into the class we’d waited for 6 months to become available, we had changed our minds again and decided that we wanted to adopt a baby through an agency. That process took over 3 years. It included getting physicals, fingerprinted, background checked, counseled and mounds and mounds of paperwork. Then you get to a point where you are “Home Study Approved.” It means all your paperwork is in, everything ticks and ties, you’ve created a profile book for the expecting parents and now you are just waiting to be chosen by one. Some people call this “paper pregnant.” Everyone said, “Congratulations!” when they found out. Only it didn’t feel like congrats were earned; it felt scary and uncertain and yes, there were times we weren’t even sure we’d EVER get chosen. We were told it could take up to two years but blissfully believed it would be “quick” because we were the “optimal parents” and our profile book “looked great.”
Fast forward to today. For the past 20 months, we’ve been waiting to be chosen by a birthmother. Sometimes I believed it would happen. Other times I didn’t. I prayed ALL the time. Other people prayed for us. Heck, strangers were praying for us. At one point we prayed that if it wasn’t God’s will that He take away the desire in our hearts. I shuddered to think about what I’d do with the nursery furniture already purchased and all the clothes that I kept buying with the hopes that they’d someday be used. It began to be hard again to go to Target and see all the other mom’s and their kids. My hubby & I talked about potentially needing to have a “Plan C” at this point…just in case we never got chosen. All that changed in February.
…to be continued