A Heavy Burden: My Journey with Fertility/Infertility (Part One)

I’ve vowed never to write a blog post with “Part One” in the title; however, some stories are too long to be told in one post. I also vowed not to write these posts as the events happened because I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable or think I was wanting attention. But I’m reading this book, and a section on grieving really spoke to me. It basically challenged me to give my account, to rehash these events, and grieve well by doing it. So, if you’re uncomfortable, blame the book. ūüôā

It’s been a rough year.

To be honest, the past 12 months have been some of the roughest times I’ve faced–both in my marriage and in my life. My son is napping, so I have time to write the long whole story. Your welcome ūüôā

In May of 2013, through much prayer and fear (mostly on my part), Jay and I decided we would be moving to Houston where he would take a new position as a Pastor to Children and Parents. We were living in the Dallas area, super happy with our church home, our proximity to our parents, and our friends. We felt the Lord leading us to Houston, so over those next couple months, we worked out all the logistics.

At the time, I was working for Dr Pepper at their corporate location in Plano. I had just started in March, and it was a tough go from the beginning. My manager and I had little in common except for our place of work. Our main difference was our view of our careers: she thought of it as life, I thought of it as income and an outlet for productivity. My 18-month old son was down the street at a local daycare, and I wasn’t about to sacrifice more time with him or my husband, more hours in traffic, and more toll charges on the blasted highway.

Things got really stressful there, and it took all I had to drag myself into the office cubicle. I often arrived early so I could sit in the parking lot and motivate myself to walk in, a feeling I later learned was shared by all those under her leadership. While there were some really good things happening there, I was burdened by this manager.

Then we learned in May that we were headed to Houston, and I thought,¬†Yes! A way out from under this awful position! I had prayed for the Lord to give me a peace about leaving that job, but He didn’t, so I had stayed. Finally, I knew I’d get to leave.

We started the complicated process of listing our house (somewhat secretly, because we couldn’t inform our church yet), moving stuff to a storage unit (for staging), and working out all the details with the soon-to-be new church. All the while our crazy Student Pastor Summer Schedule was in full force (1 Student Camp, 2 Mission Trips, and 1 Children’s Camp). Add all that to the stress of my¬†job and ugh, it was ugly cry time for me.

And then another surprise.

A positive pregnancy test.

Shut the front door. 

The thoughts in my head were something similar to this:

What the what?! How can I be pregnant now? Lord, what are you thinking? Now? I can’t do this! Oh gosh. What am I going to tell Jay? He’s so stressed with all this stuff…he’s going to flip! I won’t tell him. I’ll wait until after we move, and then surprise him. Oh man. I don’t even know where my maternity clothes are!

I couldn’t muster the strength to tell Jay that night, so I waited until the morning. When I told him, he was so happy. And I cried. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the baby. I just thought the timing could’ve been better. (There I go, thinking my way is better than God’s way.)

That was June 6.

Six weeks later, I was on my knees, begging the Lord to save my baby. The symptoms had started a week before that, causing me to Google everything I could think of in order to avoid the one answer I didn’t want. I hadn’t even been to a doctor yet. Hadn’t heard a heart beat. Hadn’t seen a single picture.

At 10 weeks pregnant, I miscarried. Jay was at camp. I was at my parent’s house, hours away. I had to tell him over the phone.

Lord.

We moved to Houston two weeks later. The drive was now 7 hours from my parents, and 4 hours from his. We were so embraced by both churches during this time–by both old friends and people we hadn’t even met yet. Some called. Some came by. Some sent gifts. Some avoided us, unsure of what to say. I can understand that.

I attended my first support group, M.E.N.D., which stands for Mommies¬†Enduring Neonatal Death. (If you need a support group, you can check out M.E.N.D. here.) I listened to twenty or so women give accounts of the deaths of their sweet babies. Some were here for a short while, others born straight into Heaven like mine. I gave a brief account of my brief 10 weeks, feeling guilty I didn’t have more to offer. Feeling more guilty that I hadn’t been excited about being pregnant, and now I wasn’t.

It was the most heartbreaking meeting I’ve ever attended. I didn’t go back.

Over the next several months, Jay and I began asking the Lord for another child. At first, it was more of a “when we get pregnant again” mentality. How do we arrange the rooms in our house? Should I buy new maternity stuff? What names did we want to play around with?

But as the months went on, I became more concerned. And confused. The last time we got pregnant, we weren’t even trying. I wasn’t taking prenatals, I wasn’t on a special diet, we weren’t using predictor kits. Nothing, and the plus sign was there.

Now, I became obsessed with charting, timing, and predictor kits. This time, my thoughts were like this:

I’m pretty sure I feel pregnant this time.¬†

Negative test.

I’m definitely pregnant. I’m a week late.¬†

Negative test.

I take every online “Are You Pregnant? Quiz” available. Answer: Probably not pregnant. I then re-answer some questions that were arbitrary, just to see if they make the difference. Answer: Might be pregnant.

Yes! The online test said so! I really think I could be!

Negative test.

God says, “Ask and you shall receive.” Okay, I can do that. Lord, I want to be pregnant. Please give me a baby.

Negative test.

Lord. 

It’s been over a year that we’ve been trying, a fact that doesn’t really seem so very terrible to an outsider. But to someone who is trying to conceive, they know the year marks an important distinction: you are now considered infertile.

I didn’t really believe that either, so I looked it up. Yep. A year. The Mayo Clinic’s website categorizes Infertility under Diseases and Conditions. Score.

Knowing our struggle, a friend of mine lent me a book titled, When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden, by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer. This particular friend has walked the journey of infertility and recommended this book to me.

As I read through the definitions of infertility (where I learned I was now considered infertile), the descriptions of different treatments, and the section on miscarriage, I realized I haven’t grieved well in losing our baby.¬†I’ve cried, but not grieved. I struggled talking about it. When I saw a pregnant woman in the airport, or in Target, or on the street (they’re everywhere!!), I felt this horrible pang of sorrow¬†mixed with guilt and envy. I suppressed much of what I was feeling because I thought that would help me move on from the situation, but I realized today that it hasn’t.

Part of my struggle was in recognizing that my pain is justified. It sounds¬†strange, but one of the authors of the book (Sandi) explained it very well after she suffered a miscarriage. She stated, “I felt unjustified in my anguish–I had lost someone I’d never known nor touched, yet this loss evoked strong feelings of agony, disbelief, rage, guilt, and depression” (p. 194). I thought,¬†How can I be so upset when people have gone to the hospital, expecting to deliver their healthy babies, only to come home with empty arms? What about people who lose a child like Corbin? That’s¬†real pain.

The author quotes speaker and writer Sherokee Ilse, who accurately observed, “We measure grief by the size of the coffin” (p. 197). Reading that statement made me burst into tears. Yes, I had done this to myself. I minimized my own pain because I didn’t feel I¬†really hurt. I was only 10 weeks along. What a ridiculous thought.

The book also discusses ways to help yourself heal, including recognizing it as the death of a baby, finding ways to acknowledge his or her existence, retelling the story to a close friend (or, apparently, the entire readership of your blog), and finding ways to express yourself (journaling, art, etc.).

This is where I realized I haven’t grieved or healed well. So, I’m planning to work on that a little this week, through general conversations with people, through these blog posts, through some form of creative expression. We’ll see how it manifests itself out.

One thing I plan to do is name the baby. In the beginning, we called the baby Starfish. I know, it’s silly. It’s actually a quote from one of our favorite TV shows. It caught out before we could stop it, and now that’s all we have as a reference. Because we didn’t know the sex of the baby, I thought it would be hard to name him or her. But, I think it’s harder to have an ambiguous name because it kind of depersonalizes the situation for me. I want to talk about the baby freely, without having to explain why I reference¬†my child with the name of¬†a 5-legged sea creature that¬†can grow back its own appendages. :::Shudders::: Having a name does that for me. ūüôā

Be in prayer for us as I search for a name. Also, if you’re interested, check back for Part Two. I plan to look into Secondary Infertility, a title used for those with infertility issues after conceiving and delivering a child.

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