Friday, February 21, 2014

Our Infertility Story

I was that girl who spent my teen years babysitting all the time.  I loved kids.  I connected well with them.  I always dreamed of having two of my own one day.  I even had their birth order and names picked out.  I would have a boy first and his name would be Caleb Bryce.  Then, exactly two years later, I would have a girl and name her Leah Michelle after one of the kids I babysat.  I was especially excited that she would always have an older brother to protect her.  It was the perfect scenario in my mind.  And, the middle name Bryce was after the high school love of my life (although he never knew that.  In fact, he didn't really even know I existed!  HA!  But, when he did figure that out and marry me, I would definitely name our first born son after him!!!!)

Fast forward to May 15, 1999.  I got into a decorated Mazda 626 after a beautiful wedding surrounded by 450 friends and family.  We pulled out of the parking lot of Southside Baptist Church and took a left onto Raymond Road.  And, our journey began.  We were married.  We had big dreams.  We were in love.  And, we were no where close to wanting to have kids.  Actually, it was barely even a discussion for us.  We loved life as just he the two of us.  We actually felt sorry for people who had kids because of all the extra work and the money it cost to raise them.  

Then, one day, out of the blue, I realized I was ready!  I realized I was missing the joy of holding a tiny babe.  I was ready to be a mom.  I excitedly told Dan.  He quickly said "no way!"  He was not ready and, honestly, he didn't know when or if he ever would be.  I was crushed.  But, I quickly rebounded because we had a great life together.  We loved being married and we loved the freedom and flexibility of it.  

Not long after that, we moved to a new church and new town.  We were living in a tiny apartment as we looked for a place to live.  The place was hideous.  It had green walls and green carpet.  The walls were sticky.  The furniture was gross.  It was terrible.  But, it was free.  I'll always remember the place I was standing when Dan said "I'm ready!"  I had no idea what he was ready for.  Then, he said the words.  "I'm ready to be a dad!"  One would think I would be super excited but I wasn't.  I had kind of reconciled in my mind that it would be just the two of us.  But, it didn't take long for my mind to switch gears and get really excited.  And, in my naivety, I began to imagine the way we would announce to our parents that we were pregnant when the test would be positive THE VERY NEXT MONTH!  (see, I told you I was naive!)

You can imagine my surprise when I took the test the next month and it was negative.  Honestly, I was truly shocked.  I thought if you wanted a baby, you had one.  I didn't know about counting days or taking temperature or buying kits or taking medications.  All I knew was that I wanted a baby and it shouldn't be that hard.  But, it was.

And, month after month, the tests were negative.  And, my heart broke a little more each time.  It was in that time that random people at church would start the comments that I have so come to despise now.  

"You look like a natural!"  (While holding a friend's baby!)
"You aren't getting any younger!"
"Your parents want a grandbaby!"
"If you wait until you can afford it, you'll never have a baby!"
"You hold the baby.  Maybe it will give you the fever!"

With each comment, I would be crushed on the inside.  At this time, no one knew how desperately we wanted a baby.  No one knew how many tears I had cried.  No one knew the articles I had read or the money I had spent on ovulation kits, basal thermometers, blood tests and pregnancy tests.  But, the comments kept coming and the tests kept being negative.

After months of no success, my doctor began more invasive testing on both of us.  We spent many hours traveling back and forth to Jackson and Baton Rouge.  Dan had spent many hours with the door closed to his office while he consoled me on the phone or spoke with various medical professionals.  Our pastor's wife at the time, actually asked me if we were talking to another church.  It was obvious we were dealing with something very secretive and Dan had distanced himself from the staff as he navigated these deep waters.  Her question led us to sit down with them and share our struggles and hurt.  They graciously walked with us through those dark days and helped us begin to share what we were dealing with.

As a note, if you are reading this and infertility is not a struggle you have had, PLEASE...never assume a couple who doesn't have children do not want them.  Never make comments about how natural they look or how they should have kids.  Never joke with them about how they are depriving their parents of grandchildren.  That only twists the knife deeper and deeper into their already broken souls. 

The word quickly began to spread about our issues.  That kind of happens when you are on a church staff but especially happens when you live in a small town.  I continued to go to doctor appointments.  And, might I just add that a woman struggling with Infertility should never have to sit in a waiting room at the OB office.  That place is full of ladies with tiny babies in infant carriers and many more ladies with round bellies and lots of excitement.  But, that was the reality of my life.  And, it was hard.  

On the day that I started Clomid, I remember walking into the living room where Dan was watching TV.  I thought that little pill would be our answer.  I held it in my hand and sat in Dan's lap as he prayed that God would use that tiny white pill to help us bring a baby into the world.  I took that pill and ended the night with great anticipation.  We finally had our answer.  Except, we didn't  Month after month, we were still disappointed.

My doctor finally had an answer for our problems.  We had "Unexplained Infertility!" Which, by the way, is no answer at all.  There was nothing more she could do to help us unless we wanted to go the route of IVF.  We. Were. Crushed. 

We began to weigh our options.  The cost of IVF was more than we could imagine.  Especially since there were no guarantees.  And, our hearts just kept being drawn towards adoption.  Dan was a little (actually MUCH) more skeptical of the adoption route.  But, he also knew that the IVF route just wasn't for us.  I remember very vividly the night we sat in our bed and watched the video from AWAA as adoptive parents met their children for the first time.  I sobbed.  I looked over to see him wiping tears also.  That night, we became prospective adoptive parents.  We filled out the paper work, paid some fees and set out on a journey to adopt 2 children under age 2 from Russia.  We requested one boy and one girl.  They would be Nathan Asher Glenn and Anna Claire Glenn.  We were elated.

We began to share the news.  It was met with joy from many people and much skepticism from others.  We heard the horror stories of attachment problems and developmental issues that come from adopting from another country.  We began to work really hard to raise money.  (Adoptions cost a lot, y'all!)  People rallied around us.  We began to buy clothes that were on clearance.  I started shopping for nursery furniture.  We were paperwork pregnant, as they call it.  

Because of space, I won't go into great detail here about all that happened, but on the Friday before Mother's Day in 2005, God closed the door on our adoptions with Russia.  We were MANY thousands of dollars in to the process.  Our hearts were set on bringing little Russian toddlers into our home.  But, that wasn't God's plan for us.  And, we were lower than we had ever been.  For goodness sakes, how much more awful can it be to get that news on the Friday before MOTHER'S DAY!!?!?!??!

I'll never forget going to the grocery store early on the morning of Mother's Day before I went to church.  As the cashier finished my transaction, she handed me a floral key chain and said "Happy Mother's Day."  As I reached to take it, she said "Wait, you are a mom, right?"  I shook my head no.  She took it back and said "Oh, sorry.  Never mind then!"  

I pulled into the church parking lot and a man who was greeting for the morning yelled across the lot to me (maybe 20 feet away) "Happy Mother's D....oh wait, you don't count!"  And, I lost it.  What I had felt for so long was finally verbalized.  I didn't count!  I went straight to the sanctuary to find Dan.  He was upstairs in the sound booth.  When he saw me crying, he thought someone had died.  You should probably know that I'm not a crier!  If I cry, things are BAD!!!  When I told him about what had just happened, he came unglued!!!  Dan doesn't have a temper.  He doesn't react without thinking.  But, that morning, he marched right outside and told that man that what he just did was uncalled for.  He told him that church is the place that every woman should feel that they matter whether they have birthed a child or not.  The man got in his car and left and never greeted at our church again.  He blamed Dan.  That is one blame that Dan will take to this day.  And, it is why you will always understand the way Dan words things on Mother's Day at church.  You see, he knows the Mother's Day is a PAINFUL day for many women.  He knows some women who don't even come on that day because their heart can not take the hurt.  He knows there are women who long to be mothers and women who have lost their mother and single women who want to be married so they can be a mother and women who are estranged from their mother.  In the midst of corsages and smiling women, there are women struggling to breathe on that day.  God let us experience this so Dan can be a better pastor...especially on Mother's Day.  (more proof that God never wastes a hurt!!)

Not long after Mother's Day, we were contacted by a friend who asked if we would be interested in a private adoption.  Once again, because of privacy issues, I can't give many details, but we jumped in with both feet.  But, at the hospital, the birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep her baby.  And, once again...we were crushed.

It was that night that we decided that it was obvious that God didn't want us to have kids.  We determined that He must instead want us to find kids to invest in.  We began to dream of mentoring a kid throughout his life then paying for him to go to college.  We talked about being able to send kids to camp and buying school clothes for kids who never got any.  We were convinced that God wanted us to use our position to invest in the lives of needy kids.  

But, before we began that, we felt we deserved one splurge of our own.  We looked a big vacations but settled on a brand new Tempurpedic Mattress.  This was something we never would have bought otherwise.  It was several thousand dollars.  But, hey, when you don't have kids, you can afford to do some things like that.  So, we ordered our mattress and had it set to be delivered on November 29, 2005.

On the night of November 28, our friend Debra called to say that she made a lasagna for us for dinner.  After dinner, Dan was cleaning the kitchen and I went to the bathroom to get something out my cabinet.  Staring right in front of me was a box with one last pregnancy test.  I threw it in the trash.  But, something wouldn't let me trash it because of how much it cost.  So, for some strange reason, I took it.  I had NO reason to believe I would be pregnant.  I took the test, put it on the window seal, washed my hands and left the bathroom.  As I left, I grabbed the test from the window and dropped it in the trash.  As it hit the trash, I glanced down and saw something I had never seen before.  I saw a pink line.  WHAT?  I picked it up and stared at it.  I stared a little bit more.  I walked down the hallway and said "Dan?  DAN?"  As I rounded the corner into the kitchen, his back was to me.  I said "DAN!  I'm pregnant!"  He turned and looked at me.  I held test up.  His forehead was full of lines.  He said "Hmmm.   Hmmmm"  He didn't say much more than that.  We were both SHOCKED.  There was NOTHING to make us think we could get pregnant or be pregnant.  This must be a mistake.  So, we stopped what we were doing and went to Kmart to buy more tests.  We bought one of every brand.  And, would you believe, they were all positive?!?!?!

Please forgive the scrapbook photo.  Apparently, I do not have digital files from these days!


I had a scheduled yearly exam the next morning with my OB-GYN.  When Rhonda called me back, we stepped right inside the door and she asked how I was.  I said "I think I'm pregnant!"  I will never forget the look on her face.  She gave me that pity look of "Oh, sweet girl!"  She didn't want to disappoint me again like she had done so many times.  But, she sent me off with my cup.  The initial test immediately came back as positive.  Her eyes were HUGE!  She wanted to do a blood test also.  But, before she could get back to the room, my doctor who had walked this entire journey with us rounded the corner with tears streaming down her face.  She had just heard the miraculous news.  We sat in the room and cried together.  (9 months later, she delivered my 7 pound, 10 ounce baby boy!)

Oh, and just so you know, panic set in about how much money we had just paid for a mattress when we had a baby on the way!  Who buys a nice mattress when they have diapers to buy?!?!  To this day, we still have that mattress.  It is now in our guest room.  It is a constant reminder to us of God weaving our story.  Sometimes, when a guest comes to visit, I'll say "have you ever heard the story of this mattress?"  They will usually say "I don't think so!"  So, I'll start with, "well, we really wanted to have a baby and..."  I usually get stopped because people think I'm about to get graphic with a story about my mattress.  Ha!
Let me pause for another admonition for you.  Please,  never say "See, when you quit trying it just happened."  NEVER SAY THAT!  And, while we are on the idea of things to never say, please do not offer your opinion to any adoptive parent.  Telling them horror stories will not change their mind.  Had God chosen to begin our family by us adopting babies, we would have been a-ok with that.  We had so many people say to us "Whew, aren't you glad you didn't adopt now?"  No, as long as there are babies without homes. we would have been thrilled to become parents to them.  It is just that God didn't lead us down that path.  We were never "glad" that it didn't work out.  And, honestly, we still very much hope to pursue adoption.  We would love to adopt an older child at some point.  

Infertility is the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  I wondered why God didn't deem me worthy enough.  I wondered if he knew something about me that he was protecting a baby from.  I wondered why those people who beat their kids in Wal-Mart got more than one baby and I only asked for one.  I wondered if our family would ever spend a holiday with us since we wouldn't have kids to celebrate with.  I wondered what would happen to Dan or I many years down the road when we lost the other one.  Who would be there with us to help?  I had many questions and no answers.  

But, on this side of Infertility, I have one answer.  He is God.  I am not.  I don't know the story he is weaving.  I don't know what He is working out for my good.  I don't know  what He wants to do in me and through me to make me more like Him because of this process.  But, one thing I do know is that He is faithful...even when I wasn't. 

The one statement that bothered us most through this process was the many times we heard "God is good!" just because we got pregnant.  I remember so vividly the night we laid on our bed in a dark room and said "Why do people equate God's goodness with getting what they want?  Every time someone gets good news, we hear God is good!  Is God not good because we aren't getting what we want?  Is His goodness only for other people?"  We wrestled with that a lot but came to the conclusion that regardless of our situation, God was still good.  And, it was up to us to live lives that proclaimed that.  Yes, we were broken, hurt, tired, broke and discouraged.  But, HIS goodness never changed.  Here I sit on this side of Infertility.  I have two awesome kids.  God IS Good.  But, so would he be good if my house had no toys,  I had never gotten to decorate a nursery or never wept with tears of joy over becoming a mother.   

Photo by Ann Axon Photography

There are so many details of our story that I left out.  There are parts that were so gut-wrenching that I could not write about them here.  There are parts so joyous that the words could never convey the true experience.  

Infertility is brutal.  But, God is so faithful.  Hold on to that when your arms are just longing to hold a baby!


Caroline said...

He is SO faithful!! Thanks for sharing! Congrats on your sweet and precious family!

Tienna said...

What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing, and for being so detailed. And I love what you said about people declaring "God is good" when you get what you want. Because the truth is, He knows what he's doing all the time and he's ALWAYS good!

jenny winstead said...

I never knew this about you! I am so thankful to have read this as my heart will be more sensitive to others in the future! XOXO

Ms. J said...

What a great testimony! My husband and I struggled with baby #1 and we are currently struggling with baby #2 and we just keep saying over and over- He is faithful!! He is good!!

Penny said...

Beautiful, brave, honest story. Two 26 yr old women in my family have been struggling with infertility (one secondary) for a couple of years. Both were told by fertility doctors that it would not happen naturally. Neither could afford IVF. One was told she was in early menopause and both were told they were not ovulating. Both are due in September.... The only intervention? Prayers. Still chokes me up. Please keep them in your prayers for healthy babies and deliveries. Lacey Corbit and Courtney Maples. :)

Amber said...

LOVED reading your story!!! I also loved the advice you gave as well!!!

Marianne said...

What a beautiful testimony for how awesome God is and how everything is in His time, not ours! I find it so incredibly sad that our soceity determines a female's value in her being a wife and a mother. Then when God gives someone a different walk in life, even if it is just temporary, they are belittled and made to feel so insignificant. Bless you and your husband for your journey and thank you for your understanding of those who are still building their testimony!

Musings of a Childless Mama said...

WOW!!! I loved reading your story!!! THank you for sharing. We cant have kids, and adoption is not an option for us, and sometimes, when I read stories like yours, I dont really know if you "get it", but you do! Wow!

Katie said...

Yes. This. All of it.

I think you don't really realize all the things people say or do regarding being a parent until you are in the thick of it. But after struggling with infertility I am MUCH more aware of what I say to people.

Thanks for sharing your heart so beautifully and reminding others that we are not alone in this.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading your story! I don't know if the journey we are on is infertility yet but I agree with you 100% on the unwanted/unneeded comments. People speak so freely about others situations that until they go through what others are experiencing, they will never understand how hurtful their comments are. I just want to tell you that your story brought so much hope to me! Thank you for sharing.


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