A special Mother's Day post: Infertility
This holiday may hold special meaning for you. This holiday may also bring pain and distress to you. I’ve personally felt the gamut of feelings that come with this holiday but for the most part, I’ve come to realize this day is not about me. It’s a day to recognize the special women who have made an impact in my life and the lives of those around me, including my children.
I want to use this as a time to recognize women who struggle to bear children, women who bring children into their home whom they didn’t carry themselves for the 9 month gestation period, women who struggle through the darkness of postpartum depression and anxiety.
This is for you. Happy Mother's Day.
***This is Part 1 of a series of posts that deal with challenging issues such as infertility, fostering, and postpartum depression. Be sure to check out the other posts that will be coming soon!
“It’s not that we love the wait, we just love who we’re waiting for.” Unknown.
Although I have my own journey of secondary infertility, I wanted to share others’ experiences of struggling to conceive.
Katie Phelps is a dear friend and former colleague of mine of the student newspaper Scroll at BYU-Idaho. Katie enjoys crafting and designing things. You can follow her on Instagram at @elbeedee_kt. After Katie and her husband, Bryan, had been married for a year. Finally, after a year and a half of no baby, they figured something wasn’t right.
They saw a doctor, which was a very negative experience for them with an already highly emotional situation.
“She was terrible. She told us that we didn’t know how to make a baby. It was the most miserable experience I’ve ever had,” Katie said. The doctor was insensitive to their concerns and threw out diagnoses without actually testing them. At first she said PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and prescribed her pills and then told Katie to stop eating all grain. Katie and Bryan were overwhelmed and disheartened.
They stopped going to her and went to the University of Utah for help. There, a wonderful, insightful doctor helped her work through possible reasons for their fertility struggle.
Through all the testing, they couldn’t find out what was the issue. Despite their previous doctor’s diagnosis of PCOS, Katie didn’t have the symptoms of it and had very regular periods.
The doctor told them that fertility is like an iceberg. There are so many different reasons for infertility, and they are only able to pinpoint around 5 percent of the reasons people can’t get pregnant.
Katie was put on clomid, and then they began the process of artificial insemination. They did three rounds and on the fourth round, the doctor told them if they didn’t get it this time, they would move on to in vitro fertilization. The fourth time worked like a charm, and a baby boy was born to them in 2010, after 2 and a half years of trying.
When James was 6 months old and still not sleeping through the night, they found they were pregnant again! They couldn’t believe it. They weren’t even trying. It was a happy surprise. Her oldest was only 15 months old.
According to a study done by the journal Human Fertility, they found that 3 out of 10 women conceived naturally after stopping their artificial fertility treatments.
“[The doctor] told us it happens quite often with infertility. Hormones are still high, and the body remembers what to do,” Katie said.
As happy as they were to be blessed with another child so quickly and easily, it wasn’t easy.
“I cried when Brennan was born. I wasn't prepared,” Katie said. She was guilt ridden - torn between wanting another child and feeling guilt for not wanting him at that time. “It was hard to struggle with fertility, to be sad and upset that I wasn’t having babies, and then sad and upset when I was pregnant."
They thought they were done. With two rambunctious boys less than 2 years apart, they had their hands full. But then they felt the need for another one. After no success, they went back to the drawing board. This time, they went straight to IVF.
They felt a bit more aware of what to expect, and that was comforting to them. They went to a different place this time, the Reproductive Care Center in Sandy, and found another wonderful doctor who helped them. They decided to also do some genetic screening, which elongated the process for them. During that time, they also found out that Katie’s ovaries exhibited signs of PCOS, without Katie showing signs of symptoms. Her ovaries were producing more eggs than they should, thus not allowing one egg to mature enough to be fertilized. Her periods had also become very irregular.
They did one round of IVF, which proved successful and nine months later they were blessed with a daughter.
“The hardest thing was knowing that it’s such a righteous desire and not being able to do it. It was not understanding why something that is so good can be so hard.” Katie struggled with the injustice of teens getting pregnant so easily in less-than ideal conditions. But the biggest thing she learned was that there is a plan for her babies.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to go through, but it taught me so much about my Heavenly Father’s plan for my babies. As much as I wanted a baby and as much as I wanted to be a mother, Heavenly Father has a plan for them. They come to earth when they need to be here, and it’s their time and their journey, and it’s not up to me. He’s listening and paying attention, and it works out how it’s supposed to. It’s hard to say that and hear that.”
Katie has been a good friend to me during my struggle with getting pregnant. She shared this advice for others experiencing infertility:
"One of the most important things is being patient with yourself. Find a doctor you feel so comfortbale with that you can talk and feel 100 percent that works for you. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, don’t keep going just because you started. It's such an emotional experience that having a doctor there for the emotional support is so, so important."
This is one of hundreds of thousands of stories of infertility. Your story may not start like this one, or even end like this one. Just know that you have women behind you and with you to help support you on your journey, and that you'll never be alone.
***Be sure to check out the next few posts of mine, which will also talk about infertility, fostering and postpartum depression.