You grow up thinking that one day, when you hear from God and are ready that you will just have kids. Sometimes, it is just not that easy.
Evan and I had just moved to Massachusetts for my pre-doctoral internship in Clinical Psychology. My internship was non-traditional, in that, it was a 2-year, part-time internship, instead of a 1-year, full-time internship. The Lord began to plant an idea on our hearts, and we were beginning to believe the Lord was leading us to start having children WHILE I was on internship. We had not planned to have children this early, but thought it seemed like the Lord's redemption story of the difficulty of having to take an extra year in grad school and thought that working part-time schedule would also be a good balance. We kept praying for confirmation and heard from the Lord in various ways (through verses in our devotions, a bible study, etc).
So, in November, 2013, Evan and I decided to start trying to have a baby. The first sign of concern came after I downloaded an app that tracks your cycle to help predict fertile days. After my first two cycles were both 53 days, the app told me to consult my doctor immediately. After many months of testing, I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Hashimoto's Disease. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. Basically, PCOS is a disorder in which the eggs do not fully form and mature. Often these under-developed eggs are not able to release from the ovaries, and get "stuck" forming a cyst on the ovary - over time, many cysts develop. When the eggs do not release, there is no egg to fertilize for pregnancy. Even if the eggs do release at a very irregular and unpredictable time-frame (remember my 53-day cycle), and they are often immature, so that, even if they happen to fertilize they are less likely to survive. Individuals with PCOS often have many thyroid problems, diabetes, weight issues, and too much male hormones causing deep voice and extra hair. Personally, the only non-fertility symptom that I experience is Hashimoto's Disease, a thyroid and auto-immune disease.
After being diagnosed with PCOS, we went through 3 unsuccessful cycles of hormone-assisted fertility treatments using a combination of Letrozole and Ovidrel. However, we have also been able to get pregnant twice - once before starting fertility and once during a break after our 3 unsuccessful Letrozole cycles.
Our first pregnancy, Avery Miracle, ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks. Our second pregnancy, Hayden Promise, was an ectopic pregnancy and ended in miscarriage at 5 weeks. We wrote a separate series of blogs on Avery and Hayden to honor their lives, help us process, help us remember, and to break the stigma and silence around miscarriage by sharing their stories. You can find Avery's story and Hayden's story.
After much prayer and consideration, Evan and I decided to go forward with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This was a difficult decision for us, because as Christians we thought that presented with many ethical dilemmas. As we prayed about our decision and did our research, we were shocked to discover how little information there was on how to Biblically understand, make decisions around and potentially proceed with IVF. We knew God was calling us to be honest with this part of our process, as well. You can read more about our decision-making process here.
Since that time, we began IVF, which involves harvesting my eggs. Overall, we chose to only fertilize 6 eggs (you can read our reasons here): 3 embryos began and then stopped progressing, 3 developed into healthy embryos. We were heartbroken to loose these 3 little ones, but we know they will forever be in our hearts and we will meet them again in Heaven one day. During our first IVF cycle, we implanted 1 of the embryos, and froze the other 2. Unfortunately, our first cycle ended in an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, and we named our precious little one Hadley Hope. You can read more about Hadley's story here. Afterwards, we had elective surgery to remove my left fallopian tube, which had already stolen 2 of our little loves.
We began our 2nd IVF cycle by transferring one of our frozen embryos. Unfortunately, this cycle also ended in a rupturing ectopic pregnancy in my left fallopian tube, and I had to have emergency surgery removing a small leftover portion of my tube. We named our little love Riley Patience, and you can read more about Riley's story here.
Hear my heart, I am in NO way a blogger, and neither is my husband. Despite this, God burdened both of our hearts with the task of sharing our stories with the hope that it can help even ONE other person struggling with infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, fertility treatments or IVF. There is such stigma, pain, shame and isolation around these issues, and no one needs to suffer alone. Miscarriage occurs in 1 in 4 pregnancies. Infertility affects 15% of couples.
So, I want you to know: No matter what pain you are going through, you are not alone. God is with you, ALWAYS, in ALL THINGS. Also, if you let me, I would love to be there with you too, either through our blog or by connecting in another way. Please know that wherever you are in your journey - you are on my heart and in my prayers.
Let me leave you with a song that has ministered to my heart and also given me the courage to come Out of Hiding with regards to infertility, miscarriage, and IVF. Please listen to Out of Hiding by Steffany Gretzinger