Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Story: Infertility, Loss and Moving Forward in Faith

I've wanted to tell our story for some time, but allowing people to become part of the hardest story you've written leaves me a bit vulnerable.  We're still in pain.  Still working through the emotions of it all.  Finding the blessings...and I know now we always will be in this place.  Grieving what we desired and excited for the future and God's will for our family.  So now is the time to fill everyone in...and be warned:  It's LONG.

Stephen and I had the "talk" when we had been together for a year or so.  I wanted 4 kids, he wanted 2.  We "settled" on three while I secretly knew I could probably convince him for a fourth.  WHEN this would happen was always a point of contention. My answer:  NOW.  His:  Let's wait a few years.

We got married, transferred to Belgium and traveled as much as we could.  Though I tried the whole "if we have a kid maybe he could be a dual-citizen" trick, we didn't try to start a family until we were back on US soil.  In the month after moving home, we bought a house, two cars, and started trying for a baby.

The very next month I was pregnant.  Words cannot express how excited we were.  The next 9 months were the best 9 months of my life.  I wasn't sick, felt great (though in hindsight I probably could have exercised more) and delivered a perfectly healthy little boy.  The absolute light of our lives.

I breastfed for 6 months, and crazily we decided we'd like to "knock out" the next kid...meaning we started trying soon after.  But something wasn't right.  I wasn't getting "regular," and if you've tried to get pregnant, it's pretty important to know when certain things are occurring.  I casually asked my OB about it at my check-up, and she advised waiting until a year after Knox was born to get regular, then she would intervene if necessary.  The next 5 or so months were frustrating, as my cycle lengths were all over the map and very irregular.  At the year mark, I went back to my OB and she prescribed Clomid.

That day marked a 2+ year battle with prescription medication in an effort to get pregnant.  We did Clomid for 3 months with my OB, where she then advised I visit an RE, or Fertility Specialist.  We made the appointment, thinking it was the answer and we'd be pregnant in no time.  After our consultation, we were full of hope and excited about the future.  We continued on Clomid, while being monitored regularly to see how my body reacted.

After the first cycle, it was determined I had some cysts, and bloodwork confirmed I had PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  It's a rather common "syndrome" to have in the fertility world, and quite frankly I think it's handed out rather freely as a reason for infertility.  I didn't have too many other symptoms, other than the occasional cyst.  But I wasn't getting pregnant either.

After 6 (total) months on Clomid, our doctor decided to introduce some mild inject-able hormones to aid in egg growth.  This paired with regular sonograms should do the trick.  After three cycles, nada.  We then moved on to IUI, or intrauterine inseminations.  The success rates using IUI combined with Clomid/inject-ables was pretty high, and I knew a few friends who had great success with this route.  Again, we were excited.  The cost was increasing every month, and so was the stress...but we were excited.

5 months of this combo...nothing.  At this point, my doctor knew that something must be wrong internally.  I was responding well to all of the medications, and Stephen's reports were always above average, so something else must be at fault here.

Enter surgery. January of 2012 we opted to have the doctor go in and figure out what was wrong, with the understanding that he would fix what he could while in there.  His findings:  My uterus was in tip-top shape, my ovaries were great, but my Fallopian tubes were AWOL.  One was backwards and attached to my pelvic bone and the other was upside down and facing my back.  Ummmm...bingo!  See, when I was 13 I had an acute-appendicitis, and all of the infection and swelling reeked havoc on my organs...reproductive included.

When I was in recovery, the doctor came out to give Stephen the news.  Stephen casually asked how we had Knox if my tubes were in such bad shape.  The doctor quizzically asked if we had used fertility treatments to get pregnant.  When Stephen said no, he simply said "I have no medical reasoning or explanation for how you got pregnant with your son."  See...we knew he was a miracle all along!

So, back at square one.  Tubes work, they are just weak and limp.  My eggs are great, but they have to be picked up by my weak and limp tubes.  We tried IUI a few more times before decided to jump in the deep end and try IVF, Invitro-fertilization.

September 2012 was the "big day."  For months I had taken my medications, both orally and injections 2-3 times a day, and had constant monitoring to check my eggs.  Once they were ready to be removed, I went in to surgery and they came out with 26 eggs.  26!  We were so hopeful.  The next day they called to say that 24 had been fertilized.  The next 5 days they would check them every other day to see how they were progressing.  There's a lot of science involved...but basically the eggs double in size every day, with most dying off at various stages.  At the 5th day, the day they put them in, we had 2 great eggs and 2 that would be able to freeze.  They put both of the fresh eggs in and we waited 10 days to see if we would be pregnant.

10 long days...I couldn't stand it.  If you know me at all, you know I'm very impatient with things like this.  So I started testing.  6 days out, very faint lines.  8 days out...darker.  9 days out...same color.  10 days out...fainter??????

I had my beta blood test, and it was a low number.  Low HcG can mean a few things, but what it most likely meant was that I had had a chemical pregnancy.  The eggs attached, and then (most likely) due to a chemical imbalance they broke off and dissolved.  I had a repeat beta, and the number went down slightly.  The chemical pregnancy was confirmed, and then my cycle started to reconfirm.

The next month I had to have repeat blood tests until my HcG number went down to zero.  I waited out the month, and then the next for emotional reasons and then decided to move forward with putting the frozen eggs in.  Our last chance.

That month off was a mix of despair and hope.  Crazy juxtaposition, but it's where we were.  One day sobbing at the very real possibility we wouldn't have any more "natural" children, and the next excited at the possibilities of being pregnant within the next month.  If you ask anyone who has gone through fertility, they will tell you it's a complete roller coaster of emotions.  Up and down, up and down.  I like to think I'm a strong person, but will be the first to admit that I was a wreck.  And the added hormones didn't help.  I was just a mess.  And honestly, though cathartic, writing this all out brings back all of those emotions.  It's still so raw.

The time had come and we were on the medication prescribed to put the frozen eggs in.  It's a long cycle, around 7 weeks, so for someone like me I had a lot of time to process and freak out.  Ha.  The time came, and they unfroze the eggs only to tell us they didn't look great.  They were pretty damaged from the freeze, and both the embryologist and my doctor have us realistic expectations.  I was a mess...but hopeful.

The 10 days following the procedure were mind-numbing.  I just knew in my heart it didn't work.  The "beast" of IVF is that part of the hormones you are taking mimic pregnancy feelings.  Nausea, fatigue, cramps.  Your mind plays tricks on you, and you "feel" pregnant.  But this time I knew.

In January of this year my blood test was confirmed.  Negative.  I just crashed.  Heartbreak.  Loss.  Sadness.  Despair.  Stephen was such a constant, loving support system for me.  He allowed me to feel the emotions, but urged me to accept the future for what it was.  Our story.  It would be different than I what I had hoped for, and even selfishly expected, but it would be a story.  Our story.

The next few days were sad, but also so joyful.  We had our miracle in our arms.  Though squirmy, he allowed me to completely smother him while working through my emotions.  He loved me and allowed me to be a pitiful, pajama-wearing mom who preferred to sulk and watch movies while I processed.

As a young girl, I just figured my life would include a lot of kids.  I never questioned the fact that I would have problems getting pregnant.  In fact, I felt entitled to have more kids.  "I'm a good mom, why shouldn't I have more."  "If all of these 16-year-olds can get pregnant, why can't I?"  What I didn't realize is that God had a different plan.  One that started before I was born.  One that is better than I can imagine or deserve.  He knew that my appendix would burst and spill toxic infection into my reproductive organs.  He knew that we would have Knox and "think" it was all our doing.  He knew that through fertility pain and loss that I would have a life transformation that would allow me to see that my ways are all WRONG and His ways are always better.  More fruitful.  More blessed.  We're so broken, yet so blessed.

So, here we are.  I often get asked when we're going to have another.  Or if he is our "only one."  Though it still stings a little, I'm so proud and thankful and blessed to have experienced pregnancy.  Yes, he is our only one, for now.  And we will have another...it's just that our story is different from the usual.

Stephen and I are moving toward adoption.  We're narrowing our agency search and will be taking the first step once our house is completed.  We're excited, nervous, hopeful and blessed.  We both feel like this is where God wants us...and you can't beat that.

Please pray with us, that the adoption process goes smoothly.  That we find an agency that we feel comfortable with, that we follow God's lead in the process...and most importantly:

Pray for the mother of our future child.

I don't know what she looks like, where she is in her life or any of the details that will come to pass...but I know that she is giving us the biggest gift...life.  And I'm already so thankful for her.  I can't imagine the pain and heartache associated with such a brave decision, and I ask that you join us in praying for her now.  May she feel the body of Christ while going through the process.

Thank you for reading our story.  Though laced with sadness, my hope is that you see the blessings that we have through the process.  It's not easy, and we're still healing, but our hope and future is in the One who promised he would carry us in our times of need.  And He has!

"I know what I'm doing.  I have it all planned out...plans to take care of you, not abandon you.  Plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I will listen.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."  Jeremiah 29:11-14 (Message)


22 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your sweet story. It will be an encouragement to so MANY people. YOU are a blessing and I will be praying for your precious family as you move forward!

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  2. Katie:
    Thank you for taking the journey back through your highs and lows to share your story. You have a precious kiddo in Knox. We will be praying for all three of you as you follow God's lead into adoption. That will be another chapter of praise in your life!

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  3. Katie,
    My sister texted me this morning to read your story. With tears streaming down my face, all I can say is I completely relate. Eric and I have the same story. We have gone down all of the same roads, felt the same feelings and have come to the knowledge that Greyson is truly a miracle. Our story has gone on for five years and each year I hoped and prayed for a different ending. In February, I heard the news that due to all of my medical issues, miscarriages and procedures - that my uterus might be dying now. I have to tell you that all of the air left the room. Greyson is absolutely the most amazing little boy. He fulfills me in a way I did not know what possible. He is God's perfect child and I am so blessed to be his mom. I still cry and there are still tests. But I know that God has a plan for our life. I am so proud of you for sharing your story and will pray for you and your family as you go further in your adoption process. Thinking of you always.

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    1. Natalie,

      I'm so sorry to hear of your fertility struggles. It's not something I would wish upon anyone, but I will agree with you...Greyson is God's perfect child and you ARE so blessed to be his mom.

      Praying for you all!

      Katie

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  4. Tears. . . Oh friend. . . I know that road so well. . . Please know that I am praying for y'all! ;-)

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    1. Thank you for your prayers, Elizabeth. And though hard, fertility can be such a blessing, too! And Tess is a testament to that!

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  5. Best part about this story (other than Knox of course) is that it continues. I look forward to hearing the next chapter...

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  6. Oh sweet Katie...I know what it's like to have my life so beautifully wrecked. It doesn't feel beautiful at the moment and it is an act of God's grace that we are able to put one foot in front of the other. I do know that it's when we release control of our life and family, the real thrill adventure of life begins. A life completely written by Him. Trust Him! Proud of you.

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    1. Kristen...thank YOU for being such an example of living by faith. Your story is one that I think of often, and God has written it so beautifully. I'm not sure there is a stronger woman of God. Thanks for your sweet words!

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  7. Oh mama...so beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and I know that it is when we share our testimonies others are graced, encouraged, and blessed. My heart hurts for your sadness, and our family will pray for your journey ahead. What a wonderful heart of faith you are showing, and I know that though the road may look completely different than what you had thought of, with HIS plan and HIS love, it's going to be absolutely perfect and absolutely beautiful. XO James 16:33

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    1. Sweet Paige, I appreciate your encouragement. Seeing His blessings is the key to "keeping on." I am so thankful for your friendship and prayers, they mean so much to us! Kiss sweet Piper and her little sis for us :)

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  8. Heartbroken for you, but so hopeful for the future! What an amazing story of God's plan. Praying for you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Lindsey. The prayers are felt :)

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  9. Hi Katie, I wish I had something eloquent to say, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. You, Stephaen, and Knox will be in my prayers. Love, Annie

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    1. Annie, your prayers are sufficient! Thanks for the support and encouragement!

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  10. This just rips me up. I know you are on a new path and there will be so many blessing along the way, but my heart aches for you. Deeply. I hate the feeling of guilt, but it's there, because it all came so easy for me and an INCREDIBLE mom like you has struggled so much. It doesn't seem fair. But, if nothing else, it makes for a beautiful story and I can't wait to see how God adds to your family. Sometimes His ways are better than what we would have wanted in the first place. I just love you, Katie. You are a special person.

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  11. I could not have said it better than any of the other ladies (especially Kristen). You (+ your two men) and your future children are in my family's prayers.

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  12. Katie, Thank you so much for this. So eloquent and beautiful, full of God's grace and hope in the midst of struggle and pain. I know that God will use this post to help someone else and will continue to use your story to spread the message of the hope we have in Him! I am definitely praying for you all as the next chapter begins... we have several friends who have adopted so if you need any advice or guidance, let me know and I can give you their email. xoxo

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