Written by Tiffany Johnston, guest blogger
Growing up I was always one of those gals that just thought pregnancy happened, it was something to be cautious of as it was a huge responsibility. When my mom got sick, I felt the responsibility even as a teenager to help raise my two younger sisters. I knew the sacrifice of children and was cautious to ensure that I didn’t find myself a parent before I was ready.
My husband and I met in 2000 just a few days before we started high school. I wish I could say that we figured out what we meant to each other early on, instead of taking us ten years to even go on a date. I definitely can’t say that we rushed. We both went to college, dated others and did a bit of living before we rediscovered each other in the hustle and bustle of life.
It wasn’t long before the man of my dreams asked me to marry him and my perspective quickly changed. In less than a year we had formed the all-American dream. We got married, bought our first house, I found what I thought was the perfect job, adopted two dogs, and decided to start a family. Unfortunately, we tried to conceive for a year and when that led to nothing, we started interviewing fertility clinics. It took weeks upon weeks to find a clinic that we could both trust with the future of our family and had the knowledge around chronic pain problems associated with my fibromyalgia and the medications involved. Upon picking a clinic, we jumped right into testing and were promptly told that we both had some issues with fertility. They elaborated that with time it could be possible for us to get pregnant with help, though they tried to keep us very grounded in the length of time and finances it would take to achieve this goal. At the time I had no idea how infertility could change a person, or a couple for that matter.
For us, infertility has affected our dreams, ambitions, hope, peace, positivity, and happiness; it’s as if after each failed round of insemination the frost gets thicker and the storm gets stronger. We’ve spent countless nights curled together as I crumbled in frustration and exhaustion, with my husband simply trying to be strong. Anxiety creeps in like a dark and cold snow storm that slowly begins to blanket the valley with a glistening and frigid layer of snow. Infertility is a lot like that. No one knows it’s coming until you are traveling down the road of life trying to make your family, and seemingly all at once you are stopped by a giant obstacle – the storm that is infertility. It tests every aspect of your life, sanity, marriage, health and determination. Each of you go through completely different emotional processes while simultaneously experiencing the same exact events.
During our first experience with infertility we miraculously became pregnant on our very first round of IUI over 3.5 years ago, and were blessed with a little man we named Kian (which is Irish for “blessing”). The next three or so years were a blur: the pregnancy was wonderful as I wasn’t in any fibromyalgia pain for over nine months! Trust me I know what you’re thinking: one round! And for those of you that are deep in the infertility struggle, I understand your frustration with this moment of bliss, but our fertility journey was far from over with the birth of our son. When we became pregnant with Kian we had just begun our infertility journey. We were still bubbling over with hope, dreams, and faith in our future.
Several years later when we began trying for our second baby, things went much differently. We went through an insane amount of vitamins, probiotics, Femara, Follistim, Pregnyl, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and testing, missing out on coffee, alcohol, and public events (for fear of those dreaded germs). I can truthfully say that we have given this journey every ounce of fight we had in our bodies, hearts, wallets, and souls. We have learned that in the haze of infertility, the “ease” of getting pregnant with our IUI baby #1 and within the monthly, recurring, and unending two week waits; it’s been easy to catch myself daydreaming about what things would eventually be like once our positive result finally materialized. The first three rounds of IUI we did in just over six weeks. The flow of hormones cascading into my system was overwhelming and so hard on my body.
Needless to say, between the hormones and all of the feelings of failure, I hadn’t had the time to process my emotions, feelings of loss and disappointment. It got so bad at the end of round three that I was thinking very horrible thoughts about myself, about my worth, and truly just wanted to crawl in a hole and be buried alive. It was at that point I knew we had to make some changes because obviously being on our fertility journey and only using Western Medicine was not working this time.
So we made an appointment with a fertility counselor and she was amazing! She helped me realize that though we were deep in the throes of one of the biggest storms of our lives, that our voices were still fully intact and that we were our strongest advocates for our families future. Second the counselor strongly suggested looking for treatments outside of Western Medicine so I quickly found an acupuncturist and started getting seen immediately; which was amazing! The last thing she suggested was filling my time with something that set my heart on fire. So, I took what had been a recreational love of oils and made it a lifestyle for our family.
I spoke with my infertility doctors and did some research within a Young Living fertility group and found out what had worked for other patients that had achieved successful results and started adding them to our daily life. Stephen and I both went on vitamins and began taking Ningxia Red daily, I did the cleansing trio and started using Progessence Plus (this was a game changer), and we started using Stress Relief and a mix called Peace & Calm daily. Between acupuncture and YL, two things major happened: the first being that my husband’s numbers doubled when we went in for our next IUI, and the second was that I wasn’t having moments of extreme emotions anymore, my stomach was so much happier on the hormones, and the biggest and most amazing change was that I had my first 28 day cycle in 10 months! To us that meant my body would get a full two weeks to adjust and recover after each round of IUI, which was such a happy and welcome blessing. By this point we were already halfway to the stage where our fertility clinic was ready to usher us off to IVF land, needless to say every month was leaving me sicker and more depressed.
The cold hearted truth behind infertility is simple: no matter how many times someone tells you “it will happen” or “be thankful for what you have”, hearing those words just doesn’t get any easier. But, when you take a step back after each failed attempt, is there a possibility that they may just be right? Could there be an underlying blessing in infertility? Through the struggles of fertility I have learned that almost everyone goes through some type of life-altering series of events. However, out of those events, they would be given two choices if they found the strength to arise from the darkness and turn on the light, these people would arise with more compassion, love, empathy, patience, and kindness.
By day 23 of round #5 I was convinced we were pregnant. I was having a whole cluster of exciting and telltale symptoms. That night I started having chills, nausea, and what I would later realize was a fever. For my system, a fever is 99 at the highest and the last time I had a fever over 101 I was in elementary school. So this hit hard! I had a 101.5 fever for a full 24 hours and boy was it miserable. Even with my entire arsenal of oils, homemade bone broth and vitamins. Just as quickly as it appeared, the fever was gone, it’s only evidence of existence was me feeling left tired and groggy. On the 24th day of our cycle I awoke to what can only be described as pure and utter heartbreak over another failed IUI. I tell you all this to explain what happened next: after the start of every new cycle we must contact our fertility doctors and decide if we are continuing and give them an update on what has been happening. So I did just that. I told them that I swore I was pregnant and I was convinced that we had lost the pregnancy because of the fever. We followed up with blood work to check on several things: why my hair was falling out, why I was having kidney pain and what my hormone levels could tell us. Truth be told, through all of the testing and multiple doctors, we only found out we were pregnant but my system could not fight the fever and maintain a pregnancy.
I was heartbroken, mortified and angry; a level of anger that I am not sure I have ever experienced before. There is nothing easy about losing a child no matter how far along you are or why you lost them. We have eaten, slept, and breathed the best practices for fertility for months, gone through many failed attempts at pregnancy, countless amounts of money, depression, heartache, and now side effects from the hormones. By the 5th round my kidneys were suffering from the hormones, my hair was falling out in handfuls, and my weight was plummeting from the nausea. My husband and I debated doing a 6th but after discussing it with our acupuncturist we decided to take a month off to give my body a chance to heal a bit before starting again. By this point we had begun discussing that we may not be able to keep trying if my health continued to diminish. I thought, “what kind of life was I giving Kian if my health was so poor that I couldn’t give him all of me?” More and more my heart screamed that this was it, our last shot, and my body’s last chance at giving us another child. I was physical falling apart in front of my husband’s eyes. We followed our hearts and decided to give it one more try. But what if people are right? What if there is some underlying blessing in our fertility journey? For the first time in several months I believed wholeheartedly that we had been blessed beyond measure. Just when I thought I was not strong enough to arise from the ashes, we got pregnant. We are capable of being pregnant. It left us with a renewed sense of knowing that we could succeed, we would succeed, and at least for now we would NOT stop fighting. It’s as if someone turned on the light at the end of a long hallway just to remind us of what we were fighting for, and who we were fighting for.
Round #6 found us the miracle and positive results we had been waiting for. However, two and a half years ago when we did our beta test with Kian, I remember bursting into tears, sitting next to Stephen in the car when we finally received the secondary results and all I remember feeling was relief and gratefulness. This time it was different. There was an overwhelming monsoon of emotions that washed over me even though the news was awesome. I started crying; I felt as though I couldn’t breathe and my heart had stopped. I hadn’t been truly sure that we would ever hear those words again. For weeks after I caught myself saying well we won’t know for sure until the second beta test, or until the ultrasound, or until we hear a heartbeat. For months we have spent every month on a 28 day hamster wheel you become so used to disappointment, it’s really hard to suddenly let yourself celebrate the joyful moments.
I know in my heart that it takes time to get over the trauma that is infertility. You have struggled, been heartbroken and felt a profound and unwavering loss. But I come bearing good news: with every day that passes, whether you ever successfully receive a BFP or not you will become stronger and feel less traumatized. As someone that has experienced PTSD, I know that painful feelings will always be a scar on our lifeline. However, my solace in this journey is that no matter the heartache endured we have persevered to the next stage of our journey! I am hopeful that everyday our infertility scars will fade just an increment more and that someday down the road we will find that we have more anticipation, joy, and less reservation for the life growing in my belly. I know as each successful day of this pregnancy comes to a close and we become one day closer to meeting our new bundle of joy. That our hearts will open and be just a little less guarded than the day before. We know that we will never be able to take this pregnancy for granted or be completely worry-free, but we do have every intention to treasure and celebrate everyday that we are pregnant and we will celebrate this miracle!