“They don’t understand!” I cried in the car. “They don’t understand anything about IVF or the heartache of infertility, or what we’re going through!” It’s a conversation/Jenn-cries-and-Shawn-listens we’ve had before, with past treatments and this current treatment.
It’s such a fragile place to be because your hopes are so high, but yet you don’t know the end result. And the wait makes you feel weary. People have questions, and you share with excitement news up to this point, but yet you’re not pregnant yet. You’re still childless after so many years of praying.
You’re in your own awkward social circle. Not a mom, not pregnant, but in line with hope, waiting. Always waiting.
As I continued to cry Shawn encouraged me with a few simple words, “But this is our story.”
This is our story. And the scary but awesome thing about that is that we’re not writing it. If we were, things would probably look very different. This story is being written by God. His stories don’t always end with roses and violins, in the perfect “The End” conclusion that we think we should see. But they always, always end with redemption. His stories always end with a greater good.
Trusting his writing process as we live out the story at the same time is hard. I told Shawn in the car that this chapter feels long. Sometimes I’m ready for another chapter. It won’t be an easy one, life has already shown me that. But it will be a new chapter, a start into something we’ve both wanted for a very long time. Or a new chapter of healing.
I love stories of all kinds: love stories, stories of survival, stories of second chances.
We don’t know how long this chapter will be or how many pages it will have in it, or what the next title will be. But I know we can trust the author. This trust doesn’t come easily with my own story, to be honest. I’ve seen earlier chapters end with devastation and tears.
But reading other people’s stories refreshes my hope in God’s unstoppable power and the way he works in the most miraculous ways. Right now I’m reading the story of the Israelites in Exodus (2nd book of the Bible). They were delivered, and saved, but they still went their own way. God always came after them, the story was not over even when they probably thought it was. I love these stories in the Bible because they happened, first of all, but also because we can see real human emotion and struggle through these stories. Because they were recorded for us we can read the beginning, and we can read again how in the end, and in the middle of it all, God’s redemption and salvation saved the day. When Moses’ mom put him in a basket and placed him in the river so he wouldn’t be murdered (due to a law that was passed that all baby boys must be killed), she most likely assumed she’d never see him again. She probably never saw it coming that just a little while later Pharoh’s daughter (the daughter of the one killing these babies) would actually pay her to nurse him! Her own child, the one she thought she’d never see again! God was writing her story even when in fear she placed her child in that basket, bidding him farewell with a kiss on his chubby baby cheek.
This is just a small story in a big book, but we see God at work. In every story, in every chapter, in the good and in the bad, he works redemption and purpose into the story. We just don’t always see it. At least not right away.
And that gives me hope in our own story, the one God is writing for us. The one where we’re fighting hard for a baby.
Every now and then your path crosses with someone and you just KNOW it was meant to be. Ashley and I met on Instagram of all places. (Hello, modern age!) We soon realized we were in a similar boat, paddling our way through the rough rapids of infertility.
She has been a huge encouragement to me since we met. She lives in Ohio and we’re planning to meet (in person!) this weekend when Shawn and I take a trip out there to visit family. I can’t wait!
We’ve had a running conversation since we met and it has been a refreshing place for us to vent, ask questions, share news, get feedback from a fellow patient / fighter, and even pray for each other.
It’s so special and so rare to meet someone who gets exactly where you’re coming from, what the treatment process is like, what the agonizing wait it like, and what the battle of trusting God on a practical level is like.
So we thought we’d turn this conversation into an interview-style conversation. Maybe it will help shed a little more light on what infertility is like, and if you’re in our boat, we hope you’ll know that you’re not alone.
SOOO, Ashley. One of the things I like about you is that you don’t sugar coat things. I remember you saying once that you feel like God is good, but maybe not to you. Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by that?
I think we all hear lies. This happens to be one that I hear frequently. It’s a lie straight from the pits of hell. And some days I give it more space in my head than I’d like.
And the evidence that it’s a lie is all around me. I get to choose what I focus on. Will I focus on the mounds of debt infertility has cost us? On the life we were “supposed” to have instead? Or will I focus on the fact that we have the opportunity to try treatment? Will I focus on the 18 months we spent preventing pregnancy unnecessarily? Or will I focus on the gift it was to soak up newlywed life?
I bought myself a necklace last month with the word “Dayenu” on it. It’s a Hebrew word that means “it would have been enough and I’m grateful”. It’s a word that I’ve returned to for years but holds more significance for me now because I’m trying to make it a way of life. Ultimately, it’s a daily compass and reminder of the person I want to be, that God wants me to be. First, choosing to repent of the lies and then opening my hands of my expectations long enough to notice, receive, and be present with the gifts I’ve been given. I want to live in the tension of continuing to fight for our miracle but also being able to look around and say, “if it never happens, this life is still extraordinary”.
What have you learned about grief? How do you personally process grief?
I’m still learning how to navigate grief in a way that is both kind to me and mindful of others. The tricky part about the grief that accompanies infertility is that it’s cyclical. Literally, monthly. Sure, some months are harder than others. But the repeated patterns of hope and disappointment make the progression through the pain to the other side difficult.
The first year of trying was overwhelming. If the disappointment didn’t break me, the Clomid did. My emotions were big and uncontrollable. I once broke down in front of a dear friend when she announced her pregnancy to me over dinner at Skyline. She was very gracious. That’s just where I was.
22 months later, and the emotions are still big and they’re there. But they don’t own me anymore. For the most part, I can decide when and where my emotions are expressed. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not caught by surprise at times. When I see a friend’s baby that resembles them and wonder if I’ll ever see a child of ours that looks like Danny. When I hear a coworker talking about her baby kicking and I wonder if I’ll ever feel that. The struggle matters. I try to let myself feel the grief because it has to be felt. It’s like a pendulum. And I deeply believe that I’ll be robbing myself of a deeper joy on the other side if I numb out now. But there has to be a balance because life goes on and I have to function in it and get out of my head.
My hope is that someday my longing and pain won’t feel as much like a cloud that prevents me from seeing others (I’m aware at how consumed I am with my own thoughts) but more like a radio that tunes me into the people around me. I’m hopeful that someday I can be a champion for other women to share their stories, the good and the bad.
Let’s talk about baby showers. You asked me recently if I attend them and I said that I don’t go to baby showers. I haven’t been to one in years. Thankfully, up to this point, everyone seems to understand. If it’s a close friend or relative I make a point to give them a special gift in person and make sure they know that it’s not that I don’t want to celebrate them or their baby (I do!), but that the whole culture of the shower is too much. What about you?
I love that you do that, Jenn!
After almost 2 years of infertility, I think my thoughts are shifting around this topic. I used to think that showers were a time to put my “big girl” pants on and smile my way through a very awkward event for a loved friend. A few months ago I was at a shower where the majority of the guests were either young moms or pregnant. We spent over 2 hours during the shower discussing pregnancy in extreme detail. I smiled and nodded. Smiled and nodded. I kept waiting for a point in the conversation where I could chime in. And it never happened. In response to my lack of engagement, at one point one of the guests even looked at me and said “I hope we aren’t making you uncomfortable. You’re probably grossed out by our stories.” Such a well- meaning gesture, especially since she has no idea of my situation and probably wondered if I was bored or weirded out! Little did she know how much I long to be in their shoes. I looked over at my sweet friend (who is very aware of our struggles) at one point and wondered if my presence had made her feel uncomfortable or guilty, even in the smallest way. Maybe it hadn’t. I don’t know. I just know that in that moment I felt sad and it didn’t feel loving that I came. I never want my circumstances to steal even an ounce of someone’s joy during such a miraculous time. I love your idea of dropping off a thoughtful gift in person, Jenn. I want to be a woman who celebrates my friend’s joys in ways that honors them while also being kind to myself.
I know infertility can be hard to navigate for friends and family. I’m sure it can be hard to decide what’s best for your friend struggling to get pregnant. Do you send them an invitation or not? I personally appreciate when someone sends me an invitation and gives me the grace to choose what’s best for me.
Have you found a way to handle those socially awkward (and often painful) situations where moms exchange pregnancy and child birth stories, and those talks of how many kids they plan to have?
I actually find these conversations way more painful than showers. Simply because I can’t contribute a single experience to them. I can’t even fathom the idea of planning for how many kids we want to have now. Even if we are able to get pregnant with help, IVF is a very expensive way to build a family.
When I find myself in those situations, I usually just try to fade into the background for a while until I can find an exit strategy that doesn’t draw attention to myself. That may sound like I’m taking the easy way out. But trying to engage in those moments is very forced.
Have you found a way to love and support your pregnant friends / mom-friends, even while waiting and praying for a baby yourself? Or are you still working on that one?
My honest answer is that I’m still working on that one. And I think that I’ve really dropped the ball with some of my friends while they were pregnant. It can be so hard to be present physically. There are days I’m not capable of separating my pain from their joy. I’m trusting that God will continue to grow me in that.
In the meantime, I pray for them a lot. For healthy pregnancies. For energy. For them as parents. I try my best to express my care for them with a thoughtful gift for their shower. I set boundaries on how much time I spend in environments that are mostly centered around pregnancy and motherhood talk. These boundaries feel healthy to me and allow me to offer people a better, softer version of myself when I’m around. And I check in with cards or over text or the phone on days when I’m thinking of them but seeing them in person is too hard.
You shared this article with me. Do you think people should be more open about infertility? Do you think there have been changes on that front? Or are most people still suffering in silence? What made you decide to open up about your struggles?
We are in a season of life where most of our friends and social circles are having children. I once told Danny that about 75% of the time when I pull up Facebook, the first photo on my feed will either be a pregnancy announcement, baby bump photo or baby photo. I think at first he thought I was exaggerating but we now laugh about it because it’s true. That being said, it’s a beautiful thing that so many people we know are growing their families. Life is always a gift. And it should be shared with the world. I guess the tension I feel is that I don’t see people sharing much of the other side.
What about our pain? Our longings? Our disappointments? The parts of us that are only surviving on hope? I think that journey deserves equal voice but oftentimes is hidden from view because it’s messy and it’s unresolved. I once heard a woman say “The world tells me I can have a struggle but you can’t talk about it unless you’ve come out of the other side of it.” That’s certainly a message I have internalized over the years. It’s vulnerable to show people the in-between. The moments, days and years of waiting to come out on the other side of the struggle into redemption. It’s a risk to show people the parts of our stories that we can’t tie a pretty bow around. But it’s So, So, SO needed.
In regards to the link I sent you, I love that this couple took these heartbreaking and yet humorous photos. When I saw them, I found myself laughing because I felt known. On any given month, you could have witnessed the exact same scene with Danny and I sitting on our bed accompanied by a box of tissues. I think in the smallest way, they shed light to others on what this journey looks like. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people share in those moments alone. Infertility is an incredibly isolating experience. Many of us live in the tension of trying to give ourselves space to live and heal while also trying to continue to nurture our relationships despite having little to give.
I want to be clear that I don’t feel critical of those who deal with this privately. I have those days, months. There is no right and wrong way to grieve. But what a gift it is each time I hear another “me too”. Not because I would wish this on anyone. But because none of us want to feel like we are going at this alone.
I’m just trying to be true to myself daily. Some days it feels right to share our story with the world because there’s power in being seen and reminding others they aren’t alone. But other days I just want to be normal instead of being the infertile friend or coworker that isn’t pregnant again.
I think my biggest frustration is how taboo it feels to talk about it. That’s the biggest disservice I’ve felt. I wish it wasn’t so weird for people to talk about. At some points along the way, I’ve felt less fragile and I’ve made conscious decisions to share parts of my story with people in my everyday life. Some days this goes well. Other times it doesn’t. But it’s still worth doing because I want to help normalize infertility. If 1 in 8 of us is walking through this, let’s give ourselves a voice so people can support and help.
My mom and I have been taking a pottery class at a local art center for the past couple months. It’s been a blast. The women in the class are hilarious and super helpful to us as beginners. Anyway, a couple weeks ago the class was wrapping up and people were filing out. The instructor was commenting about how healthy my snacks were in comparison to everyone else’s. Normally I just laugh that stuff off. But this time I decided to be candid with a stranger instead. “You are totally right. This stuff doesn’t taste very good! My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a couple years and the only thing we haven’t really tried are dietary changes. I figured it wouldn’t hurt so here I am eating seaweed.” She stared at me blankly, holding her daughter’s hand. [Crickets] After a few brief seconds, my mom came to the rescue and asked her how she got into pottery and they began discussing how it’s been a fun way for her to make some money for her family of 6. Sometimes this is how it is when you open up to people, and that’s ok. People are just doing the best they can. We can’t expect people to have the “right” thing to say on the spot.
Fast forward a week. My instructor was helping me at the wheel and she looked at me and said, “Hey, thanks for sharing that with me last week. I don’t want you to think that it was missed. I want you to know I’m praying for you.”
Wow. What a gift. Your life is worth sharing with people, even if it makes for some uncomfortable moments.
What’s something you wish people understood about infertility?
I wish people didn’t feel the need to “fix” the pain. “My mom’s garbage man’s sister’s cousin got pregnant right after they adopted.” “You should just relax”. “At least you can enjoy ____ a little while longer”. If you tell me these things, I will quickly smile and nod like I’ve practiced and try to get myself as far away from you as I can. I know these people mean well. And I know its human nature to want to find a silver lining. But it takes so much more courage to look someone who is hurting in the eye and hold space for them in that moment. Because it costs us something. God, help me to be that person.
Infertility is a battle that affects people’s physical, emotional/mental, social, and financial well-being. There is nothing in your life it doesn’t touch.
What have been some of the greatest challenges for you and your husband as you’ve gone through infertility and/or treatments?
Learning to support the other person in the way they need as they grieve. Wrestling through hearing God in the midst of this journey and honoring him with our choices throughout the treatment process. (We spent months praying and discussing IVF both together and with friends and mentors before coming to the decision that it was the right choice for us.) The financial burden of infertility treatment. Having to put a price on the hope of a child. Adjusting our lives and work to make time for appointments. I think the first months were hard for Danny because it’s in his nature to fix things and he couldn’t fix this. Watching our social lives change as friends start families when we just aren’t there yet and there’s no knowing when it will happen. Did I mention finances?
How would you say infertility has impacted your marriage?
The first few months we sought treatment were kind of divisive. Danny thought we were jumping the gun and I was convinced we had a problem on our hands. For months, I would be crushed each time I found out we weren’t pregnant and Danny, as the eternal optimist, just wasn’t there emotionally yet. I felt alone because I needed to be comforted but I didn’t know what that looked like. We finally had some very open discussions about how to support each other and we explained in detail what that would look like. Not surprisingly, those needs looked very different. It requires a lot of intentionality to love the other person well in the midst of shared grief but I think it’s starting to become more intuitive over time. It wasn’t until around the time we started IVF that we were both in a similar place emotionally. But even then, we cope with the disappointment differently. As the woman, the pain of infertility is both emotional and physical. We feel like our bodies have betrayed us. For Danny, much of the stress comes from wanting to provide financially for us in the midst of all the costs that accompany this.
At the present moment, I would say our marriage has never been stronger. These past couple years have put us through the fire. While I’m not at a place where I am thankful for infertility, I can see the way God has used it to shape our marriage for the better. I feel unbelievably grateful to God that Danny is the man standing next to me. And I deeply believe that there is nothing we can’t endure together. Plus, he’s the only one who can make me laugh some days. (Seriously. Is he getting funnier with age?)
What encourages you? How can family and friends encourage you guys? What helps?
These days I’m encouraged by miracle stories. But I’m equally encouraged and amazed when I witness people who have endured immense longing and pain and yet I see peace in them. They give me hope.
We’ve had several people praying for us tell us “It is God’s plan for you to have biological children. And if you don’t, that is the work of the enemy and you’ve been robbed.” We were reminded that it was literally God’s first command in the garden: “be fruitful and multiply”. This doesn’t mean that we will definitely have biological children, it just means that it is God’s intention for us to. But we live in a fallen world and sometimes His plans aren’t restored to us until the end. I struggled when I hear people say that infertility is “part of God’s plan”. The Bible tells us He can use anything for our good, but that doesn’t mean He is the author of it. Adoption is an amazing way God redeems brokenness into beauty.
When our IVF cycle failed, my closest friends aka “The Sisterherd” sent us flowers. I loved that because it acknowledged the loss. In the midst of grief, it’s helpful when people just DO something. SAY something. For years, in the midst of other people’s grief, I have told them “please let me know if you need anything”. So well-intentioned. The problem is, most of the time when you’re in the trenches, you don’t even know what to ask for. It helps when people just reach out in the ways they feel led. Offering to help came from a good place but I want to do better. I want to be the friend who just shows up in the moment in the best way I know how.
I had someone tell me the other day “I’ll never stop praying”. This brought me so much comfort. We are getting to a point in our journey where our infertility feels like old news. To us. To the people in our lives. The amount of times we’ve delivered the “not pregnant” news to friends and family is like a broken record. So it’s helpful when people send us a message or card reminding us we aren’t forgotten and that they are still in this fight with us, carrying hope when we can’t.
There are also certain people you can just BE with. I’m learning to let myself be seen, even on my bad days. On the days when my sadness gives way to bitterness. It’s scary to let people see the ugliest parts of your thoughts. But it’s also a gift when people see the ugliest versions of you and yet love you without judgment.
I’m deeply encouraged by the biblical story of the persistent widow (Luke 18) and the persistent friend (Luke 11) and what it says about our redundant prayers. (If you are in a season of waiting, I implore you to read these stories.) He’s listening.
Ashley, I’m so, so grateful our paths crossed. God knew we needed it. Thank you for being so brave and sharing with us today. Your story is not over.
We waited for well over two weeks (it felt like three years) for the next set of results. When the phone call finally came, I was inside watching TV and Shawn was outside grilling.
It was more good news! All but one of our embryos that they biopsied and sent off for tests came back chromosomally normal and viable for transfer. Thank you God! That alone was reason to rejoice, reason to celebrate.
But then there was another bit of information. Life-changing information, the kind you’ll never forget, and even more reason to celebrate:
The question that came next was what made everything, this whole process so so so real. “Would you like to know the gender of your embryos?”
Me: “One second.” *Dramatically flings open the sliding door to our little yard where Shawn was grilling* “Do we want to know the gender of our embryos?!?!”
“SURE!” Shawn said emphatically, while casually moving some chicken around in his smoker.
We had talked about it a lot lately. Would we like to know if given the opportunity? Or would we want to wait until there’s a positive pregnancy test? Or would we rather wait a few months down the road like most pregnant people? We weren’t even sure if our gamut of tests would give us the opportunity to know or not, and we weren’t sure at what point we would even find out – if we’d even make it this far in the treatment! So we were really surprised to have the opportunity to find out, especially at this point in the game. But when we had the chance to know, we couldn’t turn it down. We had to know. We were just too excited.
I wrote the report down on a little sticky note, which is now taped to our fridge.
We were filled with joy. The kind of joy where you laugh-cry because you don’t know how else to respond. To know the gender of your children before you’re even pregnant is the most mind-blowing thing – possibly ever! The coolest thing about all of this is that while this may not be the ‘conventional way’ of bringing a baby into the world, it’s still a miracle! We’re able to stand by and watch – from the earliest days- our creator form human life. He chose from the beginning of this treatment (from the beginning of time) how many embryos would be strong enough to make it to this point. (Not all of them did.) He chose the gender with us in mind, He chose the number of cells for each embryo, the timeline of formation – Ahhh! IT’S ALL JUST SO COOL!
As we move forward with phase 2 of this treatment (more injections, tests, and appointments, within the next two months), we ask our creator – the one who knew and formed Shawn & Jenn as embryos, to hold our hearts steady as we continue to pray, hope, and trust that this miracle will continue. There are so many things we can be tempted to put our hope in throughout this treatment: the best doctors, the top embryologist, the right medicine, the right dose, the best nurse, the perfect tests, the right timing, the newest procedures, the results we hope for, ETC.
But our hope comes from God. And we thank him for all he’s done throughout this process so far. We push fear aside (the past! Our track record with loss! Our familiarity with grief!) and we choose thankfulness and praise for the miracles we’ve seen up to this point.
The call f i n a l l y came at 3:10pm. It was a long, torturous day of staring at the phone, constantly making sure the volume was turned up, taking my phone with me into every room of the house, and checking the battery like a mad woman. Wouldn’t you know that we both had more random phone calls that day than we’ve ever had? And of course it had to happen on that day of all days. The day we were waiting for the big news! Someone called to see if I could pick up a shift (are you kidding me people, don’t call me today!), the pharmacy called for the most unnecessary reason (are you serious?), and a wrong number from Ohio called (WHY today?).
But at last, the Embryologist called with the wonderful news that WE HAVE EMBRYOS!!
We were filled with a rush of gratitude for yet another answered prayer. Another reason to rejoice came the next day when they called to say that ONE MORE EMBRYO pulled through over night. We’re so thankful to have made it this far, that life has formed and hope is growing.
The embryos were biopsied and frozen soon after they reached the day 5 and 6 blastocyst stage. What they biopsied was sent off to Florida (bon voyage, guys) for a whole gamut of testing.
I just have to say that this whole process is mind blowing and I love learning about life from these earliest days. It’s so fascinating to see our creator at work, cells growing, the amniotic sack already present, the fetus so small it has to be seen through a microscope. It’s incredible and we both consider ourselves blessed to get to be doing this.
Fast forward to today (8 days later), and I’m full of fear and anxiety again. We’re in another long waiting game. If the embryos come back with any abnormalities, they can’t be used because they won’t implant. And so my mind spins in circles. What if they come back and say that unfortunately none of the embryos are normal, healthy, usable? What if we end up where we started, with no chance to grow our family? What if we have to bear the news (once again) that our embryos didn’t make it? I cringe and I cry.
But then I remember through this amazing song that I’m no longer a slave to fear. And Shawn reminds me that our human nature and our temptation to give into fear prove that we’re human and that God is God. He also reminds me that this isn’t our first face off with fear. We’ve looked at fear before and though we may have felt weak, we have stood strong by God’s perfectly steady grace. We stood when we wanted to kneel when we were living in rebel territory in the village, we stood when we wanted to give up when we were stuck on an airplane unsure of what was happening, when we heard the news of various failed IUI and IVF treatments. When the road was dangerous – literally and metaphorically, and when Shawn was taken from me in the middle of a dark African night, we chose to ignore fear (even though we felt it!) not because we’re super humans, or because we were naïve to the situation at hand, but because God was with us and we didn’t have to “feel strong”. That’s a real life picture of God’s grace. I know that fear is something we all fight against – sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes we win the battle and sometimes we lose. But the difference is, winning is an option when you know God. That’s what produces joy in my heart – to know that we can stand strong and win the battle over fear. I don’t have to be a slave anymore. I’ve been set free from fear, from the bondage of wondering “What if?” and living in that cyclical place of jumping from one extreme worry to the next.
For me it’s one thing to choose to trust God when there’s real harm in my path (as silly as that sounds) because it will be over soon and I’ll be able to turn around and see how I closed my eyes, breathed through it, and God’s grace swooped in to help me when I needed it the most. But this, this feels different. This feels like a battle we’ve been in for way too long. It feels like fear comes more easily because we’ve been facing this fight, these temptations to fear, this weariness, for so long. I hope we’re growing in ways we can’t see. I hope that through this climb we reach a place where we can say that the view is worth it, no matter what that view may be. A baby? A better understanding of God through suffering? A practical understanding of how to trust when it’s the last thing we want to do? Who knows. But we have to believe that it’s not for nothing.
We don’t know how the embryo results will come back. We have no idea if they’ll even implant (which is still a few months down the road) and we don’t know what the future holds. But we know that we have cause for celebration up to this point. We prayed for embryos, and we have embryos! Even though past disappointments haunt us, we want to walk by faith and give into hope even when fear and questioning and uncertainty are more natural responses to us as humans.
What sets us apart as Christians? When we go against the flow. When we walk in a way that says to the world “this may be crazy, but my God is big and faith will be lived out”. What sets us apart? When we look at fear and choose to say, “not today” even when we feel like falling to the ground in tears, even when fear seems normal and logical.
We’re waiting for a big, important phone call today. We’re on the edge of our seats.
We’ve been through a lot since May – appointments, tests, questioning briefly if we should move forward with this treatment, going through a few stages of grief as we headed back into this again, applying for and getting approved for a loan, of course there was the two weeks of injections, the blood work, ultrasounds, and trips, and then the egg retrieval surgery.
The morning after the egg retrieval surgery we were updated on how many of our eggs were fertilized. I put a post-it note on our fridge that says “___ eggs fertilized – a prayer answered!” (It’s not your typical fridge note.) It’s a numbers game, sure. It’s easy to worry when you start to think about how many of those fertilized eggs will grow to a blastocyst embryo stage, and how many won’t make it that far. And that’s where we’re at now. Waiting on THE call (we’ve been waiting since Saturday morning). It’s a baby at 5 days of life! Our baby. It’s a miracle. When we did IVF in Cincinnati, we had two blastocysts transferred (twins?!), but sadly, they didn’t implant.
And here we are again. Waiting for the call. Wondering how many embryos we have. We’re praying we have some at the stage they need to be at. This time, they’ll be frozen and then they’ll go through some tests. Which means MORE WAITING. This time weeks, maybe a month or two of waiting.
It’s so hard because I feel like everything is on the line. Our future. Our family. Our dreams of having a child together.
Will we get to the end of this and have to give up the dream? Words can’t fully describe how emotional this process is. Especially when you’ve been through it before. You know all too well just how bitter and heartbreaking it is when you have a negative result.
So we wait. And we pray some more. And we remind ourselves that this is something worth doing, worth fighting for. We never planned on doing IVF, like many couples, we never thought we’d be in this place at all. But here we are. And guess what? God can still be found here. He’s there in the waiting, there in the questioning, there in the tears. Maybe we’ll get to see a side of God through all of this that we wouldn’t have normally had the ability to see, a new way of knowing him. That would make it all worth it.
This is worth the risk. It’s scary, but that’s never stopped us before.
September is the month where our IVF cycle jumped from a slow crawl to a sprint in no time at all. The shots increased to 5 times a day, appointments were daily for a few weeks, trips to Denver were more frequent, along with ultrasounds and blood work (because an IVF patient doesn’t see enough needles in a given day, amiright?), and then there was the egg retrieval surgery, followed by updates on egg count, maturity, fertilization, and then eventually there will be embryo updates. (<— we’re still waiting and praying… It’s a long process with a lot of unknowns.)
This month a lot of really BIG things happen in the span of about two weeks. It’s a continued roller coaster of “Please God, help this to work”, and ,”Please God, be with us if this doesn’t work.”
That’s why I’m so grateful that right smack in the middle of it all, there were some unexpected blessings. Things that made me pause and remember to breathe, remember to pray, and remember that I’m not alone in this.
First of all, a family bbq popped up out of nowhere. It was the first Bronco’s game of the season, and I happened to be in Greeley that night. My brother Jake made burgers & brats and it was just fun to hang out with everyone. I’m still not taking for granted this time with my family. After 12 years of living far away (and never knowing where move #14 will take us), it’s special to be able to drop by for a brat.
Then, knowing I was going to have to make a lot of trips to Denver and back, Cathy (my childhood friend’s mom – turned my friend) let me stay in her beautiful home on the side of town where I was just a quick trip to Denver, rather than driving back to Cheyenne (2 hours away) every time. Being a house guest was just what I needed during that busy and stressful week. I don’t know what it is, but I LOVE being a house guest. Maybe it’s all those years that we were on the other side of it as guesthouse hosts. Who knows. The funny thing is, Cathy wasn’t even there. She was out of town. But still, I felt loved and pampered and cared for in her home. I drank the (decaf) gingerbread tea she left out, took a hot bath and read for ages, rested and prayed. It was heavenly! It was a vacation for my soul during a trying and difficult treatment.
Thank you, Cathy for your hospitality. Even from afar you were a wonderful and kind host.
Then on Saturday my two friends Bryndi and Kori were angels (in that they got up before 6am) and drove me to Denver for my appointment. Two days in a row my friend Kori / nurse extraordinaire helped me with my shots. They were more intense than she was anticipating. Ha! The three of us made a fun day out of our trip to Denver, having a delicious Cajun breakfast, seeing an impressive IMAX of the National Parks, doing a little shopping, and of course, laughing a lot. (I made sure they grabbed some caramel corn at the clinic because it’s SO SO good. Note to self: bring a bigger purse next time.) It was just nice to have some friends there for me in this tangible way – helping me with shots, driving me, and offering to push me in a wheelchair if my orange-sized ovaries (ahem, normally the size of almonds) were sore. (Awkward… but also… a reality of this treatment.)
On Sunday I was reunited with my favorite guy. We left Greeley and drove to Denver for (yet another) appointment. Then we took a few days and headed up into the mountains. We drove up the winding road, listening to Chis Stapleton, windows down, thankful for this early anniversary getaway and this time together, in a beautiful place.
A few other blessings: my dad lending me his car during my stay in Greeley, my sister-in-law running an errand for me, my mom hanging out with me, buying me dinner, and my sister B driving me to Lafayette for an appointment, letting me lounge on her couch, and spending the day with moves-like-an-old-lady me before my egg retrieval surgery.
And of course, there’s Shawn. My rock through all of this. He’s excited to see what happens, he’s hopeful, and he encourages me all the time. He leaves me notes telling me I’m brave, and that we’re in this together. I’m so grateful for him, and for our partnership on this road that we never planned on walking.
(Thanks for your continued prayers, during these September happenings, and in the next few months. We’re in the waiting game now. We continue to pray and hope.)
Some days I think this might work and I get really excited. We’re with new doctors, on a new treatment, with a new protocol, a new diagnosis (Factor 5), and I’m hopeful. I’m on new supplements and vitamins, off caffeine (cue the kicking and screaming), we’re adding a few new injections to the (long) list, and I’ve been going to the recommended weekly acupuncture appointments. Go big or go home, right?? That’s pretty much the DeAtley way.
But then as soon as I let myself enjoy that tiny sliver of hope, even if just for a minute or two, the dreaded possibility of failure returns to me. Sadness and fear creep back in, holding hands and mocking me as they skip in circles around me. They tell me that I’m wasting my time by getting my hopes up, that we’ve been through this before, that we’ve lost before, that it’s pointless to hope, to get excited.
It’s a daily roller coaster. Some days we’re excited, some days we’re nervous, some days we’re pushing forward with the treatment, the trips to Denver, some days I’m in tears, and many days it’s every emotion in one day. But every day we’re praying. The prayers are often the same: “God, give us strength.” “God, comfort us if this doesn’t work.” “God, please let this work, please allow this miracle.” It’s those few simple but meaningful prayers on repeat, day after day.
I saw a quote the other day that said, “Hope is a choice.” I thought about that for a long time. I’m wanting to hope. In many ways hope is the hardest, bravest choice. But it’s also a choice that brings light and possibility and potential when things are hard. Hope is giving in to a happy “what if…?” when the past and the reality may say otherwise. Sometimes I feel too weak to hope. I feel like I can’t hope on my own strength. I have to look to God to be my hope, to give me the hope that I need, and to remind me that no matter the outcome, he is working, and comforting, and leading, and that his greater purpose is beyond what we can see, feel, or even understand at times.
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, even though our culture, and many cultures still treat it as a taboo. Although thankfully that seems to be changing in our culture, little by little. There’s no magic pill, potion, or formula for infertility. We’re doing this treatment in hopes to beat this disease. I’m continually having to come back to the reminder that God hasn’t forgotten about me, about us. He hasn’t chosen to give other women a child because of anything they have or haven’t done. Or because they’re more special or more loved – although to be honest that’s how it feels sometimes. That’s not how God works. He has a purpose for me right where he has me, he sees me, he knows our situation. He understands the heartbreak like only Father God can. We don’t know why some things happen the way they do, but I do know that we’re living in a sin-tainted world. That’s why we needed a Savior to come to earth in the first place. To be our remedy, our healer. Not just from infertility, but from cancer, abuse, famine, terrorism, and death itself.
That’s where the real hope comes in. Yes, we hope IVF works! We hope we’ll finally have a baby after 11 years of praying for one. We hope these shots and this bruised belly will be worth it. But if not, we know that real hope will stand. Because real hope isn’t in our outcome, our results, our place in life, it’s in Jesus. It’s in life beyond what we can see on earth. And on days when the roller coaster is too much, that’s the comfort and the reminder that we need.
– – – – – – – – – –
– I just wanted to say that while yes, this is a difficult path, we also consider ourselves very blessed to have the opportunity to do this treatment again.
– I want to thank Shawn for being such a strong and amazing man. Giving your wife 3-4 shots a day ain’t for the faint of heart. He encourages me, supports me, pushes me to keep writing, and works so hard to make this treatment a possibility for us. I’m so thankful for a husband like Shawn.
– My time away from social media continues to be a nice way to focus on the path that’s before us. Thanks again for your continued messages, prayers, support, and kindness. We’re thankful for friends like you.
I was torn on whether or not to be “one of those bloggers” who shares such personal details from their life, who shares openly about attempt #4 at the fertility doctor. I was torn on whether or not I wanted to write about this (continued) journey.
It’s personal! It’s ripping your heart out of your chest and holding it still, hoping it doesn’t get crushed. Again.
It’s awkward, because unless you’ve been there, you can’t fully understand the fragile state of our emotions, the desire to extend our family, the excitement of trying again, the all-too-familiar fear of failure, the dread of the needles and the procedures, and the ups and downs of a long treatment plan.
But this is where we are and the next step we’ve decided to take. We’ve chosen to move forward from here and trust God as we walk back into this long, dark, scary hallway of fertility treatments. We want to look into what the problem is, to have a diagnosis of some kind, to have some answers, if possible. Our doctor in Denver was shocked that we had never been diagnosed with anything by previous doctors.
So we’re going back to the doctor, with faith and fear in tow. We hope that faith and hope can overcome the fear when doubt wants to take over. And we hope that maybe sharing this journey – openly, from the beginning, for the first time ever, can help strengthen us through your support and prayers. We hope that sharing openly with you the behind-the-scenes can help us heal along the way, and not feel alone, or that we have to hide where we are and what we’re going through. We don’t want the haters to hate, sending us messages telling us that we should have done this, or taken that, or chosen route #12, or that another path would have been better for us. We hope you can recognize that this is our journey, as Shawn & Jenn, and that this is the path we feel we should be on right now, at this place in our lives.
We hope that sharing our 4th In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, from the beginning, can also shed some light on what it’s like to walk through this grueling process. Maybe it can shed some light on what it’s like for couples like us. Maybe it can help you understand how to pray, love, and support others in your life who may be going through something like this.
We know that we have friends who have been with us on many different journeys through this blog, and we hope that no matter the outcome of this next journey, God can be glorified. Even if things don’t turn out like we hope. We hope that the bond of our friendships through this blog, and our own marriage, can grow and be strengthened.
Life is full of choices, full of risk, and full of opportunities to trust God.
Here we go, back to the doctor.
———————— There will still be aspects of this treatment that we will keep private. That means that we may not respond to every question, but we will share the journey as we feel led. We hope that in all of this, you will see God at the center, comforting us on the hardest days, and reminding us that he is always, always good.
Sometimes I mourn being able to lay his, our newborn baby on my chest.
Sometimes I mourn being able to see what OUR baby would look like from minute 1 of its life. A little bit of him, a little bit of me. I mourn being able to see him hold OUR baby, him laughing at the size of those tiny little hands compared to his.
Sometimes I mourn being able to share in the giddy early days, when nobody knows but us, that we’re having a baby together.
I mourn being able to see his reaction to this news that we’ve waited to hear.
Sometimes I mourn not being able to add another member to our growing gang of awesome nieces and nephews.
I mourn being able to watch him become a dad. Not because that’s “just what married people do”, or whatever, but because I love this person so deeply that I want to share this life experience with him. I want to see his legacy continue on in that way.
Those are some of the things I mourn. But as they say, “grief doesn’t stop, it just changes colors.” And I couldn’t agree more.
Certain seasons, certain life happenings, bring out different colors of grief, things to mourn. Sometimes it’s the loss that has already taken place, and sometimes it’s the grief for what we don’t have, or may never have.
But then I see this friendship we have, strengthened by these hard times, by this loss, and I am grateful.
I see the way he cares for me, looks at me. This ain’t our first rodeo, so he understands and knows what stings, what makes me want to cry but I can’t because we’re surrounded by a group of people. We’ve been through this enough times that we don’t always need to talk anymore. We understand. I get the things that are hard for him, and he gets the things that are hard for me.
Sometimes I mourn not showing him through childbirth that I can be strong, that I can let pain wash over me like a wave, but he reminds me that I’m brave and strong, and that means the world to me. He’s been there to push countless needles into my body through IVF, and he’s been there for me and with me, through three surgeries, and six losses. He reminds me that I can get through this pain-du-jour, today’s grief as well.
When I struggle with feeling like nobody can relate to some of the things we’ve gone through, and the long journey we’ve been on, I remember that I’m the copilot on this awesome adventure, albeit bumpy at times, to a kind, caring, protective, encouraging, loving, wise, funny pilot and friend named Shawn DeAtley. I can look over at him and know that he knows 1 billion percent what it’s like. This is his story. And it’s mine. And it’s ours. And if there’s one thing I’d never change about all of this, it’s how sweet our relationship has become despite the hard times. And for that, I’m very, very grateful.