Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our Story

Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our StoryYou never think it’s going to happen to you.

I distinctly remembering thinking about this, right around the time myself and 8 other friends got married within a 6 month window. “The odds of at least one of us having trouble getting pregnant are really good,” I said to myself, worried for those around me. Armed with my copy of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I knew that it wouldn’t be me.

Flash forward about two years, when my husband and I prayerfully started trying to conceive our first child. Several people close to me had recently been through miscarriages, which I figured only bettered my odds of getting pregnant quickly and carrying to term without a problem. And yet, month after month went by, as we did all of the ‘right things’ the ‘right way’, but still, no baby.

Even though I knew several people who had gone through miscarriage, and even a few who were struggling to conceive, words can’t really express the loneliness and isolation I felt during those long months. See, infertility is a silent battle in our churches. For many couples, it is a private struggle for years, with private grief and private wounds. And I understand that- because infertility is an intensely private issue. But I think that there will be major healing in our churches when we are able to put our emotions aside and talk about this issue, because it affects so many families around us, and many times we don’t even know. So I want to tell my story. I understand that a pregnant woman is not usually the one that you want to hear from when talking about fertility issues or miscarriage, but my story is real, the pain I bore (and still bear) is real, and I want to share it with you, in hopes that somewhere down the line, my story brings hope to someone struggling with the same things I struggled with, silently, for months.

Infertility as a medical term and infertility as an emotional obstacle can be somewhat different. The medical community defines infertility as ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse’. For some couples, that can be the longest twelve months of their lives, as the emotional tolls of infertility set in much faster than that. I want to validate those feelings, and say that no two women’s fertility journeys are alike- and the bottom line is that we must support one another, whether a few months or many years into it. I think it was around the second or third month of trying to conceive that the emotions started to creep up in my heart- feelings that something was wrong, that we would never get pregnant, that my body wasn’t doing what it should, that I would never be a mother. Jealousy at the other pregnant women around me, no matter how happy I truly was for them and their growing families. Feeling like I was the only one that had this struggle. Not wanting to talk about it, for fear that naming it would make it real. Each month that passed became more difficult, and hope seemed farther and farther away from my heart.

Much to our surprise, around our ninth month of trying to conceive, we found out that I was pregnant.

Some people, upon finding out they are pregnant, are secretive about it for a while, waiting to tell family for a few weeks and not making anything public until the first trimester was over, in case something were to happen. I was pretty much the opposite of that. I immediately told my parents, called my husbands parents, and drove around Westminster visiting people and making calls for the rest of the day. I was elated. My heart was full. I was going to be a mom.

In the next few weeks, we made many plans for our little birdy. We knew we didn’t want to find out the gender, but we already had names picked out and that we wanted a grey and yellow nursery (okay, my husband didn’t care much about that) and that even if it was a girl she wouldn’t wear much pink because I’m a nonconformist and I don’t want her to feel like she needs to be Barbie. I was choking down leafy greens and red meat and trying to sleep enough but also stay active and do and don’t do all the crazy things you do and don’t do when you’re an expectant mommy. When the time came for my first appointment, Matt and I were elated. A picture of this little life! I couldn’t think of anything more special.

It was July 10. I still remember pacing in the waiting room trying not to wet myself because I was told that I needed a full bladder to be able to see the baby, and I was going to see that little one no matter what! I remember the coldness of the ultrasound gel, the soft lights, and the little bean shape that popped up on the ultrasound screen. That was my baby! Right there! It was incredible. I was flooded with emotion.

But our joy was soon trampled as we were told that things were not right with our perfect little life. Over the next 24 hours, a series of ultrasounds and blood tests confirmed the worst: that though my body still thought that I was pregnant, our little one was no longer growing. On the afternoon of July 11, I received a call and was asked to schedule surgery to remove the baby. It was the worst, darkest day of my life.

My miscarriage is without a doubt one of the most painful, confusing things I have ever gone through in my entire life. Yes, I learned many lessons through that time, and I can see how the Lord used that baby to draw me closer to Him, to trust Him, and to speak to others. But it doesn’t change the hurt. It doesn’t make the grief go away. Even being pregnant again doesn’t make the fact that we lost a baby disappear. I still think about how old our child would be, marveling at the children of friends who had their babies right around when my due date would have been. One of them even named her son what we would’ve named the baby had it been a boy- a haunting reminder of what could have been.

Painful months passed as we continued to process and grieve this loss, with little direction of what that was even supposed to look like. Scripture doesn’t tell us how to mourn a lost baby, and the church, normally silent on the issue, doesn’t help either. Did the baby have a soul? Will I meet the baby in Heaven someday? When people ask me if I have any children, do I include this little one who isn’t with us anymore? Do I stand when all the moms are acknowledged on Mother’s Day? When people ask if we are going to ‘start trying’, do I launch into this tear-jerking tale? Miscarriage leaves you with a mess of questions and pain and very little finality. I still don’t have the answers.

My tiny glimmer of hope through the loss of that baby was that almost everyone I knew that had miscarried got pregnant again within 3 months, and now had beautiful children. “You’re more fertile after a miscarriage,” they would encourage, “it’ll happen.” Well, it didn’t. Three months came and went, then six, and before I knew it, it was February 14th, our due date, and I was a mess of tears in my bed, not knowing if I would ever be a mother, if my body would ever cooperate, if the Lord would ever bless me as He had seemingly blessed everyone around me. I recounted the miscarriage and all of the emotions surrounding the surgery to my husband that night, who sadly had been on the road when everything happened. As we sat and cried together, the Lord brought us closer, and yet the pain continued to grow. The feelings of loneliness and isolation only intensified.

Several weeks later I was diagnosed with a 7-cm mass that was encasing my right ovary and fallopian tube. I was referred to a gynecological oncologist, who seemed optimistic that I didn’t have cancer (which was obviously good) but told us that realistically, I was going to lose half of my reproductive organs, and that there was a chance that the same thing could develop at some point on the other side, as well. I was devastated. I couldn’t even have a baby with all of my organs intact- how was I ever supposed to start a family with only half of them? Both my husband and I felt strongly that our first child would be biological, and besides, adoption wasn’t financially feasible for us (and still won’t be for a long, long time, sadly), and so I just resolved that whatever was going to happen, would happen, and that I just needed to be honest with myself and with the Lord about where I was and what I was going through.

The Lord really met me in that place, in those dark weeks of doubting and questioning. I found myself beginning to surrender, to trust, to just let go of the emotions I was facing, the doubt, the lack of hope, and I just tried to move on with life. As good as that sounds, as I look back, it felt more like giving up than giving over, though that surrender was there, too.

And then it happened- out of nowhere, almost a year after our first pregnancy, we found out that I was pregnant again. We were overjoyed but also completely terrified. That positive test launched us into a frantic week of ultrasounds and bloodwork, trying to make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. I lived in complete fear for the first twelve weeks, always expecting the worst, because that’s all I knew- it was how I protected myself. Every cramp I felt was the beginning of the end- I over thought everything. I could’t help it. I wasn’t even excited for the first ultrasound because I KNEW that something would be wrong, and I would have to start the grieving process all over again.

To our surprise, our baby was perfect. Her heartbeat was strong- though I only saw it for about 2 seconds before I bawled my eyes out for the rest of the appointment. And here we are today-25 weeks into this journey, the little girl is kicking me as I write. What a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness.

I want to share this journey with you to make sure that you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be strong if you aren’t. You don’t have to hold it together if you can’t. It’s okay to cry, to be angry, to be disappointed, confused, frustrated, scared, lonely. It’s okay to question the Lord and to petition Him honestly. But we must remember that our identity lies in Him and who He has created us to be in this moment. Our hope must lie in Him, and not in medicine or our bodies or our education or the experiences of others.

The months that we spent unsuccessfully trying to conceive, both before and after our miscarriage, were some of the darkest, most difficult months of my life. I felt like no one understood, like I shouldn’t feel those emotions because somewhere someone was in a worse situation than I was, and like I should just suck it up and pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. So I want you to know, again, that you aren’t alone. I am here for you, I understand where you are. There is hope, but the point of this isn’t even the baby at the end. It’s the camaraderie, the community that I want you to know is surrounding you in this. You don’t have to feel alone like I did, because so many women are dealing with this very thing right now, or have dealt with it in the past.

Church, I think it’s time to take off the silencers and tell our stories. We need to fill our young women with stories of hope, yes, but also real stories of tears and grief and the Lord’s redemption and healing. We need to be honest about these struggles so that women don’t have to isolate themselves anymore.

Women, if this is your story, your journey right now, I am here for you. It’s okay to break down, to feel your emotions, to cry, to be frustrated. This is an intensely difficult thing to go through. There is so much pain and emotion and frustration and confusion involved. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord, and with those around you. You’ll be surprised at how ‘not alone’ you truly are, as people start to come out of the woodwork as they hear your story. The community is here for you- we just need to all find each other.

If you’d like to use this blog as a venue to tell your story, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Let’s be a light, a voice of love and truth and healing.

Wise-Woman-Builds Graced Simplicity
thankful thursday

Husband-Coached Childbirth?

bradley

From the moment a woman announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded with advice from other mothers and horror stories of labor and incompetent husbands and breathing techniques that did little more than frustrate and break concentration. Because we are choosing to give birth in a birthing center (more on that later), I strongly desire to be as prepared and educated as possible before going into the birth of my daughter. The problem is, there are so many choices of “methods” and “classes” that all claim to do that! Here are a few of the options presented to the expectant mama:

Lamaze– What your parents probably think of when it comes to childbirth classes. I don’t actually know anyone who has had a baby in the last few years that has taken a Lamaze class. Lamaze focuses on breathing and movement strategies to make a natural birth more comfortable, but also educates women on interventions as well. Classes are typically 12 hours of instruction, broken down over several class sessions, and are held in large groups (typically around 12 couples).

The Mongan Method (Hypnobirthing)- focuses on deep relaxation and a degree of self-hypnosis, coupled with visualization. Not as crazy as it sounds, and I have had a few friends who tried hypnobirthing and loved it, including some hardcore home birthing mamas! My favorite part is the “anchoring” effect that the husband is supposed to have- when he even touched the wife, she is to associate him with strength and serenity, and immediately be focused. Classes are typically 5 weeks of 2-3 hour classes, and are available in group or private settings, depending on your instructor.

Birthing From Within– A very spiritual approach to childbirth, probably the most “hippie” of them all. I actually read the Birthing from Within book a few weeks ago, and if you can wade through the semi-crazy, hallucinogenic art therapy-esque chapters in the beginning of the book, there are actually some great and helpful suggestions in there as well. They also have meaningful ideas for baby showers called “blessingsways” that I am going to try to incorporate into my own showers this fall/winter. Six one-hour classes.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)- This is a pretty generic child birthing education organization, and the content of the classes varies depending on the instructor.

There are a few other options, but these seem to be the most popular, at least within my circles! So, what are we choosing? We’ve decided to study The Bradley Method- and our classes start tonight!

The Bradley Method is a philosophy based on years of research and observation by obstetrician Dr. Robert A. Bradley. The classes consist of 13 weeks of 2 hour classes, which focus on nutrition, exercise, pain management techniques, coping through proper body positioning and movement, education of the stages of labor, and birth rehearsals. Of all of the classes I mentioned above, Bradley seems to be the most holistically based, but also seems to give the most practical preparation as well (don’t you want to have a birth rehearsal?)

The role of the husband (or partner) is integral in the Bradley Method. Also dubbed “Husband-Coached Childbirth”, the labor partner is basically trained to be a doula and labor coach- to remember the things that the mother may forget in the heat of labor, and to know how to tend to each stage of labor’s specific physical and emotional needs. The coach is also responsible for the mother’s preparation- making sure that she is held accountable to Bradley’s nutrition standards and performing the designated exercises as often as portable to give the body the best preparation for the birth event.

There are two Bradley Method books that I have read- one, Husband-Coached Childbirth, written by Dr. Bradley himself, seems to be the book that started it all. The book is actually written to the father, though as mothers I think it’s good to read as well. It explains the development of his philosophy, the success that he has seen in his practice, and the various techniques used to achieve a peaceful, natural labor. I don’t think that reading this book alone is enough to fully prepare you for the birth, however- it is best used in conjunction with classes, as I think it was intended.

The second book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, written by Susan McCutcheon, is much more detail oriented, outlining specific nutrition guidelines showing photos of the different exercises (almost every time with a completely naked pregnant woman, so be aware), and going into great depth about each of the stages of labor. This book is written to the couple, and addresses both the mother and the coach at times. If you don’t have time or money to take a full Bradley class, but want to be educated on the philosophy and prepare your body using these techniques, I highly suggest this book. In fact, I know some couples who completely skipped the classes, just read this book, and had beautiful, natural Bradley births!

In short, here’s why we are choosing the Bradley Method:

The support of our community. We really, truly know a large number of couples who have used this method successfully and loved it. Veteran Bradley parents can’t seem to speak highly enough about the experience, and I value that a lot.

-The development of the husband and wife team. Many birth education options focus on either the mother “doing it herself” or with the help of other experienced women, and leave the husband on the sidelines. While I certainly see the merit of having other experienced women at your disposal, this simply isn’t what I envision when I think of a graceful, Biblical childbirth- diminishing the husband’s role? In our marriage, we work as a God-ordained team, and I think that should transfer to the birth event as well.

-The importance of nutrition and exercise. If you’ve ever read this blog you know how important this is to me, so there’s no surprise here. The Bradley exercises are simple but effective (think kegels, full squats, pelvic tilts), and the nutrition is comprehensive. For example, I am supposed to eat two baked potatoes a week- with the skin on- to help with mineral and iron consumption! I just never would have thought of that. Thank goodness for Bradley 🙂

-The time commitment to the classes– thats more than 24 hours! While this may deter some people, I am excited to fully immerse myself, have plenty of time to chew on what I am learning, ask questions, and practice. I feel confident that if anything is going to prepare me, these classes will.

-Birth rehearsals. I am fully aware that you can never truly rehearse your birth, as birth, by nature, is very unpredictable. However, if you can get the main coping and support techniques down for the various stages, it will be much easier to deviate when the time comes and incorporate something new. Our birth center also holds mandatory birth rehearsals right in the labor rooms- that will be exciting!

-Emphasis on breastfeeding. I haven’t actually started the class (like I said, we start tonight!), but one of our required textbooks is La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. This is a small point, as I already had the book to read anyway, but it makes me feel better to know that they emphasize things that I find very important.

I can’t wait to go to class tonight and start this journey! I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way 🙂

Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Mate

So, it’s pronounced “mah-tay”.  And it just might be your new favorite thing.

I was first introduced to the wonder that is Mate in college by several friends who were introduced to it by a lovely classmate who was originally from Argentina, as is Mate itself.  The drink was taking my friends by storm, and I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss as about- until I tried it.

Mate is not just a drink- when done well, it’s an experience.  Mate is a loose herb that is traditionally packed into a dried gourd in a special way that I have yet to master- then drank out of a special straw called a bombilla that filters out the herb and just gives you the mate tea.  Mate is also traditionally consumed in a communal setting- the host, who prepares the mate, drinks the first cup, then fills the gourd back up with hot water and passes it to the next person, who drinks and then fills for the next person, and so on.

The beauty of mate is the focusing and awakening properties of the herb- it is a stimulant much like coffee, but has no addictive properties nor will it give you jitters.  When lots of people are together and sharing mate, hours of great conversation can pass and seem like minutes because of how engaged and attentive you become.  It is also renown for boosting the immune system and high antioxidant content.  It can be an excellent coffee substitute in the morning, or a surefire cure for the afternoon sleepies at the office.

While it may sound like I am talking about some type of cult experience or illegal substance, I assure you that mate is available at your nearest grocery store, and now even comes in teabag form for you to enjoy in your own individual mug or loose in your French press!

If you ever want to try it the traditional way, we would love to have you over and show you.  Just be prepared for the conversation part! 🙂 The brand that we use is called Guayaki, and it comes in a yellow bag that you can find at Giant in the natural foods section.  You can also purchase delicious, beginner-friendly Mate blends and gourd/bombilla sets at Teavana.

Zeroes: Big Box Retail Stores

For my second installment of “Heroes and Zeroes”, I wanted to tackle a bigger issue- a subject that really effects how we purchase- and that is “big box” retail stores. There’s a good chance you went to one today, or at least this week. You might do all of your regular shopping at one, maybe even for groceries! Well, my friends, that is a lot of kingdom money being spent, and we’ve got to make sure that we are spending it wisely. This post might turn your shopping life upside down- I hope it does. The Zero of the retail store industry undoubtedly goes to: Walmart.

Despite all of the readily available information on Walmart’s downfalls, it shocks me how many people (especially believers) still patronize them for convenience’s sake or simply out of habit. The following is a non-exhaustive list of reasons to never set foot in a Walmart again:

-Forced overtime or forced open availability has led to worker strikes in several parts of the country. There has also been documentation of child labor laws being broken.
Lunch and rest breaks are frequently revoked.

-Full time wages that fall below the poverty line are normal for a career Walmart employee. Average yearly salary for a full time employee has been, at times, almost $1000 under the poverty line. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, is quoted as saying “I pay low wages. I can take advantage of that. We’re going to be successful, but the basis is a very low-wage, low-benefit model of employment.”

-Gender discrimination, both in the hiring process and within the workplace, had been proven in several lawsuits, including Duke vs. Walmart Inc.

-Several cases of illegal or undocumented workers have come up within Walmart, who has denied knowledge but then been proven as lying by tapped phone conversations.

-Strict anti-union rules make it exceedingly difficult for Walmart employees to stand up for themselves or band together against injustices within their workplace.

-Very poor or nonexistent healthcare coverage is standard for Walmart employees. Only about 54% of employees are insured, while comparable box stores insure as many as 98% of their employees. It is argued that Walmart employees don’t get paid enough to even be able to afford their health insurance.

– Salary caps are often enforced on veteran employees, and salaries are even cut at times based on sales within the store, often cutting what small benefits are offered in the process.

-The presence of a Walmart can kill local businesses, some of which were previously in operation for years. The ability to get everything in one place for a very cheap price is very convenient, but comes at the cost of smaller businesses seeing dramatic loss in customer frequency and often having to close shop for lack of profit. This inevitably results in job loss in the community, no matter how many (low paying) jobs Walmart created within its walls.

-Walmart’s continuous quest for low prices forces manufacturers to comply with their wishes, often creating poor working situations within those companies as well. there are reports of major companies, such as Kraft Foods, having to close down factories in order to cut costs to keep their priced as low as Walmart demanded, resulting in major job loss for Kraft employees.

-Sourcing ethics. Much of what is sold in Walmart is manufactured
overseas in subpar working conditions, often at the expense of child labor and good quality. Reports of sweat shop and prison labor are widely publicized, and the store has even sold jewelry lines contaminated with dangerous chemicals in the past. In addition, such overseas shipping creates pollution that could easily be avoided if local sourced were in use.

If you would like to see a succinct documentary on the toll Walmart takes on local communities, pull up your Netflix and find The High Cost of Low Price. It’s worth the watch, especially if you regularly (or ever) patronize Walmart.

As a believer, I feel that I cannot spend a dollar of money meant to built the Kingdom in a place that is committing such atrocities as those listed above. It certainly is less convenient to have to make a few stops rather than one, but I have no regrets whatsoever!

Stop by tomorrow for our Hero alternative for retail stores!