Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Infertility :: Our Diagnosis {Part 1}

In January, I briefly mentioned that we have been struggling with infertility, but I didn't share many details. While I am in a much better place than I was last year, it's still a hard thing to talk about. But it has been such a large part of our lives, and it has been strange to have such a life-altering thing hidden for so long. So today I want to share our personal story in trying to grow our family. 

Our story is not over, and in many ways is just beginning. So I want to be sensitive to those who have struggled a lot longer than we have; I do not presume to understand all of the ins and outs of infertility, treatments, etc. We are still praying through each next step in this journey. All I can do is share where we are now, and how the Lord has brought us to this point.

So here is our story {so far}...

We started seriously talking about having a baby in the Fall of 2012. Mike was ready for kids when we got married, but it had taken me a little longer to be comfortable with letting my mind and my heart settle on having a baby. Not because I didn't want kids {I did}, but because we had so much going on at the time. I had left my friends, my church and ministry, and was newly married in a new city. When we first started talking about it, we were in the middle of a church planting residency and trying to figure out the next steps for our church, and I just didn't know if we could add parenthood to the list. So it was easier to tell myself I wasn't ready and to just not think about it. Of course, once my mind and heart had started down the “baby path,” there really was no turning back, so that was a lot easier said than done. I slowly let myself get excited at the prospect of growing our family.

Since we had seriously started discussing and praying about it, we knew that I would have to figure out what was up with my stomach issues first. And then I got really sick and ended up in the hospital. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease I had never heard of, and suddenly everything changed. My thoughts immediately shifted to figuring out life with Crohn’s and how to manage it. But my heart had not forgotten about having kids. Instead, more questions flooded my brain…can I still get pregnant? Can I take medication and still have healthy babies? Can I pass this disease to my kids? Is this going to delay us growing our family? Why is this happening now??

I was frustrated that our plans were put on hold. My heart was ready, but my body obviously was not. I knew that I would have to get better before we could even think about having kids. I was still having flare ups, was getting used to the medication, and learning through trial and error the things I could eat. I was at an unhealthy low weight and was vitamin D and B-12 deficient. I had been sick for so long, I desperately needed a period of time where I felt well before beginning a pregnancy. So my sweet husband was patient and helped me figure out life with Crohn’s.

I knew my best chance of having a healthy pregnancy would be when my Crohn’s was in remission, and when I was feeling stronger physically. After months of working toward remission and better health, we re-engaged the conversation. I did my research, talked with my doctors, and we officially started trying in the Spring of 2013. It was exciting at first; we were finally going to grow our little family! I was so ready for this next stage in life, and I just could not wait until the Lord blessed us with a baby of our own.

But the excitement quickly faded. I wasn't getting pregnant in the time frame I had hoped for, and each month brought increasing disappointment and frustration. I knew what was considered normal {in terms of time frame}, but my heart feared there was a deeper problem. What if my Crohn’s {or my medication} was keeping me from getting pregnant? My doctors had assured me that I shouldn't have any more difficulty than someone without Crohn’s; many women with Crohn’s experience perfectly healthy pregnancies. But some don’t. The {stinky} reality is that I have an autoimmune disease, so I don’t get the benefit of “normal” or “usual.” I constantly battled these fears as I tried to trust the Lord and His timing.

Initial Infertility Diagnosis
Month after month went by, each one more disappointing than the last. We eventually {sadly} reached the ominous "1 year" mark. Under age 35, that's the mark when a doctor will really talk with you and take your concerns seriously. I probably could have pushed the issue sooner, given the fact that I have Crohn's, but a lot of what the Lord was teaching me was patience and waiting on Him instead of rushing ahead with my own plans. And as much as I hated and fought it, He kept telling me to wait for the full year. I can now see the hidden blessings of waiting the year, but it didn't make it any easier to endure, especially since I waited the year and didn't get the answers I had hoped for.

I had my annual exam scheduled with my OB/GYN {May 2014}, and it was disheartening that this conversation was so much different than the year before. In May 2013, I had my pre-conception visit, where I got to ask all the fun questions and have the excitement of beginning to try to have a baby. I walked away full of hope and excitement, so sure that I would be back in her office pregnant soon. In May 2014, however, I was full of questions and fear. Even though we already knew we were {by definition} infertile, it was still disheartening to hear her confirm it. She outlined what our next steps could be, and despite her efforts to sound hopeful and encouraging, I walked away in tears, full of questions and fear.


I share this early part of our story, because Crohn's has very much been a factor in our infertility journey. It has affected our testing and the treatment options we have considered. I also share it to show how long our hearts have been waiting to grow our family. While we didn't start trying until the Spring of 2013, our hearts had settled on and had begun praying for our sweet baby many months before. 

Also, writing just a few sentences about the year that we were trying doesn't do justice to all of the emotions and struggle. There is SO much to be said about that year...more posts for other days. For now, I will stick to just sharing the overall story. More tomorrow...

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