Friday, November 9, 2012

What I wish I would have known - Part 1

The struggle of infertility can be painful and sometimes very lonely, especially at the beginning. I look at where we are now, and even though our state seems worse off, I remember those early days when nobody knew, and we were heartbroken all alone.

It's so much easier for me to share now. Now, opening up my blog and writing is easy. Now, mentioning to a friend that we need prayer or support seems so natural. In a couple of weeks, we are having our entire church pray for us! But there was a day when I was terrified and humiliated to talk about our struggle to have children.

There were a number of reasons we didn't share our struggle. In the first place, we were barely recognizing it aloud ourselves. Both my husband and I has silent concerns long before we ever spoke them to each other. I didn't want to be an alarmist, and I felt too young to bring infertility up. We talk about it all of the time now, and so I forget that there was a point when we didn't.

On top of that, I was afraid at what people might say. Strange enough, my fear was not that they would have some horror story about a friend never getting pregnant, but that they would brush me off when I knew something was wrong. I didn't want to hear that I was young and had plenty of time. I didn't want to hear that Robby and I should be enjoying our early years alone together, not planning for a family yet.

Finally, I simply didn't know what to do. I didn't know who to talk to or what to say. I remember mentioning to my doctor that I had been off of birth control for a year with no baby, but I didn't press it further, and neither did she.

Even when I made my first appointment in Visalia, I nearly backed out of saying the real reason why I was there. I was led back to my room, and a nurse came in to get me ready for an annual exam. I almost kept silent, but finally I said, "I'm not here for that, actually." She seemed perplexed and double-checked the chart she was holding -- apparently the reason for my appointment had been written down incorrectly. I made myself be bold: "I can't get pregnant, and I'm wondering what to do." My OB was wonderful, of course, and sat down to have the first helpful conversation I had had at that point. I was amazed. So this was as simple as it could have been all along! She wasted no time starting me on a medication, and then soon referred me to a specialist.

There are many things I wish I would have known, such as the following:
  • Infertility is a common struggle that affects many couples. Most statistics say one is six couples will have some form of infertility. That being said, if a couple has been trying for a year (some specialists even say six months now) and has been unable to conceive, it is perfectly right and acceptable (not overreactive or silly) to share their concern with their doctor.
  • Infertility affects all ages. And actually, if you consider that women naturally become less fertile as they age, it seems all the more reason to see a doctor sooner than later if you are young and experiencing difficulty in conceiving. 
  • You can make an appointment with your doctor simply to discuss your concerns. (I didn't know I could do this! I felt like I needed a "real" reason to see my doctor.) Be straightforward when you do meet: "We have been trying for ______ months/years and can't get pregnant. What can we do?"
  • You can make an appointment with a different doctor if you don't feel yours is listening or responding well. (The idea of disagreeing with my doctor was completely foreign to me!)
  • There are easy tests that can be performed to check important baby-making information. A trip or two to the lab to get blood work may be all you need to get some answers. You can request labs from your doctor if she doesn't suggest them. (I didn't know this, either!)
  • There in an easy test for your hubby to check his count and motility. Do this right away. 
  • Have bloodwork done every year. I've just learned this one the hard way. Your levels may change. In fact, my doctor recently said that as far as FSH and AMH levels, he sees significant drops take place every six months in women with DOR and other imbalances.
  • Endometriosis is serious, so if you or your doctor suspects it, don't waste time.  With endometriosis, your body is functioning incorrectly, and tissue that should only grow in your uterus is growing in other places. It doesn't go away on its own, and usually it gets worse if untreated. I used to think it simply meant painful menstrual cycles, but it's so much more than that. 
  • Endometriosis cannot be cured but it can be prevented from getting worse. If you suspect endometriosis, don't wait. There are hormonal and surgical treatments.
  • There is a reason specialists exist! Our OB/GYNs and family doctors can only go so far.
  • Be brave and proactive as you seek medical answers. This is your health and your life.
Gratefully, God gives grace even when we don't have all the right answers. He cares about infertility and cares deeply for the infertile couple. I look back at our journey and am amazed at where we are now. Most of the time it was a slow process of placing one foot in front of the other, unsure of where the next step would take us but recognizing that we seemed to be headed somewhere. We would have a hunch or feel a nudge or meet the right person and then--another step taken. A phone call, an email, a conversation--one more step. It was God always. Moving and guiding us. Calming and encouraging us. Taking rests with us and directing detours for us.

There are things I wish I would have known, but I recognize that I could have never known how God would show up in our lives all because of infertility.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences Candace. Knowing you and Elva helps me to feel comfortable at church and that is invaluable. I love you.

    1. Thank you, as well, Brandy, for being a friend through all of this. It's amazing how God has brought so many of us together! And it's neat seeing that even though our stories our different, even though God has led us to pursue different paths, He's the same God to each one of us. He's the "God who sees," and I'm so grateful for the grace He has shown us by providing us with these meaningful friendships.