I’m so excited to start this series! Today I’m linking up with Katie from heykatie.co! Katie and I met at FSU and little did we know that many years after graduation we’d both be experiencing infertility, miscarriage, and surgeries. We’ve definitely both had our ups and downs and we wanted to share them with you!
For those of you linking up, head to the bottom of the page to find the link and instructions! Contact me on Instagram or email me if you’re having any trouble. I’m going to leave the party open for 25 days just so others can join as you wish.
Today we’re blogging about our Infertility Stories. I’ve already posted mine so I’ll be reposting it here. We thought this was a good way to start our Infertility Link-Up!
John and my Infertility Story
Wow, I can’t believe I’m writing this post.
I’ve wanted to share our infertility story for so long, but I’ve had a hard time mustering up the courage. Our infertility story is not just a short chapter in our life—it was our life and has now become a part of who we are.
It’s hard to look back at the pain and pure agony I had, longing to be a mom. I felt I was in a desert that I just couldn’t escape. And only through God’s grace did I receive sprinkles of hope. A hope that I clung to in a way only one who suffers infertility can imagine. And now, John and I are here in the Easter resurrection of it all and I want to shout from the hilltops that there are answers to your infertility struggles and there are other women and couples going through this. You, my sister, are not alone.
I want to share our story, I want to share the hope, the despair, and the longing our hearts endured. I want you to know there are answers for infertility, there are doctors who know and study the causes of infertility and don’t just send you to the nearest fertility clinic. I want you to know that God is present with you and He will guide you in all your ways. I want you to know it is possible to conceive and bear a child even when you have a million little problems in your body. I want you to know that, above all, you are loved and your story, your pain, your struggle, is important.
John and I got married in July 2010. We had just graduated from Florida State University. I was teaching at the local Catholic school and John worked at our church office. We’d decided to wait to have kids until after our first year of marriage. I’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and we both knew on his salary alone, it wouldn’t be possible. So our journey began figuring out how we could do this.
We decided that October, John would go to law school, a desire of his from an early age. We completed all the necessary steps, and by the next year, we were moving to Naples, Florida for him to attend Ave Maria Law School. This is where our infertility journey began.
It was November 6, 2011, and we had a miscarriage. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would miscarry. I was always a healthy person, never had any big health issues; in my ignorance, I thought only women who have big health issues have miscarriages. But here I was, laying on our couch in extreme pain wondering why me, why our baby, why now. I wanted to hold on so tight to our baby, stop the pain, stop the inevitable. But I couldn’t. I learned quickly I wasn’t God, and His plan for us was different.
John called our OBGYN, who was very supportive and helped calm me down. I was 7 weeks pregnant, there was no need for me to go to the hospital so we miscarried at home.
You know how there are days in your life where you think back and you can’t remember anything about that day, but there are other days that you remember everything about—from what you ate to the weather? Well, this was one of those days. I will never forget ANY of it.
The next day we went to the doctor. I laid on the sonogram table praying and hoping for a miracle, that what we had experienced and what I knew was true wasn’t. That our baby would be ok, that we’d be able to be parents in 7 months’ time. But against all hope and begging, the doctor confirmed we had a miscarriage.
After having a miscarriage, a lot of couples want to try to get pregnant right away, but we just couldn’t. We felt exhausted, hurt, scared, and lost for words. We weren’t sure we were ready to have even the slightest possibility of this happening again while John was in his first year of law school. We were scarred.
We ended up deciding to not have children for the next two years of law school but our longing was deep and the agony I felt was insatiable. All I wanted to be was a mom, all I wanted was to stay home with a sweet baby, all I wanted was to hold a baby in my arms.
Our Search Begins
Fast forward 2.5 years, John was approaching his graduation date and we thought we’d give possible parenthood another go.
Graduation came and went.
We moved to Tallahassee with great hope of getting pregnant. I saw a new OBGYN. She was wonderful, sweet, and knowledgeable. I told her our history and how we’d been trying to conceive for almost a year but it just wasn’t happening. She didn’t seem worried. She told me I was a healthy young woman and it could just take time. She said we could talk about options when we hit the one year mark of actively trying to get pregnant on all the right days—meaning she wanted us to hit the reset button, come back in a year, then we could see what was wrong.
Meanwhile, I knew in my heart something was wrong. It shouldn’t take a young healthy couple this long to get pregnant. Something just wasn’t lining up. Month after month, we still weren’t pregnant. Before we hit the one year mark in Tallahassee, John was offered a job in Tampa. This, I believe, was divine intervention.
We moved to the Tampa area summer of 2015 and the hunt for a new OBGYN began. I made an OBGYN appointment in November 2015. I went in with high hopes that maybe, just maybe, this doctor would be able to give me answers.
Boy, was I wrong. I walked out of my first visit with fertility care papers in my hand–one for John and one for me. We were being referred to IVF. I couldn’t believe this, I couldn’t believe my doctor wasn’t able to come up with a plan to figure out why I wasn’t getting pregnant. I felt like she was just handing me off to someone else, so someone else could deal with my problems. But not even deal with them—she handed me off to other doctors who would just try to get me pregnant without figuring out why we weren’t conceiving. I didn’t have a good feeling about this. I wanted to fix the problem, not just the symptom.
So the search began again for an OBGYN who could actually help me. All the while, we were trying—and failing—to get pregnant. My best friend Jenna had been telling me to visit her doctor’s office. She really believed they could help me. I believe God was urging her day in and day out to speak this message to me.
Finally, June 2016 I found a fertility clinic, St. Gianna’s Center, that teaches women to understand their fertility and why they aren’t able to conceive. Although we had been tracking our fertility, we weren’t using Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System (CrMS), which St. Gianna’s Center uses and teaches. So John and I set a meeting with a CrMS Practioner to learn the system.
After our first month using CrMS, we met again in August 2016 with our CrMS practitioner from St. Gianna Center. She took a look at my charts and told me that I most likely suffered from endometriosis, ovarian cysts, PCOS, and fibroids, and that I would probably need surgery.
My jaw hit the floor and tears followed quickly. We were flabbergasted, to say the least. I couldn’t believe that I could have all these things in my body. I thought I had normal cycles, nothing out of the ordinary, but my charts showed differently. I was shocked that none of the 4 previous OBGYNs suspected any of this.
My CrMS practitioner referred me to a NaProTECHONOLOGY® (Natural Procreative Technology) OBGYN in the area, which happened to be at my best friend’s OBGYN office. I called as soon as we got in the car and made an appointment to see him. There was an opening five weeks later.
September 2016 was my first appointment with my new doctor. He looked at my CrMS charts and explained that since we were young he wanted to try three months of hormone therapy. If we did not get pregnant in those three months, surgery would be the next step. We quickly agreed to this.
He put me on HCG (which I had to inject myself), Femara, progesterone, had my blood tested throughout the month to check my hormone levels, and had me do an HSG (Hysterosalpingography) test to see if my fallopian tubes were open. Thankfully, they were. I had never had so much contact with needles, pills, and tests.
The first month went by. No pregnancy. So we did it all again. Careful charting, flicking the syringes to pop the air bubbles, injections, timing the blood tests with my cycle (and dealing with the labs), tracking the levels. But Month 2 ended and I was starting my next cycle. Still not pregnant.
After three months of injections, suppositories, tests, and blood samples, we still weren’t pregnant but my hope was stronger than ever. I knew if my doctor could do surgery then I would be healed. I knew and I believed it. At my December 2016 doctor’s appointment, we tentatively scheduled surgery for February 6. Surgery would happen if we weren’t pregnant. We took a final shot at conceiving without surgery. But it wasn’t meant to be.
February 6, 2017, is a day that changed my life forever.
I can share the details of the surgery another time, but what matters here is that I went in for a 3-hour surgery on a cold February morning and left healed. I had 13 different spots of endometriosis, fibroids, and cysts that were all removed and my doctor did two ovarian wedge resections. (You can read all about this innovative surgical procedure here.) Recovery was hard but I did it with the best nurse, my husband, by my side.
After a month of healing, we had the green light to try again. I thought for sure we’d get pregnant right away. I was taking all the right hormones–shots, pills—but we didn’t get pregnant. I felt for the first time that my well was empty and I only had hope left that God would create a miracle.
Laura Bush said to her daughter Jenna Bush Hagger, “Every woman will have her baby when she is supposed to.” And wow is that true. I found out on Mother’s Day 2017 that I, Holley, was actually pregnant.
John and I were stunned. This was a true miracle we were seeing before our eyes. All the work and hope we had was present on a stick showing positive.
We were slow to tell others about being pregnant. It was like we didn’t want it to all end as it had before. The scars from our miscarriage 6 years earlier were still so raw. But as the pregnancy progressed we couldn’t have asked for it to go any better—outside of the throwing up and feeling yucky and tired all the time—but hey, I was pregnant, I would’ve killed for those feelings before.
On January 18, 2018, we finally held our precious baby we’d been longing for. Our hope was fulfilled, our strength was renewed, our endurance and patience was rewarded. God gave us the best blessing in the gift of our sweet Caroline. And as Laura Bush said, we had our baby when we were supposed to.
where to find help
If you are struggling with infertility and want to seek options before heading to IVF please reach out to me or to a local CrMS practitioner and they can point you in the right direction of finding a NaProTECHNOLOGY® doctor.
Know that I’m praying for you. Know that God has a reason. Know that He is with you in your Garden of Gethsemane.
There is hope, my sister, there is hope. Never let your hope run dry. He is not giving up on you.
Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System (CrMS)
FertilityCare™ Centers of America– Find a FertilityCare™ center near you.
Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction
Dr. Hilgers for straight talk on women’s health and fertility
To find your own NaProTECHONOLGY doctor. (I’m not sure how updated this list is)
P.S. Please share your story, share what you are going through, let others in to support you. They may never know or understand, they may say things that don’t help but you’re giving them an invitation to love and that’s a great gift. It’s hard to open up about infertility, I know. But you never know who is living it too. You may just meet a best friend or help someone else. You never know till you open your heart just a little.
Find Hope Link-Up
Welcome to Finding Hope Link-Up!
As a courtesy for linking-up, please: Follow us on your preferred Social Media to stay connected!
BeeSimplyOrganized: Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
HeyKatie: Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
Place a link to this link somewhere on your site or post (for example: “Linking up with: insert link here) so that other bloggers can join the link party!
Visit and comment on at least one other blog that links up! Let’s spread the love! 🙂
Every last Tuesday of the month around 5 am EST bloggers will be able to submit their Finding Hope Infertility Link-Up blog post by clicking the blue inlinkz button below. The link will be open for 25 days. Adding your link will allow you to join the link-up party and share your story while meeting other’s who have fought and journeyed through infertility.
If you need a reminder, sign up here! And I will send you a reminder when the Finding Hope Link-Up goes live!
Enjoy! Link-up below!
Join the link party!Click here to enter
Lauren Lane says
What an incredible story! I am so glad that you guys are sharing these stories and creating this community. Thank you for sharing <3
Thank you so much, Lauren! And thanks for reading! 🙂
Hi Holley (and Katie! 🙂 ),
So, I’m not that tech savvy to have a ‘gram account or twitter or a blog or even Facebook! A lot of people cheer me for this, and many think I need to get with the times. Anyway, I say all this because I have no “link” to link up to, but I felt compelled to share my story, and the only place was in the comments, soooo, if you want to use my story, feel free if you think it’ll help someone out there.
First off, when I saw Katie’s post, I cried. I cried because finally, FINALLY, there was an outlet for me to connect, even in the smallest way, with women (and men too) that are dealing and struggling with something that I believe can be a silent killer – not necessarily a killer of someone’s life, but more about killing the spirit, killing the romance, killing the relationships you’ve had with family, friends, co workers. Infertility can be all-life consuming, not just medically consuming, and I think it’s SO important to share our stories so we all recognize we are not alone, we all matter, and maybe, just maybe, we can push back on the killer that tries to destroy everything in its path.
That all being said, I’d like to share our story if that’s ok, and I pray that if another woman (or man) reads this and relates to it, that they recognize they are not alone.
My husband, Andy, and I were married on a beautiful Saturday, May 11th, 2013 (hard to believe it’s been 6 years!) At the time, not being “fully formed” in the faith (although I myself am a cradle Catholic and really knew where the church stood on contraception, mea culpa), we were using birth control and decided to wait a little while to start our family. If I’m being totally honest, this was more my decision than my husband’s. He would have been fine to start trying right away. But I convinced him – and myself – that we wanted to “enjoy our honeymoon phase”, we wanted to save for a better place to live, we wanted to save more in our bank accounts, we wanted to be established more in our jobs (any of these excuses sound familiar to anyone out there? I feel you, if you’re on that path now.) The truth is, I was scared, terrified really, of becoming pregnant and becoming a mom. I suffer from what’s called “high performance anxiety.” Any new situations and anything that could be out of my control scare the heck out of me, and pregnancy and motherhood ticked those boxes for me. I look back at those first years of being married with a smile and a tinge of sadness. Maybe if we had followed what the church teaches, we would be on a different path now. Maybe if I had trusted God more, we could have learned about our medical problems earlier and could have maybe started our family sooner. But hindsight is 20/20, and we know and love a God that is forgiving and whose plan is far greater than our own.
Fast forward to 2016. I finally felt able to let go and let God take control, even though I was still terrified. I remember going to Adoration, my heart and mind heavy, and just saying “Ok, I’m done, it’s Your turn now.” I went to confession for the first time in a while, and told the priest what was going on. Being absolved felt wonderful and there was a feeling of release, but still a niggling feeling (ever the constant worrier), that something might be wrong and this wasn’t going to go smoothly for us. We got into about 10 months of trying, and multiple pregnancy tests with my heart in my throat, all negative. I had a GYN appointment for my annual, and I figured I would talk to her about what was going on. When I explained our situation, which I figured to be typical, she responded “Hmmm, something doesn’t sound right, let’s set up some tests.” Every woman’s nightmare, right? But this is where our “typical” story takes a turn, because what my husband and suffer from is not female infertility, but male-factor, which is also very common, but talked about even less.
Let me set the next stage by telling you a little about Andy. My husband is an incredible human being (and I’m sure every wife says that about her husband!) He’s smart, funny, compassionate, kind of quiet or shy if he doesn’t know you (but will warm up to you quickly if you have a sense of humor!) He also is a feeler, and feels things deeply and quietly, and I knew, that if we found something wrong, it would wreck him, but he wouldn’t want to show it.
Be that as it may, we went to a fertility urologist, we did the necessary tests, and we found out the results on a chilly April 5th day (I still remember the date) in 2017. The doctor called us back, and didn’t mince words. No sperm. 0%. None. And there was nothing that could be done naturally besides looking at doing IVF or IUI, both of which we knew weren’t options for us (partly for what medically they have to do, but mostly because of what the church teaches). And part of me felt that I knew this was what she was going to tell us. You see, my husband has a condition called primary lymphedema. He was born with his right leg and groin bigger than his left side because at some point in development, his lymph nodes (glands that flush away bacteria from the rest of the body) were damaged, and so, knowing that his groin was affected as well, I just felt that this was where the problem may lie. The question would remain what to do when we found out the news. And while I thought I had prepared myself for that moment, nothing, nothing fully prepares you for a doctor to tell you that your dreams may end right then and there in a cold doctor’s office. We exited the office in silence and made it to the car before we both broke down sobbing. I remember we hugged each other, I kept telling him it’s not his fault, he did nothing wrong (I still say this to him today). At some point, Andy cracked a joke about “well, I guess we need to decide if we’re going to be dog or cat people!” I was amazed at how he could bring levity into a horrible situation and I laughed along with him. But I also remember telling him, “I don’t know about you, but we can either walk away or lean in, and I’m leaning in.” What I meant by that was that I was leaning into the cross – Christ’s Cross, and now our own – because walking away from God would be even more difficult to endure. Without God, I know my life would have fallen into a tailspin at that moment. Without God, falling apart would have been easier than falling into His arms and letting Him hold me.
So, the question remained, where do we go from here? The car ride home and the lunch we had after the appointment was filled with pregnant pauses and fruitless searches for words to comfort one another. It just didn’t make sense. We’re faith filled, Christ believing, God fearing, Church going people, why us? If our purpose as part of our vocation of marriage is to “be fruitful and multiply,” then where does that leave us, unable to do so? At that point, and for the months that followed, we grieved. We grieved for what could have been, we grieved for what was, and we grieved for what might never be. Never would I be able to be pregnant. Never would I feel little feet kicks from inside of me. Never would I be able to see the joy on my husband’s face when I told him we were pregnant. And then the grief got deeper and nastier – never would I know what it’s like to be exhausted from 3am feedings, never would I know the feeling of sticky faced kisses or warm cuddles on a cold night. Never would I have a child that had Andy’s long eyelashes or my natural curl in my hair. Never would I be able to sing my child a lullaby to help them sleep. See, grief has the possibility of sucking every good thing from your heart (just like the devil), and in those first few months, my mind and my husband’s mind went to every bad place it could, before we finally saw daylight on the other side.
It took a while. A long while. Lots of sleepless nights, lots of crying and being angry at our situation and at God. Our priest came over for dinner shortly after we found out the news, and he told us “You’re grieving a loss, every single emotion you’re feeling is valid. Every single thought you’re having is ok. Really, you experienced a death, and it’s ok to mourn. Take that time and be together and remind each other that you’re on the same team.” I would go to Church (I actually am the music director for our parish) and I would just go through the motions. I would play the songs, sing the hymns, say the prayers, cross myself, but everything had lost its importance and meaning. The only prayer I could choke out was in front of the Blessed Mother statue we have saying, “Please Mother, please…Please Mother, please..” over and over. A plea from one woman to another for help, because I knew we couldn’t do it on our own.
It’s funny though, for those who have, or are still going through infertility, the world doesn’t stop even though it feels like it’s ended for you, amiright? The house still needs to be cleaned, dinner still needs to be made, work still needs to be done, it all just keeps going though you feel it shouldn’t. I think it’s God’s way of saying “Look up, there is still life around you. There is still good around you though you may not feel it.”
And so, the months kept moving and we kept grieving, but we finally got to a point where we could talk to each other about how we were feeling, and also about the option of adopting. At first, we were both really turned off by the idea – how could we love someone else’s child? Can’t the birth parents just come and take the baby back? Why the heck is it so expensive?!
Tons of questions, tons of more sleepless nights, but there were two instances that I’ll call “God moments” that really helped my heart be open to adoption. One was when we went to a local minor league baseball game. We were sitting in the bleachers, and in front of us was a little boy, about two years old, going up and down the bleacher with a truck. Back and forth he went, and it was on one of his turns coming back towards us that I saw his shirt. All it said on it was “Adoption” in black bold letters. I pointed it out to Andy and we watched as the little boy raced back to his family and was picked up by his dad, who looked “different” from his son. We sat stunned for a little while, mindlessly watching the game, but I couldn’t believe such a blatant sign of the Holy Spirit was plopped down right in front of us like that!
The next instance was just a few weeks later, in July of 2017. My great aunt passed away (no blood relation, but she had been a friend of my grandmothers and was my dad’s godmother, so she was just always Aunt Anne to me). At her funeral Mass, when it came time for the eulogy, her stepson and grandson came up to speak. Andy and I both sat there, stunned, tears streaming down our cheeks, as we listened to Victor (her stepson) and Vincent (technically her step grandson) talk about how family is more than just DNA, that nurture is greater than nature, and that to them, she would always be just “Mom” and “Nonna.” That though there was no blood relation, it just didn’t matter to them. When Andy and I got in the car afterwards, I turned to him, tears falling down my face and said “God’s talking to us Andy, how long before we start listening to him?”
And so, with anxiety, trepidation, excitement, curiosity, hesitation, etc., we began exploring the process of adoption. First, we told our families (who were, and still are, very supportive, praise God!), and then, we started researching agencies and doing the initial homework on what adoption is all about.
At about this time in our journey, I can remember turning to Andy and saying “It’s funny, but I feel peace in all of this.” He asked me why, and I said “because for the first time it feels like God has closed the doors to all the things we thought we wanted, and left the door open for the path He wanted us to take all along.” And it did (and still does) feel that way. Finally, I could sink my teeth into something tangible – paperwork, physicals, interviews, more paperwork, home study, etc. Things that felt like we were pushing forward, and not just standing still anymore. The grief was still there, but doing something helped relieve that a little.
And so, where are we now? We were officially home study approved by our agency in October of 2018. In November, we held a benefit dinner within our church family and local community to help with defraying some of the costs of the adoption expenses (ours is roughly $30,000). We thought we’d raise somewhere between $5 and $6 grand, but God, y’all, God. We raised the ENTIRE second placement amount (due when we are placed with a baby)! Only by the grace of God and our amazing church family and community was ANY of that possible! Only by allowing the Holy Spirit to do His thing were we able to connect with others who have similar stories to ours. Only by the power of Jesus Christ were we able to feed over 450 people in the span of 3 hours (and with the help of my dad and his amazing cooking crew!) It was an absolutely humbling and amazing experience and I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
Now it’s 2019, the end of summer, and we continue to wait for when our precious baby will come to us. We believe it will happen, we just don’t know where or when. The waiting is hard, the days are long, and sometimes, the pain of infertility still hurts. Every month, when I get my period, I cry a little or get sad, but then remind myself of what we are going to be blessed with when the perfect time comes. Pregnancy announcements still hurt, but I try to be happy for them, as I hope they’ll be happy for us when our time comes.
See, in all of this, I’ve learned that infertility means you have to surrender. I don’t mean give up and walk away, but I mean surrender your plans, surrender your will, surrender your “should bes” for the “will bes” of our great God. Surrender your pride, surrender your anger. Surrender your shame and guilt. Surrender it all, every. single. day. What I found with dealing with our infertility was an inner strength I didn’t know was there. The strength to get out of bed every morning and try. The strength to say “yes Lord, adoption, let’s do this!” The strength to hold onto my husband more tightly and love him more deeply. The strength to carry my cross to my own Gethsemane, and to bear up my husband’s cross as well.
Joy does come in the morning friends. You will smile again. Just hold onto the promise that God makes all things new. That even in your darkest moments, in your grief, guilt, pain, and shame, God is creating for you a far better plan than you and I have ever imagined. It has to be true friends, because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be believers in Christ, who was the best plan of all.
I pray for all men and women who are struggling with infertility. Remind yourselves that you are going through this together, not separately. Cling to the cross. Cling to each other. There is a light at the other end, and someday, it will reach you too.
God bless you.
Jennifer, I couldn’t be more grateful for you sharing your story. I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my face. Your words are beautiful and strength incredible. Thank you for sharing. You and your husband are beyond amazing. I can’t even fathom the pain your heart has experienced. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing Jennifer! I’m so excited about your adoption! Please comment next month when we share again! And I just have to say, I was one of those people who didn’t have anything but an email. It was nice but now I have all the social media outlets and a blog lol! And I love it! You should try one if you want! Insta is my favorite social media outlet. Thank you again!
Thank you for sharing and encouraging others to do so! Community is so important to those struggling in this area. I am blessed to be a part of a new Catholic infertility ministry called Springs in the Desert. (www.springsinthedesert.org) We are beginning to blog and host retreats and hopefully grow this ministry into parishes. I’ve started my own blog and story regarding infertility this past year. It is hard to talk about but so many people need to hear it. Thanks Katie and Holly! Can’t wait to meet others and encourage each other in this journey.
I love that Andrea! Thank you so much for joining! I will have to check out this new ministry!