I am privileged today to share with you a guest post by one of my dearest friends, a post that has touched my heart in a profound way. I often get questions from readers about secondary infertility and while there is a similar word shared – infertility – I am unfamiliar with how to relate to the complexity of emotions that arrive when a family wants to grow just a little more. Jana has been willing to open up her heart and story in a vulnerable and real way and I am blessed to breathe the same air as this woman. Please join me in reading Jana’s journey below, both with secondary infertility and as a newly diagnosed “cyster”, while celebrating the beautiful workings of our God who is always involved. I adore her and after reading this, I know you will too. Enjoy!
Ignorance is bliss. Or is it?
When Chelsea asked me to write a guest post on secondary infertility I told her that I felt completely incompetent because our struggle to conceive has been shorter in comparison than most other infertility stories out there in the blogosphere. We haven’t experienced several years of infertility. We haven’t experienced the immense heartache of a miscarriage. We haven’t even been through a failed IUI or IVF cycle. And yet, the deceiving chatter in my head that I sometimes believe is that I shouldn’t be so discouraged with our struggles to conceive since we already have been so immeasurably blessed with two lovely children. This then only makes me feel horribly greedy and ungrateful for wanting another. And so the cycle continues… Desire. Discouragement. Guilt. Desire. Discouragement. Guilt.
Then I realized (with the help of a gracious reminder from Chelsea) that the chatter in my head was keeping me from telling our story. My hope is that in sharing it with you, you will be encouraged to know you’re not alone. I also want to share with you what we have learned throughout this journey and why we have peace even among the setbacks.
There is nothing to be ashamed of for desiring another baby – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Those of us whom struggle with secondary infertility have our own unique set of ignorant comments from well-wishers. Along with the “you just need to relax” comments, we often get “just be happy you have one <or in my case two> child(ren). Do you know how many infertile couples would love to have just one child!?”, implying as if our desires for wanting another child isn’t valid. And we’re constantly reminded at preschool that practically all of the other mommies around us are either pregnant or toting around a new little bundle of joy and telling us how lucky we are that we get to have a quiet moment to ourselves for a few hours while our kid is at school. (I won’t disagree that the break is nice but oh, what I wouldn’t give to have another baby instead of alone time at Target.) And how can I forget that wonderful question of “So when are you going to have another baby!?”.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been trying to conceive for 3 months, 1 year, or 10+ years… the loss of an envisioned dream is still loss. And the struggle of infertility is both physically and emotionally painful. But I’m a believer that pain can often bring purpose… if we allow it to.
A couple of years ago, I was at a conference where Beth Moore spoke to us about “Birthing Purpose”. She so beautifully and intricately wove in how our painful experiences birth PURPOSE in our lives. I could go on and on about the significance of this weekend in my life and how it prepared my heart (that is another blog post all together)… but, little did I know that just a few months after hearing this powerful message, we would be at the beginning of our infertility journey.
(Here are the highlight notes from Beth Moore’s message that weekend – so powerful!)
Today I want to share with you why I wouldn’t change our infertility story and that there has been a purpose revealed to me through this trial.
I never thought infertility would be a part of our story. When my husband and I decided to start trying for our first baby, I remember being so ignorantly over-confident that it would happen just perfectly according to our plan, honestly speaking, during the first month of trying. Oh how quickly my confidence changed after my first experience of peeing on that stick and getting a negative result. I was crushed but found hope in trying again that following month, however another failed cycle absolutely devastated my spirits. My husband traveled for work quite a bit during our season of trying and I actually demanded he return home for “prime time” baby-making one weekend (he didn’t complain…ha!). The 3rd time must have been the charm and we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Chloe, into the world on Easter Sunday in 2009. Her birthday was the most beautiful day of my life and I immediately experienced euphoria in my new role of being a mom.
Fast forward a year and a half later and it was time to start trying for #2. WHAM. 1st month trying and we were pregnant. We were blessed with our son, Clayton (Clay), in June of 2011. We fell madly in love with this flawless little boy and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect life than the one we were living. Life was good, and as cheesy as it sounds, I felt like all my dreams were coming true.
Shortly after Clay’s birth, we went through a couple of big life changes. I stopped working and became a full-time SAHM. We also sold our house and moved in with my parents for 5 months while building a new home. Despite all the joyous blessings going on around me, I was rapidly gaining weight and found myself crying all the time for no reason. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression 9 months after Clay’s birth. I began taking depression medicine and started an intense workout regime 6 days a week trying to attain my pre-pregnancy body (which honestly wasn’t anything perfect before kids either… I have always been a yo-yo dieter battling the same 20-30 lbs.) For the first time in my life I loved working out and felt amazing on the inside, but my physical results were lacking despite my best efforts, resulting in a total weight loss of 1 measly pound after 10 intense weeks. Shortly thereafter, I stopped working out and quickly put on an additional 20 pounds (likely due to poor sleep habits, mental/physical stress and exhaustion.) Little did I know that my body was working against me and I was experiencing insulin resistance and hormone imbalances due to an unknown PCOS condition.
I was so discouraged with my weight and overall health so we put off trying for baby #3 until I could get back down to what I thought would be a healthy starting weight. Despite making extreme changes to my diet, (a whole foods approach with balancing proteins, fats & healthy carbohydrates, as well as drastically reducing my sugar intake) combined with trying too many home workout videos to count, it felt like it was impossible for me to lose weight. I beat myself up multiple times daily feeling like a big fat failure. This wasn’t an issue of willpower as I was trying harder than I had ever tried. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure out what. My husband was soooo supportive and validated my efforts, but I still felt so alone in the battle. (At this time I still was unaware of my PCOS condition.)
Although my health wasn’t where I wanted it, we decided it was time to start trying for baby #3 to complete our perfect family planning timeline. I had always responded very well to pregnancy and actually felt (& looked) my best during those 9 months. I was that annoyingly cheerful “I love being pregnant” woman that most pregnant women love to hate. When it came to trying again, I was ignorant to believe that since we had no problem getting pregnant with Chloe & Clay, we would have the same luck the 3rd time around.
The first few months of trying again were the toughest… there were lots of tears and too many dollars spent on name brand pregnancy tests. We were 9 months into trying when I had my annual exam with my OBGYN. I had informed her that my cycles were regular but ranging from every 24-32 days. I asked for blood tests to be done but she said we should try with an ovulation kit and to come back in a couple months. She assured me in her flighty tone of voice that I would be pregnant next time I saw her. I left that appointment in tears and feeling defeated.
After 2 more months of getting positive results on ovulation predictor kits (OPK) and perfectly timed sexcapades, I returned to my OBGYN’s office still not pregnant. (I didn’t know at the time that I was actually getting false positives on the OPK’s which is common with PCOS.) My doctor finally agreed to order FSH & Estradiol blood work samples and do an Hysterosalpingogram (HSG). My results all came back normal and we were given our options for going forward. Given our diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” and the fact that I’m approaching 35 years of age, the doctor highly recommended that I see a fertility specialist. I walked out of that appointment completely dumbfounded.
“Fertility specialist!?” I questioned. I thought she was going to give me the magic Clomid pill and we’d be on our merry little way to having our perfectly planned little family in just a few short months. “How did we even get here!?” I kept asking myself.
I made our appointment with the fertility clinic and we were able to get in just one week later. My husband and I sat with the Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) as he began to thoroughly explain in detail what happens in the body of a woman with PCOS. I was aware of what PCOS was but didn’t think I had the typical symptoms, so it took me quite a few minutes to realize that he was politely informing me of my destiny. Within minutes I was in the exam room having an ultrasound and blood work drawn to confirm that his diagnosis of PCOS was, in fact, correct.
I was in shock but mysteriously felt peaceful and free. I felt like I finally had an answer to so many health related questions that I’ve had for over 15 years. (digestive issues, unexplained weight struggles, bouts of depression, etc…) Since being on the proper medication since my diagnosis (Metformin for insulin resistance & birth control pills to help regulate hormones), along with my continued healthy diet & regular exercise regimen, it has already significantly helped me with weight loss and my overall health. My body is FINALLY working with me and I feel the best I’ve felt in years! Praise God!
(Note: If you are struggling with infertility or secondary infertility (even if it hasn’t been a year yet), I strongly urge you to schedule an appointment with an RE. I regret not going in sooner. I learned that OBGYN’s can help you once you get pregnant but a fertility doctor’s main mission is to help you GET pregnant.)
Most significantly, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of what a true miracle Chloe & Clay are. Most people are diagnosed with PCOS in their teens or early twenties. Most are able to conceive but rarely without the help of fertility medicine and interventions. The only reason I found out that I have PCOS is due to our struggle trying to conceive baby #3.
I know this might sound crazy, but I feel like God has answered my prayers with this diagnosis – prayers that I didn’t even know I was praying. If it weren’t for infertility, I don’t believe I would have ever known about my PCOS and I would have continued to battle the health and weight concerns that have held me in physical & emotional bondage for too many years of my life. While the weight struggle is far from gone post-diagnosis, I now have an answer to the “why!?” and that answer is such a gift to me.
I have come to the conclusion that ignorance is NOT bliss.
The ignorance of not knowing I had PCOS all these years has been hard not only for me, but for my family & friends too. They have watched me beat myself up emotionally every single day over the last 15 years wondering “what is wrong with me!?” (I don’t have the typical PCOS symptoms so I believe that is why it went undiagnosed all these years.) Though I would never ever choose PCOS (it totally SUCKS– can I get an amen soul cysters!?), I am grateful for the answer I have going forward and what it means for our family and for my health. I am finally free to be the best version of me and that will greatly impact the type of wife, mom, daughter, sister & friend that I can be to my loved ones. This unwanted diagnosis may have saved my life and certainly saved my heart from being broken any longer. I am living today with a grateful heart and a clear vision of my purpose… to bring Glory to God in everything He has called me to do.
Two birthdays ago, I began a new tradition of meditating on a key Bible verse for the entire year. I wanted the verse to correlate with the age I was turning. When I turned 33, I selected Matthew 6:33 as my year verse.
When I turned 34, I selected Psalm 34 because I couldn’t choose just 1 verse from this entire passage of His promises. Meditating on these powerful Words from God these past 2 years has been such a blessing to me. To quote the title of Chelsea’s blog, I do believe trials bring joy if we seek God’s kingdom first and praise Him even in the valleys of our broken hearts.
I will end with this prayer that I prayed almost 1 year ago when I was pleading with God to help me fully give this area of my heart to Him. I wanted to start living a life full of His intended purpose for me. I vowed to not let another year of my life be in vain and prayed that I would bring Glory to Him in everything I say and do going forward.
Lord, I’m ready to give birth to PURPOSE for this painful struggle that has held me in bondage and taken away my attention from you. God, help me, guide me, lead me, and speak through me that I may birth something that means something. That I will be obedient and I will submit to you so that I may bear fruit. Lord, help me be disciplined and open to the calling which you have given me. I pray that the right people will come along side of me to encourage me as I go through this journey and Lord, I ask that I will be a person that mutually encourages them to fulfill the purpose you have for their lives also. God — You are STRONG. You are MIGHTY. You have OVERCOME the oppressor. I have no fear for YOU are with me and holding my hand as I give birth to Your purpose for me. Amen. (March 7, 2014)
What a humbling experience these last couple of years have been. I want to explain that my prayers to lose weight all these years have never been in vain but rather that I would come to peace to accept my body just the way God made me. I believe that accepting my PCOS diagnosis and infertility struggle is all a part of this journey to acceptance. I’m not “broken”… I am fearfully and wonderfully made for a clear PURPOSE destined by God. How comforting it is to know that He is the one guiding us in each and every step and that He has never failed us. We feel led to go forward with our first IUI in just a few weeks. Prayers are appreciated as we continue on our journey! :)