Monday, July 21, 2008

The emotional side of infertility

Early on in my marriage, I had a strong desire to have a baby that would look like Kirk and I.  It never crossed my mind that I would be one of “those people” who couldn’t have children. Even many years into our marriage, I thought that eventually I would get pregnant. Some of my journey I can attribute to just plain youth and inexperience. I had a small life perspective.

For the first five years we were quiet about our plans or lack of ability to have children. Innocent friends and family would joke about when we were going to have children.  It hurt so much. I just wanted to share my fears of what I was experiencing. Now I look back and wonder why I wasn’t more open.

The church we were attending at the time overdid mothers’ day. The insensitive services made motherhood a right of passage. Good Christians had children and really faithful Christians had many children.  Two families in our church were working on the dozen mark for children. I’m not hitting on their decision but setting the case for the atmosphere at the church.

I remember  one Sunday in particular. A mother in the church had a premature baby and had an emotional experience with her daughter in the hospital. On mother’s day, they had her stand up and gave her a standing ovation. I was so hurt. What kind of hero was she? She was overdramatic about her experience and I was having to keep up a front every week over my infertility. The bitterness and anger had definitely settled in.

Bitterness was a natural stage of coming to terms with what was going on. It seemed like a long stage. I think some couples never get past the overwhelming desire to have children and the “unfairness” of it all. If I had been able to have children before the 10 year mark, I would not have gotten past that. I am so glad that I was able to complete that journey. I am better for it.

The things you never say to an infertile couple is:

 “I know this couple that couldn’t have children. They prayed every day, and 10 years later they had a child”

“Your still young, there is still a lot of time”

“Don’t rush it, kids are a handful”

“Just trust in God, and he will reward your faithfulness”

Don’t complain about how hard it is to have children. I am not talking about labor pains, but the every day dealing with children.

Best advice I can give is listen.

I started to get past the bitterness after about  7 years, but it still came back in spades on occasion. It was a gradual process until I finally came to terms with God’s will for my life.

As I began experiencing the other hardships of life my perspective of suffering changed. I started to see just how narrow our human perspective can be. It is not safe to assume God’s will,  it just breeds discontent. Why is it that we can assume that the prayer, “Lord please give me children” has to be answered in some particular way? Why does the answer always have to be yes? God is more creative than that.

I remember getting a phone call from a well-meaning church member one time. She had been praying and felt that God had impressed on her to tell me that I needed to make a declaration in front of the church that God was answering my prayer. He was giving me the child I wanted if I openly declared my faith in his promise. Fortunately, I was at a time in life where I could kindly listen, hang up, and not think much of it.  Believe it or not, this happened twice.

I realized that I was a complete person as God made me. I could be completely happy and content in the plan He had for me. I didn’t need to understand it. I didn’t need to control it.  I was at peace with God being in control. 

I can't have babies

After Kirk and I had been married for 5 years, we got the idea that babies were not going to happen for us as easily as they did for some other couples. We needed a little extra help.

At first, we did simple things. I did a lot of reading and tried things like taking my temperature every morning and making charts. I also started taking baby aspirin every day.  For a while, I tried some herbs that were possible natural remedies.

Then we did the weirdest thing ever. A local retired pastor had gotten into iridology and was taking people for a small fee. (Iridology studies the markings in the eye around the iris and connects each fiber to a part of the body.) This man lived in a remote area in Pennsylvania. I remember driving up the dirt road to his property and parking by a huge barn. When we arrived, we were taken to a seating area with big, old leather chairs. The walls were covered in antique wallpaper and taxidermy animals. When the retired pastor came out to greet us, he told us that God had told him not to do iridology but that he was going to give us each a foot message.  He rubbed some oils on our feet and messaged them. When he was done, he told us that we had a parasite and it was gone now. Fortunately, he was also led to do the session for free.

At some point, maybe around the 6-year mark, we made the decision to talk to my gynecologist about our problem.  He checked Kirk first. Testing a male is quick and easy so they like to target them first. Kirk came through, so it was my turn.

What followed was a series of tests and procedures, some of which were very painful.  When none of those were conclusive, I had exploratory laparoscopy. The doctors found a moderate amount of endometriosis and scraped it out. They felt that maybe now, I would be able to have children. Still nothing.

I was then referred to a fertility specialist. I remember feeling excited, like we were finally getting down to the real stuff.  At first I started taking basic fertility drugs to help increase egg production. Eventually I started taking shots. This was hard for me. I had to mix the medicine and give the shots to myself in the thigh. I cried the first time, and didn’t think I would be able to do it. The medicine made big welts on my leg and burned as it went in. At just the right time, as determined by the doctor, I went into the office where they performed an Intra Uterine Insemination.

This was an emotional time. I think the drugs played with my hormones and made me more emotional than usual. It was hard to wait for results. It was crushing to see that first negative result. The doctor thought we should try at least one more time. We did, still nothing. The doctor said that we were in a ½% of cases. Not sure if that made us feel better or not.  Although the doctor wanted us to keep trying, we were tired and felt done. I wasn’t feeling well either, and felt like my body needed a rest from all the chemicals I had been putting in my body.

After 10 years, I was diagnosed with Graves disease and after 2 years of failed treatment, I had my thyroid gland removed with radiology. After recovering from that, I felt better than I had felt in my whole life.  My thyroid doctor thought that this could have also been a contributing factor to the infertility, because it was estimated that I could have had a diseased thyroid gland for several years.

Because of that diagnosis, after we moved to Phoenix, we pursued a fertility doctor one more time. I had taken the basic fertility drugs and started discussing with the doctor about which form of artificial insemination to pursue.

After one of the visits I looked at Kirk and told him I didn’t feel like doing this anymore. I didn’t feel any sense of desire or need to do this. I was satisfied that we had tried. He felt the same way. I called my doctor and told her we had decided to discontinue our treatments. We both felt a sense of relief.

I am really glad that we decided to see our doctor and the specialists. To this day, I feel like we did what we could. We knew that ultimately it was in God’s hands.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What About Bob?

“I’m afraid Bob is gone,” the quiet whisper woke me from my sleep.

“What?” I sat up in bed.

Kirk had already left the room.

I jumped out of bed and grabbed a robe from the closet.


1 week and 1 day earlier.


Bob came into our lives 8 days ago, early Sunday morning. Kirk had gotten up at 4:30 to finish painting the house before the hot July sun baked us. He was doing some prep work when “Bob” came waddling by him, and walked out toward the pool.

Bob is a rock dove also commonly known as a pigeon. He had a broken wing and somehow came to our backyard.

When Mason woke up, he discovered Bob in the grass by the big tree, taking shelter in the shade. He ran inside, “mom there is an injured bird in the backyard!”

I gave direct instructions that he could watch the bird but needed to stay far away so as not to frighten the bird.

I googgled and yahooed about broken wings. Their wasn’t much we could do if we didn’t take him to the vet.

I called shelters, knowing that it would be hard to find help for a common pigeon. No such luck.

Over the next days we put out water and food for the pigeon. One day as I watched him bobbing across the lawn, it came to me. I told the kids that his name was “Bob”.

Sometimes Bob hung out in our shed, sometimes we could see his head popping up behind our bunko (a cement bench by the outdoor fireplace). Sometimes he just took a loop around the yard for…exercise?.

Every night we checked on Bob. He was eating and drinking.

When Bob jumped in the pool one day and couldn’t get out, Mason ran to the rescue and scooped him out. I wondered if that would be how he would go.

After the fireworks on 4th of July he didn’t leave the shed for 2 days. We thought he was dyeing. But then he was spotted doing his laps around the yard on Wednesday morning.

The sentiment around the house became, “Poor Bob.” “Where is Bob?” Wednesday at lunch, Madison asked if we could pray for Bob.

Last night, I was out watering the grass. Bob  was walking around. I heard a small splash and turned to see that Bob had hopped into the pool again.    I ran over in a panic.

 “Bob, what are you doing?”

I was surprised to see Bob floating like a duck and using his wings as paddles. When he paddled over to the ledge, he couldn’t get out. I put my hand down to help and he paddled away.

He tried to get out again and failed again. I stuck my hand down in front of him, under his chest. He looked at me like, “I guess I don’t have a choice”

He hopped onto my hand and out onto the pool decking. He shook his feathers out, gave me a “whatever” look and waddled away.

This morning Kirk went out early to check the pool cleaner. That is when he found Bob face down, legs up, in the pool. He came in to wake me up. We would need to take care of the body before the kids woke up.

As I grabbed my robe from the closet, I glanced back out our bedroom window. Kirk was walking by the window with Bob on the pool scoop. I couldn’t believe it, but Bob was flapping.

I ran outside.

“Where is Bob?”

Kirk pointed into the grass. A soaking wet Bob was sitting in the grass looking a little dazed. I gently scooped him up and moved him to the pavement. I was afraid that in his dazed state, he would be vulnerable to fire ants.

“What happened Kirk?”

Kirk said that after he woke me, he came back out to find Bob back upright and floating like a duck. He scooped him out and put him in the grass.

So… Bob is back in the shed taking shelter from the sun.

Maybe pigeons have 9 lives too. Hopefully he will be ‘‘bobbing” around for awhile. He has at least 5 more lives to use.

Sometime in mid November Bob disappeared. From the scattering of feathers in the backyard, we think one of the neighborhood cats got him. For the 6 months that he was with us, it was fun. He got used to me going out to the shed when it was time for his dinner. Bob would follow me to where his food dish was. Sometimes he would tap his nose on our sliding glass door, and that would drive our cats crazy. Bob was interesting that was for sure.