I still remember the first time I thought I was pregnant.
It was December 2014, a few days before Christmas and my period was a week late. We had been trying and tracking and charting and hoping for a couple of years.
Full of belief, I found myself shopping alone one night at Target. I couldn’t resist the tiniest little ivory, satin and tulle dress with little gold polka dots for what I felt might be a baby girl in my near future.
I purchased it, thinking my positive energy would somehow welcome this dream into reality.
Turns out another plan was in play. I didn’t get pregnant.
Life Before Infertility
My husband and I had been married for about four years before we started seriously trying to have a baby.
We focused on finishing school and I wasn’t taking birth control because it kept giving me stomach pains and migraines.
But I did think it was strange that in four years of not preventing it, we hadn’t accidentally gotten pregnant.
So sometime in early 2012 we decided to be more intentional. I started charting my temperature and using ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) to get the timing just right.
My gynecologist said everything about my health looked great on paper, but knowing we had been trying for almost a year, she suggested that we consider seeing a fertility specialist.
I’m not sure why I felt no urgency to go that route.
Unfortunately, not using any birth control during this time led to increasingly more painful periods, and over the next year I was missing work once or twice a month because of the pain.
In November 2013, I had a laparoscopic surgery where my doctor officially diagnosed my endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus -- the endometrium -- grows outside your uterus.
The surgery helped with the pain initially, but the conditions would return in a matter of months unless:
- I got pregnant; or
- I began taking birth control.
You can probably sense my frustration at this point.
My husband did his due diligence to ensure he was fertile and we continued trying to conceive on our own.
Finally by the fall of 2014, with nearly two years of trying under our belt (pun intended 😜), we scheduled a meeting with a fertility doctor.
IVF Round One: Unbelief
We began fertility treatments in January 2015.
After three failed rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI), we moved on to invitrofertilzation (IVF).
Like anyone else, the most daunting aspect for me was the self-inflicted shots. I didn’t feel qualified to be in charge of that part. Don’t I need schooling for this?
Even more than becoming a human pin cushion or the overwhelming calendar of medications or all the doctor visits that required time away from work when I didn’t want anyone to know...
What got to me the most was the noisy narrative of shame in my head about why this was happening.
It was during this time that I met Jenica Parcell.
I stumbled upon her blog post about her infertility journey and cried as she described the heartache of her failed IVF attempt and resulting miscarriage on an airplane in China.
We became friends and I’ll never forget how encouraging and supportive she was.
She was right in the middle of her own mess and she somehow had the capacity to hold space for me in mine.
The day before my first transfer in July 2015, she stopped by my work with a basket of “princess day” goodies--a chick flick movie, some snacks and a heartfelt note.
Her friendship was Heaven-sent. She made a liar of that shameful narrative that told me I was going through this because something was wrong with me.
Our first IVF round was successful and our first baby, Benjamin Bear, joined our family on March 19, 2016… born on Jenica’s birthday.
To this day, you cannot convince me that was a coincidence.
It became my reminder that God is in every detail. I had just been too caught up in my fears to look for Him.
IVF Rounds Two and Three: Belief
Two years later, in July 2018, we transferred our second embryo that had been frozen from our first IVF round.
It didn’t work.
I was trying on bathing suits for a family trip when my nurse coordinator called to give me the news.
When I got home my husband and I talked through our disappointment and he hugged me while I cried.
His hope was contagious, though, and together we kept our focus on the reality that we knew we could get pregnant and we would simply try again.
We started another round of IVF in September, and having been through it before, I navigated the ups and downs more openly.
I remember a conversation with one of my close friends at work. She encouraged me to be all in with my faith and just believe it would work.
“What have you got to lose from believing?” she said.
While waiting for my husband to pick me up from work on the day of our transfer in early October, this same friend happened to walk by where I was sitting and I just knew she was on God’s errand.
I explained where I was headed and how we only got three eggs this round but only two of them fertilized.
We were transferring both embryos to increase the likelihood that at least one of them would take.
She simply said, “God can work with two embryos! Look what He did with Mary and Jesus.”
Her faith was so contagious that I couldn’t help but feel peacefully optimistic.
During the transfer procedure, several things happened that continued to nourish my tiny seed of faith and I spent the next two weeks choosing only thoughts of belief to occupy the stage of my mind.
Fearing felt bad. Believing felt good.
So I allowed myself to feel good until the phone call came with the news that we were indeed pregnant.
Our second beautiful baby boy, Scott Matthew, was born in June 2019.
Let Go, Let God
Not long after Scotty was born I started daydreaming about one more baby.
I guess his sweet newborn snuggles really got to me.
My maternity leave was soon coming to an end and I wanted to stay home full-time with my boys rather than return to work.
It would be a leap of faith.
The loss of income or identity didn’t bother me as much as walking away from our one remaining round of IVF covered by insurance.
Each time I mentally rehearsed giving my notice, I’d feel anxious and unsure.
How do I know this is what God wants me to do?
What about the impressions I’ve had and that little baby girl dress that still hangs in my closet?
Did I plant the idea of her in my head or did God?
Some of the anxiety I was experiencing began to manifest itself in my food choices.
Despite daily intentions to eat better and care for myself, I couldn’t stop eating junk.
This continued a terrible cycle of shame and disbelief that I was all too familiar with.
Within a few weeks, I reached out to a close friend who guided me to an unexpected solution that showed me how to give up sugar and flour by viewing it through the lens of addiction.
I certainly was addicted to sugar and I knew I would have to rely on God to do for me what I couldn’t seem to do for myself.
And that was very humbling.
As I tried to stay focused on Him, I remembered a final conversation with my infertility doctor.
She was telling me about my AMH levels (the hormone used to assess ovarian reserve and egg count), which were far below the normal fertile range, and the role endometriosis had played.
When I asked her if there was anything more I could do, she said:
- “Get pregnant,
- Start birth control, or
- Cut out all sugar/processed foods.”
The first two obviously didn’t surprise me.
The third one really caught my attention.
I knew back then that processed foods are considered inflammatory and are known to feed cancer and other diseases or conditions like endometriosis.
But I had already tried cutting out processed food and couldn’t do it long enough to see if my body would really heal.
Now, here I was, in a food addiction recovery program, working on my relationship with food, and suddenly realizing it wasn’t even about the food.
I wholeheartedly believe the Lord guided me there to heal and refine ME (both physically and spiritually) and perhaps to prepare me for that baby someday.
Just Keep Believing
Wouldn’t it be awesome if this sentence was announcing my third pregnancy?
I still dream about it.
And while I dream, I live every day with my eyes wide open and my heart full of gratitude for how far I’ve already come and all that I already have.
But I’ll keep believing because it helps me to see the miracles all around me.
If I’m meant to have two boys through IVF, I have peace of mind knowing I literally did all that I could--even conquered a food addiction.
As far as I know, the reality of my infertility has not changed. Only my thoughts and beliefs about it have.
And that is the biggest lesson I can share with those who are on a similar path.
Choose to believe!
It’s obvious from my story that believing makes no difference in the outcome. God is ultimately in control.
But it does make a difference in how we LIVE as we patiently work toward that desired outcome.
So buy that little baby dress.
And don’t be afraid to live your story today.