The 7 Biggest Myths About Infertility

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For years I shared on this blog about our struggle with infertility, and that’s because we went through it for years. It took us nearly 4 years to get pregnant with our daughter, and man, infertility is no joke. Those 4 years were a nearly constant roller coaster of emotions, hopes, disappointments, plans, new plans, shots, pills, sonograms, pregnancy tests… and the absolute hardest part of all of it, for me, was the first few months.

I am a planner. And if I’m being honest, I’m also a little bit of a control freak. If I can help it, I go into absolutely any situation with my eyes wide open, armed with information and a plan. Unprepared is a word that I don’t like to be a part of my vocabulary and I’m an over-thinker to my core. I over-think about my over-thinking. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not caught off guard by much in life.

And infertility absolutely knocked me on my ass (sorry Mom). I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know what would happen or when. I didn’t know what to expect. And so every experience and every emotion for the next few months hit me like a baseball bat.

I didn’t have any control over this. *thwack*

I didn’t ever want this to be me. *thwack*

I didn’t know if it would ever happen for us. *thwack*

Grief. *thwack*

Fear. *thwack*

Anger. *thwack*

Sorrow. *thwack*

Inadequacy. *thwack*

You get the picture. But as I came out on the other side of those early months, a bright spot among so much darkness started to become clear. When I decided to share for the first time what we were going through, so many people started to reach out to me and share their history with infertility or that they were also in the throes of it. All these women, quietly struggling with one of the saddest things a person can go through.

Eventually, with some time and perspective, I realized that among the many good things that would come from this experience, one of them was the ability to help others know that they’re not alone, and hopefully, make this whole mess a little easier for them.

And that’s why, looking back, I want to share what I feel are some of the most common misconceptions and myths about dealing with infertility. And if you find yourself suddenly on this road, I hope they help you avoid a few of the *thwack*s.

1. I Have to Take All the Advice

Sister… you will get advice. All the advice ever in the history of advice. Everyone will tell you what worked for them, what they tried, what their cousin’s dental hygienist tried, what some woman on TV said she tried, what they read about in an article that their old coworker posted on Facebook.

And here’s what you should do with that advice… Be grateful that people care enough about what you’re going through to want to help.

Here’s what you absolutely do not have to do with that advice… take all of it and try all the things.

It can be overwhelming and frustrating to get so much well-meaning advice, some of which is often conflicting. But understand that you are the best judge of what is right for you, and you don’t have to do anything just because someone suggests it.

If something rings true to you or feels like something you’re interested in trying or pursuing, go nuts. What we ultimately tried that led to me getting pregnant was something someone shared with me and I’ll be grateful for it forever. But I also got lots of advice and suggestions along the way that I knew weren’t right for us. And that is okay.

And besides, learning to smile and thank people for their well-meaning advice while secretly planning to ignore it is GREAT practice for when you do become a new parent. Trust.

2. If It Worked for Someone Else, Then It Will Work For Me

Here’s the other thing that I think is important about advice, and this might not be easy to hear, but the sooner you hear it, the easier this will all be.

Just because it worked for someone else, or lots of other people, does not mean it will work for you.

It might, and that is wonderful. But there are enough opportunities for disappointment on this road, so don’t set yourself up for any more. I know how easy it is, when you’re looking for any thread of hope to which you can cling, to hear others’ success stories, and to believe that it will work for you too. I get it and I remember that despair like it was yesterday.

But here’s the thing I want to make sure you to remember. Every single person is so different. The series of events that leads to a woman getting pregnant is so unbelievably complex and when something isn’t going exactly right in that process, it could be any number of things.

It’s so tempting to rely on others’ successes for hope, but my friends, trust me, that’s a shaky hope. Trust the road that God has you on and be patient.

3. I Have to Try the Treatment My Doctor Discussed With Me

There are doctors and specialists who are well-trained to pinpoint what is going wrong and try to correct it or even work around it. They are wonderful and they are there to help. The doctor I was seeing when we got pregnant was a true Godsend and I feel certain that without him we would still be on this long and painful road.

But… one of the biggest things you should know is that you have options. There is a very typical path and typical fertility treatments that a lot of people follow when trying to get pregnant, and because they’re so prevalent, they can seem like the only options. They are not. If the most common treatments feel like the right path for you, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t feel like they’re right for you, then pursue another path.

You have to be your own advocate in this process. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Do your research and arm yourself with information. Get second opinions if you want to, and don’t feel bad about it. There are lots of fertility treatments with good success rates. Know your options.

4. I’m Not Normal / I’m Failing As a Woman

I gave this one two titles, but honestly I could have given it 17 because this same lie has a bunch of different ways of rearing its head, but trust me, it’s all the same lie — that because you aren’t able to pregnant, you’re not normal, not like everyone else, there’s something wrong with you, you’re failing as a woman, failing as a wife, unable to do one of the most basic things that God designed a woman’s body to do.

Oh, I struggled so much with this. Every time I thought it, the pain cut straight into me like a knife. If you’re in the thick of it, I wish I could just put my arms around you and hug you through it, because it hurts. It attacks your identity. You feel like you’re failing your duty as a woman, like you’re failing your husband, and like you’re just plain failing. The guilt and shame is real.

So hear me when I say this. You are made in God’s image, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your lady bits not working perfectly doesn’t say any more about the woman you are than it would if you dry skin or heartburn. Our human bodies are imperfect and sometimes things just don’t work exactly the way they’re supposed to.

So give yourself some grace. You are not failing.

5. Because Fertility Is Personal, I Should Keep It to Myself

Maybe it’s because the shame and guilt are so strong, but opening up about it is difficult. I never felt more vulnerable than when I shared that we were struggling to get pregnant. It is an intensely personal thing, and you don’t have to share it with anyone you don’t want to, but I am telling you right now… share it with someone.

Share it with close family and friends. Share it with a counselor or therapist. Share it with someone you know who is going or has gone through it. You can share it with a bunch of people, just a few people, or one person.

But whatever you do, don’t go through it alone. It is a desperately sad thing to be faced with, so find people who can offer you support through it.

6. I Don’t Know Anyone Else Going Through It

I was astounded to learn how many women I knew who were on the same path or had been on it. And knowing that I wasn’t alone was a game-changer. We had so many people loving us, praying with and for us, and offering us support in whatever way we needed it.

But the women who knew what it was like, the women who understood every last bit of the roller coaster… those were my women. My tribe. There is nothing like the support you get from people who KNOW.

It’s been estimated that around 10% of women experience infertility in some way. That is so. many. women. There are people around you who are struggling and who understand what you’re going through. And if you don’t know who those people are in your life or don’t know where to find them, then message me. You can be in my tribe. Trust me, it’s a good one.

7. If I Can’t Get Pregnant, I Should Adopt

This one is difficult and complex, so hear me out.

If you’re struggling to get pregnant, it’s very likely that at some point, someone is going to say to you, “Why don’t you just adopt?” And that suggestion can be really painful. No matter how well-intentioned, it can be loaded with guilt and shame and fear.

First, understand that it is okay to want a biological child. That is not selfish. Nearly every parent in history has wanted a child that shared their DNA, their characteristics, their traits, their appearance and personality. The suggestion to adopt can often feel like people are telling you to just give up on that dream, like it should be easy. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a biological child and continuing to try for one.

Second, adoption is an absolutely wonderful thing and I could not possibly support it more fully. There are children the world over who were born to mothers who were, for a multitude of reasons, unable to care for them. Bringing one of those children into your home and calling them your own is an incredibly selfless, noble and loving thing to do. I have endless admiration for my friends who have adopted or fostered, and I am so grateful that God brought their children to them in that way. It fills me with joy.

But… adoption also comes with many challenges. The decision to adopt a child has to feel like the right decision for you, and it has to be something you’re ready and willing to embark on. If you’re not able to conceive a biological child, and adoption feels like the right next step for you, that’s incredible. But if you’re not able to conceive and adoption doesn’t feel like the right thing for you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I have loved ones and friends whose families have come to them in all different ways… pregnancy, adoption, fostering or some combination of them. I also have friends who were unable to conceive and ultimately decided against pursuing a family in other ways. The plans that God has for you and your family are between you and Him.

But know this: The plan God has for your life is wonderful. Be patient with Him and be patient with yourself. Be patient with your body. It’s capable of something truly miraculous, and even when it feels like it can’t happen, it can. It can take time, but when it finally comes, in whatever way it comes, you will again remember that He works all things together for good.

And it bears repeating… if you’re struggling with infertility and would like help or just someone to talk to, please reach out to me. I’m always happy to talk with people about it and help in any way I can.

Losing the When-Then Mentality

Whenever a new year comes around, it’s always a great time for reflection - thinking about what we want for our lives, what we want to accomplish, the person we want to be, the goals we want to reach, and the dreams we want to pursue. Good for us, right?

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But often, almost as soon as we start to think about these callings, our minds are flooded with reasons why it just won’t work, why you can’t do it, why it’s not realistic, why now isn’t the best time, why another time will be perfect.

I call this the “When-Then” mentality, and it typically goes something like this… “When X happens, then Y can happen.” You can probably fill in the blanks pretty easily.

When my kids are grown, then I can travel.

When I’ve saved more money, then I’ll start a business.

When I have more time, then I’ll write that book.

When work slows down…

When I lose weight…

Sounding familiar?

The problem, of course, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because that’s just how it works. Our minds are powerful things, and whatever we believe to be true usually has a way of being so. It doesn’t matter whether your dream is to own a business, become an active voice for a cause, travel the world, or to just become more organized or learn calligraphy. If you believe you can’t do it, you probably won’t… in fact, you probably won’t even try.

Look, I don’t mean to be hard on you. Because the truth is, we all know that our everyday lives can be formidable opponents to our calling and dreams. Trust me… I’m a mom who works full time. I get it. I get it so much. I have pushed things to the back burner with the best of them. I could back burner things in the olympics.

Pursuing Our Purpose

But each of us was created to fulfill a purpose, and no matter how much you push that purpose down or to the back burner, the deep longing never seems to quiet. And it becomes a cycle - the urge to pursue a passion becomes strong and then here come the reasons to not do it right now.

And that’s the thing about settling into the When/Then mentality. It is satan’s most successful tactic in our lives. I firmly believe that in the arsenal of tools he uses against us, getting us to waste time is often the most effective. When we waste time, our purpose is missed, little by little, a day at a time. And he uses it slyly, so he masks wasted time beneath the busyness of our everyday lives and makes it seem unavoidable. And because he makes the things we waste time with seem inherently good, he makes that wasted time feel noble.

Now, don’t mistake me, I’m not saying that raising your kids or having a job or whatever is keeping you from pursuing your passion AREN’T noble things. They absolutely are. The distinction I’m trying to make is that satan uses those things against us, and leads us to believe that if we are pursuing those things, we simply don’t have the time or ability to pursue anything else. He makes it increasingly easy for us to miss things God has for us by leading us to believe that God has only made a way for us to pursue one thing at a time.

Ditching the “When”

So what are we to do? How do we unstick ourselves from this when/then conundrum and start to pursue the dreams God has put in our hearts when our daily lives DO seem so packed?

What I’ve come to understand is that the best way to beat it is to forget for a bit about the “when” and start thinking about the “then”. Whatever your “then” is… whatever thing you’ve been putting on hold for another time because it seems unrealistic or out of reach… I’d be willing to bet that there is at least a small part of it that doesn’t depend on “when” at all.

Set Small Goals

So here’s my challenge to you:

Think about how you can change “then” to now. It could mean taking a big leap, but it absolutely doesn’t have to. It could mean carving out ten minutes each day or even each week to take a step toward something. Just one small step, one small thing you can do now.

If you can’t pick up and travel the world today because you don’t have the money or you’ve got small kids, then start by traveling someplace easier, cheaper or closer. Create travel and adventure where you are, even if for a day or afternoon.

If you’ve been holding off writing because you don’t have the time to dedicate to it, then commit to 10 minutes of writing a day or 30 minutes a week… whatever you can manage (something a friend recently challenged me to do, and here I am).

If you’ve been wanting to work with a non-profit or volunteer… carve out an hour a month to go volunteer, email or call them and find something they need that you can donate, or donate a skill you have where they may be short-handed.

Go Bigger

Once you’ve started to carve out time and commit to pursuing what you’ve had on hold, then double down on that plan. When you’ve shown yourself that it doesn’t take huge risks or leaps or sacrifices to pursue a dream, it becomes a lot easier to think of ways to keep pursuing them.

Create a longer-term plan for yourself, create a timeline if you want, and think about how you want to set bigger goals and pursue your passion and your purpose in bigger and bigger ways.

Whatever You Do… Start Now

You don’t have to wipe out your savings, quit your job, or sell your house. Life is real and it has real obligations and responsibilities. But you are a unique person created with a unique purpose. Don’t let the rush and stress of life take away from that purpose.

Whatever your “then” is, that dream you’ve had on hold for a “when”, find even the smallest way to pursue it… now.

Want to share your “then”? Comment and let me know how you’re planning to nix the “when”.

Starting Fresh

Blogging and writing is something I’ve wanted to get back to pretty much since the last time I posted here (hint, that was a long time ago), but with a career and a family, it’s not always been easy for me to dedicate the time to it. But now that’s changing. More on that soon.

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All I wanted to do now is to declare myself officially back and wish you all a very happy 2019! And to remind you that every single day is a completely new opportunity, a completely blank slate, a chance to start, a chance to get it right, and another step closer to your purpose… and mine. But like I said… more on that soon.

2016 Family Photos

I was so excited to have our first family photos taken with Olivia this fall (would love to have had our pup Bailey in them as well, but she's not so good with new places, people, sights, sounds, smells, etc. you get the picture), and was so thrilled with how they captured our new little family. 

A huge thank you to Virginia Ann Photography for the gorgeous photos! Can't recommend her enough.

The Day I learned I Was Pregnant

It was one of those moments… the kind of moment we only experience a few times in our lives. The kind of moment when you know nothing will ever be the same again.

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                                                              (Image credit)

By the time it came, we’d been dealing with infertility for so long that I think we’d both reached the point where we were starting to wonder if it just wasn’t ever going to happen for us. We’d always been pretty hopeful that when the time was right, it would come.

But time has a way of wearing on even the strongest and most steadfast hopes. I’d looked at pregnancy tests with just one line so many times, I almost couldn’t imagine ever seeing two lines. Maybe it just wasn’t to be.

Not even two months prior I’d had a surgery that was somewhat our final hope. If it didn’t work, we weren’t sure what the next step would be, or if there even were any other steps. My doctor had high hopes for the surgery giving us a strong chance of getting pregnant, but after so much time gone by, I was firmly in the “believe it when I see it” stage of infertility.

But I thought that if it did work, it would take a bit longer. I mean, the scars on my stomach were still feeling pretty tender, so surely it was too soon for it to make any real difference just yet. I still tracked and charted all of my symptoms and we still tried, but in my mind, it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility that I’d get pregnant yet.

When I started to feel a little off one day, it still didn’t enter my mind. A few days after that, I had an actual crying meltdown over something minor that had happened at work, and I never cried over work stuff, so I wondered what my deal was and thought maybe I hadn’t been getting enough sleep. The day after that little episode, I wondered why my stomach had been feeling so weird for a few days. And then the day after that, I realized I was behind on my symptom charting, so I went to log everything in. After looking at my chart for several minutes, counting and recounting days, I realized that I was two days late.

And that was when the thought occurred to me for the first time. “What if I’m… Could I be?”

To be honest, I think I knew then. But getting your hopes up and having them come crashing down is so hard. It was a feeling I was all too familiar with, and I was not interested in feeling it again, so I told myself that if I was still late the following day, I’d take a test.

Yeah. Right. I’ll just sit on this for an entire day and wonder.

At the same time he usually did, my husband called to let me know he was on his way home from work and asked if I wanted him to stop and pick up food. I told him no, that I’d whip up something at the house. But by the time he pulled into the garage a short time later, I knew I’d reached the point where I HAD to know. I couldn’t wait.

Up until this point, I never told my husband when I was going to take a pregnancy test or if I thought it was possible I could be pregnant. I'm sure some people might find that weird, but the emotional roller coaster of wondering, taking a test, and then being disappointed was hard enough, and I just couldn’t put us both through that every time. So I would always just take a test and then let him know afterwards that I’d taken one and it was negative. 

So as he was walking through the door from work, I whirled right past him and told him I was going to pick up food. I barely even listened as he questioned me… “I just offered to pick up food!” I quickly ran to the store to pick up a test, ran to pick up food, came home, whirled back past him and headed into the bathroom.

But for a reason that I either can’t remember or can’t explain, I couldn’t take it. Maybe it was just nerves, but I shoved it in the bathroom cabinet and didn’t work up the courage to go get it back out until much later that evening.

Maurice was in his office quietly working on something and I knew I had to just do it. So I went in the bathroom and took the test. I set it on the counter so that I could wait the requisite 3 minutes and suddenly my heart began to pound so hard I couldn’t stand it. All I knew was that I couldn’t stand there for 3 minutes just staring at it, so I grabbed a tissue, covered it up, and sat myself down on the toilet to wait. I wouldn’t look until I knew enough time had passed.

And there I sat, biting my nail and bouncing my foot, not knowing what I was going to see when I lifted that tissue. I closed my eyes and prayed. I told God that no matter what that test said, it was okay. No matter what, I loved and trusted Him.

I waited. I waited longer. I knew 3 minutes had passed. Probably 10 minutes had passed, truthfully. So I finally stood up and stepped to the counter. In my heart, I just knew. My eyes welled with tears and I felt the weight of the moment so strongly. I took a deep, slow breath, and lifted the tissue.

Two lines.

Honestly, I can’t tell you whether 2 seconds or 20 minutes passed at that point. It was the first time in my life that I felt like time actually stopped. Everything went quiet. I eventually picked up the test and then double checked the box 11 times to make sure that two lines really, unmistakably meant pregnant.

Finally, I burst out of the bathroom holding the test and called Maurice’s name frantically - so much so that I’m pretty sure he thought I’d somehow been shot in the bathroom. But by the time he was coming out of his office with a legitimately concerned look on his face, I had reached the end of the hallway and I just stopped and held up the test.

I’ll never forget watching his face turn from confusion to realization… when it hit him why I would be standing there holding up a pregnancy test with a shaking hand. I know that at some point, I finally uttered the words I’d wanted to be able to say to him for years… “I’m pregnant.”

After a lot of tears and shock and hugging, I finally sat down at the dining room table. And that’s when I had the moment. The moment where I suddenly looked around, at my husband, our house, our dog, and realized that nothing in my life would ever be quite the same again after that moment. In a scary but wonderful way, everything had just changed.

Our whole reality was set on a new course in the blink of an eye. We’d reached the end of our long and heartbreaking road with infertility, God had brought us out of that tunnel, and now an all new journey awaited us. I was flooded with relief and joy and anxiety and wonderment.

I looked down again at the test sitting on the table in front of me.

Two lines.