Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19-25th, 2008: National Infertility Awareness Week


Today I am recognizing National Infertility Awareness Week, a movement to raise awareness about the disease of infertility which affects 7.3 million Americans.

My "About Me" says after overcoming a few obstacles, I am blessed to be a mother. My husband and I dealt with infertility from the moment we thought about starting a family. I met with my family doctor for a check-up, explaining we were going to try to get pregnant soon, and after a month of tests, found myself with a brain tumor diagnosis (pituitary tumor). To top it off, I was assured that if I got pregnant, the hormones would cause the tumor to grow rapidly.

Months later, after an MRI confirmed that God had indeed healed me, (the doctors assured me this was completely impossible), we sought advice from an infertility doctor who specialized in patients with pituitary tumors. During our first appointment she advised me to undergo a round of chemotherapy drugs. Immediately after that statement, she took a phone call from the nurse advising her we were already pregnant! The pregnancy was not without it's trials (including 4 months of bedrest due to preterm labor), but no ill effects from the tumor. Olivia Faith was born full-term and healthy.

Our story continues with another couple years of what is called secondary infertility, usually defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully and naturally conceiving one or more children. Many diagnoses were given, including severe endometriosis. One surgery later, and once again a natural pregnancy was confirmed by an infertility doctor. Another eventful pregnancy ensued (with more bedrest). And Madeline Joy was born full-term as well.

We again experienced secondary infertility, including one early miscarriage, due to the endometriosis. This time our infertility doctor gave us less than 0.5% chance of conceiving on our own. I was in need of another surgery. The next month he was dumbfounded, confirming that once again we were pregnant. Unfortunately, this time we lost our baby boy at 3 months.

Once again, we find ourselves in a season of secondary infertility. It's a tough place to be. The tug of war between my overwhelming desire to add to our family and the guilt I feel in appearing ungrateful for the children I have often keeps me from sharing anything at all.

This week seemed like a safe time to share my story, and a few facts I've learned along the way. From what I've read, Secondary infertility is often unrecognized as a problem, and many couples find it hard to receive support from their family and friends. Some couples are even criticized as seeming ungrateful for the child or children they already have.

The emotional impact of infertility is profound. Unless you have had a close encounter with it, you probably wouldn't begin to guess the ramifications. RESOLVE published an article, "Coping with Infertility" that had this to say:
From the shocking diagnosis and demanding treatment to the disruptive day-to-day experiences, this emotional assault can leave an infertile individual depressed, angry and guilt ridden. Of the eight types of loss researchers have identified which can lead to depression in the average man or woman, the infertile individual may experience them all: loss of self-esteem, status, important relationships, health or an acceptable body image, control, security, important fantasies and someone or something of symbolic value. The cumulative effect is profound, creating a life crisis that impacts a person's ability to cope and has no immediate or foreseeable resolution.

It goes on to say: Ultimately, many infertile women....feel the wound of infertility in every part of their being, and there are no simple remedies to ease such deep pain and extensive loss.

I agree that infertility is that intense. I've often said it is like grieving the death of a dream every month. But it's here that I would have to agree to disagree with the article. There is a simple remedy to ease my deep pain and my continued loss. It is my continued relationship with God. He is able to take my questions, my fears, my grief, my disappointments. In Matthew 11, Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

That doesn't mean I am not sad. I grieve the babies I've lost. And many months I grieve the lost dream of having another child. But even in my sadness, there is a promise that eases my pain and loss, Psalms 34, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." God has never been closer to our family than these last few months since we lost our baby boy. We are overwhelmed by His goodness towards us.

For those have journeyed the road of infertility, though our paths may never cross, this traveler holds you close in her heart. My prayers extend toward you this week.

For those who have never carried the burden of infertility, my hope is that you can reach out with understanding and compassion, and help carry the burden of a tired friend. You can't fix it, but you can lift her spirits.

3 comments:

Amydeanne said...

This is always a big one on my heart too. We were deemed infertile.. only by the grace of God am I a mother today!
hugs. Thanks for sharing this with others!

Ashley said...

Rebecca,

You are so brave and courageous to post such an honest and open testimony of your struggle with infertility. Your boldness has inspired me to do the same this week. Infertility is not spoken about too often, and that is something that needs to change. Women need to know that they are not the only ones who are suffering with this issue. My prayer are with your family!

Thank you for the encouraging scriptures that you offered!

-Ashley

lori said...

Rebecca,
Unless you've lived it you just can't possibly understand it....I will NEVER, as long as I live forget those frigid Chicago mornings when I arrived at the clinic before dawn to have blood drawn...we were there, professional women, women with children, even a woman in a postal uniform and a police officer...all there, silent, and secretly praying our turn would arrive "this" month. It's an image that has never left me and it was 16 years ago....

I struggled as well....the first 2 were fertility babies...PCOD was my diagnosis...I don't have the usual signs, so it was not something that they discussed right away...soooooo, after the gift of the second, I stopped trying...not wanting to appear ungrateful...then HE came along...a surprise and out of the blue...he should not be here, and it was God's hand that brought him to earth for HIS purpose..your journey may or may not be over....
You are living the dream:) as am I:)

Peace! and prayers, that "His Will be Done..."

lori