My Infertility Journey

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The Molar Pregnancy

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me. " Psalm 23:4

Four months after Jared was born, we decided that we wanted to add to our family by adopting more embryos. When I had been pregnant with Jared, I tried to savor each moment, knowing that it may be the only time that I would experience it. However, through embryo adoption, we knew there was the possibility of having more children.

In the meantime though, a waiting list for embryos had formed and there were three couples ahead of us. The list moved slowly because potential embryo donors were slow in completing the paperwork required to transfer ownership of the embryos to another party. This is understandable, as they were new parents themselves and had other things going on in their lives! The list moved slowly… my brother and sister-in-law had also decided to pursue embryo adoption (using us as their “test case”) and they were at the top of the list. I was thrilled for them! 

As we waited, I just enjoyed the child that God had given me. He was an “easy baby” and, like me, he loved being on a schedule. For the next year I was distracted by him and was not too worried about our fertility issues or the waiting list that never seemed to budge. At my next OBGYN visit, however, we began to talk about measures we could take to conceive naturally. Having now carried a baby, natural conception may be more of a reality, almost as if experiencing pregnancy might “jump start” my reproductive system. The doctor put me on Clomid to make sure I ovulated properly and we were officially trying again – in what my husband calls “active mode.”

In the meantime, my brother got the long-awaited call that embryos were now available.  I was hoping and praying that they would have a baby through this option because they had been through so much heartache during other traditional adoption attempts. The most recent one had been while I was pregnant with Jared – a birth mother changed her mind several weeks after the child was born, and they had to give the baby back to her right around Christmastime. 

We had originally adopted eight embryos, but four of them had not survived the thawing process. Of the four embryos we had transferred, only one of them implanted. My brother and his wife, however, had adopted 18 embryos -- I felt so envious!  With so many embryos, they would probably have some left over if this procedure didn’t work. Their chances seemed really good.  Plus, the members of their small group at church had raised the funds for them to be able to do this procedure.  We were so excited for them as they started this adventure!

Unfortunately, things did not turn out as expected.  Right before they left home for the clinic, they received a call from the embryologist. None of the embryos had survived the thaw. This was devastating news for all of us, and especially for them. I grieved deeply for them. They had gone through so much and I had so much hope for them. Ultimately, they decided not to pursue another embryo adoption.

Getting Restless

By the summer of 2005, I was getting discouraged. Jared was turning two and I wanted him to have a sibling close to his age. Plus, my sister-in-law and a couple of my friends were pregnant. We had still not conceived naturally (even with the help of Clomid) and we were still third on the waiting list for embryos. The list was not moving.  After talking with the IVF coordinator at the clinic, I was told that they just didn’t have that many embryos to adopt and that they were having difficulty getting the paperwork back from the prospective donors.  Many had said they were interested in donating their embryos, but they had not completed the paperwork and officially released them.

I was falling back into the traps that befall infertile women. I was ready for a new Bible study and I had heard many good things about Beth Moore’s Bible study, “Believing God.”  The women at my new church had already done this study, so I did it on my own.  As I was doing the study and believing God for a miracle, I found myself obsessing about becoming pregnant. I learned of another facility, The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), that had embryos ready to adopt. Their adoption process was more like a traditional adoption, complete with a home study. Additionally, being located over an hour away from home, it would be more stressful than doing the procedure locally. Still, we began to consider it.

I talked with Bethany Christian Services regarding the home study, and they referred me back to the NEDC to start the process there.  I called and although the receptionist could not answer my specific questions, she promised to send me information and an application.  Then the wait began.

In August, as I praying about going on Clomid for two months and being proactive about conceiving, I was struggling with something my pastor had recently mentioned about aligning my plan with God’s plan.  He was teaching on Hannah; in I Samuel 1:11, she promised God that if He gave her a son, she would give him back to the Lord.  God gave her the desire of her heart when she aligned her plan with His.

At a women’s prayer group that week I was really struggling. I was not intending to talk about my struggle, but a friend (who did not know what was going on) asked me to talk about what was going on in my life. I broke down and talked about the pain of the past few years. This was not something I would normally have done, but it was so comforting to have these women give me encouraging words and pray over me.

Another Dimension of Faith

Early on August 8, 2008, I decided to be more proactive and go back on Clomid. As I did my Bible study that day, though, God changed my mind. My faith and my believing God for a miracle always involved what I was doing to make it happen. That day, though, I studied another dimension of faith – “when faith requires us to do nothing at all, while our human nature screams to interfere”  (Beth Moore, Believing God).

I was convicted to let go and completely trust God. When Daniel got home from work that day, I asked him if he was ready to get out of “active mode” for a while and he was thrilled.  It was time to relax – no temperature charts, no obsessing. It was actually a relief for both of us.

About a week later, we finally got the information we had requested and an application from NEDC.  There was an application fee of $200, though, so we decided to hold off and pray about it for a few days.  Although we were no longer officially trying to conceive naturally, we wanted to pray about moving in this direction.

The following Friday, August 19th, I was a couple of days late, so I took a pregnancy test.  Miraculously, it was positive!  I went to the fertility center immediately and they confirmed it -- I was pregnant! This was a gift from God! We had never conceived naturally. When God convicted me to stop trying, I was already pregnant!  I had been lazy about taking my temperature, and I couldn’t even pinpoint the exact day of ovulation. This was a God-sized miracle. That day will always be remembered as one of the happiest days of our lives.

Nobody expected this. Finally, we were able to surprise everyone with an announcement!  There were tears and smiles as we just began telling everybody our news! I immediately began planning for this next baby. I began to shop for things for Jared’s “big boy” room.  I bought maternity clothes. I began writing down items for my registry. This was a miracle, and  I was thrilled to talk “baby stuff” with my sister-in-law and my pregnant friends. We were going to be pregnant together!  One was due in February, the other in March, and I in April.  How fun it was going to be to have babies together!

Lost Hope

On September 6, the day after Labor Day, it all changed.  We went in for our first ultrasound, hoping to hear or see the heartbeat. Instead, we got devastating news. The doctor could not find the baby. My HCG levels were high enough that he should have seen something, but he could not even find the gestational sac. Confusion immediately set in and I couldn’t understand what he was telling me. This was either an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus, possibly in the fallopian tubes) or a molar pregnancy (the embryo died and a “mole” appeared). I had never even heard of a molar pregnancy! Either way, something had to be done right away and he began to talk about procedures. We set up another ultrasound in a couple of days to see if he would be able to determine for sure whether the pregnancy was ectopic or molar. One would require a D&C, the other a laparoscopy to be on the safe side, the doctor scheduled both procedures for the following week.

As I was reeling from the fact that I had come in to see the heartbeat and was instead told there wasn’t even a baby, I certainly could not comprehend any procedure that was going to remove it.  I walked out of the office stunned. I couldn’t even cry at first because it still didn’t register that I was not going to have this baby.

After doing research on both molar and ectopic pregnancies, the reality began to set in and I began to panic. What if the doctor was wrong?  I immediately called my OBGYN for a second opinion. She explained more about molar pregnancies and agreed that the procedures that were scheduled were necessary and should be done as soon as possible after the follow-up ultrasound. She explained that a molar pregnancy could turn into cancer and ectopic pregnancy could cause my tubes to rupture.

The devil really began to work on me at this point. I began to feel foolish, not knowing what to say to the people that I had told I was pregnant. We had told people that this was a gift from God!  Now what do we say, it was a gift of pain?  God prompted me to begin writing scripture verses down on index cards that I could carry around with me when the negative or anxious thoughts began. I was confused, but I knew God would get me through this.

Finally realizing and accepting the inevitable, we began praying that God would intervene and the ultrasound would show the baby or that we would know for sure what to do. A D&C would involve removing the baby and the lining of my uterus and I needed to know for sure that there was, in fact, not an actual viable pregnancy in there. God did not intervene, but He did answer our prayers. My HCG levels were “sky high,” indicating a molar pregnancy, and the ultrasound showed clear visual evidence as well.

Although we were disappointed, we were thankful that God had made it clear to us that the D&C, scheduled for the next day, was necessary. God gave me some wonderful verses during this time, but the one I remember the most was, “God is near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:8). I was brokenhearted and definitely crushed in spirit, yet I felt God’s presence more than I have any other time in my life.

Later that day, as I lay in bed dreading the following day’s procedure, my friend Renee called me. Normally, being so distraught, I would not have answered the phone, but did because I was expecting a call about my impending procedure. Renee did not know what had happened (it all happened so quickly that we weren’t able to call everyone) and was calling about something else. I knew that she gone through a D&C recently and I was able to tell her what was going on and ask about the D&C. She was able to calm my fears, and she even brought a meal by for my family. I never would have called her and asked about her experience, but God knew I needed to talk to her at that time, so he placed it upon her heart to call me.

As I went in for the procedure that morning, God was right there with me. I took my index cards with me and I kept reading them over and over again until it was time for my procedure.  They called the procedure a “missed abortion,” and although the baby had already died, I felt like I had had an abortion.  I had indeed walked through the shadow of death but I felt God with me every step of the way.

Since everything had happened so fast, I had not been able to grieve my loss properly.  I was still shocked that I was no longer pregnant.  One evening when Daniel was gone, I finally just let all the emotions come out.  I fell on my knees and broke down.  For a few moments, my grief was so unbearable that I did not think I could go on living my life.  I cried out to God and told Him that I could not handle this.  God picked me up and reassured me that He would help me through this.

"In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me."
Psalm 120:1

I had to continue to get lab work done until my HCG level returned to zero to make sure that the mole had been completely removed and would not reappear.  It was difficult to keep returning to the Fertility Center for lab work – the place that had once represented hope now represented futility. Furthermore, because a molar pregnancy can turn into cancer, I was advised not to get pregnant for an entire year.  My life would be on hold for another year and that seemed unbearable!

After experiencing infertility for so long, I had hoped that I would be spared this type of loss. Now I had experienced the pain of both infertility and lost pregnancy. Over the next few months, I struggled with this loss and fell into depression as I watched my pregnant friends – the ones with whom I was supposed to share this wonderful time -- have their babies. Once again, I felt left behind and began to feel sorry for myself.  Everyone else was going on with their lives and it seemed that no one even remembered that I was supposed to be having a baby at this time too. I knew that even if no one else remembered, though, God did.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the
 son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
 
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls
are continually before me."  Isaiah 49:15

During this difficult time of waiting and watching, God continually showed me that He had not forgotten me (just as I would not forget my son) and that He had a plan for me, but that I needed to be patient and trust Him. The year of not trying was difficult, but it was otherwise a good year. I tamed my “obsession” for the time being; after all, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make time go by any faster.  I concentrated on enjoying my existing relationships.  On the hard days, I went back to my index cards and was reminded of God’s love and compassion -- reminded that He had a plan for me and had not forgotten me.

As I went through the stages of grief, my sadness began to slowly dissipate. I no longer felt that desperate dependence on God. In a way, I actually longed for that feeling because I had felt so close to Him. I no longer felt the need to cling to Him in the way I had at the darkest times, and I saw that as God healed me, he gave me the ability to stand on my own two feet. It was at this time that I began to get up early in the morning and have a personal time with God. Jared had been my only alarm clock ever since he was born, but I came to realize that I would not have that invaluable time with God unless I got up before everybody else. This was one of the best decisions of my life. I still don’t like getting out of bed so early in the morning, but I have never regretted it for one day and still agree that it is the best way to start the day!

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this
 I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great
 love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new
 every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose
 hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:19-25