We ask that before you congratulate us, you take a few minutes to read our story below. We are not looking for sympathies or apologies, rather just to bring awareness.
There's always a story behind the announcement, which often goes untold. But, I promised myself that I would tell you our story if I ever had the opportunity to announce pregnancy. Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility? Chances are you encounter couples on a regular basis, whether family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers that you might not even be aware are facing this challenge.
That has been our journey for the past 5 years. No one really expects it. Sometimes there's no answers as to why. Infertility, I can say by experience, can be a really painful and lonely journey that is far too common.
Even if you don't care to read the story below of our journey, let me give you some advice for how you can hopefully better relate to the couples you will encounter who are struggling with infertility. Though you will never understand what the couple is going through, unless you've been there, chances are you may unintentionally/unknowingly make inappropriate comments. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are not trying to be hurtful. But, please don't say any of the following:
1. "If people would just stop trying, they would get pregnant". 2. "Those couples just need to relax and have a drink, it's all in their heads". 3. "When are you going to have kids?" -- umm that's none of your business and I don't think you're ready to hear my story. 4. "You should read this article about infertility because someone at the end in the comments said something about the health issue you have" (ironically the article was about how to not be offensive to infertility couples). 5. "The problem is that you let your dogs sleep with you". 6. "Well, sure doesn't sound like you'll be contributing any grandchildren to your family" 7. "If you adopt, you'll get pregnant" -- I know those are the only stories you hear about, no one talks about their unsuccessful struggles with fertility and not everyone who adopts gets pregnant. Please don't even bring up adoption to a couple struggling with infertility; adoption is a whole other challenge that many aren't ready for and it doesn't solve the "problem" or take away the pain. Though adoption is a blessing to many families, it may not be for everyone. 8. "Please don't get pregnant and take maternity leave unless you reallyreally want to". 9. And many more comments I forgot or are too revealing to mention.
Our Story Months after we first started "trying" without success, I started visiting OBGYN doctors one at a time -- only one time each -- looking for someone who was interested in getting to the root of my "problem" and not offering a "band aid" fix that might not even work or be good for my health. I wanted to be healthy, not just have a baby. I was disappointed by my appointments where I was offered drugs without any meaningful testing or concern as to what was actually going on. During these years, I searched for anything I could do on my own to improve my gynecologic health. Eventually I even gave up my favorite hobby -- running races and triathlons -- because I found that it negatively impacted by menstrual cycles every time. It was so frustrating because I tried so hard to take good care of my health but it seemed to be out of my control.
One day, while pouring over fertility blogs, desperate for answers, I encountered someone who said they saw a "Napro" doctor. I googled it and read everything I could about this approach to womens' health. Surprisingly, I found that a health system 35 minutes away had an OBGYN trained in this method. Without really having any idea what I was getting into, I signed us up for an informational session. Soon I was on my way to charting cycles and had my first appointment with the doctor almost two years ago.
I had never had a doctor appointment where the he/she listened so well to my entire story. I rambled at him for an hour. He commented on the fact that I had high standards considering my trend of visiting every doctor only once. However, I was pleased at his approach and continued to see him every 3 months ever since. This was also a financially stressful time because our health insurance would not cover my medical bills to see my doctor out-of-network. We ended up joining Christian Healthcare Ministries, which has been awesome in sharing my huge medical bills (although we still paid all office visits out of pocket)! What a blessing to be part of a group of Christian people who help to financially and spiritually alleviate each others' medical burdens.
My doctor specializes in NaProtechnology which stands for Natural Procreative Technology and was developed by the Catholics as an alternative (and extremely successful) approach to treating womens' health issues while aligning with their religious beliefs. No birth control, no IUI, no IVF. Those are the tools that most OBGYNs are trained in and all they know to offer. These Napro OBGYNs elect this additional training after becoming medical doctors that focuses on naturally supporting fertility with lifestyle, supplements, drugs as appropriate, and surgery if needed. It's all about empowering each couple to take control of their health and be involved in their care. It was exactly what I had been looking for! I wanted to get to the root of my health issues! (For more info on Napro visit here: www.popepaulvi.com/about.php).
Over the next year, I made dietary changes, was started on supplements to support my cycles, and eventually trialed on a fertility drug without any success. Finally, I was recommended for surgery. In faith, we decided to proceed with surgery despite no way of knowing that my anticipated ~$60k surgery bills would be shared until after the surgery. Fortunately my doctor is one of the few OBGYNs who completed specialized training in surgery. Last November I had laparoscopic surgery with the Da Vinci robot -- I underwent an ovarian wedge resection and lysis of pelvic adhesions covering most of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. The cause of the adhesions was unknown and not expected. My doctor was hopeful that he had fixed my problems of which there was basically no physical way that an egg could've ever made it to meet sperm prior to surgery. No fertility drug or treatment would ever work in that situation. Surgery was in the best interest of my general health and did help to reduce pelvic pain I had previously thought was normal.
Following surgery, months went by without pregnancy success and we worked on accepting the fact that we likely would never have a child of our own. After 5 years of the emotional, physical and financial struggles, it was hard to accept. Imagine the surprise when we saw a very positive pregnancy test!
So far the pregnancy has not been without challenges -- I've experienced heavy bleeding likely due to a subchorianic hematoma (after which I never expected to see a baby alive on the ultrasound), have never felt so fatigued and nauseous in my life, spent weeks on pelvic rest and not exercising at all, and suffered trying progesterone injections twice a week to help raise my levels to help heal the subchorianic hematoma. But the pain and suffering over these past 5 years will be all worth it when we get to meet our "red lentil" in April 2018.
Thank you for reading our story and we hope that we can help to raise awareness of this struggle so many couples deal with and how we all can be more considerate in how we treat each other. We ask for your prayers for a healthy pregnancy. Please contact me if you'd like to know more about Napro, my awesome medical providers, or Christian Healthcare Ministries!