About this time last year I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child.
Since I was at the tail end of treatment for depression, my doctor let me instantly wean off my meds. Morning sickness plus the awful disorienting feeling I experienced from quitting antidepressants was a rough combination.
But it was welcome suffering compared to the pain of waiting for a child that would not come.
Trouble Getting Pregnant
In January 2016 my daughter Fawn turned one year old.
My husband and I decided we could go for another child if God wanted right now. Or not, y’know. Whatevs.
So we made the transition from TTA (trying to avoid) to TTW (trying to whatever).
In my heart, I was really TTC (trying to conceive), but we were pretty easygoing with our charting and timing.
For several months, no baby.
It wasn’t too surprising, seeing as I was still breastfeeding Fawn. But at the same time, it was still mildly surprising since both Fawn and Princess had been conceived while breastfeeding.
It all worked out because we found out my husband’s work conference that summer would be in Cancun (a story for another day).
The CDC was sounding the Zika warning bells, and we didn’t want to take any chances. So we swiftly switched back to TTA.
Summer rolled around, my husband’s conference was over, and Fawn was fully weaned.
By mid-July, we started TTC (trying to conceive) in earnest.
Trying to Conceive
We have a very solid knowledge of NFP (Natural Family Planning), since we’re certified NFP teachers. And we have an in-depth understanding of my own cycle, having charted together since before we were married.
Up to this point, getting pregnant came easy to us.
Fertile Myrtle was my name. (Yes, someone actually called me that. To my face.)
But now, July went by, no baby. It’s okay, our timing wasn’t perfect.
August, no baby. Well, people normally don’t get pregnant as quickly as we do, so no big deal.
By this time I was scratching my head. Though four months of waiting can be normal for many couples, it was not normal for us.
We took a closer look at our charts and realized something wasn’t quiiiiite right.
Off to the midwife I go.
Depression and Infertility
A thorough checkup and a handful of vials of blood later, I was informed I was suffering from a serious iron deficiency.
I started supplements and adjusted my diet. I knew it would take a while to fix my iron counts, but I was still hopeful.
Two months later, and my cycle was just getting worse. I could see every sign of fertility diminishing. No temperature shift. Hardly any mucus signs. A monthly bleed was about all I had to go by.
In the meantime, I discovered I had been suffering from untreated depression for over a year.
After a very difficult event in my life, I withdrew into myself, destroying my own emotional and physical well-being.
As I sank further into the darkness, my body decided to shut down. Looking back, our best guess is that the anemia and fertility struggles were both results of the depression.
So, onward to antidepressants and counseling.
Waiting for Baby
But the baby in my mind was still top priority. I had a long chat with my midwife about continuing to try to conceive and about the risks of medications for my child.
She prescribed something she felt safe with and assured me that my baby needed a well and healthy mom.
You were a longshot.
Every month, my cycles told me you wouldn’t come.
But I never stopped thinking about you.
Never stopped hoping for you.
I always made sure you would be safe and cared for. Even when you were just a glimmer in my heart.
People Start Asking Questions
Fawn turned two.
By this time we had been TTW for 4 months and TTC for 6. It was officially the longest gap between our children.
People were starting to wonder.
The months rolled by.
I poured myself into counseling for the sake of my family and my family-to-come. I saw improvements in my mental clarity. Improvements in my emotional state. Improvement in my iron counts.
But no improvement in my charts.
Spring showed up.
It had been 9 months of trying. Now 10.
People were starting to ask.
“Are you ready for another? When is the next baby coming along? How old is your youngest, now?”
She’s two and a half. It was the only question I could answer without fumbling.
I didn’t know what to say. I was torn between pain and guilt.
My depression and iron are improving, why not my fertility? Maybe it never will.
I should be grateful for the 3 kids God already gave me. So many people suffer so much more than me.
Should I admit my pain, or wait to see what happens?
Maybe next month will be the one and I won’t have to explain.
But I knew where that road led. Stuffing my hurt and my feelings led me to depression in the first place.
A Happy Ending
So I began to open up to my closest friends. With tears welling in my eyes, I laid bare my suffering. I admitted to depression. I confessed the longing for more children. I let them in on my pain.
I thank God that He gave me such supportive friends. They didn’t invalidate my pain as I had feared. They hurt with me and prayed for me.
And in July of 2017, in the 13th month TTC (plus 4 months TTW), they were able to rejoice with me.
I had overcome depression and anemia.
I had gotten past my temporary bout of secondary infertility.
The baby in my heart was living in my womb. And now, a year later, baby Legend is snuggled in my arms.
My Story is Not Your story
I find myself asking: Why am I even sharing this?
My suffering was short and mild. My story has a happy ending.
What cause did I have to complain, when others suffer far worse than I?
But I learned something from this trial. I learned that my story is not your story.
I used to be the one who wondered why when I saw the family with a big gap between kids. The family with one child. The married couple with no kids.
I used to be the one flinging mental “shoulds” at people whose circumstances I didn’t understand.
But now I’ve had my bite-sized taste of the pain.
And while I may never fully understand, my perspective has changed.
Now I know that what I see is incomplete. When I look at your life from the outside, I only know part of the truth. I’m tempted to fill in the blanks with my own story, my own life experiences.
But your story is different.
Your story has pain and heartache I can’t see. Your story has crosses and sufferings I cannot guess.
Whether you suffer from depression or infertility or miscarriage or chronic illness, or some other loss or trial, I may never know.
And I’m sorry for assuming.
I’m sorry for filling in the blanks. If nothing else, now I sympathize with how misunderstood you feel.
Having experienced my own sliver of pain, my heart aches for you.
I share my story to reach out to all women, everywhere, who suffer from infertility in small or big ways.
Suffering is Not a Competition
It’s not a competition of who hurts more.
It’s a journey of suffering together and uniting in compassion.
We can hurt with each other. We can hurt for each other. We can come alongside each other in our pain.
We can leave questions unanswered without judging.
We can share our stories without guilt or fear.
We can join in prayer for each other.
Because whatever you’re suffering from, big or small… It. Still. Hurts.
Prayer for Infertility
God our Father, please pour out Your grace on all women who are suffering today.
Send Your comforting presence upon women who suffer from any type of hardship, but especially upon women who suffer from various forms of infertility.
In their suffering, let them feel they are loved by You.
Let them realize they are understood by You.
Let them know they are not alone.
Give them strength to endure this trial. Help them to grow in faith, grace, and virtue. Help them to persevere in the face of uncertainty.
Unite them in their suffering, that they may all grow closer together in fellowship, and closer to You through their shared redemptive suffering.
Heal them, Lord my God. Renew them with Your infinite power and mercy.
In Jesus’ Name,
Please Stop Suffering In Silence
If you need to open up about your suffering, would like to share your story, ask for prayers, or offer to pray for others who are suffering, please join in the discussion in the comments.
Let’s all lift each other up in prayer today.