When it’s Difficult to Conceive

My first three children came “on demand.” I was a regular Fertile Myrtle (and called that to my face by some unwittingly rude people).

I had three children ages four and under.

We were well on our way to having the big family we always dreamed of.

Then something changed.

In July 2016, we earnestly began trying to conceive our 4th child.

After three children who were conceived in the first or second month we tried, we weren’t expecting any difficulties.

But July went by, no baby. We weren’t all that surprised.

August, no baby. Well, people normally don’t get pregnant as quickly as we do, so it was no big deal.

September, nothing.

October, nothing.

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.

I made an appointment with my midwife.

A Link Between 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After a very difficult event in my life, I had withdrawn into myself, destroying my own emotional and physical well-being.

depression

As I sank further into the darkness, my body decided to shut down. Our best guess was that the anemia and fertility struggles were both results of the depression.

So, onward to antidepressants and counseling.

We held on to the hope that a baby would come with healing.

When People Ask Difficult Questions About Family Size

My youngest turned two. It was officially the longest gap between our children.

People were starting to wonder.

By this time we had been trying to conceive for 6 months. 

And the months kept stacking up.

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.

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.

The desolations took over my thoughts.

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.

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.

They didn’t invalidate my pain as I had feared.

Instead, they allowed themselves to hurt with me. They prayed for me.

I thank God that He gave me such supportive friends.

Naturally Conceiving After Difficulties

And in July of 2017, in the 13th month trying to conceive, they were able to rejoice with me.

We were expecting baby number four, our second sweet son.

I had overcome depression and anemia.

I had gotten past these struggles with infertility, or so I thought.

secondary infertility family

I was healthy now, and had a baby in my arms to prove it. I thought things would be back to normal. I thought we had regained our dream of having a big family.

But things weren’t that simple.

An Appointment With a NaPro Doctor

In August of 2019, we began trying to conceive baby #5.

I was healthy now. Happy. Well.

I hoped for the same success rate as my first three children. But what I got was more along the lines of baby number four.

And I was just plain not expecting that.

After four months (which seems to be my personal limit of tolerance for not conceiving before I head to the doctor) I again took a serious look at my charts and began to wonder if there was something wrong.

I knew that people aren’t usually diagnosed with secondary infertility until after a year of unsuccessfully trying for pregnancy.

But I also knew that a woman with intimate knowledge of her cycles and fertility could spot problems earlier than that.

So with much self-doubt, in December I finally found a NaPro doctor and made an appointment.

During the 2-month wait before my appointment, there were many times that I almost cancelled.

I felt foolish.

I thought maybe if I just waited it out, I’d have a baby soon enough. I kept hoping I would get pregnant soon, and call the doctor to say nevermind.

But my husband convinced me to go, show her my charts, and get my questions answered.

So I did.

And I was relieved when, in answer to my insistence that I was “probably overreacting, but just wanted a professional to take a look at my charts,” my doctor said, “there’s definitely something wrong.”

Knowing that brought a strange sense of relief.

We began digging into the problem.

A Diagnosis and Treatment Options.

At this point it was March 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic was hitting us in New York with full force.

I delayed my bloodwork for a few weeks, hoping it would blow over, but (as you well know) it didn’t.

So I finally bit the bullet, put on my mask, and began a month-long regimen of bloodwork 4 times a week.

We had an answer: I was experiencing a Luteal Phace Deficiency.

It was apparent in my charts, and the bloodwork confirmed it. My doctor gave me treatment options, which I prayed over in heartfelt discernment.

I picked an option and dove in.

Life has changed.

I’m officially being treated for secondary infertility.

Every month, I take my prescriptions, do my bloodwork, and hope and pray for a baby.

It’s August 2020 as I write this update, and it’s officially been 13 months since we began trying to conceive baby number 5. I can’t help but think back to the joy we experienced after 13 months of trying for our fourth baby.

The joy of success.

But this month is different. And as this month comes to a close, I feel like I’m crossing a boundary, from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

I had that 13 month mark as a kind of reference point in my mind.

But it has come and gone.

And I’m now in uncharted territory. The uncertainty of our life ahead grows.

Everyone Has a Story

I find myself asking: Why am I even sharing this?

Sure, I have a diagnosis of secondary infertility, but I also have the blessing of four beautiful children.

What cause do I have to complain, when others suffer far worse than I?

But I’m learning something from this trial. I’m learning that everyone has their own story.

Trouble Getting Pregnant - A Story of Temporary Secondary Infertility

Sometimes we allow ourselves to wonder when we see the family with a big gap between kids. The family with one child. The married couple with no kids.

We fling mental “shoulds” at people whose circumstances we don’t understand.

We fail to see the pain they carry inside.

And while we may never fully understand what others are going through, our perspective needs to change.

What we see is incomplete.

When we look at someone else’s life from the outside, we only know part of the truth. We may be tempted to fill in the blanks with our own story, our own life experiences.

But every story is different.

Every person has pain and heartache we can’t see. Every person has crosses and sufferings we cannot guess.

Whether someone suffer from depression or infertility or miscarriage or chronic illness, or some other loss or trial, we may never know.

And we have to stop assuming

We have to stop filling in the blanks.

It’s time to pause and consider all the hidden ways our own hearts ache, and allow our hearts to ache for others, too.

And that’s why I share my story.

I share my story to reach out to all women, everywhere, who suffer in small or big ways.

I share so that we may stand together and unite with one another in our suffering, as one Body in Christ.

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.

Prayer for Infertility - A Story of Temporary Secondary Infertility

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. hurts.

And it’s okay to feel that hurt.

It’s okay to admit it.

It’s okay to share it. Or to hold it close. To weep over it, or to carry on strongly. To wrestle with it, or to let it go.

It’s okay to experience pain and grief in your own way.

Just please, please know: you’re not alone.

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,

Amen.

You Don’t Have to Suffer 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.

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great post

20 thoughts on “When it’s Difficult to Conceive

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I still cant talk much about this without crying. I just withdraw myself and everyday for hours I mourn something I never had… not sure if i’ll ever have it. People’s comments are like stabs in my heart, but silence is my best friend. I’m loosing the courage to pray, I feel like giving up, but this desire to become a mother is toi strong. I’m hurting every minute of the day… stories like yours are what keep me going…

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  2. Thank you for your story. It brings up old hurts, but hits home on those feelings. First child wasn’t exactly planned two months after marriage. It took almost a year to get pregnant with the second child. Third came easy. Three happy, healthy boys. Then came the “when are you going for a girl?” We were so busy with the boys, it wasn’t a thought immediately. A couple years later, I started having issues. We were ready to fix those and try one last time, then the unexpected “pre-cancer” diagnosis. It turned from let’s have a baby, to lets have a hysterectomy. I could have tried for one last baby, but it would have been with the watchful eye of an oncologist. So, the surgery was performed. Then, the even worse unexpected came with a final diagnosis of cancer. I am thankful for how things turned out with catching it early, but I count down the days where I will be too old to get the question/comment of going for the girl. There is no easy way to respond because you hate to throw cancer on the person who asked an innocent question. So, I live on trying to make the most out of my life and enjoying every second of my “men.” No one knows the “hurt/pain” in the depths of another’s soul so I try to be more mindful of the baby comments to other people now…

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    • Thank you for sharing your story, Dana. I’m so sorry you had to endure all that suffering. Thanks be to God you caught the cancer in time, and you’re well enough to enjoy your time with your beautiful family! But, wow what a tough thing to have to remember and try to explain when people ask. This is a great reminder to be mindful, and think before we speak.

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  3. I am so happy you have your Legend. I am so sad that as women we must feel somehow guilty , of failing, or being considered somehow lacking for chemical imbalances in our bodies. Depression, infertility, miscarriage, loss are all things we need to talk about. Bravely and without predjudice. Thank you so much for opening that door to discussion and baring your heart.

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  4. I used to wonder, too. And I used to judge. Now that I’ve been through my own stuff, though, I just tell them they have a beautiful family – and mean it.

    I’m glad you found an answer ❤️

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sara! I know you will bring comfort to many by sharing your experience. And I especially loved your reflection on how everyone’s stories are different – it’s so true!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story. My husband and I are currently trying (and hoping and praying and pining) for our second child. We got pregnant with Joseph a month after getting married. As he turned one, we decided it was TTW. And as he approached 18 months, we began to TTC. Each month and each period thus far has brought an onslaught of tears. The Facebook announcements of friends and accquaintences sharing the joyful news of their second pregnancies has brought self-doubt and envy that has left a bitter taste in my mouth and a weight in my stomach. The well-meaning comments from family and friends asking if we were ready for another baby or if we were “trying” has brought a quiet anxiety that hums in my head each time I enter a conversation. There has been guilt, too. I’ve chastised myself for hurting and crying, calling to mind the woman I know who after suffering several years of infertility , miscarried her baby. Or the speaker at the conference who shared openly about her seven instances of loss during pregnancy. Or the story of the fatal diagnosis that ended in a mother saying goodbye far to soon. I held my aches up to the light of these crosses, shaming myself for asking for prayers. And perhaps worst of all, I have entertained the lies put in my mind by the Enemy, that the reason for our seeming inability to conceive is tied directly to my inadequacies in mothering the child I DO have. that if I got frustrated less often, was more patient, paid more attention, loved him better, maybe then (and only then) God would give me another baby…and I have been fraught with the despair that because I will never be a perfect mother to Joseph, I may never mother another child again…and maybe that’s what I deserve for all the ways I have and will fail him. I know this isn’t true. I know that believing this perpetuates an idea about my God that is so gravely false, that He is a condeming judge before He is a merciful Father. I know my God, I’ve known His mercy a thousand times over and despite the temptation, I refuse to believe He is anything less than who He says He is. This has given me the strength I need to reach out to a community of faith filled women and humbly ask for their prayers, a request that was met only by love and validation- and which connected me to another momma who is undergoing my same trials. We have talked through our worries and frustrations, reveling in the comfort of reaching out and finding we are not alone after all . And my heart has begun to be softened rather than hardened by this hardship as I learn a new what it means to trust in Jesus, to sing quietly to Him “I shall not want” and mean it. My next baby lives in the hope of my heart as we are bolstered by the prayers of so many. I dont know the timing or the circumstances, but I KNOW God is working all things for good as I strive to trust Him and love Him again and again.
    Your post today has brought me comfort and hope- thank you 🖤

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m in tears for you right now, Faith. The hurt you’ve suffered, the guilt and self doubt you’ve endured. I hear my own thoughts echoing in my head as I read your words. It’s a hard hard place to be in.

      Praise God you’ve learned to reject those voices that tempt you to compare, to withdraw, to despair. Thank God you’ve reached out to your friends, and God gave you someone to walk this journey with you. Praise Him for the hope that continues to live in your heart.

      Tonight, I’m adding you to my Rosary intentions. I’m going to pray for you by name, lifting you up, and allowing myself to share in your hurt and your pain. Please know that my compassion and empathy are there for you today. May God continue sending you the graces you need in this trial in your life. Keep going strong. Keep rejecting those lies and temptations from the devil. Keep clinging onto your hope and running back to God.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I pray that it gives others the hope of finding comfort and peace in the midst of their suffering as well, and that it encourages others to reach out for support.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your story and, importantly, understanding that your story is not any one else’s story. My story, unlike yours never had the happy ending of a precious new life. Although, I have been able to mother in other ways, I never had the joy of knowing the new life within and years removed from even the possibility it still hurts. It has made me more aware, as you are now, that we cannot know the truth inside another’s life. Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit and prayers. I am so happy for you and your Legend. God bless and keep you always.

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your experience – for opening up and also acknowledging how the experience impacted you and your approach to others.

    Big, gentle hugs – and, hooray for Hero!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: How I Was Set Free From the Darkness of Depression – To Jesus Sincerely

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