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After a very difficult event in my life, I had withdrawn into myself, destroying my own emotional and physical well-being.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