Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carrying the Cross of Infertility I begin typing this.... I  contemplate starting with the dictionary....I'm not sure exactly how Webster defines infertility, but I decide against using it  since Webster (the book) has never experienced infertility first hand on a personal basis. 

I could ask my niece, Dr. Phoebe, who is a specialist on the subject up at Mayo Clinic in MN.  Even though Phoebe has lovingly worked with countless women who suffer from infertility, she is newly engaged and has not yet experienced pregnancy herself.

What I do know is that infertility takes on many definitions.  There are those women who are never able to conceive or carry full term.  There are those who miscarry time and time again before they are finally able to carry full term.  Some women may have one or two pregnancies in a row that seem flawless only to find that they cannot conceive after that.  Whatever the case, infertility is a heavy cross to carry.

David and I have had to carry that cross on and off throughout the years, and since this is my blog, a place where I feel safe in writing, I will share some of our story in hopes to shed some light on the subject or to help another person in anguish. 

Purposely, many parts are left unwritten...they are too personal and sacred for us to share.  They are moments, talks, tears, and laughs that we keep between the two of us...locked away...a part in time that has helped shape our identity,  a couple united in the vow of a Christ-centered marriage.  Yes, they are sacred to us.

But, there is so much we can share.

So I'll rewind 15 years...

When we married almost 15 years ago, our insurance wouldn't pick up the maternity for 12 months.  Being newlyweds and just starting out, we had decided to postpone starting a family by means of Natural Family Planning. 

Since I was soooo excited to start trying, and had always wanted be a mommy, waiting was difficult.

I had all the names of our children picked out since I had six years old!  For Pete's sake, I even knew what our babies would look like!  I had been dreaming about my growing tummy and how stylish I would appear in maternity clothes.  I could hardly wait to see David, as a father, helping me in the delivery room, embracing a new son or daughter so gently for the first time, imaging what expressions would ooze across his face.

After 12 long months, the insurance FINALLY picked me up... and... nothing happened .  Nothing in the baby department.  Not for us that is.  It was happening all over the place with friends and family.  But not us.  As I tried to remain so happy for our friends, I found my heart sinking further and further.  The discouragement, frustration, sadness weighed so heavily.  I began to sink. 

Our charting had been a masterpiece of unwavering dedication...and it showed with all of those dots that I had drawn in... page after page after page.  It all appeared okay on paper so I couldn't figure out what was going on. 

About six months into trying, I went in for a regular check-up with my gynecologist.  It was pointed out that my thyroid glands appeared large.  A little bit of blood work...and bingo!  I was placed on Synthroid for an under-active thyroid.  (hypo-thyroid) The thyroid controls the functioning of many hormones in the body and can reek havoc on the reproductive cycle.

One month later, to our delight, I found that I was pregnant!  We were over the moon!

After two weeks, I grew a bit alarmed when I didn't feel nausea.  I felt nothing.  And then I saw it...the beginning of the end. 

Our joy was short lived.

The emotional pain was incredible.  The death of an unborn child ...the death of one you have loved before you even the moon and back... is heartbreaking.   All dreams and hopes are dashed away instantly and you are left with this empty black hole. 

I didn't know anyone who suffered from a miscarriage while trying to start a family.  Writing from personal experience, there is a  difference between miscarrying while try to begin a family and miscarrying in the midst of a family.  Please don't misunderstand me.   Both are terribly heart wrenching, but they are very different from one another at the same time.

While starting a family, miscarriage is a double-edge sword.  In a sense, you go through two different types of loss.  And pain comes with both.   There is the  pain of losing the child through miscarriage, which alone, is horrible.  Then there is the pain of losing the whole experience of knowing parenthood.  The hopes and dreams of parenthood that were within your reach are ripped away from you, and you suffer a loss because of that.

Up to that point, it had taken 19 months to conceive only to miscarry.    I was aching from the loss, from the unfairness of nothing going easy, and I had started to fall into a dark place in my faith. I had focused on what I didn't receive...what was "my right"...what was supposed to be.  And I blamed God.  With that anger came only deeper sorrow and unhappiness. 

My original due date rolled around.  Only my husband and I remembered that date.  My sister-in-law gave birth and we had shared the same due date.  That was a tough pill to take that day.  My friend gave birth at that time as well.  The sorrow I was trying to overcome just kicked up ten fold. 

*A piece of advice for any of you that may know someone who has recently experienced a miscarriage: pencil in on the calendar when the due date was.  Call that friend on that day and let them know you remember, you care, and that you will pray for them.  It will mean the world!  A little bit of sorrow will be lifted if you do that.

It took us one year to conceive again.  It seemed like an eternity.  We were excited and scared...but mostly scared.  The naivety of it all was gone for us. 

To assist my hormone levels, the doctors put me on progesterone.  I went in for weekly blood drawings which only added to our already present stress.  In hindsight, I wish I would have not gone and just enjoyed the time I had with that pregnancy instead of living in a weekly state of anxiety. 

I had been "showing", even in maternity clothes, and I was sicker than a dog...throwing up all day long.  The day came when we had another regular scheduled sono that showed abnormal growth and we were told that mostly likely we would lose the baby. 

We heard the words, "It doesn't look good." 

In our determination, we thought we'd defy the doctor's opinion and beat the odds.  We tried to remain hopeful but we were frightened none-the-less.

It was the day we were to drive up and attend my brother's pre-wedding reception.  This was a big event that we were to attend.  The wedding was to take place out in California, so the reception was for my side of the family, in Illinois.    In order to not darken their special evening, we didn't tell anyone our sad news.  For every "congratulations on the impending birth of your child" we received, a sword silently stabbed our hearts. 

And then two weeks later...I started to miscarry.  We lost our baby girl at almost 14 weeks.  To make a nightmare even worse...the miscarriage wasn't a "normal" one.  It took a failed surgical procedure, a type of chemotherapeutic treatment shot (weekly in the buttocks), and 3 1/2 months of waiting till my body finally went into a small labor to finalize the miscarriage. 

We were devastated.  I had been a Catholic school teacher at the time and can recall one moment in was after school and I was sitting on the steps by the hall crying. I had just dismissed my students and couldn't keep a brave face on any longer.   The principle, a nun, came to me and said, "Oh.  It's not too bad.  Just look at Mrs. So and So...she 's had  6 miscarriages."  It took everything in me not to yank her veil off and pull her hair.  I know how terrible that sounds.  But what she said...oh! so insensitive!  A miscarriage is a miscarriage...because I didn't exceed Mrs. So and So's amount of miscarriages doesn't mean I should feel less pain and sorrow.

The sorrow I carried inside took me to a very dark place...I became very angry with God.   He wasn't giving me my chance at motherhood.  He was being mean and cruel.  So I thought...

...until I heard a beautiful prayer about miscarriage.  In there, I read the following words:

"....You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”

And for the first time in almost two years I started to feel comfort and peace.  There appeared a crack in the wall that surrounded me and light started to filter in.  I heard God speak to my soul through those words which were lovingly written by Mother Angelica. 

My prayers started to slowly shift.  The realization slowly sunk in...that these children were a gift to me not a guarantee or right.  How my body responded was not God's fault.  How I responded was what God was waiting for. 

I asked for guidance and healing.  I received both...but not right away. 

It is customary, I was told, that you usually don't "look into things" until you lose three pregnancies in a row.  Unimaginable for us!  I would even use the term horrific.  It isn't like waiting 30 minutes till the cake is done baking....or waiting another week until vacation time kicks in....or waiting one month till your birthday is here....or waiting nine months to give birth for that matter.  If you haven't walked in those shoes, know that it is much longer and more painstaking than anyone could imagine.   For me...we were talking possibly another year at least. 

This fiery, passionate woman was not going to wait for another loss before seeing a specialist.  So we forged ahead with our plans.

Our main priority was to stay steadfast in faith and allow the Church to guide us.  We discovered what would make us happy...and what would bring us harm.  Following the teachings of our faith would keep us happy and safe from harm. 

We weren't guaranteed the happiness we had longed for here on earth, parenthood, but we realized that our happiness with God in Heaven had to remain the focal point throughout.  Peace started to seep into every inch of our bodies once we came to that realization...and accepted it. 

We exhausted every acceptable test within the Church's teachings and guidelines.  Patiently waiting, trusting in God, and focusing on our faith brought us so many answers. 

The many tests and  a needed corrective surgery were only mere tools that God had given us to stay the path. Through these tools, we had received anwers that were uplifting.  To have an answer was amazing even if it didn't produce a new life...the answers to our questions were healing in themselves. 

Many couples baptize their unborn infants in spirit.  They name them while doing so.  We named our lost daughter Gabrielle.   For that matter, both infants were named Gabrielle.  It took losing them to find the the answers, the message that we were looking for.  Our little messengers...our St. Gabriels.

After another long year, completed tests and the corrective surgery, we took the last acceptable measure.  I was placed on a medication, the highest dosage, and still wasn't producing what I should have been.  During the last month that I was allowed on it and running out of money, we had gone back to the beginning point, when we first dated and spoke about the possibility of not bearing children naturally. 

We agreed that we might be at the end, at least for now, and we ...(big breathe)... would be okay

We also decided that after a much needed break we would look into adoption.  Adoption was something we had discussed while engaged.  I am eternally grateful that we had talked about such things before we were married.  I never thought that it would play such a pivotal role in our married life. 

We had completely given it all up to God, with no attachments, and I truly believe at that point we were blessed abundantly for trying to be good and faithful servants.  We conceived our Sally!

That is when a new set of difficulties set in....

In summary, my pregnancy with Sally was difficult from the start.  And I'm talking beyond the constant vomiting.  Countless times my body produced symptoms that it was trying to miscarry.  Countless times we made emergency trips to the doctors to look for that heartbeat.  On top of that, I had to have a surgical procedure performed when it was "safe".  The procedure and a small amount of bedrest was needed to help keep the baby in the womb for the duration.  By week 16 all the frightening episodes finally came to a halt and we were finally able to enjoy the pregnancy. 

Through a complication and c-section, Sally was born so healthy and robust.
Through the first weeks of Sally's life, I started again.  I started asking God if I could be blest with just one more.  All of the "bargaining" that I had attempted during the first year of trying to conceive started to form in my mind once more.  It was always a battle between accepting and wanting. 

To our complete and utter surprise, we accepted the news of pregnancy again and our two children were to be only 16 1/2 months apart! 

Assuming things would be a little hairy again, we mentally tried to brace ourselves. Oh, the vomiting was there.  So was the roller coaster ride through the constant signs of miscarriage, fear, distress, hope, anxiety, and many, many prayers.  Again, I had that surgical procedure done when I was in my second trimester.  Again, a little bit of bedrest.

Via c-section, Ester was born with a heart defect which has nothing to do with infertility.  It was just par for the course for us.  She had open heart surgery when she was 5 months old and continues to thrive to this day.  Looking at her pictures you'd never know.  And we are so grateful to God for that!

With all of my previous problems and Ester's heart defect, needless to say I was petrified to even try to conceive.  I couldn't entertain the thought...until God had allowed the seed He planted to take root.  He had a plan for us that we never imagined or entertained.

On the reverse, it had become another struggle of fear and acceptance.  How strange to not be praying for another child, but rather to be praying for assurance and wisdom to overcome fear of loss, complications, or health.   A year in adoration and listening to Kimberly Hahn talk about her miscarriages, I learned that thriving on fear was sinning against God.  I was not trusting in God but allowing the devil to control my thoughts and actions. 

Mabel was conceived when Ester was almost two years old.  I am so happy to write that my pregnancy with Mabel was the easiest, smoothest, most uncomplicated out of all. (Not saying there weren't any...just the easiest!)  Yes, I had the normal  vomiting and that awful surgical procedure in the second trimester, but placing all of that aside, it went splendidly.

With Mabel's c-section, I was even home in 48 hours!  I had recovered so quickly that it still amazes me to this day.

We wanted more children but my body had grown physically tired and there had been one complicated glitch from the last surgical procedure I had while pregnant with Mabel. 

That is when our story really grew full circle...along came Stan through the beautiful gift of adoption.

Since then we have suffered yet another loss  through miscarriage.  The pain was immense.  It is so sad to miscarry.  My eyes tear thinking about it.  It has been over two years now and I have yet to conceive.  My body continues to throw those curve balls at me.  I have not had any normal cycles in at least six months.  My system has always been like a teeter-totter...usually going the way I do not want it to go.

I have battled the feelings of anxiety, wondering when my "time" for conceiving would be up...knowing it was nearing.  I have had to mourn the fact that I may not give birth again, at least naturally. 

I have had to give it back to God.  It is a constant battle... that wanting vs accepting.  But, I have found peace...that is...until my children remind me how much they desire another brother or sister.  And then my heart aches a little bit more than usual for the moment. 

Yet, another reason I write.  It has forced me to keep my eyes open, always looking for the joy that my children bring...during the good times and the bad.  I find such happiness watching them live.  It is as though God has given me the tools (my children) to get past the dull ache that tugs at my heart every once in awhile. 

I pray every day for the repose of the souls of my children in Heaven.  I pray that they watch over us, their parents.

I can now look back on our journey and see that the cross we have had to carry has formed us into the people that we are.  Our faith remains our beacon of light to this day.  And some day, my family will be united in Heaven.


  1. How wonderful of you to share...I think infertility is one of those lonely crosses to bear. In a world not open to life, most people just don't understand. Thinking of you.

  2. I have never had that experience, Patty. I just truly cannot imagine. Your suffering is such an amazing thing. I know your story will touch others.
    I have a different cross, I guess. We can conceive at the drop of a hat, but #1) we are in debt over 20k just from my medical bills in the last 2 years (not to mention our other debt), and I have no maternity coverage. Plus, I would have to have a c-section, which would be 10k, at least. You cannot put a price on children, but we are in great debt already. And #2) my last pregnancy was so difficult and the recovery was a nightmare for the whole family. It is hard to face putting us all through that again. And I wondered if I would ever recover. After #3, the doc told me I did my body permanent damage (the price of having large babies!).
    So, we desperately want another baby, but cannot see the way yet. It is hard to see all the new babies around us without a physical pain. I am happy for the families, but sad for me!
    I just keep praying, hoping we are doing what we can. I always knew I would have a larger family, but am facing the fact that we may be done. It is difficult. Sometimes I wish we had a "surprise", just so that we didn't have to try to figure out where the $$ would come from!
    In the end, you can only walk in your own shoes, with God and your spouse. But sometimes it is lonely! That "kiss from the Cross"!

  3. Thank you so much for bearing your soul to us! I agree with Melissa that in our Culture of Death society people just don't understand :( Love and prayers to you!

  4. Beautifully written, Patty! Very brave - and helpful - of you to share your story. Perhaps it will help others.

  5. Kathi B, java queenJune 24, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    "He was created for My joy and your parent's merits" -- what a beautiful summary of the merit's of suffering. Your story was very touching & brought water to my eyes as I recounted each of my own miscarriage stories, the last happening this past feast day of St. Joseph.

    I was a little too cavalier about the pain of infertility & miscarraige, I'm embarrassed to admit, until I walked in those shoes. I hope your story helps those who have not walked that path understand a little better how to reach out, how to pray for, and how to be a friend to their loved ones who are being chosen by God to bear that cross.

  6. Patty you have such a gift of expression. Losing a child at any stage is so painful. A loss, no matter what the number. We miscarried in between C-Sunshine and K-Doodle after waiting six years for the gift of C-Sunshine. I thought I would never get pregnant again, then almost two years after the miscarriage, God gave us K-Doodle. I know that I can not have any more children (long story you probably already know), but I would love to adopt. Having FOUR girls, you know I would want a "Stanley"! Big Hugs. You have such beautiful children. One Dad, God's gonna give you those Grand - "Children" to cherrish too!

  7. It took a couple of weeks to allow the words to flow from my head, to heart, to fingertips in order to share the news that there is hope.

    Hope that you will find your answers..hope that you will see your angel(s) in Heaven...hope that you will find peace & healing.

    And I had so many faces of friends, dancing in my mind, knowing that you have traveled through that dark hole I spoke of.

    It is a bond of sisterhood that you'd rather not be part of but were forced into...

    I pray that you find more peace tonight, as you sleep.


  8. This is a lovely post Patty, in the sense that it puts words to emotions that so many women go through but can't find a voice for. This post is definitely a gift to the blogging community.

  9. Patty,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Your words were touching and beautiful. And I am with you in that confident hope with which we look forward to seeing our babies in heaven someday. Sometimes I think of how my Dad may be now meeting his other grandchildren (my brother has lost two and we have our six in heaven).

  10. Found you through Catholic Mothers Online. Beautifully written post. What a lovely brought tears to my eyes.

  11. found your blog through , "shower of roses" blog. What a beautiful post. Unfortunately I have miscarried and even though it has been 4 yrs it still hurts. I have since been blessed with children. Deo Gratias!

    You are so right to remind us to remember others who have miscarried and send a note or give them a call.

    I remember finally coming to peace with God's decision and saying to myself;

    "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away blessed be the name of the Lord"

    "no, Lord you didn't take I gave them to you."

    God bless.


  12. Thank you for sharing.

    I'm in that "When is it my turn, Lord." time right now. I have 2 healthy, awesome, miracle little boys...but my heart yearns for more children. It feels like some people think I should be content with the blessing He's already given (and I struggle with the guilt of feeling like I'm not) but I still hurt.

    Any tips? Prayers, please.

  13. May the good Lord continue to bless you and your family. So full of inspiration.


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