My husband Kevin and I met in November 2014, when we were set up on a blind date. Our relationship progressed rather quickly, and by January 2015, we were engaged. Once we got engaged, Kevin and I were very prayerful and felt strongly that we were not supposed to go on birth control once married. This was an interesting leap of faith for us. However, as we kept thinking about it, talking about it together, and praying about it, we felt sure that the prompting we'd felt was correct.
Kevin and I were married in May 2015. We fully expected we'd get pregnant right away, since that was why God prompted us not to start birth control, right? After a few months, we had a month where my period was late, and I truly thought I was pregnant. However the pregnancy tests came back negative, and when my period arrived at 3 am, it was the most painful one I’d ever had. I cried and cried until morning, while Kevin just held me and assured me that everything would be ok. I felt bad though, because I could tell he was disappointed too. I went to the doctor shortly thereafter and realized I needed a significant increase in my thyroid medication. (I have an interesting history of hypothyroidism, which if uncontrolled, can greatly contribute to fertility problems).
We continued on with life as before. After all, we had been married only about 6 months. Then, in November 2015, I had another appointment to check my thyroid numbers and discovered that they were off again and that I needed another slight increase in medication. I also had recently started feeling some pressure in my neck where my thyroid is. so I voiced that concern to my doctor as well. My doctor mentioned that there may be a tumor or growth on my thyroid that was sucking all of my thyroid hormone and suggested that I get an ultrasound done on my thyroid to check. Kevin and I were eating lunch together on BYU-I campus, when I got a phone call a few days later, and my doctor told me I had numerous growths of all sizes all over my thyroid, and that I needed to schedule an appointment immediately to get a biopsy done of some of the largest growths. The doctor said that usually one or two nodules would be benign, but that since it was multiple growths, he was worried about malignancy. I felt shaky and faint as I hung up the phone. Here I was worried about getting pregnant and wanting to keep my thyroid numbers in the normal range, and I'd just been told I might have thyroid cancer.
We fasted and prayed harder than we ever had before when I went in for the biopsy. I was not particularly excited about the part where they would a needle in my neck to gather the tissue samples. The ultrasound tech took us back to the room and got me situated on the table with my neck extended. The tech explained that he would use the ultrasound to find the biggest nodules and then invite the doctor in to drape my neck with sterile field, prep the area, numb me, and gather the tissue sample. However, as the tech started the ultrasound, he became very quiet and was looking around for a very long time at the ultrasound machine. Then after about 3 minutes of silence, he shut the machine off and said, "I need to talk to the doctor about this." I looked at Kevin who was holding my hand, and I was very nervous that they were going to tell me it was worse than they thought. Less than 20 seconds after the tech left the room, the doctor came barging into the room and turned the ultrasound machine on again. He searched around with the ultrasound in many different positions for about a minute, and then shut the machine off again. At this time, he turned to me and said "We can't find anything. There are no growths on your thyroid at all." I was stunned and confused. What?? I had just been praying for courage to withstand the doctor sticking a sharp needle in my neck, and all of a sudden, they told me I wouldn't be needing the biopsy at all. We were very grateful, but still rather stunned as we left the hospital. From that day forward though, I haven't felt any pressure in my neck, and the new increased dosage of thyroid medication has been helping keep my numbers within normal limits. When I told my family about what happened, my mom asked me, "Did we just witness a miracle or a mistake?" We believe it was a miracle.
After that miracle, we were back to the drawing board with trying to get pregnant. I began using ovulation tests and checking cervical position, still taking prenatal vitamins, and hoping and praying that something would work. Then in January 2016, we noticed that Kevin had a varicocele that needed surgically repaired. The varicocele was increasing the temperature of the testicles and doctors told us it could possibly contribute to infertility due to low sperm count. Kevin had surgery to repair his varicocele and the surgery went well. We were informed that it might be 3-6 months before his sperm count and quality would be back up to normal, if it ever came back to normal, since sometimes varicoceles left untreated for so long can cause long-term damage.
After Kevin's surgery, we went back, once again, to square one. Vitamins, ovulation tests, intercourse more often than I would like, laying on my back with a pillow under my hips... all crazy things that I learned about in nursing school that helped you conceive, yet nothing seemed to work. After a while, I got tired and very angry and just gave up. Except, you never really give up, even when you tell yourself you've given up. You can't just give up on something you think about every day.
Then, in March of 2016, I started a new job working as a home health and hospice nurse. Very early in my training for this new job, I was riding around for home visits with another young nurse when she mentioned that she was struggling with infertility. I was shocked to hear this from her so soon after meeting her. She mentioned that they had been struggling with infertility for a while too and that she had just had a miscarriage that required a D&C. As she spoke, I had the impression that I should just tell her that we were struggling with infertility too. Not to drive the attention to myself, but just so she would know that we were in this together. This friend immediately informed me of supplements Kevin and I could each take to promote good egg and sperm development. She had learned about these supplements from her fertility doctor and wanted to share the knowledge if it would save us a buck and help us get a jumpstart on trying a few things before we could officially go to a fertility specialist in May.
When May came, I was stubborn and still wasn’t ready to see a specialist. But when June hit, we finally decided we would go see a fertility specialist to at least get some answers. We went to Idaho Fertility Clinic in Idaho Falls and had a few tests done to check our fertility status including an ultrasound to check the amount of eggs I have and the shape of my uterus, an HSG test to check if my fallopian tubes are open, a sperm count for Kevin, and blood work to check hormone levels for both of us. A little bit of hope was re-instilled in us with these diagnostic tests because we at least knew we were on the road to discovering what was wrong so we could pinpoint what to fix.
The ultrasound of my uterus and ovaries came back completely normal. She said I had an abundance of eggs, and that the HSG to check for the openness of my fallopian tubes went well. Kevin's sperm count also came back great. She also said that both of our hormone levels were normal, and that the only real concern she had was that Kevin's sperm motility was on the low side, which she said could still be a side effect of the varicocele repair, and might improve with time. So all in all, she diagnosed us with having unexplained infertility. She presented our options, which were:
1) to continue as we have been doing and see if we can't get pregnant on our own naturally with time
2) to pay out of pocket for an IUI procedure with artificial insemination
Kevin and I decided to keep trying for a few more months on our own, mostly because I was not ready to proceed with a treatment, when I’d just been told there was a chance it could happen on its own.
After I had my HSG procedure to clear out my uterus and tubes and to make sure that everything was open, my period was messed up. I received a phone call from our fertility doctor at the end of August asking me if we were ready to proceed with a treatment yet. I told her that we would think about it, but that my cycle was a little messed up at the moment, and that we needed time to decide when to do it. She was respectful of this. I went home that day and talked with Kevin about when to proceed with a treatment. Kevin is so supportive and said he felt like we should try on our own for one more month and then we should do the treatment the next cycle. I was frustrated and my only logic was "I want my body to do this on its own. Why can't it do it on its own?" However, Kevin helped me realize that even if my body can't do it on its own, God has given us a special gift to have the technology available and the money saved at this time to do a treatment, and that we would be ok financially. I felt strongly that Kevin was right, and I told him that we would try one more time and then do a treatment.
Surprisingly, once that decision was made, I felt like a lot of stress was lifted from my shoulders. I had been worrying that God would be upset with us for trying to force a child into our family, when He didn't want us to have one yet. However, once we made the decision, I began pondering about how maybe God just wanted us to act for ourselves and see how determined we would truly be to bring a child into this world, despite the financial cost and emotional heartbreak that may result if it didn't work. Maybe God just wanted to see if we could have faith in Him. Whatever the reason, I felt like I had a better handle on my life. I knew what our next step would be, and all we could do was try to proceed with faith.
During the month of August, work slowed down, like A LOT! Our patient census was suddenly very very low and not picking up very quickly. I also was better learning how to delegate nursing visits to my other nurses so that I was not as overwhelmed. I felt my stress level decrease a little more.
True to the pattern, I began using ovulation strips when I knew ovulation was coming. Negative, negative, negative... The last few cycles, when I would use ovulation strips, sometimes I would never get a positive one. I was tempted to quit testing after about 6 days, but something told me to keep going. Then, when we finally made it to the weekend, I got two dark lines. We had an egg! We looked up online some new positions that were good for fertility and found one that I felt like might actually work and wouldn't be too uncomfortable. Afterwards, usually Kevin gets me situated with my hips raised, and then I let him go work on homework while I chill for about 45 minutes, but this time, I asked him if we could say a prayer before he left. That is when Kevin, with tears in his eyes, told me he would love to say a prayer together. He offered it, and it was the most simple and spiritual prayer I have ever heard. I knew in that moment that Kevin wanted this as much as I did. After he finished and Kevin went to work on homework, I was left to think to myself. Part of me wanted to laugh at how foolish we were being, but the better part of me knew that we had to try, and we HAD to rely on the Lord's help. I felt at peace, knowing that even if this cycle didn't work, we would try again next cycle, with an IUI treatment. This cycle was not the end of the world. Everything would be ok, and God was truly aware of us. This was the first time in a very long time that I felt at peace about our fertility.
Long story short: It worked that cycle. Two weeks later, I noticed I was getting car sick while driving around between seeing my different patients. I took a pregnancy test on the day of my missed period and it was faint, but it was positive. Since announcing our pregnancy, many people have asked us if we were so excited when we found out, and the truth is that we were skeptical and shocked at first. I did not believe that it truly worked that time, and it wasn’t until we had our first ultrasound and we saw the baby’s heartbeat that it really began to sink in for us. Ever since then, yes, we have been truly ecstatic and so very grateful to a Heavenly Father who never ever gave up on us!
How I Found (and Kept) Joy
When Shantelle asked me to write a post for this blog, I read through my personal blog posts to find ideas for what I wanted to include, and I realized that the reason I kept faith and joy through this trial was by looking at the very specific blessings that Heavenly Father continually gave us every step of the way. I thought about sparing all of the details, but I realized that it was the details of each blessing and miracle included in this story that kept me going through the difficult times.
I had my fair share of tears, anger directed at God, and jealousy of others, but when I did hit my lowest point during this trial, I realized that going through this trial without God was going to be a whole lot more difficult than going through it with Him. I am still amazed at the amount of love our Heavenly Father has for us at all times. There were many times where I felt like I had absolutely no faith, but I now realize that I did have faith, even if it was only as much as one grain of mustard seed at the time. I wanted so desperately to have faith that God truly loved me and that He wanted me to be a mother, and it was enough.
I truly believe that counting our blessings through our trials is the best way to maintain an eternal perspective and to keep our faith alive and burning. It is impossible to be angry at God when we realize how God HAS blessed us, even when the natural man wants to focus on everything we are lacking. It wasn’t until I truly came to be ok with the realization that we might have to battle this trial of infertility for a very long time that I began to be grateful for the little daily wins. Both Kevin and I are grateful for the opportunity we have had to want something for so long and then truly having to work to get it. We have learned a lot and our testimonies have been strengthened because of it.