Stories | Infertility
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)
For couples desiring the conception of a child, infertility isn’t a welcomed word. But for about 6 percent of married women between ages 15-44, infertility is a common diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
The CDC defines infertility as “not being able to get pregnant (conceive) after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex,” but many providers allow for women over age 35 to seek treatment after six months of trying to conceive, due to decreasing fertility that comes with age.
For one woman, Monica, 25, infertility has become a diagnosis, but not a prognosis.
“If I’m being honest, I feel like the word ‘infertile’ is awful,” Monica said. “It’s a horrible term, especially for the millions of women who have been labeled this and still successfully have children. Infertile does not necessarily mean never. It just means getting pregnant is a challenge.”
Monica, a dental hygienist who loves to shop, spend time with family including her fur-baby, watch movies and sing at church on worship team, has been married for 4.5 years and from the beginning of her marriage, has desired to be a “young mom.”
“From the minute [I met my husband] until almost three years into our marriage, I was taking classes and finishing my degree. Honestly, I knew I wanted to be a young mom, and was ready for babies before I was 23, but we waited,” she said.
Monica went off birth control in the fall of 2016, desiring to “detox” her body for a few months before trying to conceive. In January of 2017, the couple started “not being careful.” When May came without a positive result, Monica began tracking her cycles -- including ovulation testing -- trying to time things just right.
“Even as a child, I always loved picturing myself as mother,” Monica said. “With my personality, and after wanting something so bad for so long, I felt defeated and frustrated, even within the first three months of trying to conceive. Months passed, and I would go through the constant emotional roller coaster of being excited with every new symptom -- which ironically match PMS symptoms. If I was a couple days late in getting my period, I would take a pregnancy test, only to be let down with a negative result. Then I would literally start my period two hours later. No matter how much I told myself not to be excited and hopeful each month, it was nearly impossible. Literally, every day of the month is significant in nature, so it is hard not to think about it on a daily basis.”
Once the calendar flipped to 2018, a full year after beginning the process -- and the official timeline for infertility -- Monica began seeking help, first with natural aids. She eliminated caffeine, used essential oils, did yoga to relax and lessen stress on her body and decreased her intake of junk food. Additionally, she started acupuncture.
“After reading multiple articles, blogs and hearing personal friends experience success with acupuncture, I figured it was worth a shot,” Monica said. “After all, according to months and months of tests, I wasn’t ovulating on my own -- which is essential in getting pregnant. This led me to a wonderful local chiropractor, whom I have come to love and trust. Both her ideals and goals matched mine completely, and we started acupuncture treatment the day I went in for my consultation. For three months, I was on a routine of regular adjustments and acupuncture a few times a month, targeted around specific days of my cycle.
“For the first time in a year, I could literally feel my body working where it needed to. I was less stressed, and my hormones were more balanced. During my first three months of acupuncture, I finally had ovulation tests that were more positive in nature, and I was pumped.”
Because overall health is crucial for conception, Monica’s chiropractor also tested for vitamin deficiencies. Monica started a few vitamin supplements, which helped her monthly symptoms and energy levels. She also eliminated as much soy -- which mimics estrogen in the body -- from her diet as possible.
“If you read the label on pretty much anything in the store that’s in a package or box, there’s soy of some nature in it,” Monica said. “This was probably the hardest thing for me to adjust to.”
Though Monica felt good overall, after three months of acupuncture and lifestyle/dietary changes and no positive pregnancy test, Monica’s chiropractor advised her to visit with a medical doctor. Monica and her husband both went through a series of tests -- and the results came back normal.
“My doctor and I agreed that since my cycle is irregular (28-34 days) and I wasn’t ovulating on my own, that I would start a medication to help this happen,” Monica said. “I was so ready for this next phase.”
But then, with her husband’s upcoming international work trip that would fall during her fertile time, Monica received more frustrating news.
She would have to wait another month to begin medication.
Told To Wait
Being told to wait another month felt devastating.
“I was so excited to finally start this next step in our journey that I knew would give me a better chance of conceiving, and then I had to WAIT another month,” she said. “I was so tired of it. This was probably the biggest breakdown I had, and my husband was a rockstar through it.”
Just recently, Monica was finally able to begin her first cycle of Femara, which she explains is similar to Clomid but with a different action mechanism and without Clomid’s side effects. She is also on a corticosteroid, which suppresses her immune system/inflammation to allow the Femara to be more effective.
“Other than slight nausea and wanting to eat all the time, I haven’t experienced any crazy side effects, which I am super happy about,” she said. “I’ve had to have an ultrasound and a couple of blood tests, but outside of that, it’s been an easy ordeal. As of now, my body has responded well to the medicine, and I had great follicles on both sides this month, so that’s pretty awesome!”
Talk About It
Though she doesn’t know what else will be written in her story of infertility, Monica says she has learned many things on this journey, particularly how important it is to open up about her struggle.
“Unfortunately, infertility is something that is not talked about often, and I truly wish that wasn’t the case,” she said. “I am first to understand that it is an extremely private and personal matter, and you almost feel embarrassed to talk about it with anyone because you feel ashamed and scared of what they might say, or what the future truly holds for you. That is why I want to raise awareness. That is why I want women to not be scared to talk about it. We are responsible for being a support system for one another, and that can’t happen without open communication.”
In March, Monica shared what she calls a “discreet Facebook post” that discussed miscarriages and infertility, and had multiple women reach out to her afterward. She said all those conversations were life-giving and supportive -- and her heart shifted in the process.
Opening up about her struggle became a turning point in her perspective.
“Once I started talking and opening up to people about my circumstance, it was a huge turning point for me,” she said. “This was where I felt my heart being pulled -- sharing my faith and my story with others to help them through something that I knew so well.”
A self-proclaimed people pleaser, Monica said she used to avoid difficult conversations, or at least get them over with quickly. As she has started to be open about her struggle with infertility, she has found herself being honest about that and more -- including being honest with herself and with God.
“This journey actually motivated me to get rid of all the stress and different things I wasn’t fully enjoying in my life, with the goal of decreasing stress and allowing my body to ‘do its thing,’” she said. “It was like a purge of things I wasn’t happy doing. After ridding myself of different commitments and side jobs that I wasn’t fully invested in or happy doing, I felt so much better! It’s like this was my push to finally do something about the things in my life that I hadn’t been enjoying.
“I have felt myself grow as a person, and view the world with a different set of eyes. Now, when I ask my patients if they have any children, I know how to set the tone and use different wording based on their answers. When roles reverse and I get asked this question, I now answer with, ‘Actually, that is something that we are currently struggling with,’ instead of the perky, ‘Nope, not yet!’ This alone has blossomed into beautiful heart to hearts with ladies who have experienced it, or known someone close to them who has. I could have talked to them for hours, but unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow for that. I am certain that God will continue to use me and my story, and I am intrigued to know what he has planned for me in the future!”
But coming to that place of rest in God’s faithfulness has been another element of Monica’s struggle to conceive. It has been a hard-fought battle to come to that place of peace.
“As a woman, I felt as though it was my duty to bear children for my husband, and for a few months, I was convinced that I was failing my husband,” Monica said. “He, on the other hand, was not even close to this mentality, and kept reminding me that everything will happen in God’s timing.
“I kept thinking, what is wrong with ME? What did I ever do to deserve going through this struggle? I felt so alone, and as much as my husband was there to support me and be a shoulder to cry on -- because, let’s face it, there were many months I reached that point -- it was hard. I caught myself thinking about it constantly.
“If you can imagine every emotion possible in one, that’s what it’s like. It didn’t help that at least five times a week, a patient would ask me if I had any children yet, and I would just fake a smile and say, ‘No, not yet!’ in a happy voice, when at times I just wanted to leave the room. Social media was also horrific at times, as it served as a constant reminder of friends having babies, planned or not. I genuinely was so excited and happy for them, but deep inside, I was also jealous and sad. Any conversation I had, or post that I saw, especially about people having babies that didn’t want them, broke my heart.”
Monica said this struggle with infertility was the first one of her adult life where she didn’t have any control, and it was hard to handle.
“I love to be organized, plan, and know what is in store for my future,” she said. “Up until this point in my adult life, everything had gone ‘as planned’ and I really hadn’t had any roadblocks. This has definitely been God’s way of telling me that it doesn’t always work that way, and that I needed to fully surrender myself to Him. This circumstance revealed this personal weakness of mine, and I have had to work greatly on it. I have also had to pray for patience, and willingly wait for what He has in store for our family.”
The fight for full surrender has also been a big one.
“I was sad and angry with God because things weren’t happening in my timing,” she said. “I started questioning why He was making me wait for something I had longed for since we got married. I began to feel that I was falling short in different aspects of my faith, and this was how I was being punished -- even though I know that’s not how it works.”
Leading worship music at church became a struggle as well.
“I felt like my heart wasn’t truly worshiping God at times due to my anger and frustration,” Monica said. “It felt so strange to be leading others to Him through music. My prayers would feel disconnected at times and I didn’t know what to do about it.”
During those times, Monica said she fought to have an attitude of thanksgiving, thanking God for what she did have in the here and now.
“As much as I have prayed for my heart and mind to trust Him and His timing, it has definitely been easier said than done,” she said. “Thankfully, about five months ago, around the time I started acupuncture, I started coming out of the hole that I was in, and began to have a new light on the situation.
“Once I transitioned out of the situations that weren’t growing my faith, I found a new community of Christians that I am very excited to be a part of. I feel that this new support system is going to make a huge impact on our family.”
Power of the Gospel
And new relationships and a network of support is just part of what has come of a journey she has so recently “come to terms” with.
She has learned to treasure Christ more greatly:
“I have had to cling to Him in my moments of weakness, when nothing else was helping. I found myself opening my Bible app more frequently than before, and truly letting the words sink in and affect me as they should. I wasn’t just reading to check it off the list. Christ has been the one constant through every second of this journey, and the more I reflect on the past, the more I see Him working.
She has learned to savor Christ’s power more sweetly:
“When my heart was hardened for months on end, I wouldn’t call it ‘savoring’ the fact that I had no control over what was happening. BUT. After Christ started revealing instances for me to share my story, support others, and worship Him in a more vulnerable state, His power has never felt so real to me. Surrendering is hard to do, but when I can feel His presence in a room, on the verge of tears, it feels so free and liberating!”
She has come away with renewed and increased affections for Christ:
“It has taken a lot of reflecting and trust, but I as mentioned earlier, I feel that I have let Him in more than I ever have before, and allowed Him to work in me, instead of fighting it. My relationship with Him is constantly morphing and growing, with occasional setbacks that take a lot of faith, learning and understanding to get through.”
And she has found herself with a faith in Christ that is settling deep within her bones:
“I have found myself in a more vulnerable state, and displaying a more understanding and empathetic heart--something I always felt as a strength -- but this showed me that there is always room to grow in my approaches with others. When my heart is more permeable to what Christ is doing, my worship, especially during church, has reached a whole new level.”
Has infertility changed Monica’s life?
“I feel like I have grown and matured so much as a woman, wife and friend. This journey changes you in ways that you can’t put into words, but it is truly humbling to experience.”
Has infertility changed Monica’s relationships?
“The good at this point has definitely been the relationships I have made in the process. Without this happening, I wouldn’t have built the great relationship with my chiropractor, who supports me both emotionally and spiritually. I have become much more educated on the female body and how it works, which is fascinating. I also wouldn’t have gotten as close to one of my best friends, who has gone through this journey as well, and is expecting her first baby next month!”
Has infertility changed Monica’s marriage?
“I also feel a deeper connection to my husband. This has been our first real struggle as couple that we have had to cling to each other to get through.
“He has a more laid back and go-with-the-flow type of personality, which balances me out when I get stressed and uptight about something. He has always been so great about knowing when to talk and when to listen. He is always encouraging me and lifting me up when I get down about things.
“With this, I have learned that he also deserves this from me. Even though he doesn’t display the stress and worry in life like I do, he still deserves to be praised and appreciated daily. I’ve tried to make sure he gets more time to himself to enjoy things that he loves to do, and not make him feel guilty about it -- which I have done in the past. He has had to make many sacrifices during our journey of trying to conceive, and I have learned to prioritize not only telling him, but showing him that I am grateful and appreciative of his role in this as well. It’s not a one-sided ordeal.”
Has infertility changed Monica’s faith?
“Even though I struggled with my faith a solid few months this last year, I feel like it has brought me to a good place. My prayers are more genuine and like a conversation. My heart is full of happiness, hope and contentment, and I oddly feel revived and excited about my faith again.”
And what lesson has stuck with her the most?
“Patience and trust. Plain and simple.”
If you are walking through infertility, Monica advises:
→ Develop a support system.
“This journey is so common, but no one seems to talk about it, especially in person. Husbands are great, but women will truly understand where you are coming from. I didn’t really open up to anyone about it for at least eight months, and now I wish I had, because it helps so much!”
→ Be mindful of physical AND mental health.
“Infertility is so emotionally and physically draining, so it’s okay to be sad, mad, tired and grieve about your situation every once in a while,” she said. “It’s hard to stay positive, but you have to be optimistic through the journey or you will sink into a hole that will be hard to get out of.”
→ Consider the spouse’s role in the journey.
“It’s not easy for them to see you distraught. It’s also difficult for both of you when you hit a wall, and don’t want to have sex all the time. It shouldn’t feel like a job, and it becomes a challenge when you are tracking things and literally have to do it at certain times, whether you are feeling like it or not.”
→ Learn about the intricacies of conception.
“I have learned so much about how the body gets pregnant--to the fine details--and it truly is fascinating. I would strongly suggest researching and learning more if you feel inclined, because it is actually a complex process that requires many things to fall into place at precise times of each monthly cycle. It is also crucial that each phase of that cycle is a proper length of time and the hormone levels are balanced properly.”
→ Reach out.
“If you feel the need to reach out to me for support or questions, please message myself or Malinda and I would be glad to get in touch with you. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Especially if you are enduring this painful journey, I know that you WILL grow from it and I ensure you that God is faithful and has a PLAN for YOU.”
If you know someone walking through infertility, Monica advises:
“Listen. Simply listen. Honestly, telling us that ‘it will happen when it’s meant to’ or anything along the lines of giving advice is not what we want to hear, even if it’s true. Be a shoulder to cry on and be supportive and optimistic for them. Pray for them regularly, as it takes a lot of strength to get through each month, and their hearts are in a constant battle that Satan will try to win. Be the best support system you can be for them!”
If you’ve previously walked through infertility, Monica advises:
→ Tell your story.
“Don’t keep it to yourself, especially if you know someone going through the same journey. Is it easy to talk about? Absolutely not. But I promise it will not only benefit that person, but you as well. I suggest that you use your journey to help others whenever you can!”
Monica’s recommended resources:
Worship music, including a song that has been powerful for Monica,
“King of My Heart” by Bethel Music
The “Stories” series was largely influenced by Jerad C. Wilson’s book “Gospel Wakefulness.” In the book, Wilson defines his terms this way: "gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly [than before]" OR "an experience of such power--of such awakening--that it persists and endures, settling deep into the heart and the conscience of a believer that it carries through all emotional highs and lows." In keeping with those definitions, I have tried to write the articles in the “Stories” series to encourage the body to testify to the power Christ has in our daily lives by sharing our individual stories of Gospel wakefulness.