Friday, April 27, 2012

Deep South Words to Live By: Don't Ignore

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I have taken the time to write my story coinciding with their theme of "Don't Ignore". Please know that this is a very hard story to write concisely and leaves me feeling a little vulnerable and exposed. Feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit.

In our home there sits a room. Four white walls, two beautiful windows, the softest carpet for it has barely been walked upon, and a crib. A crib that was placed perfectly between the two windows when my precious daughter Belle moved to her big girl bed and my husband and I made the decision that it was time. Time to fill our home with more joy and laughter. Time to add to the abundance of happiness.

Yet the crib remains empty. The corners of the room collecting things to donate to Goodwill. The door shut. Incredibly symbolic...there is no baby to fill the crib and the lost dreams collect in the corners of our hearts.

Don't Ignore....The Story

A few years after we were married we decided we would begin trying to start our family. You are so have all the time in the world we were told. But did we really? We knew there was a strong family history of infertility and while some say genetics play a small role, we could not ignore the possibility that I too might have fertility complications. After almost a year of trying, we scheduled an appointment to see my Ob/Gyn. In the weeks before, God gave us our miracle and we found out we were expecting. Elated and grateful do not even touch our feelings in those moments. In January of 2008, we welcomed our precious miracle, Belle Candler. While it was not the easiest pregnancy, we were over the moon to hold our sweet girl and love her to pieces.

When Belle turned two we slowly began the process of trying again. I stopped birth control, knowing to expect a few months for it to fully leave my system. A few months went by and nothing happened. We were so hopeful that everyone's well-wishes of "it happens faster the second time" were true. Few months and no big deal....yet. We moved Belle to her big girl bed and the crib into what was planned to be the nursery since we moved into the house. We even talked about where exactly to put the crib because one day soon our next blessing would sleep in this room. We could just picture our family of four in our heads.

Few more months went by, and I begin to know in my heart and body that something wasn't right. I was experiencing left-sided pain every now and then and other symptoms such as 48-53 day cycles. My intuition and nurse sense told me things weren't as they should be. I made an appointment to go talk to my Ob/Gyn. Not wanting to jump the gun, but not wanting to ignore the way I physically felt. The doctor and I talked about what had been going on and we decided to run a few tests and try to reset my cycles. At the very end of the appointment, he decided he wanted to do an ultrasound just to take a look at what might be causing this pain. He wasn't really expecting them to find anything and neither was I. After waiting in the ultrasound with several other couples waiting on pregnancy ultrasounds, it was finally my turn. The sonographer began poking and prying at my ovaries. She then stopped and the small talked ceased. She pointed out to me the cause of my pain, a small enough to not be too worried but large enough to not be ignored ovarian cyst. This meant two months of letting my ovary heal and waiting for the cyst to resolve. Two months later, the cyst was gone but there were some complications with my right ovary that required me to go on a strong, non-compatible with pregnancy antibiotic.

When all was said and done, we were free to start trying again. Another six months down the road, we were still not pregnant. Our hopes were fading a bit and we were frustrated. With the help of my doctor, we decided to start some first-line fertility medications: Clomid and Femara. This also meant, my diagnosis was official....the dreaded infertility. Next comes the letter from your insurance company reminding you that you do not have fertility coverage and most things from this point forward will be out of pocket. I did my first cycle of Clomid with such excitement. This was going to be my miracle month. We had a very busy month travelling to different places, but we were going to make it work. I even arranged to have my day 21 blood draws done at a clinic in Gulf Shores while we were at the beach. It was all worth it even though at the end of the month our prayers for what we wanted remained unanswered. Several cycles went by and we were left with the same results. The medications had worked and done what they were supposed to do, but not well enough to the point we were able to conceive. The disappointment and grief seemed to be piled on daily. Add to the fact that I work in a hospital, that has the highest birth rate in the nation, as a labor and delivery nurse.

We were spent and we were done. We desperately needed a break and time to take refocus our lives for a little while. Thankfully these feelings all coincided with a trip to Italy last fall. We took our break from treatment, and we are still taking our break from treatment. Our prayers at this point have been for God to show us the right path to take. We have sought adoption information and studied up on more advanced fertility treatments. Our path has not yet been made known to us and so we sit and ride the daily roller coaster of infertility. We hug our sweet girl a little tighter and tell her she is enough for us. Because at the end of the day, if our family remains the Three Musketeers (as we call ourselves), we have been blessed well beyond our measure.

Don't Ignore....The Pain

I often think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and how God can deliver us from the fire, in the fire and through the fire. I have not been spared this fire of infertility and I am not on the other side of the fire of infertility. I am well within the fire of infertility. In the midst of this fire, there is so much pain and brokenness.

I live with physical pain. My body is trying so hard to cooperate, but yet it is imperfect. Some days the physical pain is non existent. Most days it is there but easy to push aside. There are some days though where I may seem distant and quiet. Those are the days where the physical pain is horrendous, so please don't think I am rude or grouchy.

I live with mental pain. The pain of never ending questions. Questions from strangers: Why I only have one child.? Do I not want other children? Is the child I have just too much? Please do not think any of these questions are appropriate for small talk. They aren't and are extremely intrusive. I am likely to quiet you by simply explaining that Belle is my miracle child. It is amazing how quickly the questions stop. The pain of thoughtless comments: "Everyone is getting pregnant these days....I mean EVERYONE". "You better not drink the water around here". "You better hurry to give Belle a sibling." Please believe if it was in the water I would be having the big jugs of it brought to my house! The mental pain of my own thoughts: Am I not a good enough mother? What if we wait too long to make a decision? Am I a failure as a wife? Why them and not me?

I live with emotional pain. I am on an emotional roller coaster that seems to always be twisting and turning. Imagine a precious moment with Belle where we are smiling and giggling. All is right with the world. She throws a lucky penny into the fountain and wishes "for a baby sister". Her sweet innocent mind knows nothing of our fertility struggles, but in that moment my sadness for her loss makes me wish I could explain it all. In the last week and a half, 10 people I know have announced their pregnancies. I am so happy for you and overjoyed for your exciting news, but so broken and grief-stricken for me. I feel left out....left behind. As if their is some big secret that everyone is in on except me. I know you don't mean for me to be an outsider, but how can I sit around talking of double strollers and rubbing bellies without feeling the loss.

I could write for days about the pain that infertility packs as your baggage for the journey, but can I put down my load and see what my mighty God is doing along the way.

Don't Ignore....The God I Serve

The God I serve is broken right alongside me. He hurts with me and knows my pain better than anyone in this world. He also knows the road ahead and that the journey is worth travelling. Surprisingly, I can already say that it has been worth it. I have come to an intimate relationship with God that I never could have fathomed. He has shown me things and taught me lessons I never thought I wanted to learn but am all too grateful for now.

While we are in this wait, we are learning to "be still and know" Psalms 46:10. To know that He is God and His plans are far beyond what I could ever imagine for myself. Being asked by God to just be still is so hard for a type A person like me, but in the fire I am able to be refined by Him. "To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" Ephesians 3:20. I am learning to let go of my control and allow God to work within me. I understand that often the inconveniences and hardships we face can also be God's gentle, loving hand protecting us from great peril.

Three years ago, I sat in a car with a dear friend crying over her infertility battle. Planning a prayer night for a big step in their infertility journey. Coincidence? Don't ignore what God may be doing before your journey. I believe God was teaching me the strength I would need to endure my own battle.

When we began our study of Deuteronomy last fall in my Community Bible Study, I laughed and thought what am I going to learn from Deuteronomy? I opened my lesson, and the first line was about how maybe God's plans aren't always the same as our plans. Coincidence? Don't ignore the wonderful things God will teach you along the journey. The last year, studying Deuteronomy and Hebrews, I have learned that God did not promise me a Promised Land here on Earth but in heaven with Him. I have learned that having faith in Him means not having faith that He will do as I ask but simply Faith.In.Him.

As I look at the empty room in our house now, I dream of what possibilities God has for that room instead of what possibilities I have. Maybe one day our own biological baby will sleep there. Maybe a child we adopt to love as our very own will be rocked in the rocking chair. Maybe it will be used for something we can't even fathom. What I do know for sure is that I serve a loving God who has promised to walk this journey with me. To hold me up when I can no longer stand. To speak to me when I don't know the answers. To hopefully use this journey that is nowhere near over and just beginning to honor and glorify Him.

The Three Musketeers 2012
blog signature - 4/2011


  1. Rach, what courage it must have taken to put yourself out there & write this! I am amazed at your strength & your honesty. Thank you for sharing. Please know that we love all three of you so much & that we'll continue to pray for the fire you're in the midst of, as we have been all along.

  2. Love you, Rachel! Thank you for sharing your journey. I will be in prayer for you.

  3. I found your post through facebook and wanted you to know you how encouraging it was. Even though we don't know each other, we share faith in God and His timing and the loss/grief of infertility. I too know the depth of sorrow you feel when you see a negative result on a test after using meds, being poked and prodded (with ultrasounds and bloodwork) and begging the Lord to bless you with a child. Thanks for writing this post, so others who battle infertility can feel supported, and those who don't can gain an understanding of what we go through. Praying for your family.

  4. I'm proud of you for sharing this. We will be thinking about you guys. :)

  5. I had no idea you were going through this. I have not experienced anything close to what you have time-wise but both Caleb and Asher are Clomid/Femara babies. You and Mark will be in our prayers; that God will give you the baby you are have been praying for for so long, another miracle baby :)

  6. Rachel, you are so precious.... thank you for sharing your journey. My heart hurts for the sadness you have felt and experienced. My heart also rejoices in your journey with the Lord, our constant companion. Sweet blessings to you and your beautiful family and to all that God holds for you, as He goes before you. Love and Blessings, Diane

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I have been exactly where you are, and it can be so isolating and sad, especially when all of your friends and family are getting pregnant so easily. I also know the pain of having everyone ask, "When are you going to get pregnant?" I know they don't mean any harm, but it is so painful. You sharing your story helps others know we are not alone. It is also encouraging to see how you have been able to keep your faith. When our faith is tested in such a personal way, it is so easy to have doubts. You are a great witness to keep your eyes focused on God "through the fire". Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. Perfect :) You expressed everything beautifully

  9. Rachel, this was beautifully written. With 3 miracles of our own (and much "worse" secondary infertility) I can identify with so many of your feelings. Love to you and your beautiful sweet family. <3 keri

  10. Rachel, thanks for sharing this blessing with the world. I too know the struggle & will continue to pray for you & your family.

  11. Erin Howell passed this post on to me. I'm so grateful that she did.

    I can't believe the courage and bravery you have and continue to display through your journey and through posting your story.

    My husband and I are also in the midst of this heartwrenching struggle. Thank you for providing some insight, perspective, and love to people you've never even met by being open and transparent regarding this sensitive subject.

    God is working in you and through you. Thank you for allowing others to bear witness to His good works. :)