Fighting infertility: Blessings in the struggle

There’s not a lot I’ve been able to do this past week. I’ve been dozing in and out most days, at the whim of painkillers, heat packs, and Netflix. All three of those *equally* a Godsend. But between naps and monitored walks around my apartment I’ve had lots of time to think about everything that brought me here. And I mean everything. I wanted to write a blog about perseverance or faith. Something inspiring that would reach out to all those women–and even men–who have faced infertility and who needs someone to write them a love letter of encouragement. I’ve been wanting to write something beautiful that would detail my journey thus far and how I made it here at least. But the words wouldn’t come. They won’t come because that isn’t altogether the true story.

I wrote this blog post here one year ago. You’ll notice it reads “Part 1” and weeks and months went by and there was never a part two. It stopped right there at the exam table and I left all of you there with me in that too-white exam room, holding your breath as I froze in time and never got my shoes on to face the reality.

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I left everyone at the diagnosis of endometriosis and failed to tell the story that unfolded even when I was too rigid–too uptight–to write it down. You see, I’ve read a lot about infertility. But I’ve yet to read the bold truth of it all–the ugly, gray, horrible day to day of dealing with it. Feeling it. Dreading it. Even when no one else does.

It took this last surgery to wake me up and remind me that people need to know that side of it all so all of us–all of us who face the trials of temporary or permanent infertility–can somehow latch hands and understand what’s within the circle that only we see. I’m reminded that people won’t survive simply reading about enduring to the end, sucking in the tears with faith, or looking ahead with hope. You survive when someone bleeds with you and shows you you’re not alone. You survive when you face the ugliness and you share the night, regardless of how vulnerable or naked you become. Your eyes must adjust to the darkness before you can take a step forward and find the light.

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My diagnosis, like I said, was a year ago. But I had secretly known something was wrong for longer than that. My last blog about it explains it better. But the diagnosis was the point where “trying for a baby” became a nightmare. It’s the kind of thing we don’t talk about when we say to others with a smile, “We’ve been trying to start a family. We’re excited for when that day comes”. My husband and I rehearsed our lines. We prepared for gatherings. We knew what to say in almost every situation and how to not cry when someone with good intentions would pry. We had the script for being out in the world.

But at home–when no one is around to see–there is no script.

When you’re a woman struggling with infertility, you can never brace yourself enough for the blood that comes each month. The blood that reminds you–again–that there is something wrong. That once again, there’s no baby.

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There’s no rehearsed lines when the pain is so bad that you find yourself in the hospital for a fourth time tied up to IV’s and answering “No, it’s just my endometriosis” when a nurse asks you if you might be pregnant.
And no one ever tells you about the fights–the terrible, deadly fights that break out between you and your spouse when the heartache becomes too much and the weight of it all decays passion or even friendship.

You rarely read about those things. That’s because it makes us humans uncomfortable, even if we’re honest with ourselves and realize that yes, we understand because we’ve been there too.

But lying here today–I’m surprised I haven’t drifted off quite yet–I want you to know the most important part of it all. And that is that it’s a gift.

Strange, I know. And probably not something you’d expect after I threw the curtain off of the journey and exposed the ugliness. But it’s something that this past year of struggling has taught me. I’ve been prodded with needles more times than I can count and I’ve spent paychecks on tests and consultations, hospital stays, and at last–this surgery. And all along I was hiding the misery of it all thinking it was misfortune. That for some random reason OUR lives were the ones chosen to deal with something bigger than our understanding. I was selfish in my thinking, I realize, but that’s how it feels at the time.

But my life–your life–is just as great a gift as the life of one who struggles differently. The gift of struggle has allowed me to never take a single breath for granted. It’s allowed me to feel the unparalleled joy and renewed optimism of hearing my masked surgeon FINALLY say four days ago, “We’ve got it all, Kayla. There’s nothing stopping you from having children now that I can see.”

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The gift of struggle has chiseled my arms, my body, my mind, my heart–into a mother that I will be in due time. Just as the gift of struggle has formed athletes, writers, farmers, doctors, and people who refuse to quit along the way. The journey is never glamorous. It’s not Hollywood. It’s not anything easy to tell. But it’s a gift all the same.

It doesn’t become anything until we tell it like it is to help others who walk the same path and who wonder if anyone else out there gets it. Infertility, I’m here to say, hurts so much deeper than the wounds it took to heal me of it. It corrodes marriages and jobs and the fragile minds of those who feel broken. It blinds us of our faith and tells us that we’ll never be normal. It makes us cold and sometimes it stops us in our tracks. And for those who will never be healed from it, it can altogether steal life from you if you don’t adjust your eyes to the dark and keep walking anyway.

xavier and me

I’m only 24. I’m only going on three years of hearing the word no and seeing the negative tests on the counter. But I stand with those who have had to adjust to the dark. The journey is not just about feeling the hope and the faith and the inspiring messages of courage. It’s about feeling the anger, the frustrations, the inadequacy and marching forward anyway without any source of light. That is the true gift. That’s what makes us human.

That is what will make us mothers. Mothers of our own children–or mothers of those who find themselves in the dark beside us.

And I’m here to remind you that both are needed.

 

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To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

To the mom who has it “harder than me”,

I have a confession.

As a blogger, I hate open letters.

I try to steer clear. But here I am writing one. I just can’t help it.

I feel that writing this to you is mainly for me anyway. Or for anyone who may—down the road—decide that what you taught me today is something valuable for them as well. It’s worth being talked about, don’t you think?

I met you last night, as I was ready to head home for the day. You and your husband weren’t too much older than I am and I was willing to stay an extra hour or so and help you out with what you needed.

During that extra hour we talked about the chubby-cheeked kids on your cell phone screen and we chatted about your husband’s job, which takes him away a lot. I listened to you tell me how you juggle it all and I complimented you for your strength.

You asked me if I had children and then—“well, are you going to?”

I hesitated sharing, but I told you no, and it might be a while before I do.

You didn’t pry.

I appreciated that.

We could easily be friends if I was on the other side of the counter.

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But then today happened. You called me, pretty upset, because of a mistake that happened that I had no control over. I tried to resolve it and even felt bad that you had to drive a half hour to the nearest location to get things in order. Really I felt bad. And you had a reason to be frustrated. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter because we’re all warranted to get frustrated from time to time. It’s what you said after all of that.

“I know you don’t have kids, but not all of us get the easy life,” you said into the phone. “You wouldn’t understand how it is to be a busy mother. You wouldn’t get it, would you?”

When you first said that I think I said something about my manager taking care of it later. I think I hung up. I think I choked a little as I remained professional all the way to the bathroom. And that’s when I cried into the bathroom sink.

Why, you might ask?

Because you’re right.

I DON’T know what it’s like to juggle two kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn every which way by little hands and sticky faces. I don’t know what it’s like to have everything you have.

But I wish I did.

What you don’t know about me is my struggle with infertility.

tiny feet

What you don’t know about me is the fact that last night when you showed me that picture of your children a pain struck my heart and I absolutely loved hearing your stories about how you can’t get them to sleep in their own beds.

What you don’t know is there are battles unseen that I combat every day that you have been freely given.

What you don’t know, my friend, is that you happened to choose the very battle I wrestle with and tried to use it for …what? A discount? Justice? Some kind of “I’m right and you’re wrong” speech?

What you don’t know is that you taught me a lesson.

I went from crying in a bathroom sink to sitting down and examining the way I speak to people. I’ve been writing a list of all the things I’m blessed with that some might lack and all the things I might say that are insensitive to that fact. You made me think about me.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato. Even thousands of years ago he seemed to just get it. “Be kind,” he said. “For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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I’m deciding to be thankful for you today.

I’m thankful that I was able to sit back and examine the unkind thoughts I had toward you when you said those things—that I was able to realize you might be fighting a battle too.

Maybe you woke up in pain. Maybe a loved one is fighting cancer. Maybe you were up at two in the morning with a sick baby. Either way, there’s a battle I don’t know about. Just like my battle.

I’m thankful that the words that hurt me are now words that encourage me to look at my blessings—my great job, my writing, my fantastic family, my entourage of friends and mentors who teach me how to simply be better—and to remember that those things aren’t promised to everyone. The battlefield has all kinds of weapons…all kinds of dips and valleys and shadows that spatter over our lives and strengthen us in some capacity to fight in the war.

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For you, it’s the sleepless nights and the messy minivan. For me, it’s the quiet nights and the spotless car that wouldn’t mind some Cheetos on the floor if it meant an extra set of little hands.

I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, really. So thank you.

Good luck in your battles, friend.

Because we’re actually in it together.

 

 

Living with endometriosis: The lessons in waiting- Part I

Today I got the bad news.

The diagnosis was Endometriosis. And it sucked to hear.

I wish there was a prettier way of putting it–a more eloquent way of describing to you how it felt to hear the doctor say it. But there isn’t. It just plain sucked.

I’m not keeping a blog to just document the squeaky-clean pretty parts of our life together as a young family. I’m keeping a blog called ALL our Lemmony things. And this is part of it. The big, painful, why-is-life-so hard trials. *Big surprise, huh?*

I had a feeling something was wrong way back when we started trying for a baby. I don’t know why, but if you’re reading this (and you’re a woman) you probably know what I mean by somehow just knowing when something is off. For me, the red flags were everywhere, including excruciating cramps that even landed me in the hospital at one point. I seriously thought I was going to die. Or give birth. But I wasn’t pregnant, so I had all bets on that first one.

That, and so many other red flags (irregular cycles, abdominal pain, headaches) were things I pushed to the back burner because I was focused on having a baby. And by golly, nothing was going to stop me.

Until today.

My legs hung over the high examination table, hands wringing together nervously while the doctor took off his glasses and looked me straight in the eye. He didn’t dance around the subject, but the soft tone of his voice–the kind of voice that people use at funerals or during break ups– scared me more than anything. He told me that it’s clear to him that I have a severe case of Endometriosis. He said a few times he isn’t saying I can’t have kids. It’ll just be much harder and it might take weeks…months…or years…of fertility treatments and visits to specialists. There’s no saying what kind of timeframe it’ll be.

I instantly felt like a broken woman.

This isn’t meant to insult or hurt those who were diagnosed with this same thing. Actually, this is just my way of connecting to those women who might know exactly how it feels to stare into a doctor’s eyes and try not to cry. Maybe someone out there (I just know it) knows how it feels to get angry with life, upset at her own body, and grief-stricken for a faceless, unborn child all at the same time. Maybe that woman has made it through. Maybe she’s still waiting. Maybe she has it MUCH worse than me and knows for a fact that she can’t bear children at all. Maybe she’s exactly where I’m at. I don’t know.

But in that moment, on the table, swallowing down tears, all I know is I felt alone.

All my life I’ve been able to do anything I set my mind to. But this one thing. This thing that a woman should be able to do. That one thing is going to be hard for me to do at best. I asked the doctor several times if it’s my fault or if I’ve done something to cause this. But he said women who have Endometriosis have had it since inside the womb. That was another dagger. All my life I’ve had this condition, this hindrance to bringing spirit children into the world, and I had no idea? Why me? Such a selfish question loaded with a million unanswerable components, but it still came to mind over and over.

But in the back of my mind, I kept reminding myself of the truthfulness of the gospel. The promises of the Lord. The loving ways of God.

I know I’m going to have children someday. I feel them and I already know their names (luckily Matt helped me with most and agreed on the ones I pre-planned 😉 )  I know that this is a trial that I was given to face and that there can be lessons in waiting. And that someday when I hold my baby–no matter if it’s a year from now or seven years from now–it’ll feel worth it.

But right now, my perspective doesn’t reach that far. I see the exam table. My pink toes dangling off it. My blurred vision because of tears. And my empty, unable-to-work-correctly stomach. But I’m trying to look beyond. There is a lesson in all things–an eternal principle I’m going to have to learn. Who knows? Maybe that lesson will be something I need to pass down to my children someday when they’re waiting for something they yearn for just as much as I yearned for them.

Questions, so many questions.

But for now, I find solace in my sweet husband who makes me laugh so the tears can dry, who genuinely knows that he’ll be a dad, and who reminds me that some blessings come soon and some come late, but they’ll always come (That statement was originally from this talk by Elder Holland by the way–he’s awesome) For now I find solace in my big family on both mine and Matt’s side, and my friends who comfort me from hundreds of miles away through texts and phone calls. I find solace in our blog, where I can connect with other sisters in waiting–or sisters who live lives filled with trials of their own, but they simply don’t give up.

I hope to be one of those.