Wednesday, April 22, 2015

our infertility journey

     This week is National Infertility Awareness week. So what better week to look back and reflect on our own infertility journey- a journey that although painful at times, is one that we never want to forget! A journey where God grew us in many ways and brought unexpected encouragement into our lives. A journey that we couldn't imagine not being on. We haven't talked about this journey much-partly because only our immediate family and a few friends (who had gone through infertility) were the only ones who knew. But as this year's theme is "You Are Not Alone!", we thought it would be a great time to share. We pray that our story may be an encouragement to someone else! After all, it was a blog that I came across that was a huge encouragement to me in my own infertility journey. 
      Our infertility journey began in the Fall of 2011, but as I look back I can see how God began preparing me much sooner. My senior year of college I enrolled in a dual degree program through my university and also worked on a Master's degree in Bioethics. It was in some of those seminars that I heard more and more about the use of reproductive technologies, and it really sparked my interest. In fact, the majority of my work throughout my degree focused on reproductive technologies (artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, etc).  Little did I know that I would put that education to use firsthand a few years down the road.
      Late in the Fall of 2011 we decided we were ready to start our family.  Manny had a very laid back and "when it happens, it happens" attitude, while I quickly began "planning" (often looking at the calendar and mapping out a due date etc). All of my life I have been a planner, and although I consider that one of my strengths (it keeps me very organized), I would also consider it a weakness. Being a planner is an area in my life that God continually uses to grow me to rely on him. Sometimes it takes a little while but ultimately I am reminded that everything happens in God's time, not my own. This journey was no different.
     Months started to come and go with no pregnancy. I found myself a little impatient and frustrated but took comfort in the stories I had heard of it taking others awhile to get pregnant. As the months turned into a year, I started to dread the "what if we need fertility treatments?" thoughts. Shortly after a year of trying, the loneliness and frustration really started to set in. We hadn't shared our struggle with anyone, yet were often asked when we would try to get pregnant etc? I became very sensitive to the fact that it seemed EVERYONE around me was pregnant. I had to take time away from social media. I even had to ask my mom and sister that they not tell me anymore when someone was pregnant (unless I needed to know-family, close friends etc). Don't get me wrong, I was so happy for my friends and those around me that were pregnant! But it was a painful reminder of something I longed for.  Finally the frustration was so bad, I threw my hands up and told Manny I was calling my doctor.
      In July of 2013, my ob-gyn sat down to go over some test results with me and told me we would probably need some help, but he had a great guy with good success rates he would send us to. On August 6, we sat in front of our infertility doctor, and he recommended IVF (in vitro fertilization). The word I had been dreading for months became the biggest relief to me! I even thought "how cool..God knows I love to plan so he is letting me plan when we will do this and (hopefully) have a baby!" WRONG again Erin!
      After a little discussion with our doctor and clinic, we decided we'd start our cycle towards the end of the year. I was fine with that and just relieved to hopefully have an end in sight. I needed to undergo a small surgery and when I called to schedule it was shocked when my nurse told me to start my birth control meaning we were starting my cycle NOW. This was not going according to my plan.
      On October 31, I began my medications, every-other-day ultrasounds, and lab draws. That morning we had our first appointment to learn about the injections I was going to have and to start monitoring me to see how I responded to the meds. As we sat in the waiting room, the doors opened and in walked someone I knew from work. We had no idea we were each going through infertility.  I ran into her later on and learned that there were others who had used our doctor too. Not only that but my doctor was highly valued by others and had really good success rates. I wasn't surprised though- He is WONDERFUL! So down to earth and kind. So thorough and very cautious.
     The next 10 or so days were full of shots, ultrasounds, lab draws, and appointments. On November 11th, I went in for my egg retrieval and on November 16th, while the Beatles "all you need is love" played on the intercom, Dr. Norian did our embryo transfer. On November 26th (two days before Thanksgiving), my blood work came back positive for pregnancy!
      During the months in between learning we would need IVF and finding out we had our first positive blood test, God really worked in our hearts, especially mine. We had to fully rely on him, his plan for our lives, and his timing. I had to accept that it may not be his will or plan for my life to be pregnant or if our IVF cycle didn't work that he had something else. After all, he ultimately knows what is best for us. Those months were HARD, but I really found comfort in the following verses:

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you." declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

     As we look back, we are so thankful  for the encouragement brought into our lives, the experiences we went through, and for God's perfect timing.  We are thankful for the encouragement from our families. They knew we were struggling. They prayed and encouraged us despite not knowing when exactly we were doing our cycle (we kept that part a secret). My mom happened to send a really encouraging text to Manny and I the morning we waited for my blood test results to come back. She had no idea we had started our cycle, let alone were waiting to hear pregnant or not.  We are thankful for the friends from church and from my work who encouraged us. Who answered questions, sent us cards, and prayed!
     We are thankful for God's timing (and not my own!). Even though I wasn't planning to do my cycle when we did, God's timing was perfect. Our doctor felt comfortable with us telling our families about the pregnancy right around Christmas time so we got to announce our miracle at Christmas! Our baby was due almost exactly one year to the day that we sat in the fertility clinic and were recommended IVF. And to top it all off, my parents were on sabbatical and able to spend 3 weeks with us after our baby was born! This was especially helpful since I had to have a c-section, and we moved the day after I was released from the hospital.
     Last, we are so thankful for the whole experience of IVF. God used this to work in big ways in our lives and trust in HIS plan. I could go on and on but because this post is SO long, here is our very favorite experience... seeing a human heart beat at 6 weeks old. So tiny but so amazing!...
     On July 28, 2014, our miracle baby Gabriella Reese was born! We praise God for her and pray that the little heart that we saw beating at 6 weeks will love Jesus and follow him!
Gabriella and Dr. Norian
      If you are reading this and going through infertility, I am praying for you.  Whether you are trying to get pregnant with your first or fourth child. Whether you have been trying for a month or a year, or five years. I pray that God will give you strength and peace and that you know you are not alone! xo

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