Revenge of the Hormones
Assuming statistics are true, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and a growing number of couples struggle with infertility, currently defined as doing nothing to prevent pregnancy yet not conceiving within twelve months. I never dreamed it would be part of my story, but it is. So, for those who also have treasures in heaven and for those with empty arms and aching hearts, I hope our story offers hope and a reminder that you are not alone.
I am 40 the day we say, “I do.” We know the window for having children is shorter for us than for many couples. Irregular cycles make for an emotional roller coaster; we never know if I’m late because I’m pregnant or just because I’m late. It’s a rough way to begin our “happily ever after.”
After a few topsy turvy months, we meet with a nurse practitioner and tell her we want to figure out what’s going on with my hormones for our sanity as well as our desire for children. After the exam, she reports she’s found uterine fibroids and evidence of ruptured ovarian cysts. She dashes off a prescription and tells me to take it until I have a period, then take a break and start over. Only I don’t have a period, so I never take a break.
I am miserable. Night sweats cause insomnia, and I can’t decide which is worse: sweats all night or hot flashes all day. Things quickly go from bad to worse.
I reschedule when the prescription mercifully runs out. She runs labs and reports that my hormones have gone from a little to a LOT off. Full blown menopausal levels. What?! How is this possible? I followed the directions! She tells me my body just sped up the normal peri-menopausal routine, and it has nothing to do with the hormones she gave me. And, then the comment that rocks me to the core: “What was that about wanting children? If that’s the case, then we should do something different.”
I am so angry. I did what the “Authority” told me to do rather than listening to my gut. I knew something was wrong and didn’t speak up. I feel like we’ve weathered six miserable months, our first year of marriage, for nothing. I cling to the promises that, even in this, God is sovereign and He loves me. But, I don’t understand.
My chiropractor recommends an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility. Much to our surprise, we conceive shortly after we switch to her regimen. God drops a name in my heart: Hope. It’s not one we’d ever discussed, but I love it. And it’s how I remember her when I miscarry a few days before our first anniversary.
That fall we visit a birthing center nearby and connect with one of their OB/GYN partners. She markets herself as a holistic practitioner, and I take a deep breath, willing myself to trust someone else with a bunch of letters after her name. She tests us both. We learn it’ll take a miracle for us to have a baby. We consider the options and draw some lines with the help of this resource.
People usually ask, so I’ll just tell you: we consider adoption. Two of my best friends are adopted, and I’ve always thought it was something beautiful and desirable. A private adoption possibility presents itself and we are open, but the mother decides to keep her baby. With what feels like a door slammed in our faces, we go back to Priority #1: getting my body strong enough to sustain a pregnancy.
In March of 2013, just about when Hope would’ve been born, I have more testing done. I’m supposed to have the results by Friday but they’re late. I ovulate on Monday. A couple hours after we do the deed, the phone rings and it’s my doctor: “Don’t try to conceive until after we do the next procedure. So sorry the test results were delayed!”
But we do conceive. God drops another name in my heart. I’m hesitant to claim it. It’s another we’ve never considered but I love it: Haven. And then He takes her to heaven. Phil holds me while tears stream down my cheeks as she slips away.
A few weeks later, I undergo outpatient surgery to remove the fibroid the doctor thinks is causing the awful bleeding I’m experiencing and perhaps contributing to my inability to carry a baby to term. She performs a uterine ablation: a procedure that involves burning off the lining of the uterus to take out any hidden fibroid cells. I assume that, since the uterus sloughs off the lining each month during a cycle, that this is similar: it’ll grow back healthy. I don’t know it yet, but my assumption is dead wrong.
At this point, I feel hopeless. For more than 40 years I’ve assumed my story would include motherhood. When I didn’t marry right out of college, I took a deep breath and poured my heart into mentoring young women and all the other things I did at the Institute. In my 30s, I grieved as years slipped past and my life didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. Those living the life I wanted were a decade into their marriages by then, bouncing babies and watching their elementary aged children on soccer fields and at dance recitals. So, I poured my energy into the children and families at the church. If I couldn’t have my own children, I could at least invest in theirs.
And then, finally God brings my very own unassuming Prince Charming. But still, the babies don’t come. I’m at a loss and I wonder what I did wrong to find myself in this unexpected plot twist.
Your story likely has its own set of unexpected plot twists and, if you’d like to share it with me, I’d love to hear it! I created the photos with this post to capture the cries of my heart during this season. If you’d like, I hope you’ll download them and keep them somewhere where they remind you that, just because it isn’t the story you expected doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a good story. As for me, God’s about to grace me with beauty for what feel like ashes in my life. And, grace is good.
During this season, I leaned hard on the biblical truths expressed so beautifully in “When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference” by Carolyn Custis James. Her “Lost Women of the Bible” and “The Gospel of Ruth” have also helped reshape my view of women and how their stories are told in the Bible. I was grateful to discover them as I was on my way out of the abusive culture of the Institute. To catch up on that part of the story, click here.