A STORY OF INFERTILITY /OKLAHOMA CITY/EDMOND CHILD AND FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER.INTEGRIS BENNETT FERTILITY CLINIC
It was never my intent to tell this story. But it's our story. And I'm tired of keeping it a secret.
The F word: Fertility
Fertility Clinic. Bloodwork. Calendars. Meds. Treatments. Shots.
Turns out, conceiving a child isn’t as easy as they make it to be on Teen Mom.
And that’s a hard, hard fact to face.
HARD. And it hurts.
This isn't a secret I kept out of shame.
I kept it hidden behind hope. Hope that too often felt hopeless.
I kept it private to protect my heart. My heart I feared would never feel whole again.
I kept our struggle buried deep, because unless you’ve limped along this road of infertility, you won’t understand the pain. I learned along the way that true empathy takes experience. The nonchalant "it'll happen's" and disconnected concerns burned too badly. Even the very few who knew of our struggle didn't know, so to keep what remained of my might, I built up bars around my heart.
Months turned to years and my sadness became bitter.
Announcements. Sonograms. Gender reveals.
None of them ours.
The jealousy tasted disgusting. The bitterness burned. And the sorrow was suffocating.
Infertility was trying to change me, and I hated it. But it was heavy, and it weighed on my happy heart. I faked my way through the fight, pressing on and pretending all was right. Pretending to feel anything other than pain was hard, but the more I pretended, the more I believed my own pretense.
Some days, the darkness defeated me, but I stayed stubborn and with each new day, I drew new strength. I've learned that without this struggle, I would have NEVER stumbled upon this surprising strength.
Yet even on my good days, I would wonder, why? Why me? Why us?
In our 10 years together as teammates, Keith and I have yet to face a storm this ugly (unless you count the times when I accidentally get hungry). Instead of hugging through happy tears, we were faced with this heartbreaking hurdle on a course with no known finish line.
And we both slipped and skinned our knees a few times.
It took a few falls to figure it out, but with each stumble we'd find a way to help each other back up. We learned because we loved, and the scars that remain signify our growth and healing through this rough season. So while I hated this road we were on, I wouldn't want to run this race with anyone other than Keith.
Still, I dreamed of our child we'd hold one day, but 'one day' seemed to drift further and further away. I was losing sight of our dreams through my tear-soaked eyes, until I was so lost I couldn't even recognize myself.
I didn't know how to move on, but with infertility, that's the thing. I didn't want to move on. Moving on meant giving up, and giving up is not part of my game. I didn't know which way to turn, but turns out, the crossroads I was at wasn't whether to turn right or left.
It was to look up.
I wasn't raised in the gospel, but I was raised in a lot of love, and until now I never had a reason to fully seek God with my whole heart. I believed in Him and the power of prayer, but that was the extent of my faith.
So when I was buried deep in the darkness of infertility, my best friend Janna, whose God given gift of compassion was my crutch through this all, shared this with me:
A waiting season is not a wasted season. It's a divine delay. God has a reason for his "not yets."
and this simple sentence spoken by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life.Church allowed me to see the tiniest flicker of light. It was only an ember, but I held on in hopes it would begin to burn bright.
So I wrapped myself in His word and sought so much comfort knowing He is with me wherever I go.
Infertility is a hard and lonely place to live. I'm mad. And I'm sad. But I never knew the power of the love of Jesus and the comfort of His word in times of trial. So when I gave it all to God (except sometimes it's really hard and I wish He could reveal His plan to us like, right now), I realized He wrote this story for us. Me and Keith! THE Team Ashcraft. Without infertility, would I have ever needed to depend fully on Christ? Nope. Not as soon as now, that's for sure.
"God wants to do something IN you before he does something FOR you."
My life was still dark, but with a growing faith, I was finally able to see the stars. Our care was in the hands of the most reputable fertility doctor in the state of Oklahoma, at one of the best fertility clinics in the nation, within the state's largest healthcare system, INTEGRIS, who I've never been prouder to call my employer. The learning of our fertility plan was nothing short of shocking, but more than anything, I was thankful. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most extensive form of assisted reproductive technology, and we were candidates. We had answers, and even better, we had a plan.
So for 7 weeks, I lived and prayed by my IVF calendar. Ultrasounds. Bloodwork. Paperwork. Shots. And notes and alarms to remind me of it all. My emotions escalated with each appointment. Some days, my head was held high with hope and confidence, and others, tears fell and I was full of fear. But seeing my compassionate doctor, nurses, and staff at Bennett Fertility so often was the familiar comfort I needed on all those days.
The rollercoaster of IVF coasted to a close with my egg retrieval and, 5 days later, our embryo transfer. As I was wheeled back to recovery, tears rolled down my face. Happy tears? Sad tears? I don't even know. They just fell. Fell from the weight of every bit of hope and fight and prayers over the years. It was finished. Our Ashcraft embryos were back where they belonged, and with my hands on my belly and Keith at my side, I cried. And I prayed.
For no word from God will ever fail.
For 2 weeks, I worried. I cried. I prayed. I Googled (DO NOT DO THIS). Then I worried some more. I failed the fight against fear and allowed it back in. I succumbed to it. It washed over my entire soul and the agony of the unknown during those 14 slow, emotional days wrecked me.
I was torn between being hopeful and getting my hopes up.
It was during these two weeks I cried the most.
It was during these two weeks I prayed the most.
It was during these two weeks I questioned everything the most.
But it was during these two weeks I watched my husband love me in ways only 1 in 8 couples experience. He served me selflessly during my strict bed rest. With nothing but a few shudders of fright, he neglected his own fear of needles and administered what would be my most painful shot, with the largest needles of them all, every single evening. His care for me was more comforting than he'll ever know. And it was these uncommon moments that allowed us to bond in ways most other couples don't get to experience, and when I recognized this, I realized again that yes, God's plan for us is great. This is our story, and it's to be written unlike anyone else's.
I survived the two week wait (guys, I'm really not sure how I did, but I did) and finally, FINALLY, it was February 18th, 2016, the Thursday on my calendar that was boldly labeled: RESULTS! Too anxiously distracted to work after my blood work, I headed home, curled into the chair in Keith's office and together, we called our nurse to hear the results. My entire being shook as I waited for her words.
"I'm sorry, but it is negative."
The news was crippling.
For as long as I live, I'll never forget how grueling the grief was. How hard one word can hit. How fatal that fear really felt.
But I'll also never forget the solace I found, shaking and sobbing in Keith's arms. "Why" was all I could cry. And hold me was all Keith could do.
Throughout this entire journey, I've broken so many times into so many pieces I thought I'd never be whole again. But here I am. Broken and brave and strong all at once. Why us? I don't know. Except I think I do know.
Because of infertility, our marriage is stronger.
Because of infertility, I am stronger.
And because of infertility, I found something I sadly didn't even know was missing: FAITH.
I’m not sharing our story for sobs or sympathy. I'm sharing our story to bring attention to something I've whispered about for way too long. In a world of social media, the comparison game is hard. AND UGLY. In fact, it's so hard on me that I removed myself from my personal Facebook to hibernate and heal. Announcements of infertility have never flooded my newsfeed. Is anyone else whispering about this, too? I needed to know.
So this post? Isn’t another sonogram that feels like a sucker punch. No. This is a post that says:
STILL NOT PREGNANT.
So here's our story, so far...
And there's so much more of it left unsaid, but If you can relate, then this is for you. You're not alone, and I know you need to know this just as much as I need to know you're out there. This won't matter or even make sense to a lot of people, but this isn't for those people. This is for you, the one reading this and nodding your head, whether these words are raw and real to you right now or in remembrance of this season you once survived.
These days are hard. Sometimes, it seems as if my heart breaks more than it beats, but to have faith is to have trust.
So here we go again.
IVF round 2.
More meds. More appointments. More shots.
And more faith.
READ PART 2 HERE.
Please share this. You may not know it, but someone you love is suffering silently.
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* Images by Heather Warren Photography