I recently shared our story publicly for the first time. As a fairly private person, I typically don’t share my personal life through social media. Even my personal facebook, twitter and instagram are merely expressions of my event planning business not really sharing my personal experiences.
Many of my closest friends and family have not heard the details of our story so I feel a little bit exposed in sharing, but with encouragement from my friends walking the same path and the desire to share my heart with other women to let them know they are not alone, I know there is someone who needs to hear my story. As with true love stories, this is not the end but only the beginning and a few details in the middle.
Clayton and I first met when I was in 8th grade and he was a Sophomore in High School. A few years later in the Summer of 2000 we started a friendship and unconditional love that led to marriage in January 2011. (Yes! You read that right. We dated for over 10 years before we got married. Another story in itself.) So far we have managed to survive long distances, infertility and cancer.
Clayton and I have always wanted to have a big family. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a mom. I am unbelievably lucky to have amazing parents who made parenting a choice I knew I wanted to experience. I feel truly honored to be a woman and play a small role of God’s plan for happiness through family. From day one of our honeymoon we started trying for baby Arnal. Fast forward four years later and here we are with only a story.
Most people tell you when you first start trying for a baby to give it 6 months. After a year you can meet with your doctor and start looking at other options.
I went to my doctor on day 365. She prescribed me Clomid or what I like to call the “feels like your prego with out the baby pill”. It made me nauseas, angry, sweaty and fat. For a pill that is supposed to aid in getting pregnant this one is way off the mark. Who wants to have sex with a pukey, mean, fat girl? After 6 months, 30 pounds, and a list of foods I can’t even look at now with out feeling nausea, I stopped taking the drug and searched for another option.
In July 2012 my doctor sent to me to a fertility specialist (aka drain your savings because it doesn’t matter the cost for a baby doctor). After a series of tests, they found nothing wrong. What? Nothing wrong? Then why am I not pregnant! Being diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”, in my opinion was not ‘good news’. I would have rather been told I had something wrong. When you have something wrong you can generally solve the problem. With no problem, how am I going to “fix” this?
I believe there is a lot of guilt that women carry that are struggling with infertility. We blame ourselves daily. I had a sense of relief when they had Clayton test his sperm. I secretly felt that this would be easier if he was the one causing our infertility. Luckily, no luck. His swimmers were competing with Michael Phelps and once again I felt the weight on my shoulders. I felt like it was my fault.
After all of our testing, the doctor recommended I clean up my diet, drop 10 pounds (thank you Clomid and ice cream cravings) and let my body rest so we could start an IUI cycle the following month. When the doctor told me I would have to wait until the next month to start the IUI Cycle, I cried uncontrollably. I wanted to get pregnant right that second. I didn’t want to wait anymore. Not a day and especially not a month! July crept by at a slow crawl and my August period couldn’t come fast enough. When my period finally came, I started the drugs and quickly had to overcome my fear of needles.
If you haven’t had an IUI or are not familiar with the process, it is not a one day event. Everyone has different outlines but I was instructed to give myself a shot in the stomach everyday followed by giving blood and having vaginal sonograms every other day during the month of my cycle. For a girl who is terrified of needles and had to be held down by multiple nurses for her last shot, this was not a walk in the park.
After the IUI procedure we had to wait 11 days for the results. A week and a half never lasted so long. There are moments you never forget and that you can recall like they just happened. Getting the phone call with the results of our first IUI is one of those moments for me. Clayton answered the phone. He walked into the other room and when he came back in I saw his face and I knew I wasn’t pregnant. No words were said and in silence my heart fell to the ground as I cried and collapsed in Clayton’s arms. I was devastated. He was devastated. It was one of the worst moments I have every experienced.
The next few days were a blur. Depression is the only word that might describe the state I was in. The following Sunday we were driving to church and it was raining. I have always loved the rain but today I felt comforted by it falling all around me. I felt that God was crying with me and the rain allowed me to know He understood my pain and reminded me of how much He loved me. It seems silly reading that statement and writing it down but moments like these are what allow me to keep moving, to keep trying and to feel hope.
I was eager to schedule our second IUI procedure. I was hopeful. I just knew it was going to work this time. Days leading up to the IUI procedure, I started to get sick. I panicked. I was scared that my sickness would affect me getting pregnant. The day of the procedure I was super sick. The kind of sick you have to call in your mom for reinforcement to make sure you don’t die. This type of procedure is not something you can just reschedule as it is perfectly timed with your egg release. The next 48 hours I was in constant prayer that my body would be strong enough to accept this baby. I pleaded with God in desperation.
I went to an urgent care facility and cried as I told the doctor I just had an IUI procedure and I could be pregnant. He told me I probably just had a cold and to get some rest. He said if I was pregnant there wasn’t much he could give me. I was in so much pain and not getting better and agreed to go with my mom to our family doctor in my hometown about an hour away. The family doctor immediately sent me to the hospital. I had a severe case of Pneumonia.
At one point during one of the consults, I remember the doctor saying that I needed to put my health first even if I was pregnant. My mothering instinct immediately kicked in and I begged and cried that he wouldn’t give me anything or have me do anything that would affect the baby.
While in recovery, I listened to the song “I still believe” by Jeremy Camp. With unmanageable tears I would pray while saying the words of the song out loud, almost in an attempt to convince myself they were true. It saddens my heart to not have faith. I do believe in God’s faithfulness and I know He has a plan but there are moments when I am only filled with sadness.
After two weeks in and out of the hospital I was finally released. The first night I returned home I woke up in the middle of the night needing to throw up. My stomach was cramping and I realized I was bleeding heavily. I cant find the words to describe the pain. Not a physical pain but an emotional pain that hurt to the core. I will never know if I was pregnant or not for sure but if I was, I knew in that moment I had lost the pregnancy.
After the second IUI with no success, I needed a break. A break from the drugs, the process, and the disappointment. We stopped all treatments and after a few months I was able to start feeling ‘normal’ again. The new year came and again I was hopeful for a fresh start.
In March 2013, Clayton went into surgery for a routine ACL repair. After the surgery the doctors told us that they had found a mass in his knee. They sent it off to the lab and the next thing I know we are sitting in a doctor’s office discussing cancer treatments. Clayton was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma cancer. The doctor discussed treatment options and after hearing the words “you will probably not be able to have kids” if you choose to have chemo therapy, I heard Clayton’s heart stop followed by my own and a rush of tears that I tried to hold back. We choose not to do the chemo therapy but following his diagnosis he had to have another surgery and two months of daily radiation. Because of the radiation the doctor advised us to not try for a baby for six months after the radiation was completed as a precaution.
In January 2014, Clayton received a clean bill of health and we were nervous and excited about trying to conceive again. I was ready for a fresh start and thought that cancer and infertility would be a welcomed goodbye in 2014. We wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to try and conceive naturally so we did not schedule any procedures and prayed that we would soon meet our baby.
In July 2014 God placed on our heart that we should consider adoption. This was a complete shock for me. To be completely honest adoption was something I feared. I believe the fear stemmed from the idea of failure and not being able to conceive but God is so much bigger than any of my plans. For the next five months we immersed ourselves in adoption and have the paper cuts to prove it.
In December 2014, our world was turned upside down. We were told that Clayton’s cancer had returned and had metastasized to his lungs. This news was devastating. Instead of having our home study completed for our adoption at the start of the new year as planned, we began January 2015 in the hospital where they removed part of Clayton’s lung.
Today we are focused on Clayton’s health and continue to pray for our baby while placing our hope and faith in our Heavenly Father. The surprise of cancer has made me grateful for my husband and thankful for each moment we have together. It has reminded both of us that this life is only a glimpse of eternity. As with infertility, it reminds us that God is in control. I have come to appreciate the quote “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.
Through this process I have learned patience and humility. I also have learned that even on my worst day, someone else has trials larger than mine.
I have gained a new found talent of crying at the mention of a baby – Clayton no longer allows me to watch any shows related to kids as a result of my ugly cry performances.
I smile (awkwardly too long) at strangers babies in the grocery store that are a different race than I am, dreaming of the day I get to meet my adopted son or daughter.
I have gained new friends with a special bond that have given me strength and hope as we walk through these experiences together. My wish in sharing this part of my life is to encourage anyone in the midst of a similar journey, know that you are not alone.
I encourage you to choose joy with me this year. Through cancer, through infertility, through suffering and misunderstood plans, this year I am choosing joy.