As a forewarning, this #TestimonyTuesday includes topics that could be triggering to some people, including discussions of infertility. Also, Taylor is a super nurse who is incredibly smart so she uses a lot of really specific medical terms – please don’t let that dissuade you. Her testimony is so important and I have no doubt that God will speak to you through it.
Hopes and Dreams
As a young girl, my dreams for my future seemed relatively typical: get married, have five kids (two of which would be adopted), be a stay-at-home mom. The wildest part about my future plans was that I wanted to live in a duplex with my sister and her family, and if I’m being honest here, that’s still the dream. I knew I was meant to be a mom, and coming from a massive family and extended family, I had no doubt that I would have children as soon as I was ready for them.
When Austin and I got engaged, we started going to Natural Family Planning classes as a part of our marriage preparation. Early on in our charting, we realized something was off with my hormones. After several blood draws, we found a dosing of progesterone supplementation that seemed to be working in regulating my cycles. We thought this was going to be the key for maintaining a pregnancy once we were married.
On our wedding day, we vowed to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up in the Catholic Church, and we wholeheartedly meant it. We assumed we would have to drive an E350 with the amount of kids we were planning on having, and we had lists of baby names that we playfully fought about, as we couldn’t agree on any of them. We started trying to get pregnant right away with hormonal supplementation. After a couple of months, we returned to our NaPro healthcare provider who tested my hormones again and increased my progesterone. Additionally, we had Austin’s counts checked, which were all perfect. We became discouraged with the lack of answers, but we continued on this course, fully trusting that God would provide.
After a couple more months with nothing happening, my Nurse Practitioner thought I was having some symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). We did more blood draws to test more hormones. My hormone panel did not reveal any unnatural levels of male hormones or androgens, but my estrogen and progesterone levels were still uncontrolled. My estrogen levels throughout my cycle were 4-5 times the amount that a woman with normal hormone levels would have, and even with supplementation, my progesterone was near zero. I started more supplements and was scheduled for a glucose tolerance test. The glucose tolerance test was as terrible as every pregnant woman will tell you but amplified by the fact that I was doing this test sans pregnancy. The testing resulted and showed that I was insulin-resistant, so I was started on metformin, which is a medication that is typically used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Metformin has side effects that are less than comfortable, and it affected how I lived my life. Part of the testing that I went through included some ultrasounds to look at my uterine lining and ovaries. While my lining was fine, my ovaries were, in fact, polycystic. Because of my polycystic ovaries, my insulin resistance, and my estrogen and progesterone levels, I was diagnosed with PCOS. This was a difficult blow because infertility is a classic symptom of PCOS, but my team seemed optimistic about having a clear way to treat PCOS.
We continued with these treatments until 2018 with tweaking hormones, medication dosages, and supplements until my team decided it was time to consider surgical intervention. I had just graduated nursing school, and Austin and I had officially moved to Denver, Colorado. I was waiting to interview for the job I would eventually start in November. We drove back to Omaha, and I prepared for my first time ever having surgery in September. In our preoperative appointments, our doctor had said they were assuming I had endometriosis based off of my symptoms, and they were planning on looking at my ovaries to see if they should do an ovarian wedge resection (OWR) later on, as well as a hysterosalpingogram to ensure my Fallopian tubes were open. YES, we would FINALLY have some answers. Surgery went swimmingly, and there were no complications.
The doctor had found three tiny areas of endometriosis and removed them, my tubes were open, and my ovaries looked good enough that an OWR would not be indicated. While all of these results sound positive, I cannot explain how discouraging it was to hear that there were not really any good reasons that we had not gotten pregnant. We had been optimistically and anxiously awaiting some real answers with real treatments and to be left empty-handed felt awful. It felt like God had abandoned us, and I was starting to become angry. We tried to do the best we could with this information, though, and I lost a little bit of weight and started eating a lot healthier. I transferred all of my fertility care to a specialist in Denver that utilizes the same approach to fertility.
At this new facility, they retested all of my hormones, and because of my lifestyle changes, my insulin came back as normal. I was taken off of metformin, and my new doctor said that I do not have PCOS, which again was positive news but confusing and exceedingly frustrating to lose another reason for why we could not get pregnant. I continued on progesterone, and this doctor wanted to start me on letrozole, which helps to hyperstimulate the ovaries to ovulate. With this, I had to have ultrasounds every couple of days to see if we could see the exact day that I ovulated. These ultrasounds were invasive and uncomfortable. I remember laughing to the ultrasound technologist during one of these and said, “I never thought the first time I had an ultrasound would be to look at my empty uterus.”
Taking a step back from the pain
After two cycles of this, it was the middle of November, and I had started my new job as a brand-new nurse. I was incredibly overwhelmed with all there was to learn at work, and it was difficult for me to get ultrasounds on all of the right days, as I was now working a strange schedule. My doctor said that our next step was a 30-day ultrasound series to keep better track of my ovulation. Austin and I decided this would be too much for us at this time, and we had a difficult conversation where we decided to take a break from all things related to our fertility. I stopped taking all fertility medications, including my progesterone supplementation (for the first time since BEFORE we got married), we stopped charting, we didn’t worry about ultrasounds, peak days, ovulation, or mucus. This time has been healing for us, but the one thing that we were not able to leave with our fertility treatments is the sharp pang that accompanies every pregnancy announcement we see.
Asking Him why
Along with all of the physical testing, poking, and prodding we have endured, our emotional and spiritual realms have felt under attack by infertility. I have questioned God and His plan, and I’ve been so angry with Him because we have tried to be so faithful to Him. It’s been difficult to accept that life truly is not fair, and I’ve realized this most after working with children who have experienced unspeakable violence and trauma. It has been so hard to try to reconcile my faith in this journey, but it has driven every decision we have made. It is most painful for us when we have been questioned by others asking if we are praying enough, as if there is ever a prayer we utter or moment we experience without thinking of what could have been for our family.
I have had to confess several times over the past four and a half years jealousy regarding others who seem to have no difficulties getting pregnant and maintaining those pregnancies. I am grateful for the supportive priests who have absolved me of this and have maintained grace and given me strength from the confessional. Because of the wisdom of these priests, I feel unified with Hannah, who was so hysterical while praying for a child that the High Priest thought she was drunk (but blessed her anyway). It has been difficult to maintain an understanding of myself as a wife, sister, daughter, nurse, and Catholic without letting something that I see as a failure overtake my identity. I am more than a vessel; I am a daughter of God.
Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”1 Samuel 1: 13-16 NIV
Infertility is completely isolating, and it is hard for us to connect with those who may not understand what we are going through. We have also had an awkward time trying to figure out just where we fit in with people our age. Many of our friends are single and are enjoying living that life. Our friends that are married have started having children of their own, and then, we are just left in the middle, not fully engaged with either group.
Many ask us why we have not moved forward with IUI or IVF, and these are valid questions. To us, this is not a step we are willing to take, as it does not align with our beliefs. Others have asked why we don’t just adopt, and this is also valid. As I mentioned in the beginning, I have always wanted to adopt. These are not mutually exclusive options for us, and we would love to adopt in the future. It is simply not what we are being called to at this time. Additionally, it is massively expensive.
The time away from thinking about our fertility has brought healing for both of us, separately and together. It has given me time to figure out who I am and what my life would be like without the children I’ve always hoped for. We’ve been able to spend some time growing in this seemingly hopeless and dark place, and God has provided us with a grace of persistence.
Through this grace, we have finally decided we are both in a place (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) where we are ready to begin this infertility journey again. We are going into this with fresh eyes and open hearts, as we feel we are in a different place. I am assuming we will find some hormonal abnormalities like last time, but other than that, we are trying to remain open to the possibilities.
This post is set to be released the day before our first step in this familiar journey. If you have made it this far, I am grateful to you – I know that this can feel like a lot of unfamiliar and uncomfortable jargon, and I know that my story may trigger you in some way. I ask that you pray for us, as we are so anxious entering into this. It feels like we are getting back into trenches of hard-fought battles, and we could so use the strength of your prayers to help push us through.
Friends – Emily here – I want us all to stop right now and say a prayer for Taylor. That God will fill her with peace on this journey and that her greatest desire will be fulfilled. She is such an amazing, kind, selfless woman and she is LOVED by our Father. I pray that God will bless her ABUNDANTLY and heal her womb and bring life to it. AMEN!