Kiss Your Miracle

motherhood after infertility

My Story April 14, 2009

Filed under: — Linnea Curington @ 7:38 pm

I grew up in a family of nine and always hoped someday I’d have babies of my own.  But one year into our marriage, my husband Adam and I learned through fertility tests that I wasn’t ovulating because of a life-long hormone condition. And obviously, if you aren’t ovulating you can’t get pregnant.

We found out a year later that on top of my hormone problem, I also had no working fallopian tubes. I’d known about the problem on one side – my left tube had been surgically removed several years earlier because it had been damaged by an ovarian cyst. But after another fertility test, we learned my right tube wasn’t functioning either. It was blocked for an unknown reason. Adam and I were told we had just one option if we wanted biological children:  in vitro fertilization (IVF).

During IVF, a doctor removes eggs from the woman’s body and an embryologist combines the healthy eggs with the husband’s sperm. Then the doctor places one or more viable embryos directly into the mother’s uterus. Hormones are all regulated with daily injections. At the time, IVF cost around $10,000, and required many visits to the fertility clinic each week of the six week cycle.

Infertility

As a teenager, I worried it might be hard for me to get pregnant someday. I even talked with Adam about it before we got married. People always say most of what we worry about never happens, but I’d been right to wonder about my body.  It felt like one of my worst fears had come true. I might not get to have babies and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without that.

Adam always referred to the physical problems in my body as “our” infertility, but I still felt responsible. I would think about all the girls who’d had crushes on him before he chose me and how he’d probably be a father already if he’d picked one of them to marry instead. I felt like he’d been cheated because he ended up with me. I had so much shame over the infertility that I convinced Adam we needed to keep it completely private. We told no one about our diagnosis except my mom. Not even his parents knew. I just couldn’t handle the thought of their disappointment.

For a year after my diagnosis, we did nothing except wait and pray and talk about IVF. Time helped us accept the fact that we would need help if wanted to conceive and it allowed us the chance to save our money and explore the ethics of IVF. After a year had passed, we were actually very excited to try it.

One month before our cycle was scheduled to start, I finally agreed we should tell Adam’s parents and two of our close friends. But that was it. I didn’t want anyone else to know, not even the rest of my family. My plan was to get pregnant on the first try and pretend like the infertility had never happened at all.

My plan failed. When our IVF cycle was finished, we still ended up with a negative pregnancy test. The money we’d spent, my daily drives up to the fertility clinic in Gainesville for blood tests and ultrasounds, my nightly injections, all the hoping and praying – it felt like it had all been for nothing.

The doctors told us the cycle had gone well despite the fact that I wasn’t pregnant, and encouraged us to try at least two more times before we gave up. But the thought of saving another $10,000 and starting at the beginning again was too much at that point. I was also teaching full-time. We’d done our first cycle over summer vacation, but now the school year was about to start. Unless I took a leave of absence from work, I wouldn’t have time for the daily appointments. We decided to wait another year and hopefully try our second cycle during my next summer vacation.

Faith

During the two months around our IVF cycle, a few other things happened: my grandma died, our kitten disappeared off the porch, and my doctor found a bit of skin cancer on my face. All that combined with the infertility turned me into a heartbroken mess. I couldn’t fathom why God wouldn’t want me to get pregnant. I could barely get out of bed, but as a high school teacher with 175 freshmen in my six English classes, I needed to be a high energy motivator.

People like to say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but I don’t agree with that. I think he purposely leads us through things we definitely cannot handle because that’s when we allow Him full access to our lives. I reached a point where things were going to go one way or another. I couldn’t be a half-hearted Christian. I was either going to walk away from God completely or I was going to follow Him, even if He was leading me into a future I’d never imagined for myself. It felt like God was saying, “Are you going to love me even if I never give you a baby? Even if you never understand why I don’t bless you that way?”

I did a lot of thinking and crying during those days, and I knew I wanted to follow Him. But I needed help. So I finally agreed with Adam that we should open up about our infertility. I’m not saying this is something every couple dealing with infertility should do – it’s an extremely painful and private issue. But I knew telling our friends and family was something God wanted us to do.

It wasn’t easy for me. I worried people might judge us for trying IVF and tell us we needed to “just relax” or put our names on an adoption waiting list because as soon as we did that we’d magically get pregnant. But I couldn’t keep pretending everything was fine and that I loved my career as a teacher too much to want kids. So we started carefully and slowly telling people we trusted.

I also realized I needed more Christian friends. Not just people who casually go to church sometimes – but people who were deep and mature and further along in their faith than I was. I joined a women’s Bible study at my church, and after a month of meetings, told them about the infertility too. It was scary. I hated the thought of anyone feeling sorry for me, even though I often felt sorry for myself. And I have to admit, there were times when I sat in church and felt like some of the people sitting around me knew a little too much about my life. But I never regretted my decision to be open and real with the women in my church. They prayed with me and for me and some of them even cried with me.

The school year slowly rolled by and soon enough, it was April. If we wanted to try another cycle of IVF in June, we needed to set up our schedule with the clinic. But something was holding me back from making that call. I didn’t know why, but I felt very unsettled whenever I thought about IVF. I couldn’t figure it out. The first time I’d been so excited. Now I felt nothing but anxiety.

When I finally admitted to Adam that I felt funny about our plans, he said he felt the same way. Even though we wanted a baby more than ever, we felt like we weren’t supposed to start another IVF cycle yet. We’d been praying together, reading the Bible, even fasting a couple meals a week together. We still believed that God works through fertility treatments and we had the money for our second cycle sitting in our checking account. So why did we feel like we were supposed to wait? The only answer we could come up with was the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason, it seemed like it wasn’t the right time for us to try again.

Waiting

The day we made the decision to wait I cried until my head felt like it might explode. I didn’t have peace about waiting. Anyone dealing with infertility knows that the slow passage of time is one of the hardest things about it. All I knew was that it seemed like God wanted us to hold off on treatment for a while, and if we went ahead with it anyway things would not work out well. It felt like God had made the decision for us.

Proverbs 20:24 says, “A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?” When the fall came Adam and I still weren’t sure why we’d let the summer go by without trying IVF again, but by then we did feel more settled about it. We decided to focus on the present and tentatively plan for IVF the following summer, two full years after our first cycle.

For a long time whenever I prayed for a miracle baby, I meant an IVF baby. Adam and I didn’t even ask God for a natural conception. Why pray for that when I had no working fallopian tubes and I wasn’t ovulating? Instead we thanked God for making smart people who developed the medical technology behind IVF and prayed that he’d help us come up with the time and money to try it again. But then my Bible study did Beth Moore’s Believing God. Beth pointed out that Christians are supposed to be defined by our faith in God Almighty. How can we identify ourselves as believers when we don’t ask God to do anything more than what we already think is possible?

Adam and I decided to pray for a miracle baby. If God chose to use IVF, we were still okay with that. But for the first time, we were seriously asking God for a surprise pregnancy, despite what we knew about my body. Like Beth says, we were praying prayers so big “God must be throwing back his head in laughter.” We decided we’d rather pray for the impossible and have God say no than not even ask and realize in heaven how much we’d missed out on.

Pregnancy

I started feeling sick around Thanksgiving. When Adam brought up the idea of taking a pregnancy test I refused. “I have the flu!” I told him. I have friends who do pregnancy tests once a month. But for me a pregnancy test meant one thing – a crying session on the bathroom floor. Once he mentioned it though, the possibility was out there, floating around in the air between us. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

That day in the bathroom Adam said, “Taking a pregnancy test is like a statement of faith. We’re showing God we believe he is able to give us a baby, even when it’s not medically possible.” I took the test and it was positive. Adam was excited. “Go get another test!” I told him. The second one was positive too. So was the third one we did in the doctor’s office two days later. But it still didn’t seem real until we had our first ultrasound and saw a tiny heart beat flickering on the screen. Laughing through my tears, I looked at Adam and said, “How did it get in there?” Apparently my hormones kicked in and I ovulated at the right time. We still don’t know what happened to my fallopian tube – how or if it opened itself up – just that God put our baby where she needed to be.

I wish I had videos of all the people we got to tell about the pregnancy. When we first started sharing about the infertility I never imagined that we’d later have the chance to tell them God had miraculously answered our prayers. But those conversations are now some of my favorite memories of all time. To say that our friends and family were happy for us is an understatement. I am so grateful they were all in on what God had done for us, that our answered prayer was also their answered prayer.

Motherhood

As the weeks slowly went by and my belly grew, the realization sank in that yes, God was really giving us exactly what we’d asked of him. We were going to be parents. Skylar Grace was born on July 22nd, 2008. Our miracle had arrived! I finally had what I’d always wanted and we all lived happily ever after.

Actually, we kept living in reality, which meant sleepless nights, breastfeeding issues, and lots and lots of crying. Skylar cried and I cried. My transition into motherhood was surprisingly difficult. I was a teenager when my youngest sibling was born so I grew up babysitting. I was a nanny during college and assumed mothering would come naturally to me. I was shocked by how hard it was. Sky was not an easy baby. I won’t go into all the details. Let me just say again that Skylar cried. A lot.

Thankfully, my mom encouraged me constantly. She’d had seven babies, each with his or her own unique personality. She had some that rarely cried and some that fussed nonstop, so she was the perfect person to convince me that yes, I was doing a good job, no, my daughter didn’t hate me, and yes, Sky would eventually grow and leave her constant crying stage behind.

Those days and nights were long, but it was during Sky’s first few months of life that I developed a deep gratitude for my experience with infertility. No matter how hard it was to be a mom, I couldn’t forget what it had been like to wonder if I might never have children at all. Even now, when whining, complaining thoughts enter my mind (which they do on a regular basis), all I have to do is look through my old journals and I’m reminded of what it really felt like during those days, back when our house was too quiet and too clean. I wouldn’t wish the heartache of infertility on anyone. But God has brought so much good out of that dark time in my life that I’m thankful for it.

Things with Sky got better with each passing week. Today she’s a high-energy, happy little girl. And when she was nine months old, I got pregnant again. We had another early ultrasound just to be sure the baby was in my uterus and not my fallopian tube, and right away we saw our son on the screen, another healthy heart beating away. In some ways I was more emotional the second time around. I couldn’t get over the extravagance of God, that He wouldn’t just wipe away our infertility and make us parents, but He would give us another child, and so quickly too.

Micah Nathan was born February 8th, 2010, named for the prophet in the Bible (Micah) and my dad (Nathan), who passed away November 3rd, 2009, just 42 days after his terminal cancer diagnosis. I spent two months of the pregnancy with my family in Michigan, grateful for every moment I had with my dad before he went to heaven. Losing my dad was the hardest thing my family has ever gone through, but God’s blessings were all over us during that time. People often said to me during those weeks and at my dad’s funeral, “What a difficult time to be pregnant!” I appreciated their sympathy, but I think the timing was perfect. Micah is a living, breathing reminder of God’s goodness.

I am convinced that being a parent is the toughest job God can give a person in this lifetime. But what I’ve always known proves itself true every day – there is nothing I’d rather do with my life more than be a mother. And God, through my infertility, taught me not to take it for granted.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

 

14 Responses to “My Story”

  1. Aron Says:

    Linnea, your blog is absolutely beautiful. Even the colors and design are so peaceful and tranquil, it just reflects who you are and what God has done in your life. Your posts have moved me to tears and reminded me of some really good conversations we shared over coffee. I am so very grateful you chose to share your journey with me so we could go through it together. It means more than I can say. Thank you for your openness, for letting God use your struggle to encourage others. Thanks for being such a good friend. Love, Aron

  2. bostonsmama Says:

    Linnea, what a beautiful testament to God’s unending grace and love. Every good gift that comes out of us is from the Holy Spirit–including our amazing testimonies of faith in the midst of infertility. I’ve also walked this path for 5 years and have four losses (two following IVF) under my belt, and I count it an honor to endure long-suffering that can give glory back to the Lord. You have a wonderful way with words, and I’m inspired by your faith and tenacity. What a marvelous gift you must be to your SIL Aron, and what a humbling gift she must be to you!

    I look forward to following your “blog” and getting to know you better through Hannah’s Prayer. Welcome. :)

  3. Karla Says:

    Hi Linnea, thanks for sharing this. Your story brought me to tears few times. I had no idea you went through all of this. Your little girl is such a miracle. You reminded me to not take this time for granted and wish it away. I often do with the twins. My days get long and I wish for the next phase to come. Thanks for the reminder. Loads of love to you and Adam. Thanks again for sharing this. You will touch so many lives with your story.

  4. Mary Says:

    Hello Linni,

    Your mom forwarded your site to me yesterday and I loved every article, especially the ones with photos! Keep it up. What a blessing to all but particularly to young mothers. We’re looking forward to having you and Skylar here next week for graduation. I will be in Minnesota for the week and will get back late Saturday. Can’t wait to see Skylar…you too of course!

    Blessings

  5. Heather Swaya Says:

    Hi Linni,

    I can’t believe so much time has gone by, but I will remember childhood moments so clearly. From things as simple as you getting smacked with a ball in scramble and bruising so easily. It’s crazy! I love your blog and what better way for a writer to get out her internal thoughts. It’s great to share your stories. This is obviously how we relate as humans. I have a cousin that is around 38 and she has tried for years to have children and finally adopted. Would you believe on accident this year they told her at her age she is pregnant. After having raised stepson and her adopted child who is now 6 yrs. old she is bringing life into the world. God works in mysterious ways.

  6. TLC Says:

    Linnea,
    Thank-you for sharing with others what is going on in your life. Your gift for writing inspires your readers to keep looking to the Lord during the most difficult times. I admire your courage to be so transparent with your deepest thoughts, which encourages those who read it to take the chance to do the same. Your blog is a rippling effect of blessings in so many people’s lives. May God bless you in every area of your life.

  7. Cassidy Novak Says:

    We are so happy for you two!! What an amazing story to share and inspire others! God is truly good- He is Rarely when we feel is “ON TIME”- but NEVER LATE…
    I know so many women who are struggling with what you have overcome- and I look forward to passing on the encouragment to them! I feel that whne we go through trials and tribulations it’s actually a blessing. Because we truly grow and learn what dependance on “God alone” truly is!! Mya God continue to bless your wonderful family- Tell Adam I said hello!!
    Love- Cassidy Novak (Gail & Bruce’s daughter in Chicago)

  8. Bruce Ballard Says:

    Linnea & Adam

    Hi Guys! What an amazing experience with the faithfulness of God. Truly it brings to light”That NOTHING is impossible with our GOD!! I am encouraged while I wait on the Lord with things that seem impossible also. Thank You for sharing this.

    God Bless your Family.

    Bruce & Gail Ballard

  9. Luke Says:

    Your story and the way you tell it is inspiring. Thank you Linnea.

  10. Steph VG Says:

    Linnea,
    Our folks are friends from way back; I have no idea if you and I have ever met, but I do know that while they were exchanging Christmas cards, I saw a family picture every year. My mom sent me the link to your blog today, and all I’ve read is your story. My husband and I are unable to get pregnant, and just now the pain is so raw that I’m not sure I could read the rest of your blog, but I did want to tell you that I praise God with you for how He has blessed your family with life. Thanks for being willing to share your story.

    In Christ,
    Stephanie Van Gorden, daughter of Jim & Martye Lowery

  11. Cori Says:

    Lin – I just read this story – made me cry all over again! What a blessing Sky is to your life and I am so thankful to have played a role in loving you and listening to you through one of your toughest times. I’m so glad God gave us all each other!

  12. Nancy Says:

    Linnea,
    You don’t know me, I am Pastor Craig’s daughter and knew your family from Moody Church. Your grandmother, Aunt Pat to me, was my Sunday School teacher. She was the dearest lady. I hope someday I can tell you what your Grandmother meant to me when I moved from Cleveland to Chicago in my senior year of highschool. Dad loved your parents and Mary and Berv. I have been praying for your family everyday as you have watched your father enter Heaven. Dad was there to greet him. I will now pray for you as you and Adam welcome a new little one to this earth. I have no children and am fully aware of the paint that accompanies infertility. How wonderful that God has blessed you now with two children. I know you and Adam will be great parents. My job is to pray for families, you will be added to my list. Bless you.

  13. gia Says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I are battling with inferility. The doctor says my tubes are blocked but I know that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH THE LORD! Please pray for all the women who fight this battle everyday. May God bless you and your family always.

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