Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Infertility - One Little Word, A World of Hurt

I start this post with a very heavy heart. I-N-F-E-R-T-I-L-I-T-Y. 11 little letters that stab the heart of any man or woman experiencing it and sparks memory of a long, hard-fought battle for anyone who has overcome it. If you've never battled infertility, I know it's hard to relate but as someone who struggled for years, I can't tell you the strong emotions this one little word evokes.

Since I've announced my quadruplet pregnancy, I've definitely been plagued with a number of insensitive questions and statements about my pregnancy. I know that most are not mean-spirited and are really just innocent questions on the part of someone not knowing better. However, in spite of all of the questions I receive on a daily basis now from friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike, perhaps the worst, were ones I got while quietly battling an all out internal war against this hurtful, painful disease.  

Unlike so many illnesses, because of it's nature, couples usually battle infertility quietly and alone.  Month after month of negative pregnancy tests, unanswered prayers, and ultimately, experiencing a monthly mourning process can wreck havoc on your life, your marriage, your finances, everything; because the topic isn't one you can really freely discuss with everyone you meet, or even close friends/family, you feel completely alone. If you're one of the lucky ones, you may have close friends/family to share your struggles with you. Unfortunately, well meaning friends' advice is sometimes misguided as even though they try hard to understand and be sympathetic, the truth is, if you've never been there, you'll never understand.  You will never understand the hurt every time another friend/family member announces the news that they are expecting. You will never understand how something as sweet and special as a baby shower, can become hours of all-out torture to someone who wants nothing more than to carry their own child. You'll never understand just how complicated the situation is and how advice to "just relax and it will happen" is possibly one of the most insensitive things you could ever say to someone battling infertility. 

Recently, a close family member made the comment that they couldn't believe Adam and I went straight to fertility drugs so soon after getting married. Naturally, this insensitive statement brought flashbacks of the years of internal struggles I fought quietly while I watched that same person create their own family one child at a time without a single issue. While I am fairly certain this family member probably didn't know the battle that I had fought alone for over a decade, it definitely didn't make it any less painful. You see, I battled (and continue to battle) with a condition known as PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). It is a hormonal issue which in the most basic terms, makes it to where I do not ovulate. Although I was not diagnosed until my twenties, I am convinced that this condition has affected me my entire life. I was the last of all my friends growing up to get my period (in fact, I even lied at one point and said I had gotten it when I hadn't because it took so long to come) and when it did come, it was completely irregular and often painful. Along with irregular periods, other symptoms of the condition are weight issues, acne, and facial hair. Looking back, it was easy to miss these symptoms as a teenager - they all seem like regular teenage hormonal issues. Unfortunately, the issues never worked themselves out. In fact, the only time in my life where I have ever had regular periods, was when I was on the birth-control pill (which isn't good for your health either). In my mid-twenties, I started having issues with some pain on my right side that eventually prompted me to go to the doctor. After seeing multiple specialists, I was finally diagnosed with a dermoid cyst on my right ovary and PCOS throughout. I had to undergo surgery to remove the dermoid cyst which was the size of a walnut. Along with the cyst, they were also forced to remove a portion of that ovary. At the time, I was told that only 20% of the ovary was needed in order to be function and I had about 70% remaining. 

When Adam and I first met, I made it very clear to him that I wanted a family and children. I also didn't hold back about the fertility issues  either because I wanted him to know up front what he was getting into. I'll never forget when Adam told me if it was a baby that I wanted, he would find a way to give me a baby. He's definitely held true to that promise! :)

While Adam and I were able to put an end to our battle with infertility and actually achieve pregnancy, many couples don't have the same outcome.  We know that we still aren't out of the woods yet and we have a long journey in front of us before actually becoming parents (and then it's an even longer journey)!

That said, I thought I'd close with a list of things to NEVER say to a person struggling with fertility:

  • "When are you going to have a baby?" - Maybe they can't! I know it seems like a very innocent question and of course you didn't mean anything by it, but to a couple struggling with infertility, this question stings!
  • "Just relax and when the time is right, it will happen." - This is so much easier said than done. While this may be the case for some couples, it's not for many. When there is a true medical issue that is keeping pregnancy from occurring, the person could be the most relaxed person on Earth and it wouldn't make a difference with them becoming pregnant. 
  • "Have you tried acupuncture/clomid/soy/IUI/IVF/standing on your head at a 60 degree angle for 20 minutes?"  - This is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, chances are, they probably HAVE tried it already. Best advice, unless you are a licensed medical provider, stay away from giving advice regarding reproductive health.
Finally, here are a few things that actually DO help:

  • Listen! Just be there for them. You don't have to talk; let them be the ones to talk (or cry). 
  • Don't offer up advice unless they specifically ask you for it.
  • Just let them know you care.
  • Pray - seriously, some of the best words we received were the prayers that our friends lifted up to the Lord for us. We brought this to our life group in early 2013 and spent much time praying on it with them. It's amazing as we wrap up this year to see all of the prayers that were answered. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

22 Week Update

(22 weeks pregnant)

I've been meaning to post an update but it seems like this week has just been crazy busy! Between beginning the process of wrapping things up at work, getting settled in our house, doctor's visits, Christmas parties and the overall fact that I'm really starting to slow down a bit, it's been tough to get the energy to open up the laptop. In fact, usually, when I hit the recliner, I'm out for the count! 

We had our 22-week doctor's visit on Monday. Overall, we are all doing really well. Everyone's fluids are doing well, heart beats are strong, and I'm hanging in there too. She told me it was time to start thinking about wrapping things up at the office and to really take it extra easy at home in the evenings and on the weekends.  I'll admit, when she told me that earlier this week, I felt like she was pushing it as I felt good; but as the week has gone on, I appreciate her saying those things. I'm really starting to feel this pregnancy. My carpal tunnel has moved more into my left hand meaning it too goes numb constantly and will wake me up in the middle of the night. My joints are also starting to hurt and as my "bump" develops more, it's pulling my back into an angle and causing pain there too! Did I mention how tired I am? I've started randomly passing out in the car and as I mentioned earlier, whenever I sit in the recliner to watch TV, I often pass out there too!

Other than that, things are going really well. We are excited to be taking maternity photos next week before Christmas and before they anticipate putting me in the hospital around the first of the year. Who knows, if I'm extra ambitious, I may even get a few Christmas cards out with maternity photos on them. 

Other than that, our plans are to enjoy the Christmas season for what it truly is about - Jesus' birth! As we prepare for the birth of our own four little miracles, it's amazing to think of what a TRUE miracle Jesus is and the wondrous story of His birth in a stable. It really does put things into perspective as so many people are caught up in the "commercialism" of Christmas, buying presents, spending money, etc. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends and look forward to a quiet, special Christmas this year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expectations vs Reality in the Life of a Christian Wife and Mother

(21 week photo - note the unpacked boxes in the background which just go to illustrate what I talk about in this post)

Thus far, I've really managed to have this blog echo the persona I hope that I project to others: lighthearted, upbeat and positive. The truth is, I've really struggled with this post. It's something that's been on my mind for quite some time but I've been afraid to address it in such a public way out of fear of offending some, fear of the feedback I'd get from others and probably most of all, fear of showing vulnerability. After much consideration, I realize that I truly am vulnerable and that without Christ, I am nothing. Therefore, there's nothing for me to lose here and perhaps this post will actually relate to other women (and maybe even some men) and together, we can encourage and inspire one another.  

I have been blessed. God has blessed me with a career in an amazing company. Not only that, I have been able to work my way up through the company into a position that I am passionate about. I love what I do as a Corporate Recruiter. I love the relationships and trust that I build with my hiring managers as well as the candidates that I hire. I love that the result of my hard work, usually has a positive outcome and that I am able to impact people's lives for the better. That said, I always knew that as a woman with a passion to become a mother, there would come a day when I would have to make a choice between my career and my family.  When Adam entered my life, for the first time, I began to seriously contemplate the choices that we would need to make together. 

When Adam and I decided to begin trying to become parents, our expectation was that IF we were able to conceive, there would only be one baby. I don't think anyone ever expects quadruplets or that it's something anyone sets out to "achieve".  Our intentions were that with one baby, I would go back to work after a regular maternity leave and we would be able find an amazing childcare provider as well as keep up our busy lifestyle.  I would be able to manage my career by keeping a strict schedule at the office and working diligently to separate work and home life. 

God quickly let me know that He had other plans when he chose us to parent four children all the same age. Nothing about this pregnancy, or our lives is "regular" anymore. With four babies, all expectations go out the window.  Seriously, for some (especially myself), it's hard to imagine not being able to plan even some of the most minor things we take for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring when pregnant with quadruplets. Each night, I thank God for keeping me home and away from bed rest for one more day and I ask him for one more, knowing that eventually, my time will run out. You literally have to take it one day at a time, and sometimes, one hour at a time in such a high-risk pregnancy. I have no reason to think that will change once the babies are actually here. 

I also immediately knew that with four babies at once, there wasn't much of an option for me to quit working and become a stay-at-home Mom. Now, even more so, it is important for me to continue to work. Although Adam and I are both blessed with good jobs, he works in an independent sales position that does not offer benefits.  My position comes with an array of solid benefits that will help to support our family and are necessary for our family to prosper.

As a Christian woman in today's society, it can be really difficult to keep up with all of life's daily demands.  We want to follow the Bible and serve our husbands as well as take care of our family but economic situations often force us out of the home and into the work force. I've sat on the sidelines and watched female leaders in my industry work long-hours due to corporate/society expectations. Some are successful and are (at least on the outside) able to implement a system that works for them, their husband, and their children. Although I expect there are days when they want to do nothing more but pull their hair out and scream at the top of their lungs but I'm pretty sure that comes regardless of one's employment status.  Others are not so successful and end up putting in long hours at the office working to climb the corporate ladder to provide for their family only at the cost of watching their families fall apart as the cost for their corporate -success.  I've sat back and watched the stay-at-home moms not only struggle with staying on top of managing their households, but also struggle with managing expectations, acceptance, adult friendships, and the general feeling of lack of interaction with other adults. I've read the blogs of other women, glowing in their pregnancy, as they actually leave their careers behind and move on to their new career as a mom/wife. I also see tons of wonderful, creative, beautifully crafted Pinterest ideas (which is an entirely different subject).  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't envious of those women who are able to put their entire focus into their family and home. In my heart, I'd love to spend my days caring for my husband, my home, and my children, planning wonderful meals, creating fun, yet educational activities for my children all while caring for and decorating my beautiful home and spending evenings cuddled with my husband on the couch watching movies and lovingly gazing into each other's eyes. 

In reality, as I get closer and closer to the time that I go out on leave from my career, and as my pregnancy progresses, I  struggle with finding energy at the end of the day to cook a hot meal for my husband, keep up with the laundry, or just push the vacuum across the living room floor. I'm really struggling with trying to determine and prepare for how I will manage once the babies are here.  Let me be clear that God has been gracious and blessed me with a strong support system. My husband has picked up lots of my slack around the house, and can often be found running the vacuum, straightening up after me due to my lack of energy, or toting groceries into the house because I can't carry them. My Mom has been amazing and has helped me to keep up with some of my household responsibilities and I have no doubt will be a HUGE help with caring for the babies once they are born. My sweet mother-in-law from out of state has also volunteered her time once the babies are home as well to help us get started with our adventure into parenthood.  That said, I have a lifetime ahead of me of managing my career as well as my household. I struggle with wondering how I can find balance between my career and what I can do to serve my husband, take care of my household, financially support my family and still provide my children with a loving, Christian environment to grow up in as well as serve as a role model for my daughters. 

I pray every single day that God will go with me and show me the path He wants me to take. I know that God will not give me more than I can handle, but I can't help but think about what life will be like trying to manage a career and keep a strong marriage, all while spending sleepless nights with four crying, hungry babies. I know it won't be easy by any means, but anything worth having doesn't come easy. I just pray that God's grace alone will be enough to get me by.