Thursday, July 24, 2014

Survivor's Guilt {Infertility}

This is a post I have struggled many times to write. I have many drafts saved, but none of them I could hit publish on. Until today.

On Wednesday, my husband and 2 youngest sons and I trekked to our hospital to have presumably our final ultrasound for this pregnancy. My thoughts were only of excitement this time as I knew that being over 32 weeks along we would get a better view at his little features. Little guy did not disappoint. He was full of fun facial expressions. Pouted lips, puckered lips, yawns, smiles, frowning face, and sticking his tongue out. Even the technician who sees many many ultrasounds a day was getting a kick out of the show he was putting on. We could even tell that he has hair. Right now he is weighing in at approximately 3 pounds 13 ounces. A little on the small side for his gestation, however this doesn't surprise children have all been 7 pounds 4 ounces, 7 pounds 3 ounces, and 6 pounds 9 ounces.
 It wasn't until I got home that I realized...oh my....that may have been my last ultrasound ever to view a baby growing in my womb! My theme for this entire pregnancy has been to savor. I have tried my hardest to not complain publicly about the sickness, the pains, and the hard parts of pregnancy. I have caved a few times when you are in a feeling of sheer desperation and just need to tell someone that you just don't feel good! Early on in the first trimester I can remember a day where I had complained on Facebook about not feeling well that fact I remember that what I posted was a call out for someone to come help me with my boys for the day because I just physically could not do it that day. Within a matter of no time after that I read another friends status putting a message out to "all of you complaining pregnant women...what is wrong with you?" type of message. Proclaiming that anyone who complains is ungrateful. I immediately felt like it was an attack on myself. Who knows who it was exactly targeted at...but it felt like it was me. So I quickly pulled up my Facebook page and read through all of my recent posts....and declared that I had barely at all complained about my sickness that I was enduring. I believe that statement made by them hurt me because I never ever want anyone to think that I am ungrateful for the ability to produce children. Most people don't know our infertility story . Most people that know me now simply know me as a woman who is weeks away from delivering her 4th son. It was then that I put aside my hurt to realize that the person making that comment was simply speaking out of their own pain. I get it. I totally get it.

What makes today different than any other day? Well this morning I read about another friend who just lost her baby. Reading of their struggles to have children, they do have 1 daughter, but have struggled for years and have endured loss...and many tests with only 1 line on them. I didn't offer her words of wisdom...I have none...and frankly who wants to hear them from someone who is carrying her 4th child.

You see....we too went through infertility struggles. We thought that surely we would be pregnant by the end of our honeymoon. I mean...I come from such a fertile family...and I already had a 5 year old. You would problem! We started our marriage with statements like...let's have 10 children! Thank goodness someone came out with the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen". After that my husband quickly changed his tune to...I think 4 or 5 would be ok. So we were married on June 5th of 2004...and month after month for the next 4-1/2 years came that dreaded moment where you go to the restroom only to find that your efforts had failed. We started seeking infertility answers a year into our marriage. Here are the things we tried:

  1. 2005: We started with a procedure where they shoot the dye up into your uterus to watch it flow through your Fallopian tubes to determine if your ovaries had a clear path to release eggs into your uterus. This is called a hysterosalpingogram. The right problem...the left.....cleared minimal dye. I was on that cold metal table for what felt like forever as they tried and tried to test that left ovary.
  2. 2005: We started clomid. Tried for several months to no avail. 
  3. 2005: Tried Femara. This is actually not a fertility medicine. If I remember correctly it is used to treat PCOS...which I have a little of but not excessive. We tried for a few more months...nothing.
  4. 2006: We took a chill pill for awhile on all treatments...but continued to track and time and take temperatures and all that fun stuff. 
  5. 2007: We were referred to an infertility specialist.
  6. 2007: One thing to note. I am not regular. I go from 28 day cycles to 45 day cycles. I never miss a cycle entirely...but those handy charts used to track...pretty much are of no use to me because I never know just how long my cycle will be.
  7. 2007: James was tested....everything is fine with him.
  8. 2007: I was sent to have exploratory surgery to get a better look at all of my reproductive organs. They make 2 through your belly button and one through your bikini line...blow you up with air...and go in with a camera and dig around. Results...everything looks great! Didn't see a thing wrong. Which is a good feeling...but yet baffling.
  9. 2007: In starts the thoughts of...this is punishment isn't it? Even though I am married and doing everything the "right way"...God is punishing me for the poor choices I made in my youth isn't he...In sets the bitterness. No, I don't want to hold your baby. No, I don't want to be invited to your baby shower. All of the sudden every woman you see appears to be with child in womb. You start settling...and try to convince yourself that you will be just fine if you never have a baby. At least if you have made the decision that you don't want any more will feel like you are in control over the situation. It was all a mask mask the pains in my heart. 
  10. I went to a womens conference. This was led by a woman who has become very dear to me now, but at the time she did not know anything of my life or circumstances. She is also gifted with prophecy...which most of the time comes out through rhymes. In the middle of preaching her sermon she stopped. Walked over to me...and started speaking.. " are not barren. Oh are not. You will one day be like old mother hubbard who lived in a shoe...had so many kids she did not know what to do. Your house will be full" She went on for several moments but this is the only part I remember. Honestly...after she spoke that first part I was a blubbering mess. All of those bitter emotions I was holding in were finally released and I bawled. Oddly after that my anxieties were gone. They would try to creep in, but God would remind me of those words spoken over me and they would soon disintegrate.
  11. 2007: In December I change jobs at the company I had been with for almost 6 years. I go from full-time to part-time and a whole heck of a lot less stress.
  12. 2008: I mention to James about the possibility of IVF....he says no...I don't feel like we are suppose to go that route yet. 
  13. 2008: February...we go on a family vacation to Florida.
  14. 2008: March, I leave my job entirely to work for our business that has grown.
  15. 2008: March...3 days after my last day at job...Easter morning...I take a positive pregnancy test. All the ideas of how I would tell James went out the window as I went running to our bedroom and woke him up frantically waving the stick I had just peed on in his face. I quickly drank like a gallon of water...ran to Hy-Vee, bought more tests...came back home...3 for 3...positive! To this day whenever I see the cashier at Hy-Vee who sold me the tests...I want to hug her. 
  16. October 22nd 2008....River Harrison Miller was born at 35 weeks 6 days. 
  17. We enjoy every little thing he does for the next couple of years. However....we never stop preventing the ability to have more children. 
  18. 2010: May, I have a procedure done to remove a portion of my cervix that was 1 stage away from having full blown cervical cancer. I am told to not get pregnant for 2 years. That it wouldn't be safe and that I may not carry to term. We are careful for a month or two...but decide that it has been 2 years anyways so maybe River was our miracle baby and that was it. Decide that it probably won't happen anyways so throw caution to the wind.
  19. 2010: September...Oops...we are pregnant! I spend the first trimester very sick and believing that I was high risk because of my surgical procedure. 
  20. We learn that baby #3 is a we go against doctors recommendation and choose not to have my tubes tied. 
  21. 2011: On May 11th James Harrison Miller III was born...aka our "bonus baby". 
  22. for the next 2-1/2 years we know we would be ok with one more....but would also be ok without anymore...we even contemplate making that permanent. Meanwhile because of those years of infertility my mind can not separate itself from continually tracking, timing, and taking ovulation tests. It is now just a part of my life. 
  23. 2014: January 6th...we test and discover that baby #4 is on the way! I am only 3.5 weeks along. We contemplate not telling anyone for a long while. Due September 16th
  24. 2014: January 7th...the next day...we tell all the world. :)
  25. 2014: April, It's a boy!
So this brings me to the title of my post, Survivor's Guilt, this is what I call the feeling I have each time we conceive another child. When I was in the thick of our infertility years I made many new friends who were also enduring similar stories. Once you experience infertility something happens where you can begin to recognize other women who are probably going through the same thing. At least for me its almost like a 6th sense...I have the ability to know women are pregnant before THEY even know they are pregnant...and I have the ability to recognize someone who is struggling with wanting a child but has not yet been successful. My husband can attest to this...just this past spring I told him of 3 different women who I thought were pregnant or who would be soon...and all 3 of them announced soon after I told him. Its almost like you are in a club. But what happens after you have conceived? Somehow you no longer feel worthy of sharing your story because nobody who is going through infertility wants to hear your success surely. It is almost like you have been kicked out of the club. Its not a club that anyone wants to really be a part of, however if you have been in it, you know that the feelings and emotions you experience during those years are ones that are hard to get over and re-surface even after you have a child.

There are 2 big emotions I feel when I discover that I am pregnant...Excitement...and...guilt. 

Excitement that we will have another baby. Guilt that you know there will be a woman somewhere who will cry in secret because she can't bare to read one more status update with an "announcement".

Survivor's guilt. A feeling that there will be some that think you are just showing off your baby making abilities by having your 4th child!

There is a prayer that I have said many many times since our 2nd pregnancy "Lord, we want to have another baby, but please don't let me get pregnant before so and so does". Several times...this has been a successful prayer and for a moment you feel safe to breathe and celebrate...and then inevitably you discover another friend who is in the midst of her own struggles...and again I pray the prayer. If I know you...and if I know you are wanting a can guarantee I have prayed for you.

I am struggling with how to end this post...what is my reason in sharing all of this? I believe that it is important to hear the other end of infertility...what happens after you are no longer deemed "infertile". Do your emotions just go away? Do all of those emotions just disappear in a simple little puff cloud as soon as you hold your newborn child? As you can read from my experience, for me, they do not. The sensitivity towards other women who long to bare children is still very strong. I have struggled with telling my story because I have felt unworthy of sharing it due to being able to have children. However my infertility experience ate away at a good chunk of my 10 years of marriage. It was the cause of a lot of counseling early on and a bitterness that controlled much of the first half of my marriage. It is very real...and it did happen. True, I am on the other end of that story now. I am not pining for sympathy by anyone by any means. Now that I am on the other end of things...I am able to thank God for my experiences because I believe God has given me a strong desire to pray for women going through similar trials...and just be someone who listens to them.

I imagine similar emotions are experienced by other people for different reasons. How about spend weeks months going through treatments. You get to know the other patients who are on similar chemo and radiation schedules as you. You get to know their build bonds through your similarities and roller coaster of emotions that only people with cancer can truly understand...but what happens when you get the clean bill of health proclamation from your leave your appointment only to return every 6 months for a check up...but in the meantime you hear of another...and another...and another who lost their battle. Is your story no longer relevant? Of course not. It is a part of your life...and I bet nobody prays for those other patients as strongly and as hard as other cancer survivors.

This is my story...what is yours? How can I pray for you?


  1. Wow! I have never had trouble conceiving, so I really don't know what it is like to be in your shoes or in someone else's in this circumstance. Two things I can say though...God has given you a huge empathetic heart. And, I know the feeling of guilt for being able to conceive when others can't. Not even trying to be a baby factory or anything. My joy takes a hit because of others' pain.

  2. very well said! it took us 8 yrs to have our son. he is our miracle. I am part of a group of women who were together in an online support group.. 5 of us still keep in contact. I used to pray, "Lord, I want a baby...but please give all my girls one first" I couldn't bear the thought of being pregnant before one of them. 12 years later, one way or another, we all have our children. We long for more but I'm working to be content with the awesome little guy we've been blessed with!

  3. I am heartbroken for her as well...I too have 4 kids. Got pregnant out of marriage, was married when we were 4 months along. Then went 6+ years of no "protection" before I could get pg with our 2nd. We were both tested at about 4 years in and my husband had issues and I had cysts. In 2002 I had a cyst burst under my Fallopian tube and destroyed it. I bled internally for 8 hrs until I almost blacked out and went to the ER where my amazing Dr was able to save the other ovary (it was initially thought I would need a full hysto. because of all the damage...) but I begged her to try so I could have more kids. I was pregnant less than a year after that surgery with #2.

    Another 4 years of trying, another round of the same tests, my husband still with issues. Started taking a herbal remedy for fertility and we got pg and then I miscarried at 6 weeks. I was devastated and believed God was also punishing me as well for getting pg before marriage...then unexpectedly I got pg with #3, our 3rd boy.

    Because of our issues for so many years I did not go back on any birth control after #3. I was nursing and didn't want to take anything. I stopped nursing and was pg in 2 weeks after my first very small/short cycle. A complete surprise and our only daughter.

    I understand the guilt. I was very cautious about "announcing" my pg on FB for that many of my friends still struggle, why this time was it so easy? I don't have the answer and just have been able to see God through all of it now as I reflect back...but the experience has given me a heart for others I hadn't had before and I am grateful for that!

  4. I forgot to add that after the miscarriage we went in and did that whole dye in the tubes thing as well, all looked great and my Dr removed some endometriosis as well. I took a pg test the morning of that surgery and it was negative.

    It was several weeks later that I got the positive pg test. We went into the Dr for an ultrasound because I figured I was like 3 weeks at that point and they said I was over 6 weeks...which would have been impossible because my surgery had only been like less than a month prior.

    They determined that I must have been at approx day 10 (implantation day) on the day of my surgery. My body hadn't started producing the hcg at high enough levels so the test was negative. How that little egg hung on and wasn't flushed out during my surgery is a miracle. He is now a healthy and feisty 5 yr old!