Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Summary of Our Experience

(This is a draft of a chapter I've been asked to write for a book about LDS (Mormon) women and their different perspectives and struggles. This is very rough, but I thought I'd share it here as it is refined.) Todd and I had been married for five years before we realized that we might be having problems with fertility. We weren’t clueless; we were just busy – enjoying each other, enjoying our jobs, and enjoying nieces and nephews, enjoying life! I was thrilled that my brothers and sisters and friends were getting married and having children. Their happiness was my happiness. I guess that is what makes my experience with infertility somewhat atypical. Mine is not necessarily a story about personal anguish or my wrestle before God (although there is some of that). My story is about how I learned to accept service. We began the process of discovery only to be told after two years of tests, procedures, and an operation that we had earned the medical diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” We had done everything within our power up until this point, and we felt that we were at a dead end. We were considering all of our options, and were prayerfully seeking out the best solutions. Of course I was struggling with questions in my mind and heart, but I felt that the Lord was pleased with the path we were taking thus far. Well-meaning friends and family members would occasionally press us for information: had we considered this option or that option? I remember a conversation with my younger sister, Sarah, in which she pressed me harder than usual about what we had tried. She left me with the impression that she thought there was more that we could be doing, but I had assured her that we were doing everything within our power, particularly our financial power. We had tried medications, alternative therapies, artificial insemination, and one round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It had cost us $12,000 just for the IVF alone, basically our entire savings, and nothing had been successful. We were so disappointed; the IVF had been our “Hail Mary.” We would have like to have tried IVF again, but we could not do it without incurring considerable debt. Sarah decided to become our fertility savior. Sarah created a website, a blog (, a logo, and a Pay-Pay account. She contacted friends and family far and wide. She invited family, friends, and friends-of-friends to donate to the Baby Rhodesbud Fund (Rhodesbud is a play on my last name). Many of these people set up websites and accounts to sell their crafts and hobbies, and the proceeds went into an account for us to be able to explore the IVF procedure again. Others simply sent us a check. Sarah felt that we deserved to have a baby and that if money was the only thing standing in our way, then she would do everything in her power to remove that obstacle for us. It is so difficult to explain what it is like to be the recipient of this type of charity. I remember writing thank you notes to complete strangers and struggling to find the words to adequately thank them for helping us to start a family, to create life! Todd and I felt so humbled by the outpouring of love and support. Here is how I expressed those feelings on the blog: “But my thoughts and feelings are never far from those who have made this round [of IVF] possible. It is so humbling to be the recipient of funds, time, energy, industry, and prayer. I am way more comfortable being on the other end, but I am so grateful… beyond words, song, art, dance, or any other form or expression. If I could stage a fireworks show for all of you, over the water, on a warm summer's evening, after a delicious BBQ dinner and chocolate cake... that would only begin to express it. I love you. I have needed you. Thank you for being there.” During this time, we hosted my family at our home for Christmas Eve. As it came time to exchange gifts, Todd and I were surprised to be presented with the only gift of the evening. All of the nieces, nephews, and family siblings had decided to forgo sending and receiving presents from each other that year, and we were presented with envelopes from each family containing cards, drawings, checks, and cash. I still have one crumpled envelop with a few bills and some loose change that I still can’t bring myself to open let alone deposit. It is a reminder for me of that night, and of that precious gift from a 6-year-old niece. These nieces and nephews served us in other ways as well: they fasted and prayed for us in each family and personal prayer. That Christmas will always be a touchstone experience for our family, one that we will all remember and cherish. All in all, the Baby Rhodesbud Fund raised $25,000. The pressure, then, for these expensive procedures to work was very high. We began the IVF process again, and e-mailed the family and friends to ask them to pray for us, and to let them know what was going to happen on what dates. This time, I became very ill as a result of the hormones with a condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS). It is a very painful condition where your ovaries go into hyper drive and enlarge causing extreme pain and discomfort (you have to sign a waiver saying you understand that it can cause death). We were not able to implant the fertilized eggs, and we had to freeze them instead. Life continues to move forward whether you are ready or not. Sometimes life feels easy, and sometimes there are seasons of stress. The next few months were the stressful kind. We did two implantations using the frozen eggs and one round resulted in an ectopic pregnancy and the other in a non-fetal “mass.” After the miscarriage of the “mass”, we found ourselves in our darkest hour. At this point we were living in someone else’s home (while our new home was being completed), missing our creature comforts, in the darkness of deep winter. Todd and I did a lot of talking, praying, and soul searching at this time. Shortly thereafter, this is what I wrote on the Baby Rhodesbud blog: “Here comes the hard part for some people to digest: I am okay with not having kids. This doesn't mean that we will not continue to pursue options, pray, fast, seek, and ask, but I want people who care about me to know (and to accept) that children may not be part of our earthly path, and while that may be sad for some, I have had 10 years to come to grips with it, and I am okay. I do feel sad that we don't have kids to share the fun things with; holidays and family traditions are SO much funner and more meaningful with children. I do feel really sad that Todd and I might grow old with no one to look after us or care for us or visit us. Our posterity ends here. But I have dealt with all of these scenarios and ramifications and I can handle it, I have to, this is what my life is!” Coming through that time of darkness, I really felt okay. I felt at peace. I felt happy. I felt lucky. I felt blessed. I had so many great things going for me. I was healthy, I loved my husband and he loved me, I had a wonderful family, I had great friends, I loved my job, we lived in a beautiful home exactly where we wanted to live. We really had a lot going for us. So what more could I ask of my Heavenly Father? Todd and I enjoyed the next year by not thinking or worrying about our infertility. We took a fertility vacation. I thought I had learned my lesson, to accept service, although I felt sad that the sacrifice of others had not resulted in a typical “happy ending.” We had spent the vast majority of the Baby Rhodesbud Fund on the previous IVF procedures, and had made a little money on the sale of our home. After much thought and prayer, we decided to make one more sacrifice. We wanted to lay our material goods on the Alter of Life and show God that our desire for family was more important to us than worldly wealth. Once again, we would be wiped out financially in the hopes of becoming a family. This time, we kept it a secret. To make a very long story short, I had a wonderful pregnancy. I was not sick, I was not unreasonably tired, I got to spend the entire summer in Connecticut with Todd who was on a work assignment. I hung out at the pool with a friend, I visited friends and family up and down the East Coast all summer. It was a serious blessing, and no-stress! But God was not done teaching me a lesson about accepting service. Even during the birth of our darling son, Oliver, I was the recipient of many acts of service and kindness. Oliver came very suddenly, over a month early, while Todd was in Singapore on a work assignment. My house was an especially filthy disaster that week, there was no sweet, welcoming nursery set up, and no one to take me to the hospital. A dear friend dropped everything she was doing, calmly helped me make decisions, and cheerfully drove me to the hospital. I was blessed by this friend again as she organized a cleaning party in my home so that when we came home from the hospital with a tiny baby, he was introduced to paradise and beauty instead of filth and chaos. My sister, Amy, and my brother, Chip, hurried to the hospital to be by my side, and Amy stayed with me throughout the 24-hour labor and delivery. She then ran to the airport to pick up my husband and drop him off to be with me and managed to feed him a meal somewhere in there. What in the world would I have done without the help and intervention of others? Again, how could I express my feelings of deep gratitude? The thought of those ladies cleaning my bathroom floor covered in amniotic fluid sends shivers down my spine, and I am humbled by it. I have often said that Oliver does not belong to Todd and me: he belongs to everyone. It may take a village to raise a child, but in our case, it took a village to get one here. I continue to search out the lessons God has provided for me throughout this long journey. I am obviously oblivious to his guidance as the lesson of “you cannot do this alone, you cannot do this without me” was taught to me over and over again through the service of others. I can see now that the lesson I needed to learn was humility, by accepting service from others. It is sinful pride that stands in the way of allowing ourselves to be served by others. It is so much easier to be the one serving! We are commanded to love and serve each other, and to love and serve God. Service fosters love. We serve those we love and we come to love those whom we serve. I need to remember that if it had been my sweet friend who needed a ride to the hospital, I would not have hesitated because I love her! I would have cleaned all of my friends’ houses because I love them! To know that they might have done the same for me, out of love, is sweet and precious to me. So then as I work through my hang-ups about people serving me, I think of the one act of service that I could never repay. I think of the Savior and the Atonement. My continuous lessons in humility are preparing me to further accept my need of the Savior. Our whole existence is defined by His acting on our behalf. The summation of our journey here on earth is dependent on how we make use of that service He provided. My sister, Sarah, did for me what I could not do for myself. Many doctors and technicians did for me what Todd and I could not do for ourselves. The Savior did for us what we could not do for ourselves. When we find ourselves in the greatest need, He is there to help and serve and love. Often, He will help us through the acts of others who are in tune to His promptings and counsel. And He asks in return that we love and serve Him and our fellow man.


Kim said...

A friend gave me the link to your blog because I am going through round 2 of IVF right now. You have such a sweet and unique story. I couldn't help but cry as I read about the Christmas that your family gave to you. I can relate. My family is very similar - and my 4 year olf nephew won't allow anyone's prayer to go without asking that I have a baby soon and that my heart will be happy. Congratulations on your new baby and thank you for sharing your story.

Kelly(M&M) said...

Beautiful post. I have loved following your journey. I think your whole family is wonderful.

Abby said...

That brought tears to my eyes. How (I have I not read this yet?) I am so happy you have Oliver. He is a miracle.