Today, as part of our series during this National Infertility Week, Melissa shares he story about the ambiguity of infertility as she faced it. May you feel encouraged if infertility has been a part of your story or someone you love.
Such sad, hollow, empty words. It’s so final.
So hopeless. This is where I found myself 5 ½ years ago.
I learned how cruel, deceptive, and relentless the body can be.
I had suffered a miscarriage earlier in my marriage. After that, my husband and I struggled to become pregnant.
We had some bloodwork and while we were on vacation celebrating our anniversary, my doctor called and said, “Melissa, the tests came back. I’m sorry to say that between the both of you, you’re unable to conceive without the help of IVF.
And even with IVF, I’m afraid that those numbers do not look good.”
Immediately, time froze. I could no longer breathe and my mind was simultaneously going a million miles a minute and shut down.
Being childless was never in my vocabulary.
I had felt called to be a mother and if I’m honest, saw myself being a mother more than as a wife.
Deflated doesn’t even begin to describe this indescribable place of ambiguous horror. I had been blindsided by my own body and felt doomed in my infertility.
Craig, my husband and I met with an infertility specialist who showed us pictures, drew diagrams and charts.
It was a Health 101 presentation…on crack.
I got to hear about how mine were dysfunctional and combined with Craig’s quality sperm count, were told ICSI would be our only option.
The highest level of IVF—the absolute last resort.
We were given a 15-18% chance of conceiving.
It felt like every time I begin to get a little hopeful, I immediately became disappointed with the numbers, statistics, and the process. I even found myself negotiating with this ovarian dysfunctional terrorist.
But, regardless, we began the hard journey of IVF treatments.
One of the worst parts of infertility is suffering in silence. I didn’t want to share what I was going through outside of family, and even then, at times, was too hard.
My husband is a pastor, so our lives are very open and public.
The congregation to know about my reproductive dysfunctions– what the horror!
I remember loathing Easter. I didn’t want to hear about an empty tomb. There was too many empty womb sonograms.
I hated the word empty.
Finally, after all the torturous waiting, the day came in August for the results.
Drum roll: NEGATIVE. The first round did not take. We needed the number to be a 5 and mine was a 3.
This had been my life’s theme throughout my infertility discovery. Close, but just not close enough.
For the next round of IVF, my doctor upped the ante: 6-8 injections a day, some pills, different timing.
It was like orchestrating my body, Craig’s sperm, medications, injections, doctors, insurance, pharmacy, a PhD program, and life in general all the while attempting to create 1 big symphony together.
Meanwhile, I was responding to everyone’s ‘How are you?’ with “I’m good.” I wasn’t good.
In fact, I was the opposite of good.
I was a pin cushion and my stomach and hips looked like I had been in a boxing match.
It was as if my life became a guinea pig experiment.
My graduate program studies felt like my only distractions.
I was afraid that if I stopped to think too long about what was going on, I’d crumble into pieces.
In the unbearable moments, I somehow, in a sick and twisted way, found comfort in Lamentations 3:1-36 read from The Message. I felt like Jeremiah was in my head and body, writing my pain into words. “God Locked Me Up In Deep Darkness”. To me, it’s the embodiment of infertility and the endless despair I was shackled in. I especially loved reading versus 12-13:
“He took out his bow and arrows and used me for target practice. He shot me in the stomach with arrows.”
In October 2014, Craig and I received word that 2 healthy embryos harvested from our second round of IVF. They were implanted and through that round, one took.
We will be celebrating our daughter’s 4th birthday this June.
I want you to know, though, my story does not end with my infertility being solved or ‘fixed’.
It is a multiyear journey to work through this fact: that I am not broken nor dysfunctional.
Yes, I have an amazing child thanks to IVF.
Yes, I was able to carry a baby to term.
Nevertheless, my infertility will always be with me.
It will always be a part of me.
To me, infertility hit my core of my personhood, sexuality, spirituality, and my very being.
It’s a grief that comes with a plethora of meanings, judgements, and unkind words from others.
I’ve had to work on recovering from this deep core grief which has nothing to do with ‘getting over it’.
I like how Megan Devine describes recovery. She writes,
“Recovery is about listening to your wounds. Recovery is being honest about the state of your devastation. It’s about cultivating patience, not the kind that implies waiting it out until you return to normal, but patience in knowing that grief and loss will carve their way through you, changing you. Making their own kind of beauty, in their own ways.”
And that’s what I am doing. Creating a space that acknowledges my grief, disappointment and pain, which then allows me to freely and authentically live and love.
Dr. Melissa Hunter is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate in Texas. She graduated from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor with a Bachelor’s degree in Religion, received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Truett Seminary at Baylor University, and has a Ph.D. in Family Therapy from Texas Woman’s University. After graduating from seminary, she was ordained and served in 2 churches as an associate pastor and then as a children and family minister in North Carolina. While in the doctoral program, she worked as a hospice chaplain. Melissa is a marriage and family therapist in a private practice in Dallas as well as a counselor at a non-profit in Denton. She may be reached here.