The Heartache of Waiting

It was three days before Christmas and five days before I was supposed to start, but it came. It came early and officially marked one year of trying, unsuccessfully, for a baby. My heart felt as though it had been ripped in two. Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. That probably sounds like an obvious statement, but I am obsessed with all things Christmas and suddenly it felt like a cruel joke to be celebrating a birth when facing the reality that even though we entered in with the highest of hopes, 2017 would not be the year I would become pregnant.

The question I get asked the most in my current stage of life is when we are going to have a baby. At the beginning of last year, I would try to play it off because I was hoping and praying that we would be able to surprise everyone with an announcement in the next few months. As the months have drug along, it has become more difficult to know how to answer this question. Some days I am able to play it off or change the subject, some days I’m just honest, and some days I am fighting the urge to unleash a slew of profanity on the unsuspecting person sitting across from me.

What I have learned through this process though  is that this is not uncommon. There are so many people hoping and waiting for a baby. Even more so, there are so many people in periods of waiting and of heartache. My hope is that by sharing a little more of our story, someone will feel less alone in their period of waiting.

So, we’ll need to backup a little bit to give you all the full picture…

In 2011, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, which is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. The symptoms of endometriosis include: irregular cycles, heavy periods, extreme pain during your period, and infertility. Basically, it’s a whole lot of fun. (If there are any men still reading this after that sentence, you are a hero.) Ever since that diagnosis, I have wrestled with fear on what it could mean for my ability to conceive and especially to be able to conceive without interventions. But, with that, I did not want fear to drive my life. Fast forward to right after Trey and I got married. My endometriosis had been controlled by birth control up until this point, but about two months into marriage, I started to see symptoms, namely that sex became extraordinarily painful. (Just what every new bride wants to experience in their first few months of marriage. Right?) After a trip to the doctor, we decided to do Lupron injections, which are sex hormone suppression injections, so essentially I started menopause three months into marriage, at the age of 26, after moving to a city where I knew no one and worked from home. Let’s just say right now that Trey and I did not have the most magical first year of marriage. I’ve said it a million times… my husband is a saint.

From there, the shots were not effective and the side effects were impacting me so much that we decided to have the surgical procedure done again to clear out the endometriosis. After the procedure, it was back on birth control to slow down the endometriosis from returning. Since that surgery, I have been symptom free as far as endometriosis is concerned and we were hopeful when we began trying to have a baby at the beginning of 2017.

The months went by and all of the pregnancy tests were coming up negative. During this time, I had established care at an amazing nurse midwife practice here in Fort Worth. After about 6 months of trying, I made a “pre-conception counseling” appointment just to get an expert’s opinion. Because of my endometriosis, we had some concerns and didn’t want to hold off the entire year that is typical before beginning testing. Hannah, the midwife, was so very encouraging & gave lots of practical tips for what we should try & what our next steps would be. The main thing we discussed was taking better care of myself. I was in a stressful job that had a very long and even more stressful commute. The first step for me was to leave that job and give it a couple months to see if relieving some of my stress would lead to getting pregnant.

Well, it didn’t.

So, in October, Trey and I went back to the nurse midwife to discuss next steps. We decided that the first thing we wanted to do was blood work — mostly because it was the most cost-effective and non-invasive option (our insurance does not cover any fertility testing or treatment). As we were determining what labs needed to be run, Hannah, as she was about to leave the room decided that she wanted to run labs on my thyroid. And, thank goodness she did…

Almost two years ago, I asked my doctor to run thyroid panels because I have a family history and was experiencing symptoms similar to that of friends and family members with thyroid issues. My panels came back within the normal range, but what I didn’t know is that they hadn’t run all of the panels they should have and that “normal range” doesn’t necessarily mean “optimal range”…. but that’s a whole different post.

When the results came back, Hannah called and told me I have Hashimoto’s, a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. I immediately was overcome with relief knowing that there was an answer for what I had been experiencing and overwhelmed with what I should do next. Through (A LOT) of research, I discovered that Hashimoto’s, and thyroid issues in general, can have a major impact on fertility. (Side note for anyone with Hashimoto’s, your fertility can be negatively impacted even if you just have antibodies present but all of your other levels are good -- crazy!)

With that information, I started the process of finding a doctor. I have spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices over the years for a variety of different things. I walked through severe GI issues several years ago, which allowed for me to see the importance of who your doctor is. When I first got sick, it took leaving college twice, several doctors that were basically no help, and a lot of heartache before I found someone who would listen to me. I knew that I would need to find that again with this thyroid issue. On top of that, in the past couple years I have started to experience some new, yet also severe, GI issues that I knew probably weren’t helping anything. Although I had been to several doctors (again), no one could tell me what was wrong & would just treat the symptoms until that no longer worked and then we would try something new.

I was honestly just tired of being tired. Tired of being sick. Tired of feeling like it was never going to change. But, most of all, I was tired of not getting pregnant. So I started asking in groups on Facebook, talking to everyone that I knew who had Hashimoto’s, googling until the wee hours of the morning. Through that, I finally found a doctor that I see through tele-medicine who I absolutely love. She is thorough, she looks at the person as a whole, and she listens when you tell her what’s happening. She is dedicated to not only helping alleviate symptoms but to find out the root cause of why my body is doing what it is doing.

While finding this doctor has been a huge answer to prayers & for the first time in a while (or maybe really ever), I feel like I have someone who is dedicated to helping me get healthy. It has not been an easy process— she is not covered by insurance, which means that most of the testing is not covered. Along with that, she told me last month that we should stop trying to get pregnant for the next 6 months.

Hard stop.

I have known all along that pregnancy would probably only worsen everything I am experiencing. I knew that. It’s just when your doctor tells you that, you can’t pretend it’s not true. I held it together until we got off the phone. And then I fell a part. The tests and labs have given us answers but they’ve also given us more questions. Is Hashimoto’s the reason we aren’t getting pregnant? Is it the endometriosis? Something else? What is causing these GI issues? How many more tests and months to uncover the root cause of some of my pain and sickness? The process is long. It feels like God is absent. I know that He’s not. But, He often feels far.

Currently, we are working on paying off some of my medical bills & waiting on more testing to come back. Soon, we will schedule more testing. Amidst all of this, I am choosing to believe that God is active. He is present. He is moving. Even when it feels like a standstill.

The question that keeps coming to mind as we walk through this process is, “do you still believe that I am good?” Do I still believe that God is good even if I never feel better and I have to deal with these symptoms every day for the rest of my life? Do I still believe that God is good even if we never get pregnant? Do I still believe that God is good if His timing doesn’t line up with mine?

The answer to that is yes. Although, to be completely transparent, some days that “yes” is hard to get to. I’m struggling and wrestling with God daily. I tell Him how angry I am. I thank Him for His faithfulness. I weep before Him. I rejoice in who He is. I struggle with feeling forgotten but at times He feels so near that I could reach out and touch Him. It’s really messy. It’s hard & it’s not clear cut, but regardless of the outcome, I know that He is a God of healing and of redemption.

Through this whole process I have been reminded that in every season there is heartache. Single? Heartache. Married? Heartache. Parent? Heartache. We live in a broken world which means that while there is beauty in every part of life, there will also be sin and struggle and pain in every part of life we experience. There is only Jesus. He is the only one who will fully satisfy and sustain. I am clinging to Him in this season and every one that follows.

XO,

ASHLEY