In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30, 2016), I’ve linked up with Caroline Harries from In Due Time to share our story. Head over and check out other stories from couples across the country! Last time I checked, there were 25 links — so encouraged by every single story! This year’s theme for NIAW is #StartAsking — so in the spirit of loving themes, I decided to write my story in “asking” format!
What is the cause of my infertility?
I have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS.
PCOS is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. The cysts are not harmful but lead to hormone imbalances. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal. (Androgens are male hormones that females also make.) High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.
In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn’t make all of the hormones it needs for an egg to fully mature. The follicles may start to grow and build up fluid but ovulation does not occur. Instead, some follicles may remain as cysts. For these reasons, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or absent.
- Between 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have PCOS
- As many as 5 million women in the US may be affected
- Higher rates of: miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, premature delivery
- More than 50% will have diabetes or pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) before the age of 40
- 4-7x higher heart attack risk
- Higher risk of high blood pressure, high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
- May also develop anxiety and depression
- At risk for endometrial cancer. Irregular menstrual periods and the lack of ovulation cause women to produce the hormone estrogen, but not the hormone progesterone. Progesterone causes the endometrium (lining of the womb) to shed each month as a menstrual period. Without progesterone, the endometrium becomes thick, which can cause heavy or irregular bleeding. Over time, this can lead to endometrial hyperplasia, when the lining grows too much, and cancer.
How does PCOS affect me?
PCOS obviously affects my fertility, but it also impacts my daily life — I struggle with extreme fatigue, random weight gain, fuzzy memory, anxiety, depression, low-functioning thyroid, and cosmetic issues that impact my self-esteem.
How long have I known?
I received an official diagnosis in March 2013 when I first visited a Reproductive Endocrinologist. We had been “not trying/not preventing” to conceive right after we were married in 2009. We officially began “trying” in 2012. Read a more in-depth, detailed post from the day I received my diagnosis HERE.
What measures have I taken to get pregnant?
I went through two rounds of ovulation-inducing drugs (Femara/Letrozole with HCG trigger shot) and intrauterine inseminations (IUI) in 2015. Both cycles “failed” with no detectable pregnancy.
What’s been my biggest challenge?
Receiving negative pregnancy tests time and time again is an obvious challenge. But personally, the biggest challenge has been moving past feelings of isolation, aloneness, and purposelessness. I’m watching and rejoicing with my friends and family who are pregnant and have children — but I’m not. Infertility is a spectator sport: I feel like I’m the only one in the bleachers watching everyone play, and I’m unqualified to join the team. I watch everyone around me move on, and I feel a step or two behind.
What’s been my greatest joy?
The Lord has blessed me with the gift of time. In my time, I’ve dedicated myself to spending time in the Word in order to know more about who God is, what He says about me, and what His love means for my life. As I’ve grown deeper in gospel knowledge and truth, I’ve uncovered a boundless, freeing, uncontainable joy! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Has infertility affected my marriage?
I can truthfully say infertility has strengthened my marriage. Matt has been absolutely 100% supportive. We make our decisions together. He has never made me feel guilty or ashamed of what he’s had to endure. He has stood by my side through hormone swings, fatigue, breakdowns, doctors visits, procedures. He’s brought me flowers after “failed” cycles and bought me presents on Mother’s Day. He’s made me laugh time and time again, which has taken the seriousness out of the journey. Our love has truly grown throughout this process. We’re learning that our marriage comes first (after Christ!) — and the reality is, it may just always be the two of us (and our dog Rudy), so we better nourish and treat our marriage as a priority.
Has infertility affected my faith?
Big time! But for the better! I never imagined my suffering would draw me nearer to the Lord, but it has. I’ve come to truly know who He is, which is a large reason why I began this blog. I’ve never felt more joy, life, and freedom — and I know it’s because my suffering caused me to surrender to Him.
Has infertility affected my friendships?
I’ve drawn closer to certain women and farther apart from others. I believe the Lord brings people into different seasons of life for different reasons. To the women who do support me, I am indebted to their kindness and grace! To the women who haven’t supported me, I’ve become slightly guarded, but it hasn’t changed my love for them. I still love going to baby showers and kids’ birthday parties — no envy or jealousy here!
What are my next steps?
We’re still in “break mode,” enjoying the freedom of not worrying about medications, doctors appointments, side effects, and disappointments. Our insurance allows us one more IUI cycle before they would advise us to move on to In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This is a big jump in treatment physically, emotionally, and financially — so we are taking our time considering our next steps and where the Lord is calling us.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)