Sorry for the long post. Also any men that have been keeping up with my blog, you have my permission to skip this post (as it deals with "women stuff") LOL
I would love to say that I've always had a heart for adoption. My older brother, Kirk, was adopted at the age of 2. I would love to say that because of that experience, I had always wanted to adopt myself. I would love to say this, but it's not true. I've always wanted to be a mom, always wanted to have that special bond that a parent shares with his/her child, always wanted to attend the PTA meetings, soccer games, and school plays...and always wanted to have the experience of being pregnant and giving birth to my first child (well, maybe not the giving birth part). My point is that when I dreamt as a little girl of the family I would one day create with my husband, adoption never entered into the plan. Infertility changed my plan.
This wasn't supposed to be us.
Liam and I met in Killeen, Texas in the winter of 2000. We were both attending a new church and he approached me one Sunday to introduce himself. We felt an instant connection with each other. Our first date was at the local IHop (I know, VERY romantic...poor guy has never quite lived this one down) and we spent 4 hours talking, neither one touching our food. I knew after that first date that I wanted to spend my life with this crazy, funny, intense person. Love didn't beckon quietly for me, it hit me upside the head. Within a month, we were discussing marriage.
Five months later, we broke up. We knew that we loved each other, knew that God wanted us to be together, but we moved too quickly and it nearly cost us our relationship. Luckily, we remained friends (well, we remained on a friendly basis, at least). One day, a couple of months after breaking up, he put a note on my car asking me to call him. I did and we spoke for 2 hours that night. When we got together this time around, we made a promise to each other that we were in this for the long haul- no matter what life threw at us. Over the past 10 years, that promise would be tested time and time again. We've always managed, with God's guidance, to arrive safely on the other shore.
Fast forward to the spring of 2006. We were living in Clarksville, Tennessee. Liam had just returned from a deployment to Iraq for the year. We knew that we had some major decisions ahead of us. I wanted him to leave active-duty military and move back to the Springfield, Missouri area. In 6 years of marriage, we had moved 4 times and had another move ahead of us that summer, this time to Savannah, Georgia. I felt that it was enough. To make me even more homesick for "The Ozarks", my younger sister had just given birth to my parents first grandchild. I wanted to be close to see Jake grow up. After much prayer, Liam and I decided that he would leave active-duty, join the Army Reserves, we'd move back to my hometown and start a family (well, to be truthful, I think the later was in my plan, but not yet in Liam's).
We tried for 6 months to get pregnant before seeking medical advice. Everyone, including my OB/GYN told us (aka me) to relax and it would just happen. Well-meaning friends said that "it would happen in it's own due time", which of course I knew, but didn't really want to hear. I was so heartbroken when it didn't happen for us immediately, like every woman in my family...and it seemed at the time, every woman on the planet. I think even that early in the game, I knew something was terribly wrong.
Six months turned into a year. My sister was now pregnant with her second child, and I was still BARREN. That's such an evil word. It does nothing to describe the turmoil that that one word can bring to a couple's lives. By this time, I was trying EVERYTHING. Any "remedy" on the internet was fair game. In the beginning, Liam was completely on board (what man isn't excited about the trying part of trying to conceive?). However, I lost him somewhere between taking and charting my temperature every morning and ovulation tests. And the thing that no one (especially not doctors) tells you is that every symptom of early pregnancy that you have ever read/heard about, you WILL have. Sore boobs, check! Fatigue/Exhaustion, check! Nausea, check! I was convinced each month that this was finally our turn. And every month, when the dreaded period (or - sign on the pregnancy test) made it's appearance, I would go into a depression, as though I had lost something very real...something that I'd only convinced myself had been real.
I began reading the Scriptures, looking for other women mentioned in the Bible with my affliction. I felt a real connection with Hannah, Sarah, Elizabeth and Rachel. Luckily, by this time, my doctor was on board to start the infertility tests. I was excited, at first, because I felt that FINALLY we would have an answer for the reason why we weren't getting pregnant. That excitement lasted about as long as the first test.
In August 2oo7, I went in for a laparoscopy/hysteroscopy. Basically a small incision in your abdomen where the doc can check out your reproductive organs. It was discovered at that time that I have a unicornuate uterus (half a uterus that is only joined to one fallopian tube). My other fallopian tube was not functional and just hanging. I did have two working ovaries, but only one was attached to a working fallopian tube. So, basically only one side had any chance of getting us pregnant. While I was recovering from the surgery, the doctor explained to my husband that the unicornuate made carrying a baby very iffy. He was told that more than likely, I would endure several miscarriages, each progressing further than the one before. In addition, I had SEVERE scarring in both tubes, so up until that point, I had NO chance of getting pregnant. Luckily, my OB/GYN was able to clear the scar tissue (later tests, an HSG- very painful, do not recommend, showed that the one good tube was working fine).
Liam is not a person to show his emotions very easily, but he cried when the doctor shared the news with him. He said that he felt that our hopes of having a child had just been destroyed in a few, matter-of-fact words AND he was going to have to be the one to tell me. Luckily, my parents were there and they all told me together.
Six months passed, still no pregnancy. In all honesty, I can't say that we were really trying. We were frozen with fear. Afraid to become pregnant, only to lose the child that we had prayed for for so long. We were also extremely scared of what my OB/GYN called the "in between zone"- the 10 weeks in between when a baby is not capable of living outside of it's mother's womb and when a child is considered full-term. That "in between zone" means the difference between a healthy newborn or one born too early to survive (both of which we were told to hope for) or a child born before all of it's vital organs are able to function correctly and now has severe special needs all because we wanted a baby. Yeah, we were gripped with the fear of the unknown.
Eventually, I changed OB/GYNs and this new one referred me to an endocrinologist (reproductive doc) in Kansas City. Both of my new doctors were more hopeful about me carrying a child to term, but on my first appointment with the endocrinologist, she informed us that due to the scarring in my tubes, the only way for us to have a biological child was through IVF. We really struggled with this; the cost, ethics, etc. This was the first time that adoption began to slowly enter our realm of reality. Over the next year, the choice between IVF and adoption was one that loomed over our heads.
**I have to explain before I go any further. I have nothing against IVF (obviously, if Liam and I were willing to pursue it). I have a few friends that have done this procedure and they have beautiful, healthy children for it. Our ultimate decision to pursue adoption was our own personal choice.
Something within me had a very difficult time fully committing to adoption. I'm not sure that I was ready to accept that a biological child might not be in our future. Once a few years ago (before our infertility problems), I had innocently, yet a bit out of superiority, asked a friend pursuing IVF again, if she had ever considered adoption...convinced that if I were in her shoes that that's what I would do. She shot back, "people always say that. If you can't have your own, why not adopt. It's just a band-aid." I didn't understand at the time what she meant. Now I do. Infertility and the choice to adopt are not inclusive. Just because a couple is infertile, does not mean that they should adopt. Nor, should a couple that has children, not adopt. In the case of infertility, one must mourn the dream of a biological child before moving onto adoption. I wasn't ready to give up that dream. YET.
Not that I wouldn't love an adopted child. I knew that whether we adopted or had a biological child, Liam and I would pour all of our hopes, love, and dreams into our child. Honestly, the reasons I was scared to pursue adoption were according to some, selfish, but I didn't feel that way. Since we were considering international adoption, I couldn't help but wonder about all the firsts that we would be missing as a couple; the first time he/she said "mommy", the first time he/she crawled, the first time he reached up his/her arms for a hug. I wanted to be there for all of it. The first heartbeat, the first diaper change, the first of everything.
We went back to IVF (though Liam was still very leary) and started making plans for the fall. In the meantime, Liam got papers for deployment to Afghanistan. The money would be nice, because we could put it towards IVF, but it's such a stressful procedure, that not being together during this time was scary. I was 34 then, though, and really did not want to waste any more time.
All through this process, our marriage took a hit, but about a year before, I finally just said to God, "Lord I give this completely over to you. I know that you want Liam and I to be parents. It's your mandate to all married couples. I just don't know when or how you want this to happen, but I will follow you." I started reading the book called SUPERNATURAL CHILDBIRTH which is a book about turning everything dealing with conception, pregnancy, childbirth over to God and finding scriptures that support His promise to us that He will give us children. I stopped stressing and Liam and I began focusing back on our relationship without the stress of trying to get pregnant.
Liam was in Indiana getting ready to deploy (we had already said our goodbyes) when he got word that due to finishing their training early, he would be allowed a 4 day leave (2 of those days would be used to travel, but we would still have 2 days together). I didn't know that I was ovulating at that time. Since I had moved forward with IVF, I had stopped temping, taking ovulation tests, etc. Surprise of all surprises, and really miracle of all miracles, I got pregnant. I took a home pregnancy test on the Saturday before Easter and as you can imagine was shocked, elated. I literally just sat on the floor of my bathroom and cried, praying to God and thanking Him. I called Liam (who was now in Afghanistan) and drove to my sister's house to share the news. Another cool thing is that the baby would have had my husband's birthday as his/her due date. All signs pointed to God telling us that this was our time. The next day on Easter, I told my parents and other siblings, and our pastor, because I wanted him to be praying for us.
Then on Tuesday (4/14/09), just 3 short days after experiencing the most joy that I have ever felt, I started to have severe pain on one side. I ran across the hall to a fellow teacher, who didn't even know that I was pregnant, but has two kids, so that I could ask her if this was normal. She reassured me, but I still was scared. I called my doctor's office who advised me to go to the emergency room. My sister and I raced to the hospital. They did two ultrasounds (vaginal and external), both were extremely painful, but I won't share all those joys with you. I could tell by the way the ultrasound tech was acting that the news wasn't good. She had to get a colleague and they did the quiet whisper back and forth. Worst of all is she couldn't tell me anything (something about liability and the hospital), so I waited from 10 in the morning until 5 with no news. My beta levels came back; 3,800 (a normal 4-5 week old gestation), but the next news was devastating. They couldn't find the baby in the ultrasound, nothing. The doctor looked at the films and called my OB who informed me that with a beta level of 3,800, they should be able to see something in my uterus. This was an ectopic pregnancy and would have to be terminated immediately or I risked the chance of rupturing my fallopian tube and hemmoraging which would probably lead to a hysterectomy. Because of my unusual anatomy and scarring, he opted to open me up (basically a c-section without cutting into the uterus). He removed my non-working fallopian tube, which later came back from pathology as having "matters of conception", but my beta level continued to grow. He told me that he would need to give me a shot of methatreczane to terminate any pregnancy. I cried and cried. Luckily, my mom and our pastor was there. I kept saying that it felt like I was killing my baby. My baby was perfectly healthy, it just wasn't growing in the right place. I felt like my body had failed Liam and I yet again. They gave me the shot, I went home from the hospital on Friday and began the long process of grieving and healing, both physically and emotionally.
On Monday, I went into the doctor's to have my betas drawn again, and was supposed to go in on Wednesday to have them read to us. As long as they went down, I wouldn't have to have another shot or more surgery. On Tuesday, however, the doctor called and wanted to see me. My heart sank, I knew it was bad news. I went into the office with my dad. He took me immediately back to the ultrasound room and told me that my betas had jumped from 4,200 to 12,000, which meant that my pregnancy had not terminated itself. I told him that I was glad he was doing another ultrasound, because before I had another shot, I wanted to see where my baby was. They did a vaginal ultrasound, starting talking to themselves and then he finally said, "it's on you're right side." I said, "in my tube?" fearful that I was now going to lose my right tube. He said, no, it's in your uterus. I started to cry. I saw the heartbeat, 160 bpm, which was very good. He brought my dad and I back to his office and said that while this is a viable pregnancy, the shot that they gave me earlier in the week, put my baby at great jeopardy. He said that the good news was that the baby should have already aborted itself, but that we didn't know if the shot was still in my system or the lasting effects it would have. He gave me some case studies that were positive, but cautioned me to be guarded. He explained that more than likely, I was pregant with twins, one of which implanted in my tube, the other one in my uterus. This only occurs in 1 out of 30,000 pregnancies and with my "unusual anatomy" mine was an even rarer case. I was overjoyed.
Since we had gone through the whole ectopic pregnancy in such a public way with surgery, followed by a week in the hospital, I knew that I couldn't keep this news quiet and that my little guy/girl needed as much prayer as possible. Unfortunately, God had other plans for our little angel. He was with us for another 3 weeks, but went to join his twin on 5/6/09.
I don't know why we had to go through 3 years of infertility, only to lose our babies. I don't know why God would take one, then let me learn that there was another, only to take that one too. What I do know, now, though is that God used our pain to bring us to His ultimate plan for us: adoption. You see, all of the joy that I expected to feel from learning that I was finally pregnant, wasn't there. I was scared- terrified, really. I began to see that I needed to put away my dream of being pregnant, for a bigger and better dream- that of becoming a mother. How we got there, no longer mattered. Suddenly, all the reasons that we wanted to do IVF became obvious that they were for me, because if I considered our child, I knew that adoption was the right thing to do. Why spend all this time and energy (not to mention money) trying to create a life that God may or may not have in His plan, when He has already created millions of children that need a good home...147 million to be exact. And all of the firsts that I was so determined not to miss, well, they would be there for me- the first time that I saw our child sit up, the first time I saw him smile, the first time that he/she reached his arms up begging me to hold him.
When Liam returned from Afghanistan, we began the adoption process in earnest. Just a few short weeks after his homecoming, we were overjoyed to learn that we were expecting again (again accidentally. Funny, for 3 years we tried everything short of standing on our heads, and no pregnancy. Now, without trying, we'd gotten pregnant twice). The following day (after the positive pregnancy test), I began bleeding heavily. We were heartbroken, but continued to hold tight to God. I went in for some routine blood tests, my beta level was 6. The nurse said that IF I had been pregnant, it was a very early pregnancy. She wanted me to check in two days later for some more blood work. You guessed it, my numbers more than doubled. Long story short...we went back twice a week for two weeks, my numbers were low (never getting above 160), but continued to double, until finally on 4/16/10 (a year after I lost our first baby), they plummeted. We had lost another child.
My reasons for sharing our story is two-fold:
1. I don't want to ever forget that these three little miracles existed. That even though they were with us for such a short period of time, that their lives didn't have meaning, and that they didn't bring us the most immense joy.
2. I want to share with others to NEVER give up hope. If you are going through the valley of infertility, know that God hears your cries. He is there with you and He loves you. Believe with all of your heart that God will give you a child... even though His plan for you might be different than your own. From such pain, has come the most splendid happiness. We're mere days from seeing our child for the first time. Mere days.
This wasn't supposed to be us, but it is. And you know, it's alright. It's better than alright, it's amazing. His plan has become our plan. He gave us a dream bigger than what we had ever hoped for or imagined.
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.
We're waiting for you little one. You are loved more than you know.
"Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning". Psalm 30:5