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When Ricky and I began having trouble conceiving, God spoke very clearly and told me that He was going to use our story. I knew I wouldn’t have the “luxury” of keeping our struggle private for very long. I knew someday this journey would be written out for all to see, rather than just pages in my journal. After a lot of prayer and conversation, Ricky and I decided it was time to “go public” with what is the hardest battle we’ve ever faced together, in hopes that speaking up and sharing the raw truth about infertility will raise awareness, as well as bring hope, healing, and freedom to others. Considering the fact that 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, it’s pretty crazy how little our society talks about it, and especially how little the Church talks about it. It shouldn’t feel so lonely. It shouldn’t be taboo. It shouldn’t be a topic that feels awkward and even shameful to discuss. I was talking with an old friend several weeks ago about this and she said “I’m so proud of our generation for not being quiet about these things.” And I completely agree. I am SO proud to be part of a generation that embraces vulnerability and becomes better people because of it. Our hope is that our vulnerability brings comfort and hope to others, and to be part of erasing the stigma and changing the conversation around infertility.
We recently had a photoshoot with Shawna Faith Photography. Shawna reached out and asked if she could do a session for Ricky and I, and I couldn’t pass it up! I knew I wanted to have special photos to share along with this blog post, so it was perfectly timed. It might sound silly, but having these photos is really important to me, because it documents a season of uncertainty. The past couple photoshoots Ricky and I have done are a little hard for me to look at, because at the time I was certain they would be the last photos of “just the two of us”. I was certain our next photoshoot would be of our new family of three. But these photos are different. They might be our last photos with just the two of us, and they might not be. I’m no longer planning every detail of my life around that possibility, because I’m starting to embrace that this is just our story. Some days, it’s hell on earth, and some days it’s the sweetness of the presence of God, nearer than I’ve ever felt it before. These photos represent us just being present in our journey. They represent being present in our uncertainty, as well as the pain, the beauty, the hardship, and the joy we’re finding in the midst of it.
In January of 2017, Ricky and I started trying to have a baby. We were SO excited to finally start trying, especially since we had been talking about having children and what our family would be like since before we were ever married. So when the time came when we felt peace about starting to try to conceive, we had high hopes and no concerns. In fact, I was certain I would have a baby in my arms by the end of the year. I unknowingly set such high expectations and put immense pressure on ourselves, so when a few months went by with no positive pregnancy test, I was so disappointed. We got more strategic about timing, tracking my cycle, etc. This made me a literal crazy person. I obsessed over tracking apps on my phone, spent way too much time on Google, and soon the whole thing became more of a chore than an exciting journey. A few more months went by and we started to get anxious. People said we were just stressed and needed to relax. We tried to relax, but anyone who’s had any trouble conceiving knows this is nearly impossible. We had so much going on in our lives at this point, so we decided to wait it out a full year, and if we still weren’t pregnant by then, we’d start getting things tested and checked out.
Time kept passing, and October of 2017 (ten months into trying to conceive) was when we started praying about moving to Austin to be part of Table Church. After a lot of prayer and conversation, we excitedly said yes and have been preparing for that transition ever since. A small part of us thought, “Maybe this is all just about timing. God knew this huge change was coming for us, and a pregnancy/baby thrown into the mix would really complicate this transition.” We were somewhat comfortable with that possibility, but after we hit the one-year mark of trying to conceive, we knew it would be wise for both of us to get tested, starting in 2018.
Getting tested absolutely terrified me. I was sick of the uncertainty and I wanted answers, but I was also scared of what those answers might be. I didn’t know which would be worse – continuing to walk in blind uncertainty and just be frustrated with God’s timing, or facing a diagnosis that could flip this journey of ours upside down. We tested my blood, thyroid, hormones, etc. A few things needed improvement, but nothing alarming stuck out, so we decided to get Ricky tested. At this point, we both had a sneaking suspicion that we might be dealing with male infertility. It was confirmed on February 5th when we sat in a tiny, cold room at a urology clinic where a doctor told us that Ricky’s sperm count was extremely low, that it would be very unlikely we could conceive naturally, and that our best shot at having a baby would be IVF (if you’re not familiar with IVF, it’s basically a very expensive procedure where a doctor would manually take my eggs & Ricky’s sperm, merge them in a lab to form an embryo, then insert the embryo into my uterus in hopes that it would survive & continue developing properly into a healthy baby.) An average, healthy sperm count that a man produces in an analysis is typically over 20 million. Ricky did the analysis twice, and the most they counted was five. Not five million. Not five thousand. Five sperm. Not even the minimum count needed for IVF to be a possibility. We were stunned, and our hearts sank. I instantly started crying, and Ricky looked almost frozen. We were given a few minutes alone, then walked out to the front desk, paid a stupid amount of money to hear this news from a doctor who didn’t spend even more than five minutes with us, got in the car, and didn’t speak the whole way home. As soon as we got home, we fell apart. I don’t even remember what words were exchanged, but it was the most raw, vulnerable, emotional moment I’ve ever shared with my husband as we sat on the floor of our living room, sobbing as we felt like our dream was just ripped away from us. I tear up just typing and thinking about that day.
We told our families and closest friends. They were heartbroken for us and no one really knew what to say. Now, here’s where I would like to be able to say that we rose up in faith that day, rebuked that diagnosis, warred in prayer and worship, and kept going on with such admirable strength and confidence in the faithfulness of God. But the truth is that the two weeks following that day at the urology clinic were very, very dark.We endured a wild range of emotions. We had to let ourselves feel it all. There was a beautiful, God-given grace over that two weeks. Life seemed to slow down a bit, and we were able to do some heavy grieving and processing a little bit at a time.
It’s been almost five months since that day. We didn’t make any hasty decisions or book any other appointments at first, mostly because we were just too emotional and overwhelmed, and because we just had no idea what to do. We didn’t know anyone who had struggled with male infertility, and we certainly didn’t know anyone who had gone through IVF. We didn’t rush into anything. Instead, we spent the following months heavily focused on our marriage. The thing is, when life slaps you in the face, whether it be infertility, a financial crisis, a death in the family, whatever… your marriage can become an easy target. You may have to guard it and fight for it like never before. Satan hates marriage. He hates it, and your marriage is one of the first things he will try to attack in the midst of a crisis. Your spouse is the closest person to you, so they’re the ones in your line of fire when tragedy strikes. Ricky and I were no exception to this, and we have fought really hard the last several months. We’ve had to work through emotions and thoughts that are almost impossible to articulate. We’ve had some brutally honest and difficult conversations. We’ve had to re-learn how to “date” and just have fun with each other again. And at this point, I truly believe we’re stronger than we’ve ever been, and it feels good. It feels like we can finally take steps forward.
By the grace of God, we finally have some strength and hope that we need to believe for a miracle. I’ve spent a lot of time in denial, not wanting to accept that this could be part of our journey towards a miracle. You never imagine infertility as part of your story when you’re dreaming as a young boy or girl about getting married and having babies. You never think you’ll have to ask God for that kind of miracle in your life. I sure didn’t, but here we are, and I’m slowly but surely learning to embrace all of this as part of our story. I do not believe for a second that it was God’s plan for us to face infertility (which is a whole other subject for another post), but I do believe His faithfulness, His goodness, and His love will be proved in this. In fact, it’s already happening. Get this… A little over a month ago, I was connected with a woman at my church who has three children through IVF, and all of her care took place at a fertility center in Austin! Seriously, what are the odds of that?! That’s not a coincidence to me. That’s Jesus.
We were able to get an appointment with the same doctor she had, and we met with him on June 6th. This doctor confirmed that all of Ricky’s hormones and blood work look great. This is AWESOME because it means Ricky, in theory, shouldn’t have to go through any super intense treatment or take any crazy medication. Hearing that news alone was so comforting to us. However, it does still leave us with the question of why Ricky’s sperm count is so low. If we can identity the cause, we can hopefully find a solution to improve the count, so the doctor referred us to a fertility-urolgost in Austin that specializes in male infertility and should be able to tell us exactly what the problem is. We have some speculation about what it could be, but we’re trying not to let our minds wander as we wait to see that doctor. Our appointment with him is on July 20th, so we’d appreciate your prayers for peace as we wait, and that we would leave the appointment with answered questions and a game plan. At this moment, I have more hope in my heart than I’ve had in many months. Do I still have dark days every now and then? Definitely. Some days, I’m distracted and busy and I don’t think about it much. Other days, it hits me like a ton of bricks. My heart often hurts and intercedes for Ricky, because there’s a level of emotional weight and responsibility he carries in this that I do not. But we are finally starting to see and feel the presence of God in this situation. To be really transparent, up until very recently, most of our prayers sounded something like, “God, where the !@#$% are You in this?! What are You doing? How can I trust You with this? I don’t see or feel You here.” We believe that while this is not what God intended for me or for Ricky, He is capable and ready to make something beautiful out of it.
This is how I fight my battles… It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.
I, especially, have found so much comfort in these lyrics by Upper Room Music. (You can listen to the song here.) For a long time, it felt like we were looking at our situation through a microscope, only able to see the diagnosis, feeling surrounded by fear and hopelessness. We’ve tried to fight with prayer, with worship, and with declarations of the goodness of God even in the midst of pain, and some days that’s really freaking hard to do. Now, it’s like we’re slowly zooming out, seeing a bigger picture, finding hope again. We’re beginning to understand that God can be found in this process, no matter what it ends up looking like. We’ve come to the firm belief that God’s presence and provision are not limited to natural, unassisted conception. God can be found in a fertility center. God can be found in IVF if that’s the route we end up taking. And in the end, He will win. He will be glorified. He will be lifted up. His love, His goodness, and His faithfulness will be proved in our story. God has graciously let us feel every bit of anger, hurt, fear, and disappointment, but He’s showing us what this battle can look like with Him fighting for us on the front line. Our miracle will come, whether it be through the hands of doctors and procedures, or just a pure, crazy, unexplainable act of God.
Either way, it will be a miracle. Either way, we’ll rejoice.
I’m terrified but also excited for people to read this, because I know that it means an army of people will be praying for us, and an army of people will be rejoicing with us when we get our miracle. Ricky and I understand that sharing our story might make some people uncomfortable, but that’s sort of why we’re doing it. When we allow tension and discomfort to surround the conversation of infertility (or any issue, really), we subconsciously and unintentionally isolate and shame those that are walking through it. But we want to encourage and stand in faith with those who may be privately walking through similar circumstances. We want to be a voice for those going through something as difficult and complex as infertility. No one should have to go through it feeling alone. And if that’s you, please reach out if you feel comfortable. We want to pray for you and stand in faith with you.
As I’m wrapping up this first post in sharing our journey, I feel I need to add a little disclaimer. For some people who have never walked through infertility, it can be tempting to make well-meaning comments, offer well-meaning advice, and ask well-meaning questions. I’m asking that you please be sensitive and think really hard before you speak, if you feel the need to speak at all. We have amazing family and a few close friends that are walking alongside us, but we’ve also experienced our fair share of insensitive and ignorant comments. While I know most everyone’s heart is in the right place, this situation is just too tender. It’s often better to just offer prayers, a listening ear if needed, or to say nothing at all. I don’t say that to be harsh, but because we’re going out on a HUGE limb here sharing our story, and we have to protect our hearts as much as possible in the midst of this. You also don’t need to look at us like sad puppies or apologize for a comment you made months ago that might have been insensitive because you didn’t know what we were going through. Odds are we’ve probably forgotten about it by now anyway. All of that to say, if you’re going to follow along as we continue to share our journey, we just have one rule: Don’t be weird 🙂
If you made it this far, I sincerely congratulate you. We certainly put it all out there, and we know it’s a lot, but we don’t take this lightly (I’ve gone back to edit and revise this post literally 26 times if that tells you anything), and we know God is going to use our story somehow. We plan to keep sharing updates as we feel led. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it sheds light on not only the complexity of infertility, but also what it looks like to walk with God in the most intense battles of your life. He is there, and He is good.
Thank you for reading. Seriously. Thank you.
–Meghan & Ricky