The Dangerous Secret of Infertility

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, In Due Time. Jump over there and register for another chance to win a signed copy of my book and a “Be Hopeful” necklace. Happy reading! Happy winning! –Amanda

I don’t think any young married woman expects to have difficulty conceiving. I was 24, and David and I had been married about 2 years when we “stopped preventing” pregnancy. I guess we were still in fairytale land to some degree. No longer newlyweds, but still gaga for each other. (Eleven years later, I’m happy to say we still are!) After almost 2 more years of not preventing, we knew we had a problem.

For me, the diagnoses of the infertility-causing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and an autoimmune disease were embarrassing. Here I was: a woman with the reputation of accomplishing much of what she put her mind to who couldn’t do the very thing God had created her body to do. I realized I might break His very first commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

But there was hope! The fertility clinic we attended the first time said I was young, they saw this all the time, and they had a generic plan that was likely to work. To be honest, the whole experience was like being on a conveyer belt: pills, wait, ultrasounds, shot, intrauterine insemination, wait, negative pregnancy test, repeat. We later were embittered by their process, but leaving the clinic that first day we were thoroughly convinced by their nonchalance that we had nothing to worry about. We almost felt normal.

That’s when we decided not to breathe a word about our situation to anyone. We thought it would all be over soon, and we certainly didn’t want to have to talk about it with loved ones and nosy strangers alike.

If the fertility treatments had worked well, if we had birthed a healthy baby within the first year or two, and if we hadn’t had the additional heartbreak of miscarriage; then our “silence policy” would have made sense. Unfortunately 7 years and 5 miscarriages later, we were stuck on a deserted island surrounded by an ocean of secrets, tragedy, and despair. Yes, we had each other, but that really wasn’t enough.

So, what is a woman to do—tell the world you are pregnant just as soon as you know, building a potential support network if the worst happens, or wait until more people are asking why your waistline is widening than aren’t and hope you never need that support network? There isn’t an exact answer, but the safe road is probably straight down the middle. If you find you are pregnant, then tell those closest to you—those whom you trust. At the top of that list should be God. Let Him in on your fears, and allow Him to comfort you. [Amanda Hope Haley, Barren among the Fruitful (Nashville: HarperCollins Christian, 2014), 96.]

If I had it to do over again, the first person I would have told would have been my mama. She and I have always been best friends. She taught French at my high school, and I chose to have my locker right next to her room every year. I loved that she knew every detail of my life. And I’m pretty sure she loved that too. We were a constant support for each other (and you need that when you’re in high school—or teaching high schoolers!).

I don’t think there had ever been a secret between us, so there was no way I could hide the fact that I was keeping a secret. For years there was an elephant in the middle of every conversation. We could both see it, but I was the only one who knew what it was. She was hurt that I apparently no longer trusted her. I felt guilty for hurting her. She didn’t know she was hurting me every time she mentioned her future grandchildren or bought a bassinet to keep at her house “just in case.” It was a vicious cycle that damaged our relationship, and it was all my fault.

So why didn’t I just fess up? Because after you’ve started keeping a secret that is literally about life and death, it’s pretty hard to catch someone up years later.

As all secrets do, the truth eventually came tumbling out of me. Mama and Daddy found out what was going on after a Mother’s Day church service when I pulled her back down into the seat next to me and confessed I’d had 3 miscarriages. That was not ideal. To put it mildly.

What started out as David and me not wanting to “make a big deal” out of our situation grew into monster of a deal. It has taken years to repair the damage our secret did to our loved ones, and it multiplied our own pain exponentially when we didn’t allow others to comfort and pray for us.

So don’t do what we did. Take that middle road, and tell your loved ones what is happening in your life. The healing will start immediately.

We Can Have It All…but It Won’t Be Cheap

[Originally posted on Jenifer Jernigan’s Dive Deeper website.]

If you’re like me, and you’re a Gen X-er or a Millennial, you’ve been told your whole life that you can be anything. Doctor, lawyer, financier, governor—you name it.

For us ladies, the sky’s the limit in the marketplace (if we can bust through that glass ceiling). Woo-hoo!

But motherhood? That wasn’t so popular with the feminists as we were growing up.

I was told in not-so-many words that motherhood was a waste of my talents and abilities. I wasn’t offered Home Economics in high school because they had me busy with college-prep courses. The education machine prepared me for undergraduate university, which prepared me for graduate school, which prepared me to be wildly successful (or so Harvard would tell you as you paid many-thousands of dollars).

It’s not that Harvard and the feminists frown on motherhood. They just don’t want it to get in the way of your work ambitions. They say, “Get your education, and get busy climbing the corporate ladder while you’re young! (Then you’ll have lots of money you can donate to us. Wink, wink.)”

What happens as this need to satisfy social milieus and our personal dreams pushes marriage and pregnancy into our thirties? Our forties? Quite simply, it’s going to be harder to conceive, carry, and deliver a healthy child.

The number of women facing this reality increases every year. The birth rate among American women in their forties has increased by more than 70 percent since 1990, and the birth rate among women between thirty-five and thirty-nine has increased more than 50 percent. Those increases reflect how many women are giving birth—not how many are trying to get pregnant. There is an obvious shift in the demographic of aspiring mothers.

This isn’t ageism; it’s fact. The longer you wait to get pregnant, the harder it will be.

Our bodies were designed to have children when we were in our late teens and twenties. Just ask those Disney princesses. Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel were fourteen, sixteen, and sixteen, respectively, when they married their princes and presumably started producing heirs. By the pre-Industrial Revolution timetable, we’re all dusty old maids before we graduate from high school. And you can forget about higher education.

Thankfully, as women have thrived in the workforce, science has done a pretty good job of keeping up with us. In their day, our Disney princesses might have been beheaded and replaced (à la Anne Boleyn and company) if they couldn’t produce heirs.

Today we have medical options that don’t run the risk of severing our necks. The two most common versions of assisted reproductive therapy (ART) are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). (Barren 74-75)

The television exploits of Jon and Kate Plus 8 put IUI on the map. Often the first procedure attempted by fertility clinicians, IUI has a 60 percent success rate among qualified couples in the first six treatments; and it costs about $1,000 per cycle (including fertility drugs, hormone injections, and diagnostic ultrasounds which are not always necessary). It is noninvasive (meaning no one encounters a scalpel or an anesthesiologist), and it allows couples to reevaluate their family plans and finances on a month-to-month basis.

Mostly thanks to “Octomom,” IVF has gotten so much press in the last few years that it seems almost common. But the procedure is actually complicated and quite costly, boasting an average success rate of only 22 percent and an average cost (in the United States) of $8,158 per cycle. IVF is surgery. The woman must have general anesthesia when her doctor removes her eggs prior to their fertilization in the lab. The implantation procedure for the embryos is two weeks later and almost identical to that of IUI (they are inserted into the uterus via catheter).

So Harvard can forget about getting those donations as many of their female graduates sink many thousands of dollars into medical treatments designed simply to make our bodies do what God made them to do. But thankfully, most women who enter fertility treatments are eventually able to conceive. They get to have it all—the dream career and the dream family.

That’s a beautiful thing.