I’ve spent a week trying to gather the emotional energy to get this post written. I knew my series would need to include “the one about infertility”…and it’s slightly funny/slightly maddening that I am trying to wrap it up right smack in the thick of bedtime. My children clearly have a Googledoc with which they keep track of who’s pulling the “harass the parents” night shift. Tonight, Daddy is at work and they are both apparently working overtime…
Alas, it was about Year 3 when my “I don’t like kids. And yes, I know everyone says you’ll love your own, but I don’t think my pain threshold, nor I want to find out” thoughts began to waiver. Joel wanted to have children and I knew eventually I’d be sad not to have a legacy and heritage after we were long gone. I knew children were a blessing from the Lord and blah, blah, blah, but honestly, it all sounded too scary and too exhausting and I was already tired. I prayed about it for a while and eventually came to the conclusion that God was asking me to step out in faith, jump into the deep end and see what He would do.
Time passed and as God mysteriously does, he allowed my feelings to follow my faith. My heart began to change…Joel and I would sit near the play place at Chickfila and we’d point to the adorable ketchup-covered smocked children. I’d see moms pushing their jogging strollers and something inside of me would ache. The something that feels like one part homesickness and one part “I just got dumped…and he did it over the phone.”
Shortly after the normal 12 month window, we settled into a rhythm of hope and despair. This rhythm always seemed to simultaneously intersect every.other.breathing.human’s.effortless.or.accidental.attempts.at.conception. #dontsayyoudontknowhowthishappenedplease #iwouldgiveanythingtobehuggingthattoiletseatwithmorningsicknesspleasecomplaintosomeoneelse #stoptextingmeultrasoundpicturesrightnowplease #blesstheirhearts
Okay, I am kinda joking but kinda not. It became eerily apparent that if you breathed in my airspace you would get pregnant. Even if you were a dude. Or so it felt. Some days it was about a BABY, but more often than not, and if I am honest, even this week, it was…and is more about WHY NOT a baby?
Why not, God? Why not? We would try and teach them about Jesus, we would try and love them fiercely, we would try… we would try…and then I am reminded that it’s not about trying and it’s not about A+B equaling C or a vending machine God. It’s about our holiness and about God’s glory. The bigger picture. But, I mean, let’s be honest, you can make almost any earthly thing happen in your own strength, yet you sure as hello operator can’t create life.
At the heart of the matter I want to be God.
I want to be in control of the outcome. I want to be in charge of the timeline. I want to be the center of attention with this great thing I have created. I want to be able to have what I want.
Sounds like what got Satan kicked out of Heaven if you ask me…am I not Satanic in my thinking as well? Eesh.
Apparently, you can’t get to the heart of my particular matter without first undergoing the world’s worst slew of embarrassing moments. Tests and questions and painful procedures that should never be typed let alone published. All this resulted in us joining the ranks of the 30% of infertile couples who have “unexplained infertility”. Gratefully, no problems, but sadly no answers. There was a short list of options that we felt were ethically and financially a possibility for us, so we began fertility treatments.
When we finally began “exhausting our options” as my sweet engineer husband would say, it felt like a burden was temporarily lifted. We were finally “doing something” and it felt like we were making progress, even if that progress landed us in the same childless place where we started, at least we had done everything in our power to conceive.
We were one procedure from our options (and wallets!) being exhausted when it was “randomly” discovered that I had a rare bone tumor in my humerus. Not the news you think you’re going to hear when you go in for a routine cortisone shot for shoulder pain. Joel had “randomly” come with me to the appointment and as the doctor turned white he turned green. The nurse was crying and I was in total “fight” mode…until I got out to my car and laid my “I had such a charmed life” head on the steering wheel to weep.
The “core (think apple core, but with your bone!) biopsy” alone was the scariest things I’d ever experienced…being strapped in a Superman position so they could use a chisel-type tool to “tink-tink-tink” down to your bone…not to mention nearly losing my life because of an unknown drug allergy. I am talking medical drama like what you see on ER where you are outside yourself seeing the flurry of medical procedures and hearing the shouting prayers of your husband going on, but you can’t communicate with anyone, type of scene.
Those results came back “inconclusive” (about as satisfying as “unexplained infertility”) because they missed the tumor by an inch and a half, so I was immediately rescheduled for an “open biopsy” where they would open the bone and deal with whatever was found. It was a scary period of waiting.
I will never forget feeling so young and so helpless. Like the little girl who gets lost in the racks of clothing at JC Penney’s. So small in such a big world.
Joel splurged on the nicest hotel in downtown Greenville the night before my surgery. It was a very poignant chapter of our marriage. One that forged us and brought the hard things to reality. But it was unifying. It was binding. It was soul and gut-wrenching but it was peace-filled.
I have to pause here to mention the outpouring of prayer and encouragement we received from our families and friends who feel like families in West Virginia, Memphis, Columbia, Charlotte, on staff, etc. The Murphy’s were there before the anesthesia even wore off. Jeff Shipman told me not to tell anyone, because he doesn’t do hospital visits—especially not ones that are 2 hours away. Joel’s dad made a 9 hour trip in about 6. We were so loved and so lifted through this time. It also feels a touch humiliating to even speak of this as “traumatic” when so many people suffer so much worse. But for us, this was grave.
The good news came while I was still unconscious. It was a benign blood tumor, one that was turning bone cells into blood cells. One that was so exciting, all the doctors in the hospital gathered to check it out because they’d only read of it in textbooks. Yippee! Just what you want to hear when you’re still intubated.
It felt good to be cleared to recover in 4-6 weeks, we learned a lot and grew a lot, but it also felt like we’d been tricked. Why all the hoopla over absolutely nothing? We felt sucker-punched. I remember asking Joel over and over (with the help of lots of oxygen…I kept that stuff c.o.m.i.n.g. It feels amazing!) again “Did they HAVE to get the tumor out? Could it have just stayed? Did we HAVE to do all this?” He assured me that a 5-inch scar was much preferable to the alternative of breaking my arm and the tumor being lethally unleashed throughout my body. With that satisfactory answer, I laid back and enjoyed the leg warmer blood clot massager things, that probably cost us $650/hour.
When the PTSDish haze of that experience started to clear our natural thought was, “Of COURSE God wouldn’t let us get pregnant with that jank going on!” So we signed ourselves up for one more round of turkey basting. (Joel’s gonna want to edit that line…) It was at that point that our sweet nurse asked Joel to pray, because he’s the “professional” and then she gently told us that if this didn’t work we should probably be done with treatment. Without knowing it, our endocrinologist/fertility specialist seconded that motion by saying “if you don’t conceive this time, there’s a higher power preventing it.” And with that failed attempt, we were done.
We felt bruised and needed time to lick our wounds before jumping to the adoption option. We had casually talked about it along the way. Joel was resistant to the thought of “loving someone else’s child,” a thought I am sure he will write on some day. But me, the compulsive activator set up webinars and teleconferences to gather research…And that will be a topic for the next post in “Following Him & Loving Them”