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When The Answer Is No-infertility and adoption part 1

 

infertility

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Monday September 8, 1997 will be a day I won’t forget.  It was the day my OBGYN told me I would most likely never bear another child.  At first I was confused.  I got pregnant so quickly with our first child.  Nine months and three days after my husband and I were married, I gave birth….while I was on birth control.  Soon after we found out our good news we told our family.  My father in-law who always has a smile on his face replied, “Well, it took ya long enough!”  The funny thing is, the only child we didn’t “plan” was the one I gave birth to.

At the age of 21, and after our daughter was born my monthly cycle didn’t resume.  Having moved to a new city and state from the OBGYN that delivered her, I found a new doctor.  I was young and naive and didn’t really understand what birth control drugs did to the body, only what I had heard…..it will help regulate your period and prevent pregnancy by tricking your body into thinking it was already pregnant (by telling the ovulating ovary that the other ovary was already doing the job of dropping the egg) or something like that…..So I asked the new doctor to put me on BC to regulate my period because eventually I wanted to get pregnant again.  He obliged and withing 18 months of doing so, I went off the medication and became pregnant within the first month. Wow was I fertile!

This pregnancy was different.  I wasn’t very sick, just really tired.  Within a month of finding out I was pregnant, 8 weeks along,  I was spotting and cramping and on Monday July 29th, my doctor told me the results of my hormone levels were down from 14,000 to 2,000.  Also, the ultrasound revealed that there was a sack, but no baby inside.  A blighted ovum.  I was in the process of having a miscarriage. On August 17th, 1996, while camping at a family reunion in Idaho, I miscarried.  At the time I was in too much pain to care about our loss.  But in the days, weeks and months to come, I grieved the loss and felt so empty.  But the loss of what?  I didn’t even have a baby inside, just the equipment to store one.

Once again my period didn’t return.  I asked Dr. Smith to again put me on birth control to start my period up.  He wrote me out a prescription and I remained hopeful that after giving myself a few months to recover emotionally and physically from the ordeal, my body would be ready to conceive again-it had been so easy the last two times, or so I thought.  My husband and I were in the process of moving to Nevada so it was a bit stressful.  My daughter and I moved in with my parents for a couple months while John worked in the Sierras.  In February of 1997, the three of us reunited permanently together and moved into John’s grandparent’s Air Stream trailer, at first in an RV Park but later our 1 acre purchased lot.  It wasn’t shangrila but we made it our home while our first house was being built.

I spent a lot of time feeling anxious and depressed.  My emotions were all over the place.  I went off birth control as soon as we were all together and started using some progesterone cream and to help my body.  I spent $10 over and over at the grocery store on what we can now buy at the dollar store…pregnancy tests but the results were always the same-negative.  My daughter kept asking for a baby and it broke my heart every time I saw a single line on the test kit.  In April before her birthday I went back to the Gynecologist I saw after I graduated from high school when I started missing periods.  He told me to start charting my temperature to see when I was ovulating.  He wrote me a prescription for Provera, which would supposedly make me bleed. And Chlomid, a fertility drug for me to take  at a specific time after my cycle had begun.

I made myself a chart with college-ruled paper and a pen.  I plotted out a temperature graph, starting at 97 to 99 with every tenth of a point in-between.  According to Dr. Crouch ( I know, a GREAT name for a Gyno….LOL) my temperature would spike when I ovulated and that would be prime time to conceive.  My temperature was all over the map and the funny thing was that I was rarely even reaching 98 degrees.  It was mostly in the low 97’s.  Which seemed odd to me because while my body temperature seemed to be dipping low in the morning, I was having flashes of heat during the day. I charted my temperature for over a month. The first month on Provera, I had no period.  I called Dr. Crouch.  “Double the dose next month.”  I did, with no results.  “Something’s not right, I will order you a blood test and have the results faxed to me.”

A couple of weeks later I drove to Idaho to visit my parents and to go to the doctor to hear the results and receive treatment.  My mom decided to go with me.  She and I calmly sat in the waiting room when Dr. Max Crouch, himself, came out to bring me back to the room.  He first greeted us and turned to me and asked, “Would you like your mom to come back with us?”  I shrugged and said, “Sure.”  I knew Dr. Crouch had delivered a few of my sisters so he and my mom were well-aquainted,  no big deal.

I sat down, anxious to hear my results, but even more anxious as to how he was going to fix my temporary infertility so John and I could get on with expanding our family.  Dr. Crouch wasted no time, but drew a deep breath before telling me that the test results were conclusive and he knew why I wasn’t having a period.  At first I was relieved, “Oh good he knows what’s wrong!” was all I could think of.  But I waited for a re-assuring smile that never showed up on his face.  He said, “I’m sorry to tell you this Michelle, but your young 24 -year old body has already gone through menopause.  You have no eggs left.  You will not be able to conceive any more children.”

The first tear that dropped wasn’t from my eyes.  It was from my mom.  She who had born 6 children of her own, several of which were with the aid of fertility drugs was weeping for me. I sat there in shock and disbelief. Then I felt this pain in my chest and a lump in my throat started to form.  I had always pictured myself having a large family.   And my precious little brown-eyed girl was asking, almost begging for a baby.  And I thought,  What will I tell her?  What will I tell my husband? Will he still want to be married to someone who can’t have any more children?

In the days and weeks that followed, I couldn’t help but feel bitter.  I knew I hadn’t been a perfect teenager and neither had my husband.  But he and I had both never drank alcohol, never did drugs or smoked a cigarette.  And we had both “Saved Ourselves” for marriage.  In an excerpt from my journal I wrote:

” We are a little angry because we have felt like we have tried to do what’s right all of our lives and we’ve kept ourselves clean, we pay our tithing, we have a temple recommend and we are honest in our dealings (with our fellow man).  We feel like this is a big injustice to us.”

The only thing I could think of that could describe the grief I was feeling was death.  I felt like I had suffered a death, not because of the miscarriage but the death of my womanhood.

Still in denial and feeling I needed an expert opinion in fertility, I scheduled an appointment a month later with a specialist in Reno Nevada, Victor Knutzen.  I remember sitting in a cold, white office waiting for him to come to the room to speak with John and I.  The only thing colder than that office ended up being his bed-side manner.  The first thing he told me was that my previous doctor was a very smart man in telling me I had gone through menopause.  He then proceeded to tell me my condition was irreversable and he would be able to bet me any amount of money that I would never conceive again.  With a  blank expression on his face, he handed me a prescription of Premarin and Provera so I would at least, “live a normal lifestyle.” I left HIS office, more upset than when I left Dr. Crouch’s office.

I was deflated.  We were getting ready to move into our  house and I remember our daughter putting her arm around me to console me one day while I was sitting on the little sofa in the Air Stream and crying.  She said, “Don’t worry mom, Heavenly Father will send us a baby when we get in our new house.”

We moved into the first home we ever bought on October 21st (my 25th birthday) 1997.  John was swamped at work, being the general manager of a two-way radio business so I moved all of our stuff up from the basement where we had kept everything for several weeks until the permit came through. That night he took me up to the “E” and we had tin-foil dinners and roasted s’mores under the stars.  It was evident he still loved me, despite my roller coaster of emotions.

Remembering what our daughter had told me months before and knowing that children can be very close to The Spirit, John and I decided to meet with someone from LDS Social Services (Now Family Services) out of Las Vegas.  During the meeting with the representative, I was anxious and uncomfortable.  It felt odd to me.  We were most likely selling ourselves to a teenager, at the time I felt like I had to beg someone for a baby and it was a step I wasn’t prepared to do….not yet.

I had a few friends, with medical conditions, that had put themselves into remission from alternative diets and herbs.  I was interested in becoming my own best advocate and so my journey of self-help began. I wasn’t interested in pills/bandaids, things that covered up symptoms but leaving the problem exposed deep down.   I wanted to know WHY this happened.  I wanted to figure out HOW I could fix it.  I bought books, sought out doctors, invested in teas and tinctures.  I tried different diets trying to cure myself and my good husband bless his heart, had to eat brown rice, salmon and broccoli a few nights a week.  (he later teased/confessed, I still don’t know which, to eating something on the way home from the office so he could say he wasn’t hungry) I went to seminars and learned about female fertility and the possible causes of my condition.  Dr. Crouch had told me I was the youngest person he had ever heard of to go through menopause. There were doctors who claimed they could help me and reverse my condition.  John and I traveled hundreds of miles to California for me to receive treatment.  That quack just took my money and nothing came of his recommendations. Other doctors were expensive and insurance wouldn’t cover the costs. I became more and more frustrated.

A month passed and I was asked to give a speech to a group of church women on a Thursday night.  The lesson was about the misuse of drugs.  I spoke about my experience of birth control and looking back and realizing that if I had been more informed about it, I would have not taken the drug to start my period.  I realized that I wasn’t ovulating all those months….the birth control masked my symptoms and made me believe everything was fine when it wasn’t. I came home that night and wrote this in my journal:

“Why me? I know I’m not very patient.  I see those beautiful babies and I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  John’s sister is pregnant with her 5th child.  I am a little envious, but I do hope things go well during the pregnancy.  I don’t know why I don’t feel right about adoption but, I just don’t.  It is hard for me.  I don’t know how I’m doing to live with this for the next 20-25 years , when my body should have taken the menopause effect. “

A couple weeks later I got a phone call from John’s brother’s wife.  She was pregnant.  The first thing she said to me after she told me was, “I’m so sorry Michelle.” It’s a good thing Skype hadn’t come out so she couldn’t see the contortion of my face from trying not to cry.  But the squeak in my voice gave it away as all  I could say was, “It’s okay.”  My journal entry on December 5, 1997 said this:

“I’m a little mad at life right now.  John and I went out tonight and we went over to (his) brother and his wife’s house to play a game.  I looked at her and already I could see this inner glow and I was jealous.  Of course I am very happy for them but I am feeling sorry for us.  All 3 of us.  My husband John, our daughter and me.”

One of my biggest hang-ups of adoption was I was afraid that the baby wouldn’t REALLY be ours. It would come from another woman’s body and have a different father than my husband.  Would I love him/her just as I would our birth-given daughter?  Would our extended family love them?  Would they love us? Would we even get to adopt a normal child?  A few months later, still thinking it was the social worker from Las Vegas that I didn’t like, we traveled to my husband’s home town to speak to Family Services in Idaho.  I remember three things from that visit.  First, the social worker was very nice and I felt comfortable immediately.  Second, we were told we had to go through Las Vegas because at the time we lived in Nevada.  There was no way we could adopt in Idaho through the Church.  And lastly, he looked us square in the eye and re-assured us that , “It doesn’t matter how your baby comes to you, that baby was yours all along.  Heavenly Father just has to get it to you another way.”

To say the least, that sealed the deal for me.  I was ready to go forward with having our family grow, even if it meant my belly would not.

 

Comments

  1. Michelle – this is a story that’s so important to tell. Life is filled with unfulfilled dreams and hopes. I am likely to not have any children of my own not due to medical circumstances but just a lack of a partner :-). It’s still a sense of loss that from time to time I think about. I believe in an eternal perspective. But when I turned 40, I felt many of your same feelings. I know God blesses us in ways we don’t understand. Thanks for sharing a deeply personal story.

    • Heather, I have such empathy for those who have not had the opportunity to bare children or in your case marry. My heart breaks for you. It also so hard to know what to say to someone who has grieved a loss that they never had. The important thing to know is that someone understands….even if they don’t know what to say. Our faith and eternal perspective is what can be our healing balm. <3

  2. Angelee Aedo says:

    Michelle, I loved reading your story. I only knew bits and pieces and so far, it’s so beautiful. I love you and your kids! (and side note, Dr. crouch delivered me and his son actually served in my my ward growing up in TX! Small world! ) can’t wait to hear the rest! Miss you guys!

  3. Angelee that is crazy about Dr. Crouch! It is such a small world, especially among church members. I’m enjoying seeing your updates on your girls. They are beautiful and growing up so fast!

  4. Paige Harshbarger says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your private journey. I had some of your same experiences with infertility, adoption, and LDS social services. It is amazing how much comfort it can be that we are not alone in our struggles. What I would do to be able to have a sneak peak of how Heavenly Father would take care of us and bless me for my faith. It is a joy to have you all in our ward. I look forward to getting to know you and your family even better.

    • You are so right about getting the sneak peek Paige. I know His path is better than one I could have carved out myself.

  5. I love you Michelle, thanks for sharing that with us! Xoxo

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