By Jessie Peele, author of Cupcakes and Running Shoes
“Sometimes a great plan, is kinda hard to understand. Right now it don’t make sense… I can’t make it all make sense.” ~Luke Bryan
It was a Friday. I had just put my daughter, Cameron Kate, down for a nap. My phone rang. The screen said, “Fertility Clinic.” I knew they were calling with my bloodwork results, but honestly, I wasn’t worried. I thought we’d already diagnosed the issue, and the bloodwork was a formality.
I listened and jotted the numbers down, listening to the nurse spout things off like “prolactin” and “thyroid” and “normal.” Then, though, she paused. “But your AMH level is a little below normal.”
“Oh really?” I replied. “What is it?”
In my beginning research of fertility issues, I knew this number was not simply “a little below normal.” It was alarmingly low. Like, almost-completely-infertile-low.
My mouth immediately dropped open in a state of shock, my hand quickly went up to cover my mouth, and my eyes filled up with tears. I knew this was despairing news in the world of baby-making.
The nurse heard my emotions jump through the phone line, heard the tears, the panic, the shock. She assured me I’d have plenty of time the following Monday to sit down with Dr. D and discuss our “options.”
“Can you tell me ANYTHING about our options?” I pleaded.
“Well, your number means we need to get aggressive as soon as possible. Time is not on your side. But your number is so low, we may not be willing to even try IVF. We typically don’t try IVF on women whose levels are below 0.5. But we’ll look at many factors and do some more assessments to see if it’s worth a shot.”
The panic ripped my heart open and I felt an emptiness all the way into my core. They may not even TRY IVF?? IVF was something we didn’t even think we’d have to consider, and now it looked like it probably wasn’t even an option.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I was in a state of shock, sitting alone in my dark living room, tears streaming down my cheeks with a hole drilled into my heart. Cameron woke up from her nap, and I immediately went in, scooped her up, held her tight, and thanked God for her, our little blessing. Our daughter who the nurse told me was probably a little miracle. I pulled myself together and dabbed some makeup on my swollen eyes and took her to the local children’s’ museum, just like I’d promised I would. When we got home, I was so relieved to see my husband’s car. I didn’t want to be alone, and he was the only person who could join me in the darkness. I walked in the door and he pulled me into his arms. And I stopped holding back, I let the fears and worries and sadness and guilt wash over me, and I fell apart in his embrace.
To make a long story short, I had met with an OB about fertility issues, tried two unsuccessful medicated cycles, seen a specialist, went through tests and bloodwork, and dealt with a miscarriage. It had all been difficult, but we felt like we had a decent game plan in place … until we got this call that changed everything….
Over the next few days, there were times I wondered if I was overreacting – Obviously there is far worse news one can receive from a doctor.
But I can’t apologize for my feelings, for my grief. This news was life-changing for us. Especially when just eight months earlier we’d heard a promising little heartbeat, we’d heard our baby. A baby who just wasn’t quite strong enough to join us in this world.
And now, this life we had pictured, this family, this chaotic house full of children, was probably not going to happen. My dream was shattered by one tiny, hopeless, inadequate number.
Secondary infertility is a tricky thing. Tricky because I truly believe you can’t compare it to people who battle infertility with NO children – I cannot imagine how much harder all of this would be without my sweet CK. However, it still brings with it unimaginable pain, fear, inadequacy, and worry. Especially when everyone around you seems to sneeze and get pregnant. Because whether you picture your family with one child or five, when you find out that the life you dreamed of is most likely not going to happen, your heart is forever broken.
So I tried to hold on tight to the pieces of my broken heart, and I cried… a lot. I didn’t understand why this was happening to us. I tried to keep myself busy, but sat in many parking lots, in my car, struggling to pull myself together enough to go inside.
I felt so alone. I felt such a dark sadness.
I felt so guilty, because my amazing daughter, my daughter who is clearly a little miracle, probably won’t get to experience life with siblings. And my husband, the most incredible father, probably won’t get to have the family he’d always imagined… all because of me. Though my husband would hear nothing of that guilt. He is amazing, and has been my anchor throughout all of this. I’ve said it before, but I will never know how I got lucky enough to be his wife. What I do know is that news like this, tough times like these, tear many marriages apart. But it has only brought us closer together. And that is all because of him. Because he is the best, most selfless, most amazing person I’ve ever known. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Well, we’re gonna fight this. We’re gonna do whatever we can so that 20 years from now, we can look back with no regrets and know we gave it our best shot.” And he has held my hand through all of this, making me put one foot in front of the other when all I want to do is lay down and cry.
Don’t get me wrong – I did lay down and cry. And I still do every now and then. I let myself grieve, I let myself feel all of the heart-wrenching emotions – sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, more sadness, and fear… lots and lots of fear. But then, I grab on to my husband’s hand, and we started walking. Walking toward hope, and courage, and strength.
And that’s where we are now. We’re hopeful. We’re choosing hope. And it’s definitely a choice. Every morning I wake up, and I remember the fight we’re fighting and my stomach drops and my heart breaks a little – but then I consciously choose to try to ignore the ache and focus on the hope. I decide to be courageous no matter how scared I am. Because these are the cards we’ve been dealt. And we’re not gonna fold. We’re gonna keep drawing from the deck.
We’re gonna keep choosing hope, we’re gonna keep digging deep for the courage and strength to fight, and we’re gonna keep holding hands and putting one foot in front of the other, helping each other stay steady and squeezing three times to say, “I love you, you’re not alone, we’ve got this.”
And that call? That call that changed everything? It changed everything because it made me a better mother and it showed me just how incredibly strong my marriage really is. And while this life may not end up looking the way I’d always imagined, it truly is beautiful… and I’m gonna live it for all it’s worth.