It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?
Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive. ~Mandy and MC
-written by Katy, a current graduate wife
–Part 1 found here
–Part 2 found here
When my husband and I married over nine years ago, we knew our path was going to be a road less traveled. As we watched most of our friends settle down into long term careers, purchase homes, and start families, we found ourselves packing up a Penske truck and heading across the country to a place entirely new to us and away from all our family and friends in order for me to complete a masters degree in Social Work. We were young and newly married and the whole thing seemed like a grand adventure. As I was finishing my masters we decided that my husband would begin his masters in Theology the following Fall. Once again we packed up all our belongings in a big Penske truck and drove back across the country and up to Vancouver, Canada. Three years in we felt like old pros at the graduate life routine and were excited for another adventure. We were also excited as we decided this would be the perfect time to start our family and take advantage of the free health care available to us in Canada. I assumed the first month we wanted to get pregnant we would and then nine months later we would have a perfect, healthy baby to share our lives with. I can still vividly remember the excitement and hopefulness during those first few months of trying to get pregnant. But, when month after month started to pass us by I began to have a sinking suspicion that something was wrong.
Things weren’t working like you see in the movies. There were no joyful tears over sharing a positive pregnancy test. I didn’t get to make the excited calls to our parents to share that we were expecting. And we never got to have a fun dinner party or surprise email to all our friends to share ‘the big news’. Instead, I got to watch from the sidelines as most of our friends and family lived out all those experiences I so longed for. A deep and profound grief began to settle over me and after 18 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, we decided to seek medical help. Following a series of painful and invasive tests, and one surgery later, we were given the news that it would be impossible for us to get pregnant without significant medical intervention. Looking back now that diagnosis came almost as a relief. For so long we had lived in the land of ‘what if’ and now, finally, we had concrete answers and a clear action plan from the fertility specialists. I felt a renewed sense of hope and we dove headfirst into the crazy world of fertility treatments. I quit my job to eliminate as much stress as possible, we cut out all manner of foods, began taking various herbal supplements, and I started seeing an acupuncturist and massage therapist. Surely, with so much help and commitment I would be pregnant in no time and our long-deferred dream of becoming parents would finally be a reality.
Our first round of IVF was cut short when ‘my numbers’ weren’t looking right. Round two we had a successful procedure and I counted down the days until we had the official word that we were expecting. That call never came. The call that did come informed us that the treatment had ‘failed’ and would we like to book the next round? All that I heard was that I had failed and once again my dreams of motherhood were lost. Only this time there was no language to talk about it. Loosing our embryos wasn’t technically a miscarriage, but for me the loss was incredibly painful. For however briefly I held that life inside me, they were ours, and in those weeks of waiting, our imagined life together was so beautiful and real. I didn’t know how to talk about our loss and our friends, and family didn’t know what to say, either. We were stuck in nowhere land with a grief that didn’t have a clear name. I felt more broken and empty in the months that followed that loss than I have ever felt in my life. And, as our journey would have it, the news of that ‘failed’ IVF came just as my husband finished his Masters degree and we learned that he had been accepted into a PhD program in the UK. We were meant to begin that fall, but after spending significant time in prayer we decided to defer until January of the following year and move back to my hometown to be near family and have time to grieve and mourn and figure out how to move forward. Throughout our heartbreak our desire to become parents never faltered. If anything the longing was only intensified by the brief moments of hope we had when the possibility of pregnancy was still within our reach. As such, we decided to give IVF another try and once again began in earnest to prepare ourselves for the physical, spiritual and emotional toll we knew was before us. One morning, just a few days before the treatment began, I awoke with a profound conviction that we were to look into adoption. My husband had been open to this path to parenthood for a long time, but my longing to experience pregnancy and to create a life together prevented me from being able to move in that direction. This new openness to adoption was a major shift in my heart, but as we had already begun another round of IVF we decided to see it through. Once again, we hoped and prayed that this would be our time: that we would finally get to share good news, not bad. And that we would get to be parents. But, the day after the embryo transfer I knew things were not right, and sure enough, another failed IVF. Heartbroken and exhausted we took solace in the love and support of our family and friends. We grieved and cried and talked about our loss, and cried some more. It would have been easy as I found myself more and more caught up in the world of infertility and loss to ‘check out’ in all other areas of my life, particularly given our experience in the mid-point of this graduate life. Instead, I learned the importance of vulnerability and transparency in the midst of grief. It was in reconciling ourselves to this experience of loss that we began our first tentative steps in exploring what adoption would look like.
Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post for part 2 of Katy’s story.
As a graduate wife going through infertility, how do you stay open and vulnerable when it’s easy to live ‘on the surface’ when coming to a new community that doesn’t know your full story?