He's In The Waiting: Our Infertility Journey
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
God blessed us with 3 beautiful children. What many don't know is what it took to get them here; a lot of patience and a lot of Jesus. This is Part 1 of our story.
I've always wanted to be a mother. Since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to be married and to have children to nurture and to build lasting memories with, like my mother did for me. I wanted children so badly that I made it a requirement for whomever my future husband was going to be.
Before we began dating, I gave Ryan three demands. I told him that he had to grow his relationship with Jesus, that he had to want to have children, and that he had to be supportive with me being a stay at home mom. Honestly, I don't know what was going on in his head, but he never hesitated and always strived to meet me right where I was.
We were married in January of 2006 and we began trying to grow our family almost immediately. There were a number of reasons for this. First, as I've already mentioned, family is extremely important to me. Secondly, not long after we were married, my mother in-law was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. The prognosis wasn't great and we deeply desired to give her an opportunity be a grandmother before she passed away. We didn't want our children to suffer from not knowing one of their grandmothers, as Ryan had.
Now if I'm honest, we didn't expect difficulties. Ryan has four sisters, one of whom is his twin. I've got two brothers myself and I believe that my father is the oldest of 28. Needless to say, our families are very fertile. As things turned out though, trying to have a family became the most difficult thing for us to navigate in marriage .
The First Disappointment
The first blow came early on in our journey. Initially, I thought that I had developed a UTI. I made an appointment to see my gynecologist and as was procedure, I completed a pregnancy test. Positive. Wait, what?
They completed blood work to confirm the pregnancy and determined that the hCG levels were elevated but not by very much. I was told that it simply meant that I was likely early along in pregnancy and that the levels would increase within a few days. Just like that, we were pregnant. We were excited. We were nervous. We were ready!
We announced to a few friends and family that we were going to be parents! The excitement was short lived however. After returning to my OB a few days later, my hCG levels were lower, not higher. All the tests were now showing clear negative results for pregnancy. They called it a "false positive." What the heck is that anyway? It's not like we did the test at home. Trained medical professionals performed the tests. They should know the difference between pregnant and not pregnant, right?
We knew it wasn't their fault. Our misplaced frustration was rooted in disappointment, confusion and if I'm honest, a little embarrassment as we would now have to tell our friends and family that I was, in fact, very un-pregnant.
After that initial false positive, we committed to continue trying for a baby. We ended up trying for a very, very long time. I prayed fervently. We read books, tried acrobatic positions in the bedroom, ate specific foods and took vitamins. We tracked ovulation to the hour, scheduled days and times for sex, documented basal body temperatures and more. When that didn't work, we went to see several doctors for help. All we learned was that we were both completely healthy. The eggs were present and my husband's fish were swimming just fine! But still, no baby.
Eventually, we tried to increase our chances of conceiving by taking medication like Clomid. After taking the maximum allowed dosage for the maximum amount of time allowed with no changes, the doctor made me stop taking it. Still nothing. When that failed to work, we planned for IVF treatments, something that we realistically probably couldn't even afford at the time.
We struggled to conceive for about three years; shorter than some, longer than most. The waiting birthed a myriad of emotions inside of me (everything but an actual child). For one thing, I was frustrated. I was frustrated as to how two completely healthy people could not produce one healthy child. We were doing everything right, but nothing was working. I was jealous. It seemed as if everywhere we looked, everyone was pregnant but me. It hurt me to see those who were pregnant often complaining about the burdens and pains of pregnancy. "What I wouldn't give for your nausea, sore feet, back and hips," I thought to myself. I was also angry. We would frequently see young teens who were pregnant with babies that they didn't even want, and yet there we were, unable to do the same. What made it worse was that there were others who were advocating for the termination of their pregnancies. Why would irresponsible people be gifted with a child they were willing to throw away, but a responsible married couple wouldn't? Needless to say, I was asking God a lot of "why" questions.
They say that the best part of trying to have children is the sex. I think that only rings true if you are able to successfully become pregnant as a result of having sex. Otherwise, the process eventually becomes daunting, mechanical and obligatory. Every month or so, we experienced disappointment after disappointment as my wife's body reminded us that our efforts had once again failed.
Imagine that. Every month, a new waiting game and a new opportunity for our hope to be destroyed. Imagine no less than 40 disappointments coming in the form of a monthly menstrual cycle over the course of three agonizing years. We went through dozens of pregnancy tests. Anytime she felt different, a little gas or cramping that could have been a baby or if she was late starting her cycle, we tested. Always negative. Nothing I said or did could take the sting out of that for my wife. I couldn't even take the sting out of it for myself. As a husband, there are very few moments where I've felt completely helpless in our marriage. This was definitely one of those moments. It was one of those seasons.
Our attempts to have a baby were widely known by our friends, family and our co-workers. At the time, we were both working for the local police department. I was a patrol officer and she was an emergency dispatcher. As a consequence of our close family work environment, there would be days and nights when my supervisor would let me off early to go home and "clock in." As Alicia mentioned above, she had scheduled our daily efforts to the hour and we were determined to be diligent. But we grew tired. It wasn't fun anymore. It was exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I just didn't want to fight through it anymore.
It was around that time that I had an epiphany. One day while I was getting dressed for work, it occurred to me that we had never asked God for children. Sure, we had prayed for children. But my prayers specifically were always prayers of demand. Essentially, I told God that I wanted kids and told him to bless our decision. I had never asked if God wanted kids for us though. It was really a revelation for me. I felt embarrassed and I was convicted.
So right there in our master bathroom, fully undressed and exposed, I prayed. I literally stood naked in the presence of God. I had no idea what I was doing. I was relatively new in my faith as a Christian, but I always say that this was my first true "surrender prayer." It was simple and I've never forgotten what I said or what God did. I repented, asked for forgiveness and prayed;
"I've told you want I wanted, but never asked you what you want for me. I surrender, and I give this to you. If you want me to be a father, I'll be the best father I can be. If you want me to be an adoptive father, I'll be the best adoptive father I can be. If you just want me to be a husband, then I'll be the best husband I can be. Whatever you put in front of me, that is what I will pursue. Your will be done. Amen."
Not long after that prayer, I told my wife that I didn't want to "try" anymore. "Whatever happens, let's just let it happen," I said. I don't remember her response exactly, but I do remember both of us having a real sense of peace for the first time in years.
When my husband told me about his prayer, I felt comforted. You have to understand, I had already been praying. This was all taking place during a time when I was either going to church by myself or he was dragging himself along out of obligation. Ryan hadn't been baptized yet and was really new to walking in faith. It gave me comfort knowing that he felt prompted to give anything to God. It was an answered prayer. Comically, I even wondered if he had been the one holding us back all along.
A few weeks had passed from Ryan's surrender prayer. I randomly found myself up at about 3 am one morning needing to use the bathroom. Purely out of habit, I decided to take another pregnancy test. That particular week also happened to be the week of our scheduled IVF consultation. It was likely the last time I'd have to take a test, so I figured, "what the heck?"
I used the bathroom, washed up and just before crawling back into bed, I took a glance at the pregnancy test before throwing it away, as I had become accustomed to doing. Positive. My brain couldn't compute. I wasn't sure what I was seeing and it took my brain time to process the fact that this time something was different. Was I pregnant? Like, really pregnant? I stayed in the bathroom for a little while, trying to gather my thoughts before I told my husband.
I remember jumping on the bed to wake him up. I made him look at it.
"Look!" I demanded. "What is this?!" I yelled.
Understandably, we were both hesitant to believe it. Ryan had to work early that morning, so he suggested that we go back to bed and take a second test in the morning. So after we waking back up and taking three more pregnancy tests, I was still very much pregnant.
I called my OBGYN office to make an appointment and got one right away. When we went in for the appointment I was asked to provide a urine sample. That test instantly revealed another positive result. Even after they confirmed that we were pregnant, it was still hard to believe it. They then decided to do an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. The results of the ultrasound were even crazier. Not only were we pregnant, but we were pregnant with twins. What!
After three years of doing it our way and getting it wrong, one surrender prayer changed our lives forever. I learned two very important lessons during this season. The first was that sometimes, you just have to let go and let God. The other was that God knows what He's doing.
See, you may consider this a happy ending, but the reality is that our troubles were just beginning. What we didn't know was that getting pregnant was only the first battle in a very trying war. Staying pregnant was going to be a whole different battle. In addition to the frustrations that we had already faced, we were in for a life and death battle that we never anticipated. God knew that the spiritual battle in front of us required my faith to be bigger in order for me to be able to successfully lead my wife through it. He wasn't done with us yet. He was just getting started, and our faith was about to be tested.
But that story will have to wait until next week.
About The Authors:
We are Ryan and Alicia Dunlap, marriage coaches and the the founders of ThisIsKnotLove.com. Like a knot, we believe there are two types of marriages; those which are miserable, tangled messes and those which are intentionally fashioned together to join two separate things together as one. We work to remove the bad knots that cause marriages to unravel, and fashion secure knots that hold marriages together. We're just here to help you get the kinks out! #TIKL #KnottyLove