The Announcement...and The Full Story

2:08 PM

Scott and I announced last week that we are expecting our little miracle baby next May 2017. We received such an overwhelming response from all our friends, family, colleagues and clients (who let's be honest, are also our friends). The support we have just blows me away...so thank you to all of you! My heart is full.

I wanted to keep our announcement simple. I had a lot of ideas that got crazier and crazier and required more work on our part and as I thought about how to finally make our announcement, the word I wanted it to fall under was "reverent". Reverent to the other women who are also journeying or have journeyed where we have been. I had initially planned to announce our pregnancy over Thanksgiving weekend but then I remembered how holidays feel for those dealing with infertility, loss, or heartache. The last thing you need is someone else rubbing in how happy they are. I was aware our announcement may pain some people who are still in the desert of infertility no matter what day we announce it, but I know holidays are just not the time to add more hurt to people’s hearts. So “reverent” was what I wanted - something respectful, showing how grateful we are, but certainly not disrespectful or braggy. Of course, in true fashion, my husband posted the silliest photo from our shoot which I was also totally okay with. However, after being on such a journey, much of which has really been my journey, I knew I had to be true to myself and pay honour to all the steps in the dark I have taken, feet trembling.

You see, the baby I am carrying has been wanted and hoped for for 4.5 years...and dreamed about my whole life. I've always wanted to be a mom and I had always said I wanted to have about 2 years married before starting to grow our family. At the 2 year mark exactly, I started experiencing severe symptoms which led me to seek professional help and ultimately led to my diagnosis of endometriosis, which was a huge blow to me and started my path of also battling anxiety. Endo is a disease where the tissue that should grow inside of your uterus grows outside of your uterus, and can get worse over time, growing around your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and in extreme cases into your other organs. It is a painful disease - usually women with endo have incredibly painful menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and abdominal pain. Heavy bleeding and tiredness are also related to endometriosis. At the time of my surgery for endo (when I also had an ovarian cyst removed), I was told I had to start trying to get pregnant right away because once endo grows back, it grows back worse. While we started trying again and I didn’t get pregnant again, I also started dealing with complications from my anxiety. I started fearing trying, fearing the disappointment, and it became pretty crippling. It took all the fun out of something that should be fun and exciting. Scott and I talked and realized I needed some time to heal emotionally from the disappointments I’d already faced and I needed time to find myself again. I felt so lost and so blindsided. People around me were getting pregnant with minimal effort. Social media always showed me the daily complaints of parenthood. I just wanted to shake people and tell them they should be thanking their lucky stars to have not had to despair over whether or not they could ever have kids. And yet, I knew that when you don’t have to work for something…when you never know what it’s like to go without something, you can’t be blamed for not knowing how blessed you truly are. Perspectives in both situations are so different. Everyone’s journey is so different. I saw people with kids who couldn’t keep jobs and knew I was blessed to have my fantastic business. Blessings come in many forms, and despite the fact that my heart was broken, I knew that even still, I was blessed.

Well, all of that part of the story took place in 2013, and here we are, over 3.5 years after my surgery. I wish I could say the journey got easier, but it didn’t. Scott and I went through a lot - he was away for work often which makes trying for a baby stressful in normal circumstances. I began to wonder how and when we would ever be parents. People gave so much advice - most did not help at all because it didn’t apply to our unique situation. Some advice was more harmful than others…some told us they knew our baby would be here by a certain date and when those dates passed by, I was a wreck. I look back to those times and wonder how I held it together. My dreams and vision for my 20’s were quickly slipping away. I always wanted a big family - 4 kids or more. I thought we would get started at 25….and be done by 31ish. I wanted to be a young mom. I wanted to be active and energetic. I didn’t want to be sick. I didn’t want to be dealing with crippling monthly pain that realistically stopped me from ever being able to have a “normal” 9-5 job, not that I was pursuing that but to know that was off the table was a little hard. I could have felt sorry for myself and I certainly could have given up. But I didn’t. Many know I am a Christian…I write about my faith often. My faith has been my strength through all of this. Marilla Cuthbert in the Anne of Green Gables book says “to despair is to turn your back on God” and it’s a pretty laughable moment in the book/movie because Marilla is so strict and so uptight in comparison to the wild Anne, but when I think about this quote I really do believe it is true. Through all of our trials, I held on to hope. Hope to me meant believing that God was still coming…He was still moving…He was still working everything together for my good. This is a promise in the Bible. A promise that will never be broken. Yes, I had a lot of ideas for my life and how it would look…but when I look back on all my heartache, I see the Lord there. He was shaping me into a more patient, compassionate, trusting, understanding woman who feels deeply for others. He took my pain and He molded it into something we could use - something we could help others with. Though my heart has ached for so long, I would not trade my story or my path. That is the beauty and mystery of knowing the Lord - His ways are good, even if we don’t see it or understand it at the time.

So moving  along with our timeline, through 2014-2015, we focused our energies on our home. New dreams were born in both of us and though we absolutely believed we would someday have our own child, we felt the timing was off. We weren’t not trying, but we weren’t obsessing about it and we certainly were able to live in the moment where we were in those 2 years. Our new home was a big project. I never stopped dreaming of days when little footsteps would fill the halls and our backyard would be a fun place to play in the summer sun, but I enjoyed the life we had while we had it. We both were exploring new dreams in our fields of work. We made where we were at in life work well; we were content.

Around last Christmas, nearing the end of 2015, we began discussing the big (painful) topic of “trying” again. I had to be honest - I didn’t think I could continue down the same paths we had already journeyed. I told Scott that we had kept trying the same things with no results and maybe it was time to try something new. We both agreed, though we were both scared, that it was time to look into fertility treatment options soon. At the beginning of January, the government of Ontario announced that they had approved funding for fertility treatment. The timing for us was finally right and we knew this was an option we needed to pursue. We knew it was finally time to get help. We made our appt with the clinic for March 2016 and went in for our interview and some initial bloodwork. The women at my clinic were wonderful, but also did not speak hope into situations they didn’t know were hopeful or not. My nurse told me because I had endometriosis, I would likely need to go straight to IVF (in-vitro fertilization) which is the more aggressive treatment where the sperm and egg meet outside of the body and the formed embryo is put back into your uterus for implantation. There are a lot of drugs associated with this treatment, it can only be done in major cities, and the waiting list was already over a year long back in March. My nurse explained that we should start with the less aggressive treatment called IUI’s (intra uterine insemination) and usually after 3 failed IUI’s, they can get me on the waiting list for IVF. Again, with my endo history, she didn’t want me to get my hopes up and explained the major candidates for IVF are women with endo and that would likely be the route we would need to take. This was hard to hear as an IUI cycle is a month long, so 3 IUI’s was 3 months and then I could get on a waiting list that was at least 1 year long. All of this would require back and forth driving to Orillia, an hour and a half from my home, for months on end. IVF cycles are also longer than IUI cycles. This meant that according to my clinic, it could be about 1.5 - 2 years before I was pregnant, putting me at around 31 years old with my first pregnancy. That isn't the end of the world as a starting age for many women (my mom included) but the hard thing about that is my endo would be growing all that time, and who would know if at that point a viable pregnancy was even possible because blockages would form. Because we had no other option, we just choose to trust and to hope. Worrying at this point in our journey was not going to produce any positive outcome. I prayed the IUI’s would work and we asked some wonderful friends and family to join us in prayer. Funding the treatment (to skip the long waiting list) was not an option for us financially…not one that we weren’t comfortable making but that we genuinely could not afford. Our money is tied into our home - we would have to sell and in the end, if I felt that was right, I would have done that. But I didn’t. I felt led to this home for my family and it was a piece to our puzzle that I wasn’t comfortable giving up. So I just continued to pray.

Our first IUI cycle was a bust. I went in to do ultrasound and bloodwork for the 4th time that cycle only to find that my follicles were not maturing to the proper size required to release an egg (the ovulation process) and so I would either not ovulate or ovulate too late to conceive that cycle. My nurse cancelled my cycle that month and I was told to call next month. This was not something I expected to have happen as those issues are not at all correlated with endometriosis, and so I was just devastated, unsure of what else could possibly be wrong with me that I also wasn't ovulating. I remember getting an A&W breakfast sandwich and holding it in my hand as I headed on the hour and a half drive home, bawling in the car and asking God “why me?” I have very few solid “feeling sorry for myself” moments in this whole journey and that was one of them. I just couldn’t stop crying. It was a release I needed and afterwards I felt stronger. I played my song in the car which has been the song I have played through my whole fertility journey “Desert Song” by Hillsong and my strength slowly began to build again until I knew I was okay to face the next cycle, this time, medicated to ovulate. Many know I am someone who leans in the direction of natural health and I do not generally accept medication unless I know it is 100% necessary and there is no other option. Despite my crippling endometriosis pain and associated symptoms, I refuse to go on the heavy duty pain meds that are typically prescribed and I have fought hard to find natural resources for me to treat my endo with no side effects or harm to my body. It was a hard pill to swallow to say yes to fertility drugs…but I knew I would lay down my life for my children…and maybe that meant laying down my perfect ideals even before they were conceived. My body would surely detox and recover, and if I received the blessing of being a mom, any related drug to do so would be 100% worth it. My first IUI failed even though it had looked promising through the monitoring leading up to it. I still remember the call from my clinic to tell me whether I was pregnant or not: "Hi Samantha, we have the results from your bloodwork *pause* I'm sorry, no." We were definitely determined to keep going but also wondering where we would end up in treatment and meds. The injections were probably the hardest for me. You are given the needle and medication to do your injections at home and it all seems so normal until you stop and remember how not normal this is. When you start having to do injections for any kind of medication/treatment you start to kind of feel like whatever you are facing is serious. It was a bit scary and surreal to be "that girl" - the one who's fertility issues had become serious enough to be taking meds and needles and going for blood work and ultrasounds once or twice a week. With all the fear and hope tossing around within me, our next cycle begin. 

This cycle and the situation that followed will forever be etched in my memory and my heart. I responded great to the meds and everything was perfectly lined up for my next IUI procedure. I was scared of another failed cycle but tried to not think about that and stayed positive. What follows an IUI procedure is called your “two week wait” - at the end of the 2ww you either get your period or you get a positive pregnancy test. I decided to test early at 9days following the procedure, and to my absolute shock, I finally after 4 years saw those double lines. I could hardly believe it and was completely overcome with joy. We were finally expecting! Usually your fertility clinic confirms a) that you are pregnant with blood work and b) they also confirm 2 days following the initial blood work that your numbers of HCG (the pregnancy hormone) are at least doubling, which is indicative of a viable pregnancy. However, we were scheduled to leave for Utah the morning after our first blood work results…and so with the news that we were pregnant, we headed out on an 11 day trip (which made it easy not to tell anyone because we didn’t see anyone). My clinic wasn’t concerned. They told us to enjoy our trip, enjoy Father’s Day on the road, and they would see us when we return for more blood work. The whole trip I was definitely pregnant - super hungry, super tired, and pretty moody. I didn’t feel too much else at that point as I was still so early. We arrived home and I headed for my blood work and while I was in town picked up a couple cute things for baby. That night my blood work results were posted online. To have a viable pregnancy, your clinic wants to first see the number above 20, and that number should double every 48 hours. My very first number was 55. By now, almost a full 2 weeks later, my number needed to be about….well I can’t even do that math off the top of my head but well into the thousands. My number was finally posted online at 11pm (it’s an automated machine that does this part, not a person). My number was 6. My heart has never hurt so badly as it did in that moment. I thought I was going to pass out. I went into a full blown anxiety attack. I couldn’t control my breathing. I couldn’t move. I knew what that number meant and I knew it was over. Scott had already gone to bed and Nathan was in the room when I checked the results. He immediately offered to go wake Scott and soon returned with him, and then left us alone. Scott came in and said “Sweetie, what is it?” and I told him…the number is 6. He held me and I just cried and cried. That night I began to miscarry at home and I felt all the happiness within me leave me with that pregnancy. I could have never prepared myself for the grief I felt. To feel all hope drain out of you…to feel all that hard work just dissipate. Gone. Lost. I was completely lost. I went to the bathroom and cried and said outloud “God, you are still good…and I still trust you… the Devil isn’t going to win.” The grieving process was so raw. I had never been so torn apart but I also had never felt such support and comfort in my life. Slowly, piece by piece, the love that surrounds me helped put me back together. My sister in law sent me a gift certificate for a spa to use whenever I was ready, one of my best friends sent me a gift basket with tons of comfort goodies in it, and another best friend sent me a key necklace from a California business called The Giving Keys and on it, it was inscribed with the word “Strength”. On top of that, many people called and texted or came to see me when I was wanting to see people - and they offered me whatever they could. I will forever be so grateful for the day where all I could do was cry - not because I was sad - but because I was so overwhelmed with how loved I was. It blew me away. I still tear up every time I think of it. Those people will never know how much that support meant to me and how much strength it gave me. Because of them, I was able to face the next fertility cycle. All I wanted to do was stop everything and never open my heart to the possibility of loss and hurt ever again. However, I knew I couldn’t quit. I knew I needed to continue fighting. Thanks to the people who fought for me when I was too weak, I found myself strong enough when the next month began to try again.

The next cycle began in August and I was able to face it again, this time with maybe less optimism but also less worry - whatever would happen, would happen. I had already faced the worse two things imaginable on this journey 1) the possibility I could never have children and 2) the loss of a pregnancy…I knew nothing else could ever destroy me after already facing those two heartaches. I wasn’t doing great, but I was okay. I felt like myself again. I could laugh again. I could sing along to my favourite songs. My joy was back and I felt strong knowing I could face whatever would come to us. Our marriage had also been through the flames, and we had never been closer.

I went to that IUI with a light feeling. I was not nervous, I wasn’t anxious, I was at peace. The doctor made me laugh the whole time it was being done, and it didn’t hurt at all. I thought it was odd when he said we were all done…I hadn’t even realized he had started. After the procedure, I spoke briefly with the doctor and he told me he had reviewed my file from the clinic and discovered through my blood work that I have A-typical PCOS, a rare version of PCOS where I am not insulin resistant or overweight, but I still have the other symptoms of PCOS (hence my follicles not maturing in my very first monitored cycle with my clinic). Having the PCOS diagnosis was somehow a little comforting to me. I have over the years experienced many symptoms that were really outside of the scope of endometriosis that had me a little worried. Anyone knows when you google any symptom, you are always dying of cancer (lol)…so the PCOS news came as a relief because it meant that I finally knew exactly what was wrong and that although unfortunate, isn’t overly serious. The only real problem was that PCOS is ANOTHER leading cause of infertility, unassociated with endometriosis.  I thanked the doctor for letting me know and headed out.

Scott and I left the clinic that day to immediately go shoot a wedding. I didn’t have time to think about it - I went into work mode and did my thing. You are usually requested to rest the day of if you can, but I didn’t have a choice and again, didn’t worry about it. If walking all day instead of laying down was going to affect the viability of a pregnancy from taking place, then it wasn’t a very strong one to begin with. I had come to accept that for us, a healthy pregnancy would need to defy the odds. So there was no point trying to safety proof everything and put up all our guards. If a baby was going to make it, it was going to need to be a fighter.

In true fashion, I couldn’t wait the full 2 weeks and tested again on day 9. And again, I saw two lines. I was a little hesitant to be too excited…but I still felt the excitement and was overjoyed at the possibility that this COULD be it. I put a sandwich bun in the oven and waited for Scott to get home from work. His dinner was ready on top of the stove, but I told him there was something special for him in the oven. He opened it and stared and then said…what are we putting on the buns? I told him nothing. He looked very confused and asked “Just the bun on its own? Nothing else?” and I smiled a sly grin and nodded. He gave me a weird look and jokingly asked, “do you have Alzheimers?” He walked over to the fridge, opened the door and then whipped around “You’re pregnant!?!?” I laughed and said “yes!” He ran to me and hugged me and we had our happy little moment together in the kitchen. No joy was withheld, despite our recent loss. It was real. Another little one was in the making. Another one that no matter what the outcome, we would love and cherish the rest of our lives.

We told a few people right away. We asked a few people who are incredibly into intercessory prayer to pray hard right away. We felt a protection and comfort and though we didn’t know for sure what the future would hold, we felt surrounded by support and we felt good. My first blood work number came back (again 20 is the minimum number they look for: 159. I was shocked….nearly triple my first pregnancy’s number. The big moment was my 2nd round of bloodwork, the one I had to skip with my first pregnancy because we were out of the country. This number would mean a lot and would tell how viable this pregnancy was in the early stages. It needed to double…so we were looking for 318 at least. I got my number via a phone call from my nurse. When she told me the number I made her repeat it because I was completely shocked. 936. The number was high. In the early stages, these numbers are all you can really go off of. They aren’t an absolute guarantee that nothing will go wrong, but they are an indication of how strong things are starting out. I knew right there that this baby was a fighter.

So now we are over 11 weeks in and everything has gone great. At our 7 week ultrasound, I was measuring two days ahead of what I needed to be and the heart rate was strong. As soon as I heard the heartbeat I just let out an adoring “aw” but when I looked at the screen and saw our baby’s chest moving with the heartbeat I just started to cry. Seeing our little one for the first time was pure bliss. I was so nervous about an ectopic pregnancy because the chances are increased with endo, and increased still with fertility drugs. When I saw the baby, strongly implanted into the uterine wall…the relief I felt was indescribable. It was nothing short of a miracle for us. Another IUI worked...against the odds...I was able to conceive.

Something strange happens to you when you journey through infertility. Yes, you are broken and hurt and lost but you also learn a thankfulness and gratitude for each blessing in your life that I believe is a unique gift given only to those who have truly known loss. You realize that it can always be worse. You really feel for people. You are grateful for what you do have, even if it isn't all that you wanted. You become aware that life isn't a wishing well where you get whatever you want, but rather an opportunity to love people and to grow inside the aches and pains of the journey. What I have been through has often left me disillusioned - where I feel like I can't see ahead of me. What I didn't know, was that my vision needed to change. God was shifting my world so that I could see more clearly. So that I could love more strongly. So that I would forever be grateful for the good things in my life and never let myself settle into the bitterness that eats at you when you focus on what you don't have, or what others have. A lyric that spoke to me in my teens comes from a Relient K song "Let It All Out": "You said "I know that this will hurt but if I don't break your heart then things will just get worse. If the journey seems too much to bear, remember: the end will justify the pain it took to get us there."
This lyric has stayed with me over the years. No matter what, the end will justify the journey.

So now we are settling into the reality that in 7 months, we will have a baby in our arms. A precious miracle we will never stop thanking God for...no matter what the day looks like or how many messes we have to clean. My next ultrasound isn’t until 20 weeks, when we will also find out the gender. I can’t wait. At this point we have decided to opt out of the screening/tests for genetic abnormalities (namely downs syndrome) as we would never abort this baby and certainly will thank God for this child, no matter what happens. I asked myself if I felt it would be better to be “prepared” to know if something was going to affect our baby and I decided no. Our baby will be perfect, just like our last one was, no matter what. We will face whatever we need to face when we get there. The Lord has promised good to us and we are certain He will deliver.

I have been increasingly sick with nausea and vomiting but am comforted, as the stats show that there is a direct correlation between vomiting and lowered risk of pregnancy loss. So if vomiting means keeping this baby, then vomit I will ;) It’s been hard of course but it will pass soon. The hardest part for me is staying home and missing out on everything going on. I am very social and active (not running active, but like to get out active) and have been a shut in for the past 5 weeks. It kind of feels like having the flu for way too long…that it becomes your normal lol. My second trimester begins in 2 weeks, and with that hopefully the nausea may let up! Either way, I can start using my essential oils again at 13 weeks…and they will kick this nausea's butt for sure - not to mention my house will smell beautiful again with my diffuser on!

Well, that is the update on our story…really the past 4 years of what we have faced. We rejoice in everything because we are better for the hard times. I hope our story encourages you in whatever difficult road you may be facing. If you are dealing with complications from infertility or any reproductive disease, reach out to me any time and I would be happy to chat with you. For me, being able to help others makes what I’ve been through worth it.

If you are the praying type, please keep praying for our little one! It means the world to us…thank you!


Photography by my lovely friend Aisling, of oakandmyyrh.com

Comment Below

5 comments

  1. Precious story. It is an honour to hear it and share a little in your journey. With love
    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing part of your life journey. The Lord who loves you dearly, keeps watch over you. I am sure you can hardly wait to see the face of this miracle child. This little one will be loved and cherished by many.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Crying tears of joy for you, Samantha! God is faithful - and you are right, to despair is indeed to turn our backs from God. Your testimony is beautiful and so encouraging. I will be praying for you & Scott and your wee little baby. The journey of motherhood is the most precious gift.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just recently came across your Instagram account! I live in northern Ontario. It took me 11 months to conceive our first, which we lost just before 9 weeks. Then it took 8 months and a PCOS diagnosis to conceive again. I am almost 14 weeks!! Thank you for sharing your story. It has given me so much hope and Isla is so incredibly beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  5. aw thank you!! comment on my IG that it's you so I can follow you back and your journey!!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment! :)

Meet Milo & Meadow

Meet Isla Rain

Meet "The Parents"