My Personal Story of Infertility

This is National Infertility Awareness Week. I want to share my own story of infertility today.

Here is a modern day riddle for you.  All of the following statements are true:

I have three children: twins and a “singleton”. They are all biological.
I have given birth once.
I additionally have a frozen “baby.”

Scratching your head? Here’s how it all happened.

Seven years ago I was trying to get pregnant, but it wasn’t working. After undergoing a series of tests, doctors found an issue which was making it very difficult for me to get pregnant naturally. They said that if we did In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), however, this issue should be easily bypassed and I should get pregnant from the procedure. We were supposedly the “perfect” IVF candidates.

For those of you who are (blissfully) unaware of what IVF is, here are the basics of what is involved:

  • The woman injects herself in the stomach daily for about a month with drugs that control her hormones and stimulate the production of multiple eggs.
  • During this time, she goes to 5-10 doctor appointments for bloodwork and ultrasounds to monitor her “progress” (i.e., whether the drugs are having the needed effect).
  • When the eggs are “ripe,” she undergoes outpatient surgery where the doctor removes the mature eggs. It’s possible there are no mature eggs and the cycle ends here.
  • The doctors in the lab inject each of the eggs with the husband’s sperm to create embryos.
  • The embryos either grow “normally” or die. It is possible for all the embryos to die and the cycle to end before a chance of pregnancy.
  • After 3 or 5 days of growth in the lab, the doctor takes 1-3 of the living embryos and transfers them back to the woman’s uterus. (Other healthy embryos are frozen for later pregnancy attempts.)
  • The woman injects herself with further hormones for two weeks while the embryo(s) have a chance to implant and form a pregnancy. This is the most stressful two weeks imaginable.
  • After those two weeks, a pregnancy test is given to determine if it worked. If it worked, it takes another two weeks to determine how many of the embryos transferred successfully implanted (transferring two embryos does not automatically mean twins, for example – one might not have survived).
  • It typically costs $10,000-$20,000 dollars for a single pregnancy attempt.

If you haven’t gone through infertility, it’s hard to explain what makes an otherwise sane person go through this. You just have to understand that for many people (not all!), a level of desperation sets in where you will do anything to have the family you always assumed you would have.

We went forward with IVF as recommended by doctors. After completing everything I just described, I anxiously started taking pregnancy tests at home each day.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing. Then the doctor called to confirm it: Nothing.

Thousands of dollars. Boat loads of shots and appointments. More emotional investment than the dollars and shots combined.

All for literally…nothing. I remember the shock of that first IVF result. I remember lying on my bed literally screaming in sadness/anger/frustration/agony/disappointment, rolling back and forth, pulling at my own hair. I share this soul-baring image simply to offer a small glimpse into the deep, dark pain that accompanies a failed IVF cycle.

A single IVF cycle.

I went through IVF four more times.

I never got pregnant.

On paper, “four more IVFs” is a simple sentence, an objective numerical summary of two years of my life. In reality, four more IVFs depleted my soul. I was left with more anger than one could reasonably imagine. I was left with more envious hatred toward people who got pregnant easily than any Christian would ever care to admit.

On the day my fourth IVF cycle was confirmed a failure, I received an email from a friend that changed my life forever. She had no idea we were still doing IVF (we had stopped talking about it with our friends), much less an idea that she was emailing on one of the worst days of my life. She was a friend we had been in a church group with for a couple of years, but not someone we knew extremely well.

In the email she said she had been praying for us for a long time and wanted to be able to do something to help our situation. She said she didn’t know whether it was medically appropriate for us, but she had been researching surrogacy for months and had decided that, if it would be helpful in our situation, she was willing to carry a baby for us.

Since doctors never could figure out why I wasn’t getting pregnant, we really had no idea if having a “gestational surrogate” would help.  “Gestational surrogate” means the surrogate is not biologically attached to the baby; we would be transferring our biological embryos to her. If there had been something wrong with our embryos, then transferring them to someone else wouldn’t make a difference; they would die anyway. If our embryos were fine but there was something (unknown) wrong with me, then transferring them to a gestational surrogate with a proven pregnancy history could result in the baby we had wanted so desperately.

After further talks, tests, and prayer, we went forward with a gestational surrogacy cycle four years ago this month. We transferred two of our biological embryos to our friend and surrogate. Two weeks later:

It worked. It actually worked. It was a moment of true “shock and awe.”

Two more weeks later, the ultrasound showed a baby’s heartbeat. Hands down, the best moment of my life.

…And then the ultrasound showed a second heartbeat. Twins. I broke down and sobbed at the blessings pouring over in my life at that moment. It was as if the pain just flooded out of the internal dam I had built. When we got to the car, our (surrogate) friend gave us a gift of two pairs of baby shoes. She had faith that both embryos had made it, and she was right.

Our twins were born in December of that year. Our dear friend and surrogate blessed us in a way that few could understand. Not only did we finally have a baby, we had two. Our family was complete.

Then one year later, I got pregnant naturally, not trying to get pregnant at all.

It felt as abrupt as that last line reads. That was our second moment of true “shock and awe.”

We named our “surprise” baby Alexa Grace. I had never particularly liked the name “Grace” but we really couldn’t have chosen any other name for her. We certainly couldn’t have named her “Faith.” In our years of infertility I demonstrated zero faith or trust in God for our situation. I was just plain mad. If there were a guidebook for how a Christian should NOT act and feel when going through infertility, I followed it step by step.

I in no way, shape or form, deserved to be blessed with our twins or with Alexa based on how I handled it all. I couldn’t believe that God blessed us in spite of me.  But isn’t that what grace is?  God gives us so much we don’t deserve.  I often call Alexa by the name “Grace.” I can’t help but smile when I say it because I feel its meaning so deeply.  I have three highly undeserved blessings – three examples of grace – that run around my house each day.

Oh, and the frozen “baby”? We have one frozen embryo that remains from IVF. We will be transferring it to me later this year to give it a chance at life (we otherwise wouldn’t be trying to have more kids!). I have no reason to believe that the cycle will work – IVF has never worked for me before. But I’ve also had a pregnancy now, which may have changed my ability to get pregnant again. So the story continues.

Whatever happens, I will always know that our family exists by the grace of God.

 

 

19 Comments

  1. Jennifer on April 25, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    What a beautiful family! I didn’t realize you would be transferring again, that’s awesome, and we need to catch up! 🙂



  2. Laura Terlizzi on April 25, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    Natasha, Thank you for sharing your story and being so honest in describing both the physical and emotional sorrow that you experienced. It is proof that even when hope seems lost, God is there for us! That knowledge is peace for my soul.



  3. David Crain on April 27, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Deeply touching.
    As you know “Christian Mom”, the miracle of your children is one of our lives’ greatest blessings. We are so grateful.



  4. Rachel on May 5, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Beautiful! What a gracious and surprising gift! My story is somewhat similar. . http://judeandlevi.blogspot.com/2011/01/walk-by-faith_21.html
    Blessings and peace during your next transfer! 🙂



  5. Rosann on May 10, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    Natasha! I love your story and I’m blown away right now. Our youngest, Abigail Grace, was a surprise pregnancy for us as well. I wanted to name her Grace because I felt so strongly that it was by the grace of God we suddenly ended up pregnant with her. But, I thought it would be corny to have two girls named Faith and Grace. So we went with Abigail (the source of a fathers joy) Grace. :-). Thank you so much for your comment on my blog earlier!

    Blessings friend,
    Rosann



  6. Jeannine Melville on June 25, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Wow Natasha! I had no idea about your struggles and miracles. Thanks for opening up and being vulnerable to share this with us. By doing so, you give us the confidence to do the same. XOXO



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on June 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      Thanks Jeannine! I appreciate it!



  7. Milka on October 2, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Hallo Natasha and family,
    I was led to this page because I was looking for ways to worship but I found more than that. Thank you for sharing your story so candidly and freely. I am so sure this has been helpful to so many people and I want to share it with a lady who has been waiting on God to have a baby. I pray that the Almighty God will continue to usher your family with many more blessings. It’s been amazing to see what God can do through your testimony. I’m just in awe.
    Blessings, Milka



    • Natasha Crain on November 3, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      Hi Milka – It’s so wonderful that you have someone to share this story with. I hope it will help in some way! Infertility is such a hard journey – God bless you for looking for ways to help your friend through it! Thank you so much for your comment.



  8. […] stage you’re in, it’s important to openly discuss those challenges. When Bryan and I struggled for years with infertility, there were more times than I can count that I said I was “done” with God. But I knew I […]



  9. Christine on October 8, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Hi Natasha,

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story! My husband and I will be contemplating IVF if the next few rounds of IUIs doesn’t work. We are stuck on how many eggs we want to fertilize, since I feel any embryos that form deserve a chance at life. I know doctors want to try to fertilize as many as possible for the best outcome, but I can’t wrap my brain around it. I know IVF did not work for you, but I was just wondering how many eggs you decided to try to fertilize when you did try.

    Thanks 🙂



    • Natasha Crain on November 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Hi Christine, This is an EXCELLENT question – one that every Christian especially needs to think about and one that I never realized the importance of until later. IVF is somewhat inefficient because not every egg fertilizes and not every fertilized egg develops normally. So you can’t only fertilize the number of eggs representing kids you are willing to have. On the other hand, doctors by default fertilize every egg. I had 42 eggs in our first cycle! I think maybe 38 were mature, and 17 started developing. I think 14 of the 17 made it to day 3. We transferred two, and had three frozen ones after that to do a FET with (the rest didn’t make it to day 5 to freeze). I often look back and wonder what we would have done if we had like 8 frozen embryos and IVF had been successful. We would never have wanted to have 8 kids but it would have destroyed me to “give them up for adoption” through a frozen embryo adoption program. I feel lucky we never had to make that decision but you should really work with your doctor to make sure you won’t end up with more than you could comfortably have as kids. I hope that helps. 🙂



      • Christine on November 3, 2013 at 7:42 PM

        Thanks for getting back to me! We have decided to start the IVF process. I am currently on the pill for awhile to get everything on track, and then I will start the meds! I have low egg quantity, so my Dr. does not think he will retrieve too many eggs. After reading many more things, I understand that not all eggs will fertilize or make it to day 3 or 5. We have struggled with the idea of what to do if we have any extra. Of course we will freeze the rest and do a FET if need be. If there are any extra embryos after that, I think at this point we will consider embryo adoption. I struggle with thinking someone else would technically be raising my child. However, I know I have to take some risks in order to have my own. I think about my own infertility and think about those people who want to be pregnant but because of female and/or male issues, cannot. If I can give them the gift of parenthood, it’s something I would consider doing. I think about if it happened to me. If adoption was my only choice, I would want a chance to be pregnant and carry a child instead of adopting a child already born (I hope that doesn’t come off as being selfish. I know all children need homes!) Anyway, hopefully it doesn’t even come down to making a decision like that. I pray IVF works for us and that we have enough embryos to use for our family. But it’s just something to think about! I understand it’s not for everyone though, but if I have to fertilize all the eggs in order to try to have my own family, I know there is a risk of having extras and that’s a risk we have to take!



  10. Ginny on May 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Hi Natasha! I’ve been following your blog and have been so encouraged by it, even though I am not a mom (yet!). Today I decided to look up “IVF” in your search box since my husband and I have been contemplating moving forward with it. I was curious to see if you had anything to discuss on that topic. Lo and behold, you had gone through it yourself. Thank you for being so transparent with your story and your emotions. Looking forward, I haven’t really put much thought into the question of ‘what if it doesn’t work?’. I’m thankful that your story did not end there and that you and Bryan now have a beautiful family. As scared as I am, your story reminds me of God’s love, his faithfulness, his grace, his provisions and the fact that He will walk us through this journey and will always be by our side. I love that even when we don’t believe and are so upset, He never fails us. Your story is a true testament of how good our God is! I don’t know too many people who have endured this journey so it gives me great comfort in hearing yours. Thank you again for sharing!



  11. Holly on June 14, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience both candidly and emotionally with us. My husband and I will be starting the IVF process within a week or two, I was really struggling about whether or not I was “manipulating” the situation by moving forward with IVF instead of just waiting on God. Our infertility is male factor. Hubby had Vasectomy from first marriage which ended in finding out his son was not his own. Then we got married and he had a reversal last year but because of his previous double hernia surgery there is a blockage causing his motility to be nearly 0% so it’s been tough. I am so thankful your were so honest with how you were feeling during this process as I have certainly had my days. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you!



  12. Courtney on May 2, 2016 at 6:39 AM

    Thanks for being transparent about ivf and Christianity. We got pg naturally but it took 3 years of trying then after my daughter was 1 we started trying again and after years of naturally trying we tried 3 iuis and lots of natural with fertility drugs and nothing worked so we ended up doing ivf and got pg the first try which I was over joyed with but here is my problem…. I still have 10 frozen embryos and my husband thinks he is done now due to having a very difficult child with colic and other issues. I’m heart broken for my children and I’m having a hard time adopting them out. He doesn’t think discarding them is wrong but I do. Please think all options through ladies before going through ivf. Also please pray we can come to a result that will leave us content and at peace with our decision that pleases the Lord.



  13. RW on August 11, 2016 at 2:32 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your honesty and openness are a blessing to me as I, too, am struggling with faith and (in)fertility. God bless you and your beautiful miracle family.
    RW, England



  14. Ash on October 4, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    I just had my 1st failed IVF cycle and it is one of the hardest things to get through. I still am processing the results. I hope to have a baby like you did one day 🙂



  15. Rowena on January 25, 2018 at 11:18 AM

    Thank you Natasha (and Bryan) for sharing your journey, for being transparent.
    We’re just beginning ours with the hope of one day soon being able to enjoy both the joys and challenges of parenthood.
    As nervous as we are, we’re enlightened by your experience and pray that our faith will withstand what is to come, and through God’s strength and guidance, we will be prepared for every decision and result that is to follow.
    So wonderful to hear of God’s GRACE and love in your beautiful family.
    God’s continued blessings,
    Rowena