Friday, April 27, 2012

...from detours to dreams...

i remember the first time i ever talked to tiffany. we shared stories and related on levels that finally made me feel like someone out there understood. since then she has been, and excuse the lame analogy, a lighthouse through my stormy days. always bringing me back to my center, reminding me of the blessings i have, and always asking me to be kinder to myself. she recognizes the good in me, which i thought impossible. i know that she has been a direct answer to many fervent prayers. i hope you all enjoy her story. 

With it being National Infertility Awareness week, my awesome friend Kenna asked if I would write as a guest blogger about my personal experiences with infertility. My thoughts have been buzzing with a lot of memories and experiences; some incredibly difficult and some tender and sweet. We can’t have one without the other though, right?  

My story of infertility began several years ago, long before I ever got married. Growing up I was the girl that loved to babysit.  I was the girl at church that was always holding someone else’s baby.  I was the girl that dreamed of getting married, having a bunch of kids, and being a mom. My road to that dream ended up having some major detours. I got there eventually, just not on the direct route that I had expected or hoped for. 

I was a 17 year old senior in high school. Right before graduation I got the worst. news. ever. My mom took me to see the pediatrician for what ended up being a secondary infection that I got from a filling at the dentist. I know, random right? While at this doctor appointment some blood work was ordered to just to check things out. A few days later the doctor called and requested that we return to review the results of my blood work. They wouldn’t discuss it over the phone so a few days later we went back to the doctor, but this time my dad came. I knew something was up. I knew it must be serious if dad was coming too. I braced myself for bad news. They tried to kindly tell me that I was sterile. (sterility: the state of being unable to produce offspring; in a woman it is an inability to conceive) They said biological children would be 100% impossible for me. I was devastated. 

I cried…a lot. I made mom and dad promise not to say anything to anyone. My siblings freaked out. They knew something was wrong. My parents ended up convincing me to tell my sisters and brother because they thought I was dying. I was completely heartbroken. I had to grieve. I was pretty angry. It wasn’t fair. Nobody could relate.  I felt incredibly lonely.  I was really mad at God. I had tried so hard to be good, to do what was right…why was this happening to me? Was I being punished? My testimony was shaken. 

I had to go see the OBGYN and a genetic therapist. They did studies on me, they did tons of blood work, and they did an ultrasound. I was told that I needed to have surgery as soon as possible to remove my ovaries which were covered in pre-cancerous cells and tumors. They compared them to fruit rotting out in the sun. They tossed the word cancer around quite a bit. They said that I would still have a uterus which would mean that one day I could possibly carry a child with a donated egg and invitro fertilization

I had the surgery later that year. They ended up removing my fallopian tubes in addition to my ovaries due to the risk of cancer. I recovered from surgery and began to prepare for college. I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy) right away, and found out exactly what menopause feels like. I totally know all about hot flashes and night sweats. 

As time went on I started remembering all sorts of tender mercies throughout my life, even as a child, that seemed to be preparing me for this trial. I remember getting my patriarchal blessing when I was 13, and the patriarch specifically asked me if I had any concerns. I told him that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to have kids. That was almost 5 years prior to finding out my bad news. I had an amazing young woman leader who struggled with infertility and ultimately adopted her three children. She was and still is an incredible example to me. I realized that I couldn’t be mad at Heavenly Father…I couldn’t deny that He loved me. He had prepared me for this. 

I was terrified of someday having to tell someone that I was dating that I wouldn’t be able to have kids. It may have been unfair but I tested a lot of guys over the years. When the subject of adoption came up and they reacted negatively…it was a deal breaker. If the topic of infertility was ever brought up and they said the wrong thing…game over. I was hypersensitive about it all. I actually never told a single guy I dated until I met my husband.  Flash forward almost 10 years. I met my husband Joe, and after only a few weeks of dating I told Joe my bad news. I already knew he was the real deal. It didn’t faze him. In fact he told me how growing up he had actually dreamed about adopting children. He was super understanding and made me feel a lot more at ease about it all. My prayers were answered that day. 

Joe and I fell in love and got married about a year later. After a couple years of marriage we decided it was time to start our family. People were already asking when we were going to have kids. What were we waiting for? We weren’t getting any younger.  Joe would jokingly say he wanted to tell them that he had ED. He said if they want to ask an awkward question, he would give them an awkward answer. Eventually we went and visited a fertility specialist, and at the same time we started looking closely at adoption. We wanted to explore the possibility of me being able to experience pregnancy through IVF. We had to have an exploratory procedure done to look at the inside of my uterus. That appointment ended in more bad news. The doctor basically told me that he didn’t like my uterus. He told us that there was a very slim chance that I could ever become pregnant with invitro, and even if I did get pregnant, there was 100% no chance that I could carry a baby to term. He apologized and said our only options were adoption or surrogacy. Once again I had to grieve. I cried….a lot. 

Soon enough we were ready to start our adoption journey. Surrogacy just didn’t feel right to us. We had already known we would adopt, it is something we both felt strongly about. In a way my sterility allowed us to fully embrace adoption. We both jumped in 100% to the process. We weren’t hoping that we might miraculously get pregnant. We weren’t still trying infertility treatments on the side. We knew why we couldn’t get pregnant. It just wasn’t an option. So with all of our eggs in the adoption basket, we were able to focus fully on adoption.  Many people told us…”that is so great that you are trying to adopt.” Then they would tell us a story of someone they knew who struggled with infertility, that adopted, and then miraculously got pregnant. I would just smile and nod. We weren’t going to get to be like those couples even if we ‘relaxed’ and ‘had more faith’. One time someone was asking us about the adoption process and then actually asked me whose fault it was that we couldn’t have kids. Are you serious? Some of my friends and family would hide pregnancies because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It is lame feeling like the person that people have to tip toe around. Infertility is just plain hard…but there is something that made up for it. Adoption helped to take away much of the sting of infertility.

We went to our first adoption orientation and began the whole process. We did all the paperwork and eventually were approved as an adoptive couple later that summer. We were so full of hope and anticipation. We did not have to wait long. Our little boy was placed with us about 9 months after our initial orientation. Adoption is a beautiful thing…it brought us so much joy.  We decided to try again and our daughter was placed with us just shy of our sons second birthday. We have two sweet babies that we can’t imagine life without. We love adoption; it is something that we feel very passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, adoption is not easy. However, the joy we felt, when both of our babies were placed in our arms, was incredible. 

Infertility is tough. There are things that I will never get to experience, and that is heart breaking. I try to and focus on what we do have. We have been blessed with two beautiful babies through the miracle of adoption. We have experienced some very sweet and sacred moments that others who haven’t adopted will never experience. There are tender mercies here. I know we have been very blessed.

Life is good. I am married, I have two kids, and I am a mom…my dreams did come true. The road to getting there ended up having many detours and some road construction along the way, but I got there. It was worth it.  

Alma 36:21 – “Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite 
and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, 
that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”

beautiful tiff with her lovely family.

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Emily said...

Kenna and Tiffany - Thank you for this. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. And for the scripture you shared along with it. This story just made me feel so hopeful and just so not alone. I am loving all your infertility guest posts this week Kenna!

Dave and Lizzie said...

Beautiful girl. Beautiful family. I loved this so much. Thank you for sharing your story sweet Tiffany.

Steph said...

It's amazing to me how often adopted kids look like their parents! These beautifull kids fit PERFECTLY in this family. All of my dad's siblings are adopted and his younger brother's kids totally look like Payne boys. And of course your Harley is definitely yours! A fun tender mercy I think.

The Jensens said...

Honestly, I couldn't read through the whole thing and scrolling down to the picture at the bottom just killed my heart.....but I am a foster Mom right now (since LDSFS stinks in our area) and we just had a placement that lasted a week, with a baby boy were SWORE was meant for us.

From what I read, though, I felt almost as if I was reading my medical history. I too, had pre-cancerous cells and ended up having a hysterectomy.

Tiffany, you have a beautiful family (you too, Kenna!).

Your experiences give me hope. What little hope I have left. (Sorry this sounds so depressing!)

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