“Joy Will Return”: Taking Care of Yourself, Your Spouse and Your Marriage During Infertility 

By Rachel Nielson

This post is fifth of a six-part series: Confronting Infertility in Marriage

I’m so honored to have Rachel guest posting for me today.  To be honest, when I very first thought about starting this blog, I knew I wanted guest posting to be a HUGE part of it and I initially wondered, “Ooh I wonder if Rachel would post on my blog??”  Rachel is a little out-of-my-league blog-wise.  She is an editor of the Power of Moms blog and writes there frequently (sneak peak: I’m writing an upcoming post on guilt and heavily feature her recent article here and podcast here, which is currently revolutionizing the way I motivate myself without guilt).

I first met Rachel in El Salvador- we spent a summer there together with HELP International, and I was incredibly inspired by her.  I went to El Salvador for a summer of fun and snapping pictures of me and cute El Salvadorian orphans (which I of course posted on Facebook).  Rachel went to El Salvador to change the freaking world.  And she did.  And is.  While we were there, Rachel had this idea to really step up the amount of help offered at this orphanage for the handicapped we volunteered at, so then rather than saying “that would be nice,” Rachel goes and MOVES to San Salvador and LIVES at this orphanage with Ryan for the first four months of their marriage to help train everyone there to use these communication sheets for the mentally handicapped, among other things.  And then set up an internship program for other couples to live and volunteer there as well.  Amazing.

Ok, this is getting long and Rachel’s face is probably reddening.  Point being, listen to this girl.  Not only does she have great insights about infertility, but also adoption and IVF; she went through both. You MUST read all about their adoption journey here.  My personal favorites were the posts by 17-year old Noah’s birth mom.  I gained such an appreciation for birth moms from reading those posts.  Ok, Celeste out.

I wish I could remember what the fight was about.  But as is usually the case with marital tiffs that escalate into blowups, the details of how it all started are foggy to me now.

What I do remember clearly is that we were in the car on our way to a BBQ at a friend’s house—that I picked the fight and wouldn’t let it go—and that my quiet, sweet, even-tempered husband dropped me off in front of our friend’s house and drove away.

I felt sick as I watched him speed off, knowing that I had pushed him too far.  I also knew that he would be back in a few minutes, but I still felt sad and alone and confused.

Those were tough years for us.  We were trying to have children, and it wasn’t working.  I had been doing infertility treatments for over a year, and we had been going through the adoption process for the same length of time.  I’d had months of artificial inseminations, an ectopic pregnancy, and surgery.  We’d been contacted by seven expectant mothers who were considering adoption, but they had all changed their minds.

My husband and I were a ball of emotions that we couldn’t really verbalize or totally understand, and it is no wonder that we lost it on each other once in a while.  (Well, it was usually me who lost it, I will admit.) Fortunately, blowups like the one I described above were rare, and I think for the most part we handled this enormous trial in our marriage pretty well, but life in the midst of infertility was NOT easy.

Today I would like to share some advice that, looking back, I can see would have helped us during those difficult times.  Some of this advice we did employ during our own struggle; some of it we should have employed better.  Here’s to hoping that anyone out there reading this who is going through infertility will apply these ideas and do a better job of avoiding meltdowns (that can sometimes result in embarrassing situations at BBQs) than we did in those years when we were attempting to start our family.

Do not expect your spouse to heal you.
No two people experience infertility the same way—even a husband and a wife in close, connected relationship.  You might think that two people united by the same deep desire would have similar feelings throughout the process, but I’ve found that isn’t always true.  It can be an extremely lonely feeling to realize that no one, not even your beloved spouse, really understands what you going through. But it will just make you angry if you expect your spouse to feel the same way that you do and to know just what to say to comfort you.

When we were going through the adoption process, I could think of nothing else.  Every minute of every day was spent thinking about what needed to happen next in our approval process (fingerprints, references, adoption profile, home study, appointment with caseworker…) or wondering when a birth mom would contact us (it’s possible that I checked my email 45 times a day).  One time I said to my husband, “Adoption is just so all-consuming.  Can you think of anything else??”

He looked at me quizzically, genuinely puzzled, and said, “What is there to think about?”

I’m pretty sure I almost killed him on the spot.  What is there to think about??  Oh I don’t know—how about the fact that we could welcome a new baby into our family any day and there is a ton we need to do to prepare for that??

I felt angry and sad.  I felt cheated.  I felt like, if I were pregnant and my belly were growing bigger, he would have a visual reminder every day of what I was going through to bring a baby into our family.  As it was, I felt like I was doing all the work (the fertility treatments, the adoption paperwork, the corresponding with birth moms), and he wasn’t even grateful for me or thinking about our future baby!

Obviously, this was not the case.  I have an amazing husband who did so much to support me during those difficult years (more on that in a minute), but I think my expectations of what he would say to support me and relate with me were too high.  (My husband isn’t much of a talker to begin with, and he certainly isn’t a mind-reader.)

Once I realized to just talk to him about what I was feeling, with no expectation that he would say or do the “right” thing in response, I was much happier. I’m sure I stomped away pouting and angry when he asked, “What is there to think about?” regarding adoption; in retrospect, I should’ve taken a deep breath to calm my boiling blood and then told him what I was thinking and worrying about.  He would’ve listened.  He might not have had the perfect response, but he could’ve brainstormed a few ideas with me of how to lighten my load.  And when I was done talking to him about it, I could’ve called my sisters to rehash it all, or said a prayer and asked God for clarity, or gotten a massage to relax…which leads into my next point.

      Know yourself and what you need. 

In order to feel peace throughout your infertility experience, you are going to have to seek comfort through a lot of different methods, people, and strategies. It’s not just a matter of having good communication with your spouse and having his/her support. 

For me, my greatest source of peace was prayer.  Though I sometimes felt angry with God when fertility treatments and adoptions weren’t working out, I felt like He understood my anger and was grieving with me.  I also spent lots of time with close girlfriends who loved me and knew about my struggle—sometimes we talked about it, sometimes we just did something mindless and fun.  Because writing is cathartic for me, I also devoted time to journaling, blogging, and even writing letters to the baby that I hoped would join our family in the near future.

Think about what could be helpful for you during this struggle and try to make it happen. 

I wish I would’ve decided that I deserved to have more time to process, feel, and release the grief and anxiety that I was feeling, even if that meant spending money on a trip to see my sisters, or saying “no” when people asked me to take on extra responsibilities at church, or watching a movie with my husband instead of grading papers late into the night (I was a high school English teacher at the time).  I probably would’ve been a much saner and happier person and wife if I had taken better care of myself during those years.

A few years after our infertility experience, I went to counseling for an eating disorder.  This may seem like a random side note in a post on a marriage blog, but I don’t think it is.  What I learned in counseling about making time for “self-care” and dealing with stress in healthy ways would have helped immensely during the years that I struggled with infertility.  If you would like to listen to a 45-minute recap of some of the most important things that I learned in counseling, listen to this podcast, which I recorded for the website Power of Moms. I hope it will give you some ideas of how to better care for yourself (which will inevitably affect the quality of your marriage) as you are going through life, with all of its ups and downs.

      Consciously serve your spouse in every way possible.

I’ve already said that you can’t expect your spouse to comfort you in perfect ways as you struggle through infertility (or any trial, really).  But I would add that being extra sensitive and thoughtful during hard times will always be much-needed and much-appreciated.

Do you know your spouse’s love language?  If not, you could skim this book or even just take a few minutes to think about what means the most to him/her: Does he/she seem to value quality time with you, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, or physical touch?  Honestly, who doesn’t love all of those things—it might be worth just brainstorming one thing you could do for your spouse in each of those categories.

I remember sobbing my eyes out in our bed one evening when I found out that an expectant mother who had been considering us to adopt her baby had changed her mind.  My husband held me and stroked my hair until I fell asleep, and then he got up and cleaned the entire apartment.  I woke up to a scrubbed kitchen and folded laundry.  It meant the world.

I think my husband realized that he couldn’t fix my heartache about not being a mother, and he didn’t have the perfect words to say to make me feel better; but one thing he could do: he could clean the apartment from top to bottom.  Bless that man.

No genuine act of kindness is too small when you are going through infertility as a couple.  And I’ve found that when I get outside of my own sorrow and give to someone else whom I love, it lifts my spirits as well.

If you would like some ideas of thoughtful, fun gestures of love that you could do for your spouse during a difficult trial (or really any time), check out this huge list of ideas that I compiled last year for Valentines Day.

And as a segue into our next point, let me mention that in spite of all of these awesome acts of love from your spouse, you are ultimately going to have to remember one thing:


That’s a poetic bolded heading, isn’t it?  But let’s just acknowledge the truth: Infertility is hard.  It is hellishly hard.  You are not going to deal with it perfectly every day.  You are going to have good days and bad days; you are going to have good moments within days and horrible moments within days.  Sometimes you are going to remember to be gracious and thoughtful to your spouse, and sometimes you are going to bite his/her head off on the way to a summer BBQ and have a major fight.

It’s okay.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive each other.  Just keep holding on.  Don’t give up, and don’t give up on each other.

My husband came back to the party.  He came up behind me as I stood chatting with our friends and took my hand.I remember feeling a physical release and relief as soon as I felt his hand in mine.  I looked up at him sheepishly and muttered, “I’m sorry, Ryan.”

He squeezed my hand, and it was over.

I am so lucky to have him, and I am so glad that we didn’t let the stress of infertility drive us apart. 

It’s still hard for me to believe sometimes, but we now have two amazing children: our son who came to us through the miracle of adoption, and our daughter who came to us through the miracle of IVF.  We are beyond blessed, and our kids were worth every moment of the struggle that it took to get them here.

If you are in the midst of the fire of infertility, I hope this advice will be helpful to you.  I really want to encourage you to just keep surviving and doing your best to make it through every day, every negative pregnancy test, every fertility treatment, and every adoption contact.  A scripture that I thought of often during our struggle was Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  No matter how long your “night” lasts—be it months or years—I promise you, joy will return.  Just keep holding on!

The Years Before We Met Our Baby: The Unexpected Blessings of Infertility

By Camber Hess

This post is the fourth of a six-part series:  Confronting Infertility in Marriage

Today’s post is by my friend Camber, who is another former (and missed) Iowa City citizen.  Camber inspires the heck out of me.  I live in awe of her and her strength.  She’s so helpful, quick to laugh and just unbelievably sweet.  She doesn’t mention this in her post, but she told me it would be okay to share that just three months ago they lost their second child, Sarah, who was just four days old.  Camber writes the story so so beautifully here (and Isaac here).  And she writes a very helpful post about what to say to someone who goes through such a loss here.

Did you read those?  Do you see now?  Do you see how strong and beautiful and hopeful against all reason to be hopeful she is?  She inspires me.  I think she’ll inspire you too.  – Celeste

I used to joke that our kids must have cold feet about being born in “this” economy. It took about 5 years for us to coax a child into joining our family, and the truth is we still don’t know why we have such a hard time conceiving.

About a year and a half into the process of failed reproductive efforts, our fertility specialist diagnosed us with the maddening label “unexplained infertility”. Without a treatable condition to address, he dropped the “you’ll probably have to do IVF” bomb on us.

We tried cheaper, less-invasive options first, like Clomid and artificial insemination. The chances of them working for our diagnosis were slim, but HOLY MOSES IVF is expensive, and even artificial insemination cost pennies by comparison.

They didn’t work.

As luck (or Divine Intervention) would have it, we moved to the Midwest for school, where the insurance at my job unbelievably covered IVF. We did 3 rounds of IVF, and all failed. We decided to adopt. Then we got the chance to do one more cycle (long story). That cycle worked and we now have an adorable little girl grinding Cheerios into the backseat of our car and giving wet kisses at bedtime.

Since this is a blog about marriage, let me tell you a bit about what our marriage looked like during those years between wanting and actually meeting our baby.

The emotional wife.

The first time I really cried in front of my husband was during some miscellaneous hormonal treatment when I just couldn’t hold it in any more. So I surreptitiously went into the bedroom and hid under the covers and cried. My husband found me (“What on EARTH?”) and then held me while I wept. Then we laughed at little at the absurdity of my meltdown under the comforter. It turns out that letting myself be real with my husband helped to strengthen our marriage.

New Growth

Infertility allowed us to grow in new ways. I had to learn to be civil when hormones made me feel angry all the time. My husband continued to love me even though he saw me at new lows. I loved him all the more for forgiving my mood swings. We learned to mourn together even though we mourned differently. We learned unity as we decided together about which paths to pursue. IVF isn’t for everyone. My husband really balked at the idea at first, and we didn’t move forward with it until we both felt comfortable.


Infertility, believe it or not, does have some advantages. We had a lot of time to enjoy the “two of us” stage. We dated, took vacations, saved a lot of money (which allowed us to later get graduate degrees without debt), made friends, had game nights, and babysat for other people. I would never choose these perks over having kids, but they were blessings in their own way. Even though I wanted kids, it was important to remember what I did have—a loving husband and a supportive family.

Looking Outside

Each stage of life brings different chances to touch lives. Infertile couples often feel a sense of isolation in addition to mourning the lost identity of mother or father. While I longed for the title of “mommy” I had a lot of other meaningful titles—friend, daughter, wife, nurse, sister. Without the responsibility of children, we were able to serve other people in different ways than we are able to serve now. I worked full-time as a nurse and had chances to comfort and help people every day. We could donate more generously to charity when our financial obligations were fewer. It was easier to watch other people’s kids or take meals to new moms when I had few obligations of my own.


Infertility isn’t, by nature, funny. But I give permission to infertile couples everywhere to find reasons to laugh at themselves or at life. An infertile friend of mine, when faced with the question, “Well, why don’t you have kids yet?”, would muster up her best fake scowl and say, “Because we don’t LIKE them!” During the ultrasound that confirmed the failure of our first round of IVF, as I tried to choke back the tears, my husband made a joke about something. I burst out laughing. The ultrasound tech must have thought I was INSANE to be laughing right then, but in the moment, I chose laughter over uncontrolled sobbing. (It’s easier on the makeup).


We did eventually manage to conceive and have a child. Biological children may not be possible for every couple. But children come into our lives in a variety of ways, and there’s no need to wait to be happy until you have them. They will bring new, deeper joys…but also new trials. We are so grateful for our little girl. But we are also so grateful for our years of infertility. I am a better wife and a better mother because of them.

Infertility?  That Was Not in the Plan:  Supporting Your Spouse Through Infertility

By Karson Denney

We’re continuing on in our series this week: confronting infertility in marriage.

I’m so excited to introduce you all to a such a lovely couple as Karson and Betsy Denney.  I first met Karson because he was actually a ballroom dance teacher of mine at BYU.  A bit of happenstance led us to become much better friends the next year.  Karson and Betsy were THE king and queen of the BYU ballroom dance world in the era Rich and I were there.  (Rich and I met on the ballroom dance company- HOW has this not come up on our marriage blog yet?!???  Ridiculous.  More on that later….)  I still feel like a name-dropping sixth grader when I talk about them.  “Oh yeah Karson and Betsy??  Yeah, they’re good friends of ours. . . NBD”

But all popularity issues aside, Karson and Betsy are just about the cream-of-the-croppiest couple out there.  SO nice, SO talented and dang good parents. They’re currently hoping to adopt their third, so please PLEASE if you or someone you know is placing their baby for adoption, check out Karson and Betsy’s blog here.  And while you’re there check out the adoption stories of their first two.  Spread the word!

1.  Tell us a little about your story of infertility and where your family is at now.

You can try to plan out a lot of things in your life. The career you want have, who you want to marry, your infertility… Wait! Infertility? That’s not something you really plan for.

When my wife Betsy and I got engaged we immediately started setting goals for our new life together and planning lots of different things. We started looking for a place to live, we’d been focused on building good careers, and I even remember driving home from a little trip we took together and we charted out (yes, you got it charted out) when we were planning to have kids.

Every two years we would have a new baby until six little ones were part of our family. After about one year of marriage we decided it was time to start our family. Well, at least that is what the “baby schedule” we made the year before said…

Little did we know – the plans that we had were not going to happen. There was something lurking behind our plans, something that decided it would interrupt our schedule and we did not expect it…infertility!

The emotions that come with infertility are hard to deal with. Month after month you get your hopes up for a pregnancy, then month after month you feel the pain, frustration, and helplessness as your pregnancy plan gets destroyed.

While it was hard to deal with infertility, my wife and I were always on the same page as far as the path we wanted to pursue. There are a few different options: infertility treatments, adoption, or living life without children. We knew that the last option was not for us. I will spare you the details of the countless infertility treatments along with the emotional roller coaster. After many failed treatments, we were led to adoption. We were on the same page from the beginning as far as adoption goes. We just knew that it was right for us!

Three years after we were married, we adopted our daughter Izzy. Two years later came our son Beckham. We feel so blessed to have them in our lives. They bring so much joy to our household every day. My wife recently posted on our family blog how our two kids were “meant to be. I agree 100%. I know that those kids were meant to be in our family.Our plans don’t always work out the way we think they will, but I sure am grateful that my two kids were meant to be a part of the plan that God had for Betsy and me. If we hadn’t gone through the trial of infertility we probably wouldn’t have adopted. We love adoption and feel so lucky that it is a part of our lives. We actually feel like we could write an entire book about the joy and blessings that come from adoption.

Currently we are hoping to adopt a third. Our kids are SO excited about the possibility of adopting a baby brother or sister into our family. It depends on the day whether or not they will tell you if they prefer a boy or a girl, but most days they will tell you that they want both of them. We love their optimism!

2.  What is something your spouse did during this time that was especially strengthening to you?

Betsy and I were both very supportive of each other during infertility treatments. By this point in our story you know that we like to plan things out. So…what did we do? We made an infertility treatment plan. We consulted our doctor and decided how far we would go with treatment. After making our plan, it was very good for us to focus on one thing at a time.

Something that really helped me was the fact that Betsy was not afraid to talk to me about all of her feelings. Communication is so important for any trial that a married couple goes through. The whole ordeal was hard on me, but I imagine that infertility is even harder on the woman. Sure because women tend to be a little more emotional than men, but mostly because it is their body that goes through all of the hormones and needles. It is their body tells you if that round of treatment was successful or not. I tried to be supportive by listening and being optimistic throughout the entire process. I try to not jump to conclusions too quickly and I like to think that I was able to help my wife look at the whole picture and find hope in the future as we contemplated more treatment and adoption. Our marriage was strengthened through leaning upon each other and trusting in God.

3.  What’s the best advice you have for couples going through infertility struggles?

The best advice that I can give to someone struggling with infertility is to focus on God. That’s what we did and it is the main thing that helped us get through all of the aches and pains. We are religious and believe that God has a plan for all of us. We might not understand why we are faced with a certain trial in our lives, but we need to be optimistic and have faith that if you do your part to live a good life God will bless you.  

“Where, when my aching grows … where can I run?”: Living with Infertility

By:  Loralee

Continuing on in our series this week: confronting infertility in marriage.  Here’s a post by my friend Lori.

What do I say about Lori?  Hmmm.  She is my BFF.  I admittedly have a history of being a tad hyperbolic with the term “BFF,” but for real: it’s Lori.  We’re talking bridesmaid, college roommate, joy school (joy school!) level of BFF here.  It’s funny, when we were roommates Lori and I always imagined that I would be the one to struggle with infertility and she would be the one with tons of children (this assumption was based largely on the fact that MY mother struggled with infertility and her mother had lots of children 🙂 ).  Life has this way of rarely turning out the way you think it will.

I love Lori for ten thousand reasons, one of which is her complete inability to be dishonest.  The girl can’t lie.  Even if you don’t know her and ask her how she’s doing, she’ll answer you with complete honesty.  Another reason I love Lori is her unfailing hope and love for life.  It is important you know that she is a very optimistic person because she doesn’t hide how hard infertility is at all in this post (see: she’s incapable of being dishonest).  It’s a very raw and honest description of what can be like to experience infertility.  And I thank her for sharing it.     – Celeste

Our story…

Bronson and I got married and a year later we decided to start ‘trying’. We didn’t know much about how it all worked, just figured we were having unprotected sex and soon we’d be pregnant. After a few months, I started doing more research because I started to wonder why it wasn’t happening – and I realized that the window for ovulation is very small!

That was a turning point, where I took much more of a proactive path towards trying to make it happen. After about eight months we went to a specialist because we were starting to worry. I tried many different solutions and a handful of different specialists. All of them affirmed ‘you’re so healthy, you’ll get pregnant.’ But it never happened.

Month after month my period came. People tell you to stop worrying about it and it will happen, but that is not true and on top of that it’s completely dismissive of the fact that even if you TRIED to stop thinking about it, you’re still going to bleed and be reminded that you cannot have the thing that others get without trying, no matter how badly you want it. Every month the tiny reserve of dreams and hope that you’ve built up over the month and so preciously guarded and so desperately need would be choked by your period – the reminder that you do not get to have what seems like a right for every one else. It has been taken from you and no one can explain it and no one can tell you how to fix it.

For us, it was unexplained infertility, and despite everything I tried, there really was nothing I could actually do. The hardest part was that there was just no direction to any of our frustration, our questions, or our loss. There is a song at church “Where can I turn for peace?” that when we sang it, I would just have tears roll down my cheeks. The words so perfectly reflected what I felt:

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?

The last verse is about Christ being the one that will quench that sorrow, but I was left in the sorrow and never felt like I arrived at the resolution that verse three promised. I’ve always believed that if there’s a will there’s a way, and I can do anything I set my mind to. So the most bitter part of this journey was wanting so badly to do something, I would have done anything, but not having any idea what it was that I could do. I just had to hope but try not to hope.

I mean, I did EVERYTHING: acupuncture, gluten / dairy / sugar free diets (all at once even), exercise, homeopathic drops, specialists, IUI, trigger shots, timing, temperature charting, etc. The greatest sacrifice, the biggest thing taken from me by this experience, was the fiery flame of hope and surety that used to motivate everything I did. I really and finally learned the meaning of doubt and loss. I had no one I could even be angry at – so I tried not to be angry. But when I couldn’t help but be angry it was mostly aimed at God because He’s the only figure that even came close to having control over this.

My question burned of if there even was a God, because I did not feel any relationship with Him. I am very fortunate that Bronson and I were not angry with each other. We were in this struggle together. I hated that I saw his sorrow but there was nothing I could do to fix it. My sorrow only increased his, and vice versa. It’s hard enough to feel your purpose and dreams squashed, but to watch it happen to the person you love most is excruciating.

Bronson always tried to be strong whenever I broke down, and I tried to do the same for him. We needed strength from each other and I know sometimes he was dying inside but he’d say nice things that were supportive, and optimistic, and would always tell me that he loved me anyways. I often felt that I was keeping him from having the life he should – that he would be such a great father and I’d taken that from him.  I felt like I should divorce him so I could free him to have the happiness I wanted for him. I was open with him about this sorrow and he always reiterated that he would want to be married to me even if we could never have children. We made other plans of how to find the joy of blessing and nurturing life: foster care, working in orphanages, etc. We thought very seriously about these plans in an effort to pursue the meaningful life we wanted together. He never let me think that it would be a better option for him to be without me, and I needed that endless confirmation. 

We felt a desire to adopt but by the time we realized this was the path for us, my husband only had a couple months left of his PhD work before we knew he’d receive his degree and we’d move. Because the process takes a while, we didn’t think we could get the home study and adoption in on time, and decided to wait until we had moved. This was very trying on my patience!Bronson eventually received his degree and a job offer and within a week of landing in our new neighborhood I had called a couple IVF clinics and scheduled interviews with doctors at their practice. I was also on the phone with various adoption agencies. Starting IVF and the adoption process was top of my list!

It was our first IVF cycle, and, I don’t even know how to say it because it is still so unreal to me, but it took. Now, 10 weeks into pregnancy (so scary and so beautiful because I am always afraid to lose it but also want to be sure to enjoy it!) we are finally finalizing our adoption home study and family profiles as we still feel that adoption is right for our family. I don’t know how this road will continue to turn, but I am trying to set us up for the biggest and happiest family possible, and doing all I can to open doors to make it happen. 🙂

I am very very grateful that Bronson and I had finally arrived at a peaceful place spiritually before our positive pregnancy test. I think if we hadn’t pushed ourselves to try to find peace with this path, we would have always regretted that we were angry or sad our whole way through this trial. It was a deepening, widening, enriching experience, and all the more so to feel that without a positive result we still made the decision to press on and be happy.

To other couples struggling with this …

I’m sorry. It’s important to see that other people having babies doesn’t make a difference in your ability to have your own family. I tried to always keep that in mind and it helped me to be happy for others even if they got pregnant on their first month. I would often say to myself “I’m glad that they’re having a baby because that means there will be more good babies raised in good families for the world my children will be born into.” I also didn’t give up on God even though I wanted to. I don’t have a lot of advice for that because it was just plain hard, but only at the end of this road did it feel like we finally, finally achieved the soft hearts we had hoped to have, and accepted that this was the life we had been given and we could still love God and ask for direction in other ways. The trial made us deeper and we tried to appreciate that. At the end of that road, I finally felt a bit of a relationship and I feel deeper now so I can appreciate my relationship to spirituality and a Heavenly Father more deeply.

Try to recognize what the needs are that you are feeling you can’t meet without children, and then try to plan other ways to fulfill them. And keep being open to the opportunity that it may happen, while focusing on how to make your greatest happiness in other ways. Definitely find a hobby you love that can bring good to the world the way your family would, and invest time and heart in that. You can still make a beautiful difference and bring lots of happiness and influence in so many ways (I studied permaculture). And I accept that it just sucks, and I am sorry for anyone having to experience it. It just sucks, and then I can focus on what comes next instead of just being mad about it in itself.

I know very well that it doesn’t always end as beautifully as having a successful IVF cycle, and I feel so so fortunate for the opportunity to just be 10 weeks pregnant, that I hesitate to write about all of this in a way. It is still very unreal to me (I almost wish for more morning sickness so I could be sure it’s there every day.) I also am sorry because I know there are so many that are still struggling through  additional IVF cycles, who haven’t been able to have it work. I don’t want it to be hard for them to read an infertility post and feel all the lonelier because it didn’t work for them but it worked for me. So I just wanted to write about the trial of it and pulling through that together, and end there – but I don’t think that shows my gratitude for the blessing we are experiencing now. My heart goes out to each family in this situation, and I can just promise that I will try to be as grateful for this gift as I can, and I promise to treasure everything I can think to treasure.

“So Many Ways to Build a Family”: Confronting Infertility in Our Marriage

By Deirdre Davis

I’m so excited to announce that this ENTIRE week on the blog is devoted to strengthening marriage while dealing with infertility.  This can be one of the hardest struggles a couple has to face together. To help share their own insights, we’ve got guest posters coming at you every day this week to discuss this important topic.  Some have adopted, some have done in vitro fertilization (IVF) and some are still awaiting their miracle.  All are amazing, inspiring people with amazing, inspiring stories.  So, so SO excited to share them all with you!!  So keep checking back and please share these posts with any friends you may have who need to hear they are not alone in infertility struggles.

First up is my friend Deirdre.  Deirdre used to live in Iowa City and I LOVE her.  She’s peppy, up-beat, a great motivational speaker and one tough cookie.  I especially admire her unending energy to uplift others (as manifested by her daily encouraging Facebook updates :)).  Her story is so inspiring and her family so beautiful!  See for yourself.  – Celeste

I am thrilled to have been asked to write about a subject so dear to my heart! Thankful that our dear friends asked us to do this. They have an exemplary blog and we are honored to share our joy, pain and hardships of infertility.

1.  Tell us a little about your story of infertility and where your family is now.

We got married and knew we wanted to start a family right away. But after two years into our marriage we became concerned and looked into infertility treatments. We felt alone. Like we were the only ones experiencing this. My identical twin sister conceived her first two right away. My younger sister as well. We had no one to relate with or talk to. It was a quiet struggle! Lots of tears and questions. We got checked and got lots of lab work and tests done. They could not explain our infertility. It was an unknown. We started the process of Chlomid in a variety of dosages and amounts for about a year. Then tried artificial insemination and then moved to In Vitro Fertilization.  Seven long, very long years!

We were so thankful to be in the military during this time to help cut down the excessive cost of this entire process. We went in for the long arduous process of IVF. There is so much that people don’t understand that I wish someone would have told me or explained to me. It’s very invasive! The process is uncomfortable and can be humiliating (think of an adult giving another adult a sponge bath). Each time I did the live cycle for IVF when they extracted the eggs from my ovaries I got ovarian hyper stimulation. My ovaries became the size of grape fruits! I was on codeine and heavy pain meds. It took a lot of prayers, faith, priesthood blessings and counseling with those we trust. Lots of shots, medication, monthly, daily tests and doctor visits and exams.

I went in to have my first live cycle done. They were going to extract my eggs from my ovaries to start the process. Lots of decision had to be made. They could not believe they extracted 30 eggs!! Which caused us to wonder why do we have infertility issues? They created our embryos and we prayerfully decided to implant two embryos! We were excited to do our first medical implantation of our miracle embryos.

We decided not to freeze the left over embryos. A mistake! I would recommend everyone freezing their embryos. Why? Because the first live attempt FAILED. Failed after all we went through! We had to go through a complete live cycle again!!

When that first time failed my faith was tested. I struggled. Thankfully I was doing things during those seven years to strengthen my faith for this very moment. I taught early morning seminary daily for four of these years. I was attending church and the temple. I was reading my scriptures. I was serving. Because of these things my lamp was filled with the needed oil to sustain me when at one of the darkest times in my life when I wanted to give up. Being faithful and obedient sustained me. I felt a calm come over me and words came to my mind “if you give up now you won’t be able to enjoy the blessings that are coming.”

A week after the failed attempt my dear friend (a visiting teacher) came over with a CD titled, “From Gods Arms to My Arms to Yours” I listened to it and fell on my knees and wept! My heart and mind opened up to adoption. I started looking into it, got a profile done on LDS social services, started the paperwork and started a family blog.

A few days later we met Jamie. By word of mouth Jamie’s parents, who were in our ward (congregation), heard of our desire and called us to come meet their daughter who was flying into town to have her baby! She wanted to place her baby for adoption. We went over and met her and talked for almost four hours! She saw our blog. We went home and the next day we got a call. She wanted to meet us!

She came to our house and in tears told us how for the first time in four long months after meeting with us she received the spiritual confirmation she needed to place her baby with us! She knew her son was to come to our home!!! She asked us to be his parents. To be his mom and dad! This 19 year old girl gave us a gift equal to the Atonement. A gift we could not give ourselves. Five months later our son Ashton was born! I was the first to hold him! He was ours and always ours, and he came a different way than we were anticipating. There are so many ways to build families!

When Ashton turned two, we returned to the military base and did another live cycle of IVF. Another time they extracted 30 eggs! We prayerfully again decided to implant two embryos and this time FROZE the rest! One precious embryo took. Our second oldest, Jaida, was born!

We waited another two years and then used two of our frozen embryos and tried again. This time both of them took and we got our twins Melia and Leilani!!

In October 2013 we knew there was still one more child meant to come into our home. We had eight frozen embryos. So in February of 2014 we decided to implant one. It failed. So we tried again and I forgot some important meds, so we had to cancel and then tried again in June 2014. We then tried again and prayerfully implanted two frozen embryos in July and one of them worked! We are having our 5th baby in March!!

If all goes well with this pregnancy and delivery we are going to adopt the remaining four frozen embryos so some other family can have a chance at having a child.

We feel so blessed to have five children with all we have gone through to get them here.

2.  What is something your spouse did during this time that was especially strengthening to you?

We stayed completely faithful and committed to the Lord. This was such a strength. My sweet husband administered countless priesthood blessings. We listened to and talked through our pain. Drew made it a priority to be at almost every appointment. If he could not make it we made sure to communicate all that was happening. When IVF did not work he said, “please take yourself shopping. Get whatever you want. Make yourself feel pretty!” I will never forget that sweet gesture and it was just what I needed! We cried together and allowed each other to feel angry, confused and upset with no judgement!

3.  What’s the best advice you have for couples going through infertility struggles?

Turn to God! Be believing and trust in him! Proverbs 3: 5-6. He knows us. He knows our families and our children. He knows what tests and trials we need and we need to trust in Him. Whatever His plan is, it is the best even though it may not make sense to you. Rely on the strength of the Atonement to carry you, uplift you and to edify you.

Rely on your spouse.  Rely on each other. Don’t blame each other. Love unconditionally and remember both are experiencing pain and heart ache. Cleave to each other and none else. Explain in detail to your spouse what you have to go through. The women go through so much and it’s hard for the guys to comprehend. Don’t share personal things without the consent of the spouse. Even with close family members. A lot of the treatments and tests are very difficult, take a lot of humility and are private. Allow each other to talk through the uncomfortableness of these things and show compassion, empathy and love for each other!

There is so much emotion, pain, struggle, loss, emptiness and loneliness that comes with both adoption AND infertility. These paths are not easy and require a lot of support from each other and from God. It is not as simple as “JUST ADOPT” or “JUST DO IVF.” And just “doing something” is not adequate for all that is required to go through these steps; one needs to strengthen their faith and turn to God to know what to do.

Be open to different ways to grow and strengthen your family. Don’t close your mind off to other miraculous ways to bring children into your home and to build and grow your family. There are so many wonderful ways to have a family! Pray to God and He can help you know what those paths are.