My sincere thanks to Harmonie for helping me put this piece together. Watching her endure all that she went through, I’m not sure I would have had her strength to keep striving toward what she felt in her heart was God’s plan for our family.
I learned this week is National Infertility Awareness Week and wanted to share our story in the hopes that it raises awareness and understanding of a topic that people don’t normally talk about, but the CDC estimates impacts 15% of couples in the United States.
We started trying to have children back in 2009. Harmonie has PCOS and had been told by her doctor that, for most women, 35 was the time when their pregnancy would start to carry higher risks, for her that age was 30.
During that time we didn’t feel much pressure or stress to get pregnant, however time marched on. In 2010, we moved down to Texas and considered a fertility specialist that had been recommended to us. That August, five days before our appointment, Harmonie discovered she was pregnant. We went ahead and saw the doctor who confirmed the pregnancy and told us, “If you’d known I was this good, you would have called me earlier!” Nine months later our beautiful little girl was born.
“I feel like our family is not complete.”
Harmonie said those words to me in the fall of early 2013. Although I felt very content with our family, she knew in her bones that we were meant to have two children. Her OB/GYN had already told her that the next time we wanted to get pregnant it would probably make sense to skip over the “see what happens” phase and jump right to professional help.
One of the side effects of PCOS is irregular cycles. In our case, it was almost impossible for Harmonie to know when she was ovulating. On the surface, everything indicated we should be able to get pregnant, but we just couldn’t.
So her OB/GYN started her off on Clomid, a very common medication that helps you ovulate at a very specific time. We had gone through two cycles of Clomid when Harmonie’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Between the diagnosis and the hormones which made Harmonie, in her words, very emotional, it was all too much and we decided to put a pause on trying. After her mom’s surgery we picked up treatment again and went through another two rounds of that drug.
The Friday before Memorial Day Weekend in 2014, Harmonie called me and told me she was pregnant! After all we’d done we were so excited to be expanding our family, although terrified at the financial burden of having two children in daycare.
On Saturday, during our daughter’s nap, we called her family to share the good news. The next day was Sunday. We went to church where Harmonie started bleeding. With a sinking feeling, we left early and came home. Harmonie asked me to take Avery out for the afternoon while she suffered the unimaginable loss of a miscarriage. Obviously I have no frame of reference, but at the time she described it as her “body trying to expel something.”
The next day, Memorial Day, we went to my parents’ house to grill hamburgers and spend time with family. Although she thought she was ok, Harmonie was an emotional wreck and we ended up leaving before anyone else got there.
We went back to the OB/GYN who confirmed that, yes, Harmonie had miscarried. The doctor recommended finding a fertility doctor; fortunately we knew one who could get us pregnant just by scheduling an appointment! This time, when we met with him, he did a number of tests (many invasive and uncomfortable ones for Harmonie) and recommended starting with IUI which he said would give us about a 30% chance of becoming pregnant.
We started our first round of IUI in September 2014. The process included Harmonie giving herself daily hormone injections that made her crazy and irritable (again, her words). The first round of IUI didn’t take, but we decided to do a second one and in November we learned we were pregnant!
The following July, right after the Fourth of July weekend, our son was born. After a long day with the doctor and some truly amazing nurses at Baylor Scott & White - Fort Worth Andrews Women’s Hospital where we’d had our daughter, we got to greet our son and sit together as a complete family. As an aside, during Harmonie’s time in the hospital, I’d gone downstairs to get some coffee and ran into our fertility doctor in the lobby. He’d come to check on a patient and I told him that we’d just had our son and invited him up to meet him and see Harmonie. It was one of those serendipitous moments and it was so special to see him holding the son we never would have had without his help.
Coming Out of the Woodwork
One of the absolutely incredible things that has come out of this experience is the realization of just how many women and couples struggle with infertility. It seems like as soon as we cracked open the door every other person we talked to had their own story.
Harmonie recalled a birthday party we attended while she was pregnant with our son. As the parents talked they realized that of the nine children at the party (plus one on the way), four were conceived through IVF, three through IUI, and three were conceived naturally.
Casey Liss wrote a great post and collected several other reader’s stories on his site.
Also launched this week is an amazing looking service called Fruitful.
Fear. Frustration. Financial stress. Each aspect of infertility sucks. But the worst part is feeling isolated; like no one understands what you’re going through. That’s why we created Fruitful. A free mentorship program where those beginning their fertility journey are matched with a supportive individual who’s experienced it firsthand.
Update from Harmonie
We’ve been very pleased to see how many people have read this post. Our hope was to help start a conversation about the emotional toll this can have on a woman (her spouse, and her marriage) when she feels incapable of of doing what her body was designed to do. There are feelings of complete helplessness, failure and isolation. Hopefully by sharing our story, we can at least help others overcome the feeling of isolation. We are not alone!