Having a family was always my dream. I envisioned pushing a baby carriage. I had such a great imagination growing up and my favorite was pretending to be a mother. I pretended to change diapers, warm bottles, and dressing baby dolls. I would even stuff pillows under my shirt to appear pregnant. I desired so much to be a mom. Something I waited in anticipation for. My husband and I started trying to conceive 2 years after we were married. After a few months, I knew something was off. To be honest I knew something was off in my body from my high school years. I started my cycle late and then after 4-5 cycles, they stopped. I completely stopped having a cycle. So I knew us conceiving would probably not happen as easily as I thought it would. I still held on to my dream and imagination of becoming a mother.
After about 3 months of consistently trying I scheduled an appointment with my Gynecologist. My Gynecologist prescribed me with medication to stimulate a cycle. I was excited! These were like my magic beans. I’ll take these, I’ll have a cycle, I’ll ovulate, and with a little calculation we can achieve this dream. We began this for a few cycles with no results. No pregnancies. I still held on to my faith strong and we were optimistic. We went back to the drawing board. My Gynecologist then performed an ultrasound and the image was shocking. I looked over to this black and white screen that typically shows images of fetus and/or babies was now starting to shatter my dream. The technician and doctor showed me these little sacs. It looked like a Dalmatian. I was looking at my uterus covered with cysts. I actually felt a little relieved at this point. Relief because those images of cysts validated my reasons for concerns. I was right about something being off in my body. I was also relieved because we had a reason. I just thought to myself “ok, now that we have a problem we can identify, we can find a solution.
I was referred to a fertility specialist. At this point my Gynecologist could no longer provide treatment. We then scheduled and went to meet with the fertility specialist. After some labs and ultrasounds, we had a one on one conversation to discuss what was going on. This doctor laid all of my labs, notes, and ultra sound pictures in front of myself and my husband. I was labeled “infertile due to PCOS”. My eyes starting welling up and I didn’t even notice until my elbow become wet from tears falling. I didn’t hear much of what he was saying because I was stuck on the “infertile due to PCOS". I knew I had some barriers to becoming pregnant, but seeing and hearing that I was infertile made me feel like I was sinking into the floor. I would not be able to conceive on my own. We started to review most appropriate options for us. We decided to try IUI, Inter Uterine Insemination.
Medication was ordered, appointments were scheduled, labs were scheduled, acupuncture was scheduled. Our life, mainly my life was consumed with appointments. My medication was delivered by the box loads. I felt like a pin cushion, I injected myself daily with large thick needles. I had nurses injecting me with one medication, I had my husband injecting me, nurses drawing blood from me, and nurses taking samples . It was overwhelming and painful. There were days that I would just break down in my car in the parking lot of my doctor’s office. Just praying God let all this be worth it. Please don’t forget us. See all that we are going through. See the pain I experience with every needle piercing me. Between the hormones and my sadness I was crying at some point through the day. Every injection that I received and every appointment I went to, reminded me that my body was not normal. I’m here because my body malfunctioned. I’m taking this medication because my body is insufficient.
Finally my body was ready for the IUI. I remember the day. I took off from work because after the insemination I wanted to go home, lay down, and just relax. So after the insemination we had to wait 1-2 weeks, then we came in for the pregnancy test. I went in the office with extreme anxiety, I took my test and went to work. While I waited for the doctor’s office to call with results that weighed so heavily. I could not focus at all. I kept the phone near me. My husband, mom, and close friends tried to provide comfort. In this moment those words just bounced off of me. I could not receive any of it. I felt like these people don’t know what I’m feeling in this moment. It’s easy for people to tell me to relax and be optimistic when they have no idea what they are telling me to relax from. They didn’t know what I knew. What I felt. What I was fearing. Then I received the call, the nurse said “Mrs. Brantley, I’m sorry to say the IUI was unsuccessful”. I cried even before she could tell me her apologies, and whatever else was said. I don’t really even know to this day what was said. They scheduled my next appointment and hung up. The first thoughts were how can I do this again. Why do I even have to do this at all. I was so angry.
After my cycle came as a result of the failed IUI. We decided to try again. We gathered our money and paid for another attempt. So, I received another box of medication for the 2nd round. Even the sight of this large box of hormones and stimulants made me tearful and anxious. Again, my husband and I going through this alone. Having no one that could relate, no one that understood what we were facing, no one that could just relate to our pain. We turned to each other and our faith. We geared up for our 2nd insemination. I was optimistic this time. I was now familiar with the process and knew what to expect. This did help with my anxiety but not the fear. I repeated my same process. I took the remainder of my work day off an went home after the insemination to rest and relax. I did not want my nerves throwing off my hormones. Pure superstition but in this process you weren’t taking any chances. I felt hopeful. My life has not been the easiest, so it was no surprise it didn’t work the first time. I read a lot of blogs and articles that said IUI working the first time was a low percentage but the likelihood slightly increased the second time. Well, the second IUI failed as well. I fell into a depression. I went into a dark place. I stopped going to birthday parties, baby showers, even the baby aisle in the grocery store broke me down. I pushed my husband away and begged him to leave me. He still wasn’t a father and it was all my fault. The amount of guilt and self-resentment was unmeasurable. I felt like a complete failure. I was failing my husband. This man has no children. No life beyond his own and I was the reason why. I felt like I was holding him back. Who was I to keep this man from having a family. I thought about giving up on life. Why exist. I didn’t like being this bitter person. I thought I was cursed or being punished. Which would still be fine with me, but why was my husband being punished? It felt like everyone around me was having children except us. I didn’t just come out telling people I was diagnosed with infertility because I was embarrassed and I did not want anyone’s pity. I was embarrassed to say the one thing that made me a women, is the thing I could not do. I felt like I was branded and marked as a reject.
This journey was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life to date. However, it was priceless. Through this process I learned and became aware of the gaps in infertility treatment and how it relates and impacts your mental health. It opened my eyes to the gap between faith services and infertility. I realized that people are actually very uncomfortable talking about infertility on both sides. They are uncomfortable talking about their own infertility and others are uncomfortable speaking to someone with infertility.
After sitting in the waiting room for several appointments and looking around at the other women holding their breath just like I was, I realized I was not alone! 1 in 8 couples are diagnosed with some form of infertility. They are issued crosses of infertility to carry, just like we were. There was very little organizations that counseled couples dealing with infertility and that most importantly valued faith as the foundation. This lack of availability gave birth to Saving Sarah! Saving Sarah was designed to help these couples carry their cross by combing faith and treatment together.
I could never be the author or finisher of your story, I have combined my clinical background as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and my personal experience as “Sarah”, to help other women and their spouse on the journey of infertility towards their Divine Destiny.
I am so grateful to God that he has blessed us with 3 beautiful children: Shanice, Gianna, and Gerius Jr. These three are the best things God has allowed myself and my husband to produce.