We did not have an easy time becoming parents. Thank God. We have the family we were always meant to have because of our struggles. It is perfect and we are so happy for the little ones we get to love and raise, no matter if our family grows by more or not.
We started trying to become pregnant after 6 months of marriage (13 years ago). We were such little kids back then and didn’t have a clue what was to come. When we didn’t get pregnant in the first year of trying we started going to a doctor to figure out what was going on. We tried Clomid fertility drugs for nine months with no results except for crazy mood swings and lots of ovarian cysts. We tried three rounds of intrauterine insemination – each month during peak ovulation days we rushed over to the fertility clinic during our lunch hour, he “donated” sperm and I had it inserted by catheter in an attempt to create the best possible chance of conception. We rode an emotional roller coaster the following two weeks while waiting to see if it worked or not, and all three tries ended with negative results.
During this year of failed clinical attempts the doctors ran dye tests on my fallopian tubes to make sure they were clear, Dusty had his sperm counts tested multiple times, I had six months of weekly fertility-focused acupuncture and several ultrasounds later the doctors declared us to have “unexplainable infertility,” aka they had no clue what was wrong. Our options were to move forward on our own, try in vitro fertilization (not an option with its high costs), or pursue adoption. We were 5 years into our fertility journey at this point and desperate to become parents, and also exhausted with all the medical visits, probing, tracking, charting and ultimate disappointments.
We found out about a small adoption agency near our home and went to an informational meeting. They facilitated a lot of local, open-relationship adoptions which initially scared the crap out of us. The more we learned about their processes and the amount of time, support and care they gave to each birthmom and adoptive family, we decided to trust in this next step and become officially certified to be parents. This included a year and a half of training courses, a six month homestudy that resulted in a 30 page report on our lives (yikes!!), First Aid/CPR training, creating a photo album of our lives that could be shared with potential birthmoms, and a ton of hope, prayer and relying on each other for strength. We finally got our certificate and clearance to be able to adopt in June of 2008, the week of our sixth anniversary. Then we waited…
That September we were contacted by the adoption agency that a birthmom had chosen us, and could we meet her at Red Robin that week? Yes! We were overjoyed!! We joined the director of our agency and our baby’s birthmom for an excited, slightly awkward and anxiety filled dinner, and found out she was pregnant with a girl! She even brought the first ultrasound pictures for us. Over the next 5 months I saw her every other week and were able to stay in the hospital with our baby girl right after she was born. Our daughter’s birthmom is a strong young lady, and we are forever grateful for her choices and convictions. We see her independence and strength in our daughter, and have worked hard to create good relationships with both her birthmom and birthdad, and have had an exceptional opportunity to share in their lives as they have watched her grow too.
When we finally were able to bring her home, we both collapsed and cried for an hour on our couch. Our dream to become parents had become a reality! Fast forward 2 years and we again have been trying to become pregnant and have a second child. Without any luck we started filling out our paperwork to be re-certified and adopt a second time. At the same time we went to an allergy specialist that found me to be extremely allergic to Dusty’s semen. Yeah. Weird right? That’s what I thought too. We’ve come to find out it’s a lot more common than you think, but no one ever talks about it. Because it’s weird. So I’ve got to talk about it for some of you that may be going through “unexplained infertility.” Basically it hurts like crazy to have sex – lots of burning, redness and swelling after each time. I never understood why people liked it so much. But that’s the allergic reaction happening, and my body forcing all the “intruders” out of there as quickly as possible. Pretty tough to get pregnant with that kind of reaction. The allergist treated me with NAET – a non-intrusive allergy treatment that’s short for Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Treatment. In short, it’s like hitting a reset button on your body’s energy flows and helping it not identify the allergen as an enemy anymore. I was willing to try anything since nothing else had ever worked. Since then, sex hasn’t hurt at all, and 4 months later we were pregnant for the first time. No shots, drugs or anything else.
The pregnancy went super easy, and our son was so cozy he decided to stay a couple extra weeks in the womb. After being induced 2 weeks after his due date, enduring 24 hours of labor, and 3 hours of pushing, his shoulders were stuck in the birth canal and the vacuum didn’t work to get him out. He had to be pushed back up into my uterus and we were wheeled in for an emergency c-section. I started shaking from shock as we made our way into the operating room and my muscles wouldn’t calm down. My upper body shook so violently that my jaw was tensed shut and I couldn’t grip anything. When our son was born all I could do was look at him as they tried to stop the hemorrhaging that was happening down below. An hour later I was stitched up and moved back into the birthing suite. He was finally laid down beside me and magically all my muscles calmed down and the shaking stopped for good. We had become a family of 4.
Fast forward again 3.5 more years to this week. We have a lively, beautiful, entertaining 6-year-old girl and a roughhousing, cuddly, jokester 3-year-old boy. We’ve been trying to get pregnant for 3 years, not knowing if it would ever happen again when stuff started feeling “different” last week. I gave up tracking my cycles years ago because the emotional rollercoaster of hoping and disappointment is too much for me to handle and still be a happy mom and wife. I had no idea how long it had been and if my period was late. I dug out an old pregnancy test, took it and got a positive result. I ran right into the bedroom, woke Dusty up and told him the great news. The next morning I bought another one, took it and it was positive too. I couldn’t believe it!
We waited a couple of days and put on a big show of telling the kids – our daughter was so happy she cried for an hour and a half. She has always wanted another baby and kept snuggling my not-pregnant-looking belly and talking to the tiny little embryo that was busy dividing cells. We called our immediate family and closest friends because logistically they were going to figure it out in the next week when I wasn’t partaking in “happy hour” on camping trips. We wanted to beat them to the punch and let the kids share the good news that they were going to be a big brother and big sister again. It was such a great feeling and pretty soon Dusty and I were secretly exchanging ideas for names. This whole time I had a little bit of brown spotting that had started with the implantation cramps the week before and my boobs were starting to get tender – classic early pregnancy signs.
After a week of spotting, it started to turn red and get a little heavier. Of course I googled it and got freaked out and called the nurse line right away. They scheduled an appointment for a few weeks out because it was too early on in this pregnancy to be able to see anything. I asked if there was anything to watch for and she said if it turns into a regular period and I passed blood clots or clumps of tissue, I could assume it wasn’t a viable pregnancy and my body had eliminated it. I went to bed that night uneasy and hoping for the best.
By Tuesday morning it seemed to have subsided until I was up and moving around for a while, then sure enough, my worst fear was happening…Over the course of a few hours I passed several large blood clots. Even worse than knowing I wasn’t pregnant anymore was the dread of having to tell our kids. I just wished they didn’t know to begin with. The nurse thought it was a “chemical pregnancy” which means my body thought it was a regular fertilized egg, but in reality it wasn’t fertilized at all. It implanted, changed hormones and did all the normal early pregnancy stuff, but never started to develop and at that point was eliminated. I’d never heard of that before and it sucks. Sharing the news with my daughter was heartbreaking. I tried to insert as much calm into the message as possible and changed her response from “I’m so sorry baby died” to “There wasn’t a baby to begin with,” and explained the new information to help her understand and make it seem less awful. Having to call everyone back that just rejoiced with us was so painful. My heart goes out to all the families that have dealt with miscarriages and the dream of the baby that was lost along with it. I’m so sorry and I feel your pain.
We still hope to get pregnant again and more than ever feel like there is an unfilled space in our family. Our hearts are still guarded whether or not it happens. No matter what, we are so happy with our family of 4, and we would be equally happy with a family of 5. We have a great life together and can weather these storms as they come, and next time around we’ll be sure to hold it in longer before sharing with the kids, family and friends. We are thankful for their support these past two weeks and for the messages they’ve sent us. I’m grateful to have my two little snuggle bugs that shower us with kisses and hugs every day, trash our home, refuse to eat the healthy food I cook, laugh at their farts, and put on goofy shows for us.
Parenthood is hard. It’s amazing, stressful, emotional and challenges my patience on a daily basis. Being mom to my two little kids teaches me more about myself everyday – like how much more kindness and love I can bring to the table when I’m frustrated, and even more importantly how much their smiles, declarations of love for me and each other, and goofy antics light up my life and give me more fulfillment than I could ever have imagined.
I hope that anyone reading this that’s struggling with infertility will receive a message of hope, stick together-ness, and that your children are out there for you – maybe they will be biological, maybe adoptive, or maybe both like ours. It doesn’t matter how they get to you, once they are in your arms, they’re yours to nurture, cherish, guide and protect forever and nothing can change the deep love you have for them. All my love to y’all.
Katie Stemp is the founder of Seattle Farm School and writes in the middle of the night when not answering cries for more snuggles, water, food, tummyaches and whatever else her stalling children yell through their closed door.