On October 1, 2011, I married the most precious man, Ben Duncan, and our journey together began. At 27, we were “older” than most when we married – so we didn’t want to wait long to start a family. About a year in, we decided to give it a go – pray for a baby but not worry about it. We were beyond excited, planning names, dreaming about the sex and birth order. We both have grandparents we wanted to name our children after. He wanted two. I wanted a house full!
A few months later our excitement simmered when my husband’s career path was unexpectedly “redirected.” Everything we had taken for granted when we married started to feel uncertain, and the pressure was on me to provide for our family with my tiny teacher salary. This made everything a little (a lot!) more stressful, which was hard, but the stress quickly became an “out” for why we weren’t able to conceive.
While I was dealing with/in denial of the situation, I began to create paintings and work like crazy in the yard. I dug up weeds and planted flowers. I painted storms with little bits of light on the horizon. The light and flowers were physical, tangible ways I was able to see the life and hope Christ can give, while in a dark place. I needed to see the calm after the storm and the hope on the horizon that He alone can bring.
Later, when my husband ended up in a steady job (far from the one we had started with – God was moving mountains, and we had no idea!) we thought – this is it! This is the Lord’s plan – He was just waiting for us to get here.
And still…no baby.
I went in for blood work, and everything seemed fine. I started reading books, charting my cycle, and taking my temperature every morning. Months later my husband felt comfortable being tested. And in August 2014, we got some news. It was my first teacher workday going back to school in the fall. I was overwhelmed with new administration and setting up my classroom when the call came saying that our results were “severely abnormal.” I do not know how to describe what I felt that day – disbelief and heartache. I broke down and could barely hold it together during our meetings.
We took off work and went to the first specialist we were recommended. He immediately pushed us towards IVF – and we were shocked! He didn’t do one single test, and he wanted to jump straight to IVF?! On top of that, he was rude. I was already emotional - but this appointment sent me over the edge. I had to be taken out of the room by nurses because I could no longer hold it together. These appointments are overwhelming because they are so personal and emotional, with Doctors that just want to put you in a “box.” It’s very awkward to give detailed, private information to people you’ve never met – I’m used to it now – but there is lots of talk of “harvesting” and “freezing” and needles and chromosomes. It’s a lot to process to say the least.
We leave broken, wounded, disheartened, and without the answers we were seeking.
Later, Ben went to see a urologist who recommended surgery. We were weary of this and couldn’t get a second opinion agreeing with the surgery, so we felt kind of stuck.
I was struggling mightily with why God was allowing this to happen. Why would the God I know allow me to experience this pain? Why would He allow such suffering and injustice in the world He created? If He could move a mountain with a mustard seed - couldn’t He fix whatever our little problem was? I continued to paint the storms and dig up the weeds. I know deep down that God is good and that He was able, so was He just unwilling? How can I make sense of that?? I had to get to know this new God - a God who allows pain for His higher purposes even when His beloved children ache and groan to be delivered. I have never truly struggled with my faith like I did during this time.
Throughout my struggle, Satan has bombarding me with lies. “We don’t deserve kids. We should be ashamed that we aren’t able to have children. Our families won’t love us as much as they love our siblings with children. We would never be able to give our parents joy through grandchildren.” The spiritual battle for our souls is real.
Then God moved again – this time he moved a friend back into my life who had walked almost the exact same road only a year before. She and her husband had been to a male infertility specialist that they highly recommended. We made an appointment, took more days off work, and set out to a new doctor.
This time the doctor listened, did some tests, including a DNA test, and a week later, we had some answers – not the answers we wanted – but we were beyond grateful to finally figure out what was going on. We have “translocated” chromosomes, something we learned nearly 1 in every 500 people have. It is in my husband’s very DNA, so there is nothing at all we can do about it. No pill, like we had hoped. No surgery. Nothing. We got answers, but our hearts remained broken & our home childless.
The doctor did tell us there was a chance IVF could work for us. Our IVF would be much more complicated than regular IVF and twice as expensive. We were torn – I wanted to sign up for IVF that day, and Ben was certain we were supposed to adopt. We were not on the same page, so much uncertainty, no peace in our hearts. Tears, fights, painting, lots of painting, our hope for a family now seemed out of reach. As more family and friends around us became pregnant, the heartbreak became overwhelming.
We decided to make a follow up appointment with a “genetic counselor” who could give us more information about the IVF process we would require. She explained that when Ben passes down his genetic information, there are various ways his chromosomes are incorrectly “translocated.” It is very likely he would contribute one extra or one too few chromosomes, and the embryo would have any of various syndromes all with the possible outcomes of miscarriage, stillbirth, or death soon after birth.
She said it’s possible that we get pregnant every month and miscarry. IVF for us would involve several levels of testing and biopsying the embryo before implantation, and there is a slim chance we would end up with a baby even then.
(Long pause. Tears. Deep breathe. Let the shock settle in.)
It was the strangest thing – once the absolute worst was realized and out on the table – that is when the Lord was able to move in our hearts. Looking back, the Lord had protected us from so many options that would not have helped and could have created even more heartache. The Lord had provided the Doctors we needed at the right time and sustained our marriage throughout our journey. He is truly in ALL THINGS.