Guest commentary by Jena Hernandez
Two and a half years ago my husband, Brandon, and I decided to try to get pregnant and start building our family. It was an exciting and scary time. We knew it could take some time as I had just stopped taking the pill and I was “older” at the ripe age of 29. I didn’t want many to know that we were trying because I wanted it to be a surprise when we were able to announce we were pregnant.
The first few cycles passed and the dreaded arrival of my period came. I tried to stay positive. I tried to reassure myself that my body would need time to level out after stopping the pill. We researched different supplements that could help support fertility. We purchased those and tried adding them for months, but nothing would change the arrival of my period and the negative feelings that built each time that happened. We tried to remain hopeful, but in reality something in me knew it was not going to be that easy. It was a fear being realized. I felt a sense of failure and frustration with my body and myself as a woman. I would see pregnant women in the store and my heart hurt. Announcements of others being pregnant hurt, even though I was excited for them as well. I was silent about it, though. It was my shame that I was carrying and I didn’t want other people to know about my failure. I didn’t want tears shed by others because I knew that would break me even more. I needed to keep my strength in order to get through it. I didn’t want people to know. I also didn’t want the extra comments and suggestions from people who didn’t understand that infertility is a real issue.
Nine months passed and we knew we should start looking for help. I was a pro at ovulation charting at this point and nothing looked out of place. Brandon started looking into insurance options to see how much of a financial burden it would be. We had great insurance – but, of course, there was the clause that said infertility issues were not covered. Really?! So the burden became heavier – my body not functioning properly could cost thousands of dollars. I quietly looked into adoption – but, again, the financial cost was daunting. The idea of expanding our family beyond the two of us was moving further and further away.
I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her that we had been struggling to get pregnant. Her response was to tell me that I was not 16 any more and not in my prime, so it could take up to two years for us to get pregnant. She lacked compassion and understanding of the pain I carried. I knew the statistics and knew that if we did not get pregnant within the first year that I should see a specialist. Thankfully I did not listen to her and made the choice to see someone new.
I decided at that point to start accepting that we were dealing with infertility. I also decided that I should start being more open about my struggles. I started becoming more active in my research of infertility. I participated in an online support group and learned all the lingo, steps and tests that needed to be done. I found a community acupuncture place to help. I found out a family friend had struggled with infertility and I reached out to her. I got recommendations from a few other family friends on a clinic to that may be able to help with infertility.
The clinic was amazing. The compassion and kindness that each person in that office extended was incredible, and I began to gain more hope that they could help. The shame started feeling lighter just by sharing my struggles and taking the steps to get help from a specialist.
Testing began for both of us. Each test came back without showing problems. I was officially diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” It was great that nothing was wrong, but frustrating that there was also no explanation for why we were not getting pregnant. In our first appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist, a plan was laid out. I was put on fertility drugs for the first cycle to see if I just needed a little extra support. There was no success with that round.
The next round Brandon wanted to take the leap to do IUI (intrauterine insemination). I hesitated – questioning the cost and the necessity, but agreed to try because he was so hopeful. It was a complex process; every step was very planned out. It just so happened to fall the day after my 31st birthday. I was in the doctor’s office filled with nerves and hope that maybe this would do the trick. We were told that we had a 25 percent chance of it working. After two weeks of waiting, we took the test. It was positive. I did not believe it. After so many negative pregnancy test results, it was hard to believe that this one was positive. After a year and a half of trying, the pain of the false positive would be too much. I had three blood tests over the next week to make sure the pregnancy was valid. It was.
Fast-forward to the present – we now have the most precious little girl in our arms. The entire pregnancy felt surreal; I felt partially disconnected to the truth that there really was a baby coming. I had lived in the unknown for what seemed like forever, and it wasn’t until I had her in my arms that we fully realized that we overcame that struggle. There are moments that I have Mina in my arms and I just cry because I think of the pain we went through, the time we waited for her. I’m overcome with gratitude that we have her.
Throughout this time, the one thing I that didn’t waver for me was my faith. I have gone through many experiences when I questioned the presence of God. Even in the midst of this, I felt God’s presence through it all. It was my faith and foundation in Christ that gave me my strength and hope that we would be okay in any outcome. I felt God’s presence through simple texts from others who were just checking in, through those who just listened and the random connections that helped us get closer to answers.
I think the greatest gift I was given was people who listened and who did not try to “fix” the situation or offer their suggestions when they knew nothing about infertility. Believe me, we were researching, seeking professional help and doing whatever we could – so we were grateful to those who did not suggest uneducated fixes just because they did not know what else to say.
My hope for the people of the church is to know this: Know we don’t have to have answers as to why this is happening to God’s people and we don’t need you to offer how to fix it, but just be the person to listen — to love on us in the painful process. There is great power in knowing that there are amazing people there to catch you when your strength and hope is not at its peak for the day or week. Church, please be the people who listen and are ready to hear stories of strength, offer support and encouragement and be the one who adds light in the midst of darkness.
I know I am one among many who have gone through this struggle or who are going through it currently. What I can offer to those who are going through this currently is this: Find a community that you can share your burdens with. Doing so for us helped us find next steps and brought back hope. Don’t let this be something you hold silent. It is not something to be ashamed about. Find strength and hope and share your story because it will help you and you never know who else may be struggling. You are strong.
JENA HERNANDEZ lives in Tempe, Arizona, and is a wife and mom. She has an MAT in theology and art and is passionate about helping others through empowerment and sharing her story.
Editor’s note: As we approach Advent, the season of waiting for the Christ child, we lift up parents who bear the grief of infertility, pregnancy loss and infant loss. These topics are traumatic and often not discussed, even in the church – yet many women find their lives marked by similar grief. In sharing these stories of heartache and grief in a series of five blog posts this week, we hope that others also journeying that path will find comfort and that churches will respond to their calling to serve those who are hurting.