Finding Strength While Pursuing IVF
Finding Strength While Pursuing IVF
By Amanda Birkeland
The first emergency surgery I had was when I was twelve. At age sixteen I had my second surgery. We originally thought I had appendicitis, but I didn’t. To this day I wish that had been the diagnosis. Instead I had a disease of the fallopian tubes called hydrosalpinges. This condition is toxic to eggs. Even if, through some miracle, I got pregnant the embryo wouldn’t live.
After my second surgery, when I was ready to talk about what was going on in my young, adolescent body, the doctor explained my condition. He explained why this was so rare to see in a child and then he presented me with the statement. The truth bomb that changed my life. “You will never be able to have children naturally.” I instantly broke. A piece of me felt forever stolen.
There are no words to express the heartache that came from that day.
Being so young, my family told me not to worry about it. Holding pain about not being able to conceive was annoying to the people around me. “Who cares? You’re too young anyway,” they said. From that day forward it was never discussed again. It was swept under a rug, forgotten by everyone around me, but not by me. I held on to those words throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, never sharing the depths of pain I felt. Those words became a piece of my identity and longing.
As the years went on, I learned how to say them without emotion, shrugging it off. This need to hide my pain, thoughts, hopes and fears built a closed-off area within me. Whenever I felt like I needed to tuck something away, because it was too vulnerable or too heavy for someone else to carry, I had already created a perfect spot. I learned to lean on myself and no one else.
Being a young adult in college I convinced myself that I didn’t want kids anyway. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Then something happened--I met my husband. He swept me off my feet. This man heard me. He saw me. He allowed me to be exactly where I needed to be without pressure to change. Though he knew pretty early on that I could not get pregnant, it wasn’t something we dove into. Why would he want to carry that weight? Does he have the courage to walk with me through years of unspoken resentment and pain? What if he wanted children and I was the reason he couldn’t have them?
Five years into our relationship we sat on the couch and I started talking, explaining every piece of my brokenness. All those hidden words came pouring out of my lips, yearning for someone else to take them and hold them close to their heart, allowing me to heal. That day I learned that I was allowed to feel how I feel, speak about my challenges, and let others bear the heaviness when I cannot. My heart and soul began to heal that day.
We’ve been together for eight years and we are officially on the road to having our own baby.
Once we decided to pursue In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), I had overwhelming fears that this process would be too much. My husband swore he would give me every injection and if I wanted to quit he would be the coach saying “we will not give up.” For weeks leading up to our first official doctor’s appointment – blood draws and an ultrasound – I didn’t sleep. The anxiety that flowed throughout my body was undeniable. Every waking moment was consumed with worry and fear. The last thing I wanted was to visit a doctor who would confirm those words that were said to me at sixteen, but I did it. I got up, stared at myself in the mirror and said, “You can do this!”
At the time of our first injections we decided to share our story with the world. We took videos and pictures of each shot with the intention to share the weight of infertility with others. Now those pictures and videos are plastered on my social media for all to see. The decision to be public about our journey was this: vulnerability builds community. For far too long I convinced myself that my pain wasn’t worth anyone else’s time, but I was wrong.
In the short time that we have been traveling through our IVF journey and sharing it with the world we have gained more than I could have imagined. Instead of feeling embarrassed and less than, I have felt empowered, supported and deserving. We’ve had so many wonderful friends and strangers encourage us to continue to show up every day. In our weak moments we’ve had others hold space for us, sit with us, and share in our struggles.
There are moments throughout this process that I feel defeated, angry, jealous, and sad, but they are fleeting. Most days I wake up with overflowing gratitude because of our support system. Every amazing human who has spoken words of life and love over us has given me strength. They’ve allowed me to let go of crippling fears and create space for hope.
Because of our community and intentional relationships, I’ve overcome each hurdle, healed tremendously and gained enough courage to believe my biggest dream will come true. What I’ve learned through sharing our IVF story is this:
I am not alone.
My body is not less than.
I am not less than.
To be vulnerable is to be courageous.
My husband is the bomb-diggity.
This process is beautiful and sacred.
I am so motha effin’ strong.
We are brave.
I deserve to carry a child.
I will carry a child.
What has been your biggest struggle with becoming a parent?
Learn more about Amanda’s journey