When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Audrey

I am beyond blessed to be able to call Audrey “sister.” She is the one who inspired me to start this blog series after we had a long, deep phone call one afternoon. Her example of faith and strength have been a huge help to me many times in my short time of knowing her.

Audrey is a 30-year-old wife and mother of two living in southern Delaware. Being a young mother of an active two-year-old in 2012, Audrey never expected to be able to empathize with the many couples around her struggling with infertility. After she and her husband went through a three and a half year period of secondary infertility, they were surprised to discover they were expecting their second son, who came in August of 2016. She is currently a stay at home mom to their two boys, ages six and one. She enjoys music, travel, reading, exercising, hiking in the mountains, boating, Polynesian culture, American history, the beach, all kinds of carbs, and serving in her current calling on her stake’s public affairs committee. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations from Brigham Young University.

Who cries simultaneous tears of joy, grief, and sadness when they go to Disney World? This basket case mom right here! It was the last night of a mostly-perfect Disney experience with our four-year-old son, shared with his grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin. We had just closed the park with the light parade and castle firework show. During all the epic lights and music, I was definitely caught up in the Disney spirit, fully drinking the company Kool-aid. We had saved for a long time to be able to take our son to Disney and this seemed like the perfect wrap-up to a preschooler’s most magical dream vacation. As I watched the show, I found myself being filled with a sense of peace, contentment, and gratitude that because we only had one child at this stage in our lives, we had been able to make this experience happen.

As quickly and intensely as I felt those peaceful feelings, however, I instantly felt the guilt come crashing back in. Again. “How can you possibly be happy that you only have one child?! You’re not supposed to be happy about this! You’re supposed to be sad! You should be wanting another child more than you want an extravagant vacation! Your priorities are messed up!” I told myself over and over, and then again told my husband through my tears in the bathroom of our hotel as we were getting ready for bed that night. He lovingly and patiently reminded me of what I was trying so hard to remember—that we WOULD rather have a baby than a Disney vacation; that if given the choice, I would be so happy to stay home in sweatpants with sticky toddlers and babies in diapers. But that wasn’t how life was working out for us, and enjoying the life we had with the family we had in the circumstances we had was not wrong or sinful. Basically, he said, it was OKAY to feel grateful for my blessings, to enjoy the moment, and to be happy we had one child. He told me—again—I could let the guilt go. I hugged him tightly, lifted my chin and gave my best attempt at a smile, turned off my tears, and enjoyed the rest of our vacation.

Hard Emotions

But why did I keep doing that—praying for contentment and then feeling guilty the moment I found it? It was a common cycle in my thought process. We had been trying to have a baby for almost three years at that point. I had been through the emotional roller coaster several times and in lots of variations. I had felt lots of painful emotions time and again: Frustration. Impatience. Jealousy. Guilt. Anger. Sadness. Grief. Fear. Exhaustion. Apathy. Heartache. Forgotten. Fault. Confusion. More jealousy. More guilt. These feelings didn’t usually come all at once, and they didn’t often stay very long. It would be a pinprick here and there. Some moments were harder than others. Only a couple of times did it feel like a full body slam. The pain was there, but throughout our secondary infertility journey, I learned several lessons that made the time sacred to me, time that my husband and I wouldn’t trade now at all.

Not even knowing what’s wrong

Our reason for secondary infertility was “undetermined.” It was so confusing, especially because we already had a child who had come to us quickly and without any problems. To quickly sum up our medical history, we had initially done some generic tests after about a year and a half of trying, which all came back normal. My doctor had immediately coded it as “infertility,” however, so our insurance wouldn’t cover the tests. We ended up paying the $2,000 we had saved for the birth of another baby just to pay for these preliminary tests telling us basically nothing—that they couldn’t find any surface-level problems. That quickly opened our eyes to the reality we were now facing—that infertility treatments are VERY expensive. We prayerfully turned to the Lord for direction, and the answer we received was to “Wait.”

Wait

So we did. We waited and waited. Secondary infertility is hard in unique ways though—one of the biggest being that you feel like there is constant pressure from a ticking clock—that every month you’re not pregnant is one month farther apart your kids will be spaced from each other.

The what-if’s creep in. What if they’re too far apart that they’re not friends? What if my little boy never even gets a sibling? What if there’s actually something seriously wrong with me but we’re not taking the actions we need to be taking, which will make things worse in the long run?

I prayed daily for help overcoming all these stressful what-if’s and to know the Lord’s plan for us. Each time I sincerely and faithfully connected to the Holy Ghost, pleading to the Lord for understanding, I felt the same gentle, loving answer: “Wait.” It was always accompanied with peace, which gave me the faith and patience to relax and keep living.

Needing to be needed

I continued to periodically feel stress, anxiety, and fear, especially early on; however, as time continued to pass, I gradually began to notice my prayers changing. Instead of praying that we’d be able to have another baby, I began to pray to know how to best move forward with our family and to learn how to be happy now.

It was during this time that I was (very) unexpectedly called to be our stake Young Women president. That’s an uncommon calling for someone of my age (I was 26) and inexperience. But the Lord knew I needed to serve as I was going through this trial of not having another baby on my time frame. He knew I needed purpose, identity, direction, friends, focus, faith, and to see miracles unfolding in my life as I learned to recognize His hand in all the areas where I would be inadequate on my own. I needed to be humbled and lifted at the same time. That calling certainly gave me that. Having that opportunity to serve in my life was evidence to me that the Lord doesn’t leave us comfortless in our trials. I don’t know that I helped anyone else at all during the three years I served, but I was certainly put in a place where I stood on the shoulders of giants. I learned essential principles and truths necessary for my personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I had foundational experiences needed for my lifetime of service in His church. I’m so grateful for the time I had to learn and grow in that calling, and my family was constantly blessed during that period. I’m convinced it wouldn’t have happened the way that it did if I had had more young children at home.

The Power of Prayer and a Unified Fast

As the clock kept ticking, I continued to find more evidence of the Lord’s love for me in my life. I was busy, contributing, and loving the stage of life my four-year-old was in. I was reaching a point where I was truly content. (Aside from an occasional moment of grief, like when I’d think of my child really never having a sibling.) It seemed like the longer we waited, the happier we learned to be in our circumstances. We’d pray to know how and when to change our direction for our family, but no immediate or earth-shattering inspiration was coming. I was coming to accept that this was our life and we could truly be happy in it.

But as time progressed and I felt more peace, I was surprised to find our trial becoming more of a trial of faith and patience on our loved ones, especially our parents. We weren’t very public with our struggle, but our family members knew our desires and our heartaches, and they mourned with us. Looking back over that 3+ year time period, there were times when I KNEW without a doubt that I was feeling peace, contentment, and gratitude because of the prayers of others. I knew our families were praying for us, our parents were putting our names on the temple prayer roll, and I could feel those prayers distinctly. Although I tried to keep most of what we were going through private, I knew this trial wasn’t mine alone to bear—I could feel my family members on both sides of the veil lifting me and lightening my burden of grief.

Part way through 2015, we finally felt like it was time revisit the idea of getting medical help. We found a new doctor who was awesome and had actually gone through IVF herself a couple years before. She started me on Clomid, which is a pretty common starting point for working with infertility. I had a lot of fear about being on medication (I never even take Tylenol or Ibuprofen—I will just suffer through anything other than childbirth), but I took a leap of faith and we began the rounds. Although we knew it was just the first step, when we reached our last round (out of six), it was hard not to feel discouraged. It looked like we would be needing more specialized help than what our OB/GYN could give us.

It was in that moment that I realized I needed to humble myself and truly ask for help. I know why some people choose to keep their fertility struggles private because we were that same way ourselves. But we had a big decision to make—do we keep waiting? Do we go down the road of science? We’d never felt right about adoption, but was it time to start looking into that? Was one child all we were meant to have? I suddenly felt like we needed to ask our parents and siblings to hold a special fast for us as part of the next Fast Sunday. It was HARD to ask for that though. If my child was dying in a hospital, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for everyone in the world to fast for us, so why was this so hard? I can sum it up in one word: pride. My husband and I pride ourselves on being independent and not asking for things from anyone that we don’t really need. It’s both a strength and a weakness.  As I was battling with this thought, the voice of a good friend in my ward came to my mind. She and her husband are both converts to the church and have zero family support in religious matters. She’s said many times that she feels it’s the two of them against the world. I could hear her telling me, “If you have access to that much faith, why WOULDN’T you use it?!” I suddenly felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the spiritual strength of each of my family members, and a responsibility to call on their faith in behalf of all those incredible people out there who wished they had that in their own families. I knew that if the tables were turned, I would gladly exercise all the faith I could muster for my loved ones, so I knew I needed to give them the opportunity to exercise theirs for me.

The plea in our fast was not that we would “get pregnant.” We simply asked that as we were approaching this crossroad that we would be blessed with the Spirit to know how to move forward. We no longer felt like it was time to “Wait.” All throughout that Fast Sunday, I didn’t get any specific answers, but I felt SO. MUCH. PEACE. I felt as if I were floating through the day and the coming weeks. I knew the Lord knew me, loved me, cared about our family, and though He might not give us all the answers at once, He would through the Spirit be giving us enough to hold on to so we could move forward in faith. And I knew we could do it, whatever “it” ended up being. After a couple weeks, we prayerfully made a decision.

Moving Forward

On January 18, 2016, I had two doctor appointments scheduled, but could only make it to one. The first was a consultation at a fertility clinic in Annapolis to start the long process of determining the best way to scientifically help bring another baby into our family. After the many years of waiting, we were apprehensive about that consultation but happy that we finally felt good about having a direction to move forward in.

I had to eventually call and cancel that appointment though after I made one for the same day at the OB/GYN’s office for an ultrasound to see our seven week fetus on the screen for the first time. I was basically in denial up until that point that we were actually pregnant, and when I saw the little flutter of his heartbeat on the screen, my head didn’t know what to think, my heart didn’t know what to feel. We had no idea how this miracle had happened without more scientific help. In fact, I spent the first 20+ weeks of my pregnancy in some degree of shock and disbelief.  As he continued to grow and move inside me though, I settled into the idea of having another member of our family come to us. I kept learning to exercise my faith over fear, choosing to believe that he would be taken care of, and would arrive healthily and safely.

Lessons Learned

There are far too many to list in detail, but I’m grateful for the chance to reflect on all the lessons I learned over those three and a half years of this trial: of faith in the Lord and His timing, patience, endurance, long suffering, contentment, gratitude, compassion, letting go of guilt, overcoming jealousy, the “But if not” principle, the reality of our Savior’s Atonement, empathy, strengthening my partnership with my husband, the power of a unified fast, being satisfied with being given doses of “daily bread” to get me through a moment at a time, and a whole stinkin’ lot of humility. I learned those lessons many times over, long before I ever saw that second pink line. All of them led me back to the same core place—Jesus Christ.

The answer is Jesus Christ and His Atonement

Ours isn’t the journey I would have picked for us starting out, but now I wouldn’t trade it or give it back for anything. And what I’m amazed at is that I came to feel that way BEFORE this precious little boy came to us. He wasn’t the solution to my heartache—the Atonement of Jesus Christ was. I learned how to trust in the Savior to give me strength in the moments I needed it, to take a leap of faith without seeing the end in sight, to know that someone truly understood my heartache and sorrow, and to believe that my life could be more beautiful by trusting in God than it would be by relying on my own limited vision and control. I finally reached a place where I knew that if we weren’t ever supposed to have another baby, we would be okay. I finally learned how to be happy BEFORE this little boy came, which makes my joy now that he’s here truly full. Both of our boys (born 5.5 years apart) are complete miracles in our lives and both came exactly when we—when I—needed them most. God is so good and my heart is so full. My cup runneth over today and always.

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