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The Death of a Dream

One couple grapples with infertility

"I need to get a referral, please. My husband and I have been trying to have a family for more than a year and things don't seem to be working."

"So, you're infertile," the voice on the other end of the phone stated.

"Well, I don't know about that. Things just haven't happened as quickly as we thought."

"If you've been trying for more than a year without getting pregnant, you're infertile."

There it was. We were infertile.

I thought infertile was the label you received once all of the testing was completed and the medical personnel determined that it was impossible for you to conceive a child. This was too early in the game.

My mind said, We aren't infertile, we just need a little help. But it was too late. I'd already heard the nurse say the word. We were infertile.

The Process Begins

When my husband and I married, we made a deal: We'd wait five years before starting a family. Five years would allow us to start our careers, be on better financial footing, and have time just for us. So when the moratorium passed, with anticipation, I stopped using birth control.

After 12 months of not taking the Pill and still buying tampons, I started to research the subject. "Eight-five percent of couples trying to conceive will become pregnant within one year." Red flag. We were already past that.

Up to this point, we hadn't shared with anyone our difficulty in conceiving. None of our friends or family even knew we were "trying." My husband and I rarely mentioned it, even in our private moments. The subject, full of questions and emotions, was too unknown even to discuss. We kept hoping aloud that soon we would find a "bundle of joy" on its way. But my concern grew as several of our couple friends started joining the ranks of parenthood and recounted their stories of "one-time" conceptions.

After much discussion and prompting, my husband had a basic semen analysis. Inconclusive results and poor advice from a well-meaning physician saying, "Things are just moving a little slow. Have patience," led to six additional months of thinking, It will happen.

Now we were sitting in a small conference room as a reproductive specialist reviewed our answers to the most personal questions I'd ever been asked: Frequency of intercourse per week? Use of lubricants? Does your husband ejaculate in the vagina during intercourse? Does the semen leak out when you stand? Is intercourse painful to you or your partner? Is your sex drive normal? Do you experience orgasms?

This specialist's field of medicine changed how we looked at ourselves and each other. Having a baby suddenly went from "pink and blue" to numbers and days and test tubes. All the magic was gone.

We reviewed the list of tests we'd be taking. We'd already completed the easy ones like taking my temperature. This list was something entirely different. It was full of foreign words, embarrassing situations, and scary concepts: dye in my Fallopian tubes, post-coital evaluations, and injecting semen into hamster eggs. I was full of disbelief as the first of many vials of blood was drawn. We began the process.

Over a period of months, each test became more personal and invasive than the last. We lived by the calendar since the tests needed to be perfectly timed. Making love moved from the expression of passion to the need for a sample. Performance on demand, while exciting at first, ultimately made my husband feel like a machine. He began to wonder if my loving expressions were genuine or a part to be played in order to get the job done.

More Tests and Injections

Even more difficult than a diagnosis of infertility, is no diagnosis as to why you are infertile. Every test we took came back with the positive sounding "everything looks good" but that meant the tests had to continue. Each test result made us look at each other and ourselves to discover who "had the problem." Was I the guilty one causing us this pain or was it my husband? Was it my fault or could I be the suffering hero because he didn't have the right stuff? I hoped it was me in order to save his ego and at the same time, I desperately hoped it wasn't.

Normally you don't want a doctor to find a problem. But for us, not finding a cause meant it was impossible to find a solution. No solution meant no baby. I just kept praying I'd miss my next period, but it always came.

After two years of systematically pursuing answers for our infertility, a new job meant moving to a new location, new insurance, and new doctors. This time our insurance didn't cover the expensive infertility treatments. Financially and emotionally, the costs were adding up.

My husband and I did all we could to continue normal lives as we were studied, questioned, x-rayed, pricked, and prodded over the course of three more years. At some point, we began sharing our travails with those closest to us. By that time, most of them figured something was going on anyway.

According to medical research, after this much time, our odds of conceiving a child are slim. But we have a dream—a dream of creating our own child out of a sweet expression of love. I have a precious memory of my husband tenderly holding my face in his hands and saying, "I want a little girl just like you." That dream is dying and may never come true. It's hard to admit.

Recently, I underwent laparoscopic surgery to ensure that my uterus was able to sustain the pregnancy we were aggressively pursuing. It felt good to focus on what would follow our "sure" conception. After my body healed, we went on to complete three cycles of artificial insemination. My husband took on a new role as "nurse practitioner" as he injected daily with high potency fertility drugs. During one ultrasound, the nurse said my uterus "looked like a perfect nest."

But after all three cycles failed, I never imagined we'd be in this humble place.

God Will Provide

I wouldn't wish this journey on anyone. We've now been married more than 20 years. Almost half of those years have been filled with moments of total devastation, denial, frustration, angry words, humiliation, and grief. We continue to seek answers, but the answers never come. Mother's Day, Father's Day, church baby dedications, and friends' birth announcements prompt aching questions as I wonder if we'll ever be a mother and father. Silent tears stream down my face as I desire to carry a child within my body and nurse a baby on my breast.

There are recalled conversations to my husband of others' thoughtless words and inappropriate advice. Brave smiles and hand squeezes between my husband and me as we witness a sweet parent and child interaction. Moments of fun and laughter turn to sighing as we question aloud whether we can create a child to share these happy family memories.

Although it isn't always easy to see them, there are good things happening as a result of this journey. We've had a thorough education of the amazing miracle of how God creates life. When you understand the intricacies of conception, it's a miracle that it ever occurs.

Our journey is leading us to realize how much we truly desire to be parents. My heart is warmed reliving my husband's transformation from nonchalance to passion about having a family. As we tried to conceive, my husband once expressed that he could not wait until a little one called him "Daddy." That was the first time he'd ever used that word.

We're enjoying a deep closeness forged from unreal experiences only we know. At times it seems like us against the world, and because of it, we cling together as never before.

We know adoption may be the route we need to go in order to have a family. We aren't opposed to adoption; we're just still dealing with the fact that our first dream, to have our own child, is dying. Sometimes you need to heal from the loss of one dream before you can create a new one.

I've recently found hope in a new promise from Ezekiel 34:29: "I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they are my people."

I know the Lord will provide a child for us. I don't know how and I don't know when. But I know that he is with us and that he is our God.

Rhonda Rundberg Birchard is a corporate trainer. She and her husband live in California.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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