Even as a young child, I knew that someday I wanted to be a mommy. As a girl I’d imagine having kids of my own someday and would think of possible names. I started doing mother’s helper work and babysitting as a preteen. Being a mommy was a desire God planted deeply in my soul as far back as I could remember.
Sadly, I was pretty much still a “child” myself when I learned that it might be difficult for me to have my own children in the future. For most women their infertility journeys begin when they are trying unsuccessfully to have children for a while, but for me it began long before that at age 15.
I fell into the prison of a restrictive eating disorder and after a few months of not nourishing my body properly, my period that had been previously slightly irregular disappeared altogether. I wasn’t too upset at first, but this began a cascade of visiting very puzzled gynecologists and endocrinologists. I was diagnosed with both “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome” and “Hypothalamic Amenorrhea”. I had a very odd presentation where my testosterone was very high for a girl/woman (normal for a woman is around 30, and mine went up to 140 at highest), and my estrogen so low that it was close to menopausal range. Because I not only had the low estrogen, which typically goes along with amenorrhea associated with eating disorders, but also had another endocrine issues that was likely unrelated- high testosterone- most doctors felt that gaining weight would not help to restore my fertility. I felt like a freak and was told that I had to either take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. When I asked about my chances of being able to have children in the future, I was told that I would not be able to ovulate on my own, so I can do ovulation induction treatments when I’m ready and hopefully they would work. I remember breaking down crying at a doctors office at around age 16, being told they were unsure if I could have children. From then on, infertility was a huge fear that I had in the back of my mind.
In my early 20s, things were somewhat better with my eating disorder than they were in my teens. However, I still struggled somewhat with food rigidity and the bondage of defining myself by a number on the scale, and was very addicted to exercise (I could not take a day off or I felt miserable), but I was happy enough maintaining a number I defined as “ok” and healthy for me; A number on the low end of the healthy BMI range. Even though I had gained lots of weight from my lowest weight, and was a technically healthy BMI, I still had not had much of a natural period in 8 years. At that time I had no idea that my lack of a monthly cycle was related to my disordered eating, and because I was at a technically “healthy” BMI no doctors at that point told me it was related. During this time, some of my friends were beginning to have children, and even though I was not trying to conceive or even married at the time, it was a reminder of the heartbreaking fact that my body was unable to have a baby. I remember one day after a friend’s baby shower I went to my room afterwards and cried because I was so sad that my own womb was barren and I would likely never be able to experience the joy of growing and nurturing a life inside my body. I hadn’t really had a cycle in 8 years. My body was broken. What would change in the next few years? But I prayed with mustard-seed faith, and somehow the Lord reassured my heart that I would be a mother one day. I assumed the answer would be adoption, but it calmed my saddened heart. Around that time it was also difficult because I started to become more serious with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. We both knew we wanted a family more than anything, and when he’d talk about this, I hoped it would happen, and had to tell him I didn’t know if I could have children, because I hadn’t even had a period in years.
At 23 years old, I started to research and pray hard about the possibility of getting my cycle back naturally. I stumbled upon some online resources and support groups about healing hypothalamic amenorrhea naturally, and just knew in my heart that this was for me and what I needed to do. Apparently, according to some research (by Nico, Author of “No Period, Now What”), some women who have extra sensitive bodies or have had restrictive eating disorders have to completely let go of food/weight restrictions and gain up to at least a BMI of 22-23 to regain their cycles and reset their hypothalamus to regain a cycle. Hence began a very difficult, yet rewarding chapter of my life; a chapter of surrendering my body to the Lord in way I never had before; learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. On the hard days of crying in dressing rooms, I pictured myself actually handing my body to Him, my Creator, to do what He wanted with it; I got nowhere in any way by holding on so tightly for so long. I gained about 20 lbs. from that low weight, but I also got my period back naturally after all those years and amazingly never missed one since!! For a while, every month my period was like a miracle. I began charting my temperatures and symptoms every month at that point to really see what was going on inside my body.
Sadly, that was not the end of my infertility story. Through my charts, I noticed over time I had symptoms of low progesterone, and asked a doctor to test it. I ended up getting the wrong blood test, which led to a diagnosis of “non classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia” (so the PCOS one was a mistake, this was why I had elevated testosterone). I got my final diagnosis of Non classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia through genetic testing just 2 days before our wedding- my years of high testosterone and related symptoms made sense. This added a new fear about infertility, as this condition can also cause women to struggle with these issues. I felt like I solved one problem, but still had another. I joined online discussion boards of women with this condition, and saw how many of them were struggling, some for 10 years, to have a baby.
We waited about a year after our marriage to stop preventing pregnancy around ovulation (this was around April 2016). We knew we may have issues (due to my condition and also my mom and her mom had issues, and I just felt “infertile” from everything that had happened over the years), and wanted lots of opportunities for this to happen. Not surprisingly, nothing happened. Because of my whole journey, I was very sad about the possibility of not being able to conceive even before we started trying, but once we were trying and a few months of nothing went by, I started to feel extremely down and broken. I was right. I went through all of that and listened to what I felt God was leading me to do to regain my cycle, and I was still barren. It seemed everyone around me were announcing pregnancies during this time. The months went on and each month, I’d get my period like clockwork, which was no longer the blessing and miracle it was a few years before.
That winter (2017) we began seeing specialists. It seemed like a confusing mess of invasive and embarrassing tests that led to no real answers; just more confusing and hopelessness. Every month felt further away from seeing those two beautiful pink lines and holding my precious baby. I tried a steroid medication, which made my hormone levels worse, and not better, so I decided to go off of the medication. We got a few medical opinions and every opinion we got was strangely very different. They ranged from slightly male factor, to female factor (my condition), to one doctor who said we had unexplained infertility because regardless of my condition, I ovulated pretty regularly and my husband has slightly low morphology, but that should not be causing a problem. One doctor gave us just a 2% chance of conceiving naturally each month. I spent so much time on infertility groups and researching medical and natural solutions that had even a small bit of hope of giving us our miracle baby. I felt mad at God for letting me be in this place, which I felt I didn’t deserve to be in. Finally around May or June after slightly a year of trying to conceive, I felt that the Lord laid it on my heart to surrender to Him. During that chapter of my journey the anthem song of my heart was “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott.
We had been given the option of starting with oral medications to “strengthen” my ovulation combined with IUI, but I decided not to do this yet, my heart said to see one more NCAH specialist who knew about my specific rare condition. I began tapering off the steroid medication I was on. Somehow, that must have had some effect, and I later learned that going on and then off a steroid can cause a temporary increase in fertility in some women with my condition. I asked the doctor who diagnosed me with unexplained infertility to test my NCAH levels and they dropped to almost normal that May. During the time that I was not on medications, I spent a few months putting on progesterone cream during my luteal phase because my levels were borderline.
One day in early June, I felt led to go to a healing room at an International House of Prayer. I hadn’t been there in years but it was on my heart to go. I was able to pray for the first time in a long time. I went to pray for healing for my heart as well as my body. When I got into the healing room, I had two women pray over me and my womb. They laid hands on my womb and prayed for healing and for life to be inside of it. They also told me I had to forgive God, which I did. They prophesied that in a year from then I would have a child, which I thought was absolutely crazy, but sounded nice. At the end of one lady’s prayer, she said a very strange thing, “Thank you for the life that is in her womb”… she gave me a hug and told me I am a “fertile mamma”. I thought this was a bit strange, but felt peace in my heart for the first time in a long time.
Two days later, June 17th? I took a pregnancy test at 9 days past ovulation and it was very faintly positive. I was in disbelief and thought nothing of it because I had gotten faint positives, that turned out to be early chemical pregnancies or evaporation lines in the past. The next day, Father’s Day, it was dark enough that I knew something MIGHT be up, but I was still in too much disbelief to tell my husband anything more than, “There is a small chance I’m pregnant”. To my sheer surprise, over the next few days it got darker and I got a blood positive, and a beta that doubled two days later. This happened to be my 50th cycle that I charted since getting my cycle back around 3.5 years before. Pregnancy has definitely been an emotional journey for me. I’ve had a few miscarriage scares early on and after all I’ve been through and feeling for so long like my reproductive system is broken, I struggle to trust me body. I have so much anxiety that I will lose the pregnancy or something will go wrong.
I am now slightly over 22 weeks pregnant and we’ve had a few tests revealing that we are having what looks like a healthy baby GIRL! I am feeling very amazed and blessed, and to be honest, I am ashamed to admit that I’m also struggling a lot with anxiety after this whole journey. It feels too good to be real sometimes since it happened so fast after all of this, but I’m praying so hard for this precious baby to be strong and healthy, and truly thankful for at every single day that I am pregnant.