Detour · Infertility

Does Everything (Really) Happen For a Reason? 

My short (vague) answer: On the fence.  

This post, however, is far from short or vague, so brace yourself. Grab a cup a coffee, a glass of wine, and/or a box of Kleenex while you’re at it. 

Before I get into a full-blown discussion on this rhetorical question and continue the story of the figurative “road closure” I left you hanging with last week (see post: Hello, October.). . .

Have you ever listened to the Pandora station-80s Love Songs Radio?  

Me: “Yes?”

You: “Duh. Love.”

Me: “We can definitely be friends.”

——————-

Me: “No?”

You: “Nope, but downloading it now…”

Me: “OK. If you are an instantaneous fan, we’ve got some serious potential.”

——————–

Me: “Hell no?”

You: “80s music is garbage.”

Me: “We cannot be friends, and I am pretty sure this blog is not for you.” (JK-maybe?)

———————  

Love songs from the 80s make my life.

This randomness was brought to you by the fact that this wonderful genre of music is one of the many common interests my husband, Thomas and I share.

While we love (listening to) music in general, sadly neither of us can read music OR play an instrument OR sing well. But Thomas does possess some badass karaoke skills, some of his go-to artists being Journey, Reba McIntire, Prince, Snoop Dogg, Boyz to Men, and (my personal favorite!) New Kids on the Block (specifically their single “Please Don’t Go Girl“, which he frequently serenaded me with over the landline phone before I moved away in the mid-90s).

Sorry, got a little carried away there. While we enjoy all types of music, love songs from the 80s rank super high on our personal hit lists and a hand full of them lodge deep within my soul. 

When it came down to picking a “first-dance” song for our 2009 wedding, we were considering MANY options. While this may be a relatively simple and straight-forward decision for most couples, it was overwhelming for us (me). So, of course, I made a list (I love lists!). 

Yes, “Please Don’t Go Girl” made the list, then was quickly crossed off since the girl in the song was leaving (something I had previously been pretty good at), not tying the knot. Moving right along. . . 

We narrowed my extensive list down to three songs from three completely different genres (of course):

1) One More Day by Diamond Rio

2) All My Life by KC and JoJo (so original, I        know)

3) After All by Cher and Peter Cetera 

In the end, the last song standing was . . .  

After All  

No brainer. The 80s love song FTW (for the win, come on guys!).  

Point here is, I’m not quite sure if there is a point really, but Thomas and I listened to Pandora-80s Love Song Radio most of the way home from our mini-getaway to Starkville/Columbus, MS this past weekend and “After All” happened to come on. Twice. 

This sparked some reminiscing and we talked about how the lyrics really related to our lives; after all that had stopped and started, throughout our friendship and 7+ years of marriage, and after all that we’ve been through (which is a whole hell of a lot)–it really did all come down to he and I.

“I guess it’s meant to be, forever you and me, after all“. 

And so it goes, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me , “Everything happens for a reason”, or “God has a plan”, I would be filthy rich.  

I recently read a blog post that gives reasoning as to why that phrase should go away; that everything, in fact, does not happen for a reason. There are actually quite a few (rather opinionated) blog posts regarding this coined phrase (really, Google it!) and most bloggers sit on the opposing side. 

 As I mentioned from the start, I am on the fence with this one. While the statement does not offend me (I get the debatable points), it is certainly thought-provoking. There is no real yes or no here, and vagueness is something we have gotten pretty accustomed to these days. 

Not much is black or white, just a whole lot of gray

When I said in my previous post that life is full of unexpected detours, I meant it. And I will take it a step further and elaborate on how true that has been in my life. 

Just like a movie with multiple or alternate endings, I believe there is a different possible path for every single choice we make (for everything that happens.) Something happens (or doesn’t) because a choice was made (or wasn’t) either consciously or subconsciously; often the latter. The choice to simply get out of bed on the right side rather than the left sets a certain path in motion. 

But if everything is choice-related, what about the stuff that just happens, stuff we have no control of?

I don’t know; it gets confusing. But, to me, there is no cause-and-effect, situational type stuff that just happens; a choice was made by someone, somehow, somewhere. 

Now as far as unexplained illness or mystery health-related stuff (which I could literally write a book on), this is where it gets really gray for me. A mental block goes up, which leads me back to the “road closure” I left you with in my last post.

I whole-heartedly believe that God does, in fact, have a plan.

We, like many newlyweds, decided from the get-go that we were in absolutely zero rush to have children; although many folks have deemed my husband a “child-whisperer” (seriously, it’s almost amusing to watch kids around him). . .and me, well, not so much. I am an only child and I feel awkward around kids most of the time. But I always figured that “one day” I would have my own kids, love the hell out of them, and the awkward-thing would go away. But that day did not need to come immediately after we got married, even though Thomas’ child-whispering skills made me very excited about a future family with him.

We wanted to enjoy being a married couple before adding children to the equation, because (like every other living, breathing, adventurous, newly-married couple) we had a bucket list to tackle. And we had our entire lives ahead of us! Why rush the process? 

Fast forward three years, I remember it like it was yesterday. One night, Thomas looked at me and said, “I am ready to see you as a mom; let’s have a baby.” I can tell you where I was, what I was wearing, and the exact look on his face. It is ingrained in my mind; stamped on my heart. It was the sweetest thing, and one of the many breathtaking moments of this chapter in our lives.

If only it were that easy.

I remember lots of moments very vividly. This is both a good and bad thing, because as I am writing to you and reliving these moments I am flooded with memories that are funny and sweet, as well as those that are completely heart-wrenching.

By sharing my story, I am in no way wanting you to feel sorry for me; for us. This is not a ploy for attention, nor is it a cry for help. My hope is to reach out and touch you. To help those in similar situations who feel lost in the dark and are desperately trying to find some semblance of light. And to help those who’ve never experienced this particular brand of heartache to understand the feelings we go through. There is nothing you can say or do to make it better. There just isn’t.

This particular topic is extremely heavy, and I may get into details some people may be (very) uncomfortable with. . . It is on you to choose whether or not to read this part.

 We all have choices.

There have been many a sleepless night during a very dark time when I turned to people, people I had never met before, people who poured their hearts out onto blog pages and forums. Through them, I felt understood. I finally found people I could relate to. 

They understood what it felt like to find out that my husband, the love of my life, the “child whisperer”, the kindest man I know, the man who had already been through so much, the man who lost his own father . . . cannot father his own genetic child. 

Yes, he was in the 5% of all men with something called “azoospermia“.  (Talk about needing Google more than ever) The name of this condition alone seemed like something out of a science-fiction movie. And once the doctors explained, and Google elaborated, it may as well have been . . . because this was unbelievable

This unreal diagnosis was now our reality, but it didn’t end there.

At this point we still had hope, (and boy were we hopeful) because supposedly this azoospermia was treatable. 

Except, not this time. 

There were no providers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast who treated infertility and to take it a step further, absolutely no one specialized in male factor infertility anywhere near here at the time. After multiple semen analyses in Alabama, a testicular biopsy in Florida, and a procedure out in California called sperm mapping that was performed by a world-renowned urologist by the name of Dr. Turek who specializes in male factor infertility and in fact invented the procedure, Thomas was deemed completely sterile.  

Dr. Turek told us that Thomas was one of the most profound cases he had ever seen; there was absolutely nothing to map and there was no explanation as to why . . . He was now in the category with 1% of all men.  A category with a huge question mark next to the cause of his sterility.  Undetermined.  Gray

Mind-boggling.

Because this world-renowned urologist was in San Francisco, this devastating news was delivered over (none other than) the telephone. 

This goes down in the history books as one of the worst days of my (our) life. Again, the (breathtaking) moment in which this devastating news was delivered, I can tell you where I was, what I was wearing, and the exact look on his face; I remember it all. 

This awful and surreal moment literally knocked the breath out of both of us.

Obviously in shock, we still went on to attend a friend’s graduation party. Or was it a birthday? Or was it both? All I know is I’m still really not sure how we actually managed this when our world had officially gone dark one hour prior. Pitch black. 

To make matters worse, (and I will explain why) I am completely healthy. I have regular menstrual periods (although there was a minor setback in that department in my early teens), and after going through all the standard female fertility testing, I was deemed what some people like to call “fertile myrtle“. While this was great news in the beginning, it was terrible for me in the end. I felt so helpless. I wanted so badly for it to be me; I wanted so badly to be the one who couldn’t have children. I wanted to bear that burden and still do. 

That’s how you know you deeply love someone. 

And don’t even get me started on my mother. Mom should have had at least five kids, but Dad initially didn’t want kids at all and settled for having one. Me!  I am as she says, “the engine, the caboose, and the whole train.” 

She often “adopts” grandkids and has a refrigerator covered in handmade cards and drawings to show for it. She sends the most thoughtful birthday and Christmas gifts (and gifts for no reason at all) to these sweet children. 

Mom always talks about “one day” when she has her own grandkids, and that “it will be all over with” at that point. I say this in present tense, because she will never give up hope. In fact she still has a box full of special things for “her grandchildren” in her attic. She loves children with her entire being (including me – you would think I’m still a baby, in which case I guess I will always be her baby…singing Do do doop dum, Do do doop do doop da dum), and while I am lucky to call her my Mom, I am beyond saddened by the fact that we cannot give her the grandchild she always wished for. To make her life complete . . . the icing on the cake. 

My father, on the other hand, doesn’t say much, but I know he feels deeply for us. He is one of the most loving, caring, selfless people I have ever known. And the guy who initially didn’t want to have kids at all, well, I get to call him Dad. 

 Just getting to have them as parents, I consider myself so very lucky (and Thomas hit the in-law jackpot, lemme tell ya.)  

On a happier note, we could and did give them grand-dogs, our Frenchies, Jules and Lucy. Technically, Jules was a gift to Thomas from his mother (before we reconnected). Jules was also diagnosed with mast cell tumors (a form of dog cancer) to add to our list of tragic moments. And (technically) Mom bought Lucy for me to help us through the possibility of losing Jules, who is thriving by the way at my parents’ house (she was given less than a year to live upon diagnosis). But again Mom’s love, even for dogs (she often says she could love a rock), is like no other, and the Frenchie sisters as we call them, are pretty much never coming home. I wouldn’t either. Lol.

Back to the infertility issue (or lack of human children as I like to say.)

Nine times out of ten (really 10 out of 10 as far as I’m concerned), when the word infertility is mentioned, people assume it’s the woman that is having difficulty conceiving a child.

If there is anything you take away from this post, please take away the following sentence. 

Repeat after me: 

It is not always a woman’s body that causes infertility issues.  

While of course we face(d) this infertility battle head-on as “our” issue, it wasn’t physically me. No, I haven’t had a miscarriage. It sounds awful, but I didn’t even have the chance to have a miscarriage. 

There was (is) no physical way that I would (will) ever be able to have my husband’s child. This in itself is a completely unnatural concept for any woman, but it is magnified times 1000 by the fact that my body is completely equipped to conceive. 

Wrap your mind around that for a second.

No, I didn’t need a surrogate; no, I didn’t need IVF or hormones. I just wished that women (while I knew they meant well, were dealing with their own heart-wrenching pain, and were merely trying to reach out and connect) would STOP trying to relate to me, because this is different.

I don’t say much when women start talking about their multiple miscarriages or failed IVF treatments, and I often do my very best to commiserate because I truly feel for them.  I feel deeply for anyone going through any form of infertility.  

But, imagine not even having hope enough to at least get to try to conceive my husband’s baby. (Deep breath.)

Sometimes I dream about a positive at-home pregnancy test and what it would feel like to share that moment with the person I love most. The excitement and anticipation of it all; to create something so miraculous together. A love that no one can define-the love of your own child. This simplest of dreams would never be our reality. What would our child look like? What would they be like? Would they take on my traits or his, or both? 

This is something we will never know.

Because nothing tangible was lost, it is hard for most to understand our grief. The grieving process was (is) like mourning the death of something we loved and cherished, but that something never actually existed. 

While that something never existed, our loss is (more than) real; the pain (more than) exists. 

To deepen the wounds, my sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child during the thick of all this. Yes, Thomas’s brother has two beautiful (genetic) children of his own. 

We love them all dearly, so of course we crawled out of our dark ‘azoospermic’ hole to be at the hospital when our sweet nephew was born.  

“Congratulations!”

One week after we got the news that Thomas was completely sterile, our nephew was baptized.

I am (lucky enough to be) his godmother. 

And we were (are) so happy for them, I promise you we are. We love them and their kids more than anything, and we wouldn’t wish this shit on anyone, believe me. 

Because of them, I get to be “Aunt Claire” (or “Miss Claire” as my nephew currently likes to call me), a title that means the world to me. As an only child, they are the answer to my every prayer of having children in my life; even if they aren’t my own–Children I don’t feel awkward around. Children I love and cherish more than words.

But how is it fair? It’s just so crazy to think back on how to be happy for everyone when your world seems to be crashing down for lack of the same something

It all goes back to the saying that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, and that “not so happy” is often masked under a smile. In fact, this is a prime example of having a cup full of Level 10 “not so happy” in the “birdshit experience” scenario (Again, see post Hello, October.). Someone could literally look at me the wrong way and I would burst out in tears. And by the way, I am typically not an emotional person. At all. 

“Not so happy” can be switched out for “sheer and utter devastation” in the situation we were (are) in.  

Again, I am not saying these things to make anyone feel bad; Lord knows we love our family and friends so much. We are lucky to have such an amazing support system. 

But I want you to grasp the fact that our world completely shattered, and we had no time to pick up the pieces. Zero. We were expected to keep smiling and move on.

“Just adopt”, everyone would say, like it was nothing. Immediately after we got the news. 

Well, it is not nothing.  

While I am extremely aware that family is so much more than genetics, the bottom line is–No one expects to ever be in this situation and no one knows what they would do if they suddenly were.

Believe me-You don’t.  

Unlike some people who keep infertility issues under complete wraps, we were pretty open about the fact that we were having trouble having children. We just chose not to go into a lot of detail (in hindsight maybe we should have), and thus assumptions were made. Right from that aforementioned “I do” get-go at our wedding, people started asking when we would have kids (not kidding). Then it became “What are you waiting for?”, then “Damn, what’s wrong with y’all?”.  So at a point, we had to say something. Because those simple questions got more and more painful to navigate.

Shock wears off pretty quickly, then devastation rears its ugly head, and sometimes takes over. And it did. To get out of bed in the morning, much less go to work or anywhere else, was a chore. Often people wonder(ed) why we didn’t come around very much. 

Do people wonder why a mother who has lost her newborn child doesn’t come around? 

Do people ask a man who has lost his wife of 30 years why he doesn’t come around? 

The answer is no, because these tragedies are understood. There is universal empathy and compassion for these tragedies.

Infertility is a silent tragedy, which makes it that much more difficult. And (most) people are super uncomfortable talking about it. 

This needs to change.  

We were surrounded by people having children left and right; the baby showers and the first birthdays were like constant blows to the gut–blunt force trauma, but with no physical bruising or broken bones. Maybe a bullet to the heart would be more accurate (if I knew what that felt like) and I will say it anyway because I can imagine the pain. It was like taking a bullet straight to the heart, yet we were still alive and well, just struggling to breathe. 

Then came Mother’s Day and Father’s Day– indescribable pain. 

All of these feelings masked behind happy faces. Smiles. Because we were (are) genuinely happy for everyone that got (gets) to experience this joy– The natural joy of motherhood and fatherhood. “Happy birthday, sweet girl!” “I can’t believe how fast he’s growing!” “Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?” “That baby should be making her debut any day now!” “Happy Mother’s Day!”. . . Our pain was an inconvenience to everyone including us

That being said, Thomas is a pro at hiding emotion.  While I’m sure it can’t be healthy, this is a true talent that I envy.  While I tried (try) my very best to “put on a happy face”, unfortunately I suffer from the syndrome of having every emotion I feel written all over my face, at all times (even when I am not sad, I have a terrible case of RBF, so when I am sad or hurting–I am totally screwed).  Therefore, if at all possible I tried to opt-out of these joyous occasions for a while; so I didn’t ruin everyone’s “joy”.  While some folks understood our opt-out, others had their feelings hurt because we weren’t there.  If we did make it (or opting-out was not an option), feelings were hurt because I was typically sitting in a corner somewhere trying (unsuccessfully) to keep it together. True story.  

Pain = Inconvenience

In painful times, we tend to cling to the thought that everything must happen for a reason.  To be completely honest, whether it does or doesn’t, I’m not quite sure.

It’s been almost three years and we are still trying to figure it all out. They say time heals, and while the pain of our infertility is now a dull ache (yes, we have experienced something even more traumatic recently which I will get to later), it is still very real.  

I said it before and I will say it again, we know without a doubt that God has a plan; if nothing else, a plan for Thomas and I to face this crazy life head on, together. And no matter what we decide to do as far as children are concerned, adoption or otherwise, we have each other. . .

“After all the stops and starts

We keep comin’ back to these two hearts

Two angels who’ve been rescued from the fall

After all that we’ve been through

It all comes down to me and you

I guess it’s meant to be, forever you and me, after all”.

—————————

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Prayers to everyone suffering silently (or out loud) in the rough world of infertility. I truly feel your pain. I am here.

Shout out to Lauren Hudson, friend and {amazing} artist, for the last minute pen and ink cover-photo illustration (including a phrase she is not very fond of, btw). While right now she “doodles” in her spare time “just for fun”, hopefully I can talk her into opening an Etsy shop in the near future to share her talent with the masses. Thank you for sharing your talent with me:) 


💜

 

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6 thoughts on “Does Everything (Really) Happen For a Reason? 

  1. WOW is all I can say. You poured your heart into this and I felt every bit of it with you. You are an incredibly strong woman (like your mother). I know whatever happens in the future – you and Thomas will get through it together. Sending a big hug to you both💞💐

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing y’all’s story. You are such a talent – decorating…and your writing…I still have a lump in my throat!

    I love you and Thomas like one of my own ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Like

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