May 9, 2011

When I Became Infertile

Becoming Infertile
Infertility is a state of mind. Doctors define infertility as “unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex”. I have learned that for some infertility begins after a few unsuccessful cycles, and for others it starts after years without birth control. For me, I became infertile on Sunday, May 8, 1994.

After four years of marriage, we stopped using birth control.  The months of trying turned into years. After about 3 years, I admitted that, maybe, there was something wrong.

I scheduled an appointment with a leading infertility specialist. I went to my appointment and for the first time considered that I might not ever become a mom. But to me, I still was not infertile. That first doctor appointment was on a Thursday. Three days later I felt infertile for the first time. 

It was Mother’s Day. Our pastor had asked all mothers to stand and he said, “Everyone who expects to someday be a mother, please stand.”  I froze. Last week, I believed that I would someday be a mother. Today, I had no hope of ever becoming a mother. Several friends urged me to stand. I woodenly obeyed. They were handing out flowers to all of the mothers and “someday” mothers. I grabbed my flower and ran to the bathroom where I cried until I had no tears left.

What had happened during those three days?  How had I gone from wondering if something was wrong to knowing something was wrong? Over the next few months, testing confirmed that I was not ovulating. 

Support in an Unexpected Place
About a year later I joined America Online and found message boards under Christianity Online. I started posting to see if there were other women facing this giant called “infertility”.

I was amazed as other women started sharing their stories. I decided to create an “Infertility Master List”. The idea was to set up pen pals between women with similar stories. That never quite happened, and instead, we all began to e-mail each other. Among the first five people who contacted me, our stories touched on all stages of infertility. I was amazing to watch how God brought us from our individual places of diversity to a place of common support.

Over the next few years the email group grew. We set up a website, an email list server, and started setting up discussion groups so that women could share the experiences of their unique journeys with one another. We had over 2000 members from more than a dozen countries, in about 60 assorted groups representing various stages of infertility and diagnoses. Many of our members were also active members of Hannah’s Prayer. One day it became clear to both Jenni Saake and I that it was time to merge the two groups into one.  Ironically, the merger brought us full circle: we once again moved to a message board format.

Healing Begins
In my darkest days of infertility, I was able to cling to my hope in Christ.  And I found that when I opened myself up and allowed God to use my pain, I began to heal.  The more complete I became, the more I was able to help others begin to heal.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (The Message)

Julie Donahue has been married 24 years to her best friend, John. A full time working mom of 3 miracles, Julie is known widely as Mom2Ways (by birth and by adoption).  Julie is the founder of Ladies in Waiting, an e-mail-based infertility support group that eventually joined with Hannah’s Prayer Ministries.