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Today, my friend from Nashville, Stephanie Greer, is sharing an excerpt from her book Full Heart, Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice. Mr. V and I witnessed Steph and Eric’s first struggle and the birth of their twins, and reading her whole story really touched me. Infertility is still such a weird topic in our culture. I love that Steph is opening doors and is willing to talk about her struggle and paths. This is part of chapter 1 of her self-published book, which you can buy for Kindle or in paperback.
In August of 2002 we got married and settled in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t think I could be any happier. We had our whole life ahead of us. We both had a good start to our careers. We were happy and madly in love. We spent every weekend trying to make our house a home. And if we weren’t at a football game, we were at a wedding. We were at the age that all of our friends were getting married. And since we lived in the heart of the Southeastern Conference, one didn’t get married on a game weekend! We went on dates and fun trips when we could afford it. It truly was the honeymoon period.
My maternal side emerged after only a few months, and I begged to get a puppy. After little persuasion, I convinced Eric to let us get Majors (named after famed UT football coach, Johnny Majors). He was my baby.
I am a planner. When I first started with GE, I went into a Franklin Covey store and spent my paycheck on a beautiful planner. A planner that could not only help me plan my day in A, B, and C order, but I could plan six months ahead – even two years ahead! It served me well in my career. I planned meetings. I planned contests for my sales team. I planned trainings. I made plans about plans. I always had a plan and that kept me sane in a stressful, high demand workplace.
I also had a plan for the Greers. Get married. Enjoy being newlyweds for two years. Have our first child. Wait another couple of years and have our second. If we have two kids that are the same gender, then try for a third in another two years. It would be that simple, right? For some, maybe so.
It took a little more convincing than I anticipated to get Eric on my plan’s timeline. But after much campaigning, I got him on my timetable. I couldn’t help it. I was so ready to become a mother. All my life I have loved kids. I made all my money in high school babysitting the kids in my neighborhood. I never had a lot of clarity on what my career would be but I always knew I would be a mother. And I was ready now.
I learned about tracking my temperatures to figure out when I was ovulating. I learned what ovulation is and why it is so important. My friend Kristen told me when we should and shouldn’t try. She even shared with me some old wives’ tales like how long I needed to stay lying down so the sperm could do their job. We were going to hit the ground running. I was so excited. I just knew that we were going to start trying and instantly get pregnant.
It was exciting at first. When I told Eric we had to have sex every other day, he wondered why we hadn’t started trying sooner! I lingered in the baby aisle at Target. Need this. Need this. Must have this!! Oh I can’t wait to register!
Our first attempt to conceive coincided with a trip to New York City for Thanksgiving. I didn’t even have a glass of wine because I was SURE that I was pregnant. Granted, the sperm hadn’t even had a chance to fertilize the egg, but I just KNEW I was pregnant and wasn’t going to take a chance.
That is the way it was for a couple of months. Then my obsessive nature took over. I started not only checking my basal body temperatures each morning, but I put the results in an Excel spreadsheet and even made a graph! As silly as it was, it gave me the first indication that I was INFERTILE. As I looked at my temperatures, it became clear that I wasn’t ovulating until very late. I didn’t ovulate until day 28, and my cycle was only 34 days long.
Being a take-charge kind of gal, I made an appointment with my OBGYN. I went in armed with my graphs so we could figure out what to do. I went through a battery of blood tests to figure out what was going on with me. I will always be grateful to my doctor for listening to me. Traditionally you have to try unsuccessfully to conceive for 12 months (a full year!) before you are given a workup and treatment for infertility. We had only been trying to get pregnant for a few months. But it was quite clear that my body wasn’t doing what it needed to do for us to get pregnant.
I was so frustrated. Something was wrong with me. Why can’t my body do what it is supposed to do? I mean, I am a woman, right? Had I done something to cause this? Was I just getting what I deserved? I did have a little wild phase in college. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Everyone was getting pregnant around me! No problem at all. They just went off the pill and poof! They were pregnant. And then there were those who weren’t even trying that were getting pregnant, too! I felt like a failure. And it didn’t seem to bother Eric that much and that made me mad. He didn’t understand why I was so upset.
The blood tests confirmed everything that my temperatures indicated. I needed help to get me to ovulate on time. According to my doctor, I needed to take Clomid® to help me ovulate more regularly. I also needed to take progesterone after I ovulated. I had what is called a Luteal Phase Defect which means that the time between ovulation and the start of my next cycle isn’t long enough. My uterine lining would shed before an embryo even had enough time to implant. The progesterone would prolong the luteal phase (keeping my uterine lining intact) so that if I got pregnant the embryo would have enough time to implant.
It felt good to have a plan. My OBGYN said she would let me cycle like this for a few months but after that she would refer me to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for further evaluation. That was fine by me because I was going to get pregnant the first month. If not the first, then certainly the second! She also wanted Eric to go to an urologist to be evaluated as well. This proved to be a vital step in our diagnosis.
So that brings us back to me sitting in my office chair after getting another pregnancy announcement email. Bawling my eyes out and hugging Majors, my fur baby, for dear life. I went from a life that was living wedding shower to wedding ceremony of all my friends to a life of weekly pregnancy announcements and baby showers. That is where we were in life. A time when even a simple question like “Guess what?” got an excited “You’re pregnant!!!!” in return. No … I just found a good pair of jeans. While all of my other friends in their mid to late 20s were deciding to just “go off birth control and see what happens,” I was taking drugs just to give me a prayer of conceiving.
Little did I know that this would be a nearly ten-year journey for us. It would be a journey that would bring me a lot of tears but even more strength. A journey that against all odds brought me closer to my husband and taught me that I had to trust and lean on God. Through much of the journey I felt like I was all alone. Unless you have been through infertility, you just cannot understand how isolated it makes you feel. I have many reasons for writing this book. The first and foremost one is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Please join me on my journey. If you are infertile, I think you will be able to identify with some of it. Hopefully that will help you to know that you aren’t the only one who feels this way. If you happen to have a loved one who is struggling to conceive, perhaps this will give you a small glimpse into the trials and agony of infertility.
Stephanie is a native Texan that has spent the majority of her life at home in Tennessee. She is a true Southern girl who loves God, sweet tea, football and anything monogrammed. She married her college sweetheart, Eric, who taught her about true love and football. The “option” still stumps her because isn’t there always an option to throw the ball?? After battling infertility for years, they were blessed with three children. In her first book Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice, Stephanie chronicles their journey through infertility and what she learned along the way. When Stephanie is not writing, she stays busy volunteering and caring for her family. If she is lucky, a hot bath and a good book are waiting at the end of a very full day.