IVF After Paralysis & PCOS: Kristen & Ryan’s Story

One of my favorite things to do is share stories of people who have experienced infertility. I love hearing how other people cope and find meaning in struggle. Today I’m excited to share Kristen and Ryan’s story with you today. I hope you find hope and encouragement in their story!

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello everyone! My name is Kristen Bergeron and I’m married to a wonderful man named Ryan. We have a spunky little girl named Hadley who’s about to turn two. Together, Ryan and I own and operate an online store called The Wood Reserve where we sell unique wood products and gifts. I also work as a freelance writer and run my own blog, The Natural Verve.  Ryan works for a great company called JMX Brands as a portfolio marketing manager.

We’re Sunshine State natives that enjoy family time, getting outside, traveling, and a great bottle of wine!

Q. How long were you trying to conceive and what issues were you facing?

Our infertility stemmed from two different sources. For starters, back in 2008 my husband was paralyzed in a water skiing accident. His paralysis affected him from the waist down and made having children more difficult.

While we thought this would be the only issue we’d have to work through, we quickly learned that I was suffering with undiagnosed PCOS which would make getting pregnant more of a challenge for me.

All in all, our infertility journey lasted around two years. While we faced over a year of general testing at different facilities to figure out how Ryan’s accident had affected his fertility, and then surgery for me to remove a uterine polyp, by the time it came down to our IVF cycle we were one of the lucky couples to find success after just one try.

Q. Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. were an encouragement to you during your journey?

Early on in our IVF journey, I joined an IUI/IVF Support Group on the website BabyCenter. I found this sisterhood of women so comforting throughout our infertility journey. Every time I recognized someone else’s thoughts and emotions as ones I’d experienced myself I felt a little less lonely about this journey. Though a sad reality to face, there’s so much solace to be found in the fact that you are not alone in your experiences.

I found the following quote to be quite uplifting after Ryan’s accident and found myself coming back to it during the lowest points in our quest to have a baby: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” It reminded me to find strength, no matter how impossible a situation may seem. It helped give me the drive I needed to endure and overcome.

Q. Did you and your spouse cope with infertility in the same way or did you handle it differently?

I’m a researcher by nature, so when faced with the issue of infertility, I threw myself into learning as much as possible. Reading articles, facts, and statistics helped to keep me calm and allowed me to channel my negative emotions into something productive. On the other hand, though, I would also let myself cry when necessary.

Ryan, on the other hand, is a bottler. He’s never been the type to openly speak about his emotions and prefers to deal with them individually.

At the beginning of our process, however, we made an agreement to openly communicate about our experience the whole way through if one of us felt it was necessary. We’d seen first-hand how couples struggling with infertility could be pulled apart by not talking about the situation or avoiding their problems. Our decision to remain open with each other about our circumstance provided each of us with a sounding board and kept us both sane throughout our IVF cycle.

Q. How did you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually during your struggles?

Throughout my cycle, I relied heavily on acupuncture, meditation, and old wives’ tales to get me through! If there was a food to eat or a beverage to drink that might improve my lining or help with implantation, I was a wiling participant.

We also found that taking long walks was the perfect exercise to keep my body moving and help clear our minds throughout the process.

Q. What was your lowest point and how did you survive it?

I can still remember the day I received my PCOS diagnosis like a movie playing out in front of me. I’ve always dealt with irregular periods and had gone in for some testing to try and figure out the cause. While sitting at work one day, a nurse called with my results.

In the most insensitive tone possible, she told me I had PCOS and asked me if I knew what that meant. When I told her I’d never heard of the disease, she explained that it meant I would never be able to get pregnant, and even if I did, my body would not support the baby and I would lose it.

I was understandably devastated. All of the effort we’d already put into understanding our situation and trying to have a child seemed pointless. I remember sitting on the phone, biting back tears until it was acceptable for me to hang up. I sobbed for I don’t know how long after that.

Thankfully, however, I’m a researcher. With the help of my good friend, Google, I ransacked every site I could find about PCOS and its effects. That’s where I learned that there was hope. Many, many women had received the same diagnosis as me and went on to have beautiful families of their own. I also made an appointment with my gynecologist who reaffirmed the idea that there was nothing stopping me from becoming a mother.

She said it could be more difficult, but that with help and perseverance there was still such a good chance I’d be able to carry and deliver my own biological child.

Q. Were you been able to find a “silver lining” in your infertility?

My daughter.

When we first started trying to have a baby, I held a lot of resentment. What I wouldn’t have given to just get pregnant the old-fashioned way. Looking back, I am so grateful of our experience. Had it not been for infertility, for Ryan’s accident, for IVF – we might not have our little girl.

Sure, we may have had another child at some point, but it wouldn’t be her. For that, I will forever be thankful for our unique journey.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

To any man and woman struggling with this disease, please know that we are with you. No matter what your situation or story, this battle is one we fight together. I can’t help but feel a sort of kindred connection to anyone I meet or speak to that’s on a similar path.

Whether we know each other personally or we’re merely a connection made through this screen, know that we are rooting for you. Best wishes and baby dust to all of you that are still waiting for your miracle.

Many thanks for Kristen and Ryan for sharing their story!  Please leave them a comment to let them know you appreciate them!

Life After Infertility: An Interview With Author Sarah Rollandini

This post contains affiliate links. You can see my full disclosure here.

I can’t remember exactly how I first connected with Sarah Rollandini. I think I came across one of her blog posts about infertility and shared it on social media. Since then, I’ve enjoyed learning more about her story and her upcoming book, Life After Infertility: A Story of Hope for Those Who Wait (available this summer). She graciously agreed to answer some questions about her experience with infertility, adoption, and gestational surrogacy.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and met my husband, Mark, in the Washington, DC area where I was studying for my masters degree. After we married, I dragged him back to Michigan. I’ve been teaching deaf kids and American Sign Language at a public high school for the past 21 years. My husband and I are on the worship team at our church, where he plays bass and I sing. I love walking (not running!), traveling all over the U.S. with our family, and adopting rescue dogs (we have two). I am a chocoholic and allow myself two squares of Dove dark a day. Also, I am writing a book about how God showed up in our infertility, adoption, and surrogacy. My hope is to encourage others in the midst of their waiting. The book is currently in my editor’s hands and I hope to have it available on Amazon this summer. Our family of five (currently six with an exchange student from Vietnam!) lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Q.  How long did you try to conceive on your own and what issues were you facing?

Mark and I had been married for three years before we started officially “trying”. We used the natural family planning approach, which makes me laugh now because, looking back on it, I realize the method was only effective because we were infertile. Since I was nearing 30 when we started trying, we sought help after about a year. After all the testing, our infertility was labeled “unexplained”. My theory is that our infertility was related to my tubes. My appendix burst when I was twelve and I nearly died. I believe the tiny hairs in my tubes that are supposed to wave the embryo through are more like a petrified forest. I had a tubal pregnancy with twins that sent me in and out of the hospital for a whole summer.

Q.  You’re a mother to three children via surrogacy and adoption. What would you like to share about your decision to build your family this way?

When Mark and I realized we were infertile, we (read: I) came up with a plan. Adoption was at the bottom of my list. I had bought into the world’s idea that, as a way of having children, adoption was second best. We also had a negative experience with an adoption agency representative who was very condescending when we met with her. In the middle of infertility’s grief, we did not need to be judged. Four years after we started trying, I came to the end of my rope and God had a little intervention with me. On the day we got the negative results from our fourth IVF attempt, I hit a wall. I sat in our would-be nursery crying and bargaining with God. Then, I took a deep breath, calmly stood up and walked over to the drawer with the phone book and opened it up to the yellow pages, searching for “adoption”. My body was going through the motions before my brain had registered my actions. It was a Friday in November right before 5 p.m. and ridiculous to think I would get a real person on the phone. But guess what? Carol answered and was a bundle of positivity. I got the information packet in the mail the next day and from there on out, every door opened effortlessly. It was a clear sign that adoption was God’s plan for us.

As for surrogacy. We were thrilled with the adoption of our two daughters and knew that we wanted another child. A friend had offered to carry a baby for me, but Mark and I were on the fence about whether we should adopt again or try surrogacy. We had had two very positive adoption experiences, but adoption has pros and cons. Until the paperwork is signed, you are on pins and needles as you fall more in love with your baby every day. We prayed about it (as did our friend who was willing to carry our baby) and felt led to move forward with surrogacy, which has just as many hoops to jump through as adoption!

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Q.  What would you tell someone who is considering pursuing adoption?

If your ultimate goal is to become a parent, adoption is an amazingly rewarding choice. I would have missed out on so many miracles had we not grown our family through adoption. It is an opportunity to see God come to the rescue of you, the birth family, and your child and work miracles. Your child through adoption will always have two sets of family, biological and adoptive, and degree of openness is something you should consider before you say yes to adopting a child. You must make a plan that everyone feels comfortable with and not compromise because you are so eager to have a baby. God is in control and will bring together birth families and adoptive families that are a good fit. Our daughters have always known their adoption stories and we talk openly about their birth stories and birth families. I would recommend this approach to talking about adoption so that kids’ before and after-adoption stories can be seamlessly woven together. You will always be your child’s mommy and daddy; don’t think your role will be usurped simply because your child wants to have contact with his birth family. Trust God to work out these details. He will!

Q.  Surrogacy is not talked about very often in Christian circles. How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to you a gestational carrier?

Our close family and friends were very supportive. The larger Christian community was trickier. Most articles about surrogacy from a Christian perspective do not support the practice as, according to these articles, surrogacy goes outside of the marital relationship for procreation. My question for these writers is this: Does God still reach out to individuals in unique ways? Does a personal relationship with Christ allow for direct communication and God’s leading in every Christ-follower’s life? Most writers of these articles have never experienced infertility, but are quick to dole out truth. I love Romans 11:33, which speaks to the mystery of God:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

Is God’s wisdom available to all of us or only a few chosen theologians?

Our surrogacy experience was only positive. We are still friends with our gestational carrier and her family and there never was, nor is there now, any awkwardness in our relationship. And I have my son, now 10, who I’ve known since I saw his pencil-point size image in a black and white photo pre-embryo-transfer at our infertility specialist’s office. Our specialist, by the way, is a Christian whose life goal is to assist in creating families.

Q.  What surprised you the most about becoming a mother via surrogacy?

The selflessness of our carrier and her family. The long-awaited sight of my husband and my genes at work in our son ten years after we started trying to conceive. The fact that my son was born alive with a knot in his cord and I know that God’s protection was an answer to my breath prayers laced through every moment of our waiting….but that is another story. 🙂

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Q.  Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. were an encouragement to you during your journey?

I so wish information on the internet had been as prolific during my infertility struggle as it is now. Information in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was few and far between. My favorite book (I think it was the only book on the topic!) during that time was When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden by Sandra Glahn. I also owned the Resolving Infertility book, which is more of a practical read that guides one through the steps of diagnosis and treatment.

My favorite Bible verse that I turned to again and again was Jeremiah 29:11,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I also listened to a lot of Kathy Troccoli. She had just lost her mother and her album, Corner of Eden, contains songs about her journey of trusting God through loss and grief. I clung to her words when I felt lost.

Q.  Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Everyone’s journey through infertility is different, but I know this: When you can’t see what God is doing, you can trust that his heart for you is to give his very best to you. Your wait is temporary and what’s waiting for you at the end will be worth it.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her story with us today.  Be sure to stop by her blog and please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her!

If you enjoyed reading this interview, you might also enjoy all my other interviews!

First and last image courtesy of UnSplash. All other images courtesy of Sarah Rollandini.

3 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Spouse Before You Start Infertility Treatment

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One of the biggest decisions a couple who is struggling with infertility can make is deciding to start infertility treatment. It will affect everything from your finances to your time to your health. You’ll probably have a lot of long conversations. And that’s a good thing! Here are three conversations you don’t want to forget to have before you start infertility treatment.

Who Will We Tell?

Having a supportive and loving community to support you during treatment is essential. However, I suggest you and your spouse plan in advance who you will tell and when you’ll tell them. I think it’s very common for one spouse to be more private about infertility than the other one. It’s possible that you may not be not the same page about who you want to tell. Deciding in advance will save you stressful disagreements during your treatment.

Related: Keeping Infertility a Secret

What Are Our Limits?

I’ve written before about some of the ethical questions I had to confront before starting IVF.  But even if you’re not doing IVF, you need to know your limits for medicated cycles and IUIs, too. Unmonitored medicated cycles and IUIs can lead to higher incidence of multiples. Many doctors will advise you to reduce multiple pregnancies so you need to know what your response would be in that situation.

It’s also a good idea to have an idea of your financial limits. Are you willing to take out loans or go into debt in order to pay for your treatment? How many rounds of treatment will you try before considering other options? You may change your mind, of course. But it’s wise to at least talk about these questions with your spouse before your start.

Related: When You and Your Spouse Don’t Agree About Infertility Treatment

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How Will We Keep Our Marriage First?

It’s frighteningly easy to let infertility treatment consume your life. Take some time to come up with strategies on how you can keep your marriage your first priority. If your treatments fail, you’ll need a strong relationship as you decide what’s next. And if you’re successful, you’ll want to be in a healthy place during during those exhausting first days of parenthood. Having a child is a good thing, but don’t let your marriage take second place.

Talking can be hard.

These are not easy conversations and you may find it hard to agree with each other. It might be tempting to just ignore it and hope that starting treatment will magically make you agree. But that will actually probably make it even worse. So I encourage you to seek help from a counselor or trusted clergy if you need help

Have you had these conversations with your spouse? What other things do you think it’s important to talk about before you start infertility treatment? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Images courtesy of UnSplash