This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. A week created to bring awareness to the horrible condition of infertility. So this week on the Embrace Bravery blog, you’ll hear stories from women who have braved the diagnosis of infertility, but are choosing to believe that this is just a season and they are experiencing delayed fertility. These women choose to believe in a big God who can do big things and a God who is bigger than any diagnosis.
Meet Shannon Ketchum, the founder of Embrace Bravery. This is her story.
I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 29. Yup, you got that right, there’s a 10 year age difference between us, and yes, I was very apprehensive at first. He would probably say that he wore me down, ha! We were married just a few months after I turned 21 (now just a few days shy of our 15 year wedding anniversary) and our wedding was small with just a few family members and one friend.
Right away, we knew something was wrong. Sex was excruciating! But we decided to give it some time, as often when you first start having sex there can be pain involved.
So into the GYN’s office I go. Her first thought was that it could be Endometriosis. So they schedule me for a vaginal ultrasound. At that point, I had a cyst but it looked like it was dissipating. This is a common symptom with Endometriosis, so they encouraged me to do a laparoscopy to find out if I have it, as that’s the only way to officially diagnose it. I decided not to jump into that right away, as it was a surgery and it would require me to be out of commission for a week.
A few years later, I finally decided to have the laparoscopy. After the surgery, she confirmed I had a mild case of endometriosis, and she scraped from my uterus what she found. And, in addition, she found that I had a condition called Pelvic Engorgement Syndrome. Basically its where veins are growing around your pelvis causing extreme pain during cycles and sex. There was no cure for this horrible disease, but there was a temporary fix – another surgery that could give me some pain relief temporarily where they would put beads of medicine around the veins. I was devastated by this diagnosis. Another condition with no known cure! You’ve got to be kidding me.
A few weeks later, I decided to move ahead and have the surgery. So they take me in, for which you’re mostly awake for just slightly groggy. And they tell me, you don’t have this condition. The news of another question mark on “what’s wrong with me?”, truly broke me. I fell apart. This condition wasn’t something I wanted, but I had finally accepted it. So the news that I didn’t have it upset me and really hit me hard.
I had really been dealing with most of our marriage at this point thinking there must be something seriously wrong with me psychologically. And with the back to the drawing board experience, it really had me back in this head space again. There must be nothing wrong with my physically, it’s all in my head. This was a scary place to be. And all the while, my husband was so patient with me. I know this was hard on him. One of the core needs of a man, was such a challenge for me due to the extreme pain that would bring me to tears. And he would feel like he was hurting me. But it wasn’t him, it was me, or so I thought.
It was shortly after this, that I hit some of the lowest moments in my fertility journey.
I was in a denial for a long time, not wanting to admit I was dealing with infertility.
I had wanted to have a baby since year 1 of our marriage (and honestly knew I wanted kids since I was a little girl). So at year 8 or so of our marriage, I was finally realizing that we were dealing with infertility.
Around that time, we started going to a fertility specialist. During this time, we found out there was nothing wrong on my husband’s end. And, we discovered in addition to Hypothyroidism (I knew i had it for several years) and Endometriosis, that I now also had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). We didn’t seek further treatment while at this specialist, as money became an issue.
Shortly after this, news of a family member’s pregnancy took me into such a deep and dark place in my fertility journey. I felt broken. I was angry.
My conversations with God were something like this: Why does everyone else get the babies? Why aren’t you giving me answers? You said I would have children. You said I would have a son. But where are they? Where are you?” I felt hopeless. I always knew He was God and he was good.I just doubted if He was good to me.
At this point, I decided that I didn’t want to talk to Him. I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. And I just sat in a place of despair.
A few years later, after 4 different doctors, a failed diagnosis, and 13 years of infertility and a question mark of my pain still remaining, I finally had the guts to find a new GYN and start the search again of what could be wrong with me. This decision was so extremely hard for me, as I was afraid of being disappointed again. But it turned out to be such a good thing. First, she had me get blood work to confirm PCOS (which she did, and on Metformin I went). Then she examined me and she could barely start an exam before I was screaming and crying. She then determined I was dealing with muscle spasms of some sort. So she sent me to a physical therapist.
I know you’re probably thinking what I was “a physical therapist for that??? What??” I looked at her like she had bananas coming out of our ears. But, to the physical therapist I went, after calling 4 offices, I finally found one. And this woman, was an answer to prayers! She not only made me feel so comfortable, but she finally gave me a diagnosis. I had pelvic dysfunction. What is happening is that my pelvis isn’t laying in the normal location, so it causes muscle spasms with any penetration. So we have begun a regimen of relaxing and strengthening my pelvis.
I finally know that I’m not crazy. This pain wasn’t in my head. It was real.
And I finally am on the path to wholeness. We’re believing for our babies to come naturally.
There is so much more to my story in regards to the emotional battle and how I overcame it. And how Embrace Bravery came to be. I want to save that for another day. On Wednesday, I’ll do a guest post where I go into all of that. So make sure to come back then and I’ll share that with you.
Also, don’t forget to join us everyday this week, as we’ll have different women sharing their stories.
Have you read Leah Hoverman’s story? Click here to read it now.