Jill blogs honestly and openly about the pain of infertility. Yet her faith is strong and her humor is delightful. Her posts about her successful adoption and her love for her son are uplifting.
I boldly asked Jill if she would answer a few questions about her struggles and she not only agreed, but brought her husband, Landon, along as well. Here are their thoughts on facing this trial together...
#1--Please tell us a little about yourself and your husband. How long have you been married? What were original plans for babies and children when you first started out?
Jill: I grew up in a wonderful family of seven. I had a great childhood and great life! I have always LOVED babies and children. I was the "baby hungry" child in our family. All I knew for sure was that, when I grew up, I wanted to be a mom.
After encouragement to get a college degree as back-up plan, I went to college and got my nursing degree. I couldn't wait for the day I'd get married and start a family of my own.
I met the man of my dreams the Summer of 1999 while we were both EFY counselors. We quickly fell in love and married shortly after in the Salt Lake temple.
Our plans were to have a baby, a few years later--pop out another and so forth. Do the math,after nine years of marriage, we should have approximately 4 kids!
I will never forget, being in my grandma's basement apartment, where we lived at the time. I was sitting on the LaZBoy rocker and my husband on the couch, while we talked with two representatives from AFLAC. We were poor college students and wanted to get a supplemental insurance to help cover the costs of our babies' deliveries...
The men told us we needed at least 10 months' coverage for payout on our policy. BUT WAIT, we were ready to start trying THIS MONTH and we were SURELY GOING TO GET PREGNANT. We asked if we could backpay last month so when we had our baby in 9 months time, we would have 10 months sufficient coverage! They agreed and we bought into AFLAC.
As you already know, the ending of that story is a sad one! Nine months came and went, and now almost nine years later, still no pregnancies for us. And, yes, we have dropped our AFLAC coverage!
#2--When did you realize that having babies 'the old-fashioned way' wasn't going to work? How did you react to this reality?
Jill: I laughed as I initially read this question! Yes, the old fashioned way has not been proven faithful, and we've tried every other route as well.
After the first few disappointments, the doctors told us to wait for one year, and then if we still were not pregnant we would be considered infertile and could do more testing.
My husband felt after the first month of trying unsuccessfully, the thoughts occurred to him, "Hmmm…that didn't work. I wonder how often it doesn't work for folks. Are we doing something wrong? What if it never works? Nah, it will work." It was not until the third month or so that he began to get real concerned about it.
That heartbreaking year ended and we went for evaluations with different doctors and did numerous tests with a new "infertile" label. Every result along the way was positive...nothing could be determined for our infertility.
We continued to try the "old fashioned way" having hope that it was surely bound to happen soon! In-vitro never felt right (until this last summer)as people probed into why we hadn't tried that route. We just kept HOPING and put that hope into the hands of our doctors, praying their knowledge would give us an answer (which they finally did this Summer, 2008). It WAS and STILL IS hard to grasp the reality of it all. I'll never give up hope though!!
#3--Infertility is obviously a huge trial for women, but it is a real loss for men too. How has this trial affected your husband? How has it strengthened your relationship?
Landon: This is too difficult to summarize in a few words, but I will offer some thoughts. I do think the husbands are often forgotten.
For two and a half years, I worked at an adoption agency and saw many men who were forgotten while their wives were the easier targets for support and empathy. It should be this way and I honestly was happy Jill was targeted for most of the support from others. However, there certainly were times that I felt misunderstood, questioned my role in life, privately cried and grieved, and wondered if I would be the father of many kids like I had dreamed.
I have definitely grieved this experience and continue to grieve this experience.
On top of my own emotional struggles, I felt like I needed to be available emotionally to my wife, knew I was helpless to 'fix it', and did not have adequate words to soothe and give her hope. It was and is unpleasant to say the least.
Every month Jill is not pregnant we both have to feel the slug in the gut of our reality, 'we are not going to be parents again.' I have to walk the line of trying to support, be the stable force, and grieve my own emotions as well. I have not figured out how to do either very well. The longer time goes by, my grief shifts slightly more and more from longing to having children to grieving the children I dreamed of but never, and may never, come to be.
What is this experience like? What thoughts are stirred? For starters, 'What would we have named them?' 'Were they to be boys or girls?' 'How old would they be right now?' 'What would they be for Halloween this year?' 'Would they like football like me?' 'Would they be sweet and cute like Jill?' I bet most reading this would never even think of such things. The loss is real yet invisible. Grieving the loss of children we never had the chance to know as opposed to losing children to death.
The biggest trial has been to see Jill filling the role of mother to one instead of mother to many.
With what I have written about husbands, I do think infertility is easier on husbands because we can focus on work, compartmentalize easier than women, etc. I also wish that I could bear all of the guilt and responsibility or 'fault.' Although I have never intentionally made Jill feel bad about it, I am sure it has hurt her to have our diagnosis. I wish so much that I could bear that burden from her.
Another big struggle is seeing Tanner get older and older and not have a sibling to experience life with and depend on mom and dad for total entertainment.
There have been positives in all this as well—we give Tanner incredible attention and love and have less stress than a household with many children. Jill and I also find it easier to cope by joking and focusing on the good in life and the blessings we do have; particularly being proud parents of Tanner.
Jill: Landon has been such a rock through all of this. He has ached just as much as I, and even more at times. I've seen his tears, and hurt for him as well. He has never once made me feel the weight of this trial, or that it is "my" fault. Our hearts are united as one, and thus we have each been broken.
He wants to be a father as much as I long to be a mother. Luckily we have been given the opportunity, because Landon is the best father ever!
Landon: For the first few years my struggle was, 'PLEASE grant us a child' but it has since become, 'If it is Thy will to have us raise Thy children, please let us do so as we are willing.' This probably sounds pompous and self-righteous, but it is one area I have grown in. I also think Jill and I have been able to focus on each other more—trips, time, more peace.
Jill: I, too, think this has strengthened our relationship, because when being put to the test, you either crumble or stand taller. A few years ago while living a nightmare of a trial we endured, we promised each other we would not let it rip us apart. We had seen it happen to other couples...placing blame on the other spouse, allowing their anger to divide them, choosing to deal with their trials separately instead of turning to each other. We would sit in our bed and cry together, hugging each other, supporting each other, and loving each other. Our marriage is eternal, "in good times and bad" and WE knew WE had to work together through the good times, and bad.
#4--When I was dealing with infertility, I often felt that people were uncomfortable around me. That they didn't know what to say, or what questions to ask. What are the things you LEAST like to hear from well-meaning friends? What words bring you comfort?
Jill: Landon and I often talk about this. It's a tough one, because I'm just as uncomfortable at times as I know other people can be and I try not to make others feel awkward around me. It's hard to put on a fake smile while all of your friends are sitting around talking about their birthing experiences! But I don't want to make it awkward for all of them because I know they have NO IDEA how I am feeling or how to relate, so I try to roll with the punches.
Landon: I know it IS hard for people to know what to say, and for the most part I just have to remember people have goodness in their hearts and really aren't trying to say stupid or insincere things to me!! I don't like to hear 'I just know you will have lots of kids.' Hmmm, since when did you profess to get inspiration for me? Gee thanks for the vote of confidence.
It is also annoying to hear, 'Let's just pray more' or 'Let's fast and have more faith.' My thoughts are, do you really think this is not the number one topic on our minds and in our hearts? Don't you know we have fasted every month for 8 years and have prayed hundreds and thousands of times? I am pretty sure the Lord knows of our hopes, faith and position on the matter. It is not about faith for me anymore, but about accepting and following the Lord's will.
In the end, I rarely get offended--usually just annoyed by comments. However, I would not know what to say if I had not been through this myself so I soften quickly.
My best friend knows what to do the best, sincerely express, 'I am so sorry' and gives me a hug. That is all I need. I don't need anyone to fix it or try to give me false hope. Just be there. Don't pretend to know the future.
Jill: I think my least favorite comment is 'You'll have children in the next life' or 'You'll look back on this life and it will be like the blink of an eye!' DO NOT say that! Yeah, it's all good and true, but not comforting to me right now, to say the least. I am living HERE and NOW. Day to day life is long and can be overwhelming...the time is NOT going by fast and so while I'm in the moment of trying to cope, that statement does nothing for me!
I echo Landon as well...just giving a hug, offering to be there to listen, saying sorry. Those are the most genuine things that are heartfelt, rather than trying to fix the situation or offer unrealistic hopes sometimes hurt more because we are trying to deal with the reality of this and we know that it might not ever be!!
#5--How did you know it was time to look into adoption? What were your initial fears and frustrations? How long did it take? Tell us about your darling little boy!
Jill: Another testament that the Lord knows all and is in control. Ironically, Landon worked at LDS Family Services as an adoption worker/therapist. That was his first job out of college. (He is a licensed clinical social worker.)
Landon: Before we even knew of our infertility issues, adopting was interesting to me. Most people choose this route, by, what I call, 'adoption by default.' Most couples cannot conceive biologically so they adopt. For us it was not necessarily because we could not conceive but because it felt right and we were open to it. We did not do much infertility treatment prior.
J: I believe Landon's job was a preparation for us to adopt. It was part of the plan, we just didn't know it! I totally remember as a teenager hearing about a couple we knew in the community that couldn't have kids who recently adopted a baby, and my thoughts were 'How sad, they had to adopt!' I honestly thought it was second best...and I know a lot of people still feel that way.
I knew NOTHING about adoption. Luckily, the Lord prepared Landon who in return prepared me. It took some time for me to know this was what the Lord had planned for us. After 3.5 years, the doctors still had no answers for us and told us our options were to: keep trying on our own, do in-vitro, or adopt. We knew at that point we were supposed to adopt!
Adoption is absolutely anything but second best. Adoption is amazing, and when you KNOW that is how your family is supposed to come together, there is nothing more spiritual or beautiful. To know that the Lord can work miracles through so many people to get your child to you is incomprehendable!
Like I mentioned above, I knew nothing about adoption and I was VERY scared and hesitant. I needed an answer from the Lord to know with a surety this was what we were to do. I didn't know how I could handle sharing a child with another mother. I didn't know how I could love a child that "wasn't mine." What if no one picked us? How long could I wait until (I felt) someone "deemed us worthy" to have their child? I had to be vulnerable and put myself out there hoping someone would think I was good enough to be a mom!!?? I didn't know if I could give up my dreams and accept something completely foreign and new.I was hurting enough dealing with lost dreams, let alone having to now put MY dreams into some teenage girl's decision?
I prayed long and hard about it. I went to several birth-mother panels at Landon's work and my heart was quickly softened and, along with other experiences and answers to my prayers, I knew it was right! All of my concerns, fears, and ignorant thoughts vanished.
January of 2004, Landon and I sent in our applications to LDSFS. We started telling family and friends to spread the word that we were hoping to adopt. Landon had warned me that there were couples in the books of applicants who had been there for years and still weren't chosen. So I was prepared to wait at least 2 years (HOPING it wouldn't be much longer than that)!
We had to take parenting classes which started in March, and to make a long (AMAZING) story short, on our last class in May, we were told we'd been chosen to be the parents of a baby boy!!!! The birthmotherwas a friend of a friend.
We never had to enter the books, but by word of mouth, and through the Lord's guidance, a way was prepared for us to meet Randi, our birthmother, and bring our baby to our family. We were SO lucky to have it happen so quickly! Aside from my wedding, it was the most spiritual experience of my life.
The whole process was amazing. Meeting our birthmother was both intimidating and exciting. I loooooooooove and will always cherish these memories. I love Randi and would do ANYTHING in this world for her. The minute we walked into the hospital room to meet our new son, my heart was overwhelmed with love and everything was confirmed that it was right. Again, all of my fears were dispelled and although my heart ached for the pain that Randi endured, we all knew it was right!
When we left the hospital and took Tanner back to our hotel for an in-depth inspection, I felt INSTANT love for our little angel! He didn't come from my body, but it didn't matter to me. We all come from our Heavenly Father, and our son just came a different route. But he was now mine to have to raise, teach, love and adore. I fell in love with him without any hesitation!
I thought I was past the point of talking about this without having my throat close up, tears flood, and my breath cut short...but I don't think I ever will. Tanner is my dream! Tanner healed our hearts. Tanner is our world! At random times, when he calls out to me, and I hear him say 'MOM...' my heart starts to race and tears well in my eyes, because it's real. I finally am a mother.
Landon: There is not a sweeter spirit, a more loveable personality, and overall precious boy in the whole world. He keeps us going and happy no matter what is going on. He is truly an angel to us and I am amazed at how much I love him. I knew being a father would be life changing and great, but I am pleasantly surprised how great it is.
#6-- Do you ever have 'why me?' days? How do you get over the pity party and move on?
Honestly, yeah. But in a righteous way, like Landon says, Not 'why me days' , but 'help me know why days.' It's hard at times when you feel like you are doing EVERYTHING in your power to do what's right and still not getting what you think you deserve.
That is when I realize I am being selfish and that the Lord must have something more in store for me.
It's hard to wrestle with 'why' when I feel I don't deserve the outward judgements people place on me. It's very difficult because it's an inward trial. I quietly suffer, and from the outside people don't see the pain. Not like a physical trial which people can see and thus be more sympathetic. "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see."
Sometimes I wish I could walk around with a sign saying 'I'm infertile, please be gentle with me!' People see me and make assumptions. Why don't you have more kids, you must be selfish, you have a perfect life, your child NEEDS a sibling.
The day after I found out our fifth insemination didn't work, I had to attend a church excursion, put on a happy face and act like the world was perfect! When another procedure failed, I had to teach a craft for 25 people the next day and try to be excited about it. None of them (except a few close friends) had any idea how I battled with myself the entire night before, trying to buoy myself up and have courage to face the next day with a smile, when I would've much rather dug a hole to hibernate in for the winter. While my outward appearance dared to gleam a smile, my heart was broken and aching inside. Honestly, yeah. But asking in a righteous way, or like Landon says, not really "why me" days but "help me know why" days. It's hard to be left open to your own thoughts and interpretations of why, when you don't get clear answers. Am I learning what I'm supposed to? Am I not fit to be a mother?
Infertility has taught me to never unrighteously judge another, and to give people the benefit of doubt. We have no idea what others are living and they might really be fighting to even wear a smile.. We shall not dare to be so self-righteous in making an unrighteous judgment on someone when we do not know their plight.
It IS very easy to have pity parties. I will NEVER get over the fact that I might not ever give life. That cuts to the very core of who I am. That is why I was created, a woman of God to create life. That is my divine nature. That sting will never go away, and just because I already have one child doesn't mean I won't quit longing for more. I think that is one thing people misinterpret those of us who suffer from infertility. We will forever live with silent heartache and when we voice it, others might think we are not satisfied with what we do have. It's just not true. I am SO grateful for what I've been given, but I also have the right to ache for the loss of what I could/would/should have.
People have the mistaken idea that, just because I have one child, I shouldn't feel pain from failed attempts to grow my family. That is ridiculous. Yes, there will always be someone "worse off," but to suggest that means my pain is any less real, unimportant, or self-indulgent is ignorant. Our hearts don't work that way. It is possible to be thankful and still long for more. After all, it's a righteous desire and we are commanded to replenish the earth!
However, we all have our own struggles, and when I do have especially hard days with mine, I simply think of the millions of others with similar or greater trials than mine and know that I'm not alone in this world. I choose to look at the cup half full and focus on what I do have. I've heard people say they hate that comment, but for me that is what it's all about. If I'm not focusing on the positive, then the pity party overwhelms my world and nothing good can come from that.
I'm not saying we can't be sad, we have every right to mourn and feel heartache, but focusing on that will get us nowhere. Some things are completely out of our hands and that is where to must be grateful for what we do have and make the most out of the good and enjoy the MANY other blessings in our lives...because I do have those! It's amazing how when we refocus energy on our blessings we realize the tender mercies the Lord provides for us.
#7--Jill, I am always impressed with your faith, even when it seems like your prayers are not being answered the way you want. How have you drawn closer to God through this trial instead of becoming bitter and turning away?
It's been quite a process to get to that point, and I am continually striving to stay close to my Heavenly Father. However, I think I was born with a believing heart and have always tried to do what's right. As a child, I remember making a conscious decision to never serve Satan or bring him any sort of satisfaction. I am in no way perfect and definitely have my faults and weaknesses, but on a daily basis I choose to serve the Lord. Because of that He has blessed me and gives me strength.
Several years ago watching another couple in our same situation early on and struggling to get pregnant, had a huge impact on me. They became bitter, angry, and stopped going to church. It really hit me, and I thought how unfortunate it was. They were blaming God and turning their backs on the One who could help them the most. I thought to myself I will never blame God for my trials.
We are given what we can endure, and the pain and burdens won't necessarily be taken away, but lifted, as we turn to Him! I've felt that in my own life and I know it to be true. Through each heartache of life, we decide how we want to deal with it--blame others, and God, or accept the lessons in life and learn from them by drawing nearer to God and strengthening our relationship with Him. What is the point of faith if we are never tested to exercise it? Faith preceeds the miracle.
When I have bad days, or just need someone to talk to (besides my husband), my parents are the first people I call. They give me strength, comfort and encouragement. But we must never forget, first and foremost, our Heavenly parents. Our Heavenly Father longs for us to talk to Him and come to Him. He loves us so much that He sacrificed his only begotten son so that He may succor us in our pains. We can, and should, give it all to Him once we've done all we can. How overwhelming that is to think of!
Once we realize this, and feel both our Heavenly Father's and Savior's love, we are given power unimaginable. Through this trial I am becoming refined. Each day I feel my rough edges smoothing out. I have such a deeper, meaningful relationship with my Heavenly Father and for that I will forever be grateful. I don't know if I would have developed this relationship on my own, or if my testimony would have blossomed as it has.
I've always said I'm not grateful for my trials, but I'm grateful for what I've learned from them and the tender mercies God has shown me. Landon and I have done all we can physically do to have a child. It's out of my hands, so I'm giving it to Him and trusting He will make more of my life than I ever thought I could!
My faith IS what carries me through. The only thing that keeps me standing is falling on my knees! I trust completely and the words of this song describe exactly how I feel:'You give me sight, when I can't see. You give me breath, when I can't breathe. You give me love, and You give me peace. You always seem to give just what I need.You take my doubt and replace it with truth. You take my fear so all I see is You. You take me as I am, and You take me by the hand. You see to my soul and You take just what I need.You give and take away, and refine me day by day. As You lead me through the bitter and sweet, I am trusting You to make me complete. Though You see the heartache, Your sending Your sweet grace, as You give, and You take.'You bless me to see, the give and take, is just what I need.'
We are not alone. Once we realize that we ARE children of God and seek for an intimate relationship with both Him and our Savior Jesus Christ, we will be wrapped in their love and be lifted! He will guide us, bless us and teach us who He wants us to become. Their love is undeniable! That love propels us beyond any fear, doubt or pain.
Amen. Thank you so much, Jill and Landon. Your words will be a great strength to many.
Jill and Landon can be found here.
This post is my favorite.