Today, we're talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: infertility. More than 6.1 million couples - that's about 10 percent nationwide - battle infertility, which is medically defined as the inability to conceive within one year. Despite the fact that infertility is a relatively common reality in our culture, it's still largely taboo and continues to be a source of shame for many couples who want children.
That’s why I’m excited to be interviewing Jenny Pierre, a dear friend from college, who — by God’s grace — is mama to her nine-month old son, Levi. I feel deeply connected to Jenny’s story because I witnessed her journey to motherhood from day one. I've prayed with and for her through surgery and multiple fertility treatments. Through it all, her faith in Jesus has been the foundation of her hope. My prayer is that Jenny's story will encourage you to trust God more fully, whether you’re battling infertility or just the uncertainty of life. And to all the would-be mamas out there traveling an unconventional road to motherhood, you are seen, lived and appreciated.
Meet Jenny Pierre
Born and raised in her home country of Haiti, Jenny is well-known among her friends for her high energy and passion for life. (It’s hard to be around her for more than five minutes without catching her infectious laughter!) She and her husband, Paul, have been married for six years and have one son who was conceived by way of in vitro fertilization. Jenny deeply loves Jesus, fashion and her family. Read on to learn more about Jenny and her family, and be sure to check out her fashion blog at http://aubonprixstyle.com/
Q: Describe your journey to motherhood. Were you aware that you might experience fertility challenges early on or did it take you by surprise?
A: My journey to motherhood is complicated and one that definitely took both my husband and I by surprise. We are both young, healthy and in shape, so we didn't anticipate any problems having children. When we got married in 2012, we decided to wait three years before trying to have a baby. Lo and behold, three years to the date, we started trying and nothing happened for about six months. My doctor referred us to a fertility specialist, who in turn diagnosed me with four fibroids, all of which were outside my uterus and. She recommended that I get a myomectomy (a surgical procedure to remove fibroids without removing the uterus), and I did. However, Instead of four fibroids, they actually found and removed 15.
We were told that we could start trying to conceive again in three months, which we did. Six months later, however, I was still not pregnant. That's when my doctor suggested that my husband get tested and we learned there was a swollen gland in his hypothalamus that wasn’t sending his brain the proper signal to produce enough sperm. Thankfully, it was a treatable condition and he was placed on medication for three months to reduce the swelling, which was only mildly successful but he still wasn't producing enough sperm for us to naturally conceive. Naturally, it was devastating. After examining all the options available to us, we decided to move forward with two intrauterine inseminations, both of which failed.
The breakthrough came when we learned that my insurance would cover about 90 percent of in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. Around the same time, my mom fell ill, so we decided to pursue that route with the hopes of conceiving as quickly as possible.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the process?
A: The most challenging part of the process for me was the constant waiting and the unknown. I read so many horror stories about people who have gone through many unsuccessful IVF cycles and finally quit after spending large amounts of money without ever having a baby. That must literally be the worst feeling in the world. I am extremely type A and a planner at heart, so not having control over the situation made it so difficult to just be still and let God be God.
Q: What gave you the hope to keep trying?
A: Faith in God’s promises. Infertility can bring you to a very dark place where you question if you’re being punished or for mistakes in the past. It takes the word of God to get you out of that mindset and instead focused on His promises. We were also encouraged that Paul was producing healthy sperm so we had something to work with when we decided to go down the path of IVF. We knew all hope was not lost.
Q: Did you endure any awkward conversations about why you and tour husband didn’t have kids yet? How did you handle that?
A: Absolutely! I still remember one comment that hurt really bad. Someone said, “Jenny doesn’t want kids because she doesn’t want to mess up her body.” I mean wow! Talk about a dagger. I was offended by how shallow this person thought I was to forego having a family just because of how it would affect my physical appearance. A lot of of people also pointed out that I rarely held kids at church, and another friend reminded me of a comment I made when I was 12 about not wanting kids. As part of the Haitian community, many older people don't filter what they say, so I endured a lot of insensitive remarks. Most of the time, I took it all in stride while wearing a smile. When something really got to me, I meditated on Exodus 14:14 to keep from going off on people: "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
Q: Why do you think fertility challenges are still so rarely talked about in mainstream society? What do you wish more people knew about the journey to conception?
A: People are embarrassed. Men are afraid they’ll be viewed as less than, while women are afraid that they’ll be viewed as damaged or incomplete. I wish people knew that infertility doesn’t discriminate. It can affect you whether you’re black or white, rich or poor, successful or not. One of the things that really stood out to me was that our fertility doctor kept saying that my husband, Paul, didn’t fit the profile of someone with low sperm. Generally men who have low sperm counts are obese, or smoke regularly or frequently drink. Anyone who knows Paul knows he is at the opposite end of that spectrum, but he was still affected.
The journey to conception is not an easy one, but it’s one that is worth every sweat, tear and penny you’ll invest. I wish people knew they are not alone. Whether its fibroids like it was for me, or cysts or an incompetent cervix, it's all the same news. Today, someone else’s husband found out he has a low sperm count or was told their sperm is not viable. Another couple just learned they’re facing unexplained or secondary infertility. It sucks! It’s ostracizing, alienating and humiliating. We can't fix it, but we can de-stigmatize it by talking about it. We can teach people to be compassionate and learn how to be there for their friends and family.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is experiencing the same or similar fertility challenges?
A: Start early! One of the things my husband and I wish we did was to get tested (fibroids and sperms analysis respectively) before we were married. I feel like that could have better prepared us and save me tons of money on birth control. (Ha!) I would also say research your options in terms of insurance beforehand. One of the reasons we took so long to move forward with IVF is that we didn't know our insurance would cover the majority of the cost. Also, be prepared for the emotional, physical and spiritual roller coaster. IVF takes a lot of your time, money and energy, but it will also bring you closer to your partner. It also helps to surround yourself with who understand and support your journey.
Q: What has been your greatest joy in motherhood?
A: Watching this tiny person become more and more independent each day, and knowing that my husband and I single handedly have the power to shape this little man’s future in every way is just beyond amazing to me. His smile and joy is so contagious. If you've met my child, you already know he is a hoot, and I wouldn't trade him for the world.