At the end of 2015, I was blessed to have a sweet, bubbly gal start working with me as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Although our time at the same hospital was fairly short-lived, we became, what I am certain to be, life-long friends. Kristina had been married to her fellow Cubs-diehard husband, Josh, for three and a half years at that time.
The way Kristina described it, they were absolutely certain that they wanted children – to grow their family. But when they were first married, and truly for the first three years, she described their relationship as a never-ending honeymoon. They both had great careers, they travelled, they bought a house and got a dog…they were happy and perfectly content. They had been among the first of their friends to get married, so they were in no rush to start trying to have children. The word, the idea, the possibility of “infertility” had never crossed either of their minds.
2016 was “a bit of a blur” as she described it. Kristina and Josh were doing what most couples do when they first start “trying,” they tried to keep track of the best days and Kristina started to pay attention to what her body was doing month to month. But as six, seven, nine, ten months went by, nothing was happening. Some of their friends that started trying at the same time as them were already pregnant. Was it because they were stressed? I mean, they both had just moved away from Illinois for the first time in their lives, and across the country to Arizona, no less. New jobs, new house…it must be stress, right?
It was January 2017 when they first met their fertility doctor, Dr. Craig. Kristina declared that she was NOT anxious, as she saw this step as anticipation of finding out what was going on, and how they were going to “fix it.” Their doctor gave them a lot of hope, and they started trying various, less expensive treatments to see what would happen. Hormone pills, five IUIs (intrauterine insemination), endless pregnancy tests with only *one* little pink line, and a few thousand dollars spent filled March-November. Kristina described this period as the “darkest” she has ever experienced. In hindsight, she strongly believes she should have had some psychological care for the depression she experienced when cycle, after cycle, failed. The depression only worsened when she saw one after another of first or second pregnancy announcements on social media. She was not angry with God, but said she lost a lot of trust in Him, and asked the question all year long, “why us?”
Hearing this part of Kristina’s story made my heart ache for her. I truly cannot imagine the pain she went through that year when appointments ended in sadness, despite their mustered-up hope. And the guilt she must have felt not being capable of feeling the full, true joy when people in her life were expecting, even if she wanted to. This might be the part where you expect me to say that things got so much better because one of their treatments finally worked. You were half right! Things started getting better, but hugely in part to Kristina and her husband starting to see the silver linings.
Kristina admitted that although her relationship with Josh was always good, their vows had never been tested. Things had always gone “pretty well” for them. In “for better or for worse, this was our ‘worse’.” But she saw her husband through new eyes. His loyalty, steadfastness, and never-ending support. He was her rock. They had to struggle through how their faith/beliefs were morally tied to the decisions they were making, and endure some of the adverse opinions of others close to them regarding what they were choosing to do. But ultimately, for the both of them, they feel closer in their relationships with God now, than they ever have.
2018 was described as their “redemption year.” They paused their fertility treatments, and focused on their mental, emotional and physical health. They both did the whole 30 multiple times, Kristina started going to a naturopathic physician, getting acupuncture, and they went on the trip of a lifetime to Switzerland and Italy. She described moments in Switzerland when her prayers finally shifted from “why?” to “Thank you…I trust you.” She stated, “I used to ask why us? And now we know exactly why!”
All signs pointed toward their preparedness for this next part of the journey. They had returned from their European trip with refreshed and revived hearts. Josh’s work suddenly started offering financial assistance for IVF (in vitro fertilization), and they both finally felt ready. As I interviewed Kristina in mid-March (2019), they were in the thick of their IVF cycle. The first round of shots have been completed, the egg retrieval procedure was done, the eggs have been fertilized. As of the night of the interview, they were on day six of seven, waiting to find out if they had any embryos.
*24 hours later I received this text. “Thank you for your prayers. We are so excited and grateful that we were able to freeze enough embryos to have a real shot at having children. God is so good.”
**The week this post is released, is the week that the embryos will be transferred back into Kristina’s body to begin to grow. If you are a “thoughts and prayers” warrior, I know Kristina and Josh will be unendingly grateful for every one of them. I know I am so grateful to them for sharing their journey with me, allowing me to share it with all of you, and for being some of the sweetest humans I’ve ever known. I love you guys.
[If you have been through infertility, miscarriage, infant loss…please know that you are not alone in this. There are people out there like Josh and Kristina who for many of you can truly say, “I know how you feel.” But if I can add one little note myself, I encourage you to never lose hope. But you can’t place hope in things, or even people – not in doctors, not in your next treatment cycle…because those things may “fail.” You must place hope in that this journey for you has a purpose. That your life has a beautiful purpose. If you are strong and steadfast, beauty can come from pain. No pain is ever wasted. We see you, we feel your pain, and we draw from your strength. It is not wasted. You never know who you may be inspiring.]
So much love you to all <3
XoXo Lindsey Sholtis