“Waking up to a new sunrise. Looking back from the other side. I can see now with open eyes. Darkest water and deepest pain. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, ’cause my brokenness brought me to You, and these wounds are a story You’ll use. So I’m thankful for the scars, ’cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart. And I know they’ll always tell of who You are, so forever I am thankful for the scars…”—I am They – “Scars”
It all starts with a little bit of hope and a positive pregnancy test, the beginning of something dreamed of and longed for whether for a short time or for years.
Nathan and I had been married for about a year and a half when we became pregnant for the first time. I was over-the-moon excited and slightly terrified. Those two tiny lines were the realization of something I had been so hopeful for, and yet for several years had been uncertain that I would ever have.
You see, I am one of the estimated 1 in 10 women who suffer from a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, something that commonly causes hormonal imbalance, metabolic issues, excessive hair growth, and most devastatingly, infertility. Through my journey with PCOS, I’ve learned that it effects every women differently, though the effects are equally upsetting overall.
Many women with PCOS struggle to even get pregnant. Some are completely unaware that they even have the disorder until months and years of “trying” for a baby lead them to their OB/GYN in frustration and despair.
I was one of the “lucky” ones who managed to get pregnant with little effort. We tried for one month before that little baby was conceived. We were so excited when that positive test came! My sister was also pregnant at the time, and I was thrilled that our babies would be close in age! We began dreaming of what our future baby would look like, what we would do with the nursery, and making all of the plans that young parents to be do!
I confidently headed into my first doctor’s appointment anxious to see our little baby for the first time and looking forward to carrying home with me a tiny picture of him/her in the form of an ultrasound scan. I went alone, as Nathan wasn’t able to get off for my appointment that day, and my family lives an hour or so away from me.
I settled onto the table as the technician prepared for the ultrasound, patiently watching the screen for that tiny heartbeat. And there it was, a tiny flicker on the screen. The technician paused for a moment and then left the room, coming back with another technician. They looked silently at the screen, then conferred amongst themselves in voices so low I couldn’t hear what was being said.
Finally, one of the technicians asked if I wanted a picture. I said I did, a little confused as to why they were asking, but a picture was what I had come for! They took me back to a room where a doctor I had barely met sat down and said harshly, “Your baby is going to die. You should probably just abort now.”
My happy world and all those hopes and dreams came crashing down in that instant. It felt like someone had taken all the air out of my lungs. I just stared at him. I had seen the heartbeat, tiny and fragile on the screen, but it was apparently too slow, “not viable”. The doctor quickly ushered me out the door to scheduling and went on his way. He had nothing more to say to me. My devastating news was nothing more than a tiny blip on the radar of his busy day. He cared nothing for me or the pain I was in.
I stumbled to the car in tears and started making phone calls, to my mom, to my husband. I remember feeling more pain and brokenness in that moment than I had ever felt before. I started to pray, begging God to make the news untrue, but if that wasn’t his plan, that He would give me the strength to get through it.
Over the next few days, I began to have some bleeding, so I called my mom and we made an appointment with my prior OB/GYN (Woodward & Associates) in the Harrisburg area. Their kind, compassionate care was something that had drawn me to them in the past, and that day was no different. The ultrasound confirmed that my tiny baby had indeed passed, and the decision was made to have a D&C as my body hadn’t begun the process of miscarrying on its own.
Through the months that followed, there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t think about the tiny child we had lost. I grieved for what could have been, the sense of loss greater than any I had ever known. I may have only been a mother for a short time, but that little baby was loved and wanted for every second of its life. I clung to God, the promises in His Word, and the knowledge that one day in heaven I will see that baby again.
In January of 2018, we lost another child, this time I miscarried naturally before we even knew I was pregnant. We began to research infertility treatment, learning only that it wasn’t covered by our insurance. My PA at Woodward & Associates was committed to doing everything she could to help us get our rainbow baby. She began running tests, and I was placed on a medicine called Metformin to help lower the high levels of testosterone my body was producing.
On April 8th, 2018, I took a pregnancy test on a whim after feeling rather unlike my usual self the day before. Once again, it was positive! A few weeks later, I had some spotting, so I headed back to my OB/GYN in Harrisburg. This time however, the results were completely different. A healthy heartbeat showed on that screen, strong and clear.
As the days went by, I worried and prayed a lot! I approached most of my early appointments with an anxious heart and bated breath, afraid that this would be the appointment where things would all go devastatingly wrong. But weeks turned into months, and I began to show. My OB/GYN team continued to be supportive and encouraging throughout the process. I couldn’t be more grateful for all of the care they showed before, during, and after my pregnancy.
We chose to keep our pregnancy a secret with the exception of immediate family and those who saw us in person throughout the year. It allowed me to focus on my work as a wedding photographer, stay as “low stress” as possible, and take the time to have a positive pregnancy experience. We didn’t announce our baby’s arrival until the day she was born!
Sophia Belle Varner entered the world as fast and as furious as she could on December 21st, 2018, after a 4 1/2 hour induction. Contractions on pitocin are no joke! I chose to get an epidural at the beginning of the Hallmark movie “A December Bride”, and by the end of the movie, our sweet Sophia had arrived, a little 7 lb 3 oz Christmas miracle.
As I write this post, my beautiful daughter is laying next to me swaddled in her dock-a-tot. She smiles in her sleep, and I smile back, sending a quick prayer of thanks for the miracle that she is. Even on the hardest days of round-the-clock crying and little sleep, I wouldn’t trade her for anything. God has been SO good to us.
For those of you struggling today, whether it be through infertility, miscarriage, or stillborn birth, let me encourage you not to give up hope. Your miracle, your “rainbow after the storm” is out there, whether it be through your own healthy pregnancy, a surrogate, or the blessing of adoption. Dark days don’t last forever. Your sunrise might be just around the corner! God is faithful, and your faith in Him will see you through.
With much love,