Our story starts much like your own, I'm sure. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married.
Like many newlywed couples we looked forward to our future with stars in our eyes. We had a plan. We would work and go to college, buy a house and in two years start a family.
That is just what we did. We moved to a new city, bought a house, enrolled in college and found full-time jobs. As our two-year anniversary came nearer, our dreams of a little baby became more urgent. We felt it was time — time to start our family, time to make the plan become reality. We even talked about the pros and cons of having a boy versus a girl. We talked about baby names. We even planned out the baby's nursery in our new home: the paint colors, the bedding, the placement of the crib. We were ready.
After the first month of trying, we waited anxiously for the results. They were negative. Month 2: negative. Month 3: negative. Finally month 10 rolled around and still no pregnancy. We started to wonder if something was wrong. This was not a part of the plan, this was not how it was supposed to be.
Eventually we started seeking medical help. We thought that was the answer, that finally that little pink line would appear on the pregnancy test. One year: negative. A year and a half: negative. And then we hit the two-year mark of trying to get pregnant and decided we needed a break. The waiting and wondering every month was taking its toll.
Then it happened when we expected it the least. I was pregnant! The break had worked and we were so excited that all the waiting was over.
But then at week 8 I started to bleed and I knew it was bad. As we headed for the doctor's office, I knew we had lost the baby — the baby we had waited and prayed for for two years. The doctor confirmed my worst fears: a miscarriage.
I became bitter and mad. Why did God allow me to even get pregnant if he was going to just take it all away? Was my dream of becoming a mother over?
Needless to say those were some dark days. But looking back, something that could have torn us apart became our biggest strength. We clung together for strength and for understanding. We asked God for help and support, and slowly the blackness lifted and a new resolve to have a baby came along with it. We took the miscarriage as a sign that a pregnancy could happen, and we were determined to make it happen again.
We started seeing specialists that were located three-and-a-half hours away from our home. We spent so many days driving back and forth for tests, procedures and meetings about what to do next. But that was OK, because we were doing this together, hand in hand, with our faith in God.
Finally, after we had tried every other infertility treatment available, the doctor told us we had one last shot and it was in vitro fertilization — a time-consuming, very expensive procedure that is not guaranteed. It involves needles and hormone-crazying medicines and surgery-like procedures. Almost without skipping a beat we knew we had to do it.
The months of shots and hormones and prep were tiresome, but our faith fueled us forward. As the day of my pregnancy test approached, my anxiety increased. I knew with the toll on my body and the cost that another round of treatment might be a long way out.
The day after Mother's Day was the day set for my pregnancy test. A little ironic, but I was hoping it was a good sign. We drove to the hospital and I gave blood. We then waited for a phone call with the results. My mind was racing. That event was huge, and I didn't know what options we even had after that.
The phone rang and I shakily answered. I was pregnant! And my levels were excellent. In fact, they said something about a "strong pregnancy," but I was shaking so hard I could hardly understand what they were saying.
The next nine months were like walking on egg shells. It was hard to get overly excited; it almost seemed too good to be true, and we didn't want to get our hopes up until the baby was safe and sound in our arms. We had experienced that heartbreak once before.
On Jan. 10, 2008, our little miracle man was born. Seeing his perfect little face made all the pain of the last four years wash away. I knew God had a bigger plan for us — a more perfect plan for us than we could have ever planned ourselves.
Those four years brought, along with the heartbreak, so many things. Looking back I would never have been able to change and may have never become who I am today without this trial. My husband and I learned to conquer trials together, learned that "we can do hard things." I learned to look at the trials of others with more empathy and to be more understanding.
I know I am a better mother today because of the things I went through. I pray every night to never forget those feelings of wanting to be a mother so badly, and that I may always remember the lessons infertility has taught me.
Ashley Stallings is a mother of two and a lifestyle and fashion blogger at www.flatstoflipflops.com. She is also co-founder of The Hudson Foundation,a non profit that helps couples struggling with infertility. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.