This month we will be sharing several stories of infertility as part of our Give Grace campaign. We hope these stories offer encouragement, hope and a reminder that you are not alone. We believe that every story matters. No matter how short or long you have faced this struggle, your feelings are real. And we mourn with you. I am so excited to share our sweet friend Ashton's story. I hope it blesses you in a big way!
My journey with infertility began in 2004 with a Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer diagnosis. At the time I was single, a recent Baylor University graduate, and just a few months into my first job. The pain of learning I had an advanced stage cancer and required aggressive treatment immediately was compounded when doctors told me the medications I needed would greatly decrease my chances of having children or send me into early menopause and infertility. Sitting with my parents, I told my doctor that I was ready to move forward with treatment. I knew that if the Lord intended me to be a mother someday, He would make a way. I believed those words and clung to them for many years.
Just months after finishing chemotherapy and radiation, my body started shifting towards menopause, and I knew that having biological children would take a miracle. We consulted many doctors about freezing my eggs, but retrieval can take weeks. The cancer was way too close to my heart and lungs to wait for weeks to begin treatment. Thus, in faith, we decided to treat the cancer and not preserve my fertility. My health issues did not end with cancer. In 2005, I was diagnosed with a joint condition called avascular necrosis, a result of some of the cancer drugs. To date, I’ve had three hip replacements and a shoulder replacement. All the trauma to my pelvic region did not bode well for my dreams of getting pregnant or carrying a child to term.
Seven years to the day after finishing my treatment, I married the love of my life, Clark Andrew Dalton. One of the many reasons I fell in love with Clark was his love for children. As our relationship grew more serious, I told him I wasn’t sure I could have children. I was so sad because I wanted to be able to make his dream of fatherhood come true. But in reality, God alone is the giver of life. Cancer or no cancer, I could not make that promise anyway. Clark also believed that God had a plan for our family trusted Him. After our first year of marriage, Clark and I began “trying’ to have children. When we went to a specialist a year and a half later, I wasn’t surprised but still so sad to learn that my oncologist’s fears had come true: The cancer treatment had almost completely wiped out my ovarian reserve, less than 0.02 percent left.
We went to see a reproductive endocrinologist, who laid out a plan for us – to go through a cycle of IVF. I started having weekly acupuncture treatments, which helped with blood flow to my uterus AND helped with stress, took the vitamins and supplements Dr. McKenzie recommended, and cleaned up my diet. But most importantly, Clark and I prayed. I clung to this verse that sat on my desk: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and one which reaches right to the very presence of God” (Hebrews 6:19-20). A handful of our friends and family members knew what we were going through and we cherished and felt their prayers.
January 2014: I remember being so anxious as our egg retrieval day got closer. Would I even have any eggs to retrieve? When Dr. McKenzie monitored me, she was hopeful that I could have up to seven eggs. As only God can do, I woke up to the news that she had retrieved NINE eggs. More than I ever hoped for or imagined! After the monitoring and fertilizing, the doctor selected two embryos for transfer. Of all the days on the calendar for our embryo transfer, the Lord chose January 14 – our wedding anniversary AND the day I had completed my cancer treatment nine years earlier. I was so nervous, so anxious yet so hopeful. Clark and I knew that the Lord had been by our side every step of the way and that regardless of the outcome of our IVF cycle, He is faithful. And He is good. And He loves us so much.
Two weeks went by, and I received the phone call that I was VERY PREGNANT. God had breathed life into my womb. A couple weeks later, we had our six-week appointment. Clark and I sat in amazement as the nurse hooked me up to the ultrasound machine and showed us Baby A. I couldn’t help thinking, “If there is a Baby A, then there must be a Baby B as well.” Sure enough, I was pregnant with TWINS!
Unlike so many who struggle with infertility, I did not face questions about starting a family because so many people assumed I could not have children because of my cancer. Sharing the news of the miracle of my pregnancy brought so much joy. I loved giving God all the glory. He protected those two little eggs throughout my entire cancer treatment – even when I felt so helpless – and He had a perfect plan for their little lives. So, after a healthy, 37-week pregnancy, Andrew Lawson Dalton and Caroline Nell Dalton were born on September 12, 2014. Ten months later, Clark and I still stand over their cribs each night in awe of our precious miracles.
The Lord has brought me many opportunities to love and encourage other couples – specifically wives – who are struggling with infertility. I have shared my story with an infertility support group at my church and have even participated in a focus group on fertility preservation at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Clark and I know several couples struggling with infertility, and we have shared our testimony with them. I feel quite certain that the Lord has and will continue to use my story to give HOPE to others struggling with infertility, and I am so grateful!
We want YOU to join our Give Grace movement! If you'd like to share, email us your name and mailing address and we will send you our Give Grace tattoos. We are asking you to share a picture wearing the tattoo and telling people what grace means to you + how they can get involved. You can also help raise money for families' journey to a baby by purchasing one of our Give Grace prints. Look for the + sign to know which ones give back.