“Endo Warrior, Wife, Infertility Champ, Mom, Published Author. These are just some of the titles I would use to describe myself today, at 31 years old.
My journey began back when I was 12, but I didn’t receive any answers until I was 22. I went through my teenage and college years with constant stomach issues and zero hope for resolution. Many colonoscopies, an emergency appendectomy, neurology consults, GI exams, and much more took up a lot of my time over the years. It wasn’t until I decided to become an egg donor at an infertility clinic that I would receive the long-awaited answers I had always been searching for and where I would finally find a doctor who would believe my pain was real.
In the final semester of my senior year of college, I decided to donate my eggs; partially for the money and partially to help a family in need. After I took all of the medication and went in for the procedure, the doctor accused me of not following the protocols since there weren’t any eggs to retrieve. I convinced her I indeed did do everything they told me to and I couldn’t explain it. That’s when she told me she thought it was very possible that I had endometriosis. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was finally going to get the help I desired for so long.
After a five-hour exploratory surgery that was meant to only last 45 minutes, I was officially diagnosed with stage four advanced endometriosis at the age of 22. I had never heard of endometriosis until my official diagnosis and did not have anyone I could talk to who I knew went through it. It was an extremely isolating and lonely time of my life. I spent the next 4 years trying to find a doctor who could help me manage my disease. This unfortunately caused me to put my full trust into doctors that failed me with many procedures along the way. After moving back home to be around a support system that I needed in my life; I was able to find a doctor I trusted and felt had my best interest at heart. I was treated by him up until I had to move again when I got married.
I was living in Illinois when my partner Chris was living in Wisconsin. We met at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2011 and remained friends until 2014 (when we began dating). We had always bonded as friends over sports, baseball in particular. We had plans to attend a Yankees vs Brewers game in Milwaukee but I wasn’t able to go due to not feeling well. So, he came over to my home and watched it with me while bringing me all sorts of baseball-related snacks.
I thought nothing of it because we had been friends for so long. To this day he claims that was our first date but I still stand on the fact that both parties need to be made aware that it is a date for it to be one! Regardless, I guess what he did worked because we got married in 2016. We couldn’t wait to start our lives together, including bringing children into our family. I had heard that endometriosis could cause infertility issues but I was never prepared for what was to come.
We tried to get pregnant naturally for a full year with no prevail. In 2017 I started treating it with Clomid to try to help us have a baby, but it didn’t work. All it did was give me the worst headaches I have ever experienced in my life. I felt immediate empathy for anyone who suffered from constant migraines. Our next step was to begin treating it at an infertility clinic near our home in Wisconsin. I began the medication process to prep my body for intrauterine insemination (IUI). The first round didn’t work, so we decided to give it one more chance.
On the way to the doctor’s office for the second round, I got a phone call that it needed to be canceled based on levels not being strong enough. Our last hope was now to give in vitro fertilization (IVF) a try. I began taking medication in January 2019 when a box larger than I’ve ever seen was delivered to my home full of needles, swaps, and bandages that were intended for me to make my spare bedroom into a makeshift hospital room. Through the process of IVF, we were able to get three embryos that were healthy enough to be transferred into my body in order to hopefully give us our baby. We decided to freeze two of them and use the first one right away to be transferred into my body.
For the first time ever I finally saw a positive pregnancy test. But when I went in for an ultrasound, the baby was nowhere to be seen. I had a few more tests done and it was determined I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Medication did not work and I began to bleed and become extremely sick. I ended up getting sent for emergency surgery which resulted in the loss of both of my fallopian tubes and the loss of our first baby. To imagine the doctors in the operating room taking my baby and throwing it in a trash bag with all of the other waste from that procedure gave me nightmares for months. I gave my body and mind some time to heal before deciding to transfer one of the two frozen embryos. It wasn’t until six months later, I felt ready.
Unfortunately, I suffered from what the doctors described as a chemical miscarriage within a couple of weeks of the transfer. We had now lost our second baby. We honor both of our angel babies by enjoying pizza on January 14th and burgers on July 8th. Those were the meals we ate after each transfer was done and those dates are the due dates we were supposed to meet our babies. Bonding over a meal allows us to reflect and have conversations about what our life would have looked like if each transfer would have worked. We only had one embryo left and one last chance at having a biological child. The transfer was made on March 24, 2020, and on December 09, 2020, our beautiful miracle baby was born. Jayda Mercy Marks came into our world at 9:16 p.m. weighing a healthy eight pounds even. Her first name means, ‘He knew’ and her middle name means, ‘Compassion.’ God knew what he was doing when He gave her to us.
Becoming a mom has been the best experience of my life. There are so many things about parenthood that you can’t be prepared for. Yes, a lot of them are hard, but some of them are incredible. The first time Jayda rolled over you would have thought she won an Olympic gold medal with how loud we cheered. Getting to see her cross off so many accomplishments this past year is more and more rewarding with each one. She’s walking, talking, singing along to songs, dancing to music, and the way she yells ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ with such enthusiasm each time, are gentle reminders of how beautiful this life is with her in it. I’m full of constant gratitude because of the joy I see through her eyes. The innocence of a child is so pure. On the hard days, I try my best to remember that these stages in life are so short and fly so fast. She has taught me to live in the moment and appreciate the time we have together.
When I was pregnant with Jayda in 2020 I decided to use that time to write out all of my thoughts on my entire journey; thus my first book was created. I wrote my memoir entitled, Fight Faithfully: The Strength it Takes to Keep Fighting When No One Can See Your Pain, and WestBow Press helped me to publish it professionally in the fall of 2021. It goes into detail explaining everything from the doctor who believed me, the treatment that tested me, the losses that devastated me, the people who inspired me, the faithful fight that strengthened me, and lastly the one who was worth fighting for. My main goal when writing my book was to help readers feel less alone and more understood.
When I was in the heart of fighting my battles, I felt completely alone. Even though I had people in my ‘inner circle’ who loved and cared for me deeply, no one really knew the pains. It wasn’t until I joined a support group that I could have open conversations with people who really got it. They understood the struggle of waking up every morning, the struggle of pretending to smile when the pain was extreme, the struggle of saying no to time with friends so you could lay with a heating pad in bed, and the struggle of losing a child that you fought so hard for. I wanted readers to know how far empathy can go and how coming alongside a loved one struggling can go such a long way.
I’m not sure why I was chosen to go through all of these battles, but one thing I know for certain is that I have made it my mission to make sure I can do everything in my power to help at least one person come to a place of feeling known, seen, and understood. If you’re interested in reading my book, it is available on Amazon. I also love to share positive stories on my Instagram regarding my daughter, and family, as well as bring awareness to infertility and endometriosis. You can follow me @Melissa13Marks. I would love to chat with you and get to know you and your story. Until then, ‘Fight, Fight!'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Marks from Oconomowoc, WI. You can follow her journey on Instagram and buy her book on Amazon. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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