“I am an Endo Warrior, a Wife, an Infertility Champion, a Mother, and a Published Author.” These are just a few of the titles that come to mind when I think of myself at 31 years old.
My adventure began when I was 12 years old, but I didn’t get any answers until I was 22 years old. I struggled with stomach problems throughout my adolescence and college years, with no chance of finding a remedy. Over the years, I had numerous colonoscopies, an emergency appendectomy, neurology consultations, GI examinations, and much more. It wasn’t until I decided to become an egg donor at an infertility clinic that I got the long-awaited answers I had been looking for, and I finally found a doctor who believed my pain was real.
I opted to donate my eggs in the final semester of my senior year of college, partly for the money and partly to help a family in need. Because there were no eggs to recover, the doctor accused me of not following the rules after I took all of the medication and went in for the operation. I persuaded her that I had done everything they had asked of me and that I couldn’t explain why. That’s when she informed me she thought endometriosis was a distinct possibility. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was really going to get the help I had been looking for for such a long time.
At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with stage four advanced endometriosis after a five-hour exploratory operation that was supposed to last only 45 minutes. I had never heard of endometriosis before my formal diagnosis, and I didn’t know anyone who had experienced it. It was a really lonely and alienating period in my life. I spent the following four years looking for a doctor who might assist me in managing my illness. Unfortunately, this led me to place my complete reliance in doctors, who failed me on numerous occasions. I was fortunate to find a doctor I trusted and thought had my best interests at heart after returning home to be around the support system I needed in my life. He looked after me till I got married and had to relocate.
When my partner Chris was living in Wisconsin, I was in Illinois. We first met in 2011 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and stayed pals till 2014. (when we began dating). We’d always bonded as buddies over sports, particularly baseball. We had planned to go to a Yankees-Brewers game in Milwaukee, but I was unable to attend due to illness. So he came over to my house and watched it with me while bringing me baseball snacks.
Because we had been friends for so long, I didn’t think anything of it. He still says that was our first date, but I believe that in order for it to be a date, both sides must be aware that it is one! Whatever he did, I think it worked since we married in 2016. We couldn’t wait to start our lives together, which included starting a family. I had heard that endometriosis may lead to infertility problems, but nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen.
We tried for a year to get pregnant naturally but were unsuccessful. I started treating it with Clomid in 2017 in the hopes of assisting us in having a kid, but it didn’t work. All it did was give me the most excruciating headaches I’d ever had. I felt immediate sympathy for everyone who was plagued by migraines. Our next step was to visit an infertility clinic near our home in Wisconsin to begin treatment. I started taking medicine to prepare my body for intrauterine insemination (IUI). We decided to try again after the first round didn’t work out.
On my way to the doctor’s office for the second round, I received a phone call informing me that it had to be canceled due to insufficient levels. Our last remaining option was to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). I started taking medication in January 2019, when a box bigger than any I’d ever seen was brought to my house, filled with needles, exchanges, and bandages so I could turn my spare bedroom into a makeshift hospital room. We were fortunate to receive three embryos that were healthy enough to be implanted into my body and maybe give us our baby through the IVF process. We decided to freeze two of them and utilize the first one to be implanted into my body immediately away.
I finally saw a positive pregnancy test for the first time. The baby, however, was nowhere to be found when I went in for an ultrasound. After a few more tests, it was discovered that I was having an ectopic pregnancy. Medication was ineffective, and I began to bleed and became very ill. I was eventually referred for emergency surgery, which resulted in the removal of both of my fallopian tubes as well as the death of our first child. For months, I had nightmares about doctors in the operating room taking my baby and dumping it in a trash bag with the rest of the procedure’s debris. Before opting to transfer one of the two frozen embryos, I allowed my body and psyche some time to recuperate. I didn’t feel ready until six months later.
Unfortunately, I experienced a chemical miscarriage a few weeks after the transfer, according to the doctors. We’d just lost our second child. On January 14th, we celebrate both of our angel babies by eating pizza, and on July 8th, we eat burgers. Those were the meals we ate following each transfer, and those were the due dates on which our babies were meant to arrive. We may reminisce and have chats about what our lives would have been like if each transfer had worked if we had bonded over a meal. Only one embryo remained, giving us one last chance to have a biological kid. Our wonderful miracle baby was delivered on December 9, 2020, after the transfer was completed on March 24, 2020. Jayda Mercy Marks was born at 9:16 p.m., weighing in at a healthy eight pounds. Her middle name means ‘Compassion,’ while her first name means ‘He knew.’ When God handed her to us, He knew exactly what he was doing.
Having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. There are so many aspects of parenthood for which you cannot prepare. Yes, some of them are difficult, but others are fantastic. With how loud we cheered the first time Jayda rolled over, you’d think she’d won an Olympic gold medal. Seeing her cross off so many successes over the last year has become increasingly fulfilling with each one.
She’s walking, talking, singing along to songs, dancing to music, and the way she yells ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ with such zeal each time serves as a subtle reminder of how lovely this life is with her in it. Because of the delight I see in her eyes, I am constantly grateful. A child’s innocence is so pure. On the bad days, I try to remember that these phases of life are so brief and pass so quickly. She has taught me to enjoy the time we have together and to live in the moment.
I decided to utilize the time I was pregnant with Jayda in 2020 to write down all of my thoughts on my entire experience, and thus my first book was born. Fight Faithfully: The Strength It Takes to Keep Fighting When No One Can See Your Pain was my book, and WestBow Press assisted me in having it professionally published in the fall of 2021. It goes into great depth on everything from the doctor who believed in me to the treatment that put me to the test, the losses that crushed me, the people who encouraged me, the faithful fight that strengthened me, and finally the one for whom I was willing to fight. When I wrote my book, my major purpose was to make readers feel less alone and more understood.
I felt entirely alone when I was in the midst of my problems. Despite the fact that I had people in my ‘close circle’ who genuinely loved and cared for me, no one knew the extent of my suffering. It wasn’t until I joined a support group that I was able to have open discussions with folks who truly understood what I was going through.
They knew the hardship of getting out of bed every morning, the struggle of appearing to smile when the pain was unbearable, the struggle of saying no to time with friends so you could lie in bed with a heating pad, and the struggle of losing a child for whom you battled so hard. I wanted readers to understand how far empathy can go and how supporting a loved one who is suffering may go a long way.
I’m not sure why I was chosen to face these challenges, but one thing is certain: I’ve made it my purpose to do all in my power to assist at least one person feel recognized, seen, and understood. My book is available on Amazon if you’re interested in reading it. I also enjoy sharing happy stories about my kid and family on Instagram, as well as raising awareness about infertility and endometriosis. You may find me on Twitter at @Melissa13Marks. I’d love to talk with you and learn more about you and your experience. ‘Fight, Fight!’ until then.”