May 29, 2024

A winding path to motherhood

Anna Humburg poses with baby Willow soon after her birth.

Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world at varied dates, time set aside to honor the women that came before. However, motherhood isn’t something that comes easily to all women. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 20% of women are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying, also known as infertility, and 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Creston nurse Anna Humburg is part of the 20% struggling with infertility. Diagnosed with endometriosis at 19, Humburg has struggled with the symptoms for more than a decade.

The World Health Organization describes endometriosis as “a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause severe pain in the pelvis and made it harder to get pregnant.”

Humburg first experienced symptoms in 2013, the year she began college. She believes the stress of school caused her symptoms to flare up. As part of a military family, Humburg visited a doctor on the local military base who diagnosed her and simply prescribed birth control. Not much changed with her endometriosis until a year later when she visited a new doctor.

“I had actually had a surgery in 2014 for my endometriosis where they went in and laser removed a bunch of scar tissue because it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even walk to class any more,” Humburg said. “I went to a regular doctor and she was like, ‘yup, we’re going to surgery in a week. We’ll get all this out, but it’s just going to come back. It’s going to help you feel better, but it’s not a cure, it’s just symptom relief.’”

The doctor was correct, with symptoms easing for a while, but pain coming back worse than ever the following semester. Humburg then tried medically-induced menopause, which greatly diminished the pain.

Humburg married her husband Caleb in November 2018. The two weren’t quite ready for children yet, so Anna continued her normal regiment against her endometriosis. By January 2021, they were ready to start their family.

“With the medically-induced menopause and the endometriosis, we knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle,” Anna said. “After a couple months of trying, I went to my regular OB doctor and told him that I was struggling.”

Anna explained that her doctor suggested she and Caleb do some bloodwork and test Caleb’s sperm. For the most part, everything came back normal. However, Anna said she had a low egg count.

“The count in the ovaries that I have left was low, so then it was like, okay, we really have to get pregnant because we don’t know how many eggs I’ve got left,” Anna said.

The couple continued trying for about a year before they contacted Dr. Brian Cooper at Mid-Iowa Fertility, recommended to them by a family friend.

“We went and saw him and talked about our lab work and what we were trying and he gave us some suggestions,” Anna said. “In an attempt to try naturally again, I took the Clomid pill and used some of his tips. I tried that for a couple of months, but we still weren’t pregnant. We went back in and we started talking about the next steps, which would be the IUI for us.”

IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a procedure in which prepared sperm is placed directly into the uterus using a small catheter. While this doesn’t work for all couples, the Humburgs were pregnant after the first attempt.

Anna Humburg

With IUI, women are encouraged to wait until two weeks after the procedure to take a pregnancy test. However, Anna said she was a little impatient, taking a test two days early.

“I tested on a Thursday after work, which is also not what you’re supposed to do because you’re supposed to test in the morning,” Anna said. “I remember seeing the tiniest, faintest line and not believing it.”

Worried she was seeing things, Anna went to bed, waiting to tell her husband until she tested again in the morning. Sure enough, there was still a second line, this time a little stronger than before.

“I had this little panda lovie and he has his little arms crossed. I took the pregnancy test and I stuffed it down so it was holding the test, walked out and gave it to Caleb,” Anna said. “Anyone who knows my husband, they know he is not a very emotional, sappy person, but that was probably the happiest I’ve ever seen him, to this day.”

Willow was born early in the morning on April 4.

Fast forward to the morning of April 4 and the Humburgs welcomed Willow Jeanne to their family. While the first couple of weeks were a struggle, Anna said they’re getting into the groove of parenthood.

“Not a lot of sleep, lots of snuggles, lots of feeding,” Anna said. “The breast-feeding, I was not prepared for how painful it was going to be. Thankfully I had good nurses that helped me out a lot with just sticking with it.”

Willow Jeanne Humburg was born April 4.

Though she now has Willow, Anna knows the struggle with infertility is difficult. She suggests keeping your friends and family close.

“Surround yourself with people or friends that get you, because everybody’s different, everybody copes differently, but you need friends that understand how you are going to cope and what’s best that they can do for you,” Anna said.

Though it doesn’t apply to everyone, she said that religion helped her immensly.

Willow Jeanne Humburg

“I am a believer in God and that really helped me a lot, knowing the timing was all in His hands. I think that really took a lot of the stress and anxiety off of me as far as feeling like I was doing something wrong,” Anna said. “God knows exactly what’s going to happen. Lay it at God’s feet and let it go.”

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.