Results of our last IUI

The evening of my pregnancy test was very windy; dark angry clouds crawled across the sky above us.  John was out of town and Arie and I were in the car running errands. We were listening to the radio when we heard the word "storm" announced from the newscaster. Being the sensitive spirit that he is, Arie grew concerned about the wind and storms he knew were approaching. Over the course of the evening, he furrowed his worried brow and asked a dozen times if "a storm coming?",  looking for reassurance that we were going to be safe from the offending weather.

As we drove home from our errands, my mind was filled with fear about my pregnancy test. My heart palpitated with anxiety and anticipation. I reached for the car radio and began to play the Chris Tomlin CD John and I bought right before my laparscopic surgery in December. Flipping forward through the tracks, I stopped at Sovereign and sang along, weakly, to the lyrics.

All my hopes 
All I need
          Held in your hands 
All my life 
All of me
          Held in your hands 
All my fears 
All my dreams
          Held in yours hands 

From the backseat Arie called out, "Play it again Mama!" and sat raptured, listening again. The car shook from a big gust of wind outside as the lyric, "with me in the calm/with me in the storm" filled the interior. "HEY!" Arie's little voice called out, "He with us in the STORM Mama!! It said STORM!!"

"That's right baby," I replied. His literal storm blew in around us as my turmoil raged inside. "God is with us, even in a scary storm."

At home again, I tucked Arie into bed and headed downstairs to surf the web until I had held my pee long enough for the pregnancy test to be accurate. When it was time, it took me twenty minutes of prayer to gather the courage to take it. In my heart, I knew it was going to be negative. I can't even count the number of pregnancy tests I've taken over the last three years and I've never seen a positive. It seems almost more strange to think I would see two lines rather than one.

Still, I hoped. I read Philippians 2 devotionally and verse 27 stood out to me, "Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow." 

From my depths, I cried out to God and asked him "to spare me sorrow upon sorrow." I prayed, "Not my will but yours be done" as Jesus prayed and asked again that he would please in his infinite wisdom and generosity spare me the sorrow of another failed cycle. I prayed for strength and trust in the face of a single line, but that from his enormity, God would see fit to give me two.

I took the test. I stared somewhat numbly at the two oval windows before me, waiting to see how many lines would appear. With me in the storm. With me in the storm. With me in the storm. 

Only one line appeared. The fault line upon which my heart broke.

I cried. Grief shook my body.

About an hour later, I received a message from a friend that said simply, "Suddenly felt a strong urge to pray for you… praying hard…"

With me in the storm. 

John and I met with Dr. Colbert last Friday. We've reached the end of the (relatively) easy and affordable options. We agreed the next fertility option for us is either IVF or to be recipients of a donated embryo (sometimes called "embryo adoption"). We are praying constantly that the LORD will lead us and I am falling back hard on my life verse:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6.

Emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially…. we are in great need of his guiding hand.

Wherever he leads us, I know this is not the end of the road for our family. In fact, this morning as I sat at the breakfast table with my little boy, still filled with grief and questions, he looked over at me and out of the blue said, "Hey Mama? I tell you something: I not give up. And you say you not give up too, okay?"


I not give up. 



Easter 2014

Three days after Easter and I'm still detoxing; what about you?





I'm going to just go ahead and put Psalm 34:8 on this one: "Taste and see the LORD is good." We certainly tasted. We certainly saw. 

My parents along with my brother Wes and sister-in-law Kaitlin came to visit for Easter weekend and we had a perfect weekend together. 

While the the sugary treats were indeed delicious (along with the ham!), we received most gratefully a bite of summer sun to warm our bare arms and faces. 

With the hope of flying a kite (Arie's winter-long request), we traveled to both a park and then a beach in search of a breeze. 

It never came. Arie, however, ran with unrestrained glee, dragging a landed kite through the grass behind him. 

Love that boy! 

The beach was fantastic. Shrinking mounds of ice and snow guarded the shore and the biting waters behind them. The air was so warm we could have imagined it was July with our eyes closed, yet as we approached those frozen barriers the air cooled so quickly it was as if we had opened the door to a refrigerator! 

While this weekend was a summer-like exception, I have to be honest and tell you that I don't really like spring.  Yes I'm glad it's not winter, but it feel almost like the cruelest of seasons: tantalizing us with the hope of summer and then sending us reeling back with those cursed cold fronts. Plus spring is wet and muddy and often smells like mold and earth worms. 

This year Easter felt like spring to me. It felt like hope. It also felt like unmet longing. In my faith tradition we talk about something called the "already but not yet." At Easter we celebrate what God has already done for us in Christ: forgiven us, restored us, redeemed us. Yet the full healing power of his sacrifice has not yet been realized. Wars have not yet ended. The hungry have not yet been filled. Disease has not yet been cured. I wait to see if my empty womb will ever be filled with child. We're in spring. We wait in eager expectation for the summer of our faith, when Jesus returns again to do away with all this brokenness and make all things new. 

As I celebrated Easter in the middle of our last post-IUI two week wait, I oscillated between the immense joy of the resurrection and the longing we all feel for our broken world to be restored. It gives my great comfort to know that even if my womb is never full in spring, the pain I feel will disappear in that eternal summer. I cannot forget: winter is receding. I fix my mind on this image from John's vision in the book of Revelation: 

 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

I long for that day when my empty womb will be made more than insignificant as my whole being is flooded full with the worthiness of of the Lamb. I ache to see every knee bow down to my Savior! I am desperate to fall down with unrestrained worship. 

It's something of a paradox, isn't it? The way I feel simultaneous full and hollow imagining that day. Already but not yet. Winter behind us, summer before us, we're living day by day as faithfully as we can in our temporary spring. 



Five ways to support a friend with infertility (National Infertility Awareness Week)

It's National Infertility Awareness Week this week! Infertility gets mostly whispers in our world, but this week women and men all over the country are using their OUTSIDE VOICES to bring awareness to this issue: from treatment and insurance issues to social stigmas and emotional pain. There is no shame in suffering from infertility and I hope this week in our country goes a long way to opening up the  otherwise hushed conversation! Check out the hashtag #NIAW on FB and twitter! 

In honor of this week I'm sharing some advice for those who haven't walked the journey; something I'm commonly asked is, "How can I support my loved on who can't conceive?" Based on my own experience, here are 5 ways to support a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with infertility. (I'm writing about women since I am one and that's what I know, but you can use your imagination to apply these to men as well.) 

scripture passages sent to me by a friend
1. Text, call, message, or write. You know your friend best, but generally it's best to send messages of encouragement rather than questions. For example, if you know your friend is nearing the end of the two-week-wait after a fertility treatment, you can write, "Thinking of you as you prepare to get your pregnancy results!" rather than, "Any word on your results?" Sending encouraging messages gives space for your friend to share or not share any news, as her heart is ready. You might be worried about saying the wrong thing, but in my experience it is the friends who say nothing that hurt the most. Often just a simple, "Praying for you today" is enough. Proverbs 16:22, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." 

2. Plan a kid-free evening. Ladies night out? Yes please! Whether it's an hour out for dinner or an evening in with snacks and laughter, it is important for your friend to have fun in the midst of her pain. Ask her what she'd like best! One of my favorite memories was early on when we had a failed IUI cycle and two of my girlfriends came over with wine; I just sat on the couch while they made me laugh and feel happy in an otherwise dark time. Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." 

3. Give a meaningful gift. When my husband and I were adopting our son from Russia, someone gave us a small ceramic bird with a note that said, "His eye is on the sparrow. He watches over you and your little one." That bird meant the world to me and it still sits in our living room. Likewise, similar symbolic gifts can provide much needed encouragement to a friend on an infertility journey. Maybe a piece of jewelry with the word "hope" or one of those Willow Tree figurines with a special meaning... a tiny trinket or a simple card can go a long way when it carries such rich encouragement with it. Proverbs 12:25, "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." 

4. Suspend judgment and advice. Whether your friend has decided to do a fourth round of IVF or decline treatment and live child-free, I can almost guarantee you that she's thought about all her other options and she does not need you to do anything but believe that she is choosing the right path for herself. In the rare case that you feel you have absolutely vital information for her to consider, try phrasing your advice like this, "I wanted to tell you that I recently heard about (acupuncture? adoption from foster care? etc?) and if you ever want to hear about it I'd love to tell you about it." You are giving her the opportunity to say, "Okay thanks," and move on in the conversation, or she can ask to hear more and you can keep talking. Putting the conversational ball in her court is a good idea! Proverbs 18: 19 & 21, "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars.... Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life" (NLT). 

5. Hope. The infertility journey is littered with fear and doubt. There have been many times when I've felt hopeless for myself but been buoyed up by friends who have sustained hope for me. It means so much to me when my loved ones say, "I believe this will happen for you!" The absolute best thing anyone ever wrote me was a friend who wrote, "I will hope for you, even when you can't hope for yourself." Proverbs 18:14, "The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" 


What about you? Have you been blessed by a friend on your infertility journey? Or have you found a way to encourage someone else on her path? Please share! 


The void inside

There's a giant new TV screen mounted on the wall of the ultrasound room at my fertility clinic. We women used to crane our necks to see the screen beside us as we got intimate with the ultrasound probe. Now, as we lie on our backs holding both our breaths and our hopes inside our chests, we can watch our uteruses on the big screen.

At midcycle, we're hoping for lining thicker than 8mm.

"You're at 10," says the nurse.

I breath a little.

She moves the wand to the left and to the right. Hazy grey waves roll over the screen until she finds what she's looking for: a mature follicle.

We're hoping for something larger than 18mm: a follicle ready to release an egg. Ready to be fertilized. Ready to become my child.

My follicle is enormous on the screen. To hell with 18mm; it's at least a foot long up there! And black. A big black hole of potential. It's the void in Genesis. It's the darkness, hovering over the surface of the deep. I wonder if the Spirit hovers over it, too.

"That's a big one!" My nurse smiles, "25mm! You're about the ovulate."

 I'm praying God's voice will speak into this void like he he did at the beginning. Praying he'll make something where nothing was before.

The nurse tells me we can schedule our IUI tomorrow. "Will it be your first?"

"My fourth."

I let a few deep breaths escape from my chest. A little hope escapes too. It scares me to hope again. Three failed IUIs. A surgery. Three failed cycles again. Now, a fourth.

Oh God! Please. Speak life into that void, deep inside me.




Femara cycle #3 results

Another failed cycle. Not pregnant.

We are starting our fourth and final Femara cycle this month and have decided to add an IUI as well to increase our chances, even if only marginally.

I would really appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks for me and for John. We have a consult with Dr. Colbert at the end of the month to talk about next steps (if this last cycle doesn't work). Based on our last consult and some conversations I've had with his nurses in the past few days, it will either be injectable meds + IUI or IVF. A big decision. We've also been meeting/emailing/calling/researching different agencies to talk about domestic/international/embryo/foster care adoption.

I'm walking a line between feeling happy, hopeful, and excited about our options, feeling sad about not being pregnant, and feeling just plain overwhelmed! Where do we go from here? 

I'm so thankful for you all and the incredible support you have shown me on this journey! It means more than I can ever say. The clearest way God has shown me his loving kindness over the last 10 months in our fertility journey is though you, with all your comments and messages of support and solidarity. The Holy Spirit has used your fingers and keystrokes to buoy me up in my hardest moments. From my heart, I thank you for your love. You bless me. 

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

You truly have. You are my rose among thorns. The bloom on my cactus! I love you. 




I lumbered into our house one evening in March, loaded down with the weight of too many grocery bags (because yes I can bring them all inside in one trip), when John greeted me from the couch with, "Hey do you want to go to Arizona next week?"

I set the grocery bags on the floor, my frozen fingers turning red as they warmed from the frigid outside air. "Um. What? And... YES!"

John's mom spends her winters in Arizona and offered to fly us down for a visit.

I may have mentioned once or thrice how eternally long winter has been here in Michigan and the thought of SANDALS nearly had me jumping for joy.

Only a few days later we were on a plane- John, Arie, and me- flying over mountains, into the desert, leaving our frostbitten state behind.

It was a gift: four days in the sun! Four days without hats and mitts. Four days without shivering. I almost forgot what it felt like.

We stayed with my mother-in-law outside of Phoenix where the time differs from Michigan by -3 hours. I'm not a morning person (understatement) but because of the time change our family was both awake and happy by 5am each morning. Not wanting to wake up my mother-in-law's entire complex with out noisy three-year-old, we enjoyed morning walks to the park and to the bakery for doughnuts.
Arie had very strict instructions for this game. John is riding his dinosaur away from a whale. 
Custard filled long-John with no custard!! 
I now understand why some folks claim the title of "morning person." Mornings are beautiful! The warm rising sun, the quiet, the chirping birds, the cheerful "Morning!" greeting from everyone you meet.

If only I could get Michigan mornings to arrive as late as Arizona mornings.

Arie swam like a "big boy" in Grandma's community pool, allowing us to let go of him in the water for the first time ever. With trepidation at first he clung frozen to his pool noodles but soon began to kick his legs and move around the pool beaming with pride!
The amount of crap you bring to the pool when you have a kid... it's ridiculous. 

My favorite part of Arizona is the landscape. I thought it would be super awesome fun to walk a few desert trails with Arie. We traveled to a nearby nature preserve and were directed to a mountain (ish) hike by the lady in the welcome building.

"It's level one," she said.
"For beginners!" she said.
"It'll be fun!" she said.

Truly it was fun and the views were incredible, but woah "level one" hikes up a desert mountain are a teensy bit hard. Especially for those of us who went in a skirt and Toms shoes or wound up carrying a sluggish three-year-old up (and down) the mountain.

We ended our visit with a trip to the Phoenix Zoo where Arie eagerly climbed aboard a camel with Papa and later a merry-go-round with Mama. I am amazed at his bravery; when I was three I was terrified at the idea of riding anything.

Friday- back home in Michigan- Arie asked to ride the penny horse at the grocery store. As he giggled in delight, high on the saddle, I asked him what he liked best: the grocery store horse or the REAL LIVE ZOO CAMEL?

"I like camel and horsey just same."

Of course. My little guy: taking the party with him wherever he goes.

Even though it's still cold here, I'm wishing a you happy spring (and happy spring break to my Michigan friends)! Hope you are able to escape somewhere warm if you are living somewhere cold. And if you live somewhere warm... well, an invitation to the rest of us would be nice.  Just sayin'.


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