There's a word in my Dutch cultural heritage that people use to wish someone perseverance through their suffering or hardship. I remember my mom using the word at a funeral visitation: solemnly, compassionately, looking into the griever's eyes and delivering the solitary word:



It was nearly impossible for me to imagine finding any kind of strength on the other side of a failed embryo transfer. I knew the odds. I knew it could fail. I knew we could lose our precious embryos. I didn't know how I would endure it.

Yet here I am on the other side of that loss, finding strength. Growing stronger.

I find myself looking at this chapter of my life with great surprise; a sort of third person perspective where I scribble in the margin, "Wow! Resilience!" with an exclamation point because who would have thought this desperate and scared little soul could have survived such a crushing blow? It's been two weeks since that heartbreaking phone call, yet already I am healing. Already my strength is being renewed.

I can only attribute this to the supernatural power of Christ Jesus in my life. I feel as though I am learning in a new way the truth of this passage from 2 Corinthians 12, "I pleaded with the Lord to take [my hardship] away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on my. That's why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 

I am so weak right now. Physically and emotionally I am dry. Yet spiritually I am being filled. It's an incredible paradox. In my prayers I say to God, "I'm so scared to try again. I'm terrified that I will never conceive." He answers me with words from scripture: 

Yesterday John and I met with Dr. Colbert again. Having practiced reproductive medicine for decades now, he knew the concerns of my heart. Sharing our faith, he was able to speak the truth to me. "You're doing everything right. You've done everything we've asked of you. You let us worry about the rest. You let us figure this out. It's in our hands." Then he corrected himself, "Actually," he said, "it's in the good Lord's hands. We're doing everything we can. It's not for you to worry." 

God has given me this message five times over the past few days from a unique mix of people: the message that I'm not doing anything wrong. This is not my fault. This is in his hands. It's a message I didn't even know I needed to hear, but a message that has allowed me to find the strength to heal from our loss and move forward with our treatment. 

When I am weak, I am strong. 

Moving forward, I am going to have some labs done to test for a number of blood clotting disorders that can interfere with implantation. With the Thanksgiving holidays coming up here in the US, I'm hoping to get the results back early next week. 

The transfer schedule at our clinic is all booked up through the new year, which allows us to take a welcomed break from treatment over the holidays. I'll likely start the medication regime for our next transfer in January and have the transfer scheduled in early February. 

I want to leave this post with a word to those who are suffering the pain of infertility and embarking on the holiday season- a season marked by baby-filled family get togethers, invasive questions, the obvious passage of time that has left you still waiting, and the guilt of being sad when you "should" be joyful. I know how can sharply these things can puncture our vulnerable hearts. Here's my word to you: 


May you find in Christ a strength that surprises you. A reason to hope, a place to rest, and a faith that endures. 



Between two phone calls

Hi everyone,

I've tried to write this post about how I'm doing after our loss a few times now. It's tough not because I'm not doing okay (I am) but because the way I'm feeling at any given moment varies so greatly. Should I write when I'm sad? When I'm hopeful? When I'm blasé? Which one would portray most accurately what this week has been like? Probably all of them but in some ways, none of them. 

The past 6 days have been mixed with all sorts of thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Some horrible, some wonderful. 

Getting that phone call when the nurse from our fertility clinic called with our negative blood results was horrible. I went early that morning to the lab to have my blood drawn after which time John and I waited very anxiously by the phone. I felt sick to my stomach from the nerves. I had a foreboding feeling that it would be negative. That morning I said to John, "I don't know if its because I've never had a positive pregnancy test or if it is a real premonition but I just think it is going to be negative." I had been so hopeful and optimistic during the two week wait, until about three days before my blood test. Then, for an inexplicable reason, a feeling of dread came over me and I felt in my heart it would be negative.  Still, I thought positive thoughts, spoke positively about being pregnant and loving those babies, prayed a lot, and visualized the embryos safe inside. I did everything I could to stay positive until that phone rang. 

When it did, I immediately knew by the nurse's tone of voice what the results would be. She was full of compassion and empathy but even that could not soften the blow. When she said those words, "I'm so sorry your test came back negative" my heart dropped into my stomach. After we hung up, John and I just sat on the couch and cried. So much hope, dashed. 

We spent the next few hours telling our families and, of course, Arie. Talking to Arie about our loss was hard but also healing. His very first words in response to the news were, "I think we should try it again." That made me smile through the tears. Later that night he asked me how this could have happened because "I prayed for them (the babies)!" We had a hard conversation about what it means to trust God even when he doesn't provide in the way we asked him to. That was one of those moments in parenting when you are technically speaking to your child, but really preaching to yourself. 

Over the next few days we were met with an absolute flood of support. Hundreds of comments and messages came flooding in over Facebook. My phone lit up with texts and emails. We received meals, flowers, gifts, and so many offers of help that we have nothing left to ask for except continued prayer. The most important thing this flood of support has provided for us is validation of our pain. No one is asking us to pretend we're not sad or put on a happy face and that has made the healing process so much easier. When you are sad there is nothing to do except be sad and trust that "though the sorrow may last for the night, the joy comes with the morning." 

In your comments and messages some of you said things like, "Your faith is so inspiring!" It is very humbling to read that and honestly makes me happy. However I do want to share something with you not to disparage myself or my faith but just to show you that my faith is very ordinary and something accessible by anyone: the reason why I'm not having a faith crisis right now isn't because I have such a strong faith, but because I'm basically always having a faith crisis. 

From the time I was old enough to understand suffering in the world, I have struggled deeply to make sense of how an all-good and all-powerful God could allow bad things to happen to those he loves. I know I'm far from alone in this struggle. It's never been hard for me to believe in God's power, but it's often been hard for me to believe in his love. I vividly remember learning about WWII and Nazi concentration camps and crying out of my young, devastated heart, "Where were you God? Why didn't you hear their cries?" 

The truth is no one knows why God allows suffering in the world. We know suffering can produce good things in us and some might use that to try explain it away... but it explains nothing. We don't know why God allows suffering. The day before that nurse called me to tell me that I wasn't pregnant, I was listening to horrifying counts of victims left dead and children left orphaned due to the ebola crisis. Certainly my infertility hurts me more personally than an outbreak of disease half a world away, but it requires exactly the same leap of faith. If I can believe in a good God when others are suffering I can believe in a good God when I'm suffering too. 

One of my absolute favorite ways to talk about this faith/doubt mess comes from something Cornel West said when being interviewed by Craig Ferguson. Ferguson asks him a question about what people mean when they say they have faith: do they have certainly? Is there room for doubt? West replies:  

 "There is a difference between rational certainty and blessed assurance."

"What is the difference?" 

"Blessed assurance is making a leap of faith. Stepping out on nothing and landing on something."

I keep making the leap of faith to believe in God's goodness and his love for me. Sometimes- like with Arie's adoption- I land on solid ground and have no doubts about it. Other times- like with all our failed infertility treatments- I am left with so many questions. It is during those times- when God doesn't show up like I would have wanted him to- that I land on something else: this time, I have see his love through my community. Through all the words and prayers and gestures of kindness offered to me out of nothing but compassion. I am then assured that I am not alone and though God has not granted me what I asked of him, he has not forgotten me or left me alone. 

I cry and I lament and I ask my God to please take my suffering away. I'm so glad my faith inspires some of you, but I want you know it's not because my faith is so great or so perfect. It's a real faith with lots of questions. It's not always being so sure of God or his plan for my life. It's sometimes just stepping out on nothing and- mercifully- landing on something.

As the past few days have passed I've also been renewing my strength to try again with the two embryos we have frozen. The process of preparing my body for a frozen embryo transfer was so much more taxing than I imagined. Maybe I was naïve about how hard it actually is to cope with all those hormones and- as you well know from my many complaints- those awful progesterone injections. I had the recurring thought during that month or preparation, "I don't know if I could do this again." However now that I'm looking at doing it again I'm finding a new reserve of inner strength. I know what I'm getting into and will better be able to prepare for it (i.e. clean my house before my butt starts hurting! Make freezer meals. Book lots of playdates for Arie.) I think that will help. 

I also have been reading stories and watching youtube chronicles of other women who have done IVF or embryo adoption. It has given me hope to see stories of women who had to do it two or three (or more!) times to be successful. My favorite quote was from a fertility specialist who said, "The majority of children born from IVF would not be here if their parents had given up after the first try." 

I am not giving up yet. As a friend who has been down this road before me implored, "This is not the end of your journey." It's not the end. 

Dr. Colbert called me yesterday and left a beautifully compassionate voicemail, expressing his condolences. How I love my doctor! He said we would talk more specifically at my next appointment, but he wants to run some more blood tests for me. It's funny, only an hour or so before I got that voicemail John asked me, "Do you hope Dr. Colbert will just say 'try again' or want to do more tests?" And I shrugged, "Either way." But as soon as I heard him say, "More blood tests" I smiled and felt my shoulders lighten. I am looking forward to having those done and seeing if we can't find more answers. 

Until then I keep moving forward through the ups and downs. I thank you profusely for all your support and prayers. You hold me up! 



Embryo Transfer Results

With a very heavy heart I share that I am not pregnant. I went for my blood test this morning and it was negative.

John and I are heartbroken.  At the same time we are so thankful for the support and love we have been shown. We take comfort in knowing we do not walk alone. We also thank God as we believe those two babies are now in his presence.

We have two remaining embryos frozen for us. We will have an appointment with Dr. Colbert in a few weeks to talk about our next steps. I talked briefly with a nurse today and she said their transfer slots are filled through January so our next transfer will likely be in February. I'll know more after our appointment.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers as we grieve this loss.  

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; 
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; 
struck down, but not destroyed. 

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (2 Corinthians 4:8-12). 

May the life of Jesus be revealed in my body, even now. 



Two week waiting (post FET)

Let's start off with the best news: I was able to switch to a new form of progesterone! NO MORE SHOTS! No more sore butt! Well, at least… no more sore butt soon! I read it can take up to two weeks to heal from the lumps and bumps and bruises of progesterone in oil, but I can handle that. I'm close to ecstatic about not having to get those nasty shots in the rear anymore. I can walk again! Parent again! Clean again! Cook again! Sleep through the night again!

For those interested in the medical side of this decision (i.e. if you are going through IVF/FET yourself), I had a great conversation with a nurse at our clinic which I will briefly share. For years, she explained, they let patients pick their own form of progesterone (PIO, Crinone, or Prometrium) but about six months ago a very good study was published showing that women who stayed on PIO for seven days post transfer had higher pregnancy rates. I knew this, but in my head I had interpreted the recommendation as "AT LEAST 7 days." No. That's wrong. It's just 7 days. No "at least." And the reason is because unlike the other forms for progesterone, PIO does not irritate the cervix or cause uterine contractions which can interfere with implantation. Implantation should have occurred by the 7th day post transfer. All forms of progesterone keep your blood levels where they should be; the difference is with the irritation/contractions.

Though I was having a really hard time functioning on the PIO, I did not want to go off it if there was reason to believe it would harm the babies. What good news it was to hear that there is no medical reason to stay on it longer than 7 days! I may have cried from relief.

Different Reproductive Endocrinologists will of course have different perspectives and protocols, but I will just tell you that Dr. Colbert (my RE) is in the top 1% of nationally ranked REs. I totally trust his perspective on the research and his recommendations.

No more sore butt!

I'm so happy.

That has definitely been the highlight of my two week wait so far.

I've also tried to keep up with my mission to "do things that make me happy" during the wait. My efforts have been dampened by my butt situation, however not completely wiped out. There was Halloween, Orphan Sunday at my church, a very special time of community with our small group on Sunday afternoon, and a last minute invitation to friends' for a rib dinner (yum!).

On Tuesday evening I started something I have been wanting to do for a long time: learn how to make pottery. This summer at my sister's wedding I reconnected with my former pastor's wife (formerly my pastor, not formerly his wife!). At the reception she said with a huge smile on her face, "I can't wait for you to see our gift for your sister! I made it!" The next day at brunch I waited eagerly for Jenna and Justin to open this particular gift and I loved it when I saw it. A set of beautifully formed and glazed stoneware mugs. As soon as I got home I went online to see if I could find a pottery class nearby. I did. I signed up. And now I'm attending.

I made a set of four "pinch pot" nesting bowls on Tuesday. They are not exactly beautiful, but I will take a picture when they are done. Maybe.

My pottery teacher told us not to worry about having the perfect pieces, but to embrace the Japanese principal of wabi-sabi which is to embrace the beauty of imperfection.

I made a joke about wasabi at that point to which no one laughed. I guess wickedly funny play-on-words are not welcome in pottery class. ;-)

Next week we will learn how to use the potter's wheel and I am praying I don't sent a chunk of clay flying across the room. I really need to redeem myself from my wabi-sabi/wasabi moment.

Today my goal is to do some baking with Arie who has been extremely patient through my butt situation, but is also in desperate need of some "fun with mom" time. I remember how weird it felt when my mom would be sick in bed or on the couch when I was little… I can tell Arie hasn't liked seeing me so weak and sore these past few weeks. I told him yesterday that I would be getting better soon and his eyes absolutely shone with hope. I think some a a little chocolate chip something will go a long way to making him feel better!

As far as pregnancy symptoms or anything like that, I've got nothing. I mean, I have some "typical pregnancy symptoms" but nothing I haven't felt in the two-week-wait before and as we know, I've never been pregnant. I DID eat a turkey ruben for breakfast earlier this week… and two sloppy joes with dill relish the next morning, but is that pregnancy related? Impossible to know. It could just be all the hormones I'm taking. I'm trying not to took to far into any symptoms or lack there of.

Thank you for all your continued prayers, posts, and messages. They each mean so much to me. I try to respond to as many as I can but please know I do read and cherish each one of them! These little babies are absolutely saturated with your prayers. I could not ask for anything more!



Halloween 2014

I have a love-hate relationship with Halloween. I hate the death and the fear and the violence vibes that surround it: the bloody fangs, the skeletons littered in front yards, and especially those evil people who dress up like zombies and stand statuesque until my unsuspecting SWEETHEART walks by in his adorable lion costume and gets scared half to death. Next year I may carry a sickle with me for just this reason.

Mama bear roar.

I'm a softy. I love the innocent side of Halloween. Boy do I love it! Little tots dressed up as elephants with giant bums and the cutest little tails. The shining faces of a tiny Elmo or Minnie running from house to house collecting treats. I love the pink nose on a pretend kittens and the giant fluffy mane of the least intimidating lion you've ever seen.

I remember once I choose to be a witch for Halloween and my mom was gravely disappointed by my choice, trying unsuccessfully to talk me out of it. (To her credit, she still sewed my costume!) I must take after her. At least I come by it honestly!

So with a four year old Halloween was awesome. I think this might be the last year I get to pick his costume (next year I will be probably resort to heavy hinting and possibly bribery). My mom found his lion costume at a yard sale this summer and of course I collapsed into "OHHHHHH!!!" and "AWWWWW!!" when I saw it. I'm happy Arie liked it as much as we did because he wore it a lot this year! The weekend before Halloween when we went trick-or-treating downtown, and twice on Halloween day: first to preschool in the morning and then for real trick-or-treating in the evening.

We enjoyed the evening with two of our close family friends just like last year. It is so much fun to do this kind of stuff with friends, both for the kids and the adults!
Getting 5 excited kids to pose for a picture… not easy!

Last year it rained on Halloween and we all complained about the weather. This year it was literally freezing cold outside so we did grumble a little but kept agreeing with one another "at least it isn't raining!" No matter the weather, as a parent you grin and bear it because it is just so much fun to see your child filled with delight.

This year I also had to grin and bear my progesterone-induced butt pain, but that didn't end up being so hard because I truly have the best husband and friends in the world. They found a wheelchair for me to borrow and pushed me around the neighborhood making wise cracks and making me laugh about my butt situation until tears burned in my eyes. There is no better pain relief than good company and hearty laughter!

Last year trick-or-treating was all new to Arie, but this year he was all pro. He ran up to the houses yelling TRICK-OR-TREAT, holding out his pumpkin. After receiving his treat he would run back down the driveway giggling and yelling for us to look at whatever treat he had just received. About halfway through the evening I asked, "Are you remembering to say thank you?" He was quiet for a minute before replying, "I maybe forgot a little bit." Hahahaha! Sorry to all those generous candy givers; we are thankful even if we "maybe forgot" to show it.

Back at our friends' home I let Arie eat as much candy as he wanted. He got through a half dozen pieces before handing me back a half-eaten KitKat bar, "Can you wrap this up Mom?" Followed a few minutes later by a grimaced, "Mom I think my tummy is really big and I think it is a lot too full."

Our friends handed us a barf bag for the ride home, which we thankfully- and narrowly- avoided using.  Normally I'm pretty strict about limiting treats but this is what Halloween is for!

The next day he was able to pick a small baggie of his favorite treats and then he traded us the rest for a trip to the toy store. (This is a tactic known as the "switch witch" which works great in our family.) He picked out a new pirate ship (surprise!). He now has three. At least this one shoots really cool gold coins… which promptly got lost under our oven. John fished them out and now the pirate ship is not allowed in the kitchen anymore.

There as so many reasons to laugh in parenthood, aren't there? :-)

Hope you had a great Halloween if you participated!

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