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!