Side effects

One of the medications I'm taking to help with ovulation is called Clomid and it comes with some side effects. Last cycle I had the rather uncomfortable feeling of burning ovaries in my pelvis, but to tell you the truth it made me feel like the drugs were working so I didn't mind it too much.

This time I've had a lesser version of that same feeling, but I've tacked on two more side effects: fatigue and the black cloud.

Now fatigue on its own is a bother, but- as a stay at home mom- something I can cope with. Reading books, doing puzzles, watching Super Why... it might be a little boring, but Arie and I can survive it.

The black cloud is not so simple. The past week or so went like this for me:

Another cycle: another try. I can do this. I can do hard things. 

Next day: I feel good. I feel hopeful! 

Next day: I CAN DO THIS! Even if I never get pregnant I am going to come out on top and be a better, strong, more resilient person!! I am awesome! Life is AMAZING! I will survive!! Hear me ROAR and all that jazz! 

Time to start taking this little white pill called Clomid for five days. 

Day one: I feel okay. I guess. 

Day two: I feel worse. Here comes the black cloud. 

Day three: I feel awful.

Day four: I can't face the world. My life is over if I can't get pregnant. 

Day five: I decide I will never, ever, ever get pregnant and we are wasting all our money and our entire lives on these STUPID treatments. I am crying all the time. I am quitting the world. WHERE DO I HAND IN MY NOTICE???I think John is scared of me. 

Post-clomid days: 

Okay, maybe I was being a little dramatic yesterday. 

Next day: Wow I feel normal again. Poor John. I think only one of us is going to survive this and I'm not sure who. 

Good grief you guys. This is no joke. I would love to say I had the mental stamina to rise above my emotions, but heck no- I did not. I full on wanted to quit the world. I don't even know what that would look like, either.

Probably similar to this:

I just thought you should know what it's like in case you ever have to take this drug. Or if one of your friends takes it and keeps crying on you. Just an FYI.

In actual news, my "probably nothing" cyst is officially "probably nothing" and requires no treatment other than continued monitoring. $300 for that information, mind you, so thank you for that, dear left ovary.

Friday is our follicle-checking ultrasound and then we will book our next IUI!

All for now,



IUI #1 results...


Sadly our first IUI did not succeed.

Aside from the initial few hours of anguish, I am doing okay. I am disappointed, but I don't feel hopeless. I am sad, but I'm not devastated. I don't have a sense that it will happen, but I don't feel like giving up either.

When I was a pre-teen, my friends Steph, Heather, and I went to a big amusement park called Canada's Wonderland. Steph's older brother Brad drove us with his friend. When we were all wrist-banded up inside the park, Brad gathered us around, giving us the instructions to stay safe and meet him back here at such-and-such a time. With a bite of sarcasm that only brothers can get away with, he walked away and called out, "And if you get lost just remember: YOU ARE IN CANADA'S WONDERLAND!"


That's a little like how I feel right now. Lost, but not lost. I know I'm in Infertility World. I know I'm headed for the... baby ride? Okay this metaphor is breaking down... I know where I'm trying to go, but I don't know exactly how to get there or how long it's going to take before I figure out how to get there. So I'm feeling lost, but... not lost.

I'm going in for another ultrasound tomorrow to check that "probably nothing" cyst they saw on my last two ultrasounds. Maybe that will give us more direction.

Either way, we are gearing up for another try.

Incidentally, today my mom called me in tears to tell me that her friend who has been trying to conceive for 7 years is 12 weeks pregnant. Amazing!




Halfway through the two week wait

Well, hi everyone. I hate starting off with an apology, but I have to just quickly apologize to those who have written me private messages on facebook; I try hard to respond to each of them in a timely manner, but I have gotten behind. I am sorry! You all are so wonderful to share your stories and to care about me during this waiting time. It blows me away. I absolutely love reading your messages. I am going to try respond this week! 

On to the post: 


I'm about halfway through my "two week wait," post IUI. I felt pretty great last week: moderately hopeful, happy, optimistic. John and I took Arie to visit my family in Ontario since it was Thanksgiving up there last weekend. We had a blast! Arie has been singing out lists of our family's names- grandparents, aunts, uncles- ever since. Last year we missed out on the Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations since we were in Moscow for our court date, so it was extra special to be together (ALL of us!) this year. Arie's first Thanksgiving.
My favorite capture :-) 

As I enter the second half of the two week wait, I'm not feeling depressed, per say, but definitely more pessimistic. I was talking to a friend who professionally works as a therapist about these feelings and she was all of course you are! After so many cycles of disappointment, it is just my body's natural defense mechanism; I'm preparing myself for another blow.

It's good for me to be aware of these feeling on an analytical level because it helps me cope. I'm learning to give myself grace and to think a lot about how God uses suffering redemptively. This weekend I'm carrying around Joseph's story in my heart: the one from Genesis where Joseph gets sold into slavery by his brothers, suffers in Egypt, but then works his way up the ranks in Pharaoh's service and ends up saving those same brothers lives when, because of his high position, he is able to give them food during a famine and keep them from starving to death.

When Joseph finally confronts his brothers after all his years of suffering he could have been retributive, but instead he gives them amazing grace:

It's that middle section that gets me: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish... the saving of many lives." 

Suffering and redemption. 

I already see how God redeemed that first awful year of infertility with our adoption. Into our empty arms, God placed our son. Into our son's empty arms, God placed us. The saving of many lives. 

He redeemed our emptiness in many others ways as well: 

When our wallets were empty and we didn't know how we would cover the adoption costs, he provided a community of people to rally around us and donate every last penny of the expense. 

When our hands were trembling with fear over the adoption freeze or as we anticipated travel for our court date, he provided the prayers of hundreds of saints to lift us up and carry us through. 

And where we felt feel small and incapable, he has shown us what he can do when we simply say yes to what he has for us. 

So yes I feel nervous and insecure about the pregnancy test that looms in my future, but I'm confident that God will redeem my anxieties. As my heart turns downward and those fearful emotions creep in, I'm turning my eyes upward and remembering that God will use this season in my life for good. Whatever the outcome. 


PS: We also took Arie to a sort of "Fall Festival" last weekend with our small group. I have to show you this series of photos from his experience with the barrel train ride: 

"What a fun ride! I sit here and Papa walks beside!" 
"So Arie, when the tractor starts I'm going to let go and watch you from the sides okay?" 
"I hate you guys." 
He stared us down like that for the whole ride. We'll probably be talking about this in therapy someday.  ;-) 

Happy weekend. 


The two week wait, one year as a family, and going to the ballet

Technically, it's a 16 day wait since one of the medications I took can give a false positive on a pregnancy test if you take it too early. 16 days to find out if IUI #1 worked and a little baby Burden is on the way. Deep breath.

If you didn't already see my update on facebook, the procedure went great. Oddly enough, this treatment for infertility wasn't nearly as "medical" as the tests for it were- specifically the HSG. Where that test was in a big sterile x-ray room with 2 nurses and a technician and I was in a stiff, scratchy hospital down, lying on a hard table, the IUI took place in a small, clean, cozy room at our fertility clinic with just me, John, and a very kind nurse. Quick, quiet, and almost painless. After the procedure I had to lay with my hips elevated for 15 minutes; the nurse left us alone together and it was exciting to just laugh and dream together as we watched those minutes pass by. When I started this journey someone challenged me to make this journey as beautiful as possible and during those 15 minutes I felt like we took some of the "medical-ness" out and injected a good dose of intimacy, joy, and beauty in its place.

With the procedure behind us, all we have left to do is wait.

I've spend a good deal of my life waiting for something (immigration, adoption, now pregnancy) and probably the most important thing I've learned to tell myself is this:

Don't wish your life away.

Time is precious. Though I want these next 16 days to go by quickly, I don't want to wish them away. I want to live the days I've been given. Fully.

On Thursday I asked you all for your best advice on waiting. Your responses came in three categories:

1. Pick up a hobby
2. Volunteer
3. Enjoy time with friends and family

Mostly coincidentally, I have things in all those categories planned for the next two weeks. I had been looking at them as things to get through until I can take that pregnancy test, but you all helped me change my viewpoint. They are not things to get through. They are ways to live. Ways to make beautiful use of this time. Ways to invest in the hours I've been given instead of wishing them away.

Last night all the anxiety of the two week wait faded into the background as John, Arie and I celebrated one year since our court date in Moscow. One year since the judge said da and made us a family! It was actually the most anxiety producing experience of my life, that court date, but also the most joyful. I remember flying up from the depth of fear to the hight of ecstasy when we finally became Arie's parents and knew that no one could take him away from us!

We celebrated be doing something Russian: going to a ballet.
I won't tell you how many attempts with the self-timer it took to get this picture. ;-)
First we went to dinner and we were able to sit outside which in October in Michigan is always a treat. We tried a new restaurant after some recommendations and it lived up to the hype. John ordered the duck and Arie spent the next 15 minutes asking us where the "ducky" was. #parentingfail. (But it was delicious. And worth it.)

We spent $5 on grilled cheese for Arie and he only ate the chips that came as a side. Probably the most expensive chips he's ever eaten, but they enabled him to sit and enjoy for over an hour which in my opinion is well worth it. His favorite part? Cheersing! To himself of course!
"To Arie!" 

I cannot overstate how much fun we had taking Arie to the ballet performance. It was called "Mother Goose and Friends" and featured a half dozen or so nursery rhymes. As we drove to the theater and searched for a parking spot he asked over and over again, "Awie see a ballet-rina?? A ballet show?? A ballet-rina dancing??"

As we approached the theater he made us smile by gasping, "A HOUSE!!" with glee- one of the biggest "houses" he's ever seen! Apparently we need to teach him the word "building."

Inside the theater, he was enthralled with both the program and the stage curtains. The program featured a picture of the "three blind mice" which delighted his imagination. "I see a mouses?? Three mouses Mama? Three??" And then, "A curtain open? A dark? A open? I see mouse?"

Before the show began, the artistic director came forward to welcome us. A Hungarian native, his Eastern European accent brought back a flood of memories of our time in Moscow. He wished the quiet audience a good night with, "Enjoy the show!" and Arie yelled back, "AMEN!" Ha! He got a few chuckles with that.

When theater finally went dark, the enormous navy velvet curtains parted, and the room became engulfed in music, I watched the stage lights reflect in my little's boy's eyes. His mouth opened wide and he whispered a magical, "Wow!!" My own eyes pricked with tears as I watched him delight in the show. The dancing, the costumes, and music- his body leaned forward with rapt attention, each hand grasping one of ours. To think a year ago his days flowed one into the next, the monotonous routine of his orphanage, with no one's hand to hold, and here we were- a family- delighting in the very best of what this world has to offer.

It is an incredible blessing for all of us.

Arie's favorite part of the performance was "a egg!" Humpty Dumpty, being chased hilariously across the stage by an army of the king's men. The audience roared with laugher at the antics and Arie squealed along in delight. The show included two more performances after the nursery rhymes: one with a female cast and one entirely male ballet. John and I loved these two more mature performances but Arie kept whispering to me, "More egg??"

This morning during breakfast he seemed to suddenly remember the ballet and exclaimed with a mouth full of pancake, "THREE MICE!!"

If we hadn't adopted a little Russian, I don't know if we would have ever considered going to the ballet with a three-year-old. It is so much fun to invest in these cultural experiences. It certainly made day one of the two week wait go by quickly and with great joy.

Now for day two... :-)



The pendulum swings

This infertility stuff is no joke. From the dark of pessimism and hopelessness I have swung to hope and great anticipation. I said it before and I will say it again: roller coaster. After 5 days of Clomid followed by the strangest sensation of burning ovaries (very uncomfortable, I'm sure you can imagine), my ultrasound yesterday yielded good results! Two big follicles! Yes.

Last night I gave myself the Ovidrel injection. I was always confidant that I could give myself a shot, but I will admit it took me a couple, "One... two... three!" tries to actually stab it in my belly. To any woman out there anticipating this shot- they are telling the truth when they tell you it doesn't hurt. You may, however, experience a temporary high which will tell you that you are superwoman and can conquer the world. Giving yourself a shot for the first time = you're kind of a big deal.

Tomorrow is IUI day.

IUI success rates are actually only about the same as a fertile couple trying to conceive: about 20% per cycle. That is a bummer of a number to say the least. Still, I feel hopeful. John calls it a "guarded hope." Hope, tempered by fear of disappointment. That's probably the best way to describe it.

So maybe tomorrow I will conceive my first biological child. It would be 2 days short of one year from the day I legally became Arie's mama. I'm trying to tell the universe how poetic that would be. Maybe it will swing the odds in my favor. ;-)

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD determines their steps." - Proverbs 16:9

Trying my best to hold on to tomorrow with open hands.

The LORD will determine my steps.



A lost necklace and an answered prayer

When we celebrated Arie's baptism last winter, we bought him a silver cross necklace in keeping with Orthodox tradition. A few weeks later, it was lost. We searched everywhere. Under beds, behind dressers, through drawers.... everywhere. We could not find it, but I was convinced it was somewhere in the house. "It will turn up," I kept saying.  We held off on buying a new one. Last week- about 6 months after it disappeared- we finally admitted defeat and agreed we should think about buying a new one (it's hard to replace something so sentimental!). "If it was going to turn up, it would have by now."

Today I was taking apart Arie's crib (turned toddler bed) since we are moving him into his "big boy room" and as I was unscrewing the sides, I was praying that God would prepare all of our hearts for this transition. Since I only had Arie in my arms for the final fleeting moments of his babyhood, saying goodbye to his crib in our room is tough. Help me to rejoice in his maturity. To celebrate his growth. 

Then out of the corner of my eye, squished between the carpet and the trim previously hidden by his crib, I saw a glimmer. Arie's necklace.

The cross we gave him when we remembered his baptism. When we remembered that before we knew his name, God saw him and baptized him into the covenant family of faith.

I have to wonder if sometimes God just doesn't bend the universe to bring these perfect moments together. A lost necklace, found to answer a prayer.

In Russia. In Moscow. In the orphanage. In the US. In Michigan. In our room. In his own room. In his big boy bed...

He's God's child, this little one. Protected, cherished, and held by our Father.

So are yours- your little ones. So am I. So are you.

"How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you." Psalm 139:17-18



Faith in the night time of my fear (thank you for holding the Christ light)

Photo source
If there was ever a reason for me to walk away from the Christian faith, it would be the Problem of Evil:

How can a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving & good allow evil in the world?

This is a question that has kept me up at night. I have cried many tears over this question and truly lamented from the depths over it. I have also spent a lot of time in conversation about it, reading different answers to it, and trying to come to terms with it.

If you're either brave or perhaps foolish enough to ask this question publicly, you will get a lot of response. Some will say that God uses suffering for our good. Some will say that we shouldn't question God's plan. Some will say that we brought suffering on ourselves in the Garden (Genesis 3) and God allowed it because he didn't want us to be puppets, forced to obey.

Maybe these responses hint at the truth, but in my opinion, the real answer to the problem of evil is I don't know.

Personally, I've come to something like peace with the Problem of Evil by accepting that it's a paradox.

Yes I believe God is all powerful.
Yes I believe God is all loving.
Yes I believe that he has allowed evil in the world.

I just don't know why.

I used to get really nervous when people around me questioned God. Saying something like How could God allow this to happen? made me feel scared and guilty. I was the person trying to answer this unanswerable question by defending God.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've come to a place where I don't feel the need to defend God anymore. When I or my loved ones are suffering and asking the big Why?, I'm okay with saying I don't know. 

This sucks and I don't know why it's happening. 

When I decided to blog my way through this infertility journey, I thought long and hard about it because I knew if I was going to share the journey, I was going to share it all. Hard parts included. I prayed about it because my ultimate goal in this whole blog- and in my life- is to bring God glory. And would I, I wondered, bring God glory even if I shared my raw, honest pain? Does it bring God glory for a Christian to write the words I feel hopeless?

I think yes. 

For one, I believe God is going to demonstrate his faithfulness in this journey. My current state of this sucks and I feel terrible doesn't undo anything. When I'm alone and asking God these questions about what to share, I always come away with the sense that God doesn't need me to defend him by making my story seem prettier or happier than it is. If I could sum up in one sentence what I do hear from God it would be: I've got this. So, I share. The blessing. The joy. The lament. The suffering. And all the conviction that happens along the way.

And, second, when I do share this amazing thing happens.

You guys show up.

I tell you I'm hurting.

You say I'm here. 

I cry.

You cry too.

I hurt.

You pray.

I received so many emails, facebook messages, texts and comments that I could not even reply to them all. Story after story. Miles of me too's. Verse after verse of God's promises for me- for all of us. And best of all: just, "I know there's nothing I can say, but I'm praying and I'm here."

I felt like you all were that great 70's "hymn" The Servant Song, come to life.

I will hold the Christ light for you 
In the night time of your fear 
I will hold my hand out to you; 
Speak the peace you long to hear. 

So, thank you. Thank you for your amazing words of encouragement. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for hearing my pain and holding up that Christ life in the night time of my fear. Thank you for being open enough to hear hear the reality of my suffering. Thank you for the peace you've offered.

I don't know why people like me who have dreamed of carrying a child inside for their whole lives go into peri-menopause at age 27. I don't know why God would give me this unquenchable desire for pregnancy and then allow me to suffering years of infertility. I don't know why.

I don't know if he's going to grant me a pregnancy or not. I don't know if he's going to ease this burning desire in my heart. I don't know if he's going to heal whatever is broken inside of me. I don't know when he's going to take away my sadness and pain.

I don't know.

I do believe, though, that he's going to reveal his faithfulness. I believe he's showing me his love through you. And I don't believe this hard part is the end of my story.

Turning another page. Another cycle, another month, another try.

He's got this.

I believe.



Diminished ovarian reserve

The HSG procedure I had last month increases a woman's chances of conception. That would be so great, I kept thinking.

When I talked to the nurse about filled my Clomid prescription she kept saying, "If you're not pregnant you'll take it on cycle days...." "If you are pregnant this cycle call us and we'll do an ultrasound..."

Boy that was nice. Imagining this great moment, calling our fertility center, disposing the meds, being one of those happy couples in the "increased chances of conception" statistic.

I don't know if it was the hope of those increased chances or the fact of it being the twenty-fourth time since we starting trying, but when I found out that I wasn't pregnant once again, I broke.

Every negative cycle hurts but this one, the most. This time, I felt like I reached my breaking point. I don't feel hopeful anymore. I feel like it's never going to happen.

As bleak as it feels to reach this breaking point, it gave me the push I needed to accept the IUI. The optimism I was holding on to for the idea that a few medications were all we needed disappeared. John and I talked about it for a few days and decided that going for the IUI was the right move.

After we decided, we got a phone call from a nurse at our fertility center with the results of another blood test. Another hormone came back too low and confirmed a suspected diagnosis: diminished ovarian reserve.

Dr. Colbert is giving us three shots at clomid/ovidrel and an IUI. And then we're talking IVF.

That's by Christmas.

That's a lot to digest.

That's also really expensive.

I am comforted to know from reading other women's experiences that this dreary state I find myself in is normal. It's hard though.

I feel like there's a book representing my life and I already dogeared these pages for pregnancy. I want to remain hopeful, but I'm also trying to wrap my head around a life where those pages remain unwritten. A life where pregnancy never gets written into my story. It is almost impossible for me to imagine.

It's a roller coaster, this infertility stuff. I'm definitely on the down right now. Ready for the up.

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