Attachment update

Yesterday my friend Leanne invited Arie and me to join her and her son for a morning at our local Children's Museum. We had a great time watching our little boys run around, enjoying all the exhibits and activities.

"Dairy" was the theme of the day and Arie especially enjoyed interacting with the cow mascot. Except he sternly reprimanded the cow when he learned that cows eat grass: "No no cow!! You don't eat that! That's yucky!!"

My little rule follower.

I also embarrassed myself by loudly referring to the cow as a "he" until one of the staff people informed me that "his" name was "Molly." "Oh so he's a girl cow?" I asked. As the words slipped from my mouth I realized of course a dairy cow is a girl cow. Of course.

The staff person tried their best to hide a smug grin, but I saw it. Can I blame it on my suburban upbringing? Doesn't milk just come from the grocery store?

Moving along, when we were at the museum I ran into an old friend who asked me if I came there often. "Not too often," I replied and thought back to the last time I came with Arie. It was a little more than one year ago and I wrote this post about it, reflecting on Arie's growing attachment. With nostalgia and a happy heart, I read through the post and smiled at the pictures. How Arie has grown! How normal life has become with him!
January 2013
February 2014

These days we hardly have to think about his attachment and I can't remember the last time I worried about it. While the work of his attachment is never fully done, we rejoice when we reflect on how secure out little man has become. Right now one of his most common request is to "san-uggle" (snuggle) with us and read books. He is getting better and better at asserting himself and making his preferences known. Last week he demanded, "Gimme dat!" to me for the very first time, which I both corrected and thought of as a milestone. He is secure enough to push us away knowing we'll never leave him.

My heart leaps daily to see him cuddling various stuffed animals and giving them the same kind of love he sees us give him. He tells me about his stuffed friends, "He has a owie mama! I kiss him. I hug him!" and "shhhhhhh"s their imaginary cries. He loves tucking them into bed "all cozy and safe!" His heart is finally full enough that it can overflow into affection for others.
January 2013
February 2014: still with the tongue! 
He has also started a one afternoon per week preschool program which he adores. From what I can ascertain, he still seeks the affirmation and guidance of the teachers more than he seeks out other children as friends, however I have faith that as he gets more comfortable in this new space, that will change. In his baby home life, he had to endear himself to the adult caretakers for any sense of security and stability. That learned behavior runs deep in my little man. I remind myself to be tender with him and not frustrated that he doesn't jump into play with the other kids; he needs time to feel secure before branching out.

He has been attending our Wednesday evening children's ministry at church as well. The first time we tried to leave him there he melted into panicked tears and as a result, I've been volunteering in his class since the fall. For five months he attended the class glued to my side, becoming fearful if I ever walked away. Last week for the very first time he forgot about me and spent 15 minutes playing blocks with a friend! Truly a celebratory milestone for us! His confidence grows.

Life with our little man is becoming very routine; I take it as a sign of healing in our little man's heart. His adoption journey will always be significant, but right now I see healing much more than I see wounds.

Much to be grateful for!



Searching for peace

 The very last pages of the Bible belong to the book of Revelation. It's a very strange book, filled with vision, prophecy, terror, and hope. It is not a book I have ever or would ever choose to study on my own, however it is the book being studied by some of the women at my church this year. I have been wanting to join a Bible Study for sometime now and as life has mostly returned to normal after the whirlwind of adopting Arie, John taking a new job, and moving our family to a new church, now seemed like a good time. So Revelation it was.

In my fertility journey, I have gone to the scriptures many times for wisdom and conviction. With the exception of the famous last chapter which depicts a new earth and eternal peace, never once have I turned to the book of Revelation nor did the idea even once occur to me. However, I think God is beginning to answer my prayer for peace in this journey by using this most unlikely part of scripture.

If you've been following my journey, you know that I have been desperate to add a child to our family through pregnancy. Desperate. It's not something I've wanted, it's something I've longed for. Infertility hasn't disappointed me, it has brought me to my knees in grief. I haven't been asking God for this gift, I've been begging. I've been desperate. Up until this point when I've tried to imagine living my entire life without bringing a child into the world through pregnancy and birth, I've been overcome with a sense of emptiness and even fear. When I tried, all I saw was darkness. I could not imagine it. I did not want to imagine it either.

I've prayed time and time again that God would ease the ache for me, soften the blow of infertility. Especially if he was not going to grant me my desires.

I'm trying to get to a place where I can imagine my future without a child through birth in it and still have peace.

I'm not there yet, but a few weeks ago I came across a passage in Revelation that gave me a glimmer of hope that I could get there: Revelation 5. The chapter describes part of a vision divinely given to a man named John.

In the vision, John sees God the Father sitting on his throne, with a scroll in his hand. The scroll, I learned, is understood as "the scroll of destiny." The scroll that contains all our futures for all eternity. The scroll has writing on both sides, but no one is able to read it because it is sealed with seven seals. An angel calls out to all of creation and asks, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?"

No one can. No one is found who is worthy. In the vision, John weeps and weeps, experiencing great grief because no one can open this scroll. He feels the weight of the lack, the enormous hole.

The another character in the vision- an elder- speaks into John's grief with hope. He says, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." 

And a lamb looking as if it had been slain comes forward, to open the scroll. 

"The Lion of Judah," "the Root of David," "a lamb looking as if it had been slain:" these are all biblical metaphors for one person: Jesus. 

God our Father holds the scroll of destiny in his hands. Jesus is the only who can open it. 

Here's the question in the Bible Study that gave me that very first glimmer of hope that I might be able to find peace in a life with this unanswered prayer: 

If God holds and opens all of destiny in his hands, what is worth holding on to rather than holding out to him? 

Nothing, is the answer. Nothing. 

I'm imagining myself holding onto a scroll with my destiny written on it. I don't know what it says, but I know what I hope it says. I hope it says I get pregnant and give birth to a child. I'm terrified to open the seals on that scroll because what if there's no pregnancy and birth written on it? What if I have to live my whole life with that enormous hole? That lack? 

The author of the study also noted something I thought was very profound: God often allows us to feel the lack

Just as he let John weep and weep when no one was found to open the scroll. 

Just as he made Israel wait thousands of years for their long expected savior. 

Just as he makes us now, as his children, wait for the reconciliation of all things. 

So also he allows me to feel the lack and the emptiness of infertility. I don't know why, but I know I can trust him. 

Jesus was the only one who could fill the lack in John's vision. The only one worthy to open the scroll of destiny. 

Jesus is the only one who can fill the holes in my life, whether by granting my desires or calling me to trust him with the alternative destiny he has laid out before me. 

Truly I cannot begin to understand how faith and prayer and the choices I make and the destiny God lays out before me all work together. 

What I know today is that it gives me peace to imagine myself handing over the scroll of my destiny (and all the worries and fears I have about it) to Jesus. It gives me hope to imagine that as he opens it for me, I can have faith that whatever is written there for me is perfect, even if it's not the story I would have written for myself. For the first time ever, I have been able to entertain thoughts of a future without pregnancy and birth and not become desperate. 

I'm still searching for total peace about my infertility. But somehow with the vision of my destiny- and all destiny- secure in the hands of God, I can finally hope that I will be able to get there. 


PS: For anyone interested, the Bible Study we are doing is Beth Moore's Here and Now, Then and There series. This is my first Beth Moore study, but so far I can say I recommend it! This one is a 10 week DVD series and it fairly expensive (about $115), but if you are able to purchase it with a group or if your church has funds for this kind of group study it might be worth checking out!


Pursuing fertility treatments and surrendering to God's plan

Recently a reader reached out to me and asked if I would write on the subject of infertility and God's plan. Specifically she asked me to address the questions, "Why is infertility a problem other than basic desires and wants?" and "How can a journey to solve infertility be reconciled to a surrender to God's perfect plan?"

On the subject of God's Plan and God's Will there are countless articles and books and wonderful godly minds behind them. In no way could I ever compose a blog post that would contain all the right nuances or explore all the right intricacies this topic deserves. What I want to do instead is what I always do here: share my journey. I want to share the questions I've asked, the things I've learned, and the wisdom I've heard on this subject. I have certainly prayed through these questions many times, asking God to reveal his will, questioning why he hasn't lifted this burden of infertility from my shoulders, wondering if I'm doing something wrong, asking him to just take my desire for pregnancy away, wondering what the purpose of all of this is or if there even is one at all.

I hear so much of myself in the words of biblical women like Hannah who, in her deep anguish, begged the LORD for a child saying, "If... then..." If you give me a child... then I will... As if I had anything to offer God that he did not already possess.

I've been Rachel, too, desperate and angry crying out, "Give me children or I will die!"

I've been Sarah: scoffing bitterly at the idea that God has a plan for me after these years of unmet cries.

I've doubted. I've believed. I've bargained. I've been angry. I've been bitter. I've tried to accept. I've fought. I've given up. I've carried on.

"Why is infertility a problem besides the basic desires and wants?" How I wish infertility wasn't a problem! How I wish and how I've prayed that I could just accept it and move on with my life. I believe I will find healing someday, but I do not believe it will come by pretending that infertility is not a problem. The second part of this question ("besides the basic desires and wants") I think is something worth considering:

The "basic desires and wants" are what makes infertility a problem. I believe the desire to procreate is something God has placed in the human heart. While I don't believe it is essential to being human, it is a very basic human drive. In fact, the very first command God ever gives to human beings in the Bible, is to "be fruitful and multiply." Not only that, but the very first thing Adam and Eve are recorded to have done after the Fall when they leave the garden, is to have a child. They ate from the tree and felt the shame of their sin, but then hear the promise of a savior and in response, they make love and conceive. Having a child is not just a basic human drive then, but a spiritual act of faith and hope. Faith in God and hope in his plan of restoration.

If having a child is both a basic human drive and a spiritual act, then it follows that infertility would present itself as a major problem in both our humanness and our spirituality. Indeed, it is. As vulnerable as it makes me feel to admit, I have questioned what it means for me to be a woman if I can't conceive and give birth. My potential to bring a child into the world has always been intrinsic to my sense of what it means to be a woman. As I wade through the murky pool of infertility, I am having to answer very deep questions about my worth and identity as a woman. Men, too, often have feelings of inadequacy and shame if they face infertility. Just hearing the results of a semen analysis can be one of the scariest moments in this journey for them. It is no surprise to me that the divorce rate for couples who struggle through infertility is higher than average; deep feelings of shame, anger, and low self-worth can tear down even strong marriages. Having children is so basic to our perception of what it means to be human that failing to conceive is a major life crisis.

Spiritually we come up against an entire other set of questions, many of which I have already expressed. We ask why from deep within and when the only answer we hear are echoes around the chambers of our own souls, we come face to face with our deepest spiritual fears and doubts. Infertility calls deep upon our hope and our faith in God.

While the problem of infertility is serious and real, these deep and difficult questions we face in midst of our pain are perhaps the best thing infertility offers because they bring us to the end of ourselves. I've found that it is at the end of myself where true faith begins. As I've dealt with infertility, I've had to learn that this life is not about me. I've had to come to terms with the reality that life cannot be about having children or fulfilling my womanly potential through pregnancy and childbirth, or even receiving answers to my many, many prayers. Life is about what God is doing, but it's not about what God is doing for me.

Yes, infertility is a problem for me, but infertility is not a problem for God.

There is one truth I come back to over and over again and it's this:

Nothing will prevent God from accomplishing his purposes.

Whether I conceive or not. Whether I give birth or not. Whether I have faith or doubt. Whether I write a blog post that speaks the truth or whether I post with selfish pride. Nothing will prevent God from accomplishing his purposes. Nothing. 

When we accept this blessed truth, we have only one question to ask ourselves: do we want to live in accordance to his purposes or not? Remember- his purposes will prevail! We're only asking if we want to live our lives in harmony with these purposes or rub up against them. We will not escape the hardships of life when we live in harmony with God's purposes, but we will secure the joy of knowing we are living for something with eternal significance, something larger than ourselves.

Personally I am constantly fumbling around with the answer to this question, but I can tell you that when I determine to live in harmony with God's purposes, I find a joy and a peace that is truly indescribable.

When I determine to live in harmony with God's purposes, I am still left asking myself the same question submitted to me by my reader, "How can a journey to solve infertility be reconciled to a surrender to God's perfect plan?"

If I seek treatment for infertility, am I bucking God's perfect plan for my life?

If I spend my time, energies, and money trying to conceive a child, am I sinning?

Am I saying no to God's plan and yes to my own?

I believe the only broad answer to this question is maybe but not necessarily.

The goal of fertility treatments is to bring forth life. God loves life! There is nothing inherently sinful about seeking fertility treatments. Infertility is a medical problem and there is nothing wrong with seeking medical solutions to medical problems.

Here's where the surrender comes in: whenever we are working to achieve the desires of our hearts we must ask 1) if those desires are in-line with God's will as expressed in scripture and 2) if pursuing those desires will prevent us from doing God's will as expressed in scripture and/or God's plan as understood by his calling in our hearts.

These are very broad concepts so again let me come back to my own journey on each point.

1) As I stated above, I believe that pursuing fertility treatments are in-line with God's will as acts of healing and acts that bring forth life. However I personally also believe that the deliberate destruction of an embryo is the destruction of human life and the scriptures tell us that God does not desire the death of anyone. Accordingly, if we ever pursued a treatment such as IVF I would need to make provision for each embryo created to have the opportunity to grow and sustain life. Those are the basic perimeters around what I believe are "fertility treatments in-line with God's will as expressed in scripture."

2) The second point requires great sensitivity to God's leading. I could spend a whole separate blog post writing on the subject of hearing the will of God, but in very short let me say this: when you spend time reading and studying the scriptures, you are getting to know God and his voice. Over time God's voice becomes familiar, like that of a friend, and you become more and more sensitive to that voice when you hear its promptings in your heart. In the Christian life, I believe reading the scriptures are essential not just because of what they explicitly teach, but because they soften our hearts to hear the implicit voice of God's Spirit inside.

Again, it takes great sensitivity to know when pursuing fertility treatments are preventing you from living in accordance to God's will in general and his plan in particular. God has placed a special burden on both my and John's heart for orphan care. In our particular journey, John and I are always asking whether or not pursuing fertility treatments are preventing us from answering God's call to a second adoption. We pray over the financial aspect, asking God if he has given us the money in our back account to pursue fertility treatments or if he wants us to save it to put toward another adoption. We heard his call in 2011 to put our fertility treatments on hold in order to adopt our little boy. We pray and ask him to make his will for us clear if he wants us to do that again.

It is hard to pray these things. It is hard for me to imagine putting our fertility treatments on hold again to pursue another adoption because I hear my biological clock ticking. So far, to the best of our understanding God has not directed us to stop our treatments. I am grateful for that. However, I know that if he calls us to stop the treatments in order that he might accomplish his purposes through us, there can be only one answer: YES, LORD! And I trust that even when the journey is hard, we will find great joy there.

The truth is that whether we as God's people are pursuing fertility treatments or a dating relationship or a new job or choosing a college.... we are always having to figure out how to reconcile our wills to God's. I will leave you with this familiar passage from Romans 12:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Have faith. God does not desire to hide his will from you. As you offer yourself as a sacrifice to him- as you seek to live in harmony with his purposes- he will be with you. He will never leave you. He will place his Spirit on you and you WILL be able to test and approve what God's will is. 

Blessings on the journey as you seek his face. 



2014 Valentine's Day

We have a busy day tomorrow so we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day with Arie this morning. Last year I bought a little blue "mail box" at Target with the idea that we would put his Valentine's gift in it each year; this year I found an adorable little chocolate bear lollipop for him but when I went to slip it in the mailbox last night it didn't fit! Ha! So in a moment of inspiration I thought John and I could write love notes for Arie's mailbox and lay out his treats beside the box. Here's a video of how it went:

I think Arie's brain was just going: CHOCOLATE!!! that entire time. We'll have to tell him that we love him later. ;-)

And some pictures of our little Valentine:

John and I were able to celebrate the occasion just the two of us last Friday when we got a babysitter and went out for the evening. It was our 9th Valentine's Day together and our 6th as a married couple. I love that man more every year!

Tonight we are looking forward to having some friends over for spaghetti and raspberry brownies that Arie and I baked together this morning.

Happy Valentine's Day my dear readers! Wishing you a day of blessing as you show love to friends and family and reflect upon the divine love that unites us all.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1. 



Going to the Chiropractor

So, I've started going to the chiropractor for infertility related care.

I don't really know how I feel about this. I am not entirely convinced that it will help me, however in recent months I had three friends recommend this chiropractor to me, one of whom had a recent almost miraculous fertility success story. I try to be sensitive to "spiritual promptings"and after the third friend told me about this guy, I decided to at least try it. You know, just in case those three recommendations are indeed a spiritual prompting.

In the course of my two visits, I had two scans and an x-ray and two adjustments. All three imaging techniques revealed misalignment in my neck and a rather severe "twisting" of my pelvis. "Top five most severe" my chiropractor had ever seen. This was not entirely surprising to me; I had a bone infection in my back and hips as a child and have walked with a slight limp on and off most of life, though since I stopped taking PE class 10+ years ago more "off" than "on." I'm convinced this is why I'm "crooked," but by chiropractor seems very uninterested in determining the cause. According to him it is much more important to restore my health and determine the cause of my misalignment.

Here are pictures of the two scans I had done:

Either one or both of these together are called a myovision scan. As I understand it, the image on the left has to do with heat and the image on the right has to do with electrical energy from my back muscles. If my muscles are working too hard or not hard enough, these tests reveal it. On the right, the blue lines should be mostly straight. See how they make a sharp left turn at my hips? Not good. For the image on the right, the green bars are good and the rest... not so much.

In summary, these two images reveal my formal diagnosis:

I am crooked. 

Specifically, my pelvis is crooked. My pelvic crookedness was confirmed by x-ray measurements that show my right hip is 12mm higher than my left. I'm crooked!

I've had two subsequent adjustments. The chiropractor uses an instrument about the size of a permanent marker that I can only compare to a very small jack hammer; he puts the instrument up against various places on my spine and the instrument "hammers" for a few seconds and that's pretty much it.

John always laugh when I relay my conversations with the chiropractor at home.

Chiropractor: (after my first appointment) "Tomorrow you will wake up and feel like you got hit by a truck. That's totally normal and it will wear off through the day."
Chiro: (entering the room for my second appointment) "So did you feel like you got hit by a truck after your last adjustment?!?"
Me: "Oh. Actually... no. I felt normal."

Chiro: (after adjustment #1) "Walk across the room and pray attention to how you feel."
Me: (walk across the room)
Chiro: "And what did you notice?"
Me: "Ummm.... nothing? I felt normal?"
Chiro: "okay do it again and pay attention to your body."
Me: (does it again)
Chiro: "What did you notice?"
Me: "Nothing."

Chiro: (after adjustment #2) "Walk toward me."
Me: (walk toward him)
Chiro: "How did it feel? "
Me: "Still feels normal."
Chiro: "Okay do it again with your eyes closed."
Me: (does it with my eyes closed)
Chiro: "Now how did THAT feel?"
Me: "Like I was walking... with my eyes closed."

He must think I'm a jerk but honestly it feels exactly the same to me.

Yesterday he did something called a "wave test" where I stood with my eyes closed and he tapped my shoulders a bit and my body started slowly leaning back and forth, side to side. I almost felt like I was going to fall! I was all that was so cool! And I guess it was supposed to detox me or reset something in my body? I forget. But I stood up just now with my eyes closed just now and guess what happened? The exact same thing.

Am I healing or just really bad at balancing with my eyes closed?

Time will tell. Hopefully.

As I left that appointment yesterday the chiropractor told me I would probably be very thirsty and to drink lots of water right away if I felt dehydrated.

24 hours later, guess how I've felt?

Normal. And not thirsty.

I should admit that since I am not going for chiropractic care to relieve any physical symptoms (like headaches or back pain), the fact that I don't feel any different can't really be a reliable indicator of whether or not it's actually working.  Moving forward, I have twice per week appointments booked for one month and once per week indefinitely after that. You can probably tell I'm fairly skeptical at this point, yet intrigued enough by my friends' success stories to keep going. According to my chiropractor, the goal of my care is not to cure my infertility directly, but to restore my body to optimum health so it can heal itself of whatever is causing my infertility. I think can get on board with that.

Also one of my "homework" assignments from the chiropractor is to talk epsom salt detox baths twice per week. Any doctor who prescribes baths is pretty okay in my book. ;-)

Have you ever seen a chiropractor? Fertility related or not? What was your experience like? Love to hear your stories!



Adoption after infertility: what is solves and what it doesn't

Today I am pleased to be writing for MercyFound Ministries, a ministry that "exists to connect with Christian adoptive and foster care families, promote local Gospel-centered community, and provide adoption education classes." I'm so pleased to join MercyFound Ministries in this worthy mission! When I was first approached about writing for MercyFound, I asked for a list of potential topics and they told me that they haven't had a lot of posts on the topic of infertility and adoption. I knew right away that this would be my subject, though it is not always an easy thing to write or talk about. The relationship between infertility and adoption can be a complicated one. It certainly has been for me. Here it goes... 
My husband John and I tried to get pregnant for over a year before we decided to adopt. However, when we made the move from trying to conceive to adopting, we didn’t put our hopes and dreams about conceiving to rest; we put them on hold. When brought our sweet, joyful, sensitive little boy home from Moscow in November 2012 we immediately started trying to conceive again. As I write, we have been undergoing fertility treatments for six months; among lots of diagnostic procedures, we’ve done three medicated IUIs and I had a laparoscopic surgery to remove endometriosis. Our infertility and adoption journeys are distinct but they’ve intertwined too. As I’ve walked both paths over the last four years, I can only describe the relationship between infertility and adoption as very, very complicated. Perhaps the best truth I’ve heard on the subject is this one: 
Adoption solves childlessness; it does not solve infertility.
Adoption solves childlessness. Over that first year+ when my husband and I failed to conceive, I often felt panicked. From the time I was a toddler, I imagined myself becoming a mother. As I matured through my preteen, teenage, and college years, the way I envisioned my future evolved to include different goals and desires, but the one thing that never changed was motherhood. Above all else, I wanted to be “Mama.”
John and I got serious about starting our family as I was finishing my master’s degree. As soon as my due date was projected to be after my graduation date, we started trying. I remember how many wonderful butterflies I felt in my stomach and chest as I pictured myself wearing my commencement robe with a big belly protruding underneath. As months and months went by, that dream faded and those butterflies turned into a constricting snake around my lungs. Everytime I imagined my future without children, I lost my breath.
At my graduation: baby belly-less. 


Femara cycle #1 results

Blank and then line. Story of my life. 
Not pregnant.

On to Femara round #2.

I will say that one positive to this cycle was that in addition to being on Femara, I asked Dr. Colbert to put me on progesterone after ovulation to lengthen my luteal phase. It worked! I was experiencing only 10 days luteal phases (should be at least 12), but I surpassed 14 this cycle with the progesterone. Based on a blood draw I had done, Dr. Colbert thought my progesterone levels were fine, but I had this nagging feeling I could not shake that I needed to be on the progesterone. Most embryos implant between 7-10 days post ovulation, but they can implant as late as 12 days post ovulation. If I was ever to have a late implanting embryo, at least I know my luteal phase would not cause an early miscarriage.

A friend of mine recently had success supplementing her fertility treatments with chiropractic care, so I made an appointment with her chiropractor for Friday. I honestly don't know how I feel about this option or if I believe it will help, but my friend's story was so compelling I had to give it a try. She was at the point of IVF and it appears seeing the chiropractor made all the difference because she got pregnant (without IVF) that cycle! It can't hurt, right?

I am praying that God will continue to direct our steps as we move forward. It is getting tougher and tougher to remain hopeful that I will ever conceive. Over a decade ago, I claimed Proverbs 3:5-6 as my life verse and I am leaning into it hard right now:

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

Desperate for divine direction because "my own understanding" feels something like a spaghetti map leading nowhere fast. Direct my paths, LORD! Make them straight.


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