Our Frozen Embryo Transfer

This morning I woke up to a message from a friend who shared a story from the gospels (here, here, and here) where Jesus heals a paralyzed man. Friends of the paralyzed man want to bring him to Jesus, but they can't get through the crowds. With ingenuity they hoist their friend up into the rooftop of the building where Jesus was speaking, make a hole in the roof, and lower him down on a mat. When Jesus sees the faith of these friends, he looks at the paralyzed man before him and says, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now in those days it was clearly known among the Jews that only God could forgive sins. There were Jewish teachers in the crowd- who did not yet understand that Jesus was God- and the passage says that Jesus immediately knew they were scandalized, thinking something like, "Who does Jesus think he is?! Only God can forgive sins!" So Jesus decides to put his divinity on display.

"What is easier to say," he asks them, "'Your sins are forgiven' or 'get up and walk'?"

(No answer from the crowd of course… probably easier to say you've forgiven someone than to heal them!)

Then he looks at the paralyzed man again and says, "Get up, take your mat, and go home."

Miraculously, he does!

Here's my favorite part of the story: the crowds who had witnesses this incredible healing are so awed and moved that they do the only thing you can do when you witness a miracle: they praised God. 

Now when my friend shared this story with me in a message this morning, she made a remarkable comparison: you, she wrote, are like the paralyzed man and with our prayers we have carried you to the feet of Jesus. 

To that I can only whisper, "Amen" and swallow the giant lump in my throat. I have been greatly humbled by the prayers of so many- by your prayers- that have brought me before the feet of Jesus. As I read that biblical story this morning the deep cry of my heart was that God would perform a miracle inside me by bringing these babies to life so that everyone who bears witness to my story would be moved to praise him. 

I must trust that God knows best how to make his glory known, but I pray passionately that this is it: a demonstration of his divinity, a proof of his power, and a testimony to his tender love. 

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for carrying me to Jesus. Oh God, hear our prayers!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you've already seen a glimpse into how wonderfully our transfer day unfolded. My intention was to come home and write immediately about the transfer itself but beautiful things kept happening throughout the day so I waited until this morning, wanting to share them all with you.

The Sunday before our (Wednesday) transfer, I once again found myself on the floor of a beautiful woman from my church name Abby. I wrote last June about how she invited me to come to her house to have hands laid on me and prayers spoken over me that I would find healing from infertility. When we announced our impending transfer the first thing she did was ask if I would return to be prayed over. Absolutely yes! Once again I was deeply moved by the prayers of these women, carrying me to Jesus, asking that he would make my body a vessel in which these embryos could thrive. They prayed for me, for the thawing process, for the transfer, and for these babies who we know are precious in the sight of the Lord. I left with joy in my heart.

Later that night I texted the women in my small group to help me cope with pain from my progesterone shots as I helped in Arie's preschool class the next morning. They responded generously and subsequently decided that they also wanted to carry me through our transfer day. They each took a block of time to cover in prayer. And let me tell you- I felt those prayers! The peace of Christ dwelled within me richly.

The evening before our transfer we were blessed to have John's mom arrive so she could take care of Arie while we were away. My mother-in-law is the only family member we have "nearby" (about an hour+ away) and she spends half the year in Arizona so when she's gone, childcare has been a concern for our fertility procedures. We've had wonderful friends step up to help us, but for this intimate experience I was thrilled to have her come stay with us (as was Arie!). We were able to have a normal morning (with the exception of my progesterone shot which is still firmly in the "abominable" category) before heading out to my first appointment.

Earlier in the year I was seeing a chiropractor for supplemental fertility care, but I've since switched and been seeing my friend Kelly for something called "sacral cranial therapy." I had a session with her immediately before the transfer.  Kelly is someone dear to me: John and I went to college with her and her husband and after Arie came home they became his Orthodox godparents since when Arie was baptized in Russia it was into the Orthodox church. Along with her expertise in SCT and other holistic therapies, Kelly has a gentle and joyful way of making the Orthodox faith accessible to people like me who know so little about it. John and I were deeply touched and spiritual fed when we saw what she brought with her for my session: a beautiful icon of Joaquim and Anna, known in the Orthodox tradition as the parents of Mary, mother of Jesus.

As their story goes, Joaquim and Anna endured a long struggle with infertility before giving birth to Mary and are today known as the patron saints of fertility. (Disclaimer: this is my limited understanding but again I'm not Orthodox so I welcome corrections!)

As Joaquim and Anna looked on, Kelly took a bottle of holy water from her church (water that has been blessed by a priest for use in baptism or to bless a person, place, or thing) and made the sign of the cross on me: three times on my forehead and three times on my womb. "I was thinking, " she said with a sly smile, "if you have twins that would be very trinitarian of you!" There's a little joke for my theological friends. ;-)

I left the session feeling open and ready to receive the new life of two babies about to be transferred inside me.

Our fertility center does not give patients an update on the embryos' thawing process unless there are no embryos left to transfer. As we arrived I was eager to hear how it went! In my heart I felt that they had thawed two and they had both survived so I wasn't nervous about it, but I knew there was at least the possibility we had lost one or two. Even with the unknowns, I walked into the clinic filled with excitement!
I'm hoping this is my last pre-pregnancy picture!
John and I were welcomed back to a big room with hospital beds portioned with curtains and instructed to get dressed: I changed out of my clothes and into a clean gown with a hair net and sock covers, while John was able to simple slip his getup on overtop of what he was wearing.
Some people wear lingerie when they get pregnant. Others wear hair nets
and sterile gowns. 
Just as we finished changing a nurse called through the curtain and we invited her in. She handed up a stack of post-procedure instructions, had us sign a few papers, and they gave us the thing I had been most excited to receive: a picture of our embryos!

I'm sure to you they look like little blobs, but to me they are the most beautiful babies in the world (well, in addition to Arie!)! I could not stop staring at them. It was even hard for me to pass the picture to John so he could have a look! On the back of the picture was written the new I had been waiting for: 2 embryos thawed and they both survived. An answer to one of our heartfelt prayers!

Next we were escorted into a sterile room where we met a smiling Dr. Colbert and began the transfer process. It went so quickly neither John nor I had time to even process what was happening. Our transfer was at 10:30 and we were back in our partitioned "room" to change by 10:39! It was crazy. One minute I was walking around with an empty womb and the next minute I was pregnant! We were able to see the embryos leave the catheter and enter my uterus on the ultrasound screen; if it were not for that image I probably would not have been able to believe they were inside of me!

Based on new research, our clinic changed their bed rest requirements last week from 2 days of bed rest to none! I was thrilled by that. I still have to take it easy and avoided lifting anything over 10lbs but other than that it is life as usual. Since my butt still hurts from the progesterone shots I'm taking it pretty easy anyway. I feel thankful to be a stay at home mom where I can let some things "slide"(my house is not the tidiest right now!) for the time being until I'm feeling better. Props to you women who do IVF while working outside the home. You are heroes in my eyes!

John and I picked up my favorite comfort food on the way home: Thai! Specifically, Thom Kha soup- yum! I reclined in the car while he went into the restaurant and read through all your notes on Facebook and Instagram. You guys! It was incredible. I was overwhelmed by your support and prayers. You are truly a gift to me!

We had a yummy lunch at home, put Arie down for a nap, and said goodbye to John's mom. I was warmly contented by our perfect morning so I lay down to rest my sore butt and envision those little embryos getting cozy inside. "What a perfect day!" I thought to myself. Little did I know there were more blessings on their way!

Right before Arie woke up from his nap the doorbell rang. There are only about 10 feet from our couch to the front door however due to my butt situation is takes me a long time to get there! By the time I finally opened the door I saw the back of a man's head bobbing down our steps. "Hi!" I called to him.

"Oh!" he turned around. "I have a delivery for you!" He handed me the most beautiful flower arrangement: pure white and adorned with delicate, sparkling snowflakes.

"Oh wow!" I cried as I accepted the gift. Turning inside I searched my brain to think who they could be from. Clueless, I unfolded the small card perched inside.

"Sending prayers, "sticky vibes" and all our love."

From our embryo donors.

I could barely call John over because I was so choked up. I can't tell you what it feels like to have someone give you the most precious gift of a child and then to continue to shower you with such love. When I gaze upon those delicate white petals I can hardly process the goodness I've been shown. Our donors are such a picture of divine grace in our lives.

A few hours later my friend Stacy stopped by with a meal for us: a hearty beef soup, exactly what a body needs when it is working hard to embrace two new babies! :-) We sat and talked for a while, processing all the goodness of our days.

After dinner I got Arie in the bath when I heard a loud engine outside. Arie stopped his splashing and looked at me with big eyes, "Is there a tractor at our house Mom??" I looked out the window to see a group of our church's youth group students armed with leaf blowers and rakes working on our yard. By then I felt like crying!  It is completely overwhelming to be shown such great goodness in one short day. I remembered looking at our leaf littered lawn as we pulled out of the driveway that morning and wondering how we were ever going to get them cleaned up. I don't know if I've mentioned my butt situation yet, but I've got some vicious pain back there and the idea of raking… yea, that wasn't going to happen. What relief to know that it was done for us! Thank you students!

I went to bed last night with a  full heart and- for the first time ever- a full womb. I pray these babies implant and thrive so I can tell them the story of their conception day. It truly was a beautiful one.

Thank you for walking with us through this journey and even more for carrying me to Jesus. I am indebted to you. From your comments on my pictures and posts to your private messages to your acts of kindness… you bring me joy and you inspire me to be a more generous person myself. Sending much love from this side of the screen.



Boy, my butt hurts.

Progesterone in oil shots are the.worst.  I feel like someone sucker punched me in the butt!

It's not the actual shot that hurts so badly. It's the way my muscles progressively ball up in agony when it's over.

John gave me my first injection (in the "upper outer quadrant of the buttock") on Sunday morning. At first I was surprised by how much it didn't hurt. Sharp pinch and then pressure; nothing I can't handle! However my relief came to soon. As the day progressed the pain got worse and worse until I was lying in bed crying, wondering how I was going to continue these shots for the weeks to come.

Thankfully this morning after my second shot (opposite butt cheek) I spent a long time applying heat and rubbing the oil into the muscle. It seems to have helped. I'm still sore, but the pain is no where near what I'm experiencing at my first injection site. I'm also far less dizzy and nauseated than I was yesterday which is probably both my body adjusting to the meds and the result of many praying women who have so generously kept me before the throne.

(If you are approaching your first experience with progesterone in oil my advice to you is to take those nurses very seriously when they tell you to massage and apply heat. When you think you've massaged and warmed the site enough, give it five more minutes.)

So, I'm hobbling around today like an old lady, praying for strength to get through this and keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus who has brought us this far. I know he walks beside me… even as I creep along with much wincing.

Mostly because I didn't know how awful this would feel, I am thankful beyond description that my last pain free day was glorious: John, Arie, and I, along with John's mom, had a beautiful day trick-or-treating at our downtown shops and then visiting a local fall festival farm for play, pumpkins, and most scrumptious donuts!

My little lion was tickled with the trick or treating. He kept gasping and pointing to other kids, "Mom! Look! There's an Elmo! A tiger! A fire guy!"

The weather was beautiful which I'm sure contributed to the heavy crowds downtown. All you need for chaos to reign is to throw a couple hundred oblivious kids into a crowd! The parents spent most of their time apologizing for having to push past one another and catch up with a  little one. "I'm sorry! Oh pardon me, so sorry! I'm following that scarecrow over there…" Thankfully everyone seemed to remember their patient pants and the crowds didn't take away from the fun.

After trick or treating it was pumpkin time! We went to the same farm as last year: a place with lots of fun things for kids, a hayride to a pumpkin patch, and the best pumpkin donuts West Michigan has to offer! Seriously we stood in line for 20 minutes- with a four-year-old- to get our donuts and they were worth every second.

I definitely could not have enjoyed all the walking, wagon riding, and donut line standing with my sore butt. Super thankful.

My transfer is scheduled for 10:30am on Wednesday morning. Two embryos will be thawed tomorrow. I am deeply grateful for all those who are praying for us. Please pray for the survival of those embryos tomorrow and a successful transfer on Wednesday. Also… I'm not above asking for prayers for my butt… it really hurts you guys! At least prayers that I will have a good attitude despite the pain and keep my spirits up. :-)

I'm incredibly excited! Two more days!



A day in the life (2014 edition)

Yesterday I participated in #onedayHH: a yearly event where bloggers and instagrammers and people from all over chronicle the extraordinary and mundane events of everyday life. It is hosted by Laura Tremaine over at hollywoodhousewife.com. (Click here to check out my post from this event in 2013.)

My day begins like most days: I am awakened by the sound of my son. It is still dark out, but that doesn't mean much because it's fall here in Michigan and our sun is rising late these days. Like I do every morning, I rub my eyes and look at the clock:

Yep. It's %$:#! o'clock. Plus, I don't have my glasses on. John's already up and out of bed so I take a guess that it is actually morning and not the middle of the night and stumble into Arie's room.

How is he so happy already? My brain has barely turned on. I tell him to go pee while I get his breakfast downstairs.

Arie has not been big on breakfast lately so I fill a sippy cup with kefir and a touch of maple syrup: something I know he will ingest. I grab our kindle so he can watch a kids' show while I get ready.

"Here Arie. Watch this while I figure out what day it is."

I check the clock again.

Okay it's past 7… time to take my first fertility med dose of the day. I put my glasses on and head back downstairs. John has blessedly made coffee. I take my pill, toast some raisin bread, and fill a cup of coffee. I pick this mug Arie made last Christmas because it's my favorite.

 I'm starting to wake up a little.

Emphasis on "a little."

Once I've finished my breakfast I head to the bathroom for a shower. I flick on the lights… apparently we need to replace two of the bulbs. Mental note: get new bulbs when I'm at the grocery store today. 

I shower, get dressed, and review my medication doses for the day. Timing and dosing fertility meds is no joke!

Once I'm dressed, I pick out Arie's clothes, asking him to put them on and then make his bed. He complies- albeit with much complaining about having to make his bed. Buttons are still tricky for my little boy; he makes me laugh when he walked into my room with his belly hanging out saying, "I'm having a big problem Mom! You can help me?"

Yes I can help you. Just call me Button Master.

We brush his teeth, comb his hair, tie up his shoes, zip up his coat and head out the door. Today is a preschool day! Both of our favorite days. Before preschool, however, we have to zip John over to work. The life of a single car family.

Once Arie is buckled in, John starts scraping the frost off our windows: a reminder that winter is quickly approaching. We laugh when we see a lemon wedge stuck to our back windshield; we went out to eat yesterday and Arie "saved" the wedge from his ice water. John must have put it there when he was buckling Arie in and somehow it held on for the almost hour-long drive home. Ha!

The drive to church is magical this time of year. The leaves are all changing colors and the late morning light combined with the soft clouds of melting frost rising from the ground make everything beautiful. I'm definitely awake now.

We drop John off and he waves from his office window. To preschool!

The sun peaks through the trees at preschool with the promise of possibility. Arie jumps out of the car and into his backpack before skipping to the classroom door. His teacher Miss Megan greets him with a cheerful, "Hi Arie!" He smiles shyly. I always feel so good when I bring him to class; our preschool is amazing! I help him find his name tag, wish him a great morning, and head back to the car.

Normally I work on my blog while Arie is in school but this morning I have to make a quick run to the grocery store for apple juice: our snack assignment for a preschool event tomorrow night. I also want to get a walk in before I pick Arie up in 2 hours, so I race as quickly as I can. I pick up the apple juice and a few more needed groceries and head home again.

At home I put the groceries away, start a load of laundry, and go to the bathroom.

DARN IT ALL! Guess I didn't file that mental note about picking up new light bulbs in the right drawer. I hope that last glowing globe can hold on for one more week.

Downstairs I pull on my "running shoes" which have never actually been running. I always say I will only run if I'm being chased, but walking? That's my jam. As I head out the door I slip on my earphones so I can finish listening to my latest library audiobook: Orange is the New Black. If you're looking for an audiobook, this one is pretty great!

The sun is high by now and the sky bright blue. It's cold outside: about 40 degrees, but I walk quickly to get my blood flowing and I'm soon feeling nice and warm in my sweater. I make my way through our local park where everything is beautiful: the lake, the trees, the fallen leaves littered like confetti over lush green grass. Whenever I walk here I think over and over I love where I live. 

About half an hour later I head back home. I put the laundry in the drier, empty the dishwasher, and boil some eggs for Arie's lunch before heading back out to preschool.

Usually the kids are all playing outside when we parents arrive for pickup, but strangely the playground is empty when I pull up. Huh. I join a group of gathering moms by the preschool door. Miss Megan soon pokes her head out and tells us the kids are just having their snacks so she'll release them as they finish. Arie is a reeaaallllllyyy slow eater so I'm thinking he'll be one of the last ones out. Surprisingly after only 4 or 5 kids go home, I see his smiling face through the glass door. Just the sight of him makes me grin and laugh out loud: oh how I love that little guy!

I deliver the apple juice I just purchased and escort my little man out the door. He's always wired when I pick him up, racing down the sidewalk to our car. I'm still wondering why the kids weren't outside at pickup so I ask, "Hey Arie what did you do today?"

"We play GYM!"

Click. I suddenly remember that note I got last week, informing me that today was gym day and asking me to please send my child in gym appropriate clothing…

… whoops. Sorry about that Miss Megan!

Back at home we eat a quick lunch- eggs and an assortment of finger foods for Arie, the last bowl of leftover chili for me- before climbing back in the car. John and I have to visit a notary over his lunch hour to sign two last documents for our embryo adoption.

I'm supposed to pick John up at 12:30 and I'm running late so I hurry. I arrive at 12:35… not bad! Arie and I walk up to his office. It's empty?

Turns out John forgot about us. He's off site but will "be there in 15!" We're encroaching on Arie's nap time and it's starting to get obvious. "Can I sleep here Mom?" You know your preschooler is tired when he's asking for a nap!

His attempt at sleep is unsuccessful so we switch to playing. Arie proudly writes his name on one of those magnetic boards and gets all the letters in the right order… okay the "e" is off but only because he ran out of space. Proud Mama!

Finally we see John pull in so we head back to the car.

This photo going public is John's consequence for forgetting about us:

;-) Love you babe!

We zip over to the notary where we wait some more and then finally get our papers signed. Hurray! One step closer to our babies!

John drops Arie and me off at home. I finally put Arie down for his nap and he falls asleep in seconds.

Back downstairs, I fill up the kettle so I can make a cup of tea. Red raspberry leaf of course: all my infertile friends know why. I can't wait to stop drinking this stuff. It's not bad tasting… I'm just sick of it. One more week!

I set up my computer, light a candle, do my devotions, and work on my blog.

At 2:30 my alarm goes off, reminding me to take my next dose of fertility meds.

I swallow the little pill and then pull out my bread maker: we're having pizza for dinner! Flour, water, salt, oil, yeast… push a few buttons and in 90 minutes I'll have a perfect batch of dough. I love my bread maker.

As I'm finishing up I hear Arie's voice over the monitor so I head upstairs to get him.

Unlike in the mornings, Arie is a total grump after nap. He glares at me and gives me this impossibly sad look. "I'm so hungry!" he complains. "Okay come downstairs and we'll get a snack."

I have to finish my blog post so I set him up with a snack in the playroom. He slowly brightens up and soon is munching away and playing with his toys.

As Arie plays I finish up my post, hit publish, and move to the kitchen so I can finish making our pizza. I ask Arie if he wants to help, but he declines. His pirates are having a birthday party in the playroom and he really can't leave.

Fair enough.

John comes home while I'm working on the pizza. Arie skips any kind of "Welcome home!" and jumps right into, "Papa do you want to play with me? You want to play with me Papa? We can play? You play with me?"

John obliges but not before taking a few pictures of me in the kitchen. I laugh when I see my expression in the photo: I look just like my mom!

As I pull the pizza out of the oven I call Arie to come set the table. While he hates making his bed, he loves setting the table. It's so cute to see him concentrate so intently on getting it right. He always does a great job too!

I look at the clock and realize we have about 10 minutes to eat before we have to drive back to church for our Wednesday night programming. John is doing premarital counseling with a couple and I'm helping in Arie's class. We burn our mouths on the pizza and then I run upstairs to change into my children's ministry shirt.

"GET YOUR SHOES ON!" I yell down the stairs to Arie and John. They do. We descend the porch steps for what seems like the 100th time that day and climb back into the car.

Arie and I are 15 minutes late to class, but we start out with free play anyway so no harm done. We play and sing and color for the next 90 minutes. It's almost 8pm when we're done.

I don't know what it is about being at church in the evenings, but it makes Arie so hyper! When we travel to John's office to retrieve our coats at the end of the night he runs and yells the entire way, tantalizing passersby with, "YOU CAN'T CATCH ME!" (One staff person takes him up on the offer and catches him.)

We exit into the parking lot and John wrangles our hyper son into his carseat.

As Arie yells and "sings" from the backseat I look at the clock in the car and once again is is %$:#! o'clock. Time to get my boy in bed; I'm nearing the end of my energy reserves.

At home John wrangles Arie again: this time for teeth brushing. It's really hard to brush your kid's teeth when he won't stop talking.

Finally teeth are brushed and pajamas are on. I tuck Arie into bed. He's still talking and singing and yelling and giggling. I sing his prayers, kiss him goodnight, and breathe a sigh of relief as I close his door behind me. Another day of mothering in the books.

Goodnight my sweet boy.

… just kidding. John and I take three more trips up to his room before Arie finally falls asleep. :-P

Now I'm ready for bed! I give myself my daily injection: another fertility med and take my last pill of the day.

John and I set up out laptop in bed and laugh over the latest episode of New Girl before turning out the lights.

Love you we whisper.

Nighty night.

A day in the life.

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