We have a date! Embryo transfer #2

My hands are cracked and almost bleeding but I have a smile on my face! Not because of the discomfort of course: in spite of it. On Sunday Arie came down with a stomach bug and I spent the day cleaning up puke and trying desperately not to let any germs in my body: scrubbing hands, disinfecting bathrooms, doing laundry, taking supplements. While I'm always taking precautions against illness I was particularly vigorous this time because I knew I had an important blood draw in the morning which could not be postponed: one to check my hormone levels. One that would allow me to book our second embryo transfer!

Sunday night as I felt my throat becoming sore and dry I began having visions of myself throwing up in the waiting room of the laboratory. I quickly went to Facebook and enlisted the army of prayer warriors who are my wonderful readers. I'm so thankful for your prayers because I woke up with only a cold and awful as I might feel, I'll take a cold over the pukes any day! I packed my recuperating little boy (John was away on a work trip so he had to come with me) and my stuffy nose self into the minivan this morning and got my blood draw. Phew!
24 hours: sick Arie watching netflix, making soup, recovering Arie in the bath, and
waiting for my blood draw: tired but not puking!

A few hours later I answered my phone to hear my clinic's nurse reporting good numbers and asking about scheduling our next transfer. Lord willing, the date of our next embryo transfer will be...

Wednesday February 11!

(Of note: our last transfer was the Wednesday before Halloween and this one will be the Wednesday before Valentine's Day. Perhaps I'll get John to get me a wheelchair again for our Valentine's Date! *winks*)

What I'm doing differently this cycle:

1. No holistic supplementation. Last cycle I did cranial sacral therapy and this session I looked into doing acupuncture... but then I found out the blood thinning medication I have to be on (as a result of my genetic clotting disorder Factor V Leiden) is- excuse my language- hella expensive. So, as much as I would have loved to try something else it is just not happening this time around. I'm at peace with it and slightly relieved to minimize the amount of appointments I'll have going on.

2. No sugar. Yikes! Whose idea was that? Call me crazy I guess but I'll be dealing with all the hormones without my BFF chocolate this time around. I'm also replacing white flour and rice with their whole grain counterparts. I began this pseudo "fast" last Sunday so I'm 9 days in and going strong: I've avoided sugar entirely, had a bit of maple syrup or honey here and there, and indulged twice in white flour products. Not too shabby. The goal is simply to make my body the healthiest and most hospitable place it could be for my little snowflakes. I don't know if this will help but it certainly won't hurt and I know I'll be able to say "no regrets!" at the end of it. (If you follow me on Facebook or instagram you'll know I've been raving about the cookbook 100 Days of Real Food. It has made ditching sugar so much easier than I could have dreamed! I also recommend the book The Fertility Diet for those who are interested in eating better for fertility.)

3. Unsure about bedrest post-transfer. Until a few months ago, bed rest was recommended after transfer but new research points to bed rest either not making a difference or being detrimental. I did not do bed rest after our last transfer although I did "take it easy" just because my butt still hurt so much due to my progesterone shots. I'm undecided on what I'll do this time around. (Give me your thoughts/experiences!)

At the end of the day I know the fate of our snowflakes is in God's hands. My job is to use wisdom and be the best mother I can be to them; I trust the LORD will lead me to make the best decisions for them as I seek his will.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!



Knowing God's voice and showing up scared

I wish God would lead through emotion. Hearing his voice would be effortless if it was simply the same as the voices in my head. All I would have to do to hear his voice would be to ask, "Is this what I want? Am I excited about this? Yes? Must be God!" or, alternatively, "Am I worried? Afraid? Too tired to continue? Must mean it's time to give up."

That's not how it works, though, is it? God's voice isn't always contrary to emotion but neither is it always the same. Distinguishing God's voice from the noise, desires, and emotion in my heart takes work: spiritual work. It takes perpetual conversation with him through prayer and regular time devoted to reading the scriptures to become familiar with his voice. To know it well enough tat I can confidently identify it among the constant chatter that surrounds me.

Jesus illustrates this truth in John 10 with a metaphor of a shepherd leading his sheep from their pen:

When [the shepherd] has brought out all his own [sheep], he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

In this story the "stranger" the sheep refuse to follow isn't just a random guy, some fill-in from a temp agency or whatnot... the "stranger" is a thief, a robber. He is someone who has come to the sheep to "kill and destroy" (vs 10). This stranger is all the noise around us that wants us to be scared, self-absorbed, mean spirited or envious, among other things. This stranger is all the voices that lead to spiritual death. 

The shepherd, on the other hand, wants nothing but the best for his sheep. His job is to protect the sheep and lead them to green pastures. His is the voice that leads us not only to life but life "to the full" (vs 10). 

As John and I have been slowly approaching our February frozen embryo transfer, the "stranger" has been speaking fear into my life. Fear of hoping in vain, fear of another failure, fear of loosing two more precious lives, barely begun. Fear. 

I thank God for the gift of his scriptures because through them I know this truth: "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Now it is one thing to recognize that the voice of fear is not from God, but it is another thing to know exactly what to do about it. I mean, being scared is not really just something one can "turn off," right? I knew God's voice is calling me to open my body and my heart to our two remaining snowflakes, but I didn't really know how to stop fearing the possibility that we could loose them again. 

In these situations I thank God for other people who know his voice and help us move forward when we feel stuck, as I did. I took a page from Glennon Melton and did what she so often exhorts her readers to do: 

Show up scared. 

Show up to the appointments, the injections, the daily handful of vitamins and pills. Show up to the moments of hope or prayerful pleading. Show up to scary unknown future as it slips into the present. Show up to hear the questions from my little boy who wants to be a brother, to see the mixed look of love and concern in my husband's eyes, and to feel each step of ascension and decline of my heart. 

Be scared, sure. But show anyway. 

This week I noticed that as I've determined to show up scared, the fear has been waning. I've moved from I don't think I can do this to Can I do this? to I'm doing this. 

Last week I was shopping for my niece, due to arrive in April, and while I examined little dresses for her in flowers and pinks I came across the most precious little sleeper: striped in neutrals, soft in cotton. I stared at it not because I knew my sister-in-law would love it for her daughter, but because I loved it. For my baby. I did something that surprised me: I bought it. A symbol of the hope growing in my heart: hope that the soft striped cotton of that sleeper will one day wrap warmly around the tiny body of my child. Hope that someday I will dress my baby in it, remembering how scared I was that he or she would never come. And how grateful I was that I showed up, even scared. 

I wish I knew the future. I wish I knew that hope would be fulfilled. I don't. So instead I look to the One I do know. The One who has called me on this journey, unexplained as it may be. The Shepherd whose voice I know. Who calls me to reject the voice of the stranger who comes to destroy me with fear and apprehension. I look to the one who promises not only life, but life to the full. I follow him, scared but assured, uncertain but hopeful, longing but not alone. 



This is adoption

I remember the yellow hue of the hospital lights in Moscow. Not the warm, buttery kind of yellow that warms you up inside, but the dingy kind. The kind too dark to usher the relief that light usually brings into the dark.

I was there with my husband John, a translator, and our newly adopted son Arie. He wasn't sick. We were there for his visa exam: the one that would grant us permission to go home.

For me and for John this was a momentous step forward: one of the last details to check off our long but dwindling list that would make our adoption complete.

For Arie this trip to the hospital was terrifying. He whimpered in my lap, fighting back the urge to cry with as much courage as his two-year-old body could muster. I held him tight, reassuring him as best I could as a relative stranger with a foreign tongue.

"It's the smell," said our translator, trying to explain the fear on our usually happy boy's face. "It reminds him of getting his shots."

Indeed, it did smell like alcohol swaps in that waiting area. Our translator whispered some encouraging words to Arie in Russian. He started sucking his thumb feverishly.

When at last it was our turn to see the doctor our boy's demeanor turned around. The crinkle of the paper on the exam table and the happy tickles from the jolly Russian doctor distracted him from his fear. He laughed! Soon the exam was over and we were on our way back to our temporary apartment. Ever closer to home.

Two years have passed since that day, but I remain forever changed. Forever changed for having witnessed the inner turmoil of a child scared and alone.  My husband and I were there with him of course, but oh how little Arie knew of us. He called us Mama and Papa, yet had no way to know what those names truly meant. He didn't know we were going to be with him forever; to him we might have been two more faces in his ever changing sea of caregivers.

Today Arie knows exactly what Mama and Papa mean. He knows we are forever. He knows he is safe and secure. Just this morning I took him to the dentist and rather than wail in terror as he did at first, he climbed into the dental chair and laid back without hesitation. He giggled as the hygienist "tickled" his teeth with raspberry flavored toothpaste, glancing occasionally in my direction with a goofy grin.

These days when he is scared, Arie searches out my comfort. A normal action for most kids; a milestone for those who have had a lonely start like his. In the night, if he wakes up in the dark he cries out for me and my husband. Those suppressed whimpers we heard at the Moscow hospital have been replaced with loud cries for help. Where my foreign words formerly provided him with little relief, my simple presence is now his favorite comfort. He falls against my chest; the sound of my heart and the whisper of my voice quiet his wailing. He sighs deeply and snuggles in.

This is adoption. This is a picture of redemption. This is something that was lost, found. Broken, put back together. Injured, healed.

Adoption is not easy. Not for the child, not for the parents. When I say that I have been forever changed, I mean it. My eyes have been opened to a world I would rather have not seen. I know that today there are thousands of children just like my son who wait. Hundreds, at least, who have been brought to hospitals not by new parents and not for a simple visa exam, but by a nanny or caregiver- maybe known, maybe not- sick or for surgery or an extended stay.

The caregiver will leave when her shift is over and a new one take her place. Or maybe not. Maybe the child will be left alone, under the care of nurses and doctors who have to check his chart to remember his name. They do their best, I know it- those caregivers and medical staff- but they are not Mom. They are not the one he really needs to walk him through his fear. Not the ones to hold him in his time of need.

We do not adopt out of obligation or sympathy. We adopt because we long to hold the hand of the one who needs us. Because every child deserves to know the love of a family. We adopt because we were made to live for more than ourselves. Because we know what it means to be redeemed. We adopt because in Christ we know what it is to have been chosen.

We love because he first loved us.

Do you have more love to give?



7 year anniversary

Today John and I celebrate seven years of marriage! I know it is cliché to say but I truly love my husband more today than on the day we got married. We certainly had no idea the heights of joy or the depths of sorrow that were waiting for us in these first seven years of marriage, but there is no person on earth I would rather walk beside through it all. Our first seven years: 


Two weddings! The short version of our "two weddings" story is that we needed to get married to start my immigration process (I'm Canadian), but my mom was recovering from a coma/severe respiratory illness in the hospital; we couldn't imagine our wedding without her, so we first got married in the hospital! Six months later we renewed our vows with all our family and friends present.

Hospital wedding (January 2, 2008):

Vow Renewal:


After a long, long, long 15 months of living apart from my husband (I was in Ontario and he was in Michigan), I finally got my green card and immigrated to the US! We took this picture in Montreal after my final visa interview. Approved!

Another noteworthy event for us in 2009 was John's pastoral internship. He was in his last year of seminary and we spent 10 weeks together in Florida while he interned at a church. It was stinking HOT in Florida in the summer, but we absolutely loved it. Financially this was the hardest time of our marriage as we had absolutely no money (two full time students living on John's part time waiter income), but also one of the best times of our marriage! We spent a lot of time at the beach, relishing the fact that we were finally TOGETHER!


The highlight from this year was obvious: John graduated from seminary! He also got his first job as a pastor.

We didn't know it at the time, but another huge event in our lives happened in 2010. On June 7- halfway around the world in Russia- our son was being born! Incredibly, John and I have a couple picture from this day because we went on a picnic in a park. They are not great pictures, but I will always cherish them because of what they mean.


In 2011 I followed in John's footsteps and graduated from seminary myself! This was a bittersweet day for me because we had been trying to conceive for about nine months and I still wasn't pregnant. I had envisioned graduating with a baby bump under that black gown and felt rather empty inside. Still, I was proud of obtaining my master's degree and celebrated as such!

Later in 2011 we started the adoption process to bring Arie home! Here we are in December 2011 opening one of the first gifts we recieved for Arie: a stuffed elephant.


We spent 2012 working on our adoption and, in the end of November, he came home!  
Meeting him!
Christmas 2012: one month home.


2013 was both an incredibly hard year and an amazing year. We lost John's dad after a battle with cancer in January 2013. The grief of loosing him and the joy of our first year with Arie intermingled daily. It is still hard to express what that year was like.

My favorite picture from 2013 is this one where we recreated a wedding picture with Arie. (I know I look pregnant here. I'm not; it's just a food baby. Wish I would have sucked in!)

We also celebrated one year home with Arie! In October- on the anniversary of our court date in Russia- we went out to eat and to a children's ballet with Arie. It was definetly a highlight of the year for us!


2014 was another mixed year of grief and joy. We spent the whole year undergoing fertility treatments and lost two adopted embryos in November. 2014 is not a year I will look back on fondly. We did, however, enjoy a blissful two weeks in July when we went on a two week long road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada. When reflecting on the joy of 2014 this is certainly the first thing that comes to mind! We were able to escape the pain of infertility for two weeks and build some awesome memories as a family and as a couple. Perhaps my favorite memories of that trip were the evenings after John and I tucked our sleepy little boy into bed and spent hours sitting by the campfire, talking, dreaming about our future, and enjoying one anther's presence.



We're happy to leave 2014 behind and start both a new calendar year and a new year of marriage. Hoping and praying with all our might that 2015 has better things in store! Mostly I'm just thankful to walk into this new year with my husband. He and Arie are my greatest blessings and I pray I never loose sight of that!

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