Embryo transfer #2: results

At 7:30 yesterday morning I left the warmth of my home, climbed into my frigid car and started the engine. My hands ached with cold as I clutched the steering wheel, driving myself to a nearby laboratory; I was going to get my blood drawn so I could know, once more, whether or not I was pregnant. I could see the sun rising through snow covered trees.

I sat in silence before the rising sun- no radio, no music- willing my broken heart to be brave. Whispering prayers to my God for hope and courage and mostly for life. That the blood they'd take from me in minutes would contain that thing it never had before: HCG. Pregnancy hormone. That it would point us to a secret: a baby, growing inside. My snowflake.

It took all morning and half of the afternoon for my results to come in.

The fear was overwhelming as I waited. I wrapped my heart around hope the best I could.

Until the phone finally rang.

John said he knew right away by the tone of her voice- the nurse. I wasn't going to let myself believe it until I heard the words out of her mouth. And I did:

I have good news for you! You're pregnant!

I'm pregnant!

I'm pregnant!


I let out some kind of indecipherable cry that meant something like I'm so happy and Are you for real? and I think I'm in shock! 

I don't really remember the rest of the phone call except that I made an appointment for an OB ULTRASOUND (WHAT?!) on March 13.

My HCG level was 52; I go back tomorrow for another (routine) blood draw. We will be looking for my number to increase by at least 80%, preferably double. Please keep praying that our snowflake will continue to grow!

I'M PREGNANT!!!!!!!!!!!

 We spent the rest of our afternoon and evening telling our families and a few close friends. One of my friends gave me a box of her son's hand-me-downs last fall to go through. In the box was a  soft yellow shirt with the words "awesome brother" sewn across the front. I kept that shirt folded up in a tupperware under Arie's bed for months. It was a  true joy to finally slip it over his head and onto his body! As I had longed dreamed of doing, I shared our news with our group of friends by asking them how cute they thought Arie looked in this hand-me-down. "A little big, but I think it will fit in time for fall!"

The reactions were amazing. My favorite was this screen shot of a friend telling her husband:

And speaking of hallelujahs, my friend Jeannine- who has walked this road of infertility herself- has been walking beside me through this journey in a way that only those who have "been there" can. Through her and her husband's long journey to parenthood her friend poised a "hallelujah" banner, ready to wave when God finally brought them their children. They brought their twin boys home from Bulgaria two autumns ago and I remember that banner lifted high in their playroom when we to meet them for the first time. Jeannine told me she had that same banner ready to wave when I had good news to share. True to her word, when I shared the news last night she texted me this picture:

In the bathtub because when God gives you a good and perfect gift, you stop to worship wherever you are. 

Telling our families was of course the very best. Both moms cried. John and I woke Arie up early from his nap to share the news; I don't recommend sharing news with your newly woken up child. He gave us a half smile and then asked for a snack. I think this will become more real for him when my belly starts getting big. I say that because a few days ago he poked my boobs and asked if the babies were "in dere?" Ha! Because that's the only bump on my body where a baby could be. BUT NOT FOR LONG! 

I posted these verses on Facebook from Psalm 118 the day of our transfer; let me now share them again: 

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 
Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!

You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 
(Psalm 118:24-25, 28-29 NIV)

I know. The second line didn't really show up in this picture.
 It's faint, but it's there! I promise.
Been waiting a LONG TIME to see that second line! 



Frozen embryo transfer (#2)

Our transfer yesterday proceeded as well as we could have imagined. One of the embryos we intended to transfer was of weaker quality (a 3 on the scale of 1-4, 1 being best) and I had been worried that (s)he would not survive the thawing process. I had been praying specifically for that little life along with a friend of mine. Before we pulled of our driveway, John prayed over us and our embryos. On the way to the clinic we both tried to steel ourselves to receive the news that only one had survived the thaw while holding on to the hope that we would be able to transfer both like we intended.

Pulling into the parking lot at the fertility center my heart began to beat faster. This was it! John remarked that way back in November when we scheduled our next transfer for February it felt a lifetime away. Now here we were! About to walk into the building as two and out of it as four. 

We stopped to snap a few pictures, photos I dream of showing our baby/ies someday when I tell them the story about how they came into the world. My large smile is due in part to my excitement and in part to the fact that frozen embryo recipients are prescribed valium for their transfers. Apparently it is given to relax the uterus, but it does indeed relax the rest of the body (read: brain) as well. ;-)

Inside the office we were taken back to the prep area where we changed into clothes suitable for such activities as making a baby: 

Then a nurse came and brought us into the sterile procedure room where we waited anxiously to hear the news about how many embryos had survived. Dr. Colbert entered the room with a smile, shook our hands, and delivered the news: "We've got two embryos!" My face lit up with another too-wide smile. "Yes!"

I asked Dr. Colbert what the statistical thaw rate was and he told me they had gotten it up to 80%. Ever-ready with a smart reply John remarked, "Well I guess we're helping you with your averages!" 

Dr. Colbert laughed and continued to deliver more good news, telling us that a couple months ago his clinic upgraded some lab equipment and protocols, improving their frozen embryo transfer success rate to 73%! If I remember right, that is up from somewhere in the 40-50% range. (Note: this doesn't necessarily mean I in particular have a 73% chance of achieving pregnancy, but still it is good news!) 

Next came the procedure itself where we watched an ultrasound screen as our two little babies slipped cozily into my womb. How I hope and pray they snuggle in and continue to grow! 

Soon we were back in the prep area getting dressed, going over post-transfer protocols, and staring at this amazing picture of our little snowflakes: 

On the way home John and I picked up Ethiopian for lunch, which I later ate from the comfort of my couch. John's mom stayed with us to help with Arie and she told us later that when she picked him up from preschool he asked if "Mama is gonna have a big belly when she gets back?" Arie is super pumped at the prospect of having siblings but has very little concept of what that actually will mean! He's always coming up with ways he is going to "help" the babies, which include such things as giving them yogurt and talking to them if they feel sad. I love it but am afraid he may be slightly disappointed with the little baby blob that comes home from the hospital someday! 

Two presents arrived for us yesterday which made my already bright spirits soar. First, this gorgeous bouquet from our embryo donors, complete with two snowflakes and a card that read, "February is the month for snowflakes to stick." Based on the white landscape glistening outside my window today, I'm trusting that is true! 

I also opened a small brown package from an old college classmate which made my heart skip a beat: a tiny pair of baby slippers, once pink and one blue with snowflakes on top. How I cannot wait to see those slippers filled with tiny toes! 

I spent the rest of the day on the couch until bed, trying to envision our embryos settling in tight. It was wonderful to read all your comments and messages via Facebook and instagram. I cannot thank you enough for all the support you have given us during this special time! Thank you! 

This afternoon my sister arrived and she will be staying with us for a week. Originally she came to help me while I coped with the pain from my progesterone shots, but mercifully I do not have any pain from them so far! Last time we transferred I was on a compounded version of the drug (100mg/ml, 1m dose for those interested) and this time I am on a more standard version (50mg/ml, 2ml dose). Some of you suggested that I may be reacting to the base oil last time, however both times the base oil has been sesame oil. My IVF nurse said the likely explanation is that the compounded version has a higher concentration of preservatives to which many of their patients were reacting.  They have been marked improvement since switching versions; I'm happy to count myself among those numbers! I wanted to share for those who also have pain with this shot. Ask your nurse about switching to lower concentration/higher dose. 

Since I am not suffering from so much pain, I plan on having lots of fun with my sister while she is here! I know her company will help this two week wait go faster and hopefully keep my mind off the nerves I feel when I think about receiving the results. 

That's all for now! I would love your prayers as we go through the next two weeks, waiting to find out if we are expecting. 

Lots of love from me, John, Arie, and our snowflakes! 



On not knowing WHY

Lately I've been thinking about how we humans are constantly interpreting our past by the present. We try to put reason to things that happened to us by looking at how they got us to where we are now. Usually we do this to put a positive spin on things: we broke up with an old boyfriend but the pain we went through was worth it because it brought us to the better man we're with today. Or we suffered through a year of infertility but we're now thankful for it because it propelled us to adopt our beautiful son half a world away.

We interpret the past like this because it makes bad things better.

But what about those times when our present realities do nothing but sour the past? I faced this question when our embryo transfer failed: on the day of our transfer I praised God because both our embryos survived the thawing process and were safely transferred into my womb. It was an answer to  many prayers! Two weeks later, however, a blood test revealed that neither embryo had survived and I was not pregnant.

As I bled and lost those lifeless cells I thought about the prayers of gratitude I had lifted to the heavens for their successful thawing. What did it matter now? My hopes and praises for them left silent. Aborted.

As I reflected struggled to make sense of my praise-turned-pointless, I realized two things:

1) I don't regret it. I don't regret being happy and more importantly I don't regret praising my Father. How could I? These words from Revelation 5:13 came to mind: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" If all my worship belongs to God alone, I can't regret offering any of it to him! Neither can I regret feeling so happy on the day of our last transfer, taking pictures of our embryos and of myself with them inside. What's the alternative? Do I wish I would have known they would die? Do I wish I would have been unhappy that day? No. I'm thankful for those moments of joy I had both with my Father and with those precious lives inside. I'm going to do it all again when we have our next transfer this week.

2) I would do well to slow down and not ascribe meaning to life events too quickly. I'm realizing more and more that this act of constantly trying to interpret the events of my life is just another way I'm trying to hold onto control over it. It prevents me from fully trusting the Father.  Hebrews 11:1 describes faith in this way: "Now faith is assurance of what we hope for and confidence in what we do not see." If I'm always trying to make the unknown, known and unseen, seen... it's not really faith, is it? Add to that the fact that when I say things like, "God did this so that xyz would happen" I'm only guessing and often wrong and- well- it's a recipe for disaster. For hurt, for questioning, and for discontent. I can only do two things when I look into the events of my life: humbly admit I don't know why and confidently trust that God will not waste the events of my life: he will use them for his glory. 

I don't know why God took care of our first two embryos through the thaw only to let them die days later. Although I can't quickly interpret those events and ascribe meaning for today, I can trust he will not waste their lives nor my experience of loving and loosing them. I can trust that he will use my suffering to develop my character (Romans 5:3-5), that he will work it out for my good and the good of my fellow believers (Romans 8:28), and that he will one day make it right and heal my broken heart (Revelation 21:4). 

Lord willing, At 11:30 on Wednesday morning John and I will have our last two embryos transferred into my womb. I want so badly to ascribe meaning to this transfer already. I want so badly to say that God has brought us through four years of infertility to give these previous babies life. To say that he has brought me through my loss so that I could stand in solidarity with other women who have lost as well. That he would grant me these children so that I could stand as an example for the amazing gift of embryo adoption. I want so badly to know that this time we will avoid the grief of loss so that we can stand with our arms lifted high in worship to the Giver of all good things. 

But I don't know. I don't know whether the tears on our cheeks in two weeks time will fall in celebration of life or in grief of death.

All I can do is open my empty hands to the heavens in humility and ask that in all things God will use my life to his glory. Even when I don't know why. 



Florida trip and entrance into February

It's FEBRUARY! The month of our embryo transfer.

It's a universal law that when you are waiting for something, time slows down. Sometimes it feels as though you could fit a while lifetime between each tick and tock of the clock, doesn't it? I've waited for many things in my life and learned lots of lessons about patience and gratitude and spiritual things along the way. It's good to put on a teachable spirit if you're in a waiting season, to not let the time pass by wasted.

But you know what is also a good way to deal with waiting?


Last week John had a work conference in Orlando; being the dedicated pastor's spouse that I am, I agreed to join him on this trip. You know, for moral support. Conferences can be quite overwhelming for ministers. I'd hate for him to have to bear that alone. Especially in Florida. In January.

Seriously it was so nice to get away for a few days! When we scheduled this trip back in early Fall we had no idea it would come right before our embryo transfer, but it could not have come at a better time. We joined our dear friends Dominic and Kristin (Dominic was also attending the conference) and their infant daughter for a wonderful trip.

Arie's highlights were 1) visiting the lego store and getting to fill a pail of blocks from a giant colorful wall of choices...
...and 2) drinking a milkshake. He had his first milkshake back in July when we went on our road trip out East and has been hoping for another ever since. It was everything he hoped it would be.

I loved spending time with Kristin and her daughter; our first real experience together as moms! I adore being a mom. I have my struggles and get tired and crabby like we all do of course, but I truly love it. It comes so naturally to me. When I'm mothering Arie I feel like I am doing exactly what I was created to do. I love my little boy and I love my role as his mom. Watching Kristin mother her daughter was also wonderful; it made me so happy to see how much delight she takes in her daughter! And of course it got me dreaming about having a baby myself someday. Someday soon.
I love this little girl! 
As we were headed back to Michigan after 4 days under the son, I thought to myself, "I'm heading back to snow but more importantly to my snowflakes." The thought warmed me from the inside, easing the sting of the below freezing temps that welcomed us home.

I have stuck to my no-sugar resolution for a few weeks now and my body feels fantastic. On our trip when Arie watched me forgoing a treat (like a sip from his milkshake) he would remind me, "You're making your body ready for our babies!" It always made me smile not just because it reminded me that this small sacrifice is worth it, but because he said, "our babies." He is going to make the best big brother.

We skyped with my family upon our return to tell them about our trip and my sister gave me such a gift: she decided to come stay with me after our transfer to help with Arie while I cope with those awful progesterone shots. It is humbling to receive such a gift but I am so thankful for her support, since I wasn't able to do much of anything on those shots last time around. John's mom will also be supporting us by taking care of Arie on our transfer day. I feel very blessed to have so much support during this important time in our lives.

Nine days! And counting.

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