What Happened to the Nine?

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

I will be honest, the idea of having ten children, remember I had one living child prior to IVF, was frightening to me.  My first child was, well, strong-willed to put it bluntly.  So the idea of having nine more children with similar dispositions scared the wits out of me.  I wondered what God was thinking, and yet I also knew it was quite unlikely that all, much less most would survive.  I was conflicted to say the least.  I had friends tease me about having a basketball team of my own.  That was a true incentive for me since I LOVE basketball, but honestly I was hopeful and scared.  I didn’t know how many I could handle.  I cried often over what God would do with those precious babes.

My first transfer resulted in a pregnancy.  I was elated and yet there was loss even in the pregnancy.  You see both embryos implanted in my uterus.  However at about 8 weeks, I lost one.  I felt devastated.  I felt blessed.  Again, I felt conflicted.  I wondered if I could separate the loss and grief from the joy of being pregnant.  Grief and joy went hand-in-hand so often through this journey.  Joy that I didn’t die when my tubes ruptured, grief that I lost my babies.  Joy to have eggs harvested and embryos created, grief to lose some to stunted growth and others that did not implant.

I now see God’s sovereign hand all throughout the process.  When I didn’t understand, when I felt conflicted, He knew, He had a plan.  So now Dan and I have seven embryos left in a freezer two and half hours away.  It is actually surreal to wrap my brain around that.  I had babies, who were essentially in suspended animation for four years.  Periodically, when it was “time,” we would have them defrosted to transfer them to my womb.  You don’t need the sci-fi channel when you are doing IVF, you are living it.

So God blessed us with a beautiful baby.  Yes, her delivery was missing someone, her twin.  However her delivery was a God ordained miracle as well.  More about that later, first the other 7 babies…

My doctors agreed that waiting at least a year from delivery to another embryo transfer was best to allow my body to get back to normal.  You see, artificial hormones and I don’t get along.  If I thought I had morning sickness with my first natural pregnancy, then I had all day and all pregnancy sickness with my IVF pregnancies.  Regardless, it was time for another transfer.  My heart was heavy.  I wanted to get pregnant, yes.  I wanted to give each embryo a chance at live on the outside of a dish, yes.  I didn’t want to do shots, multiple doctors visits (two and a half hours away), and discuss what was going on with mommy to a precocious four-year old.  However, this was the journey God had me on, and this was the road I had to walk.

The first transfer was unsuccessful and full of grief.  My bad attitude seemed to have seeped into my uterus and no baby would want to implant in there.  However God brought hope again, the following month after the unsuccessful cycle, we tried again.  My four-year-old was in school at the time, and thus I had to warn her teacher about potential comments.  Comments like, “The babies in my mommy’s tummy died.”  The day I mentioned this to her teacher, she came home with a painting titled, “Mommy with babies in her tummy.”  Praise God, I listened to him and warned her teacher or she may have been calling DHS (Department of Human Services) on us.  This cycle was successful, but only one embryo implanted.  There was still grief.  Grief that there were only three more embryos waiting.  Grief that only one embryo implanted.  Grief that the previous cycle saw a loss of two precious babes.  However there was joy and the joy was a handsome boy.  Then there were three embryos.  That is another story.

It amazes me that God often uses joy and grief together.  One only has to look at the cross to see it.  Oh the grief and shame of my sin that caused my Savior so much pain.  However, joy comes in the morning when he rose victorious over the grave.  Jesus knew the pain he was to endure, He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42  Jesus knew the ending, the resurrection, the victory over sin and death. However He also knew the grief and the pain.  He knew that God could take the grief, but if God removed the grief, the victory would not come either.  In great grief there is often great joy.  I am not saying I have some great astounding victory at the middle of this journey.   I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know that I am closer to God.  I know Him more fully.  I have more compassion than I ever dreamed I lacked.  God has brought great joy through the grief.  He has brought triumph through the tears.  Psalm 30:5b “…Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

For those of you in the night, I am praying for a quick return of the morning.

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Then There Were…28?!

July 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

So my husband and I felt led or compelled to choose IVF.  That was an easier choice to make than I thought.  The journey was much more difficult than I thought.

1.  We knew we would give any embryo created a chance at life outside the petri dish.  That meant NO CONTROL, over how many children we would have.  Wait a second, isn’t that how it is naturally anyway?!  Oh, that was a bunny trail.  God was teaching me AGAIN that I don’t have control even though I think I do.

2.  We knew that we may have multiples.  Secretly, I was pretty excited about this possibility.  Mostly because I am a twin.  I longed to carry more than one child.  I am not sure I ever told anyone, but I do know my husband was fearful of multiples because of my health.

3.  I had “decided” to reduce the risk of high order multiples that we would NEVER transfer more than two embryos at a time.  So, you know how I said I would “never” use fertility treatments.  This never went about as well as that one.  I’ll give you details later.

So Dan and I prayed that God would not give us more than we could handle.  We talked with our MD and said we don’t want too many embryos because we were planning on giving them all a chance at life.  We asked about having me put on lower dose hormones to reduce the risk of too many embryos.  He told us that most people don’t have enough embryos and encouraged us to do the “regular” amount of meds.

So the day of my egg retrieval came and they were estimating 12 eggs would be harvested.  Imagine my shock and disbelief when after the procedure they retrieved 28 eggs.  My heart skipped a few beats, my head began to swim (or was that the anesthesia), and my eyes BULGED.  I told my sweet husband that certainly not all of those eggs would fertilize.

The next day I spent in breathless anticipation and soreness (from the retrieval), waiting for the fert. report (the call you get when they tell you how many eggs fertilized).  Now mind you this is the number of my babies.  I believe life happens at conception.  God knows us before we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs.  So breathless and with fear and trepidation, I answer my phone.  21 eggs have fertilized.  The room started spinning.  No panic attack.  I just kept praying that God knew how many I could handle.  God knew what was best.  God HELP me and my husband.  However, there was that same tug on my heart, the one I had when my pregnancy test was positive.  I had 21 babies.  I may never get to hold them in my arms, but I would hold them in my heart.  They were my husband’s and mine.

The next day I got another phone call.  This call was to tell me how many embryos were still alive and when my doctor planned to transfer the first two.  Sometimes they do day three transfers and other times they do day five transfers.  This depends on the quantity and quality of your embryos and your doctor’s preference.  I got the call in church and quickly ran out the back of the balcony, with my husband trailing behind, so I could hear the report.  ALL 21 were still alive and we were to have a day five transfer.  Once again, my heart skipped a beat, but a wave of assurance came over me.  God had a plan.  God knew what was going on.  God would not give us more than we could handle.

I didn’t hear from my doctor again until the day of the transfer of my embryos.  That was when I heard the news.  Only nine of my precious twenty-one were still alive.  My heart sank.  I truly mourned the loss of those babies, even though my logical brain said, I would go crazy with that many children.

I had two precious ones transferred to my womb and went home.  God blessed us with a pregnancy.  The other seven embryos were left in a freezer at my doctor’s office, two and a half hours from my home.  I soon realized that part of my heart was in that freezer with those babes.  My little tot-sicles (like popsicles only babies), were on my heart, if not my mind constantly.  My prayer became, “God how many can my heart handle to lose and my nerves handle to survive?”  God knew.  His plan never changed, but He changed me.

Thank you God for not leaving me the way I was, but making me more like Christ!

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Fertility Treatments and God

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Since I lost the ability to conceive naturally, my logical conclusion was that God wanted my husband and I to adopt.  I had often thought of adopting.  I had some adopted friends.  I thought that was the answer.  We, my husband and I were going to adopt.  I just never really thought to talk to my husband.  You know the head of the house?  The would-be father of said adopted child/children.  I honestly never gave it a second thought, until the night I was looking at children who needed to be adopted on the state’s website.

I asked my husband if he thought we should adopt a baby or an older child who needed a home.  I soon discovered my husband had not heard from God on the whole adoption thing.  He was not ready to consider adoption at all.  (Let me say that both my husband and I agree that adoption is a great option, it was just not the direction God was leading us)  So, I gulped.  I looked shocked.  I even cried.  Then I had to swallow my pride.  You see, in my naive youth, I had said something like: “I just don’t understand why anyone would use fertility treatments when there are so many children who need to be adopted.”

So I began researching fertility treatments.  Since my fallopian tubes where pretty much shot, my only option was in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  So I prayed for wisdom.  I talked with my husband.  We prayed for direction and we made an appointment to discuss IVF with a doctor.

1.  I know and believe that God’s word teaches life begins at conception.  (Exodus 21:22-25)

2.  I believe that “selective reduction” is not an option since a baby is a baby regardless if the baby is only two cells or thousands of cells.

3.  We decided before hand that we would transfer ALL the embryos created that survived to a stage that they could be transferred.

I will share the rest of our IVF journey in future posts.  What I would like to do now is open this up for discussion.  What do you all think about fertility treatments and your Christian faith.  What types of questions or concerns do you have regarding this technology?  What do you think?

My Journey with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

July 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The journey of infertility is filled with pain, grief, and isolation. However there is a God of the journey, orchestrating each step for His perfect purpose. I found comfort in knowing that when I was in the midst of the darkest parts of my personal journey.

Although, my husband and I already had one child, we longed for more. So after “trying” to get pregnant for three months, we discovered I was pregnant, and we were thrilled. I am a planner, so before the urine dried on the pregnancy test, I had already decided where the baby would sleep, and whether we would find out his or her sex on ultrasound. This baby had a strong hold on my heart.

Within a few short days, I started having bright red spotting. I convinced myself after lots of research, and discussing with my friends and sisters, that it was normal. However about a week later, I had some bleeding that could not be ignored. We soon discovered I had a tubal pregnancy (where the baby implants in the tube instead of the uterus). This is often painful and can be life threatening. We were crushed. The baby was not growing properly in my tube nor could it survive there. Despite receiving treatment, my fallopian tube ruptured. I lost half of my circulating volume of blood! In the hospital in severe pain, I knew God was with me. I prayed that I wouldn’t go through this difficult, and painful time for no reason. I prayed I could honor Him in some way through the pain.

Although my doctor was able to save my tube, it was unlikely that it would function properly. My desire to have a child increased and I was determined to conceive quickly. I began charting my basal body temperature and taking ovulation predictor kits, in an attempt to conceive quickly. Once again, we were blessed to see a second line on the home pregnancy test. Oh happy day!!! Even though I was more cautious with my excitement and planning, this child had carved a niche in my heart too. Since I had already had a tubal pregnancy, I was having frequent blood draws. Not long after the blood draws began, I began to spot, and experience left lower abdominal pain. Although my physicians tried to reassure me that all was OK, and my blood tests looked normal, I knew something was not right. It was almost as if God was preparing me for what was going to happen next.

It was on a Monday, and I went in to have an ultrasound to see what was going on inside me. My lab work showed that I should have a baby in my uterus. On the low resolution machine, my doctor said that there could be something in my uterus, but there was definitely something strange in my left tube. He re-scheduled me for a higher resolution ultrasound later that afternoon. I never kept that appointment, because I experienced the same pain when my tube ruptured with my first tubal pregnancy. Only this time it was on the left side. Now I two ruptured tubes, and a 90% chance of having another tubal pregnancy if I could get pregnant at all. In about six months, I had lost my ability to conceive naturally.

During the time of my second tubal pregnancy, my pastor was preaching a sermon on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When they were facing the fiery furnace, they say that their God is able to save them from the furnace, but even if He doesn’t they will never bow to another God. (Dan. 3:17-18) So I prayed that God would give me that kind of faith through the loss of my fertility. That no matter how difficult, that no matter how painful, I would cling to Him. I knew He was able to do anything, for He is the God of miracles, but I also knew His ways are not my ways. So I prayed that despite and through the loss of my ability to conceive children naturally, my faith in God would stay strong. Sisters it isn’t easy. There are still days I ask why, days I want to throw myself a pity party, but God is bringing me in closer relationship to Him. He is even bringing beauty from the ashes of my barrenness.

Father God, help us as we ask You why. As we long for a child, help us to experience your love. Remind us in tangible ways that we are NOT alone, and that we are NOT defective. Father help our unbelief as we are longing for children that You have yet to bless us with. Oh Lord, let us find strength in the shadow of Your wings for our current journey. Let us cling to You, the Lover of our souls. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, that we may honor You through the pain. We pray for miracles for each woman reading this prayer. Lord that Your hand will be on their bodies, hearts, and minds. In Your Son’s powerful name we pray, the name of Jesus. Amen.

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You are NOT Alone

July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Are you having difficulty conceiving a child?  Are you struggling with grief, isolation, and pain?  Is your faith being shaken?  Well sister, here is a place for you to come.

I am writing this blog in the middle of my journey.  I call it the middle because I although God has blessed my husband and I with children, I still want more.  However, we have no more embryos in which to do in-vitro fertilization. IVF was necessary for two of my three children.  My husband, my children, and I do not feel able to go through that process again.  The excitement of possibility, the joy of holding a child, the pain of loss, are too much for us to try again.  Not to mention the horrible hormones.  The hardest part for me was having part of my heart in a freezer for four years.  Those precious embryos were my babies, whether I got to hold them in my arms or not.  I was nearly giddy the day I finally got to take those last three embies home.  Although I did not get pregnant with that cycle, and lost those three babies, I was so excited to take them home.

This blog will be about things I have learned through God on this journey.  I am still in the middle of waiting for God’s hand.  Waiting for Him to change my heart, make a miracle in my body, or place a baby that needs to be adopted on my doorstep.  Come with me.  Ask me questions, ask God questions.  Let’s do this together!

I’ll post my complete story shortly.

Blessings,

Angela

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