So I dreaded Christmas this year. But God has mercifully given me a new measure of joy, instead of the heartache I anticipated. My circumstances are still difficult, my trial is not over, my temptations still press in. Yet I find myself singing. As we sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" in church a couple weeks ago, the Spirit illuminated to me the words, "Late in time behold him come, offspring of a virgin's womb." At first, I felt that pang, but then I really thought about those lyrics. Though he was suddenly and unexpectedly conceived (from a human perspective), Christ's birth was long awaited. A barren world yearned for centuries for the Messiah to come. Thousands lived and died, hoping for the birth of a Savior, trusting God's promise of a Redeemer. Human hearts were sick with sin and deferred hope. Then, oh miraculous act of love, God became man, took on flesh as a tiny infant. Immanuel. God with us. God with us in our deepest suffering. God with us to rescue us from his own wrath against our sin. God with us to give us himself.
This month, every time I think of the anguish of the past couple of years and the anxiety about the upcoming year, I remember. "Late in time behold him come." My years of waiting to conceive are small in comparison to the centuries that the world waited for the Savior to be born. My suffering - though still weighty - is infinitely lighter because I live after that birth, after Christ bore the burden of my sins. I am waiting for a baby, but I am not waiting for a Redeemer. I trust and hope that I will see my child's face one day; I know with certainty that I will see my Lord's face in heaven.
If you're playing along with the progesterone levels game, you'll be glad to know that I've managed to hit my highest peak yet - 40wupmL. And that was only 5dpo (for those unfamiliar with the infertility acronyms, that stands for "days past ovulation"), when progesterone usually crests at 7dpo.
Bit of Miscellany #2
Speaking of high peaks, did you know that when Aaron and I went to Galena for our anniversary two weeks ago, we were within a few miles of the highest elevation point in the state of Illinois? Yes, that's right folks, Charles Mound scales in at a lofty 1,235 feet above sea level. I should specify that it is the tallest natural point, because my sources tell me that the Sears Tower is actually taller. Aahh, the glories of the plains... Anyway, Aaron and I had hoped to visit this illustrious landmark, but sadly it is on private property and very rarely open to the public.
Bit of Miscellany #3
I've been monitoring visitors to my blog (yes, I am watching you!), and I'm a little curious about some of my readers. I can figure out who the Naperville & Wheaton, Waco & Austin readers are, for the most part. But who are my regular readers in San Marcos, TX*, and Clarksville, MD? And how about LaGrange, IL? Speak up if that's you; I'd like to meet you!
*I think the spellcheck tool likes Texas. It didn't question any of the cities named from the Lone Star State, but highlighted as suspicious all the cities in Illinois and Maryland.
Decidedly yes. At first it is a little mysterious. What was that crash and tinkling sound? After the husband and wife consult with each other, the husband gets up and goes to the living room. He confirms that, yes, the Christmas tree has fallen over at 4 a.m. The live Christmas tree with a stand full of water that is now all over the carpet. The Christmas tree that was just decorated that very evening, and now has strewn ornaments, lights, and garland like shrapnel. Oh, and what seems like about one-third of its needles have formed a new rug for the dining room.
It took us a very groggy hour to get the tree back up in the stand, hopefully more secure (although it did start to fall over two more times while we were cleaning up, so we're not holding our breath). Thankfully, only 2 ornaments broke, and neither had great sentimental value.
As Aaron said, "It's good to have midnight adventures every now and then." Like the time we woke up to water pouring through the heat lamp in our bathroom ceiling. Or the time we heard a huge crash in the kitchen, and Aaron threw his arm protectively across me and told me to wait while he confronted the burglar - which ended up being 2 shelves of mugs that fell and shattered on the tile floor. Good times, good times*.
*But I'd rather be woken up at 4 a.m. by a baby crying than my Christmas tree toppling...
I have one large follicle on each ovary (20mm and 17mm), plus several smaller ones as well. I'll do another dose of Follistim tonight and then have a Thanksgiving trigger shot. Nurse Answers informed me that we cannot do an IUI this round, due to a new policy at the clinic that all males must be tested for HIV and such before any procedures can be done. (The policy used to just include female patients, so I've already had this pointless-for-us blood panel done, but now Aaron too will get to undergo useless needle-sticking.) Instead of an IUI, we'll have timed intercourse. I'm actually grateful to God for this change. IUI's have been pretty stressful for us, and it would have been hard to rearrange a busy holiday weekend around a visit to the clinic in the northern suburbs. Technically, our chances of conceiving may be lower without the IUI, but I am daring to feel somewhat optimistic about this combination of high-tech medicine and old-fashioned baby-making. Only the Lord knows when and how he will bestow the gift of life, but I pray this will be the month!
Nahum 1:7 "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him."
Last Thursday's ultrasound showed that the monstrous cysts are completely and utterly gone - thank you, Lord! So I was given the all clear for another Clomid-IUI cycle, but this time with more injection fun! I'm adding at least 2 days of Follistim, a shot that is meant to thicken up my uterine lining (translation: we're trying to create a cozy environment for a little Patterson to snuggle up in for a good nine months, instead of a womb as a rocky place in which seed can find no purchase). As a result of the need to give myself a minimum of 3 shots this month (the new med and the one I already use to trigger ovulation), I am now the proud owner of a sharps container! Just looking out for the good garbagemen of Naperville... Anyway, I have another ultrasound tomorrow to see how the follicles and lining have developed, and pending those results, we'll probably do an IUI sometime this weekend. Please send Thanksgiving prayers our way!
Speaking of prayers, I had the following exchange with my 5-year-old nephew on Sunday:
"You and uncle Aaron are married, so you can have kids."
"That's true, we are. In fact, we would like that. You can ask God to give us a baby."
Without further ado, "Dear God, please help my uncle and aunt Andery to have a baby. Amen."
*for those of you who want to know which room we stayed in (Amanda), it was the Lene.
"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:20-21)
"We are not battling by ourselves - God battles for us! James is saying, 'Don't you know that the Spirit who lives inside you envies intensely? In the middle of the battle you can't forget that God is a jealous God. He loves you too much to make room for other lovers. He will oppose your proud and self-absorbed living, not because he is against you, but because he loves you.' Praise God that he will settle for nothing short of the final victory in our hearts. Our hope to be who we were meant to be is directly tied to his jealous desire for our hearts....
...James says more. This jealous God is a giver of grace, the most powerful weapon in the war for the heart. God's grace gives us power to say no to powerful desires. It enables us to turn from the creation toward the Creator. It makes us willing to forsake our kingdoms for his. God's grace forgives, but it also constrains and draws and wins. It is jealous, God-focused grace, fitted for the moments we are tempted to follow our desires" (p. 84).
God wants my heart. He will make himself greater and more satisfying in my eyes than pregnancy or motherhood. No matter how great my yearning for a child, he will not rest until my affections and desires for him are even greater. He is my Hope.
“If my heart is ruled by the desire for a certain thing, it will affect my relationship with God in two principal ways. First, it will shape my attitude when I pray. Rather than prayer being a worshipful act of submission to God, I will pray self-centered and demanding prayers – if I pray at all. I may be so intent on getting what I want that I forget God. Not only will my attitude in prayer be affected, but the kind of god I want will change as well. Let me explain.
If a certain set of desire rules my heart, I will not want God to be a wise, loving, sovereign Father who gives me what he knows is best. Instead, I will want a divine waiter who delivers what I have set my heart on….
When a certain set of desires rules our hearts, we reduce prayer to the menu of human desire. Worse, we shrink God from his position of all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful Father to a divine waiter we expect to deliver everything we ask. But God will not shrink to this size. He will only be our Father and King, who ‘satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s’ (Ps. 103.5). He knows what is best, and he will not let there be peace until he alone controls our hearts. He is a Warrior King, who will not rest when we are captive to other kings. He fights for us, for the thoughts and desires of our hearts.”
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, p. 83
What has infertility to do with idolatry? (Apologies to Tertullian.) At first glance, not much. Infertility is technically defined as the inability to conceive after one year of trying. Idolatry makes most people think of little statues and false gods. But when you define idolatry as worshiping anything other than the one true, triune God, a connection between infertility and idolatry is made. Infertility is difficult for me primarily because I desire a child more than I desire God.
James 1 tells me that it is my own desire that entices me away from loving God. All the sins that have been exposed in my life over the past year and a half - jealousy, self-pity, anxiety, unbelief, pride - they all have been conceived by my desire for a child. (Not the kind of conception I'm really aiming for!) This does not mean that my desire for a child is itself wrong or sinful. In fact, God's word makes it clear that children are gifts, blessings. But most idolatry lies not in what we want, but in wanting it too much. If I pursue something good, like a child, more than I pursue my Lord and Savior, who is good and does good, then I am an idolater.
I've spent some time in recent weeks reading through Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands Ch. 5 and meditating on James 1 & 4 and Galatians 5. I'd like to take several posts to share what I've learned about the idolatry in my heart and about the hope for change offered to me by Jesus. Here's a quote from the beginning of Paul Tripp's book to set a foundation for the rest to come:
"As sinners, we have a natural bent to turn away from the Creator to serve the creation. We turn away from hope in a Person to hope in systems, ideas, people, or possessions. Real Hope stares us in the face, but we do not see Him. ... We must not offer people a system of redemption, a set of insights and principles. We offer people a Redeemer." (p. 8)
The right looked something like this - see the faint oval oultine with the little black dots? The ovary is the oval shape, and it's about normal size. The little black dots are small cysts; I have 2 about 11mm each (anything under 16mm is fine for proceeding with fertility treatment).
The left, however, looked like this - that big black circle is one huge cyst, with the ovary swollen around it. Only I have 2 of those, approximately 2 inches each, bulging together. Not a pretty picture.
So, at least another month off before we attempt a new protocol. I'm supposed to take it easy for a little bit, so those fatties don't bust. Although I was praying for no cysts, I am asking God to help me see even them as a gift from Him. On a lighter note, at least all that cystiness explains the sudden swelling of my abdomen in the past couple weeks - I like that explanation better than blaming it on all the yummy desserts I was fed in Texas!
When clouds of darkness, atheism, and unbelief come to me,
I see thy purpose of love,
in withdrawing the Spirit that I might prize him more,
in chastening me for my confidence in past successes,
that my wound of secret godlessness might be cured.
Help me to humble myself before thee
by seeing the vanity of honour as a conceit of men's minds,
as standing between me and thee;
by seeing that thy will must alone be done,
as much in denying as in giving spiritual enjoyments;
by seeing that my heart is nothing but evil,
mind, mouth, life void of thee;
by seeing that sin and Satan are allowed power in me
that I might know my sin, be humbled,
and gain strength thereby;
by seeing that unbelief shuts thee from me,
so that I sense not thy majesty, power, mercy, or love.
Then possess me, for thou only art good and worthy.
Thou dost not play in convicting me of sin,
Satan did not play in tempting me to it,
I do not play when I sink in deep mire,
for sin is no game, no toy, no bauble;
Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin
lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed,
as in the greatness of the person sinned against.
When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied;
that I am feeble and unable to do any good,
but that in him I can do all things;
that what I now have in Christ is mine in part,
but that shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven.
"Humiliation," The Valley of Vision, p. 79
The pregnancy blood test I had done at the clinic yesterday was pointless, as I started my period two hours later.
I am disappointed and discouraged, struggling to believe that God's grace is sufficient for me. It doesn't seem like I will ever be satisfied in Christ alone.
Parmesan Chicken Chowder (from Jen Flock)
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3-4 baking potatoes, cleaned & diced
4 carrots, peeled & sliced ¼” thick
2 ribs celery, sliced ¼” thick
1 onion, diced
3 cups water
Salt & pepper
4 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup peas (thawed if frozen)
1 cup corn (thawed if frozen)
1/3 cup Parmesan, shredded or grated
Put chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion & water in crockpot. Season with salt & pepper. Cook all day. Chicken should shred easily when done. 15 minutes before serving, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, whisking for 2 minutes or until smooth. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir milk mixture into chicken mixture. Add peas, corn, and Parmesan to the chowder and stir to combine. Serve with crusty bread.
Boeuf Bourguignon (modified from a recipe in Everyday Food magazine)
2-3 lbs boneless chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
¼ cup flour
6 medium carrots, peeled & sliced ½” thick
1 onion, diced
4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large & stems trimmed
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper
1 bottle dry red wine
Place chuck roast in bottom of crockpot. Sprinkle with flour; season with salt & pepper. Add carrots, onion, bacon, garlic, mushrooms & tomato paste. Season with thyme, salt & pepper. Pour wine over all. Cook on high all day (8+ hours). Meat should fall apart when stirred. (This recipe is even better reheated as leftovers, so you can also cook it overnight, refrigerate it during the day, and warm it up for dinner.)
*I’ve always thought the British spelling of words that Americans end in “or” was much more sophisticated. This seemed like a good time to use the British way.
IUI – Oct. 4
It was okay, and we were very grateful to squeeze it in before our travels. Aaron’s counts were a little lower than before, but he had 100% motility (which is a good thing, if you’re not familiar with all the terminology). Nurse Answers was great, as usual, and took the time to look at his previous counts, assured us that we still had enough for our IUI, and promised to keep an eye on future numbers. During and after the IUI, I had quite a bit of discomfort from cramping, but it wasn’t exceedingly painful.
Progesterone test – Oct. 11
My levels were very good again – 25wupmL. Clomid certainly seems to do the trick for me; we just need to get sperm to meet egg when I’m on the medication!
That’s all until this Wednesday, when we should know the big result. Honestly, I’m not very expectant (no pun intended), but I’m trying to find true hope in Christ rather than turning to either wishful thinking or pessimism.
I had an ultrasound yesterday that showed 3 large follicles on my right ovary (20mm, 18mm & 16mm) and one medium follicle on my left ovary (13mm) - another big response to the meds. In fact, Wendy was astonished at how many well-developed follicles I had! All that to say, Nurse Answers told me to go ahead and trigger last night (an event that was not nearly as nerve-wracking as the first time). We go in for our IUI tomorrow morning, right before we each leave for our respective trips (Aaron to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, me to Texas). If this IUI works, we'll have quite the story to tell our child someday. "Honey, you were conceived while mommy was on a plane flying in the opposite direction of your daddy..." Not exactly anyone's romanticized idea of starting a family, but we'll take it any way it comes!
I may blog while I'm on vacation, but I may not. If you live in Austin or Waco, I hope to see you while I'm in town!
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Happy birthday, my dear husband. You are my love and my laughter. You are my encourager and comforter. You are "more to me than ten sons" (1 Sam. 1:8). What could be better than getting to share every day of life with you? I can't imagine where I would be without your friendship, your leadership, your help, your humor, and your affection. With you I know that "God's best gifts put man's best dreams to shame." So on your birthday, I celebrate you and look forward to enjoying every moment together.
With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.
Your devoted wife,
So I went in yesterday for my day 3 ultrasound and bloodwork. All levels normal, all systems go. Nurse Answers was not in yesterday or today, so I didn't get to ask her if we'll still be able to do an IUI before we head out of town. I'll call her tomorrow to ask. In the meantime, I swallowed the first of five Clomid pills yesterday and I've ordered my trigger shot. Monday is my next appointment, an ultrasound to check my follicles and lining. I'm praying that we will be all set at that point for triggering and doing an IUI next Wednesday morning before we head to the airport. Even if my lining or follicles aren't quite ready yet, I'll probably still beg for a Wednesday morning IUI. After all the recent delays, I'm ready to grovel. But again, God is in control and I am not.
Last Sunday, Tab began a new series on true riches with a message on "Uncertain Riches." His text was 1 Timothy 6:17 - "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." Most of us in America are among the top 5-15% of the world's wealthy, so this verse applies to us. Tab gave us 2 charges: 1) don't be proud about your wealth; 2) don't trust in your wealth. When it comes to money, we are tempted to believe two lies. First, we are tempted to believe that we are better than others because of what we have. Second, we are tempted to believe that riches provide us with security. In reality, anything we have has been provided by God (who caused us to be born in this time and place, who gave us minds to be educated, who opened jobs for us, who sustains our bodies so that we can enjoy our food and our belongings). And material blessings are temporal and uncertain, but God is our Eternal Rock!
Ultimately, we need to believe and be satisfied in Jesus Christ, the richest provision ever given. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). This is a promise I need to apply to our saving and spending, to my pursuit of spiritual growth, and to all of my desires. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.
I believe that God, who has appointed it, has also measured your trouble, set its bounds, and will bring it to an end. His gracious design is in all your difficulties. Do not think that God deals roughly with His children and gives them needless pain. "He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lam. 3:33). "He has torn, but He will heal" (Hosea 6:1).
Has not God helped you out of one trouble after another? Do you suppose that He will leave you in this trouble? "He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you" (Job 5:19).
This particular water, in which you are now struggling, is intended and included in this promise, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you" (Is. 43:2).
It is, I must confess, sometimes difficult to apply the promises to a particular case. Sometimes unbelief fights hard. But remember, unless the promise is applied it is like medicine that is not taken. It may be powerful, but it is worthless unless applied.
Ask for grace, that you may believe while you are still under the cloud. Regardless of how dark the cloud, it contains blessings. "If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth" (Eccl. 11:3).
I was experiencing some pretty sharp ovulation pangs (which I never had before taking Clomid, but have had each month since). Imagine a side cramp from running, but the pain is located about 3 inches below and to the side of your bellybutton. Anyway, I was joking with Aaron about how it is pretty inconvenient to have cramps that make a girl want to avoid intimacy around ovulation time when trying to conceive. "I mean," I said, "it's fairly counterproductive." Without missing a beat, he turned to me and said, "Counter-REproductive!" (That may only be funny to you if you're as immersed in all things reproductive as we are, but I thought it was pretty clever!)
Later this weekend, we were talking about baby names. Tongue in cheek, Aaron asked, "Do you think it would be presumptuous to give a child the first name 'Saint'?"
His words often make me laugh. His words also often remind me of the truth I need to hear. After he picked me up from a baby shower this weekend, I cried to him in the car about how hard it is that what should be a special occasion to rejoice brings up so many feelings of hurt. I want to ooh and aah over all the cute baby clothes, but instead every outfit is a stabbing reminder of what I do not have. I want to laugh at the funny stories of breastfeeding, but instead I ache to wonder if I will ever experience that with a child of mine. Before we started trying to conceive, I could enjoy all of those things because I assumed they would be part of my life, too, someday. Now, I just don't know if that will be the case. I ended by wailing to Aaron, "If only I knew for sure that we would conceive, and when, it would be so much easier!" He wisely and kindly responded, "It's true that you don't know what will happen, if you'll ever be pregnant or not, but you do know one thing about your future. You know that one day you will be in heaven with our Savior." Ah, what good words. I don't know how my story will unfold in the years to come, but I do know the end of my story. And knowing that I have been redeemed so that I can be with my Lord in eternity, where every tear will be wiped away, makes everything easier to bear.
"My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!" (v. 28)
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." (v. 50)
"You are good and do good; teach me your statutes." (v. 68)
"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." (v. 71)
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant." (v. 73-76)
"My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your work. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?" (v. 81-82)
"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction." (v. 92)
"I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!" (v. 107)
"Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!" (v. 116)
"Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight." (v. 143)
"Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word." (v. 170)
When I recently read Psalm 119 for the second time this year, I approached it with eager delight. I knew I would find the sweet balm of comfort, the antidote to my despairing feelings in the face of affliction. These words don't make suffering vanish, they don't explain why hardships happen, but they consistently remind me that my troubles are not in vain in the hands of the God who defines good. His promises are precious because they lead me to know my Savior better, and they are truer than any earthly experience. I want, like the psalmist, to embrace my suffering as a means of drawing closer to the God who has afflicted me in faithfulness and love, for my good.
Psalm 119 now ranks high on my list of recommended reading for anyone enduring a trial. It has become one of my favorite passages in the Bible, a storehouse of wisdom and comfort written by a fellow sufferer who knew anguish but knew God better.
On a side note, as Josh spoke about self-righteousness, he mentioned that we can often have this same attitude toward fellow believers, saying in our hearts that others don't deserve the blessings they receive. I have often been guilty of that in the area of fertility. In my pride, I think that I deserve a child more than others who are pregnant or who have babies. Thankfully, as God has shown me my sin more clearly, I am less prone to think that I merit the gift of children at all, let alone more than others. However, a more subtle form of the same attitude has cropped up lately. I look at those who have been pregnant during the time we have been trying to conceive, and I wonder, "What spiritual quality do they have that I don't yet? What lessons have they learned from God that I still need to learn? If only I can find out, I can finally get to the point where God is willing to give me a child." Even though I am not elevating myself above others by those thoughts, I am still basically trying to earn a blessing from God - and it is the height of pride to think that I could ever be worthy of God's favor! But my merciful Savior freely pursues me and lavishly blesses me, not as a reward for anything I do, but as the lover of my sinful soul. He did not wait for me to obey before he saved me, and he is not waiting for me to attain some degree of spiritual maturity before he gives me children. He is fulfilling all his good purposes for me in his good time.
1) Genuine repentance involves faith.
2) Genuine repentance involves changed behavior.
3) Genuine repentance involves everything in life.
4) Genuine repentance involves a recognition of guilt.
5) Genuine repentance involves looking to God for mercy.
He then asked the following questions for application. Where in my life is God calling me to repent? An area of unbelief? A behavior that hasn't noticeably changed? An area of life that I won't surrender to God?
I can think of many areas where I need to repent these days. Lack of faith that God is working all things for my good. Anxiety about the future - about how many more hurdles we'll have to jump before having a child, about how many more other babies I will see born before I conceive. A proud posture that thinks my will for my life is better than God's. Infertility is proving to be an area of life that I must surrender to God over and over again. I easily get overwhelmed, despairing that I will ever grow Christ-like enough to humbly accept this trial from the hand of God. The problem when I reach this point is that I get paralyzed; I need to repent of so many things, where do I begin? In those times, I need to ask for help. I need to ask my husband if he sees one area I can focus on (this has helped me so much in the past). The input of close friends helps, too. Above all, I need to believe that God intends to show mercy. He will give his Holy Spirit to guide me. He gives everything that I need for life and godliness through Jesus Christ. So I can repent, not with fear, but with faith.
Laurie & the WV nephews, Samuel & Carter
Isaiah, the Chicago gangsta
nephews in the model train garden
Psalm 119:28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
Oh, remember what I said above about not expecting much out of this cycle? Well, here's a prime example of the irrational wishful thinking common to infertiles. A mental conversation between Rational and Irrational Me at 5:30 p.m. yesterday evening:
Rational Me: Well, well, well. Cramping and spotting. A day later than usual, but this must be my period starting.
Irrational Me: You know, you might have ovulated later this cycle due to the cyst. Maybe that's implantation spotting and you're pregnant!
Rational Me: No, no, no. Remember, our body needs drugs to be pregnancy-friendly. We didn't have drugs this month. I'm not pregnant.
Irrational Me: Okay, how about this idea? The cyst is just now going away! Nurse Answers said that you might have cramping and bleeding when that happens. The pangs in your abdomen and the spotting aren't an impending period; they're because the cyst is going away and you're pregnant!
Rational Me: No, I'm not! Cramping and spotting on day 26 of a 25-day-average-cycler is a period beginning!
Irrational Me: We could take that pregnancy test in the bathroom cabinet and find out...
Rational Me: No. We will wait until the morning and know that we are not pregnant because we'll have our period. End of conversation!
Thankfully, Rational Me won out and was vindicated when I woke up this morning. How is it possible to know I'm not pregnant and yet still get my hopes up? This happens every month...
I am praying this verse for the new cycle: "Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!" (Psalm 118:25).
-C.H. Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters
As I have faced the distress of infertility, I have cried out often for delivering grace. I want God to put an end to this trial by blessing us with children soon. While it is not a bad thing to ask for delivering grace, I realized that I have been rejecting any other form of grace as not good enough. God has provided me with plenty of sustaining grace over the past year, but I quickly overlook that. I too often fail to notice God's goodness in strengthening me to endure infertility, in enabling me to battle against sins like jealousy and self-pity and to actually make some progress! Even worse, I minimize the greatness of the ultimate delivering grace of salvation. "So what if I've been saved from my sins," I scoff. "What does it matter that I have an eternal relationship with a loving God, if I can't have a baby?" Okay, I don't actually say those things (maybe I should, so I would be more properly horrified by my unbelief!). But my lack of joy and refusal to be comforted by the gospel in the midst of trial basically says the same thing. The gospel DOES matter; it should put my infertility in perspective and should increase my trust in the Father who did not spare his own Son for me and who will never withhold good from me. Though I may have pretty strong feelings about the kind of grace I want, the Lord will always give me the kind of grace I need.
Note: I would like to start devoting one post a week to reflections on the Sunday message. Hopefully, this will be the first of many!
1) Be honest about the facts (don't exaggerate). I give into self-pity when I only focus on a momentary trouble and magnify how bad it is, rather than acknowledging that there are blessings in my life as well as trials. For example, when I found out about our need to do IUI or about the cyst, my first reaction was, "Everything that can go wrong does!" While both of those were truly disappointing setbacks, my response exaggerated the problem and overlooked the many positives in our battle against infertility (only facing one hormonal problem, great doctor & nurses, excellent insurance, good response to medication, etc.). Not only that, my response overlooked the big picture of my salvation and sanctification.
2) Don't judge the hearts of others. Self-pity not only affects me, it affects how I view others. I feed my self-pity by thinking, "No one else cares. No one else understands. No one else realizes how hard this is for me." In reality, I am surrounded by people who care, who want to offer comfort, who want to help me escape from sin and trust God through this trial. I do a great disservice to those people when I judge them out of my self-pity.
3) Remember God's promises. In the throes of self-pity, my circumstances and emotions seem so much more real and true than God's word. But I can nip self-pity in the bud by having faith that God's promises (to be faithful, to do good, to sanctify me, to bless me) are true even when I cannot see them or feel them.
4) Remember that God will not always work in the obvious way I want him to. I have great ideas about how God should work - he should end this trial by letting us conceive a healthy baby! I've learned all my lessons, right? He'll get glory by answering my prayers as soon as possible, right? Seems like a good idea to me... But when I think I know best how God should work in my life, I am easily tempted to self-pity when God does not work how I expect. I need to trust that his ways are higher than mine.
5) Find others to carry part of your burden. When I give into self-pity, I tend to isolate myself. Then, it becomes that much easier to exaggerate how bad my circumstances are, to judge others as uncaring, to ignore God's promises, and to complain about God not working how I want. When I am the only human audience for these thoughts, they start to dig in deep. But if I open up to others - my husband first, and then other friends - my sin is exposed and can be addressed and corrected, my despair is lessened as others help me, and I am pointed back to my loving and trustworthy God.
I think if I can even remember one of these things when I am tempted, it would throw a big wrench into the cogs of self-pity. By the Spirit's help, I hope to be able to capture self-pitying thoughts more and more quickly as time goes on. May he "fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)!
- To keep family and friends near and far updated about our progress with infertility treatments. It's a lot easier to provide one centralized source of information, rather than saying the same things over again (although I don't mind talking about it, if people ask).
- As a form of journaling. A friend asked me if I was journaling about this season, and while I have been keeping a journal of my times in God's word, I was not chronicling the specific events, thoughts, and emotions related to infertility. I want to have a record of this very life-defining trial, so that I don't forget the details what I am learning and experiencing. God-willing, I will one day share these writings (at least in part) with our children, to let them know how they were sought after and how God worked.
- I also enjoy writing, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed it so much as in the format of blogging.
- I have been inspired by other blogs - friends' blogs, ministry-related blogs, and infertility blogs.
- I want the Lord to be magnified through this trial, and blogging gives me one way to speak publicly about his goodness and greatness to me in the midst of difficulty.
I realize that most of these reasons have to do with infertility, because infertility is rather consuming in our lives right now. But I do plan to continue blogging after the battle with infertility is finally over, whenever that day comes. I'll just have to change my top 5 reasons then!
Another blogger wrote a thoughtful post about the infertility pattern of waiting and wishing; you can read it here.
It's easy to justify grumbling. My circumstances are difficult. The heat of temptation is real. But my response came straight out of my sinful heart, a heart that doesn't want to trust God when things don't go the way I want. A heart that can say, "Yes, God, you were good to save me. Yes, you were good to bless me with a wonderful husband. Yes, you were good to put me in such an outstanding local church. But I don't like infertility, so you must not be good to me in that area." Because I don't get a detailed letter from God explaining every reason why he has ordained this particular suffering for me, I complain and doubt and ask, "Why, why, why?" I decide that my emotions and perceptions are more infallible than God's word.
But God's word says that he is good and does good; he is full of steadfast love and faithfulness; he is trustworthy and there is no unrighteousness in him. My doubtful grumblings and questionings dishonor that God, but that God paid the ultimate price to forgive my grumblings and questionings.
Has the temptation to grumble and question gone away? No. I still don't understand or want this hardship. I still worry that my fears of more fertility setbacks will come true. But I have fresh conviction to take those thoughts captive and to fix my gave on my kind and lovely Savior.
A week or so before the end of my last cycle, I read Psalm 77. I expected that I would echo the sentiments of the Psalmist if I found out that I was not pregnant.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate my spirit faints.
"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
There have been so many times over the past year that my heart has asked those same questions, wondering if God had abandoned me. There have been so many times when it has seemed impossible to find comfort for my soul. And while I still find myself wondering why God did not allow us to conceive last month, I have been surprised this weekend by an underlying trust that God is being kind even as He says, "No," to my pleading for a child. I have found a bittersweet comfort in God's sovereignty. When I am tempted to question what went wrong last month (did we have poor egg or sperm quality? did my progesterone tank after such good numbers?), I can silence those worries by recognizing that we did not conceive because God did not allow it. Does that mean God is spurning us? While it may seem that way, His promises to work all for good have not ended. God became flesh and died on a cross to ensure that He could always look favorably upon us. His steadfast love was proven at Calvary and endures today. So I am grieving the failure of another chance to conceive, but meditating on God's faithfulness and past work made it possible for me to trust God with my sorrow, to surrender my desires to His will, and to keep waiting for His blessing.
Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
My baseline ultrasound this morning revealed that I have a cyst on my left ovary. "An ugly, messy one," according to the tech. One of the five large follicles that Clomid stimulated released its egg and then stuck around in its ruptured state, rather than dissolving gracefully. If I take Clomid now, it would cause the cyst to grow and wreak havoc on my reproductive system. So we have to put all fertility treatments on hold and wait for the cyst to resolve itself (which the nurse warned me will probably involve cramping and bleeding). The nurse said that we could still try to conceive naturally this cycle, but that doesn't help much. I mean, let's be honest - 21 cycles au natural yielded 0 conceptions. I'm not getting my hopes up for this one. (Okay, that's a lie. I'm pleading with God for a miracle to occur this month, that we will get pregnant despite the cyst and the lack of medical intervention.)
So, I'm incredibly disappointed at the delay. I just don't understand why God keeps causing these hardships to pile up. I prayed this morning (before the appointment) that I would see my suffering as something to be endured for the sake of Christ, but this bad news makes me feel so weary that I don't know how much longer I can endure. I prayed that Christ would be honored in my body; now I sit here wishing that a cyst didn't have to be the means of doing so. I don't want to wait another month. I don't want to have next summer be the earliest I could give birth to a child. I don't want to go through another round of baby showers and births without being pregnant myself. I don't want to be patient. I don't want to be infertile anymore.
I'm trying to cast my cares on God, fighting to believe that he is good when I can't see it, but I'm losing that battle right now.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick...
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
(Prov. 13:12, Psalms 69:1-3, 31:9, 56:8, 30:5)
As I wait for my morning of joy to come, it helps me to find expression of my sorrow in God's word.
19 - number of months we have been trying to conceive
22 - number of cycles we have been trying to conceive
25 - the average number of days in my cycle
3 - number of months we have been seeing a fertility specialist
5 - number of Clomid pills I have taken
1 - number of shots I have given myself
32 - the progesterone level that gave me hope for this cycle
26 - the number of days in this cycle
2 - how many days before this cycle ended that physical signs started indicating I was not pregnant
1 - number of pregnancy tests I have taken
1 - negative result on a pregnancy test
I don't like these numbers.
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust
and say, "Return, O children of man!"
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
God, you are so much vaster than me. Let me have an eternal perspective on this trial. This week of waiting to take a pregnancy test seems especially long, but I know it is fleeting in your eyes. You are God everlasting, unchanging even as the circumstances of my life come and go. Give me wisdom that recognizes how grand and merciful you are.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for an many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
I keep wondering how much longer this trial of infertility will go on. Will it end this weekend? Or is there still more you want me to endure? Please have pity on me and bring this long season of waiting to a close. Please let this weekend yield a positive pregnancy test. Let this weekend be the beginning of days of gladness after many days of affliction. Let us experience the blessing of children after becoming so intimate with the pain of the affect of this fallen world on our ability to conceive. Let me rejoice in a pregnancy, because I am satisfied in your steadfast love. But if I am not pregnant, let me still rejoice in your steadfast love.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
Please establish the work of our hands, the efforts we have made to conceive with the medical treatments for our infertility. You alone can grant life; we want to see your miraculous work! I want to tell my children of all that you have done to bring them into existence, of the great power you have displayed in my body and in my soul.
I know that no matter what comes this week, your favor rests on me because of the cross.
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Lord, you have saved me from my sin and given me your righteousness. Now I ask you to deliver me from this trial of infertility. Please let this weekend yield a positive result! But no matter what, you are my refuge. Keep me continually coming to you this week with all my hopes and anxieties and prayers.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.
You are my hope, my trust, my praise. Please even now be forming a new life in my womb, a new life that will lean on you in trusting dependence.
I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
Let me remember this week that you are near. You are my help. You will not forsake me if I find out this weekend that I am not pregnant.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, your alone.
Let me hope continually in you, not in the results of fertility treatment. Let me praise you more and more, blessing your name both when you give and when you take away. Let me speak to others of your goodness, no matter my circumstances.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Let me have children whom I can tell of your wondrous deeds, your might and power. Let me have children to whom I can pass on what you are teaching me about yourself.
Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
It is your sovereign hand that has brought the trouble and calamity of infertility into my life. I don't understand why, but I trust you. Now I am asking you to revive me, to comfort me, to bring me up out of this suffering. I am asking you to bless me with a child; I am asking to see a positive result this weekend. You know my desire; I know you are working out your perfect plan.
I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Whether this weekend brings exclamations of excitement or tears of disappointment, prepare my heart to remember your faithfulness and praise you. No matter what, let me remember how you have redeemed me and say, "It is well with my soul."