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The Patterson Clan Goes Botanic

We visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens with Aaron's family while they were in town at the beginning of August. Here are a few pictures...

Laurie & the WV nephews, Samuel & Carter

Isaiah, the Chicago gangsta

nephews in the model train garden

And the next one's for Rishi...


Round 3, Day 4

Day 4 was yesterday. I had my ultrasound. Thankfully, the cyst on my left ovary is completely gone. Sadly, Nurse Answers confirmed that Aaron's business trip in early September means that we should not pursue treatment this cycle. Logically, it makes sense; I wouldn't want to take Clomid for a poorly-timed cycle and risk forming another cyst that would prevent us from trying next cycle when timing should not be an issue. Emotionally, it was a really tough blow to hear that we have to face yet another delay. I feel as though God is opposed to us having a child, sending every possible obstacle our way. What hope do we have for children if God is against us? I'm struggling for faith to see that God proved he is for me by sending Jesus to die on the cross. I'm fighting to treasure a relationship with my Lord above the dream of snuggling a beautiful newborn baby of our own. I want to really functionally believe that God's plans are better than mine, his good is better than I can imagine, his glory is worth my suffering.

Psalm 119:28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!


Round 3, Day 1

Here I am, beginning a new cycle. For once, I am actually glad. Since I didn't really expect much out of this non-treatment cycle, starting anew means that I can find out if my cyst is gone and can most likely do a round of Clomid and IUI. I'll go to Dr. Peppy's office on Monday for a baseline ultrasound. (That is, if the ultrasound tech will consent to see me after I've been calling her by the wrong name for months! Oops!) Please pray that the cyst is gone, or at least small enough to proceed with medication. We're also a little concerned about the timing of this cycle. Aaron has a business trip scheduled for Sept. 5-8, which could be when I am ovulating. Hopefully, we'll be able to squeak in an IUI before he leaves, but I need to get an opinion from Nurse Answers (I've decided to nickname her that, because she always answers all my questions). Ultimately, it's in God's hands.

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).


At the Appointed Time

"You have been seeking help in prayer and you have believed that help would come, but it has been long delayed. Month after month you have put up storm signals, and yet the blessed lifeboat of your heavenly Father's mercy has not come to your almost wrecked vessel. 'At the appointed time the end shall be' (Dan. 8:19). The time is not for you to appoint. To set times for God to answer prayer is always wrong. He who gives has the right to choose the time of the gift. God has appointed the time of your deliverance. Let hell and earth do what they will, for at the time appointed deliverance will surely come."

-C.H. Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters


The Grace I Need

On Sunday, Tab preached an excellent message from Jonah 2, "Salvation Belongs to the Lord." (You should soon be able to listen to it here.) The two main points were that 1) God hears our cries of distress and 2) God's grace delivers us from our distress. The whole message was encouraging, but I was helped most by part of the second point. Here's a quick summary: We need to apply the truth that salvation belongs to the Lord to our current distress, but we don't always know what that looks like. God could give delivering grace that puts an end to the distress, or he could give sustaining grace that helps us endure through difficulty. No matter what, we who believe have already been given ultimate deliverance from our greatest distress, our sin that merits the wrath of God, through the cross where Christ suffered that distress in our place.

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!


Fighting Self-Pity

In D.A. Carson's commentary on 1 Kings 19 in For the Love of God Vol. 1, he examines some of the ways that Elijah gives into "the despair of unfulfilled expectations." As I read that this week, I found myself really resonating with Carson's description of Elijah. Though I am not particularly tempted at this very moment, self-pity has called like a siren during this extended season of unfulfilled expectations, and I'm sure it will continue to do so. I have adapted some of Carson's thoughts into a plan to fight against self-pity.

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)!


Top 5 Tag

Thanks to Adam, I've gotten my first official tag! He wants to know my top 5 reasons for blogging. In no particular order:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. I also enjoy writing, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed it so much as in the format of blogging.
  4. I have been inspired by other blogs - friends' blogs, ministry-related blogs, and infertility blogs.
  5. 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!


Someone Else's Thoughts

I've been thinking lately about how I seem to live my life in two week increments as a result of infertility. I start a new cycle, and I spent two weeks waiting to ovulate, living with the knowledge that I am not pregnant. Then, I ovulate, and I spend two weeks waiting to find out if we conceived, adjusting my habits according to the fact that I might be pregnant (i.e., having only one cup of coffee or tea per day, not doing exercises that pregnant women are supposed to avoid). Then I start a new cycle, go back to my un-pregnant habits, and begin all over again.

Another blogger wrote a thoughtful post about the infertility pattern of waiting and wishing; you can read it here.



Public sin merits a public confession. This morning I read the words, "Do all things without grumbling or questioning," in Philippians 1:14. Conviction immediately settled in. I spent the whole of yesterday grumbling and questioning over the news of the cyst. I grumbled and questioned on my blog. Please forgive me.

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.

Unexpected Comfort

Here is the postponed post, written the day before I found out about the cyst. What a difference a day makes!

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.


Round 2, Day 4

Yesterday, I composed a post about how God helped me to trust Him after this weekend's disappointing news. However, that post will have to wait because today I received more bad news, and I'm having a hard time seeing God's goodness.

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.



These are some verses I looked up on Friday, as I was crying and crying over the realization that I was not pregnant.

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.

Numbers Game

380 - number of prenatal vitamins I have taken for apparently no reason
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.