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With Much Trepidation...

...I give you my initial thoughts on adoption. I have been churning this post over in my mind for a while, and I am finally committing to typewritten words. This will be hard, I think, to write, because my thoughts on adoption are not terribly coherent, and because I feel a vague sense of condemnation (wrong, I know) for the thoughts I do have. But in the spirit of honesty, here goes:


I have a large disconnect between my head and my heart on adoption. In theory, I think adoption is a wonderful way to build a family. In my naive, pre-marriage and pre-TTC years, I always thought I would want to adopt - but as a way to add on to already-existing children. I had an internal debate along these lines: "Four children sounds like a nice number. But do I want four total, maybe two or three biological and one or two adopted? Or do I want four biological, and then one or two adopted?" Oh, the days when I thought the destiny of my future family was in my hands... Now faced with the possibility of adoption as our only means to having children, my heart balks. Emotionally, that feels like a second best option. And it's not fair to an adopted child to be second best, chosen only because we had no choice. I know that my heart could change (I hope it does!), and I know that once I had an adopted child I would love him or her fully. But knowing that is a lot different that feeling that, imagining myself in that reality. I can't yet do that. At 27 years old, I'm not ready to give up on the idea of having biological children. That thought grieves me. So I don't feel ready to proceed with adoption.

Even if I were emotionally ready to do that, we have some significant practical roadblocks. For one thing, we live in an apartment and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While that doesn't completely eliminate the possibility of adopting, it doesn't exactly boost our chances of placement and it does limit our options to places and methods that don't require significant assets. Also, adoption is expensive (approx. $15K-$35K, domestically or internationally). We don't have that kind of cash lying around (if we did, do you think we'd still be renting?). And then we get to the when, where, and how. Because my dream of having biological children is crumbling, I find myself clinging to aspects of adoption that probably would not normally be important to me. Things that I mentally acknowledge as good, I emotionally reject as second-rate. For instance, I can see the benefits of open adoption (where you maintain contact with the birth-family, the most common situation in domestic adoption), but infertile-me doesn't want to let anyone else into our hard-won family. If we conceived and gave birth to biological children, there wouldn't be any "third-party parents," so I don't want them in an adoptive situation, either. Another example - I absolutely endorse the positive potential of transracial or transnational adoption (although I know each of those have unique challenges, too). But infertile-me is not so sure she could handle the bittersweet reminder of our inability to conceive each time someone commented on our obvious adoption, because our children don't look like us. I cringe at myself writing that - it seems so superficial - but right now I am not ready to field those kinds of questions and comments. As a Christian, I feel like I ought to adopt a child out of the worst circumstances, but as an infertile, I feel a strong desire to be protected from further difficulty, pain, and heartache (unreasonable expectations, huh?). Hence the low-grade condemnation I feel when I think about adopting...

So there they are, my very preliminary and relatively unflattering thoughts about adoption. I know that God can change my heart on these things, and I trust that he will if his sovereign plan is for us to adopt.


I Should Add IVF to My Spellcheck Dictionary...

As promised, here comes a close-up photo of our current thoughts about IVF (this post) and adoption (post to come).


On many levels, this is the most appealing option to us. Why? It gives us the best chance at having biological children. If we had a successful IVF, I would get to experience pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and all that jazz. (Although I have recently learned that you can breastfeed adopted children. Who knew?) And successful or not, IVF could give us some more answers about what is causing our infertility. We would have concrete evidence of whether or not Aaron's sperm can fertilize my eggs, whether we, as husband and wife, can conceive. On a more practical level, we have phenomenal insurance (thank you to my employer, our church!) and we would have very minimal out-of-pocket expenses. We pay a minimum copay for medications and doctor visits, so my guess is that we would shell out at most a couple hundred bucks for a procedure that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Whether we do IVF or not, I am so aware of how blessed we are to have such provision! God has been very kind to us in that way.

Those are the pros to IVF. The cons are both ethical and practical. IVF is a very intense, invasive procedure. I would be flooding my body with medications, hormones to suppress and to stimulate my ovaries, to cause me to ovulation, to increase progesterone levels. It would involve anesthesia, bed rest, minor "surgery" for retrieval and transfer. Those things alone give us pause as we make the decision about whether to pursue IVF. And then there are the greater ethical concerns that we have. In a typical IVF, the clinic fertilizes as many eggs as possible. My doctor said that about 70% will actually fertilize, and then only some of those embryos will actually start growing. They pick the best one or two of the growing embryos to transfer back to the womb, and the rest are either frozen or destroyed. Believing that each embryo is a sacred human life, we would not destroy any. We are also not comfortable with freezing any, because it seems to us too much like presuming on the future. We could say that we would use all of the frozen embryos eventually, but what if unforeseen circumstances prevented that? What if, God forbid, one of us died before we had a chance to transfer all the frozen embryos? It seems to us like the best application of God's word (like James 4:13-17) is not to freeze embryos. Eliminating the options of freezing or destruction means that we would have to approach IVF like prayerful gamblers. We'd pick a target number of embryos to transfer (1 or 2), then work backwards to figure out how many eggs to fertilize. Maybe we'd try to fertilize 4, only 3 would actually fertilize, and only 2 would actually start growing. But we could end up with 4 embryos to transfer, which makes a high-risk, high-order-multiple pregnancy a distinct possibility. Or we could end up with no embryos, going through the whole procedure and using up insurance money with nothing to show for it. Is it okay to "play the odds" like that with human life? Or is it a permissible use of the knowledge God has given to us, as long as it is done with respect for life? We're just not sure yet.

In general, IVF seems to us akin to "eating meat sacrificed to idols" as taught in 1 Corinthians 8. We believe that Christians can pursue IVF in good conscience, but we still have not figured out if our consciences are okay with it. I know that I need to be highly suspicious of my own heart, because my desire to have children, to be pregnant, and to give birth is so strong that it could overrule my conscience. We are inclined to do IVF, but we want to consider it very soberly and to get lots of counsel from others and wisdom from above. We want to apply Ephesians 5:15-17: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Please pray for us along those lines, and give us any input you have.


Researching the Next Steps

We're approaching a crossroads of our infertility journey. If an attempt or two of injectables/IUI don't result in conception, we will have to choose to try in vitro fertilization (IVF), pursue adoption, or put building our family on hold. (Insert me muttering Philippians 4:6 under my breath; "Do not be anxious about anything... do not be anxious about anything... do not be anxious about anything...") For some couples, the decision might be obvious. Aaron and I, however, feel the need to do some research, seek counsel, and invest a lot of prayer before we take any step after IUIs, should that be necessary. Really, we feel like these next few IUIs are just allowing us to be proactive while buying time to figure out what to do, where God seems to be leading us. I'm sure I'll be discussing our decision a lot more in posts to come, but here's a quick summary of where we currently stand...

1) Our insurance will cover up to 4 IVF attempts; however, we have ethical questions about how to pursue IVF in a way that honors life from its very beginnings at fertilization.

2) I like adoption theoretically, but my heart is not ready at this moment to pursue that option. Infertility makes it so different, in my mind, than adopting to add to the children a family already has. Plus, adoption would require a lot of resources that we don't necessarily have right now.

Faced with a lot of unknowns in these areas, I'm going to do what comes naturally to me - READ! To that end, I recently purchased these 2 books:

I also plan to listen to the messages mentioned here.
Does anyone else have any resources to recommend on IVF or adoption?


Still in the Wrestling Ring

To be united with Jesus is to be dead to sin's reign and alive to God's glory. That was the main point of the message on Romans 6:5-11 given at my church this past Sunday. We particularly need to believe this truth when we are tempted to feel hopeless about sanctification, or spiritual growth, especially in the areas where God is specifically working on our hearts. For me, that area is my inclination to turn my good desire for a child into an idol, something that I demand to have and expect to satisfy me, something that I love more than God. Last week, I felt like giving up in that area. I had grown weary of wrestling against the same sin for two years, and I was ready to resign myself to a life of unchanging defeat. I thought, "Well, I will probably never have a child, and I will probably never learn to be content or to find joy in my Savior despite my sorrows." I needed the reminder that, by faith, I am united to Christ, I am dead to sin's reign, and I am alive to God's glory. I am still fighting against infertility and its accompanying temptations to self-pity and anxiety; I haven't been taken out of the ring. But, I have been picked up off the mat and my opponent is now handicapped. I can't give up, because I have been given new strength and new courage to wrestle against sin and to live a life pleasing to God. Christ's death and resurrection bestow new hope, that sin and its effects no longer have control. When infertility threatens to overwhelm me, when all the odds seem against us conceiving, when despair and discontent seem inescapable, I must be more aware that all of those foes are subject to my Savior and King, who has made me one with him.


Round 9, Day 4

We all know that my reproductive system needs some remedial education. It has abysmally failed Conception 101 too many times to count. The report card from yesterday’s ultrasound showed that my ovaries have sought to compensate for that poor record. They are top of the class in Advanced Cyst Production. Those little overachievers presented Wendy and me with four 50mm cysts. (Aaron suggested that since we can’t have children, maybe we could raise these four beauties and call them our very own.) For those of you less familiar with the metric system, like me, that adds up to a total of about 8 inches of cysts. Each of my ovaries is now bigger than my uterus. I think the recent visit to Austin compelled them to swell up to Texas-size.

But enough about me. I’d like to take some time to talk about you, Internet. To the person who found me after she “took Clomid Follistim together I’m pregnant,” congrats and I wish I could say the same.

If you want to know what it means if your progesterone level is 4.5 on 7dpo, you probably have a luteal phase defect resulting from weak ovulation. But since I don’t have a medical degree, you probably ought to consult your doctor (and don’t make the mistake I made of listening to a nurse who erroneously compared my results to pre-ovulatory levels, rather than post-ovulatory).

Wondering if phlebotomy gives temporary relief? I’m not sure what you’re talking about and I can’t help you.

To the many who are in the trenches with me in the battle against self-pity, I encourage you to keep fighting. God will give grace, and it will get easier in time.

Still not pregnant? Yeah, me neither. See above on self-pity.

Edited to add: I'm relieved to see that I'm the first hit for this search!


Seeing Red

The alternative title for this post was "Round 9, Day 2." If you've been following closely, you know what that means. And it's not good news. The visit to Texas was lovely, but I got an unwanted visitor while we were there. I noticed a tiny bit of spotting on Friday night, which I chose to ignore. The spotting fought for attention by continuing all day Saturday. A new cycle began on Sunday evening, so I did not go in for the pregnancy test on Monday morning. Instead, I called to schedule a day 3 ultrasound. I'm assuming that I'll have a cyst, because I have gotten one every time I've done Clomid. But if I am cyst-free, we'll start a round of injectibles and IUI. I'm also going to start reading up about IVF and adoption.

We were disappointed to have another failed cycle, but it wasn't surprising. After 2 years of this, I've stopped expecting good news. Pregnancy seems like a far, far off dream at this point. Something that only happens to other people. At least I've learned to stop thinking, "Maybe I'll at least be pregnant by the time so and so gives birth." Now I just need to keep learning to put my hope in the Lord and not in ever being pregnant. But I have a feeling that will be a lifetime lesson...


Round 8, Day 22

Monday's progesterone draw showed a level of 25 wupmL - definitely in a high enough range. Now, if only this coming Monday's blood test yields the same kind of positive results... We're waiting on pins and needles, but we've been provided with a distraction in the form of a visit to Austin.

Yesterday, I also had a consultation with Dr. Peppy about what steps might come next if this cycle doesn't result in pregnancy. Can I just say again how much I love my clinic? They are so helpful and respectful; they answer all our questions and then let us make decisions for ourselves, rather than telling us what to do. Those qualities shone once again during the consult. Dr. Peppy recommended IVF for us (50-55% success rates at my age), but said we were welcome to try 2 rounds of injectibles and IUI if we preferred that - which we probably do at this point. She also is completely willing to work with us to assuage some of our concerns about IVF, if we go that route. I was so relieved and grateful not to be pressured. We pray that none of these further options are necessary, but it is assuring to know that those options are not as limited as we thought.

Well, I'm going to enjoy some vacation time...