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Afflicted but Not Crushed

Yesterday morning, God kindly led me to read 2 Corinthians 4. Even though I expected negative news in the pregnancy department, I found myself full of fresh encouragement in the gospel through these words of the Lord...

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

God made light to shine out of the void of un-creation. He made light to shine out of the black of sin. And this same God can make light to shine in my bleak experience of infertility. Because of the gospel, I have been given the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. No darkness can ever extinguish that light. Though I am afflicted by the loss of my two babies-that-could-have-been, I am not crushed because the Father chose to crush his precious Son in my stead. Though I am perplexed that this IVF did not yield a pregnancy, I am not driven to despair because I have Christ in me, the hope of glory. Though I am persecuted by this enduring trial, Jesus was forsaken on the cross so that I will never be forsaken. Though I am struck down by the disappointing news we received yesterday, I am not destroyed because my soul is held secure in my Savior's wounded hands. Though I have now literally carried death in my body, I trust that the life of Jesus will be manifested through my body in all of its brokenness. Though my frail womb could not hold two embryos, my frail body can hold the treasure of the gospel because God's love and grace will never let me go. Though I am weak and weary, the surpassing power of the Lord is being shown in my suffering for his glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison...


In the Dark

Sadly, the two pinpricks of light and hope have been swallowed up in darkness. I grieve, dear embryos, that you could not live.

If You should speak or should remain in silence
Should give me light or lead me through the dark
Whatever cost, whatever joy or sorrow
I'll worship still, because of who You are.

It seems that silence and darkness will remain yet longer. The cost is great, but I will keep fighting to trust and worship my Savior and Creator in the midst of sorrow.

"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord."
(Job 1:21)


Tastes Like Chicken

Checking my Sitemeter stats recently, I discovered one of the funniest Google searches that has ever led a visitor to my blog: "chicken reproductive system pictures." I'm pretty sure my blog falls way, way down the list of results, so someone was searching hard for those pictures!

A couple blogs that I read regularly mentioned their "blogiversaries" this week, which caused me to curiously check my own records. My first post ever was on May 23, 2006, so that means this past Wednesday marked one year of blogging for me. Happy belated blogiversary to me!

We leave tomorrow for the New Attitude conference. I'm definitely looking forward to the teaching, worship, and fellowship - what better way to spend the last few days before beta day! (For those unfamiliar with infertility shorthand, beta refers to the qualitative HCG pregnancy blood test that most clinics do at the end of IUI or IVF cycles.) We'll be at the conference until Tuesday, and my beta is Wednesday morning. Thankfully, the wait has not felt too long and God has kept my heart fairly peaceful.

Speaking of the two embryos that are hopefully thriving in my uterus right now - whatever happened to the Great Embryo Nicknaming Contest? Well, honestly, I'm stymied. 3 winners and 2 embryos does not for easy nicknaming make. I've tried to think of clever combinations or monikers from the winners' names - Jonska? Robi? - but I'm not coming up with anything I really want to call my embryos for a while. And then, what happens if only one of the embryos implanted? How do I cut one of the nicknames? So, dear readers, I'm petitioning you. Suggest clever nicknames! If you're a contest winner, your suggestion gets extra weight. Cast your votes in the comments, which I'll tally when I get back from the conference. You have 4 days to let your imaginations run amok!


Trial by Prayer (3)

When we face unanswered prayer, we join the company of the Savior himself. Jesus - knowing that he was about to take the sins of the world upon his innocent self, anticipating the wrath of God that would be poured out on him as he hung upon the cross - pleaded with his Father, asking if there was any other way to accomplish the redemption of mankind. There was no other way, and Christ endured the utmost agony. Yet looking back on those events, Hebrews 5:7 can say, "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence." Jesus prayed fervently to be spared the gruesome death on the cross, and his prayer was seemingly unanswered, but he was heard. He was saved from death, but that salvation took the form of resurrection after the cross, so that such salvation could extend to sinners like you and me. God the Father answered the prayers of God the Son, not specifically in the way that Jesus asked, but in an infinitely better way. What sweet solace, then, the gospel provides to us when our prayers seem to linger unanswered! The Savior, too, has cried loudly and wept deeply when his Father seemed to turn a deaf ear to him. He suffered the anguish of yearning and waiting and being denied, and he sympathizes with me when I petition over and over again. In fact, he now presents my petitions to the Father, intercedes on my behalf. I can trust that I too am heard, not because of my reverence but because of Christ's reverence. And I can rest assured that I too will receive an answer that far surpasses the best solution that I can imagine. In the midst of unanswered prayer, I have a blessed confidence in my Savior because "although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb. 5:8-9). As I keep pleading for children, I hope to learn obedience through my suffering, and I know that God has already bestowed on me the best blessing in the hope of the gospel.


Trial by Prayer (2)

Many of the thoughts on prayer that I shared in my last post took shape in my mind as I read the chapter on prayer in Wayne Grudem's Bible Doctrine. Here are some notes that I took from the section about unanswered prayers:

- God keeps his wise plans hidden until the time he has decreed. When faced with unanswered prayer, I need to humbly admit that God need not let me know what he is doing.

- Sometimes we do not pray as we ought, because we think one plan is best when God has a better solution.

- When our prayers are unanswered, we join the company of Paul - who prayed for his thorn to be removed from him and it was not - and Jesus - who prayed for the cup of God's wrath to be removed from him and it was not.

- When our prayers go unanswered, we must continue to trust God, casting our cares on him and remembering that his strength is sufficient.

- We must continue to pray. Sometimes a long-awaited answer will suddenly be given, as was the case with Hannah when she at last conceived Samuel.

- Sometimes prayer will remain unanswered in this life or for eternity, but the faith of prayer still brings glory to God.

Words are insufficient to express how grateful I am - we are - to all of you who have earnestly prayed along with us during this season of affliction and waiting. We have especially felt the effect of your prayers in the past week; the encouragement has been tangible. Whatever the answer to our prayers, whatever the outcome of this IVF in particular and of this fight against infertility in general, I take great delight in knowing that all these prayers of faith offered up on our behalf are bringing significant glory to the One who saves.


Trial by Prayer (1)

Infertility has presented me with plenty of occasion to pray and to consider the topic of prayer, especially unanswered prayer. What does it mean that all my prayers for children have gone unanswered for so long? Am I praying wrongly? How do I continue to pray - just repeat the prayers I have been offering up for years, or look for new ways to ask, or give up asking? I know I am not the first to ask these questions, and nor will I be the last.

In all my petitions for a child, I identify myself with the persistent widow of Luke 18. The widow faces a wicked judge who will not give her justice. Yet she returns to him again and again, repeatedly asking for justice until he finally gives in. Jesus says that he tells this story so that we will always pray and not lose heart; if a reluctant, hardened man will answer such faithful requests, how much more will our faithful God give justice without delay?

So, like that widow, I ask again and again. And yet - is my desire for a child really a yearning for justice? It is not unjust that I am childless. It certainly feels like it at times, when I want to whine, "God, it's not fair! Why does so and so have a child, and I don't? Don't I deserve it? Haven't I pleaded long enough? What am I doing wrong, that you will not bless me?" But the Lord does not give to or withhold from me based on my merits; he relates to me on the basis of Christ's merits, so I receive much better than I deserve. So when prayer goes unanswered, I must examine what I am really asking. James 4:2-3 says, "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." I've certainly begged for children, so my lack of children is not due to lack of asking. So then am I asking wrongly, selfishly? Is it possible that I could only want a child to "spend on my passions"? Well, yes, sometimes. Sometimes, if I am honest, I want a baby for base, earthly reasons - so I can buy cute baby things, so I won't be left out of conversations with friends who are moms, so I can impress people with my parenting skills. I want to want children for holy, eternal reasons - for the sake of the gospel - but my motives are often mixed. So is that why my prayers linger unanswered?

A few months ago, in the midst of evaluating whether or not to pursue IVF, I read the account of Paul's "thorn" in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul says he pleaded three times with the Lord about this, and then received the answer that power is perfected in weakness. Paul's thorn - whatever it was - was there to stay, and he would be content with that. Umm, three times, Paul? You asked three times, you didn't get what you asked, and that was that? I've asked for children a few more times than three. About, oh, 80,000 times more than three. So as I read that account, I wondered - have I been asking too long? Had I already received my answer? Have I been carrying on in denial? Would trying IVF merely be an attempt to manipulate around God's negative reply? These questions weighed on me as we considered our options - IVF, adoption, or remain childless. Still, I did not feel like my prayers had received an answer one way or the other. The Lord spoke directly to Paul, saying he would not remove Paul's thorn and wanted Paul to rest in his sufficient grace. I don't think I've gotten that kind of specific answer yet. It seems that God wants me to keep praying, keep waiting.

As I have sought to understand how to pray and how to respond when my prayers go unanswered, I try to take the whole body of Scripture into account. There are examples like Paul, who learns to be content when he is told no. Then there are examples like Zechariah, who in his old age was visited by an angel who said, "Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son...And you shall have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth." How long must Zechariah and Elizabeth have prayed for that baby! How disheartened they must have gotten! Yet here, at long last, comes joy and gladness when prayer is heard.

I don't know yet how my prayers for children will be answered. I pray daily for God to sustain both of the embryos that are in my womb right now. Perhaps these will be the prayers that are finally answered with a triumphant, resounding, "Yes!" But perhaps not. Will I be like Paul, or will I be like Zechariah? Am I to persist in asking, or am I to recognize that my prayers are too selfish, not in line with God's will? I do not know. But until I do, I keep knocking, seeking, asking. I seek to live by the following words from 1 Thessalonians 5: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."


All Aboard!

Embryo transfer went really, really well. We met with the doctor, who gave us the news that two of the embryos arrested at four-cell development, which meant we had two to transfer today (one eight-cell, and one five-cell). We listened with mixed reactions, sadness for the little ones that didn't make it, but relief that we wouldn't have to face the possibility of high-order-multiples or freeze any embryos. We are so grateful for the two little embryos I now have on board, and we pray that we get to meet both of them in about nine months. The actual transfer was pretty incredible. The really kind ultrasound tech explained everything that we were seeing at each moment as the doctor worked. She showed us the "embryo condo" - my uterus with a plush lining. She pointed out the catheter as it entered. Then, she told us to watch carefully as the embryos dropped from the catheter into the uterus - plop! plop! Two little bright spots on a grey screen, two tiny carriers of hope, two minuscule lives winking at us. We were both awed and teary-eyed. What a miracle! What a blessing that we could see that moment when our hopefully-babies entered the womb! How amazing is our Creator God! We were given a picture of the screen with an arrow pointing to our embryos, and I will treasure that picture as we wait two long weeks to find out whether those little lights will grow or fade.

It looks like we have three winners of the Great Embryo Nicknaming Contest of May 2007. Since there are only two embryos at this point, there will have to be some negotiating on the nicknames. The nicknames will debut...sometime. The song, by the way, was "Ashes" by Harrod & Funck.


Unformed Substance (Updated)

Well, we still have four! I could hardly believe it when the nurse called today. Our embryo transfer is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. tomorrow**. Before the transfer, the doctor and embryologist will take time to update us on how the embryos are doing - if they are all still developing normally. We'll be given a recommendation about how many to transfer, but we will have the final say (according to the nurse on the phone today). If we ask them to transfer more than recommended, they'll confirm it with Dr. Peppy before giving us the go-ahead. We continue to feel giddy and petrified at the same time. These little embryos have surged past all expectations...

My faith for the possibilities ahead of us was strengthened this morning by Psalm 139. The Lord knows my frame and all my thoughts and emotions. He knows if I am physically capable of carrying multiples - even quadruplets, if it comes to that! He knows exactly what my response is to this "happy problem." The dark mysteries of life are like bright light for God - he sees clearly where I cannot. Even now, he is intricately knitting and weaving together the unformed substance of our four little embryos. He has planned exactly how many hours or years each embryo will live. Such knowledge is truly too wonderful for me, to lofty for me to attain. So I trust in the One who knows and who reigns and who loves.

*Winners of the embryo nicknaming contest will be announced after we know how many are on board, so it's not too late to cast your vote! (But don't cheat by looking for correct answers in the comments!)

**edited to add: We were not given the option of a 5-day-transfer when the nurse called, and we were glad to have at least one less decision.


Expert in Everything from Embryos to Empires

So I'm actually feeling far from being an expert in embryos right now. But if someone can name the tune/band that gave me my title*, I might consider nicknaming one of the embryos after you. One of the 4 embryos. All four eggs fertilized! I'm feeling very blessed and little overwhelmed right now. The nurse I spoke with didn't have any information on how those four are growing, so we have to wait until tomorrow's phone call for more details and instructions on when to come in for transfer. It will either be a 3-day-transfer on Wednesday, or a 5-day-blastocyst-transfer on Friday. A 5dt is more likely to result in pregnancy, because the embryos that make it that far are stronger, more developed, and more likely to implant. But not all the embryos will make it to day 5, so it raises all sorts of questions for us about what is most respectful to these little potential babies that are growing in petri dishes... This may all be a moot point, because I don't know if we have any say in when we do the transfer. We'll know more tomorrow. I am honestly shocked that all four fertilized. I know that God is sovereign over this, and I am praying that He will cause just the right number to grow and be ready for transfer. If all four keep growing, we'll be faced with some tough decisions about whether to push to transfer all four (yikes!) or to allow a couple to be frozen. We really don't want to freeze any, so we're hoping it doesn't come to that. But does that mean that I am asking God to stop some of these embryos from growing? I don't know, it's all so mind-boggling. Four. Four! FOUR! Lord, have mercy.

*enter your guesses in the comments


I Wanna Be Sedated

Egg retrieval - check. It all went fairly seamlessly. We showed up an hour early, as requested, and then did nothing but sit for an hour in the waiting room. Mysterious... Shortly after 11 a.m., our scheduled appointment time, they brought us back to the recovery room, instructed me to change, and claimed Aaron's specimen from him. We were asked by just about every person we saw, "So you only want 4 eggs fertilized? Is that right? We just want to double-check." Yes, please, just 4. They asked if we were okay with ICSI, which is their standard procedure. We said that was fine, although we were a little curious to find out if Aaron's sperm would be able to fertilize my eggs on their own. But we definitely choose better chances of fertilization over satisfying our curiosity. A very nice nurse took care of me, weighing me, asking me to empty my bladder multiple times (this when I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since the night before - per instructions!), taking my blood pressure, etc. Then she brought me back to the retrieval room. The anesthetist inserted the IV, then made small talk with me, and then I remember nothing. I woke up back in the recovery room with Aaron. He says I seemed awake when they brought me back in on a wheelchair, but that I didn't respond when he kissed me - I have no recollection of that. The friendly nurse brought us both some water, juice, and crackers, checked my blood pressure a few more times, and kept me until I could stand up and use the bathroom. We got 18 eggs - almost an embarrassing wealth when we only want four. But we are grateful that all went well.

I've been lounging on the couch all afternoon. The doctor who did the retrieval told Aaron that I couldn't do any cleaning, cooking, or housework of any form, and that I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than a credit card and a cell phone - cute! My midsection feels pretty sore, but nothing too bad. Aaron gave me the first progesterone-in-oil (PIO) shot tonight. The anticipation of Aaron plunging a long, thick needle into my hip was pretty nerve-wracking, but the actual injection was not so bad. Ice before, massage and heat after definitely seem to help.

I'll post again tomorrow (so many posts lately!) when we get the fertilization report. We're praying hard for just the right number of embryos...


IVF #1 - Mercy!

Small mercies - I did indeed trigger last night, and egg retrieval will be at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning! The voicemail from the nurse (not Nurse Answers, who is off work right now) was lengthy with instructions - trigger, antibiotics, when to eat, what Aaron needs to do, what to wear for egg retrieval (warm comfy clothes and, oddly specific, socks), what time to show up, etc. I'm a little worried that I'll forget something, but I'm sure it will all be fine. It will be nice to be emptied of all these eggs at last. Our biggest prayer right now is that we'll end up with just the right number of fertilized, growing embryos. I think we'll get a fertilization report on Monday.

Great mercies - after weeks of lackluster times in God's word, just when I felt I needed encouragement the most, I was blessed over the past two days by the richness of Isaiah 40:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

My God is inclined, disposed to comfort me.

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The roughness of life will be smoothed away one day, if not on earth then in heaven. The valleys, the uphill climbs, the stumbling paths of infertility will play their part in revealing the glory of the Lord.

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Infertility, the inadequacies of my body, these are passing. They are temporal, not eternal. Even children, though their souls are eternal, are as fleeting as grass and flowers. If I am granted a baby, he or she will grow quickly, will one day leave me, will one day die. To nurture a soul will be an act of tremendous beauty, but only the Lord stands forever.

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

The Lord is high and holy, strong and mighty. He has created and counted the countless stars; he upholds them day and night. Yet he is also intimate, calling each star by name. I need to trust that this same God calls me by name and upholds me by his power. He knows exactly if and how and when I will have children. Though I feel a great gaping hole in my heart, not one child is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God"?

How often I am guilty of the same questions and complaints. My heart frequently asks why God seems to be disregarding me, overlooking me. Does he know what agonies the way of infertility holds for me? Do not pass me by! Do not abandon me!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I cannot understand God's ways, how he is working all of these struggles for good, but I can trust him. He is the everlasting Creator, and nothing is out of his hands. He does not grow weary of working in the earth, in my life, and in my heart. I am slogging through the mire, longing for God to renew me and to lift me up on eagle's wings. Though I am weary, faint, and weak, though it seems incomprehensible that I can be restored to joy and peace, I wait on the Lord.


IVF #1 - Are We There Yet?

I'm getting really tired of the everyday appointment thing. I just want to trigger, already! Yesterday morning, I received a 6 a.m. wake-up call to alert me that I needed to go to a different office for monitoring (Wendy the Wander had to suddenly go on bedrest due to preterm labor issues - please pray for her!). I decided to forego the last precious hour of sleep so that I would not have to fight traffic to the clinic. The ultrasound showed about 19 follicles (not counting the biggie), all measuring 12-16mm. My estrogen levels had jumped from around 1100 to 1500, so I lowered my dose of Follistim to 100 units last night. This morning, I was back at my normal clinic, but they were double- and triple-booked due to rearranging all of yesterday's appointments, so I had to wait an hour before I could be seen! This is really unusual at my clinic; I don't think I've ever waited longer than 15 minutes. The large follicle is up to 36mm, and the rest are 17-22mm. I should get a call from the nurse this afternoon, either telling me to trigger tonight or to continue stimming and to schedule a monitoring appointment in the city for tomorrow. I'm really hoping for the former, but I probably ought to start preparing my heart to attend church on Mother's Day.


IVF #1, Still Stimming

(edited to add icon and link for the mention this post got in Mel's Friday Blog Round-Up; thanks for honoring my words, Mel!)

After today's usual ultrasound (big follicle up to 33mm!) and bloodwork, I had a mid-cycle consult with Dr. Peppy. She confirmed that everything looks good, and she said that I'll likely trigger on Friday or Saturday. That means egg retrieval on Sunday or Monday. We're hoping for Sunday - Aaron, because that means we don't have to fight traffic into the city and he doesn't have to take time off work, me because it would be a "Get Out of Mother's Day Free" pass. (What? That smacks of escapism? No, surely not...) This will be the third Mother's Day to see me childless since we started trying to conceive, and I'd really rather not experience that wrenching stab of heartache when all the moms are honored at church. The ladies over a GirlTalk put up a thoughtful post about infertility and Mother's Day. Here's my favorite part:

My heart cries out, “Why, O God, will You not answer this prayer? Why will You not do this simple thing for me and for Your own name’s sake? You do it for so many so easily. Your marvelous grace. Why not to me?” With thoughts like these, it is easy to fall into deep despair, and at times I certainly do. When this happens, God in His time and His various graceful ways, comes to me to remind me that I am not alone.

He does not, as so many do, tell me that “my time will come.” He does not say that if I will just relax and not try so hard, everything will be okay. He does not say, “If you adopt a baby, you’ll get pregnant.” He does say that He is with me. He weeps with me as Jesus wept for Lazarus. He reminds me that He is good and that He can be trusted with my heart. Any doubt of that was wiped away at the Cross.

If you're experiencing infertility, you'll find comfort in the GirlTalk post. If you haven't experienced infertility, you'll gain a little empathy from the GirlTalk post. And this Mother's Day, I ask you to remember those for whom the day is painful - those who don't or can't have children, those who have lost their moms, those who are estranged from their moms, and so on. I know those ladies (myself included) will need the comfort of Christ this weekend.


All the Pretty Bruises

A quick and relief-giving appointment today. Our IVF is not in danger of being cancelled. The lovely Wendy made the same comment as the city nurse, about "letting the big follicle go." I asked her exactly what that meant, and she said that they'll just let it grow to jumbo size, and then drain the fluid from it when they aspirate the rest of the normal follicles. She said it is totally normal and nothing to worry about. Thank goodness! The big follicle is up to 25mm, and the rest are between 10 and 13 mm, "right on track" according to Wendy.

The blood-draw gal "D" (I haven't come up with a clever name for her yet) commented on the bruise that has formed in the crook of my right arm. I keep forgetting to switch out arms for the bloodwork; D said she'll make sure to get the left next time. The bruise doesn't really hurt too much, but I have noticed it when I cross my arms.

Nurse Answers called with the results this afternoon and said we need to slow things down a little bit. She instructed me to lower my dose of Follistim to 150IU, and to stay on the 5 units of Lupron. I also need to start going in for daily monitoring this week. I think egg retrieval will be sometime around the end of this week, but we won't really know for sure until we're closer. I will, of course, keep you posted.


A quote that spoke to me today, from the chapter "Waiting for the Morning" by Dustin Shramek in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God:

"Why is the depth of Christ's pain significant for us?...In the midst of our pain we may feel alone and believe that no one has hurt as badly as we hurt. But it isn't true. Jesus Christ has felt such pain; indeed, he has felt pain that would have destroyed us. He is able to sympathize. ...Jesus himself endured the long night of weeping, and God promises to carry us even when we don't feel his arms around us." (p. 186, 190)


IVF #1, Stim Day 5

The monitoring appointment in the city was pretty much a non-event. Even though I wish a Saturday appointment hadn't caused us to miss out on Tulip Time, I'm glad we had the opportunity to find the downtown clinic BEFORE the day of egg retrieval. This office didn't have any needlecraft of zygotes or embryos like the north suburban clinic, but there were plenty of little fertility goddesses scattered about the place. (My husband knows; he was an archaeology major.) The ultrasound showed I still have that one lead follicle (20mm now) and several smaller ones (7-8mm). The nurse said they'll probably have to just let the big one go - whatever that means. Hopefully I can press Nurse Answers for more, well, answers at tomorrow's scan. In the meantime, I'm continuing on the same 5 units of Lupron and 200 units of Follistim.

After the appointment, we had a leisurely breakfast at this fun little cafe that we discovered last year. While there, we discussed how much rest has been missing from our lives lately. As a result of that talk, we decided to head home rather than going to the Cubs game. (Plus, it was a grey and chilly day, and we weren't really dressed for it.) But in the car on the way out of the city, I started to get anxious about whether we were making the right choice. Silly, in retrospect, but at the time I felt really paralyzed by worries that we weren't spontaneous enough, that we weren't taking full advantage of this season of life, that we were missing out on fun opportunities because it was easier to do the normal, dull, routine things. Thankfully, the Spirit prompted me to share these thoughts with Aaron, rather than stewing over them and waiting for them to pass. It was a little thing, but by humbling myself and being honest, I was able to get a little more clarity and peace as Aaron talked through it with me. And once we got home, we went ahead and purchased tickets for the game today (Sunday). It was my first major league baseball game (I've been to college and minor league games before), and it was at Wrigley (although the ivy isn't green yet), and the Cubs won in the 10th inning - quite exciting!

My internal debate over going to the Saturday game or going home is a small example of the recent pattern of anxiety in my heart. Troubles - big and small - are piling up right now, and I find myself doubting God's goodness and expecting the worst to happen. I won't be able to start working from home as soon as I was wanting, and my fleshly reaction is anger that the Lord would let yet another thing go wrong in my life (even though a month or so ago I was content without even knowing that working from home was a possibility!). I'm almost convinced that this IVF is going to be cancelled, either due to that loner follicle or to not having any eggs fertilize or some other unforeseen hitch. I certainly don't expect an end to suffering and sorrow any time soon. I've lost my hold on hope. I know that all the mounting major and minor mishaps - in work, in fertility, in relationships - don't alter the truth that God is working all things for good and that He is not giving me more than I can bear, but my grasp on that truth is tenuous at best right now. I know that God's kindess to me is shown clearly on the cross, but currently the cross seems dim. I keep reading the Word, singing to God, bringing my requests to the Savior, but light is only coming in glimpses and flashes these days. My soul is weary. Prayers and input are welcome and needed...


Whew! (a.k.a. IVF #1 - I'm losing track)

Apologies for dropping off the face of the (blogging) earth! You know it's bad when your own husband is threatening to post a comment demanding that you update... Here, in a nutshell, are the things that have been keeping me from blogging over the past ten days:

-car repairs (my car unexpectedly & expensively needed new brakes right after I got back from TX)
-visiting with Aaron's family, who are in town for the birth of our new niece, Zoe
-moving to new offices at work (read chaos, upheaval, and great big time vacuum - but the results will be very exciting!)
-scrambling to get tested for gonorrhea & chlamydia, as required by my fertility clinic before we can proceed with IVF, when my OB-GYN failed to perform the tests the first time I asked at my pap smear several weeks ago (thankfully, I was able to get this done just in the nick of time, and the doctor did not charge me since it was their error)
-care group gatherings
-unrelenting sleepiness & overwrought emotions (both perhaps due to Lupron and to the insane busyness, and the latter definitely due to some indwelling sin!)

It's probably a good thing I haven't posted in the midst of all this, because anything I wrote would most likely have been a litany of complaint. Thanks to the prayers and encouragement of friends, some time in God's word, and the counsel of my husband, I am more aware of the grace that is available to me even when I feel overwhelmed by the stuff of life. (Perhaps I will post more on that another time.)

So what, you ask, is going on with this IVF cycle? (Thanks, GLouise, for checking in on me!) The first ten days of Lupron are done. I might have had the infamous Lupron headaches; they were fairly mild, though consistent, but they might also have been due to the ridiculous amount of tension that has lodged in my shoulders and neck. My baseline scan was yesterday, and after Nurse Answers called to say that the ultrasound and bloodwork results look good, I lowered my dose of Lupron (5 units) and started Follistim (200 units) last night. My next monitoring appointment is Saturday, at the downtown office since my suburban branch does not have weekend hours. I'll be back at my normal clinic for an appointment on Monday, and Nurse Answers says I'll be there so much next week that I'll feel like I should move in to their offices. Let the real fun of IVF begin...

Here are a few questions that I forgot to ask Nurse Answers - do any wise IFers have any tips on these things? First, is it okay that I can't ever get all of the air bubbles out of the Lupron shots, and that I always end up with a small itchy welt at the injection site? The welt fades away by the time I wake up in the morning... Also, now that I'm doing two injections a day, can I keep poking the same old spots on my stomach? I know the thigh is supposed to be good for subcutaneous shots, but it's just not as "padded" as the tummy so it kind of weirds me out to think of plunging a needle into my leg. But my stomach is getting covered in tiny dots and bruises... Lastly, is it within the range of normal that I already had one 14mm follicle on day 6 of my cycle after taking Lupron for 10 days? There were some other smaller follicles, too. Wendy Wander's reaction made me think it might be a little strange (and worry that our cycle was going to be cancelled!).

The fact that I have to go in for monitoring on Saturday is somewhat disappointing, because we were planning to go here this weekend. I'm 100% Dutch, so Aaron needs to be initiated into the ways of my people. Alas, it will have to be put off yet another year. Instead, we'll take advantage of being in the city and we might try to catch a Cubs game. (I've lived in the Chicago area for nine years, and I've never been to a game!)

Two more items of note: I am writing and posting this FROM HOME. We've been living in the dark ages (or trying to save a little money) by not having an internet connection at home for the past three years - we've just gotten online at the local library or at work. But as part of the office move mentioned above, I will be working from home, which means we have internet at home now. Hooray! AND check out the link to Grace Covenant Church in the sidebar - same old link, brand shiny new website!

Now, I've got a late night date with some shots...