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Fallopian Tube: 7-14 cm; God: Infinite

The shock of the diagnosis of my blocked fallopian tube has begun to fade. Though my first reaction cried, "Why does this infertility always get worse, never better?," the fog of discouragement is clearing so that I can see that this problem is not, in fact, a fresh trouble. My awareness of it is new, but the blockage has existed all along. Now that we know of it, we can do something about it. And while I desperately don't want to lose the tube and end up with impaired fertility for the rest of my life, I know that our odds of conceiving without the tube are better than any chance of pregnancy with the havoc that the damaged tube currently wreaks on my entire reproductive system. I pray that the doctor can easily repair the tube whatever the cause of the obstruction, but I can accept its removal if the laparoscopy shows that necessity. Brilliant, this willingness to permit what I don't have any ability to change, huh?

But I also try to keep in mind that there is One who can change all of this. Emotionally, that right fallopian tube of mine has swollen to epic proportions - a giant obstacle that will block me and crush me and leave no possible escape. In faith, though, I know that this defective body part is microscopically minuscule in comparison to God's glorious grandeur. He can, if he wills, heal; this is not too big for him. So that is my other prayer right now, that the Spirit will show his power and the Lord would advance his gospel by an act of miraculous healing - that the doctor, and those who follow my story, and even my future children would get a glimpse of God's saving ability through a laparoscopy that shows no blockage, no damage whatsoever. I want to believe that such a thing is possible, and I want to surrender to the Father's will whatever happens. Please pray along those lines with me.


I wrote this last week but delayed posting it due to the drama of the HSG...

Babies born to good friends in the past six weeks: 4

Pregnancies announced by good friends in the past week: 1

Contentment that seems to be withstanding all such pressures: Priceless



Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Aaron spoiled me rotten over the weekend. On Saturday morning, he brought me breakfast in bed (scones and tea, yum!), served on a variety of gifts - a portable picnic table I've had my eye on for a while, some pretty new dishes, a nice cutting board. Then he took me ice skating at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Later that night, we went out to a tasty Argentinian restaurant for steak and tapas. On Monday night, we attended the Lyric Opera of Chicago to see Falstaff; I've never been to an opera but have always wanted to go, so this was a real treat! I'm so grateful for my husband and his desire to bless me.


To Lighten Things Up for the Weekend

(Thank you for all of the supportive comments and e-mails after I learned about my blocked tube yesterday; your words reminded me that I am not alone and that I have a good God. I'm still disappointed but not quite so despairing today.)

This morning, Aaron woke up feeling quite chilly. With puzzlement, he realized that he no longer had on the pajamas he had fallen asleep wearing. I solved the mystery for him. You see, Aaron has a propensity to talk in his sleep, and last night, he took it to a new level. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to him jerkily thrashing from side to side. Roused from my slumber, I watched with interest. He suddenly sat bolt upright, ripped his pajamas off, and threw them onto the floor. He laid back down.

"Are you too warm?" I asked him.

No response.

"Are you too warm?" I repeated. "Why did you take your pajamas off?"

"I... I can't explain," he sighed, and buried his head into his pillow. At that point, I knew he had been asleep through the whole display.

He remembers none of it, but we had a good laugh about it this morning!



So, here's a brief recap of yesterday's appointment with Dr. Owlish / Einstein / Penmanship (those are the nicknames in the running, because he's kind and smart, wears glasses, attended Albert Einstein University, and has remarkably good handwriting; I'll use all three intermittently in this post, and you can vote in the sidebar poll if you'd like). We suggested the idea of IVF/ICSI with fertilizing 6-8 eggs; Dr. Owlish agreed that it was a reasonable compromise, but he said the success rates that way would be no better than IUI with injectables. He suggested we do a few IUIs before we use up the last two IVF cycles covered by our insurance. We asked about donor embryos; Dr. Einstein said their clinic does do that and it could be a good option for us down the road. I asked about having my progesterone re-tested; Dr. Penmanship offered to just give me a prescription for suppositories just in case we did actually conceive this pre-treatment cycle. We determined to go ahead with an injectable IUI, which meant I would need an HSG.

And that brings us to today. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The HSG that I assumed would be routine was anything but. First, Dr. Owlish was running about an hour late - no big deal, I had brought a book, and I have a flexible schedule since I work from home. Then, the procedure hurt. A lot. I think I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but these cramps took my breath away. (I had taken Advil, but I had done so an hour before my scheduled appointment time.) Worst, the HSG showed blockage in my right tube. Dr. Einstein injected the fluid medium three times (triple the cramping!) and had me shift around a lot
(tilting from side to side with a speculum and catheter inside you is far from pleasant) to get a clear view of the obstruction. After it was all done, Dr. Penmanship explained all the X-ray images and laid out the implications of the blocked tube. It certainly explains our infertility and lack of success at treatments; according to Dr. Owlish, the tube has probably filled with toxic fluid that leaks into my uterus and poisons any embryos that make it there. The cause of the blockage is unclear (Dr. Einstein suggested pelvic infection due to STDs, but I explained how that was impossible as I wasn't sexually active until marriage). I will need to have a laparoscopy to determine the extent of the damage; they may just need to remove some scar tissue, but it's possible that the whole tube will have to be taken out. For now, we have instructions to avoid conceiving this cycle, and then when my next cycle begins I'll go on birth control to keep everything quiet for the surgery. IUIs are no longer a viable option for us, but we'll have to wait for the laparoscopy results in order to know what comes next.

Yesterday, I felt so happy with our plan. Today, that plan became untenable. I have been in tears off and on ever since the HSG finished. I am frightened of surgery (and of infection - Dr. Penmanship prescribed antibiotics saying that the fluid from the HSG could cause a "life-threatening" infection in the blocked tube!). I'm tempted to be angry at my previous clinic, that didn't do this test and sent us through a course of wasted treatments as a result. I grieve for the embryos we created that, little did we know, faced a certain death sentence in my toxic womb. I feel a sense of injustice - if, as Dr. Owlish implied, STDs are the main cause of blocked tubes, why do I have a blockage when I abstained until marriage? I'm worried that it will be necessary to remove my tube, thus dooming any future reproductive efforts. I am full of doubt that God could heal me; healing of a hormonal problem seemed so much more realistic that healing of a structural problem. I feel weary; our hope of having children has been deferred AGAIN, and my heart is sick of it.


HSG Tomorrow

Just a quick update - I'm having an HSG done Thursday morning at 10 a.m. It was scheduled at the last minute after a consultation with the new doc today (I'll write more about that tomorrow). I expect everything to be fine, since previous saline sonograms were, but the doctor did say that the HSG is a more painful and invasive procedure. Please pray that all goes well!


Little Faith

One morning last week, as I was meditating on God’s Word, I came to an answer of sorts to my questions about prayer and faith and infertility. I was reading in Matthew 17, which gives an account of an evil spirit that the disciples could not cast out.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you (v. 19-20).

I had been feeling like I imagine the disciples felt in that moment – sheepish, ashamed, condemned over failures. I was slinking to Jesus furtively, secretly, to ask, “Why can’t I overcome this inability to have children? What is wrong with me that you won’t answer my prayers? Is it my fault that I haven’t gotten pregnant, because I don’t have enough faith?” Because honestly, I often do have doubts that God can or will work against the odds to cause me to conceive. Three years of infertility, three failed IUIs, and two unsuccessful IVFs loom like my own personal and implacable mountains, and my faith falters in their shadow.

As I brought these bewildered questions and struggles before God, my thoughts suddenly took a turn. When I blame myself and my lack of faith for my infertility, I make faith into a legalistic work that earns me the blessing I want. But it’s not so! Faith is a gift that I depend on the Spirit to give. Do I lack faith that the Lord will give me a child? Yes. So what should I do? Lament that my infertility is all my fault? No! I should ask for more faith! And that is just what I am now seeking to do. In fact, I’m putting a pause on my requests for children instead directing my prayers toward the gift of faith – more faith in the gospel, more faith in the good news that Jesus saves and justifies and sanctifies and satisfies, and more faith that God is sovereign and not bound by infertility statistics. And this is one prayer that I have confidence my Lord will delight to answer.


Back in the Stirrups Saddle Again

Aaaaand the fertility treatments break is over. Kind of. I won't be taking any medicines or doing any treatments this cycle, but we'll be getting some preliminary testing (re)done and consulting with the new doctor to decide exactly what we're going to do next. Yesterday morning, I visited my new clinic for a blood draw and baseline ultrasound. According to the results, my estrogen, FSH, and LH are all in tip-top shape, and I've got plenty of antral follicles hovering around in each ovary. Aaron has also had some tests done recently. His initial semen analysis at the new clinic showed some bacteria in the sample, so he took an antibiotic for a bit and then re-tested. The second analysis was clear. His counts and such still look about the same - all within the range of normal, but on the low end. It's encouraging to know that things haven't gotten any worse for either of us, but hey! we're still infertile.

Next Wednesday afternoon, we meet with the doctor to talk more about our options and finalize our choices. To recap, here's what the good doc suggested at our previous consultation: Option 1) Give the okay for embryo freezing and proceed with standard protocol IVF with ICSI. Option 2) If we don't approve embryo freezing, take a step back and do IUI with injectables instead of Clomid. Since we still have convictions against freezing embryos, we hope to persuade the doctor to agree to a compromise, an Option 1a) Do IVF/ICSI, limiting the number of eggs fertilized to 6-8, letting the resulting embryos grow to blastocysts, and transferring all that make it to that point. We'd be fertilizing more eggs than we did in past IVFs, but due to the new information revealed by this doctor (that only 1 out of every 5 eggs is genetically viable), we're okay with that. We'd most likely be transferring back more than the recommended 1-2 embryos, but we're okay with that, too, and ideally the doctor will approve (even if reluctantly). If not, then we'll probably go the IUI route, while looking into new alternatives, like donor embryos or adoption. Please pray for wisdom all around, that my current contentment would withstand the upcoming barrage of tests and appointments, and that God would bless us.


Praying Scripture for My Husband

I have two passages of Scripture written on an index card, stuck in my journal as a bookmark; I use it to guide my prayers for Aaron.

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel! (Psalm 128)

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

As I intercede for my husband, having these verses before me to meditate on keeps my prayers focused and hopefully more effective. I pray daily that Aaron will see the Lord as greater than any temptations in his life. I ask that his efforts - at his job, in his spiritual life, to lead our marriage - will be made fruitful. I request that I can grow as his wife and be a blessing to him, and I ask that the Lord will give us children - and even grandchildren someday! - who will know the Savior. I pray that our church and our service in it will prosper. And above all, I pray that Aaron will know the love and faithfulness of God more deeply, as he grows in understanding the gospel of Christ. Meditating on these two brief passages of God's Word has brought much more consistency and richness to my prayers for my husband!


Plan to Pray

Continuing the Sunday sermon series on prayer, our good friend Josh taught about one practical way to pray by meditating on Scripture. The three basic steps are to read, think, and pray. Using Scripture to inform and shape our prayers helps to keep our minds from wandering, helps us to pray more effectively, and helps us to benefit more from God's word. If you feel like your prayer life is floundering (and mine usually is!), I'd encourage you to listen to Josh's message and come up with a plan to meditate and pray.

Rather than going into all the details of my sermon notes, I thought I'd share my plan for reading Scripture and praying this year. I am using For the Love of God (Vol. 2) to guide me through the Bible. I've used Volume 1 of this set by D. A. Carson before, and I really like the format. Each day gives four passages of Scripture to read and a brief commentary on one of those passages. I take my time reading each chapter (usually two Old Testament and two New Testament), and once I finish reading a chapter I go back through it and write in a journal any verses that stood out to me. Then I write down some thoughts and prayers about how those verses relate to my life - how God is at work and how he calls me to respond to him. For me, writing keeps my prayers focused. Once I've completed all the reading for the day, my goal is to take about ten minutes to pray specifically for my husband and for our church. All told, the whole process lasts about 45 minutes to an hour (accompanied by breakfast and my hot drink of choice!). I hope that this plan bears much fruit and growth in my life and my prayers this year!



For the past several days, I've been working on a post about some of the questions raised in my mind by last Sunday's message on prayer (my notes here), specifically the promises highlighted in John 15:7 and Matthew 21:22. But as I've written and reread and revised ad nauseum, the post has just gotten more and more convoluted. I keep trying to answer my own questions when I haven't really arrived at any solutions yet. So rather than publishing a long-winded and cockamamie collection of half-formed thoughts, I present in humility a list of what I'm wondering:

If God promises that we will receive whatever we ask for in faith, what does it mean that my prayers for children have gone unanswered for so many years?

Does that promise even apply to requests for children?

Are children a material blessing and a common grace (given alike to the righteous and the unrighteous, like the rain and sun) or a spiritual blessing and reward for God's people?

Are my prayers for children unanswered because I lack faith?

Are my prayers for children unanswered because it's not God's will for me to have children, because I'm asking wrongly for something that God doesn't really want me to desire?

If the answers to the previous two questions are no, how do I reconcile my unanswered prayers with God's promises?


Maybe I shouldn't have been making decaf

a comic strip of the first thing I did this morning


Devoted to Prayer

Our church is currently studying prayer. We had a guest speaker, Rick Gamache, last Sunday who spoke from Colossians 4:2. (All that follows is a record of my sermon notes, not my original thinking!) He began with the question, "What is prayer?" Pretty much any person - Christian or otherwise - knows that prayer is asking God for things. Rick offered this definition: Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God through asking him to satisfy the desires of our heart.

One translation of Col. 4:2 reads, "Devote yourselves to prayer." Devotion is an unwavering commitment. Think of what it means to be devoted to a spouse; I don't spend every moment with Aaron, but he is a significant priority, frequently occupying my thoughts and time. Likewise, I should dedicate myself to prayer. In this world, I have to battle to devote myself to prayer. I have to watch against those things that want to crowd prayer out and resist the temptation to think that I am too busy to pray. Spurgeon says that "prayer is a saving of time... for if God has given us time for secondary duties, He must have given us time for primary ones, and to draw near to Him is a primary duty, and we must let nothing set it on one side."

So we are clearly commanded to persist in prayer. But why? First and foremost, we pray because Christ has made a way for us to do so. We cannot take for granted that we, sinfully depraved people, have constant access to the presence of a perfectly holy God, through the merit of another, namely Jesus Christ. The command to devote ourselves to prayer is really a lavishly gracious invitation! The infinitely powerful, wise, loving and good God of the universe calls us to ask him for the good things that he desires to give us as his sons and daughters. We pray, also, because God promises to act when we pray. Spurgeon again: "[W]e believe that, into the ear of the eternal God, we speak our wants, and that His ear is linked with a heart feeling for us, and a hand working on our behalf." There should be a rhythm of desperation and deliverance in our lives as Christians. We ask, God gives help, we get help, and God gets glory.

One practical suggestion is that we intermingle the Word and prayer. John 15:7 records Jesus saying, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." We need to pray our Bibles, not just read them. God's Word produces the faith that we need for answered prayer and transforms us to ask rightly according to God's will. Plan to pray both structured (set time and place to pray through Scripture) and unstructured (spontaneous cries of desperation, thanksgiving, and praise) prayers this year!



Dear internet, please make me pretty!

(1) I'm almost out of facial moisturizer, and I'm ready for a change. I've been using Neutrogena products, but they're starting to feel a little harsh to me. I have somewhat sensitive skin, and it's getting drier all the time. I just started using Philosophy's "Hope in a Tube" on my eyes, and I adore it - so I'm considering shelling out the cash for the facial cream. Has anyone used it? Any other recommendations? If I do the Philosophy moisturizer, then I would also need a sunscreen for my face, so please suggest those, too.

(2) I'd like to get a straightening iron for my hair. I wear it naturally wavy/curly most days, but sometimes I want to look a bit more sleek. I've been told to get ceramic plates and not to go super cheap, but I don't want to spend an unreasonable amount of cash. I looked at this in the store, but I really have no idea what I'm doing. Help!

(3) The hair needs...something. It bores me right now. I like the cut, but everything else is dull. Wearing it wavy means I have a constant halo of dry frizz and my natural highlights get obscured in the curls. I've got just about every color except black in my hair - brown, blond, red, and sadly white/grey. I could maybe punch up the red color with a dye? Or get some highlights? Or just get a fancy gloss serum? Or get over it and do nothing. I need the internet to tell me what to do! (Of course, my husband gets the final say.)


How to Make Half a Pumpkin Spice Cake

First, sign up to bring a meal to a couple that just had a baby, but mix up the dates by a week. Rush home to thaw the soup that you cooked and froze previously and to assemble a salad.

Next, disarrange your entire freezer when you remove the soup. For maximum impact, place the plastic bowl of rock-solid soup on the very edge of your counter; that way, it will tip onto the kitchen floor while you wrestle to keep the freezer contents from tumbling out. Now, in your efforts to rearrange the items in the freezer, mimic that same action - the one where you place a bowl of something just a little too close to the edge - using a small glass bowl of leftover pumpkin puree and the freezer shelf. Congratulations! You have conducted a physics experiment that offers TWO educational results: Theorem 1 - The force of gravity has NOT ceased to function. Theorem 2 - Plastic can absorb the energy from an impact with a tile floor, while glass cannot.

Step back and survey the collection on your floor. Pick up the soup, now conveniently loose from its container, and set it to reheat in a pot on the stove. (You will probably need to wash said pot first.) Take the semi-intact jar of pumpkin puree and place it on the counter. Sweep up glass shards.

Check e-mail. Read a note pointing out that you do not, in fact, need to provide a dinner for the new parents tonight. You signed up for next week, you ninny.

Return to the kitchen to turn off the stove and scoop the still-mostly-frozen soup into a resealable bag. Put it back in the freezer; rearrange contents again. Decide to try to redeem the pumpkin puree. Pick it up in the remains of its glass container, then lose your grip and drop it on the floor again. This step ensures that the pumpkin will dislodge from all bits of glass. Rinse off pumpkin, to be sure. Sweep again.

Finally, search for a recipe that requires one (1) cup pumpkin puree. Determine that you have all the ingredients for a pumpkin spice cake, although you will halve it since it calls for a whole can. Call your husband and ask him to pick up cream cheese on the way home from work, for frosting. Eat an extra big slice.


Good Year Glimpse

Happy new year!

A passing conversation between Aaron and me on New Year's Eve:

"Here's hoping 2008 has good things in store for us."

"That would be nice."

"Of course, I guess everything that God has planned for us this year is good."

"Yeah. But we'd really like a year full of obviously good things."

We're launching into year four of infertility. No matter what, it seems like we'll turn some sort of corner this year. Pending results from some tests we're re-doing and another consultation with the new doctor, we'll decide whether to return to doing IUIs or IVF. One way or the other, we should be done with fertility treatments by summer. If a treatment works, I'll finally be pregnant (although I know pregnancy doesn't guarantee a baby). If not, we may start looking into adoption of some sort (embryo, domestic, international). Lord willing, we'll be much closer to having a family by the end of this year.

There are a few other "obviously" good things we'd like to see happen in 2008. We aim to pay off our school loans completely, maybe even in the first quarter of the year (20-ish years short of the loan terms; take that, Sallie Mae!). Ideally, we will look into buying a house when our apartment lease is up this summer. If school debt is paid and we no longer need my health insurance to cover fertility treatments, it might be unnecessary for me to continue working. A lot of potential changes loom on the horizon.

2008. It could be an exciting year. It may be full of obvious good. It will be, in God's loving hands, a good year, whether that is clear to feeble human sight or not.