"...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:24b-25

22 June 2011

Embracing Reality

Apparently there's a limit to the amount of stress a body and mind can take.  My assumption is that when an individual has reached their limit that the evidence manifests itself in different ways.
My mother has tried to convince me since the first month of my marriage that my DH and I are under more stress than most people, and that this "excess" stress we are under is the underlying cause of our infertility.  I have always disagreed with her.
I still disagree.  I can't say that we are under more stress than most people, especially since different things stress different people in different ways.  For example, it stresses me out (and I mean STRESSES ME OUT) to go watch a movie in a theater, whereas most people consider going to the movies to be a leisurely activity, even relaxing.  Yet I find going to the grocery store to be relaxing, while most of my friends consider it a stressful chore.
Now, I will agree with my mother that the stressors we have been subjected to the past nine years are much different than what many people face, but just as not everyone was designed to be a biophysicist or a race car driver, not everyone was designed to live a life in the military.
Everyone, I'm convinced, has SOMETHING in their lives that is unique to their situation.  But we all adapt and cope and learn to juggle the "everyday normal life" things with the bigger stressors that have the potential to overwhelm us.  And while some amount of stress is a good thing and can make us stronger, every once in a while we find ourselves in a place where we could seriously use a break, or else our bodies (and even our minds) will break.
My body and mind have started giving me signals recently that I'm at the threshold of what I'm currently equipped to handle.
When our IVF cycle failed, I was truly okay.  By the grace of God, I had (and still have) an inexplicable peace about the timing of everything and the fact that we didn't get pregnant.
We met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist and constructed a timeline for our Frozen Embryo Transfer, and were actually relieved that we needed to wait a month because it meant we would not have to plan for sonograms in the midst of our vacation.
A few days after our two-week-wait was over, Aunt Flo showed up and it was time to start Block Leave.
Block Leave marks the countdown to deployment.  It's the time given by the military just before a deployment for the soldiers to have an extended vacation to make precious memories before they have to leave for a year.  
Now, a strange thing happened after DH's first deployment (which was 15 months).  Shortly after he returned, I began waking up in the middle of the night and also in the mornings, not knowing who he was or why he was in my bed.  I would often get out of the bed and move to another location, or I would use my feet to push him out of the bed.  I was never afraid of him, just very confused about why there was a man in bed with me, and unsettled to find myself in that situation.
The memory lapse would last anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute.  After a period of time, I would always remember who he was, but it still felt weird to cuddle with him, or even let my feet touch him, after I realized what had happened.
This continued for several years.  Until one day, it occurred to me that it hadn't happened for an entire year.
Enter the present.  The day we received the news that our IVF had failed, I awoke from a nap beside my husband and didn't know who he was.  
That night, around 12:30, I awoke and again did not know who he was.  I got up to use the bathroom (the whole time wondering if my embryos were floating inside of me or if they had reabsorbed) and after about a minute was finally aware of what was going on.  That same morning, as he was kissing me on the forehead before he left for work, I awoke and was startled because I didn't know who he was.  It only took a few seconds that time for me to recognize him.
I have always assumed that the original manifestation of this strange occurrence was tied solely to the deployment.  I just pushed it aside the first year, and only grew mildly concerned the second year, but also pushed it aside because we were going through major life changes.  Then, when we were free from the episodes for an entire year, I figured maybe my brain had sorted everything out.
This time, I found it strange that this resurfaced IMMEDIATELY after we learned that the IVF had failed.  True, we are facing an upcoming deployment, but then why would it not have started happening sooner, when I began taking note of the signs of the deployment?
When I posed this question to DH, he made an astute observation.  The one full year that I was completely free from these episodes, was the one full year that we took a break from fertility treatments.
Being a PA, he suspects that the massive amounts of hormones, and the giant hormone fluctuations could have some connection to it all.  Being a former psychology major, I suspect it has to do with emotional stressors.
Truly, I believe that it's probably a combination of those two things.
At the moment, I'm not exactly sure what to do about it.  I mean, I realize I have resources and options for help available, and I do plan on sorting through those options and finding a suitable plan.  But it's not like this can be fixed in the next several weeks before he leaves, and this time is precious (not to mention we're galavanting around the country, traveling).
So, why even include this as a blog post on a blog about infertility?  Well, for one thing, it's a very strange and unsettling thing to go through, and it helps a little to get it off my chest instead of acting like it's not a real thing I'm dealing with.  It's a little bit embarrassing, and I realize I'm taking a risk in sharing it (kind of like how it's difficult to share about IF b/c of the potential well-meaning advice when all you really want is empathy).
But, I'm also sharing it because I honestly thought I'd have a more intense reaction to the news of the failed IVF than I would have facing the reality of my husband's deployment.  For a girl who at one point wanted to be a mom more than she wanted to be married, it's oddly comforting to realize that when push comes to shove, the idea of losing my husband brings more angst to my soul than knowing that I'm not yet pregnant.  It's also oddly comforting to see that my desire for my husband and my desire to be a mom do not have to contend for a place in my life.  They each belong there and each remain with an intensity that sometimes overwhelms me.
I will find help for this strange way my body and mind have made it clear to me that I can use a break.  But I will also embrace the reality that is shining through.

The Wait is Over: Peace in the Pain

I forget sometimes that Twitter is not my blog ;-)  I'm on Twitter so frequently, ranting about my day or updating people on the latest happenings, that sometimes it feels like I've actually updated my blog.

My apologies for leaving you all hanging in the middle of my two-week-wait, when clearly that has long since passed!

Sunday, June 12th, was the day we had the blood work done to find out if we were pregnant.  We got up early, drove to Austin, had the blood drawn, ate a nice brunch, and drove home.

I was extremely tired from all of the progesterone in my system, and more than a little grumpy from all the other hormones, so I took a nap while DH read his Nook for a bit.

When it was finally time for us to page the on-call nurse for the results, DH asked if I would please take an at-home test so that if it was negative we would not be hearing the news from a stranger.

I complied because I honestly didn't care one way or another.  I wanted him to have the buffer if he needed it.  I just wanted to be done with the waiting.  I was fairly certain that the results would be negative.

And they were.  The pee stick showed a negative result.  A minute and a half later, we got the confirmation from the on-call nurse that the beta was in fact <1.  I thanked her for her time and tried to sound reassuring in my tone because I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it must be to be the one who has to give couples such difficult news.

The phone was on speaker, so I didn't have to relay the information to my sweet husband. He held me and we cried.  I cried for him because he was so completely heart-broken.  I did not have any sad tears about the loss of the embryos, and I wasn't sure why.  (I realized later that I had truly mourned their loss when we got the embryologist report a week earlier.  I had lost hope that day that they had survived.)

DH and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with each other, hashing through the emotions and implications of the failed cycle.  We notified his parents and my parents of the news through a phone call, and we texted and e-mailed the rest of our friends and family, asking for some time to grieve.

I was blown away by the realization of the perfect timing of every detail (as difficult as the details of the day were).  I'll spare you a running recount of events, but it was amazing to me to see how specifically spaced out each event was in the course of that day.  It was very comforting to me because I could clearly see the hand of God all over our lives, and I had a peace wash over me regarding His timing for our family.

I shared that with my DH, and although it didn't ease his pain that day, over the next two days, he too was able to see the same perfect timing, and it also brought him comfort.  He commented that while the events that make the perfection of that timing clear are incredibly sucky, difficult, and/or frustrating, it's BECAUSE of how difficult those things are that we're able to see the perfection in the timing.  (Irony was an extremely difficult concept for me to grasp in high school...I suppose God is making sure that I get a full grasp of it through hands-on training.  lol!)

We have one beautiful frozen embryo in the blastocyst stage.  We have scheduled a Frozen Embryo Transfer for the month of July.  This month is devoted to shrinking down the remaining follicles on my ovaries, and making memories prior to DH's deployment.  He will not be able to be here for the transfer since we are having to wait until July, but we are trusting God's timing in the midst of all of this.

In the mean time, if you are one who prays and are wondering how we can use prayer, you can pray that the thawing of the embryo will be successful on the day of transfer and that the embryo will survive the thaw.  You can also pray that we will make the most of each day that we have remaining together and that I will not be in a funk.  While I was not at all depressed about the failed IVF, I have found myself battling depression at the thought of being separated from my husband for another year.

Thank you for your patience with my own imperfect timing.  Thank you for your support through your comments and through reading this blog.  And thank you for your prayers.  You are greatly appreciated!


11 June 2011

An Anniversary Post

Three days ago, my husband and I celebrated our ninth anniversary.  And by celebrated, I mean we went out in T-shirts and jeans to a BJ's Restaurant, had a casual and early dinner, then went to spend the evening with friends.  Both of us have been so focused on this two week wait and the upcoming deployment that we basically forgot about our anniversary until the night before.

I awoke Wednesday morning as my husband was preparing for work.  He called out to me, "Happy Anniversary, Babe!"  I walked into the bathroom where he was getting ready to shave, kissed him on the cheek, and sleepily said, "Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart.  Even if we never have children, I'm thankful to have you as a husband.  I wouldn't want anyone else in the world."  

I turned and walked groggily back to bed and slept most of the morning away.

That moment in the bathroom was one of my favorite parts of that day.

Eleven years ago, my attitude was quite different.
I recall a day in which the subject of children came up between the two of us before we were even officially dating.  We both talked about how we wanted to have a large family and I was surprised that he wanted to have as large a family as I did, even though I had not told him how many kids I'd love to have.  When he busted out the number "12" in answer to my question of how many kids he wanted to have, I was blown away b/c that was the number in my heart.

I was so passionate in that discussion, and apparently in future discussions we had, about wanting to have many children that my Sweetheart (now my Dear Husband) felt compelled to ask me what I would do if we couldn't have children.  He asked if I would consider adoption.  

I told him that I certainly wanted to adopt, but that I wanted to have children biologically as well.  This was not answering his question completely, so he asked again, "What would you do if you found that you couldn't have children?" 

I am appalled today at what my answer was to him.  I remember telling him very sincerely, "I'm not sure, but I can tell you this: We better not find out whose fault it is, because if it was mine I'd be devastated and if it was his, I'd regret that I married him."

Wow!  What a little...UGH!  If I could go back in time and slap myself, I absolutely would!  There were so many occasions when I had such a pig-headed attitude (like the time I told someone that the day I dated my DH is the day pigs fly, or the time I told my DH that I'd be mad at God if I knew that God was going to make me like him in the future!  Ugh!  I don't even know the appropriate word to describe the person that I was).

Well, thankfully, God loves me too much to leave me the way I was, and he's done quite a number on my heart.  

You should know that my DH asked me that question in various ways at least a dozen times while we were dating.  So many times, in fact, that I actually asked him if he had some information about himself that I needed to know.

We had only been married a year and six months when we decided to stop using contraceptive.  The interesting thing is that I don't remember at all caring about who was to blame for our not being able to conceive.  I just remember being so disappointed and frustrated that it wasn't happening.

I remember, too, being concerned that we might get so consumed with getting pregnant that our marriage would suffer, so I communicated with my DH regularly on what I was thinking and how I felt, what my concerns were and what I thought we should do.  From the beginning, we were a team in dealing with Infertility.  And from the beginning, it was our goal to keep the desire for children from trumping our marriage.

So, we took breaks.  In seven years, we've only had five procedures (with one year of a holistic approach-which makes six "procedures," I suppose) to try to get pregnant.  I spent a year charting my cycle before we tried medical intervention.  But we only pursued the medical intervention because I was having so many issues with my cycle, and my options were to either take the birth control pill or get professional help.  By God's grace, we have been careful, thus far, not to let the desire for children consume our marriage. 

There was a time when I would have never considered having fertility treatments.  There was a time when I thought I wouldn't be able to love someone anymore if I were to find out they were the reason I wouldn't be able to have children.  I am so thankful for a husband who loves and fears God and who is able to love me when I'm at my worst, who is able to be so patient and tender as he trusts that I will not be at my worst forever.

I eventually came to a place where I realized several things:
  • My marriage is more important to me than having children.
  • My dream to have children is still alive in my heart, and will happen, someday, someway.
  • God is the author of life, and it is his alone to give and take away.
  • God has used every single time in my life that I have been angry with him to teach me more about how he loves me, his faithfulness, his forgiveness, and his grace.
  • God has used every single trial I have faced in my life to strengthen me and to get rid of disgusting parts of who I am (like the attitudes I described above).
  • I am blessed beyond measure to have the husband that I have been given and I treasure him more each day.
So, I am thankful to be able to say with my whole heart that regardless of when, if, or how we have children, I am THANKFUL to have been given the privilege of being married to my husband and I have NO REGRETS that I married him.  

I still sit in awe, sometimes, when I think of how he had seen me at my absolute worst on numerous occasions and was still willing, and even desired, to marry me.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!  May this be only the beginning of a long and fruitful life together!


05 June 2011

To Be Remembered...

"So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God who sees me,' for she said, 'Truly  here I have seen him who looks after me.'" Genesis 16:13

"When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren." Genesis 29:31

"And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son." Genesis 30:17

"Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb." Genesis 30:22

"...and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, 'I have asked for him from the Lord.'" 1 Samuel 1:19b-20

These are not the only instances of God opening barren wombs recorded in scripture.  Sarah's womb was opened by God well beyond menopause for her, and she became the matriarch of the nation of Israel.  And Elizabeth, the wife of a priest, noted as walking righteously before God, was "advanced in years" as well.  She was blessed to be the mother of John the Baptist.

My point in making note of the scripture references above is not to point out how God opened the wombs of barren women.  In fact, the very first scripture listed above is not about a barren woman at all.  She was pregnant for the sake of a barren woman, and she became the matriarch of the Muslim nation through her pregnancy.

What I wanted to take note of is that God saw, he looked after, he listened to, and he remembered these women.

The women noted above were not particularly righteous or good, but God still took note of them.  This comforts me because it reminds me that I cannot earn God's favor, and it is also not required that I try.

Another thing these women that God noticed had in common is the fact that they were in places of desperation.
Hagar had fled from her mistress who had mistreated her and she was in the desert, alone and pregnant.
Leah had been given in marriage to a man who did not love her, who then married her sister a week later.
Rachel had had her fiance given to her older sister to fulfill customary rules, and although she was finally able to marry her fiance a week later, she was barren and her sister was fruitful!
Hannah was the second wife of a man who loved her, but she was taunted relentlessly by the first wife who was as fertile as the day is long.  The desire to bear a child consumed her to the point that her husband seemed hurt that she didn't find his love to be enough.

These women were wounded, they were weary, they had lost hope, and they longed to be seen, to be remembered.  Sound familiar?

It blows my mind that the God of the universe would reach out and literally touch the lives of these women, paying attention to their wounded hearts and their helpless requests, but He did.  Not only that, He had a plan for each and every one of them.  They had no idea how their struggle was going to play out into the course of history, all they knew was the pain they were facing at that time.  But God knew.

Sometimes I think, "Seven years is a really long time to be infertile."  And then I remember Rebekah (from the bible) who had her husband praying for her to bear children for 20 years!  I remember Sarah, who had gone through menopause already, and Elizabeth (as mentioned above).  I remember their situations and realize that they were not forgotten about during that time.  God hadn't quit caring.  But He had a plan to show not only the world but these individuals how truly amazing he is.  Although, I'm sure he didn't seem too amazing while they were waiting.  Heck, Sarah got tired of waiting and that's how the whole Hagar thing got started.

Let me be clear: ANY length of time longing for a child is a very long time.  Sometimes just one day can seem like an eternity!  So I realize saying someone waited 20 or 12 or 10 or 7 years isn't really a great comfort.  (Trust me, I know!)

But I AM encouraged by the STORIES told by the ones who have endured and survived infertility (and yes, I do mean to use the word "survived").  I am encouraged at the thought that, although I may not like that I have had to travel down this path, there is a bigger plan in motion than what I can see right now.  It helps a great deal that I truly trust that God is good and that he is in complete control.  Yes, there are days that I scream out to him, "WHY!!!" There are days that I beg him to remember me.  But there is even comfort (eventually) in knowing that I can do that and not be struck down, but instead be heard.

I recognize that we all believe different things.  These are my thoughts based on what I've been struggling through this week.

One week left to go on this two week wait.  I am longing for a miracle.  I am longing for all of us to be heard, seen and remembered by the God that I serve.

May God show you that he sees you and looks after you.