Friday, August 12, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Four


I cannot say this one enough.  I couldn't have gotten through this with any inkling of sanity had I not had other women to walk with.  I am a true believer of community and family living life together... sharing celebrations, sharing resources, sharing pain, walking together... what my church calls the "one-anothering" of life.  

When all this fertility stuff started for me, I knew of a couple of women who had endometriosis.  So, I called them. Immediately.  I was scared and freaked out.  Their words, unlike any others, were rest and comfort for my little heart.  As time went on, I met more and more women walking this same road for one reason or another.  Oddly, I have 3 friends from college who were all going through fertility treatments at the same time that I was.  We began meeting for lunch once a month or so just to connect and pray for each other.  Just being in their presence was deeply comforting... just knowing that other people felt that longing as deeply as I did.   

Early on, I loved hearing stories of people's fertility struggle as long as it ended with  a pregnancy and baby!  Then, as time went on and my heart grew in understanding of what was happening in my story, I began seeking out stories from women who adopted.  In late 2009, I met a woman, who after years of battling infertility adopted 2 girls.  As she shared her story with me, I saw on her face that she felt satisfied in the Lord. She still carried her scar. But she felt peace and joy. And she gave thanks and was not bitter.  She hugged me and held on.  She cried and told me that she knows my pain.  I felt God touch me.  I have several stories like this with other women... but this one always stands out in my mind as a moment where real truth seeped into my heart and set it a little more free.

In all honesty, for a long time I had a really difficult time being around women in groups... women's retreats, showers of any kind, etc.  When women are together they talk about their families... and sometimes not so kindly.  It was sooo hard to hear a woman complain about the difficulties of motherhood or pregnancy.  I mean, I get it, it's hard.  But not one of those complaining women would trade places with a "barren" woman.  And I would have given my left arm to have those 4 kids she's complaining about.  

At times, it was also difficult to connect with my really close friends who had kids.  Ironically, during my struggle with infertility, one of my closest friends had three Unexpected, Unplanned babies!  If our friendship was to survive (due to my own heartache and envy), she and I had to have some really honest conversations about how we both felt.    When she got pregnant with her third, we cried together (both of us wishing it had been me!)  As we talked, I realized that her heart was going through a very similar thing that mine was.  This had not been her plan.  Having a baby means completely laying down your life for a while.  She had other things she wanted to do, dreams to live out.  And God had another plan for her.  She had to surrender.  And it was painful for her.  She also had the capability to simply let it be painful for me.  She understood and was not put off by my pain.  I appreciate her more than she knows!  Tear.  

All that to say... I needed old friends and new friends to go through this without losing hope and possibly ending up a mere shell of who I'm called to be.  Those same women who grieved with me, also celebrated the homecoming of my son!  My house was decorated when we got home, I had meals for several weeks, a baby shower and lots of mom shoulders to lean on.  To all my lovely friends out there, I say Thank you.  You are a gift to me!

These really great pics, I stole from facebook.  They are of some friends of mine from  high school.  Most of these girls have been friends with each other from at least junior high and they are still all "besties!"  They travel together every year... a very intentional way to pursue friendship!  It's inspiring.  Love to all you girls from afar!  I hope it's okay that I borrowed your pics ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Three

And number 3 in the things I'm learning:

I will NOT be defined by this!  

Today, "Infertile" is NOT a label I wear.  I did wear it for a long time.  And I believed everything about me was... barren. 

Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I was working in a job I loved and I was good at it.  I believed that too.  I felt that I knew who I was, I felt confident in my abilities and I had a lot of dreams.  After getting diagnosed and then experiencing disappointment upon disappointment, my identity (along with my womb) became the center of this attack.  I began doubting who I was altogether... revealing that a huge part of my identity was wrapped up in this dream of bearing children.  And I began seeing things in my life unravel.  I doubted all my abilities... especially my relational abilities which was the core of my job at the time. I even quit my job... some for need of rest, but a little because I just became so anxious about it.  I began shying away from all areas of leadership.  I felt like a horrible wife, a horrible friend and mentor, and on top of that, I couldn't even get my garden to grow.  Seriously, my joke was "Well, my own seeds don't grow without the help of chemicals, why would my garden grow?"  I truly believed that everything about me and my life was "infertile."  And I stopped dreaming.

Through a series of events, God lead me to give up that label.  It is not what He says is true about me.  And it's a lie!  I am not "infertile."  I will not be called barren any longer.  A couple of years ago, I was given an opportunity to share this publicly (about how God asked me to lay down the barren label and believe truth about myself).  In much fear and trepidation, I went and shared it.  Then Felipe and I got in the car to drive home.  Ironically, on that day I had been waiting on a call from the fertility clinic... it was THE call to find out if we were pregnant or not after our last IVF cycle.   I got the call in the car on the way home.  We were not pregnant.   Of course, it was devastating.  But this time it was also different.  I no longer believed that that negative test defined me.  It has been a life changing truth to hold on to.  

I feel today, as though I have my life back.  I believe that this change even gave me the freedom and courage to adopt... the best decision Felipe and I have ever made!  I have also stepped back into many areas of life that I had previously been afraid.  My garden, it grows! And I'm dreaming again!  All this has made me very aware that if I let it, infertility will steal my destiny!  

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - Jesus of Nazareth

"Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Fill the air with song, you who've never experienced childbirth!  You're ending up with far more children that all those child bearing women."  God says so!  "Clear lots of ground for your tents!  Make your tents large. Spread out!  Think big!  Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep.  You're going to need lots of elbow room for your growing family.  You're going to take over whole nations; you're going to resettle abandoned cities.  Don't be afraid- you're not going to be embarrassed.  Don't hold back- you're not going to come up short.  You'll forget all about the humiliations of your youth, and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.  For your Maker is your bridegroom, His name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!  Your Redeemer is the Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth."  Isaiah 54:1, The Message

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Two

  A little bold in the title, right!?

In great contradiction to the title above, here's #2:

I am NOT in control!  

No matter how hard I try, no matter how many things I do to help this womb become the best little incubator on the planet, I can't do it.  And believe me I've tried.  I've been to 3 doctors, 2 holistic practitioners, been on countless herbs, medicines and diets.  I've been dairy-free, gluten-free, chocolate-free, sugar-free, carb-free, caffeine and alcohol-free!  Oh yeah, and we tried a yeast-free diet once!  All that, and I gained 40 pounds in the process!  I've been massaged and acupunctured! I've even rolled a rolling pin up my leg while having castor oil on my abdomen supposedly to get blood to my ovaries!  And I've Taken Charge of my Fertility!    I've done the best treatments that science has to offer! I've prayed, I've surrendered, I've been anointed with oil, and I've been through healing prayer to find that "inner psychological wound" that's causing my body to not work!  Sheesh! 

What I'm not saying is that all of the above was for naught.  Some of those things were great for my health and well-being along the way.  But through most of it, I was simply reaching for control.  Along this journey, there are so many things that I had no power over... my cycle, cysts growing continuously, the right timing, the dumb negative sign on that stick!  There was just no control.  And I wanted it so badly!  It would send me into a panic.

And now, what I'm learning is that feeling of control is just an illusion.  The only thing I do have a tiny bit of power over is how I choose to respond to this most horrible tragedy in my life.  Don't get me wrong, I made many choices to sit, wallow, throw full on 2 year-old tantrums, and sulk in my own pity.  But... I also made some choices to worship even in sorrow, to be honest with God and confess my anger and rage, and to give thanks.  And letting go of my earthly fate, dying to my own will, and choosing to believe that God is with me, has been water to my thirsty soul.  All that sounds really great and easy when I write it down all pretty right?  I don't really know how I got to this place of just accepting that I'm not in control.  But I did get here.  And my heart  is much more peaceful than it once was.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part One

The Introduction
First, why am I doing this series and posting my infertility story for all the world to see?

For two reasons:
1. Women contact me regularly either because they read my blog or because they heard about my story and want to talk to me.  They have questions about infertility, how I've dealt with it, adoption, marriage, you name it.  I think this will answer a lot for them.  And because there are several "infertility" blogs out there that are just not very encouraging.  BTW, I'm not turning into an "infertility only" blog.  Just doing this series.
2. God is doing something new in my heart and I'm processing.  This helps me do that.

This series is titled "Things I'm Learning Through Infertility."  I think in a previous post, I may have said Learned, but that's incorrect.  I have not mastered any of what I write here.  I have failed so many times; I will continue to fail. I'm in process and am learning.

Also, one thing about being an adoptive mom.  I will be and have been writing about the pain of infertility.  I'm writing only about infertility here.  Maybe an adoption series will come later.  The pain of not bearing a child remains even though I now have a son.  Lucas was never intended to be a replacement or a settlement for not having biological children.  He is my dream come true!  Just, a different dream.  Lucas is everything I want and more!  He is not second best.  He is no disappointment! And he's mine!  I just want to explain that as some may wonder about it.

Part One
In light of the two previous posts about how others interact with women walking through infertility, I'm starting with this as #1 in the series of Things I'm Learning Through Infertility:

LOVE covers a multitude of sins!
I have to give people grace.  People don't have nor do they need a Ph.D. in "How to talk to me when I'm hurting."  The fact that it offends me or makes me angry really is my issue.  When people tell me how I am to address them or talk to them, it usually makes me back way off.  I freeze up and then tip-toe trying to figure out what to say or do.  I don't want people to feel like that around me.

Through all this, even in my most hurting, scared and "freeking-out-for-lack-of-control" moments, I am still to be loving.  When my hormones are out of control and I'm angry so far beyond explanation, I am to call upon the Holy Spirit who is "Self-Control" Himself and I am to love.  And that LOVE... IT WILL cover a multitude.  I just have to let it.  

I just received this note from a friend who also is walking this road.  I was encouraged by her words:
"God is really working on my heart about extending grace to those people who say silly comments.  And he's showing me about how much I need to let it go. Immediately.  So hard!!  I think most people don't think or just don't know what to say.  I also have learned that as people walk with you/us through infertility and loss and it continues for months and years, they feel uncomfortable about the level of pain.  They want the pain to stop.  It is hard for their minds to grasp the pain sometimes as a bystander...and so they let the platitudes come out as a way to justify or make the situation better in their minds.  (Even though adopting won't take away the pain of IVF not working or of your lost child)... but you know that.  Still doesn't make the comments ok or right, but it does help my heart to know and understand that... so I don't slap people :)"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Story of Infertility... Well, a part of it.

This post begins a series of several posts describing things I've learned along the road of infertility.  This is a little shout out to all the "so-called" INfertile Myrtle's out there.  Hopefully, others will get something from it too; as I think any of us walking along a road of suffering can glean wisdom and hope from each other!

And before I start with the #1 thing I have learned on this journey, I think I'll start with my story.  It seems important to give the whole picture and let you know where I'm coming from.

Don't worry, I won't start with my birth or anything.  But I will say that I was a child who dreamed often of becoming a mother.  And not just being a mom; but I had a fascination with pregnancy.  In all seriousness, my mom lost me several times in stores because I would wander away and follow a pregnant woman.  I thought it was simply amazing.  And I deeply longed for the day it would happen to me.  One of my goals as an adult was to be bare-foot, pregnant and in my kitchen!

In 2005, as a 27 year-old single woman, I began experiencing more difficult than normal cycles and constant pain.  Three doctors later (the first 2 told me I was stressed and needed to get on the pill) an ultrasound was done and they found my first ovarian cyst.  In November of 2005, I had my first surgery to remove it and endometriosis (endo) was discovered.  It was "pretty nasty" in there and at that time, I was told I had about a 40% chance of ever conceiving.

In January 2006, I began taking Depo Lupron and was put into temporary menopause for 6 months.  I met and began dating my husband (obviously a very compassionate man) during this time.  Within 2 months of being off Lupron, pain had returned.

I had my second surgery exactly one month before my wedding day in March.  This time it was an emergency situation as they thought one of my ovaries had begun to twist cutting off circulation.  Things looked much worse inside at this time and something didn't go quite well in surgery.  I was hospitalized for 5 days.   For a little extra explanation: the average C-section takes about 30 minutes, the average endo laproscopy takes about an hour, but for someone with my level (stage 4) of endo, surgery takes about 3 hours.  It's a lot of cutting.  I don't like surgery.  Felipe and I began trying to conceive on our honeymoon.  Prior to our wedding, we took a class on Natural Family Planning (NFP) and learned to chart and take temps.  I've taken 2 classes now and have my own personal consultant!  I have books of charts (12 months of charts for 2007).  By December, multiple cysts had returned.

I was diagnosed (incorrectly) with polycystic ovarian syndrome and took needless medication for it for months.  We began doing injections of HCG and progesterone.  Went through multiple hormone tests (blood draws).  I was then told by my doctor that I was above his pay grade and needed to go to a specialist.  In December, we met Dr. Silverberg at the Texas Fertility Clinic.  And in case I forget to put this as one of the things I learned: I learned that specialists are way better and much more skilled and efficient at this!!  I hope I never have to let a non-specialist do surgery on me again.
For 2008, there were 12 months of charts.

In February, Silverberg did my third surgery.  A much better experience, though it was still really bad in there.  He also found that my thyroid was enlarged.  Enter a new doctor in my life (my endocrinologist), who diagnosed me with hypo-thyroid.  Been on Synthroid ever since and see this guy every 6 months.   In April, we attempted our first IUI with injectables.  That's where you take injections of "wheaties" to help your eggs grow big and strong.  Then another injection to release the eggs.  And it gets a little too detailed from there.  Anyways, it didn't work.
We began preparing for our In-Vitro (IVF) cycle, which was done in August.  You can read details about all this here on the blog from that year.  Our first cycle, we had 2 embryos put inside me.  We lost both babies.  We had one frozen embryo remaining and we began preparing for our frozen embryo transfer (FET).  That was done in November and we lost that child too.  We grieved.  And we rested.  We were a bit relieved it was all over and we wanted to move on.
I only have 4 months of charts from this year.  They hijack your system and charting is irrelevant during these treatments.

In January, we decided to adopt.  In April, I had an ultrasound (haven't had one since) and there was at least one cyst.  It looked like an ovary was stuck somewhere it shouldn't be.  In June, our son was born!  Best day of my life... along with my wedding day! (Again see details of our adoption on the blog).  In July, I visited a new ob-gyn for my annual.  He said, "See you in a year!"  I laughed.  My last ob-gyn was invited to my wedding!  That's how well and how often I was seeing these people!  So, the "see ya in year comment" struck me as funny.  I induced lactation so that I could breast-feed Lucas.  It was for him and for me.  The best treatment for endo is pregnancy.  The second best treatment for endo is breast feeding.  I breast fed my adopted son for 7 months!  A wonderful gift.  And I've had little to no pain with endo for over a year.  In October, we got new insurance and my endo or anything related... not covered.  We prayed.  No charts for 2010! Lucas was hope-fulfilled and he has healed my heart in more ways than I know.

I spent my time NOT going to doctors (avoiding them actually)!  On August 1, we got new insurance... and I'm covered!  I know it's a good idea to go get a check up soon and I probably will.  It doesn't mean I want to ;)  I have two charts from this year.  I thought I might pick it back up because it tells me a lot about what's going on in my body.  But I just haven't had the discipline for it.  And there's a twinge of disappointment with each month that passes.  I just counted it up and we've been married for 54 months.  That's 54 months that have passed and no plus sign on that stick.  And no, I don't pee on 'em anymore!   We are talking about adopting again.  Very excited about that.

So, that's that.  I'll begin writing the series soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to be more helpful!! Post II

Thank you all for your funny and encouraging comments!  I got some really funny stuff via email!  I do have to say, it's nice to know I have not been the only one who got an offer for a surrogate.  Though, I kind of wish I was the only one!

In light of the emails I received, I just have to add one more to the "Not-so helpful" list of things people say to women walking through infertility!
  • #11  "Just touch me and let my fertileness rub off on you!  Every time my husband looks at me, I get pregnant!"  I'll just let that one speak for itself ;)
Now, as promised, I'll list out some "Helpful Comments/Gestures" people can do for couples walking through this painful time.  From the statistics on the last post, it was the most read blog post I've ever written.  I hope this one gets even more hits... since this one really is more important!  

The HELPFUL Things:
  • #1  Be aware of how deeply infertility affects the couple and especially the woman.  They are going through so much, not just emotionally, but also physically and spiritually.  And infertility can put any marriage into the deep end where neither partner knows how to swim.  At some point in a marriage, most couples are going to deal with some kind of "conflict" in the bedroom.  Think of the toll infertility takes on that aspect of marriage.  People make jokes, but it's a big deal.  Depending on what is causing the infertility, the woman could be in severe physical pain, sometimes daily... that alone takes a huge toll on anyone.  Then not to mention what she's going through physically if she's going any sort of fertility treatments.  If she does get pregnant, it's likely a high-risk pregnancy, meaning the same rules do not apply to her.  It's a different ball-game.  And spiritually... there is a whole range of things they could be experiencing from questioning God/faith, deep anger, feeling forgotten, and also having their faith deepened.  Just being aware of all this helps people to have compassion and know how to engage in conversation.
  • #2 Know that adopting will not "fix" her problem.  It will not take away her desire to birth her own child and she probably won't get pregnant after they adopt.  Her desire may never go away. How she deals with it, is her choice.  God commanded us all to be fruitful and multiply.  The desire to have one's own child is innate and very good.  And for the sake of goodness among humanity, recognize that every Christian family should consider adoption.  The Bible demands it.  Just because people can procreate is NO reason to not adopt children.  We are all "called" to the orphan.  
  • #3  Let her know you are praying or you are thinking of her.  You can also let her know that you are there to listen if she would like to talk to someone.  I got many sweet emails or notes simply letting me know that I was on their heart.  Random flowers would be very sweet.  Even years into her struggle... let her know you too are still thinking about her pain.  She is.
  • #4 If appropriate (as in after a surgery, major procedure or miscarriage), by all means take them a meal!  Or organize a Care Calender for them!  It's a very generous way to serve.  Be aware that they may or may not want this or be up for visiting at the time you bring the meal.  Just be sensitive.
  • #5  If it's a close friend or relative, it may be appropriate to ask questions (i.e. how did the "procedure" go?).  Tread lightly here as much of it is personal and not everyone wants to answer those questions.  If you have specific questions about how a certain procedure works and it's just to satisfy your own curiosity... Google it!  
  • #6 A lot about the topic of infertility and treatments for it is ridiculously "Joke-worthy!"  But!  Let them make jokes first.  I've personally learned this the hard way.  I laugh at most things (even the ridiculously painful and especially about men "donating" their sperm in little cups hidden in paper bags!) but not everyone does ;)  
  • #7  Sit in your own ability to not be able to "fix" anything or "take away" any pain for anyone.  It's a hard place to be because we all want to help.  We do wish we could have a baby for them or make a way for her to able to do it.  But we just can't.  You don't know how they feel, you don't have the solution, and you can't make it all go away.  Your advice is not needed.  But you can simply be with them in it.  
  • #8  Recognize loss when it happens.  Grieve with them, mourn for them.  Also, recognize that the loss of embryos in an IVF cycle or a miscarriage at any stage IS the loss of one or more children.  After we lost our embryos, it was such a strange emotion because most of the world didn't seem to recognize it as the loss of our children.  But I did receive one note from a friend, a "sympathy card"... and it was so beautiful.  It was water to my soul... someone saying they were sorry for my loss.  I felt deeply loved.  Our best friends stayed very near to us during this time and would always call after a procedure or major loss.  They just repeatedly wanted us to know they were "with us" if we wanted them to be.  Once, we shocked them after a major disappointment when we just wanted to come over and laugh together.  We needed to NOT grieve that day.  And they let us.  Thanks Mark and Ceci!
  • #9 Ask what you CAN do to help.  At the end of 2009 (the worst year of our lives I call it), I was simply exhausted and spent with grief.  And my body had been through the ringer.  I had a hard time getting dressed much less cleaning my house.  My girlfriends, after asking what they could do to help, came over one night and Deep Cleaned my house!  We all had some wine, some dessert and worked for 3 hours on my house!  It was a wonderful gift... and way better than hiring someone to do it!  Also, when my husband's friends would take him out to do something fun (that I wasn't in the mood for)... it was so life-giving to him!
  • #10  Some may have different opinions on this, but I say, still invite them to baby showers and birthday parties.  They may feel more alienated if you don't.  And just give them grace if they don't show.  
  • And #11  Pray.  Pray for your friends.  Pray for God to "remember them."  Every instance I can think of where a womb was opened in the Bible, it says "And God remembered Sarah...," or "God remembered her prayer..." etc.  Pray for them to not lose heart or grow bitter.  Pray for courage to endure.  Pray for them to find a path to thankfulness.  Pray for wisdom (lots of decisions are needed on this journey).  Pray for faith. Pray for babies!  Just pray.  And let them know you are praying.  
I do hope you've found this to be... helpful!

Following up on this list, I'll soon write a blog of encouragement for women currently dealing with infertility.  No advice at all... just things that were/are helpful for me.  It's just my story and it may be of encouragement. You may take it or leave it :-)