Blogspiration and the nudge-nag phenomenon

People blog for all sorts of reasons. Political, religious, financial; about sports, about entertainment, about how to cook beef bourguignon, or solve the Syrian refugee crisis, or upcycle a thrift store-salvaged dresser into a shabby chic armoire.

IMHO, the ultimate motivation underlying all these reasons for blogging is rooted in a universal human presupposition. We like to think that what we have to say matters to someone else. Our quest for significance drives our compulsion for utterance of our thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

I started blogging in 2008 for no greater reason than peer pressure. Everybody was doing it, way back then. It was part of the normal life pattern many of our friends followed after graduating from college – get married, move, get a job or get more education and then a job, start a blog, have kids, post their pics on said blog. My husband and I pursued this chain of events until we hit a snag.

This snag/pit of despair was characterized by years of longing for but not being able to conceive a child. After attempting to deal with my grief in my own strength and failing to find hope through that strategy, I began reading a friend’s blog describing her struggles with these issues. Her demonstration of vulnerability freed me to wrestle with my anguish more honestly and reinvigorated my passion for writing with a renewed purpose: to let others know they were not alone in this profoundly painful trial.

Once I had written about our failed IVF cycle, amazing adoption story, and surprise pregnancy, I became less motivated to blog except for occasional times when, as a good evangelical, I should describe as “God laid it on my heart.” My label for this is the “nudge-nag phenomenon.” God nudges my heart about a specific topic at a specific time and nags me until I write about it. His still, small, unrelenting voice is not like the nagging I do to my kids to hurry up and get ready in the morning. It is gentle, insistent, assuring, and dare I say, a whole lot more effective.

nagging

That’s where I’m at now. God is nudging my heart to share my reflections about a variety of topics, not just infertility, though that is and always will be part of my story.

I don’t really have a gimmick to draw readers in; I don’t craft or cook or exercise or ruminate about politics or put together a wardrobe in such a way that would inspire others. I don’t even have a Southern accent with which to issue a “y’all” call to action. I just have my words and a desire to console, to teach, to encourage, and to preach.

While I’d like to feign indifference and declare that it wouldn’t matter to me if anyone ever read my blog as long as it glorified Jesus – adopting a creed like “I write for an audience of One” or some such spiritually conceited nonsense – I can’t, and I won’t. I do care if people read this; otherwise, I’d pick up where my 5th grade self left off and just continue ruminating in my personal diary (but probably with fewer contemplations on which of my friends has the cutest jeans … probably).

My preschooler served as my muse for how to explain my ultimate reason for blogging when he burst into an enthusiastic and surprisingly on-key rendition of the chorus to Big Daddy Weave’s “My Story.”

If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

I want to tell you about my life to tell you about my Redeemer. I want to share my unruly weaknesses, sanctified discoveries, and sarcastic annotations on life so that others can find some measure of encouragement that refreshes their faith. I want to preach the gospel to myself and anyone else who cares to listen.

This is my story; this is my song; praising my Savior, all my words long.

this-is-my-story-this-is-my-song

Advertisements

You are not alone

 

I sat, staring at the backyard.

My eyes perceived the scenery before me – the pale sky, the slender birch trees, the too tall grass – as my mind envisioned children laughing, rolling down the hill, blowing puffs of dandelions, and running to me for a kiss after falling down and scraping a knee.

I cried my heart out.

My yard was empty. I didn’t have any kids; didn’t have any co-workers, since I was working from home; didn’t have any friends, since my husband, Colin, and I had recently moved to the area. He was at work, and I was by myself. I sat alone in our empty house, gazing out the back window like a mental hospital patient, thinking about how I was never going to be a mom.

Later, I learned that the neighbors whose property bordered the back of ours – the ones who owned the fence into which my eyes bored holes during my patio reverie – were also experiencing difficulties trying to conceive. The wife had been diagnosed with endometriosis, just as I had. The two of them had undergone a few unsuccessful rounds of IVF and were prepping for another attempt at the procedure, just as we were.

Around that same time, we joined a church small group, where we met another couple who had fertility challenges and were beginning the adoption process, just like we were.

Then I met another woman who had struggled with infertility for years until finally conceiving through IVF, and now wanted to help other women facing similar issues by starting a support group, just like I did.

When we launched that support group, I met woman after woman after woman who knew The Ache – who desperately wanted a child but couldn’t get pregnant, and was wrestling with frustration, disappointment, worry, and anguish, just like I was.

Through these experiences, I learned that I was not the only one grieving the loss of the ability to bear children; I was not the only one living life with this unfulfilled desire to be a mother.

And once this desire eventually was fulfilled, I discovered that having children wasn’t the only redeeming result of this difficult season. Through infertility, I gained numerous new friendships and deeper, more honest relationships that I never would have experienced if I’d gotten pregnant that first month of trying.

I treasure those friendships now, and certainly appreciated them back then. Because when you’re going through infertility, you need a friend who understands the vicious cycle of hope lifting off at Day 1 and crashing down around Day 28, accompanied by an unseemly obsession with charting various bodily functions.

You need a friend with whom you can swap crazy Clomid stories, or laugh about the embarrassing thing you and/or your husband had to do at the doctor’s office, or joke about how you had to hide all your weapons before the adoption social worker paid a visit.

You need a friend who will stay with you for several hours after a medical procedure, when you are too weak and dizzy to do anything but lie down and talk about your favorite cooking shows.

You need a friend who will encourage you to give purpose to your pain by blogging about your experiences so others know they’re not the only ones struggling with this issue.

You need a friend who will buy your old Barbie collection to help fund your IVF cycle, save the dolls, and then re-gift them to you to pass down to your daughter, as one of my high school youth group pals did to support that friend who inspired me to blog.

Jessica bought a Barbie collection from Heather to help fund her IVF cycle, then saved the dolls to return to her Barbie sister in hopes of her one day having a little girl. Heather’s daughter, Emily, now enjoys playing with her mom’s collection.

Despite your friends doing all these wonderful, amazing things to uphold you, there will still be times when they are unavailable. Your calls will be dismissed; your texts will go unanswered.

You need a Friend who will truly always be there, who is better than all the friends Facebook has to offer, who is better than all the babies you could ever wish to mother.

You need Jesus. He will never leave you, or forsake you. He will carry your burdens, even when you think you don’t care anymore, and revive your hope, even when you feel like giving up.

And, knowing that you have the ultimate friend in Jesus, you can be a friend for Jesus. By that, I mean you can share the love and comfort of Christ with those who are hurting, even when you are hurting. He’ll give you the grace and strength to do it.

You might just be the friend someone needs to tell her she is not alone, either.

In the world we live in today, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone who is going through a difficult time and could use some encouragement. Look no farther than across the fence in your own backyard.

Laughing at God

IMG_1119

If you’re still in shock over our big announcement, you can get in line right behind me and Colin. Although I’m now in the second trimester and starting to see physical evidence of a baby on board, plus my indulgence in burger and pizza cravings, it is hard for me to believe that this is happening after four years of infertility, including a failed IVF attempt. Saying the words “I’m pregnant” seems like an out-of-body experience; hearing people ask how I’m feeling weirds me out; sitting in the OB waiting room makes me feel like Dorothy in Oz, wondering “How the heck did I get here, in this land of munchkins-in-progress?” Even at our first sonogram, I was stunned to hear a heartbeat and look at the fuzzy dot in the picture, all the while thinking, “Is that little person really inside me?” It has been a surreal and amazing experience, much like when we got the call that Calvin was going to be our son, and Colin and I are thankful beyond words for this unexpected blessing.

To answer the burning question on everyone’s minds, we did not do anything besides the usual birds-and-bees method of getting pregnant. This happened naturally, which in our case means miraculously. Four years of trying to conceive never resulted in a positive pregnancy test, even with several rounds of fertility treatments, including an IVF cycle that did not produce any embryos. We had just started looking into big-time fertility clinics, and went so far as to consult with a top specialist and do some testing, but found out that I was pregnant before trying any treatments. In the follow-up with the specialist to discuss the test results, which didn’t shed much further light on our infertility, his response to my pregnancy news was, “Well, I guess you finally got your good egg.”

Like the fertility doc, many people like to come up with explanations for how/why couples get pregnant after failing to conceive for many years. This is a natural reaction, and it is understandable how anyone can get caught up in the happiness of the moment to propose what seem to be good reasons for such extraordinary occurrences. Interestingly, the opposite is also true – that people like to formulate reasons why a couple can’t get pregnant, just like we all try to do when something bad happens in life, and somehow think that we know the purpose for why God causes/allows it to happen.

In our situation, I don’t know why God enabled us to get pregnant, but I give Him all the glory for answering this long-standing prayer. And while I don’t want to suppress anyone’s excitement or claim logical or spiritual superiority over anyone else, I feel compelled to clarify a few issues that challenge the most frequently stated explanations for why some couples get pregnant after struggling with infertility. The point isn’t to make anyone feel guilty for thinking and/or saying these things, but to enlighten others about the perspective of someone who is living this experience, and who admittedly doesn’t always have the patience to respond to recurring comments in as calm a manner as can be conveyed through a blog post.

We got pregnant because of our great faith
The Bible certainly talks about God rewarding faith – “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6) – but it also clearly states that humans have no clue what God is thinking besides what’s laid out in Scripture – “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:34). So although we witness blessings that could very well be given because of someone’s trust in the Lord, we really don’t know if that’s all or part of the reason why God decided to grant it.

Aside from this theological reasoning, I must confess that my faith in God to provide this particular blessing of pregnancy had over time shrunk to a size way more miniscule than a mustard seed. Colin and I had given up thinking that it would happen naturally, and had barely allowed a sliver of hope believing that it could happen if we tried IVF again at a top-rated clinic. We told our friends over dinner one night that there was no way we were going to get pregnant “on our own” – how could we, after four years of complete failure? While I believed that God could do the impossible, I figured He didn’t want to, and there wasn’t much of a point keeping that hope thriving. I didn’t stop praying that it would happen, but I gave up expecting God to answer my prayer with a “yes.”

Others, in the meantime, kept on praying and believing. Just a few months before we found out I was pregnant, my sister-in-law e-mailed saying that she had woken up the previous night and felt a strong and specific burden to pray for us to conceive. It was a good thing she e-mailed rather than called because my initial response was anything but gracious. Instead of being thankful for her commitment to pray for us, I essentially pulled a Sarah à la Genesis 18:12 and laughed at what I thought was a ridiculous waste of time. In my mind, there were millions of other more worthwhile requests to bring before the Lord, and I silently mocked her exercise in futility. Call it being jaded or simply realistic, I was done with believing I could get pregnant without medical intervention, and questioned if even that was possible. So if anyone’s faithfulness is to be credited for this pregnancy, it is those countless friends and family members who continued praying for us year after year, and whose prayers have now resulted in two blessed children.

We got pregnant because we just relaxed
Several people gave us this advice when we were trying to get pregnant – just relax, get a massage, go on a vacation – and now that we are, some people think it was a key to conception. While I’m not opposed to relaxation, and understand why people think a little R&R could help with the babymaking process, I don’t believe this reasoning is legit because it ultimately implies that infertility is either caused by stress or simply “all in your mind,” neither of which are accurate assumptions.

Infertility is a diagnosable disease. Something is going wrong with the sperm, the egg, or both. Even in so-called unexplained cases, fertility doctors assert that there are one or more physiological problems preventing conception from occurring. Stress can complicate or be a result of infertility, but it is not a cause. You would not tell someone with a chronic illness that if they “just relax” they will be cured. I believe the same principle applies to infertility.

That said, stress management techniques can help someone cope with the physical and emotional difficulties of infertility, just as they can help those suffering from chronic pain and disease. It’s not like I’d turn down a massage, even if I knew it wouldn’t cure a darn thing. For the purpose of full disclosure, I will say that I started acupuncture treatments several months before getting pregnant in an attempt to address bad cramps and bowel issues. In no way did I expect it to help with infertility; I just tried it knowing that it was a scientifically proven method for reducing stress and tension and for increasing circulation – all good things that can help with a variety of ailments. And now that I’m pregnant, I can’t say with any certainty that acupuncture was the magic bullet; there’s just no way to prove that it “fixed” the problem, especially not knowing exactly what the problem was to begin with. I guess acupuncture for me will be one of those things that some people assume is lame although they haven’t actually experienced it themselves, kinda like Twilight. My response to this would be: Don’t knock it ’till you try it (or read it).

And one final note about the “just relax” statement: Stress is a part of everyday life. Sure, some seasons of life are way more stressful than others, but does anyone really go a week or even a day without facing pressure or tension? My point here is that just because a couple stops trying fertility treatments and/or adopts a child (which I’ll get to next) does not mean that their stress over infertility or anything else in life suddenly disappears, thus making their bodies more conducive to pregnancy. On the contrary, adding a child to your family can increase one’s stress level, at least temporarily, and some would argue for the next 18 or so years until the kid leaves home. Stress is unavoidable, so assuming that those couples who end up conceiving after infertility were able to because they relaxed presumes that they’re living in fairytale world where worries don’t exist.

We got pregnant because we adopted
This explanation is about as popular as a “Call Me Maybe” parody, and considering the number of times I’ve been told this, is about as repetitive as the lyrics. It does seem that we all know or have heard of a couple who got pregnant after adopting, and now we are one of those couples. Although I can’t refute this claim since I’m living proof of it, I have to reiterate what I said in the previous section about infertility being a disease.

Adoption provides a way to add a child to your family, but it obviously cannot cure the physiological causes of infertility. The evidence to suggest that couples who adopt often get pregnant thereafter is anecdotal and not scientific. My 5-minute Google search on “pregnancy after adoption medical study” didn’t turn up much besides a blurb from The Encyclopedia of Adoption citing a study done by Michael Bohman showing that 8% of adoptive parents ultimately have a biological child. (I apologize to my academic friends for not being able to find the primary source on this.) The text proposed that these instances could be attributed to the 20% of infertile couples diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and stated that those who suggest adoption is a psychological cure to infertility are sadly misled. The rest of the top results included some variation of the title “myths about infertility,” including this neat little list from RESOLVE. In lieu of these statistics, or lack thereof, I think it is important to remember in the midst of rejoicing with those who get pregnant after adopting that the majority of infertile couples who adopt do not conceive, and may not want to be told that this kind of thing happens all the time – which is clearly not true.

My biggest issue with the pregnancy-after-adoption theory/fable is not the intention of anyone who makes these statements, but I think should be clarified nonetheless to demonstrate the purpose of adoption. Adoption is a means to an end of adding a child to your family; it is not a means to an end of getting pregnant. Both adopting a child and having a biological child are beautiful, Scripturally significant ways of building a family, and one way is not better than the other. Colin and I originally planned to have biological and then adopted children, but God wanted us to adopt a child and then have a biological child. It wasn’t our Plan A, but it was His Plan A, and it turned out far better than I could have dreamed.

As I said before, I don’t know why God enabled us to get pregnant, but I do know why He didn’t allow it to happen before this: so that Calvin could be our son. All the pain, disappointment, and frustration of infertility was more than worth it to hold my sweet boy in my arms and be his forever Mommy. And now there’s another reason why God didn’t want us to get pregnant for the past four years. A friend of mine who also struggled with infertility once told me that it wasn’t until her daughter was born that she understood God wanted that specific sperm to unite with that specific egg and create the embryo that became her daughter. For us, He shut down our babymaking machinery until the right moment when He would create the unique blueprint for this little guy or gal. I cannot say enough how thankful I am that the Lord gave me Calvin and this baby in His timing, even though for years I seriously doubted that His timing was good.

So be careful if you laugh at God. He may forgive your irreverent disbelief and shock your socks off with unimaginable blessings.

This day in history

Welcome back to the fertility-fail-turned-yay-adoption blog! As you can tell, I’ve done a bang-up job of updating the site since bringing Calvin home in January. And that’s not the only thing that has fallen by the wayside – I’m ashamed to admit that the baseboards have only been dusted a mere three times, and the Wii Fit keeps chastising me for not working out in double-digit days.

Although slacking off in those and other areas goes against my perfectionist nature, I haven’t minded it much because I’ve been having the time of my life being a mom. Every day I am amazed and humbled by God’s grace in giving me my precious son. Funny how you can be convinced that you deserve something, and act like a whiny brat if you don’t have it; then when you get it, you realize just how much you truly don’t deserve it. Therein lies the beauty/scandal of the gospel: God gave us whiny brats the gift of salvation at the price of sacrificing His precious Son.

Calvin has made the adjustment to parenthood fairly easy on us, for which we are very thankful, especially considering how the transition literally happened overnight. Though for all the comments we’ve received about how hard it must’ve been to drop everything and take home a baby without any preparation, I’ve thought about our experiences and concluded that aside from the adoption proceedings, we haven’t really had to deal with anything outside the ordinary challenges of being a new parent. Operating on minimal sleep, distinguishing types of cries, getting peed on – these are all things we would’ve faced had we known about the adoption in advance, things that both adoptive and biological parents confront. And of course, we have and will continue to make mistakes – for example, just the other day we realized we’d been using newborn-style nipples instead of swapping in the faster-flow nipples as Calvin has gotten older. This whole time we figured he was a super-slow feeder, when really we were impeding his bottle-consumption ability. Oh well, the kid has been in the 80th and 90th percentiles – even though he had to work for it, he’s obviously been getting enough to eat.

Taking care of such a happy little boy has been a blast, and getting to see Colin embrace the role of Daddy – cheering Calvin on when he accomplishes something, roughhousing with him after a meal and then handing him over to me right before he spits up – has been a great blessing for me to observe. Being a mom has been so wonderful that at times I feel like my heart is going to burst with joy. Interesting how that is my experience now, when a year ago, as I cried in anguish to the Lord for giving me the longing to be a mom and cruelly refusing to fulfill it, I felt like He was ripping my heart out, piece by piece, leaving me raw, exposed, bleeding.

I titled this post “This day in history” because it was on this date last year that we started our second IVF cycle (the first was postponed due to unresponsiveness to meds). Remembering all the pain – physical and emotional – associated with the dreadful procedure and the subsequent devastation when we found out none of the eggs fertilized makes me sad. It is a difficult sentiment for me to describe because I am sad that we had to go through such a costly, exhausting process and even sad that it didn’t work; yet I am happy that it didn’t work because we wouldn’t have Calvin as our son if it had. If someone had told me last November that in a year, we’d be parents of a beautiful, bright 10-month-old boy, I’d have responded, to modify a phrase from the mid-’90s, “You smokin’ crack, weed, and meth?!?” Never would I have imagined that shortly after our debacle of an IVF cycle we’d be bringing home a baby, that we’d go from one of the darkest times in my life to one of the most joyous (and surprising!) moments I’ll ever experience in less than three months’ time.

Without a doubt, I am glad and grateful for the ultimate outcome of our failed fertility procedure, but it was still a difficult trial to undergo, and a path that I wish we hadn’t had to take. And it wasn’t just the procedure itself that was discouraging, but also what it meant for our future, casting doubt on our ability to ever have biological children. However, I can recognize how enduring an unsuccessful IVF cycle has given me the opportunity to share my experience with others who may be facing similar circumstances, and perhaps help them honestly express their feelings while still clinging to the truth of God’s goodness.

So it is with a strange mixture of emotions that I thank the Lord IVF didn’t work. As with many things in life, it sucked to go through, but turned out to be beneficial in the end. You know, that whole blessings-in-disguise malarkey that people say to placate you when you’re in the middle of a trial. Irritating, but true.

A year later, we’re starting to get the question only those brave enough asked us after IVF bombed: “Now what are you going to do?” This time, people are wondering how we’ll go about having little Hesse #2. My answer at present is the same as it was back then: I don’t know. This time, I’m more OK with not knowing because of Calvin; however, as more of our friends are having their second, third, fourth, or even fifth (!) child, the pressure to add to our family is beginning to increase. We have a few options; we just haven’t yet decided what road to take.

More important than our decisions or feelings, we know that God is good. He is good now that we have Calvin and are parents; He was good then when we were crushed with disappointment over IVF not getting us pregnant; He would still be good had He not chosen to bring Calvin into our lives (though I now can’t picture life without him). I know that to be true; I just don’t always feel that it is true. Good thing the Truth doesn’t depend on my feelings – a recurring theme in my prayer journal.

From here out, I’m aiming to update the blog more frequently and share some of my experiences as an adoptive mom. I’m also aiming to loosen up my task-oriented tendencies and make the most of naptimes. We’ll see which of these potentially competing goals prevails, or if I dink around on Facebook too much and just plumb forget about it.

A New Year

The year 2011 has gotten off to a crazy start. First, the Seahawks upset the Saints in the NFC wild card game. Then, we got a call informing us that a birthmother who had already delivered her baby had selected us as her adoptive family, and we became parents overnight.

Before I launch into the story about how our son, Calvin, joined our family, I want to provide the backdrop for the amazing sequence of events that the Lord orchestrated in a way and at a time I would have never anticipated. I should also forewarn you that this post will be quite lengthy, so unless you have mad speed-reading skills like Colin and Gavin, don’t expect to pound this out in five minutes or less.

In my last post I wrote on Christmas Eve, I stated that my hope in Christ as my loving Savior remained firm, which was and is absolutely true. However, my hope for becoming a mom was pretty much toast. The trials of the past year – all the failed fertility treatments, unanswered prayers, and physical and emotional struggles, in addition to the accumulated disappointments over the course of the past three years of trying to conceive – weighed down on me during the holidays, and I felt totally defeated. Being around my pregnant sister-in-law, Kim, who treated me with utmost sensitivity and respect, for which I will forever be grateful, made my heart ache simply because I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to become a mom; I didn’t know if I’d have a little one to hold and care for next Christmas or any thereafter.

Many times throughout this whole process of trying to expand our family, I’ve felt that I’ve reached the end of the line, that God had dealt me more hardships than I could handle. Last month was one of the lowest of those lows, as I had reached the point that I didn’t want to pursue any more fertility treatments. We had a consultation with a specialist at Seattle Reproductive Medicine, and though it did provide some useful information, which I won’t go into detail about now, it didn’t make me much more inclined to keep trying the fruitless, expensive medical route. And while we knew there were several options still available to us, including embryo adoption and traditional adoption, I didn’t really want to think about any of them. Stick a fork in me, I was done. Done with the disappointment, done with the uncertainty, done with thinking about ever having a baby.

Interestingly, during a conversation with my mother- and sister-in-law over the holidays, I told them about how some adoptive families get matched with a birthmother immediately after she gives birth, that they get a call and have to drop everything to pick up their child at the hospital, going from a childless couple one minute to parents the next. I asserted that that was something I couldn’t ever imagine doing since I’m such a planner and would not feel capable of making that drastic life change in such a short amount of time.

(Insert “never say never” and other applicable cliches here.)

This feeling of hopelessness pervaded my thoughts at the start of the New Year. I even began writing a blog post about the aftermath of IVF and how we’d decided to take a break from fertility treatments. But before I got a chance to finish that post, we got a few e-mails from our adoption agency. Apparently they were having a busy start to the New Year, as they had three birthmothers contact them about wanting to make adoption plans, including one who had already given birth. Colin and I read the e-mails explaining each situation and decided to show our profile to two bmoms, the first time we had elected to do so. With one of those e-mails, I broke my own rule about not looking at baby pictures the adoption agency sent for fear they would make me cry, and I did almost break down when I saw the photo of a sweet, cherub-faced baby boy sound asleep in his hospital bed. There were some health concerns about this baby, but his MRI results came back normal, so we told the adoption agency we still wanted our profile shown to his bmom.

That was Friday, Jan. 7. We spent the weekend praying about the two bmoms, trying not to get too worked up about the possibility of adopting one of their babies. At church that Sunday, Pastor Dave gave a sermon about how Abraham and the rest of the individuals in Genesis who made it into the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews were pretty much all screw-ups. They lied, cheated, stole, murdered, committed adultery, rejected God’s sovereignty, etc., and yet God still remained faithful to them. The sermon really spoke to me, as I’ve felt like a total failure in terms of trusting the Lord throughout these struggles with infertility, and yet He has provided for me and comforted me despite all my shortcomings. So that was encouraging, but I still felt nervous about the bmoms looking at our profiles, and had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I didn’t know it was the beginning of the end for me as far as sleeplessness goes.

On Monday, the day the bmoms were going to look at the profiles, I tried to get some work done, and to distract myself, thought about what we should do with the new hutch we bought on Saturday (only $160 on craiglist!). I carried my phone around with me to the bathroom and everywhere else, and checked my e-mail every two minutes. I repeated Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” – to myself over and over and over again. Colin went into work briefly in the morning, then came home and started to freak out, which is a rarity for him. The impact of becoming a parent instantaneously hit him before it hit me, but after some time to think about it and talk to his bro, he calmed down, thankfully just in time for my freak-out.

In the late morning, I got an e-mail from our caseworker, who said we were a finalist for the bmom of the baby boy whose picture had melted my heart. I gotta say, that was a weird message, knowing that we were finalists for the bmom, as if this was American Adoptive Idol or something. She wanted to verify that we were OK with an open adoption, to which we replied yes, as long as we started out slowly and used the adoption agency for facilitation. We waited for a few agonizing hours after that until 5 p.m., then I resigned myself to the probable fact that we wouldn’t hear anything until Tuesday. We made dinner, started watching the BCS championship game, and tried to relax. Then around 7:30, I got a call from an unknown phone number. It was another caseworker who told me that the bmom had looked at all the profiles and had made her decision. She had picked us.

It’s difficult for me to describe my feelings at that very moment because I was absolutely shocked. My mind couldn’t process what the caseworker was telling me, and I could barely say anything to her other than “That’s great.” What a lame response to the news that you’re going to be a parent! She mentioned a few things about the baby boy, like how there were a few minor medical issues and tests to be run, but overall he was healthy and quite alert, already interacting with the nurses and others who came to visit him. She told us we needed to drive out the next day to meet the bmom and our son. Then she asked if I had any questions, and for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything, other than “What the freakin’ heck is going on?!?” (which I refrained from saying aloud).

At some point during this conversation, I looked at Colin and mouthed the words “I can’t do this.” When I got off the phone, my hands were shaking, and the floodgates opened wide. The emotions of that moment – joy, relief, fear, and surprise – totally overwhelmed me, and my stalwart husband hugged me tightly and whispered soothing reassurances until I calmed down. Honestly I don’t remember much else about that particular moment due to the shock. As you may remember, the last time I was in shock was after I got the call from the doctor that we didn’t get any embryos from IVF. So in the span of a little more than 50 days, I went from one state of shock to another, each under very, very different circumstances.

Once I had regained a semblance of composure, we began calling various family members and friends and telling them the news. I e-mailed my boss and sent her all my work in progress, apologizing for ditching work so suddenly. Then I did what any sane person would do and started furiously cleaning the house, which is one of my foremost coping mechanisms. Colin resorted to his: playing Call of Duty.

As you can expect, I didn’t get much sleep that night. I got up early on Tuesday and shoveled the driveway (it had snowed several inches over the past 24 hours) to help prevent Colin from wrecking his back before our drive and to help us get on the road as soon as possible. We dropped Kaffy off at the kennel and headed out in a snowstorm. En route, Colin downloaded a baby name app on his iPhone, and we started discussing possible names for our baby boy, an experience that was and still is hard to believe that we were undertaking. We narrowed it down to our top three: Calvin, Caleb, and Caden.

Immediately upon arriving at the adoption agency office, we were told that the birthmother and her mom were there waiting to meet us. We walked in and said hello to our son’s biological mother and grandmother, which was a strange and wonderful experience. I won’t go into much detail about our bmom to protect her privacy, but I will say that she is a friendly, sweet young woman who impressed us with her maturity and strength. The grace with which she was handling the whole situation was amazing to me, and I am so, so very thankful for her and for how much love she demonstrated toward our son.

As weird as the scenario was, we actually had a great time chatting with her and her mom, and to me it felt very comfortable and natural. She told us she picked us because of our personalities as illustrated in our family profile, and especially liked how important our family was to us, because her family is so important to her, and they’re all supportive of her adoption decision. Apparently, they had all looked at the family profiles separately, and each of them had picked the “Seahawks couple” for the adoptive family (we had a photo of us in our jerseys in the profile book), which to me is another example of God’s hand at work in this story.

After socializing for a while and discussing our preferences for an open adoption – starting out slowly with pictures and e-mails and occasional visits at the adoption agency – we said goodbye to our bmom and her mom and headed to our next meeting with the attorney. Fortunately that meeting was pretty quick, and our attorney laid the groundwork for the necessary legal steps. As part of the conversation, he had to start a document for the new birth certificate the baby would be given when the adoption was finalized, and he asked us what name we wanted to give him. So right there on the spot, we decided to name him Calvin, representing Calvin and Hobbes, Colin’s favorite comic strip; giving him the same first and last initials as Colin; and providing him with an easy nickname I love, Cal. My bro-in-law John later pointed out that Calvin is a combination of Colin and Gavin – how cool is that!

Finally after all these meetings, we got to go to the hospital and see our son for the first time. Walking into the hospital, I was so nervous I thought I would pass out. I’m not sure why I was so nervous then, maybe for some ridiculous fear that he wouldn’t like us. But in any case, after sterilizing my hands before entering the NICU, I walked into my baby boy’s room as if in a dream. I saw him in his little plastic hospital cradle, hooked up to a ton of monitors, and watched him breathe peacefully in his sleep. Then the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold him, and she handed him over to me, a moment I will remember forever. My first thought when I held him was “This is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.” My second thought: “This is not my baby.” Not in the sense that I didn’t feel a connection with him, but more in the sense of incredulity. I was completely astonished that this amazing blessing was happening to me, and try as I might, I could not hold back a few tears of joy and wonder. We took several pictures, and then Colin held him for the first time, and I cried again. It was unbelievably precious for me to see my beloved husband being a loving father and cradling our son in his arms.

The next several hours were a blur (well, the whole trip was a blur, but this timeframe wasn’t all that exciting, and thus can be summarized without going into too much detail). We had a quick dinner, went on a shopping spree at Target to get a few essentials like a car seat, and headed back to the hospital to see Calvin. His birthmother was there with her father, and she gave us a gift for Calvin – a little teething toy and a froggie rattle, which she had bought because I’d mentioned that I’d like to do a frog theme in his nursery. They took off, and we got to spend more time watching Calvin sleep. The nurses used this time to inundate us with instructions about how to care for a newborn. They were all so kind and nurturing, and apologetically commented on how “This is probably a lot of info to take in.” It was, and by the end of the evening, my brain was ready to explode. It was exhausting staying there so long, but definitely worth it, as we got to see Calvin open his eyes and watch us intently as he ate, which we’ve now discovered is his absolutely favorite thing to do. Needless to say, it was a long day. We got to our hotel, exhausted from all the day’s emotional activities, and tried to sleep (unsuccessfully).

The next day was no less busy, involving another meeting with the attorney and a long time of kickin’ it at the hospital, waiting for the doctors to finish their business with Calvin. They ordered some tests but didn’t seem concerned about much other than his tiny extremities, which were tightly clenched and lacked flexibility. The working theory is that he was pretty squished in utero, and all the doctors thought he would improve with some physical therapy. They also had him wear some splints that looked really uncomfortable, and after getting home, we ditched them since they were too big and he obviously hated wearing them.

We waited and waited and waited, all the while having nurses coming in and out overwhelming us with more info about what and what not to do. Our caseworker came in and had us sign a ton of paperwork, then finally, the doctor gave the OK to release him. That was around 5 p.m., just in time for us to hit rush hour. Calvin did great on the way back and slept the whole way, even though I kept checking on him every three seconds to see if he was still breathing.

When we arrived home, our friends Chris and Elizabeth were there to greet us with dinner. They said “Welcome home, Mommy and Daddy!” and I wondered who they were talking about. On our doorstep was a pizza and bag of baby gifts from Colin’s colleagues, the first of many gifts and care packages given to us from our wonderful friends. Calvin started to wake up, so we picked him up and took him into his room. That is another moment I will always remember, as we walked into the room that our friends from church had completely furnished, with a crib and diapers and blankets and everything we could possibly need plus more. They answered our desperate call when we let them know we were leaving to pick up our son, and they outfitted Calvin’s nursery in a room that had not been prepared at all, save for the paint on the walls.

On the wall, they posted signs of encouragement, including one with 1 Samuel 1:27 on it – “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.” I am still amazed to think that this has happened, that God has answered my prayer. And though there are many issues still unresolved, especially concerning the legal process, and I’m pretty tired, after several sleepless nights even before we brought Calvin home, I am overjoyed to be a mommy to the most precious baby boy.

Our main prayer request right now is for the remaining legal issues. To try to summarize them, the birthmother has signed consents, but the birthfather is undisclosed. According to state law, a notification must be printed in a legal journal as a formality to allow the birthfather to acknowledge paternity. From the date of publication, which will be in a few weeks, he has 45 days to step forward and try to claim parental rights before they are automatically terminated. It is highly unlikely that this will happen, and according to the lawyer, no one ever reads the legal journal. However, there’s still that scary possibility that he could find out, so we’re praying that that doesn’t happen, and that parental rights will be completely terminated so that we can proceed with our petition for custody. Of course, we could also use prayer for us learning how to be parents, and for Calvin’s legs and arms to continue improving in flexibility.

There’s much more I can talk about Calvin and his fun personality, our experiences during our first week of having him, how Kaffy is adjusting to having a little person in our home, and our first court hearing, but Colin and my mom are telling me to go to sleep since Calvin is currently asleep, and from what I hear, all moms know they should sleep whenever their child is sleeping.

So I’ll wrap up this story by emphasizing God’s amazing timing in bringing Calvin into our lives. He planned for Calvin to be born at a time when Colin was still on break from school, when we somehow miraculously had enough money in the bank for the hefty adoption fees, and after we had tried an unsuccessful attempt at IVF. Had we not tried IVF yet, or if IVF had worked, we would not have elected to show our profile to any birthmothers. We would not have taken home our beloved son.

In my post-IVF entry, I spurned any forthcoming Christian-ese comments about how God didn’t want IVF to work because He had something better planned for us. I should’ve known He would prove me wrong, giving me a gift that is far, far better than what I had asked for in a way that I had never, ever expected could happen.


Many thanks

I know I laid the whole grief thing on a little thick in my last post, and while I don’t need to apologize for being honest about my feelings, I should reassure everyone that I’m doing OK. Not great, but OK. The initial shock is over; I’ve had several good cries and probably will have more. But my soul is not in the depths of despair, as the Psalmists or Anne of Green Gables would say.

The response of family and friends has been overwhelming. We’ve received calls, e-mails, Facebook messages, cards, food dropped off at our door, and offers from family members to hop on a plane and fly out to be with us. Being on the receiving end of such encouragement and compassion is a little strange for me, almost to the point of making me uncomfortable, because I like to be the one to help others and show them love. So this experience has been humbling as well as harrowing, which is a good thing – it’s important to learn how to accept grace without feeling compelled to reciprocate.

While I am wholeheartedly grateful for everyone’s kindness, I have to acknowledge that I can’t repay it. I can’t even respond individually to each person’s message right now, though I hope to do so eventually, because it would take a really, really long time to call or e-mail all those who have been praying for and supporting us. I feel like the arrival of our children, however/whenever that happens, will be the most anticipated event since Brangelina’s twins were born. (By the way, I would not mind if you prayed for us to have twins, as that has been my dream since I read Sweet Valley High in grade school.)

And of course we ask for your continued prayers. After we heard the news that we didn’t get any embryos, I told Colin I didn’t know what to pray for anymore with regard to our infertility struggles. His response was “Pray for the story of our children.”

We don’t have any children of our own to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but the Lord has given us countless other blessings that we appreciate. In the latest Whitworth Mind & Heart, which is often written with the help of my PR whiz sister Emily, new school president Beck Taylor referenced 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I cannot say that I rejoice in the fact that IVF didn’t work, that I am thankful what might have been our last chance to get pregnant was a failure. I’m just not there yet. But I can give thanks to Him for pouring out His love on us through our family and friends, and I can thank all of you for being instruments of His grace.

It didn’t work

And I mean it really didn’t work. Out of six eggs that were retrieved, only three of which were mature enough, none of them were fertilized. Even with the most advanced reproductive medical technique available – a procedure called ICSI, in which sperm are injected into the eggs – none of them were fertilized. We’ve achieved the ultimate fertility fail.

The retrieval was not extremely successful, either. Six eggs were extracted, several shy of the usual 10-12, which the doctor thinks may be due to my endometriosis. On top of that, my blood pressure dropped when I tried to get up after the procedure, and they had to do a blood test to make sure I didn’t need a transfusion. I didn’t; I was just dehydrated and in need of fluids. Thankfully, my friend Elizabeth and her daughter stayed with me at the clinic while all this was going on and kept me company until Colin could get off work and take me home. When we left, the doctor said she expected from those six eggs, we’d probably get 1-2 embryos.

We waited for the results the next day. I did a little work, read my Bible, listened to worship songs, and prayed pretty much every minute. Colin had to teach class and go to meetings, the last thing he wanted to do at such a tense, uncertain time. We waited until 3:30, when the doctor called me and said, “I’m afraid I have bad news. We didn’t get any embryos.”

I keep replaying this statement over and over again in my mind. Like the times when people have called to say that someone I love has died, I get stuck in that moment and feel nearly paralyzed with shock and devastation.

Our doctor was very kind, sympathetic, and apologetic. She said she wouldn’t have told us she thought we’d have 1-2 embryos if she didn’t really believe that would be the case. She said I had three “beautiful”eggs, and the sperm looked good, and the ICSI process went fine, so she didn’t know why they didn’t get fertilized. She said if we decided to try IVF again, she would use a different protocol of medicine to produce better stimulation, and she even convinced the clinic to waive the ICSI fee the next time around. She said she was sorry it didn’t work. She said, “I wish I could just give you a baby.”

I got off the phone and began sobbing. Colin held me in his arms and I wept until I felt numb. We sat on our living room couch for hours, while the sun went down and our phones kept ringing, not feeling like getting up to turn on the lights or check our messages. Poor Kaffy stared at us, whimpering, seeming to sense our anguish. Our little family stayed there, grieving in the dark, trying to process the loss of the ability to add to our family.

Neither Colin nor I had high hopes of IVF working. We recognized the reality that at most, there was a 50% chance of us getting pregnant. So we were prepared for the pregnancy test to come back negative. We were not prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t get any embryos, that we wouldn’t make it all the way through the IVF process.

This probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to those who haven’t been through infertility, but in my mind, even having one embryo result from IVF would have been a blessing because it would’ve meant that Colin and I had at least one baby. And if we had been able to transfer the embryo, even if it didn’t implant, at least I would have been “pregnant” for a short while. Of course, going through all that and not having the embryo implant would have been a terrible blow as well because a little life would have been lost. One scenario isn’t better than the other; they are equally painful and disappointing. It’s just difficult not being able to complete a process that you have invested in so much financially, physically, and emotionally.

It’s also hard to grasp the implications of the failed fertilization. Are my eggs and Colin’s sperm genetically incompatible? Is conception, whether naturally or in a Petri dish, physiologically impossible for us? It sure looks that way.

I absolutely believe all the verses that say nothing is impossible with God. He’s the Creator of all life, for cryin’ out loud; it’d be ridiculous to think He couldn’t create a biological child out of our genes. It’s not a matter of power; it’s a matter of preference. For whatever reason, He is choosing to not give us a biological child.

And that is the hardest blow of all. I have prayed over and over and over again for a baby, and He has said no. Colin has prayed, our families have prayed, our friends and several others we don’t even know about have prayed, and He has said no. He has answered many, many of my prayers for other issues in miraculous ways, and has always been faithful to love and take care of me even when I’ve been utterly faithless. He has rescued me from my sin and given me eternal salvation; I have nothing to complain about. I am not complaining that God hasn’t given me something I deserve; I am crying because He hasn’t given me something I’ve earnestly asked Him for, something that would bring me joy and bring Him glory.

I know what some people will say to try to comfort us because I’ve heard these standby expressions before in other situations: “When God shuts a door He always opens a window” and “God didn’t answer your prayers because He has something better in store for you.” First off, these statements are not necessarily true – some people go through life one trial after another, experiencing terrible suffering that isn’t relieved until they get to heaven. Just think of all the missionaries who lived under persecution and were martyred for their faith. Secondly, these statements are not helpful or comforting. Right now, I don’t see an open window, and I don’t know what “better” thing God has planned for us. The future is uncertain; the present is painful.

I believe the Lord has a purpose in choosing to not allow me and my beloved husband to conceive, so I don’t need any placating words of wisdom or suggestions as to what His reasons are. I just need time for God to heal my broken heart – my heart which He has broken. I need time to grieve over something I never had.