Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying Good-bye

Today, this year will come to a close. I have mixed emotions about the end of one year and the beginning of another. On the one hand, I love a fresh start, a chance to begin again, an opportunity to make an impossible list of goals and resolutions and try to keep them past February! On the other hand, though, I hate change. At least, I hate the unsettled mysterious nature of change. I'd rather things stay the same, warm and cozy as they've always been.

This coming year will have a great deal of change, and I find myself, in these last moments of 2013, grieving what I must leave behind. There were tears this past week, the first tears in some time. I thought of all that we'd lost, all that we hoped would happen that didn't come to be.

The change that I speak of is good change. We are beginning our first steps toward adoption! We are opening our arms and hearts wide to this beautiful thing that God has planned for us.

But even the most wonderful changes in life can still mean saying good-bye to something else. And even if that something else had with it countless tears and heartbreaks, intertwined with it all was our deepest and most desperate hope. In many ways, I am ready for what lies ahead, ready for joy and laughter and surprise. But I don't feel ready to say good-bye. My heart made a place for what I thought we would have, and that empty space hurts right now.

I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to see a positive sign on those sticks I've come to hate. I wanted to experience our baby's heartbeat, feel it kick and move, fall in love with it before ever holding it. I wanted healing, for me, for Robby, for our families and friends who have never stopped praying and hoping with us. I wanted to know what our child--half me and half him--would be like. Green eyes like his? Fair like me? Tall, like the both of us? Calm and selfless, or passionate and willful?

Am I crazy to have great hope for what is to come, yet lingering sorrow for what never came to be?

The truth is that at one point, there was no room for the hope of what was to come. Now there is. Yes, my heart made a place for what I thought we would have, and that emptiness hurts. But my heart has also grown, created a space for something I didn't even know I wanted. I don't know exactly how it works, saying good-bye to a dream while welcoming a new one. I don't know how tears of grief and joy can mingle together.

But I do know that Scripture is full of God's promises of something different, something unexpected, something better coming to those who trust Him. And that's something I can walk in with full confidence.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sunshine Award for my Favorite Person

Last week, I nominated eleven bloggers to receive a Sunshine Award, women who have been encouraging to me through their comments, prayers, and stories.

But there is someone I didn't mention who really deserves all the awards I could ever give, someone who is with me through it all, someone who brings light in my darkest days and my brightest days.

I'm talking about my sweetie, my honey, my best friend of a decade. So last week we cuddled up on the couch (yep, we still do that) and he told me his answers. Here they are, his words, my typing.

1. Do you prefer savory or sweet for breakfast?
I like both, savory and sweet. I like to have alternate bites of each.

2. What is a beauty product you simply cannot live without?
Old Spice Anti-Perspirant in Pure Sport

3. Complete the sentence: I wish I had more time for...
...my wife. Even though I spend lots of time with her, I always want more time. (I promise those are his words. I'm a lucky girl.)

4. What is the last book you read?
Umm....(We had to talk this one out. He's not much of a reader of novels.) I read gods at war by Kyle Idleman. 

5. Which do you prefer: a live or fake Christmas tree?
Fake - they're easier.

6. What is your favorite Christmas carol?
"O Holy Night"

7. If you could own a home anywhere, where would it be?
Laguna Beach. No wait. New York City.

8. Which do you like better: gold or silver?
Silver - our house is covered in it right now.

9. If you were a flower, what flower would you be?
Can I be a tree? (Of course.) An elm.

10. What is your favorite book of the Bible?

11. What is something you're holding to or remembering this Christmas season?
I'm thinking a lot about worship and remembering to worship God at Christmas. 

Thanks Robby for indulging me ;) And I hope you all enjoyed a glimpse into the mind of my DH. Here's a recent picture of us at Thanksgiving. Love him so!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sunshine Award! For me?!

This is so sweet! Kailey, who blogs at Cheers to Plan A, nominated me for this Sunshine Award! I'm a little late getting out my responses, but here they are anyway!

1. What is the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
My husband and I have gotten to go to New York three times together, and it is hands down our favorite place to be! We were there two years ago for our 7th wedding anniversary, and it was the best.

2. What is your favorite Bible verse/quote?
So many! I've always held 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 close to my heart, which ends with, "For we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal." I also love the book of Ruth and read it often - such an inspiring story!

3. Share two lessons that you’ve learned in your life.
Lesson #1: God can open our hearts to anything, even something we never expected or wanted.
Lesson #2: We need to allow ourselves to grieve as long as we want and however we want. Grief is good - it leads us to God who is the only one who can heal.

4. What is your profession? Do you love it?
I am a high school English teacher, and yes, I love it! I especially love what I am doing now, working as a part-time teacher in an independent study program. I get to have one-on-one time with students and help them achieve their goals. It's awesome.

5. What is your favorite sport to watch?
Not much of a sports watcher or player, I'm afraid, but I love when the Olympics comes around!

6. What are your thoughts on leggings as pants?
Used to hate 'em, now I love 'em. I just like the bum to be covered up with a long tunic or sweater. ;)

7. If you could have a practical car and a fun car, what would they be?
Oh man, I am so not a car person. My husband often says he wants the Mazda CX-7, so I'll go with that for a practical one, and as far as a fun car, anything new and convertible!

8. If you had 1 million dollars, what would you do with it?
That is way too much money for my brain to comprehend! I'd pay off debt, give to church, buy a beautiful beach house that everyone could enjoy, travel, and honestly give lots of it away. I love giving gifts - it would be a dream come true to be able to be crazy generous!

9. If you could have breakfast with anyone in the world {dead or alive} who would it be?
Jane Austen. I love her books, and I want to hash out Pride and Prejudice over a cup of tea with her.

10. Do you play any instruments, if so, which one?
I play the piano, and I also sing.

11. Chocolate or vanilla?
If it's cake or candy, then chocolate, as long as it's dark. But I will never ever pass up a vanilla custard or pudding.

That was fun! Thanks again Kailey for nominating me. Here are my eleven nominations. Each one of these women has been an encouragement to me, whether it's being a daily presence in my life, leaving a kind comment on a post, or reminding me that they're praying for me. Thank you, ladies!

Encouraging Words
How Sweet This Is
The Wilson Adventure
Belle Haven Drive
Eternally Hopeful
The Salsky Update
Sario Hill
From Ring to Reception
DeGrassie Family (private blog)
Renewing My Mind (private blog)

Now for your questions. Answer them in a blog post, add the image to your post, and then nominate eleven bloggers who deserve this award! (You can answer the questions even if you can't come up with eleven new bloggers! That can be hard for some.)

1. Do you prefer savory or sweet for breakfast?
2. What is a beauty product you simply cannot live without?
3. Complete the sentence: I wish I had more time for...
4. What is the last book you read?
5. Which do you prefer: a live or fake Christmas tree?
6. What is your favorite Christmas carol?
7. If you could own a home anywhere, where would it be?
8. Which do you like better: gold or silver?
9. If you were a flower, what flower would you be?
10. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
11. What is something you're holding to or remembering this Christmas season?

Once your posts are up, share the link in the comments! Looking forward to reading, friends!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Every now and then, I like to stop and consider what the last year has brought us. What did we learn? How did we grow? What was difficult, and what was wonderful?

At this point last November, we had just begun our steps toward IVF. I had found out about my Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)––which was extremely disappointing––but had chosen to move ahead with IVF anyway, hoping for the best. We had our entire church family pray for us and experienced an incredible amount of love and support as we prepared for our IVF. In the late winter and early spring, we were geared for our IVF...only to have it demoted to an IUI because of my lack of response. We tried again, upping all the medication, and were thrilled to be able to have two embryos make it! We loved them. (Still do.) On April 21, those two tiny embryos were transferred. We had an amazing two weeks where we allowed ourselves to be full of gratitude and joy for our embryos and the gift God had given us. Of course, our hearts were crushed on May 3rd when we learned we were not pregnant. As we crumbled to pieces, all of our friends and family gathered around us to help pick us up.

In June, we celebrated eight years of marriage together with a fantastic week at the Central Coast, and the rest of our summer was one sweet moment after another! Throughout those months and until now we have continued to heal, grieve, laugh, cry, rejoice, question, accept, listen, and hope.

Yes, so much hope. Hope that God heals, that He moves, that He cares. Hope that God can take our broken hearts and not only mend them but open them wide to something new and different He has in store for us.

A year can bring so much, can't it?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Story of our Hearts

During the waiting period, while we hoped that our IVF had been successful and our embryos implanted, the image of two hearts became very meaningful to us. I recognized how quickly these embryos–nothing in the eyes of many–had captured us, had become a piece of us in ways I didn't expect. Insignificant as they were, they had taken hold of our hearts!

When we found out we were not pregnant and our embryos didn't survive, we were broken.  I know not everyone can understand this, but we truly loved them, as much as we knew how. For two weeks, we had dreamed of a life with them, desperate for them to live so we could hold them and know them. When the bloodwork came confirming the negative result, the reality that they were gone, just like that, there and then gone, nothing to do to fix it, nothing to do to give them another chance with us, no way to go back and try it again, it all crushed us.

They are all we have ever had. Two tiny embryos less than two weeks old (perhaps only a couple of days old) are all we have ever had.

And so, we love them. We still love them. And we love thinking about them and those sweet days we had. As soon as they were gone, we knew we wanted a tangible way to remember them. I had an image of two heart-shaped stones that I wanted under our favorite elm tree. We began the search...and found nothing. 

And then a week later, two wonderful friends sent us on a trip to Yosemite. It was such a special time for us, filled with lots of healing tears, a few days to be free with our brokenness. There, at a final last stop, we found the perfect heart stones, the sweet memorial we were hoping to have. 

We returned home, and the next day was Mother's Day. That morning, Robby gave me a precious heart necklace, which he had ordered the day before our test result. I wear it nearly everyday. That same afternoon, his parents gave us a small smooth stone. One side has two tiny hearts carved, and the other side has the date they came alive. This sits on our dresser in our bedroom.

These three pieces are incredibly special to us. For us, our grieving process needed such memorials to recognize the importance of our embryos and their significance to us. They may have been the teeniest tiniest things ever, but they were, and still are, deeply loved.

Monday, August 26, 2013

All Eyes on the Infertile: Sarah's Laughter

As I have dealt with infertility, the stories in Scripture about barren women have become especially dear to my heart. I wonder what these heartbroken women would have thought had they known that their lives would encourage women like me thousands of years later? Oh how critical their stories and the stories of their children are to God's redemption plan! It was as if God wanted all eyes to be on them so all could see that He was doing something huge.

Sarah is the first woman we see in Scripture who is barren, and is she ever the epitome of desperation. Years before, God had called Abraham and promised him that he would be made into a great nation. Sounds like an amazing promise, but the problem was that Abraham and Sarah couldn't have children.  Out of her despair, Sarah finally gives her maidservant to her husband so she may have a child. It's crazy and a bit disturbing, but this is a desperate woman here, willing to do anything to have her baby. Of course, this fixes nothing and only results in more problems.

More time goes by, more heartbreaking days and nights, and finally God gives the sure promise that she would bear a child. Her response? Disbelief and laughter! And I get it! She's an old, worn, exhausted ninety-year-old woman! But she does indeed bear a son, Isaac. I smile every time I read her words after she has her son: "God has brought me laughter," she says. I think about the utter joy she must have had holding her baby for the first time. I mean, could she have even gotten through a single day without breaking down in grateful tears? I doubt it.

The thing is, even though God blessed Sarah and others with their babies eventually, it was never an easy path. There were real tears and real cries, genuine frustration and genuine desperation. And more often than not, it took many, many years for their hopes to become reality. As readers today, we may see it all resolved in a matter of chapters, but those of us in the land of barrenness know that those chapters can feel endless. Those women––just like many of us––had no clue that there would ever be a resolution. We may get to begin the story knowing the final picture of Sarah laughing out of joy, but she didn't have that luxury.

She couldn't see her laughter, and neither can I see mine. I wish I could. I wish I could flip forward a few chapters, to the page with the photograph I desperately desire, to the picture of me joyously laughing.

But I don't get that picture. None of us does. But God does give me countless other images to hold on to and carry with me. He gives me the picture of the shepherd who leaves the others to find the one wandering sheep; the Father who runs unashamedly to welcome His lost child; the Savior who willingly dies for a people who have rejected Him. He gives me the image of the slain Lamb, the risen and glorified King, the extravagant banquet table, and the never-ending River of Life.

And He gives me the image of Sarah's laughter. She may not have known that ending before the time came, but I do. I get to read her story, knowing that although some days were dark and desperate, light would come. Tears of sorrow and laughter of disbelief would turn to tears and laughter of joy and faith.

So today, I'm smiling at that picture of Sarah, knowing that the same God who worked mightily in her life cares for me, too. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I remember being a kid and having days when every second was spent swimming in my nan's pool. From the moment we were awake until it was time to come in for the evening, we would be outside soaking up the sun and water. And being a kid at the pool is so different than being an adult at the pool, isn't it? The whole time you're jumping in, climbing out, playing games, doing tricks. Quite a contrast from me with my chair and magazine now ;)

Not only do I remember the day spent in the water, but I remember what it felt like at night. My lungs would feel strangely stretched out and tired from holding my breath all day. There'd be a slight burn at the back of my throat from all the chlorine. And the exhaustion would be deep, all the way to my bones. Even though the day had been exhilarating, I couldn't have spent another moment in the water had I wanted to. I needed rest.

That's the best way I can explain how I feel right now, that night-time exhaustion that comes with a water-logged, sun-burned day at the pool. I feel like I've been holding my breath, and my lungs ache. It's not that the last year has been miserable. Even with our failed IVF and all the pain that accompanied that, I still have had a good, joyful year. But everything in me feels a bit worn, and it's time to catch my breath.

And so, we've decided to do just that. In the midst of talking about adoption and embryos and eggs and plans and everything else, we've realized we need to give ourselves a break. We need time to take big, deep breaths, in and out, again and again. We need to let go of the stress of taking the "next step" and allow God to fill our lungs today.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Two months and thoughts on lament

Today marks two months since the sad day we found out our little embryos were no longer with us on this earth. In many ways, life has moved on and we are back to "normal." I'm out of school for the summer, and our busy summer schedule is in full swing. We've had a number of sweet celebrations and a fantastic getaway, and we are looking forward to more. But in other ways, the loss feels fresh. The tears are right there, right behind a very thin layer of keeping-it-together. When I'm alone or when I'm in a place where tears are acceptable, they come. (Actually, they can come even when tears are not acceptable! Walking by the Target baby aisle can be downright cruel at times!)

Whenever we are in the midst of healing from a loss, we hear people remind us to be thankful. I appreciate that, but I'm learning something important for my own healing: Lament and thankfulness don't have to be mutually exclusive. We can be thankful for the blessings we have while still pouring out our tears to our God. We can recognize the wholeness around us while mourning the brokenness inside us.

Certainly having a heart full of gratitude reminds me of God's goodness and presence. But then again, lament and doubt do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Psalms is full of lament, written by faithful believing followers of Yahweh. When we cry out to God, when we lay before Him our brokenness and fallenness, we are doing exactly what He wants us to do: We are recognizing our desperate need for Him. And in that place of vulnerability, our hearts will worship. Our hearts will cry out in thanks for His precious presence!

I know what the fear is, though. We fear we will never move on. We fear that if we don't start pulling it together, we'll remain a heaping mess of heartache. And who wants that, right?

But this is a fear that we may overcome with God's promises. We lament and cry out because we have a God who hears and who understands! God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3), is close to them and saves them (Ps 34:18), bears their burdens (68:19, Mt 11:30), comforts them (Is 66:13), and one day will wipe every tear from their eye (Rev 21:4). Christ is the Word in flesh, Immanuel, God with us, and he says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Mt 5:4).

I praise God for His healing, for the mending that has already taken place. And I praise God for the tears through which I see my desperate need for Him. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow-Up Appointment

On Monday, Robby and I went in for our IVF follow-up appointment. We were very emotional about it all, knowing that this was likely the last time we would meet with our doctor. We've tried to count how many times we think we've driven that drive to Clovis. Probably over a hundred. We were often full of hope and excitement because no matter how many months things hadn't worked out, an appointment meant a new opportunity.

We couldn't help but think about the last time we were at the office. It was the week of our IVF, and I had cried with joy when the nurse told me I had enough eggs to move forward. It feels like an eternity ago now. 

Our doctor started the appointment by saying he had spent time looking at my very thick file, and he believed we were at the point to make some difficult decisions. He explained our problem again, which clearly has to do with my eggs. My undetectable AMH levels, high FSH levels, and poor response to a very aggressive protocol all confirm that my little eggies are in bad shape. None of this was new to us, but it weighed heavily on me as I listened. We shared with him that we had already decided not to do another IVF. He did remind us that as a doctor who has done this for decades, he has seen women with seemingly no chance of conceiving become pregnant. He said we could sit there until the evening hearing the stories he has :) But, in the medical world, they have to give a realistic assessment, and my realistic assessment is slim to none to having my own biological baby.

We talked about my endometriosis, and he confirmed again that there are medications to treat the pain and delay the growth, but nothing cures endometriosis. Plus, those meds sound absolutely terrible and cause bone loss. There are add-back hormonal therapies to do afterward, but still, it's not something I'm going to pursue until I feel I have to. Surgery would only be done again if medications didn't work.

We brought up the inconclusive hysterosonogram done last fall. That was when one doctor thought there was something wrong with my uterus, but it didn't align with the HSG I had done in 2009. Because this is a potential septated uterus issue, we are waiting to hear if we can have an MRI of my pelvis done to check and make sure everything is okay. If it is a septate uterus, it needs to be fixed. Luckily, the surgery is an easy one.

Finally, we had a conversation about egg donation and embryo adoption. Our doctor has mentioned a number of times that in our situation, he would recommend using a donor egg. We aren't interested in that really, but we've recently been learning about embryo donation/adoption. Embryo donation/adoption is when couples choose to give leftover embryos up for adoption instead of having them discarded. He had just performed his first adopted embryo transfer a month ago, and the woman was pregnant! He told us a little bit about the experience and said it sounded like a good option to think about. 

Overall, I was so thankful with how the appointment went. Our doctor spent so much time with us, answering questions and offering helpful insights. It seemed like he had nowhere to be except there with us. I know that was an answer to our prayers.

On the way out, Robby said it felt like saying good-bye to friends, and I knew exactly what he meant. We've been seeing our same doctor for nearly four years now, the same two nurses, and the same office staff. They've been the ones to give us good news, and they've had to give us bad news. They've represented our hope for our own little one, and so walking out those doors hurt. It hurts right now even thinking about it. I know that there is a plan for us, and I know God has not forgotten us, but right now, our arms are empty, and I wish they weren't. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I know that He is for me.

I've been singing this song lately, reminding myself that God is for me. We have truly felt peace in our hearts, but the sorrow still lingers at times. Robby says the hardest part is remembering just how happy we were that first week. He's so right - we were ecstatic. I had said I would enjoy the moments and experiences God was graciously giving us, and we did. It's difficult not to wish those days back. Such joy. Such hope. But I know that God is the giver of joy and the giver of hope, and He will fill our hearts again. He is for us -- isn't that something?

I know that you are for me,
I know that you are for me,
I know that you will never forsake me in my weaknesses.
I know that you have come now
even if to write upon my heart
to remind me who You are.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I'm amazed how quickly God is bringing peace and healing into our lives. It's been just over a month since we had our IVF, and slightly over two weeks since we found out our negative results. At first, the disappointment was overwhelming. I would wake up, and before my mind had a chance to think of anything else, I was crying. Being with people helped, but the moment I was alone, the weight would fall upon me once again. Now, I feel a calm peace within me. I see glimmers of hope again. I'm still sad, of course, but not like before.

That first week was the hardest. Going back to work was especially tough, mostly because I wasn't ready to be "normal" again. I wanted more time, though I'm not sure time for what. Grief, perhaps? Tears? Questions?

We were so happy when a couple from church gifted us a weekend near Yosemite. We made it through a short work week knowing that we could retreat and be sad together. It seems strange, I know, almost morbid, but that's what we wanted.

The weekend was so perfect. We had a quaint cabin all to ourselves, and we spent a lot of time doing very little. On Friday we drove up to Yosemite and got to be completely overwhelmed in a different way with the breathtaking mountains, blooming dogwoods, and massive waterfalls. On Saturday, we spent time in the town there and found a nursery. We love our flowers, you know, and this place was great. Robby had wanted to get a little plant in honor of our teeny-tinies, as a remembrance. He ended up finding a lovely pink astilbe that had two feathery pink plumes poking up. (Oh yes. He was convinced both of them would be girls.)
It really couldn't have been a better way for the two of us to take the time we needed. We cried, talked, laughed, and then did really important things like watch hours of HGTV. We grieved like we needed to grieve, in our own way. He even told me that he had already named them in his heart. One name was our girl name we've loved for a long time, and the other name was Gloria. I can't say Gloria would have been my choice, but it seemed to fit. When I think of God's glory, I think of light, hope, radiance, and beauty. I think of all of His worth, all of His goodness.

On the way home, I looked back at the little plant Robby bought and was stunned as I read the tag. It said Pink Astilbe: 'Gloria'. 

"Did you choose this plant because of its name?" I asked Robby.

He had no clue what I was talking about.

"Its name is Gloria. Is that why you picked it?"

He's a sensitive man, so he couldn't say much, but just shook his head. No, he hadn't even read the tag. He just picked it out because he liked it. We had looked at dozens and dozens of plants to bring home, but he chose this one.

God has been present with us all along. I know that well. But there have been times throughout this journey, specific moments when the clouds have parted and God has spoken to us clearly, lovingly, uniquely. This was one of those moments. No, we did not get the joy of having our embryos become our babies to hold. We didn't get to have them very long at all, in fact. But in that moment, God was reminding us that He sees us, He loves us, and He has not forgotten us.

His light, hope, radiance, and beauty are all around us. He is with us. Even though we may not understand our circumstances or the events in our lives, He is still full of all glory and all goodness.

Monday, May 6, 2013

God is too good.

There have been a lot of new emotions and questions for me this weekend. I've said over and over to God that I don't understand, that it doesn't make sense, that this seems unnecessary, that I've had my share, that I can't handle this new grief. All along, I can't say I spent much time being angry with God or asking the "why us?" question, but I felt it and asked it this weekend.

And I realized that it comes down to this "problem" with God: He is too good. He has blessed us in countless ways, massive, beautiful, glorious blessings. He's given me the most wonderful husband, two precious families, sisters who are best friends, friends who are like sisters, success in our careers and ministries, a lovely home, financial stability, health, peace, salvation. He has given me more than I've ever deserved, and so of course, I kept hoping and trusting that He'd grant this. He's been so good, too good, that I wanted to scream this weekend! Why bless us as you have, and then not give us this pregnancy? Why overwhelm us with such grace and love, give us such a beautiful life, but leave this one thing out of it? 

Because, you see, God has been so good that I never really stopped believing that He'd heal me and we would have our child. And it made so much sense that He would use this IVF to do just that. It seemed that He was directing each step, healing along the way, paving the path for this to be successful. And when we saw our two tiny embryos and immediately loved them, I thought, surely God loves them too, and He will sustain them so they get to live on this earth with us. It didn't matter to me that our chances weren't great. I believed that God was going to display His glory because that's what He's always done.

My deep disappointment and pain aren't present because I follow a cruel God who leaves us to struggle all alone, but because I follow a good God who is gracious and loving. That's all He is, and all He's ever been.

I don't have a tidy way to wrap this all up. I'm a mess, but I'm holding to what I know is true as best as I can. God is good. But I'm still heartbroken. God is good. But I still wish I had them with me. God is good. But I'm still waiting.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A letter

We wrote a letter to our church family yesterday, knowing that we would be seeing them all today, and asked our pastor to send it out. I'm sharing it here because it very simply explains how we're feeling. Even though we wrote it to them, it actually is a letter to all of you who have walked through this with us.

Dear Church Family (and all family and friends),

Two weeks ago, you prayed for us as we underwent our embryo transfer, the final step of our IVF (in-vitro fertilization). On Friday, we found out that we weren’t pregnant, and the IVF was not successful.

We thank you so much for your love, support, and prayers. We know that you may have questions, so we wanted to take just a moment to answer a few.

What are our next steps?
Honestly, there are no next steps at this point except to allow ourselves to grieve and move toward healing. IVF is incredibly emotional, and we are barely figuring out—with the Lord’s help—how to process this pain and begin healing. At some point, we may consider adoption, but we need to allow ourselves time with this, right now.

Will we do any more fertility treatments?
At this point, no, we don’t plan on pursuing any more treatments. We’ve been seeing a specialist for four years, and IVF was basically the last step. Because of Candace’s diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve last fall, as well as her endometriosis, our chances of conceiving even with IVF were slim.

How can you continue to support us?
Keep praying, keep loving, keep hugging! We know there isn't a lot to say, and that's okay. The best things for us to hear are simple: you love us, you're praying for us, God has a plan.

Words can’t really explain how heartbroken we are. This has been a long, difficult journey of many years, and we were so hopeful that God would use this IVF to heal us and bring us a miracle baby. We are deeply grieved over this loss, and specifically the loss of our two embryos.

Thank you, again, for all of the support and love! We are so blessed to have a family who lifts us up as you have.


Rob and Candace

Friday, May 3, 2013

IVF Results :(

We found out at bout 9:45 this morning that my bloodwork was negative and our IVF was not a success. We are heartbroken. We honestly didn't know that we could experience such grief as we do right now. We've had a lot of disappointments along the way, countless negatives, but this loss is deeper. We had something, two somethings, and now they're gone.

Thanks, as always, for your prayers, your love, your support. We are encouraged by them, by you, and are encouraged by our God who is with us and loves us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

12 DPR - An update in code

One of the websites that makes me smile is called 999 Reasons to Laugh at Infertility. The author does a pretty great job at bringing to light the crazier side of infertility. Reason #993 is "You can have a whole conversation using fertility acronyms." It's true - there is an acronym or short-hand version for everything. Here's my update...can you figure it out?

It's 12 DPR and 10 DPT, but it feels like this 2WW will never be over! I'm about ready to give in and take an HPT (an EPT at that), but if I get a BFP, I'll just think it's false, and if I get a BFN, I'll cry. So, I'm staying strong and waiting for my b/w on Friday. Overall, I'm feeling good--less crampy than I was on Monday. My DH has been so wonderful. He's remained positive and hopeful...even when I've been sure AF was coming. At this point, I just want Friday to be here so I can find out if this IVF was a success!

The Key
DPR/DPT = Days past retrieval/Days past transfer
2WW = 2 week wait
HPT/EPT = Home Pregnancy Test/Early Pregnancy Test
BFN/BFP = Big Fat Negative/Big Fat Positive
b/w = blood work
DH = Dear Husband
AF = Aunt Flow/period
IVF = In Vitro Fertilization

Monday, April 29, 2013

Holding to Hope

It's harder to remain hopeful today. I have a lot of cramping, and it's difficult to think it's anything different than what I experience every "normal" month. I've spent some of my morning in the Psalms, reminding myself of God's goodness and faithfulness throughout history, praising God for how great He is. I came across Psalm 113:9, which says, "He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah!" I love this verse, even though I know that not every childless woman gets to become a joyful mother. But it still shows a truth about our God: He cares for the broken, and He loves to redeem. And often, He does grant the barren woman her deep desire! I'm holding to this today.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

IVF Meds {4}

This is the last post on IVF medications. After my final injection, I only had to worry about pills, patches, and suppositories. That's a little easier to manage than a self-administered shot!

After the aspiration and transfer, I took the antibiotic Erythromycin (which always makes me nauseated!) and Medrol, a steroid, for four days. The day after the aspiration, I began the progesterone suppositories (Crinone and Prometrium) in the morning and before bed. Lastly, I stuck on my Vivelle Dot Patch (Estradiol). I'll continue these along with vitamins, baby aspirin, and Ovomax (a DHEA supplement) until told to stop.

What do these do to me? I become a hormonal crazy person. I also am constantly sick to my stomach and super fatigued. Yes, I'm a bowl of fun these days. Who wants to hang out? :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

2WW: 1WD

(Translation: Two Week Wait. One Week Down.)

Our little embryos are one week old today! Only one more week to go until we find out how they've done with me. Part of me wishes May 3rd would just get here already, and part of me wishes I could stay in this bliss for a bit longer.

Overall, I've done well...except for coming down with the stomach flu. At first, I was slightly excited, thinking maybe it was an early (albeit crazy early) pregnancy symptom. I had a low fever all day and just felt a bit ick. That turned into a miserable night of the flu, which I am still struggling to get over. The worst is past, though.

Besides this horrible and disgusting past twenty-four hours, the week has been focused on resting and positivity. Usually, when I've had my IUIs, I sink into a depression almost immediately after the procedure. I feel like there is no more I can do and no more reason to hope. It either has worked, or it hasn't. When any tiny cramp comes along, I swear it's all over. The IVF felt different. Part of it was knowing that the embryos actually existed and were inside of me (that was amazing), but part of it was also the mindset we told ourselves we would have. We decided before the procedure that we would be hopeful and positive. We would trust that God was using this for his good, and that He was going to give us a family. We wouldn't discuss plan B's or what-ifs or buts or any of that. God has directed us to this, and there is no reason for us to hold on to some negative end result. And anyway, I know from experience: preparing ourselves for disappointment doesn't really help. It doesn't. And it just makes that 2ww a sad time when it could be a joyous time.

So, I'm full of joy. (I'm also full of saltine crackers and chicken broth. Ew.) I'm grateful for what I have, right here, right now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flowers of Hope

I've shared before how our garden has been a source of hope and encouragement for us. It has become this present and daily reminder of God's grace and God's redemption in our lives. So today, we were overjoyed when our peony (a lovely gift from Debbie) finally opened!

The truly amazing thing about this peony is that we have had it for nearly four years now, and it has never bloomed! Never! I guess some plants like peonies take a few years to settle in and finally flower. And so, to have it blooming now, and to have it with not one but two buds is just more than I can handle. (Remember, I'm overdosed on hormones over here...anything makes me cry!)

I've prayed that God would allow me to remain hopeful and positive. What a gift today!

Join the Movement...Be Brave!

On Sunday, my husband and I went to the hospital to have our first IVF embryo transfer. Quite coincidentally, Sunday was also April 21, the first day of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013. Although we didn't plan it to happen that way (as usual, we were at the mercy of many situations beyond our control), I did smile to myself as I read the email from Resolve. We were already in our hospital room by that time, me with my blue gown and cap and conspicuous lack of make-up (infertility isn't pretty, guys), waiting for our doctor.
While we waited, we watched the video and I read about the Bloggers Unite opportunity. The theme this year is "Join the Movement..." It's an opportunity for us to share how we've spoken up, shared our stories, and tried to break the isolation that so many infertile couples experience.

I wasn't always open about our infertility. It's not exactly the jolliest topic of conversation, and it has to be one of the more personal, intimate, even embarrassing struggles to share. And anyway, I was sure the moment I "made a big deal about it," I'd get pregnant! Then I would just look like a dramatic fool.

For years, then, we told no one. We barely talked about it with each other. I cried alone often in those early days, dreading each month's cycle that would remind me that I couldn't do such a natural human thing, heartbroken over the baby I couldn't have. I made excuses and ignored it as much as possible, but with each passing month, I became closer to having to face the truth. Something was wrong.

Finally, and I'm not sure what even propelled me to do this, I called my OB. That was the first step for me, once I recognized the problem. When the "easy" fixes didn't work, she referred us to a fertility specialist, and that was the beginning of our nearly four years with them.

I was still very closed off at this point, but as infertility became more and more our life, we began to open up, and I became braver about sharing. We told family and close friends first, then key people in our church, and then it slowly expanded. I began this blog in January of 2010 just as we were preparing for our first IUI. It started out as a private, read-only-by-invitation thing. Somewhere along the way I made it public. And then on Monday, completely overwhelmed by the IVF process we had just gone through and the positive support we had received, I linked it on Facebook.

Honestly, I thought that by now, most people either knew or at least guessed we were infertile. I couldn't believe the response! So many people contacted me, saying they had no clue we were struggling with this, offering prayers and love and support. Hundreds of people were reading our story, many of them wishing we had told them earlier.

"Join the movement" sounds like such a huge thing. It sounds like I need to buy t-shirts and run races and hold forums. (These things are going on, and I'm so grateful for those who do this!) But joining the movement can also be much simpler: it can be stepping out in courage when we'd rather hide away, being brave and willing to share when we'd rather stay silent.

It's true that with sharing our story, some may not understand. Some may think–as I've feared all these years–that I'm just a drama queen. Some may even say to us those things we infertiles hate to hear. But I think that's the minority. I think the majority wants to lift us up, carry us, bear with us, love us. Actually, I don't think this at all. I know this. And I know that as we open up and as we become braver–because it's scary, friends, to bare our deepest heartache like this–, knowledge and understanding will increase.

As I've already said this week, just by listening and caring, you have joined the movement! How else can you gain knowledge and spread awareness? You can:

  1. Read Infertility 101 to learn the basics.
  2. Read about National Infertility Awareness Week.
  3. If you have a story, share it, even if you've had the joy of growing your family already. How did infertility affect you? How do you see it still impacting you and the way you live your life and connect with others? Grab the badge and be brave!
  4. If you don't struggle (or haven't struggled) with infertility, you can still be a supporter! Share how you've seen infertility affect others or how your understanding has grown. (You're welcome to share about us.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Long Wait: Day 5

I basically have one thing (or is it two things?) consuming my thoughts. That being said, I wanted to see images of what these little embryos could potentially look like. I found this video on YouTube. So amazing to see the changes that take place in even five days!

At approximately day 5 (sometimes a day or two later), the embryo is called a blastocyst because of how it has changed. At this point, a greater chance exists for the embryos to continue growing and implant. This is why transferring a blastocyst has a higher success rate. But for us, that wasn't an option. We only had two, and one wasn't even dividing as well as it should, so we needed them in soon! The hope is that they will do better with me. I'd like to think so :)

You can check out the video here.

National Infertility Awareness Week: April 21-27

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and no, we did not plan our IVF to coincide perfectly with this. We know there are no real "plans" on this journey!

If you've been following us and our story, you already are "joining the movement" -- helping to raise awareness of infertility and to encourage compassion and understanding toward the infertile. We may be one of many couples you know struggling to become pregnant, or we may be the first. One thing is for sure: we are not alone. Statistically, 1 in 8 couples are infertile. I've done the count myself, and this is a pretty accurate stat for what I see among people I know, recognizing that some journeys may end sooner than others.

What can you do this week? Pray for those whose hearts are broken as they struggle with infertility. Share our story, or if you have your own, share that one! Read the links below to learn more about infertility and NIAW.

I know from experience that the infertile couple often feels lonely, isolated, and misunderstood. Thankfully, those feelings no longer plague us because of the support and understanding of those around us. I hope that all couples will get to experience that love in their own lives.

What is Infertility?
About National Infertility Awareness Week
Resolve: The National Infertility Association

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Transfer

Just over twenty-four hours ago, I arrived at the hospital for our embryo transfer. It was eerily quiet. Apparently, outpatient is pretty much shut down on the weekends, so the only patients there were those undergoing IVF retrievals and transfers. We stepped in the elevator and onto the second floor, where only two days before we had received our news of our five follicles. A nurse met us, took us to our room where I changed out of my clothes and into the lovely and modest gown, and gave me water to drink to prepare for the procedure.

And there we waited.

There were perhaps three or four patients, and since we were last, we listened as each received their instructions and were rolled out. While we waited, we talked, laughed, prayed, and happily read messages and texts from friends and family. A fellow IVF-er had told me to try and enjoy the moment, and so we did.

Finally, it was my turn. My doctor came in and in his very matter-of-fact way said that we had two embryos: one of them was good, and one of them "so-so". I cringed slightly at hearing that one wasn't doing well, but relief also swept over me. Both were alive. Both were ready. And both would be placed inside of me. All of the night before, I had slept restlessly, waking up constantly and praying for them, asking God to protect them and keep them safe. That morning I awoke at 5 am to tears -- I must have been crying over them in my sleep! The hours before we left were spent praying for them.

Our doctor left and our nurse came in. A sweet nurse named Missy (which is the name of the nurse I love at our clinic) rolled me away into the same room where the egg aspiration had taken place. She got me into position, turned on some music (how could I not love her??), and covered me up with warm blankets. Other nurses came in to help move me to where I needed to be. Once prepped, it was time for my doctor to come in.

The procedure was uncomfortable, of course, but in all honesty, I've experienced much worse. In fact, the most uncomfortable part about it was that I had to pee the whole time thanks to the full bladder they insisted I had. My doctor narrated a bit about what he was doing, and finally said, "Okay, I'm going to place the embryos in your uterus now."

A few minutes later, he helped the nurse with the ultrasound and directed me to the screen so I could see. He showed me my uterus and pointed to a light blob near the bottom. "And there are the embryos," he said.


And that was that. He directed me to continue my medications no matter what and take the pregnancy blood test as instructed. He gave a final word of hope and luck, and left.

I stayed in the room for awhile, trying to follow my instructions of no moving whatsoever ("wet noodle," the nurse had insisted), then was put back on an inclined bed with my feet in the air. The nurse took me to recovery, sweetly chatting about how she hopes this works for us along the way, and soon Robby met me there. After about an hour, and after every other person had left except two nurses, we finally got to go home.

I'm nearly finished with my 24 hour bed rest...which has not been as fun as it sounds! Hanging out in bed is one thing, but having to lie on your back with your feet elevated for 24 hours is just plain uncomfortable! Visits (and treats) from my parents, sister, and Robby's parents helped. And of course my incredible husband waiting on me isn't so bad, either :)

I'm so grateful for the experience I've had. I keep holding my abdomen and praying for the little embryos inside of me. I am anxious for the day of our pregnancy test to come, but I also want to stay in this moment awhile longer. No tears. No disappointment. Just hope.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Two are waiting :)

On Friday morning, I went to the hospital for my egg aspiration (retrieval). This is an ultrasound-guided trans-vaginal "surgery" where the follicles (and therefore eggs) are removed from the body. If you recall, I had three decent and two dinky follicles at my Wednesday ultrasound. On Friday, they were able to get all five out! Amazing!

This afternoon, we found out the result of the retrieval and fertilization. Out of the five eggs, only four of them were mature, and two of them were able to be fertilized! I know that compared to other couples going through IVF, this isn't many. But for us, it's great news. Both of our little embryos will be placed inside my uterus tomorrow morning. We hope and pray that both continue to grow and make a happy home with me.

This day has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I'm smiling, the next I'm crying, the next I'm in total shock about the fact that OUR embryos are hanging out in Clovis at this very moment. More than anything, I want them to live. I desperately want them to live. I love them already...could that be possible?...and I want them with me.

You have all prayed fervently. Please persist in your prayers and bring our plea before the Almighty.

IVF Meds {3}: A pain in the bum!

Wednesday night (or more accurately Thursday morning...it was 1 am), I had my last injection. You may recall that typically the last injection is the hCG shot or "trigger shot" -- the medication that triggers a woman's ovulation to occur. Whether a pregnancy is happening inside or outside of a doctor's office, the timing of ovulation is key. You could have a perfect amount of beautiful follicles, but if you miss that small window when the eggs are released, conception simply cannot occur.

In IVF, timing of ovulation matters even more because one is paying thousands of dollars to surgically have those eggs (which are there thanks to more thousands of dollars) removed. How sad would it be if after prep and sedation, it turns out the little eggs have already moved down the fallopian tube?! This is why our shot wasn't at a normal time: one in the morning would have to do.

Every other medication thus far has come with a 1/2 inch needle that is injected into my stomach around my belly button area. They're not fun, to say the least, and I've learned I should never be a phlebotomist based on the bruising I have caused. This hCG injection came with a 1 & 1/2 inch needle! That's huge! This one is injected...you may have guessed by the title...into my bum. Of course, since I can't safely inject a giant needle into my backside, it was my hub's turn to be nurse. Surprisingly, I hardly felt the sting. In fact, I felt a little pinch, and I thought he was chickening out, so I said, "It's okay! Just do it!!!" He laughed just slightly. "I already did," he said.

I went to sleep just fine and then woke up with the right side of my lower backside (lower backside is a nice way of saying bum, you know) totally in pain! All day I couldn't "rest" myself as I normally would and had to sit a bit lopsided. Three days later, I'm still sore.

The good news is the rest of the medications do not come with any sharp points. They're still gross and will no doubt cause annoying side effects, but my stomach and bum have nothing to fear.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is this really happening?

Today I left work early because I'm sick. Right now, I'm on the couch, trying to soothe a sore throat with hot tea and settle an upset stomach with saltines. Even though I am achey and uncomfortable, it also feels normal. Just a normal cold. A normal afternoon. A normal weekend ahead.

But then I remember, nothing is normal right now. Tomorrow, as in less than 24 hours from now, I will go to the hospital and have the tiny eggs inside of my body taken out. They will quickly be fertilized, and on Saturday, we will wait for a call to tell us how many embryos we have. In the nearly eight years Robby and I have shared together, never have we anticipated such important news. I can barely comprehend how amazing and huge this is, and any attempt to truly grasp it just leaves me a sobbing wreck.

It doesn't seem real that this is happening, but it is. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moving Forward!!!

We are going ahead with IVF! Today's appointment was one of the most positive appointments we've had in a very long time. We met with our NP who was visibly excited to tell me my Estradiol levels were rising as hoped! (This was one of the key hormones that was not up to par at the last IVF attempt, which was a main reason why the cycle was cancelled.) Estradiol should register at about 200 for each follicle at this point, and my level was over 800. The ultrasound showed growth, as much as 5 mm for a couple of the follicles. For sure the three main follicles are growing just wonderfully, and the other two may even be ready in time for the aspiration (retrieval).Woo-hoo!!!

We entered the appointment with trepidation, thinking that a cancellation was still likely. It was so great to talk with our NP. She said they didn't expect to get dozens of follicles out of me -- they are happy with the result thus far! That feels so good to hear! Yes, I may be a 30-year-old woman whose body thinks it's 50, but today, for the first time in a long time, I felt strangely normal.

I think Robby and I are still in a bit of shock. Good shock. There's not a whole lot of time to let this sink in, though. Friday is the egg aspiration, and by Saturday, we'll know how many of those eggs were fertilized successfully. From that point, the doctors decide when the transfer should happen, as it can be anywhere from Day 2 to Day 5 of fertilization. It all depends on what is happening with the embryos. 

Thank you for your prayers. I have no doubt that God is working and is responding to our pleas. He is so good, and I thank Him for even this next step!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One step closer

If we have learned anything from dealing with infertility, it is flexibility. How many times have we planned or expected something, only to arrive to our appointment and get thrown a curve ball? This morning, we went to our appointment hoping to get a clear yea or nay in regards to continuing with IVF. That wasn't the case at all. We're still in that waiting room phase.

At our last IVF attempt, I had four follicles, but two of them were too small to count, so really, I had two. One of them was significantly larger than the other, which sounds good but likely means that one will mature and release an egg before the other one can do so. This time, I had five follicles, two dinky ones and three decent ones. The three are all around the same size, which means we hope they will grow at about the same rate and all be ready together. The two tiny ones have potential--with these meds, they just may get the boost they need to mature.

This all sounds like progress, and indeed it is. The problem is that this is still less than what is needed to move ahead with IVF. When we last talked with the doctor, he said ten good follicles is the best worse case scenario, if that makes sense. When we pressed him further, he thought five good follicles could be possible. That would mean that four are retrieved successfully, and out of those four, two could be fertilized. (This is all based on statistics, of course - 80% and 80%). At that point, the chances of implantation are about the same as with any pregnancy. 

Right now, I am not at that minimum minimum. It is likely that we are looking at three getting to the point of releasing an egg. Today I inject myself with super doses of the medication, and we hope and pray that each one of those tiny eggs grows. Tomorrow, I will have a blood test and ultrasound to see the progress. If there are five, then the next step is easy--IVF! If not, then we have to make one more hard decision. Do we push for an IVF, knowing our chances are minuscule but chances nonetheless? Or do we recognize that we've done everything we could and try one more IUI before letting this all go?

This weight is heavy these days. Robby and I talked awhile last night, trying to sort through all the emotions we feel. The truth is we're exhausted--physically, mentally, and emotionally. Even spiritually, we feel empty, not because God is not near us but because we barely have the strength to pray or read. We're drawing on what is hidden in our hearts, thankful that God is present and faithful regardless of where we are, grateful that others love us enough to intercede for us. We reminded each other last night that even if we don't have words, the Holy Spirit does, and He is praying for us. If that doesn't bring hope and peace, what else can?

So we sit one more day in the waiting room. Thank you all for waiting with us and for being hopeful and positive even when we don't have the strength to be. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

IVF Meds {2}

For this second IVF attempt, the docs changed up my medications slightly. In addition to Gonal-F and Menopur (which have been increased), I have been injecting Lupron every morning and night for the last week. A short Lupron (leuprolide) treatment is used to help initiate follicular growth, and since I began this earlier in my cycle, we're hoping this will help produce more follicles. More follicles equals more eggs which equals a chance at IVF!

Tomorrow, we find out if this new protocol has made any difference. We hope it has!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Courtney's Story

It is the last day of our Endometriosis Awareness Month (and also Easter Sunday...happy Easter!), so I wanted to share the story of a good friend of mine whose journey with endometriosis was not easy. Her story sheds light on how serious this disease can be, and how it can often be mistaken as other conditions or disorders. Thankfully, she is doing well today at twenty-five years old, proving that she can overcome anything with the help of God!

To learn more about endometriosis, read my previous post or visit Resources to Help.

Courtney's Story

At the young age of ten, Courtney started her period. While most ten-year-old girls are still concerned with the simpler things of life, Courtney was beginning her difficult journey of pain, frustration, and hopelessness. Almost immediately she experienced extreme cramping, abdominal pain, and digestive problems. Although she was vocal about her discomfort, she was told what many girls are told: “Cramps are normal.” There was nothing to do except try and ignore what she was feeling.

Years of this passed, and by Courtney’s sophomore year in high school, coping wasn’t an option anymore. She began missing school to deal with the pain, and her grades suffered because of it. She was taking nearly 1000 mg of anti-inflammatory pain medication a day, yet still could not function normally. Doctor’s visits were becoming a regular part of her life, but all of them led to a similar conclusion: Courtney was just a typical teenage girl dealing with PMS and depression. At one point, her doctor diagnosed her with IBS and Acid Reflux, but medications to treat these conditions only intensified her nausea.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Endometriosis Awareness Month

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, so I wanted to share a bit more about this condition that affects women.
What it is
Endometrium refers to the tissue that naturally grows inside the uterus. It functions as a lining for the uterus, keeping the uterus separate and safe. During a woman's cycle, the lining thickens so as to prepare for the implantation of an embryo. If this does not occur, a woman sheds that lining and a new cycle begins.

Endometriosis occurs because of over-production of that tissue. It is a disease in which clumps of endometrium tissue (called implants) grow elsewhere in the body, typically in the pelvic region but sometimes beyond that.

The severity of endometriosis varies among women. Doctors classify the stages of severity from Stage 1 through Stage 4.

What it Really is
Endometriosis causes more than a bit of cramping each month. Those implants growing outside the uterus can cause excruciating pain, as in I-can-hardly-stand-up-and-move-around pain. They're not supposed to be there, afterall, and our bodies don't typically do well with cells and tissues just growing wherever they please. Pain often goes beyond abdominal cramping: usually back and leg pain is severe and accompanied by nausea and even vomiting. Anti-inflammatory medications help, but the relief is short-lived.

A woman's ovaries are usually hit the hardest with endometriosis. That annoying tissue growing on the ovaries may create a type of blood-filled cyst called an endometrioma. These cysts can get quite large and are incredibly painful and damaging.

For many women, the pain is just the beginning. The growth of the tissue may actually cause organs to adhere to the abdominal wall. Scar tissue can build up throughout the abdominal cavity, especially on the ovaries and in the fallopian tubes. Fallopian tubes may be obstructed altogether or damage to those all-important cilia may prevent an egg from traveling through the tube. Endometriosis can lead to poor egg quality (diminished ovarian reserve), and since short menstrual cycles correlate with women with endometriosis, problems with ovulation may also occur. There is even research indicating that implants (specifically those pesky endometriomas on the ovaries) release substances that create a toxic environment. Whatever endometriosis touches can be damaged, even the uterus itself, making an implantation more difficult. All of this can lead to perhaps the most painful effect of all: infertility.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease with no cure (at this point). There are treatments to help the pain and surgical options to correct or prevent damage, but there is no fix-it drug or surgery. And the reality is, doctors don't perfectly understand why it happens or what all the implications really are. That's always a bit unsettling as a patient!

What it Really is to Me
Endometriosis has likely been part of my life since I was an early teenager. I was one of those girls who experienced such severe pain and nausea that I would miss school (with my mom knowing and encouraging it)--and I hated missing school. Because most of my friends experienced only minor cramping during their cycle, I felt that no one understood just how sick I was, and I would say I had the flu to offer a valid excuse. I went to doctors, but the only medication I was ever prescribed was ibuprofin and birth control. Things only became worse as I got older.

Because you can't have a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis without having a laparoscopy done, it wasn't until January of 2011 that I finally knew how severe my case was. My ovaries were adhered to my abdominal wall and a massive endometrioma obscured my right ovary. There was large amount of scar tissue and likely damage inside my fallopian tubes. Even though the laparoscopy helped with the pain, it wasn't able to undo what was already done.

Endometriosis has meant about seventeen years of pain and discomfort, but the greatest heartbreak has come in the last five years. Endometriosis is the likely culprit behind my diminished ovarian reserve, hormonal imbalances, and therefore infertility.

Sometimes having endometriosis can seem like an uphill battle - there is no treatment that can cure it or undo the damage that's been done. There are days when I'm so frustrated with how my body is functioning--or isn't functioning! And because endometriosis is largely either unknown or misunderstood by the public ("extreme PMS"), I can't always express honestly what I'm feeling. But it is important for me to remind myself that it truly is a disease and it has had major implications in my life, my husband's life, and my family's life. And even though it can be downright depressing at times, I know that there is hope. I know that God cares for me even in this, and He has a plan for my life.

The Good even with the Ugly
Endometriosis is ugly -- literally and figuratively. (Just google it to see some hideous photos!) What is positive, however, is seeing a greater awareness now than there was even ten years ago--and thanks to some great organizations, this awareness is growing. Girls can get treatments earlier to prevent the spread of that darn tissue, which is a huge step from where I was as a teenager. Laparoscopy technology is far better than it has ever been, and doctors are more willing to perform laparoscopies sooner rather than later. In fact, doctors are more knowledgeable about the condition and more and more of them are specializing in this sector of women's health. That's amazing!

If you think you may have endometriosis, take control of your body and health. See a doctor, and if possible, find one who specializes in women's health and fertility. Feel free to contact me, and I'd be happy to refer those doctors in our area who have been so knowledgeable and helpful.

And if you know someone suffering from endometriosis, give her a hug this month -- you still have two days to do it! :)

For more information, check out the following sites or articles:
The Endometriosis Association
Endometriosis.org: The Global Forum
Endometriosis Fact Sheet (from womenshealth.gov)
Laurence A. Jacobs, M.D. "How Does Endometriosis Cause Infertility?"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Here we go again...IVF Take Two!

Today we met with our doctor at Women's Specialty and Fertility. Primarily we went to receive a new protocol, but we also wanted to feel things out and see what our chances really are. My husband is great about asking those "straight-to-the-point" questions. I tend to beat around the bush or not press a doctor to give a straight answer. He is pretty shameless when it comes to that.

The reality is that whatever has gone on with me and my terrible ovarian reserve, it's moved fast. Two years ago when we had our fifth IUI, I responded better with less aggressive treatment than I have now with one of the more aggressive protocols out there. The doctor said he knew we would have trouble getting a high number of follicles, but he didn't think I would respond as poorly as I did. 

All said and done, we finally received the response that we probably have a 14% chance to conceive with IVF. (Yes, 14. Not 15. My hub also likes to point out how doctors are not into rounding to nicer numbers.) That's not great. That's not even good or mediocre. But strangely, we're still willing to take it. We know that we could try a new set of medication and still end up with few or no follicles, but we also know that a new set of medication could work. It's a last shot, and we want it.

The good thing (for lack of a better word) is that there will be an answer soon. We will go in on the 16th of April to have an ultrasound and receive results from a blood test, and we will know if and how I am responding to treatment. If I have responded, then we will continue with IVF. If not, then we tried and gave it every ounce we could give. How we hope that our "end" will be positive--literally! But regardless, we have prayerfully done what we needed to do, and that has been important for us. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

IUI Results

Our test was negative this morning, so no pregnancy with this IUI. Even though I wasn't super hopeful about this because of the many IUIs that have not worked, I still feel deep disappointment. I guess we never really stop hoping that this will be it for us.

I have the day off today, and Rob was able to go into work a bit late, so we had a wonderful morning together doing our favorite thing: enjoying coffee time outside with spring blooms all around us. Nothing reminds us of the hope of life like nature bursting into bloom after a long, cold winter.

We will try again for an IVF, so that should be in the works sooner than later. Thank you all for your love.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hope & Healing through Gardening

Last Friday, Robby and I received the disappointing news that we would have to cancel this month's IVF. It was a hard day: we have been preparing for this since November with labs and bloodwork and medications. Our Friday appointment was supposed to be full of excitement and joy; instead, it was full of sadness.

For Robby and me, gardening has been a source of healing and encouragement. We find great joy in seeing shoots poking through the dirt and buds ready to burst. We love our outings to the local nurseries where we get to discover new plants and find out what's thriving in our area. I often complain about our Central Valley heat, but I know it's our spectacular sunny weather that allows us to have flowers blooming year-round.

In March, the garden is brimming with beauty and potential. The Redbud trees are covered in deep purple buds ready to explode into bloom. The camellias have finally revealed the first glimpse of pink petals. Tulips and daffodils are rising up from the dirt, reminding us that even more glory is to come. All around us buds are forming and plants are taking shape. It's been a hard winter, they remind us, but we're still here, and a new season is on its way.

We even have certain plants that are intimately tied to our struggle with fertility. Our corner elm was once seemingly dead, but God healed it at a time when I needed to know miraculous healing could happen. Two hydrangeas were purchased on a day when we received yet another negative result, and their promise of large mopheads excite me each season. And now, thanks to a plethora of bare root plants on clearance this weekend, we have a weeping cherry tree, more lovely lilacs, and a red twig dogwood all waiting for the proper time to display their gracious blooms. Planting those on Saturday was therapeutic as we worked in the dirt, visualizing how they would grow and blossom and become part of our home, releasing some of the disappointment from the previous day.

Our garden reminds us that there is always the hope of life, and even when all seems dead and barren, flowers will bloom. What a striking reminder of God's presence and grace in our lives.
Weeping Cherry
Hellebore (Lenten Rose)
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Reposted from The Feely's Fresh Nest, March 5, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

IUI #6

Yesterday was our sixth IUI. It's hard to believe that's where we are now. I started this blog three years ago as we were preparing for our first one. It's incredible to me that we've continued in this, and even though deep down I thought the struggle would have been over by now, I also realize how much infertility has grown us and changed us for the better.

Our IUI procedure went just fine. Those things seem easy now! However, I experienced pain like no other last night and today. The NP had a bit of a tough time finding my cervix, so she had to prod around a bit. Apparently that can cause extreme cramping for some women, "some women" including me, of course. I wasn't planning on missing work today, but being that I can hardly walk, I had to. Maybe it's good to have a forced day on the couch :)

I was reading my old posts about our previous IUIs, and this gave me a little hope for this round. At my last one, I only had two follicles, one 18mm and one 15mm, and the fourth IUI had two that were both 18. This time, my largest follicle was 20, which has been the most significant one throughout all of these. That's encouraging.

Besides that, the only other thing I have to say is how amazing all of our friends (which includes blog friends) and family are. We received so many texts, calls, and emails this weekend from those we love offering up support and encouragement and prayers. I love how Steph put it in her text-prayer (that's a thing) for me: "I pray that this IUI in combination with the medications she was taking for the IVF will give them the baby they can't wait to meet." Amen!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

IVF Demoted

Remember when I said at our last appointment that "all was quiet" -- and that was a good thing? Well, yesterday's appointment should have revealed a party going on in my ovaries. We should have seen tons of follicles getting ready to burst open with their eggs, an indication that I responded well to the medications and a go for the next step. Sadly, there was next to nothing.

I knew immediately when our doctor began the ultrasound. Robby and I have seen many of these, and we're getting pretty good at identifying the dark masses that indicate follicles. We were prepared to see a number of those follicles, but the screen remained blank. Our doctor finally broke the silence to ask me how old I was--never a good sign.

Finally we saw one mass, one decent-sized follicle, and three tiny masses, two of which will amount to nothing and one that may grow enough in time for ovulation. Something, yes, but not what we need to continue with IVF. It didn't take long for our doctor to tell us we would have to cancel this cycle's IVF.

Once again we were in a room feeling like all of our hopes were crumbling. There was more explanation and clarification, some of it new information, most of it old. They explained that my AMH level, the one that was a key indicator in diagnosing me with Diminished Ovarian Reserve, wasn't just low--it was undetectable. And my estradiol, which had been checked that morning through blood work, was low, as well (200), especially for having one follicle and three mini-follicles. I guess we knew that DOR would be an issue, but we didn't know it'd be this much of an issue.

"Poor responders" -- that's what they call women who don't respond to the medications. Ugh. Another negative term to break my heart.

Is all hopeless, you may ask? No, it's not. We will continue with an IUI this Monday, taking advantage of the one (and possibly two) follicles and the lovely uterine lining. I did one more day of injections and tonight I inject Ovidrel, which triggers ovulation.

As far as IVF, we will try again. There is a different protocol of medications that work with some women, so the doctor wants to put me on that treatment. We're not sure when we would do this, but sometime in the next few months. And who knows. Maybe the IUI will work and we won't even have to have an IVF. Wouldn't that be something?

We're trying to stay positive. We kept ourselves busy yesterday, me helping Camille with wedding plans (so fun) and Robby hanging out and chatting with my dad. But then night came, which is always the most difficult, and all our attempts to keep it together fell to pieces. It wasn't so bad, though. We needed to let go for a moment. Quite simply, we needed to cry.

This morning, we're up and the sun is shining. Thank God for our sunny weather! It really does help lift the spirits! Robby is talking about planting some flowers, and I will be planning some flowers -- wedding flowers for Camille, that is. (She can't make it to her appointment, so I'm filling in. How lucky am I?!)

We know you are heart-broken with us. We know we were all full of excitement over this new step. Thank you for your prayers and deep concern and true tears. You help us get through this, and we're so grateful.

Monday, February 25, 2013

IVF Meds {1}

A huge part of IVF is the medications and treatments. In fact, the medications alone are about a quarter of the cost of the whole IVF procedure. The different medications do all sorts of different things, so I thought I'd explain each of them as I'm instructed to use them.

Saturday I began my first two injections: Gonal-F and Menopur. Both of these are follicle-stimulating hormones. FSH is the hormone responsible for stimulating the development of egg-containing follicles. We produce FSH naturally in our bodies, but with an IVF cycle, we want to increase the number of follicles (and therefore eggs) that are produced in a cycle. In addition to FSH, Menopur provides luteinising hormone (LH), a hormone that regulates our menstrual cycles and egg production. LH increases just before ovulation.

Both of these meds are self-injected into the abdomen area, just below and around my belly button. I've been instructed to do these for a total of six days, one in the morning and one at night. 

Now, of course there has to be a story:

Saturday morning I gave myself the Gonal-F injection with relatively no problem. It took a little psyching myself up, but I finally did it. Saturday evening, I was all set to give myself the next injection but freaked out when I saw the size of the needle. I was supposed to have been given a 1/2 inch needle; instead, I was staring at a 1 & 1/2 inch needle! Now in the measure of, say, a mile, an inch doesn't matter much. But when you're talking about sticking something into your stomach, an inch matters a whole lot. After checking and re-checking our paperwork, we realized it was a mistake on the part of the pharmacy, but there was nothing to do at that point except use it. I only pushed it in 1/2 inch, but it was still slightly traumatizing. 

When I've used FSH medications in the past, I've had quite a bit of negative side effects. So far in this cycle, I'm good. I've got three and half more days of injections, then Friday I head in for my next instructions, which may be to continue more of these or start something different. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

All's Quiet

Thursday was our first baseline ultrasound in our IVF work-up, and thanks to the cycle of birth control, things looked as they should have: quiet, to use the nurse's term. Birth control was used to suppress any activity of my ovaries so that follicle production can be controlled by medication and treatments. The ultrasound and all of my labs looked good -- it was a go for the meds!

The appointment was cake compared to the previous appointment last week. I had been so busy explaining all the emotional turmoil Robby and I were going through that I forgot to complain about how awful the pelvic exam was! They scraped my uterus (on purpose!) causing it to freak out and spasm and cramp--which was pretty much what I was doing in response. I've had some terribly painful experiences throughout all of these labs and procedures, but nothing was as intense as that. Thankfully it didn't last too long, and I recovered quickly. I like to tell myself I'm simply building up my pain tolerance for a future experience.

I began my medications today and did my first injection for our IVF. I had to do these with the IUIs, but the IVF injections are more numerous and more frequent. Two a day for the next week, and that'll use up only half of the boxes in my refrigerator right now.

Next Friday, March 1st, is a critical appointment for us. We'll get a first look at how I'm responding to all of these medications, and if all goes well, within 1 to 3 days we'll get the go for the injection that triggers ovulation. At that point, my eggs will be surgically removed and fertilized. A couple of days after fertilization, our teeny tinies will be placed inside of me. In other words, we will have our IVF completed within two weeks!

All might be quiet on the ultrasound, but all is definitely not quiet around our home. We are excited!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Appointment #2

Last Tuesday was the first of a slew of appointments leading up to my IVF, and so, naturally, I was a mess Monday night. My anxiety felt very similar to what I experienced a few months ago, and once again everything inside of me wanted to abandon ship.

There was a very clear trigger. That evening, Robby and I read through the pile of paperwork they gave us at our Protocol appointment. It probably wasn't the best idea to save that for the night before our appointment, but we had honestly forgotten all about it. A big piece of it was understanding the risks and unknowns that take place with IVF (terrifying) and indicating what should be done with any embryos that are not used this cycle (guilt-riddling).

Outlined were numerous scenarios, most of them extremely unlikely. For example, who would get the embryos if we were to divorce? If one or both of us were to die? If I were unable to carry them? For the majority of the scenarios, there were three choices: donate to research, discard, or give up for adoption. We circled adopt for all of them and felt that that would be the most loving and ethical thing to do, but it still was difficult to say even that.

I found myself again with my desperate wish to be "normal" -- to be a woman who is joyfully surprised by a pregnancy, to be a couple whose decision to have a baby doesn't involve signing on the line.

We tried to encourage each other as we worked our way through each page, reminding ourselves of what we've learned and how we've prayed and prepared for this. Still, the lump in my throat and the ache in my stomach wouldn't go away. A couple of hours later, I was sobbing. I was an inconsolable mess. I wanted to give up, to call the doctor right then and cancel, to move on and put it all behind me. But then this image would come to my mind of me and Robby and a baby. Every time I would nearly decide it was over, I'd see the image again.

I finally calmed down, and Robby and I talked about what specifically was making us uncomfortable and afraid. Neither of us thinks there is anything wrong with the IVF procedure, so what was it? Clearly, we were not okay with the thought that there would be embryos left over. We decided right then we would tell our doctor to fertilize even less than what we had planned at our Protocol appointment. Immediately, I felt the burden lift. Yes, I thought. Our God is a God of miracles. He is the one who brings life regardless of the odds. It may seem more prudent to give ourselves a greater chance by fertilizing more, but if we are uncomfortable with it, we have to trust God's whisper. He has led us this far; he will lead us still.

The next morning at our appointment, we voiced our decision with our NP who listened and supported us. She put our concerns at ease and said most likely, we will have one shot. Knowing my situation and having been the one doing most of the ultrasounds and appointments, she said she's expecting only a few embryos. Strangely, that brought comfort. It took away much of the burden to make a perfect decision with such an imperfect situation.

Tomorrow morning is another appointment, and another one takes place next week. We received the box of medication yesterday, and I spent some time this morning going through everything. It's all moving so quickly now. March had seemed an eternity away, and now within a month--a month!!!--we will have a result. In just a few weeks, I could be carrying what we've been dreaming of for years. We could have a baby.