Goodbye, Lone Ranger

I’m glad I didn’t waste time yesterday going to get blood drawn.

The unwelcome visitor arrived this morning, right on time.

So where does this leave me?

Even though I lived the past few days with the mindset of the visitor would arrive any day now … it still hurts … because there is always at least just an ounce of hope every month, no matter how much you’ve been through, that maybe, just maybe, this will be the month.

Then when the visitor arrives … that ounce of hope is crushed … and life moves on.

Where my life is moving beyond this day is very scary to me.

Before March 8th, I honestly didn’t think everything would come to this.

Goodbye, Lone Ranger.

Goodbye, Dream.

but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails

I recently saw the following statement in a frame hanging on someone’s wall:

Faith is not believing that God can but that God will.

I left that house thinking about that statement and decided I do not believe that is what God requires us to believe when our faith is in Him.

Sure, with God all things are possible. Every month I believe with all my heart that God can create Baby that month. I know that God does not need IUI treatments, surgery or IVF to make it happen. I know God is the creator of life and He can allow me to conceive any month, regardless the circumstances.

But to say that God will make it happen doesn’t fit right with something else God has taught me along this journey.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

During every single one of my IUI treatments I have asked people to please pray that God would create Baby that month. During every single IUI treatment, there were people from all over praying that God would do this.

Looking back now I can see that God’s purpose in those three previous IUI cycles was not a pregnancy. Instead, His plans were to do a work within my heart and soul and not in my womb.

I cannot begin to even summarize what God has taught me through those three failed IUI cycles. God does sometimes answer our prayers with a “No” – and sometimes more than once – because He has plans for our lives that will prevail because He knows they are best and the best is what He desires for us.

Was it hard to accept “No” as the answer three times in a row?

Do I even need to answer that question?

And here we are again praying God will choose to create Baby with The Lone Ranger.

Once again, God’s will will prevail.

If I am pregnant, I will praise God for performing a miracle. If I am not pregnant, I can still praise the Lord because I can rest in peace knowing God is still doing a work within my life using these circumstances and His work is not complete.

I’ll be the first to admit that keeping this mindset is extremely difficult. I’ve been on this road now for almost 2 years and the possibility of ever achieving a pregnancy grows slimmer with every treatment we undergo. With each treatment, we have discovered another obstacle that stands in our way to achieving pregnancy.

Not a day has gone by since March 8th that I haven’t thought about the possibility that I very well may never have a biological child.

But I do believe that God can make this happen. He will – if biological children are a part of His master plan for us.

Will I pray and continue to ask others to pray that God will allow us to conceive?

Certainly.

Because God can if He Wills and His Will is best.

It’s a win-win situation, really.

Waiting

We are back from the funeral and are now over here at my Grandmother’s house for dinner tonight. I found a few minutes to update my blog and came here with the intent to say that I am bracing for the arrival of a very unwelcome guest that visits me on a very regular basis every single month. Some people refer to this unwelcome guest as Aunt Flo.

As I sat here at my Grandmother’s computer I happened to see this written on a card lying very near the computer …

You have to be POSITIVE always, never negative.
Wonderful advice, really. However, at this point in the journey, I can no longer allow myself to get hopeful, no matter the circumstances. And so my mindset is one of waiting … waiting for Aunt Flo to once again arrive.
I am not saying that I feel hopeless. As long as my faith and trust are in the Lord (as they will ALWAYS be), I will always have hope. My hope is not necessarily that I will one day conceive, but my hope is in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.
No matter how bleak my circumstances continue to be, there is hope, because I know God has a plan. It is most definitely NOT my plan. However, I rest in God’s love knowing He will bring everything to fruition and one day I will see the reason behind all of these trials.
I do find myself at a very weary stage of this journey. I’m tired of failed treatments and hard decisions. If God chooses to once again not allow conception to happen through an IUI treatment, I know we will face another hard decision to make – quite possibly the hardest decision we’ve had to make thus far.
I was telling my family in the van as we were on the way home last night that sometimes I ask God if He isn’t ready to move on to someone else and teach them some things! I know my journey won’t be complete until God’s work is finished and I just have to keep plugging along knowing His grace is sufficient for whatever still lies ahead.
It’s overwhelming to sit and think about what may lie ahead. As we were traveling home yesterday God spoke to me through a certain situation on the trip home.
We were not certain which direction we needed to head on the highway. My dad was driving. I was just a passenger in the van. Had it been me in the driver’s seat I would have been in a panic. I hate not knowing where I am and I hate getting lost on the road. Here I was in the middle of who knows where, we didn’t know which way to go but there was not an ounce of panic in me. Why? My Daddy was in the driver’s seat and I knew without a shadow of a doubt he would figure out which direction we needed to go. I literally put my headphones on, turned on the music and enjoyed the ride through the countryside of North Carolina.
This reminded me that as I am on the road of infertility and at a loss for where we need to go next, my Heavenly Father is in the driver’s seat and I can sit back and relax as He leads the way.
I don’t need to know RIGHT NOW where I will be going a week from now, or even a day from now. He will guide us at just the right time and tell us where to go next.
That’s hope.

Family, Travel and another impending decision

Exactly 21 months ago we were in Brazil for my cousin’s wedding. I have not seen Cristina since she got in the limo the night of her wedding and drove off.

I am very excited because today at 4pm, she and her husband, Marcio, will arrive here! Even though the time spent together is only a fraction of the time we have been apart, we are very close, and I am so grateful to have this time with her this week and to be able to get to know Marcio better.

Saturday afternoon my great aunt (Aunt Helen) died at the age of 89. Last October on her 89th birthday she announced that she did not want to live to be 90. Aunt Helen lived a good life of service to the Lord.

Tomorrow my parents, Grandmother, Cristina, Marcio and me will travel to North Carolina to attend her funeral. Dave can not go because of his work so he will stay behind and take care of Puppy and Ellie. We will return on Wednesday after the funeral. So if I am MIA over the next couple of days on this blog…you’ll know why.

*****

I’ll definitely be on here at some point to let you know the results of the IUI. I’m still planning to not go in for blood work on Friday, so I may not know anything until Monday.

At this time, making a decision of “what’s next”, should the results of this IUI be the same as the previous ones, is quite possibly the most overwhelming decision we’ve had to make thus far on this journey.

The obvious big question is … Do we try IVF again?

There are so many factors that go into making this decision. I’m not going to get into them right now.

I am just once again asking people to please pray heavily that God would clearly make known what our next step is to be.

Can I just say that I am tired of all this? Tired of … everything. But when I step back and attempt to look at the big picture and what God is doing, it helps.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a season of my life, not my life. I know one day I will look back on this season and see the purpose.

When I step away from the heartache and pain and see all this for the way God sees it, I am deeply encouraged. I am encouraged to know that God is working in ways, at this time, we cannot see. I am encouraged because I know God is using these circumstances of my life to accomplish His plan. I am encouraged because I know God is receiving glory. I am encouraged because, even though Satan attempts to destroy me, he is defenseless because I am shielded with the armor of God. I am encouraged because so many people have rallied together through prayer. And mostly, I am encouraged because I know one day this story God is writing through my life will come to a beautiful ending … and a new story will begin.

Looking at the Bright Side

For every situation, we have to look at the bright side, right??

Well, I got to thinking of something this morning …

If the IVF cycle had gone as we had planned, I’d probably be in the 2-week wait by now and honestly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through that time and then handle whatever news followed!

On the other hand, I haven’t even thought much about the 2-week wait with this IUI we did instead.

Of all the steps of the IVF process, I was dreading the 2-week wait and the beta test the most.

I’m truly glad I’m not going through that right now … unless of course it was finally going to be good news! But that’s the thing … you never know the outcome until you know the outcome.

And that is so nerve-wracking!

The Lone Ranger

I’ve probably attempted to write this post now several times but the truth is I don’t really know what to think about The Lone Ranger.

So I go back to the beginning. For weeks we prayed about doing IVF. There is still no doubt in my mind that God widely opened that door for us. There is still no doubt in my mind that God lead us to IVF.

We got the okay from God.

Then we had our consult appointment with Dr. L.

I started Birth Control.

Then came the stimulation drugs.

I had never really put a number to the amount of follicles I hoped would be in there. Sure, 15-20 would have been a great start, but with all my issues, I was honestly hoping for at least ten follicles to work with.

And here we are today … with The Lone Ranger … the one and only follicle that ever woke up and smelled the Follistim and Menopur!

I refuse to allow myself to think that this IVF cycle is a complete bust because I know that this IVF turned IUI cycle is going precisely how God planned it before I even drew my first breath almost 28 years ago.

Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.          Psalm 139:16

The Lone Ranger may have surprise me and everyone else, but it certainly didn’t surprise God.

Beth brought up a very complex question in one of her comments:

I’ve been wrestling with hope and how hope and reality go together … So where do we merge hope and reality in our lives?

If only there was an easy answer!

I certainly hope God will choose to answer the cries of my heart and allow The Lone Ranger to become Baby. This has been my prayer since learning this would be our only follicle this month.

Reality tells me that the odds are not in our favor.

One follicle.

Endometriosis which has more than likely done a number on the quantity and quality of my remaining eggs.

Not the hopeful circumstances I was hoping for with 10 eggs and at least 2 beautiful, perfect blastocysts to transfer!

It’s obvious this one follicle is a complete let down. I do find peace in the following verse, however:

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

I guess this verse has spoken so much to me in the past several days because it reminds me where my hope is and Who my hope is in.

I don’t have to be discouraged about The Lone Ranger even though I feel completely blind and clueless as to what God is up to with the outcome of this IVF cycle and from my eyes, things don’t look too promising.

God has lead us here now. Our plans for the IVF outcome are just that … our plans, our hope of what would happen. BUT …

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

As long as I keep my mind and heart focused on the fact that God does have a purpose and plan in all this to prosper me, no matter how bleak my circumstances continue to get, I’ll always have hope.

*****

Currently, there are 7.2 million fresh motile sperm (not previously frozen) waiting for the debut of The Lone Ranger.

Tomorrow we will return and use the 115 million sperm frozen for our IVF cycle. (The number won’t be that high tomorrow as many will be lost during the unfreezing process.)

I have more to say about The Lone Ranger but I’ll write more later.

IUI Schedule

Here’s our schedule for our 4th IUI (5th if you count the one that was cancelled):

Tonight 9:30pm – hCG injection (to induce ovulation)

No, I will not be giving myself this shot. It must be done with a much longer needle and must be injected in the lower back area. I am not that brave. My parents’ neighbor, who is a nurse, will be giving it to me.

Thursday, March 12 – Insemination at 2pm

Friday, March 13 – Insemination at 9:30am

Friday, March 27 – Blood Test

Sometime soon, I hope to write about my thoughts towards this one follicle who I am affectionately calling The Lone Ranger.

IVF and “Playing God”

There is still one follicle maturing and growing in the left ovary.

Today it measured 15mm.

I am waiting for a nurse to call and let me know when I am to have the hCG injection (to induce ovulation) and when the IUIs will be.

For now, I leave you with a post I actually wrote on Saturday. I think this post will help you understand the biggest factor for us in deciding if we should try another IVF ovarian stimulation and hope and pray for more follicles.

*****

Some people call IVF “playing God”.

I, however, see IVF as a genius medical intervention that allows a woman to essentially combine a number of menstrual cycles into one, thus allowing the medical field to sift through the harvested eggs and then embryos and find the ones that have the most potential to produce a viable pregnancy.

In order to understand why I do not believe doing IVF “plays God” in any way, you need to first understand what naturally occurs in a fertile couple trying to conceive.

I’ve mentioned that I am reading the book In-Vitro Fertilization: The ART of Making Babies by Geoffrey Sher, M.D. in a previous post. (Excellent book!) When I read the part of the book about natural conception, it blew my mind away and helped me realize that IVF adapts the principals of human reproduction to achieve pregnancy in a faulty reproductive system!

Only about one out of every three embryos implants in the uterus long enough to delay the menstrual period. This means, in two out of every three pregnancies, a woman is not even aware conception has taken place! (Sher, 2005, page 29)

The actual fertilization process is such a complex process that many times egg and sperm do meet but something goes wrong in the fertilization process and the embryo is just not capable of producing a viable pregnancy. In other words, the woman has conceived, but she will never know it! In other cases, a woman may miss her period, but will have a very early miscarriage because the embryo isn’t capable of producing a viable pregnancy (among other reasons also mentioned in the book).

One reason IVF gets a bad reputation from some people is because people have a problem with embryos being discarded. (Please understand I am not referring to discarding frozen viable embryos.) Maybe people would have a different point of view if they understand the high rate of embryo wastage and early miscarriages that occurs even in natural conceptions!

These facts should only encourage someone standing on the brink of an IVF cycle.

While a woman’s natural menstrual cycle produces on average one mature follicle, a woman (under the age of 40) undergoing IVF produces an average of 10-15 follicles. (Sher, 2005, page 63) The way I see it, IVF essentially takes approximately a year’s worth of monthly menstrual cycles and combines them into ONE cycle.

For example, let’s say a woman undergoes IVF and at retrieval, twelve follicles are aspirated from her ovaries. Of those 12, maybe only 10 follicles actually contain a mature egg. Of those 10 eggs, let’s say 8 fertilize normally after being left overnight with sperm in a petri-dish.

Of those eight fertilized eggs, more than likely, a number of them will not continue to grow and divide properly and will not be able to produce a viable pregnancy. These embryos would be the ones in a “natural conception” that would float around in the woman’s reproductive tract but would not implant for one reason or another.

In an IVF lab, embryos are carefully monitored. When the embryologist finds embryos that are not growing after several days, the embryos are discarded just like non-viable embryos are discarded in nature without the woman ever even knowing she has conceived. In the example, let’s say of the eight fertilized eggs, three of the embryos stop growing by day three after retrieval. We are now left with five embryos.

The remaining five embryos continue to grow in the IVF lab and are carefully monitored for proper growth and cell division. On day five after retrieval, the embryos are now at the blastocyst stage and embryologists look for the healthiest embryos to transfer to the woman’s uterus.

If this example was me, most likely at my age of 27, the two most viable embryos would be selected for transfer. The remaining three embryos would stay in the IVF lab and would continue to be monitored. Let’s say of the three remaining embryos, one stops growing and there are two viable embryos left. Those two embryos would be frozen for a future IVF cycle and considered an added “bonus” to the overall IVF cycle.

Do you see how IVF weeds out the follicles with no eggs, the eggs not capable of normal fertilization and the embryos not capable of producing a viable pregnancy (most likely because of a chromosomal defect that occurred during the very complex fertilization process) in the time span of one month compared to the many more months it would take for a woman’s natural menstrual cycles to do the same?

Playing God? No.

In my own personal infertility case, we believe our ability to do IVF is a gift from God. It is a well-known fact that the largest playing factor in ANY woman’s fertility is her AGE. Throw endometriosis into that mix and that woman’s biological clock is ticking louder than Big Ben because it is also believed that egg quality in a woman who has (or has had) endometriosis declines sooner than a woman who has never had endometriosis. At the age of 27, I am standing in my “window of opportunity” to conceive and give birth to a biological child. That God would put together every necessary detail to proceed with IVF at this particular time in my life is nothing short of a miracle, in and of itself.

We see this IVF cycle as a blessing from God in that IVF will allow me to harvest a number of eggs, and hopefully, at the end of this month end up with at least one viable embryo capable of implanting in my uterus and producing a viable pregnancy.

There is something else that must be taken into consideration when doing IVF. At the end, when it comes to transfer time, it is not so much the number of embryos that you have available to you, but your embryo quality, that is extremely important.

In other words, while I am praying earnestly for “lots of follicles to be retrieved”, in the end our goal is not “lots of embryos in the IVF lab” but “several GOOD QUALITY embryos available for transfer”. I would rather only have two perfect, good quality embryos at transfer time than TEN not-so-good or even poor quality embryos.

The simple fact here is that we need “lots of follicles” to start with in order to increase the odds of weeding out the “bad eggs” and continuing the IVF process with the “good eggs”.

It is not the number of embryos you have at the end of an IVF cycle that matters – it is their viability that makes all the difference in whether the IVF cycle ends in a pregnancy or not.

That and, of course, if God wills to bring another life into the world. Even taking all the meds required for an IVF cycle, harvesting many eggs and paying the big bucks to do the cycle does not guarantee a pregnancy.

In an IVF cycle, God is still the creator and sustainer of life and He will never hand that role over to any medical professional.

*****

Side Note:

Knowing what we know now, apart from a miracle of God, my ovaries are never going to produce enough eggs for my IVF cycle to mirror that of the example I gave above. Dr. L predicts, if we choose to go through IVF ovarian stimulation again, we can expect no more than three follicles to mature.

If even one, two or three follicles mature, are retrieved, fertilized and even produce one viable embryo, we have good odds of a pregnancy.

The thing is, we won’t know the quality of the eggs in the follicles until the follicles are retrieved. Retrieval is one of the most expensive aspects of IVF, which is why we cancelled before retrieval this time. At this point, I can’t justify going to retrieval for one follicle that may or may not have an egg in it!

I know God has placed this deep desire in my heart to be a mother. There is no experience that can possibly compare to pregnancy and childbirth. I was the little girl growing up with pillows constantly shoved up my shirt playing “pregnant” and dreaming of the day I would actually “have a baby in my tummy”.

I think it is pretty obvious that I am willing to fight and do whatever it takes to make this dream become a reality. However, I am surrendered to the fact that my dream may not be God’s marvelous plan and ultimately, I desire His plan, not mine.

Until He says “stop”, I will persevere and claim the promise found in Psalm 37:4.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.