Monthly Archives: July 2010

An Egg Donor’s Story

What makes someone want to be an egg donor?  It’s a complicated, painful, time-consuming process that is not without risk.  Is it for the money?  For ego reasons?  Tia Swanger agreed to share her story.  If you are an infertile couple considering egg donation, it may give you some peace.

Thirteen years ago, Tia was a preschool teacher on maternity leave.  She hadn’t expected becoming a parent to be much of a change from her role as a teacher.  But, “I was wrong!  Having the baby changed us.  We saw how the miracle of life brings God close to you.”

One day, she noticed a newspaper ad soliciting egg donors.  “I read what it said about infertility, and I  started thinking about how sad it was that someone could want a child and not be able to have one.  I realized I could help someone have what I have – and feel what I feel  – and I wanted to do that.  I felt like God was calling me to do that.”  She talked to her husband about it.  “Jeff said, ‘If you feel led to do this, you need to do this.’”  So, she called the clinic.

“It was a huge process,” she said.  There were tests and screenings, a psychiatric evaluation, two shots a day, side effects (that, for her, would include leukopenia),  “plus, I had to find someone to watch the baby, we didn’t live anywhere near the clinic, and…  it was definitely a challenge.”

One day, an unidentified couple requested photos of Tia and her baby.  Then, they requested additional genetic testing.  “I did whatever they wanted, and everything came back perfect,” Tia said.  “There were never names or faces.  No information about them.  But then, I got a letter.  It said, ‘Dear Donor, Thank you!  After 14 years of infertility…!'”  It said the father had received a heart transplant, so this was not the family’s first experience receiving a gift of life.

“I read that letter,” recalled Tia, “and I prayed, ‘Please God, let this happen for them.’  I never heard another word.  I prayed and I hoped… but I’ll never know.  In my heart, I feel it was successful.  ”

Did Tia ever regret giving away a part of herself?  “I had no issues with that.  Ever.  I’m not the mother of that child.  I’m not holding that child’s hand and walking them to the bus; that’s the mother.  I’m not comforting them, helping them when they’re hurt, loving them every day; that’s the mother.  I’m just a way for someone to become a mother.”

Can she understand why someone might worry about using an egg donor?  “Sure, but there’s a bigger picture to consider.  It may not be your flesh, but that baby will call you ‘Mama.’  When you hold that bundle of joy, it will supersede all your preconceived notions.  A baby bonds, and it knows no one but you as the mother.  It doesn’t matter to that baby what the genetics are.  It just knows love.”

What advice would Tia offer infertile couples considering egg donation?  “Look inside yourself.  Ask, ‘Why do I want a baby?  Is it to have a part of me walking around in the world, or to share a life?’  It shouldn’t matter to you whose genes these are.  Once you love this child as your own, that won’t matter.  This child will be yours.”

Tia will never meet the child(ren) her egg(s) helped conceive, and she has complete peace about it.  “I think about it every now and then, but not a lot.  What I did was God’s will, not mine.  I was obedient to the calling, and what a privilege.  I never felt afraid, just like – a job’s got to be done, so you do it.  End of story.  Some people might question my decision, but if I know it’s God’s will, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do.  Nothing.”

The Bible says, “… serve the Lord with gladness.”  Tia did, and through her, God gave the gift of an egg to a couple longing to steward a little soul.

Might He intend to bring a child into the life of your family the same way?  If so, may the story of Tia’s selfless gift — given in response to God’s tug on her heart — bring you peace.

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Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com

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When God Speaks During Infertility

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….”

How many people experiencing infertility can make that claim:  “content in any and every situation”?  When the end of a two week wait comes suddenly… still content?  When there are no eggs to harvest, or when IVF doesn’t work – again… still content?  When everyone  – everywhere! – seems to be getting pregnant.  When it’s time to attend another baby shower, and once again, it’s someone else’s.  When money’s running low and emotions are running high… still content?  Really?

Okay… what’s the secret?

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:13].  What does that mean?  How does this verse give help and hope to couples struggling through infertility?  How can we lay claim to this strength?  And how might it transform our infertility experience?

Mike discovered the answer when he and his wife lost their baby at 20 weeks.  He described his experience  in Pregnant with Hope.  “I remember standing out in the hallway feeling very dizzy.  One of the nurses got a chair for me.  I didn’t think I was going to recover.  But somehow, a feeling of calm came over me and I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Go to Kirsten.’  One moment I was dizzy… but then one second later, I was clear-headed and able to function.  I tell you, that’ll make you believe in divine grace.”

That divine grace is available to everyone; there are only two requirements.  First, we must acknowledge our need for help.  The voice of pride tells us to be self-reliant, but as Mike said, “When a nurse grabs you and puts you in a chair, it’s because she doesn’t think you can stand.  I was spiraling out of control.”  In that moment, there was no energy for pride or pretense.  Mike was literally knocked off his feet by their loss.  His spirit cried out as his body failed him, and God answered.

The second requirement is simply that we recognize who is helping us, and trust the source.  “We had so many God-works-in-mysterious-ways moments,” Mike remembered.  “Like, I had a ‘eureka’ moment realizing I could love a girl from China as my daughter, and I felt calm.  Or another time, Kirsten began spotting and someone said to me, ‘Everything’s fine,’ and it was like a prophet telling me.  I was inspired by God.”

Was Mike content in every situation, as the Bible verse says is possible?  Not even close.  “Those were the worst two years of my life,” he said.  “It took every bit of emotional strength to get through it.”

Does that mean the verse isn’t true?  No.  “I have learned the secret of contentment…” means experience has taught me.  Mike learned through his experience that peace can be found amidst anguish, calm can be experienced despite uncertainty, and faith can be renewed by messages God sends to those He loves.

The hardest parts of the journey are what led to Mike’s confidence in the promise, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  The secret of contentment?  Mike has learned:  It’s God-reliance.

Trust him… You’ll see.

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Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com

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What We Really Need…

Too often, the infertility experience is segmented into categories:   physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.   Despite the fact that all these component pieces are parts of our experience, no one seems able to present a comprehensive picture:  here’s what it will be like, and here’s how you get through it.  Not the “experts,” not the church, not family or friends.

As a result, we’re forced to compartmentalize our search for understanding, gathering whatever information we can from whatever source seems appropriate.  Most of us respond by talking to every authority, researching every possibility, investigating every option, exploring every theory, considering every alternative, looking for every possible answer… all while trying to meet the needs of our bodies, minds and spirits.  And trying to be good partners.  And trying to keep from losing our minds.

It’s exhausting, stressful work.

The alternative, we fear, is to miss a critical piece of information that could have been THE answer.  The one piece of the puzzle that could have made the whole picture clear to us, gotten us through this, and moved us closer to our dream of becoming parents.  So, we gather every scrap of information that could possibly be relevant, evaluate and synthesize it all, and try to figure out how it applies to our particular story.

It’s the only way to get through this… isn’t it?

Thankfully, no.  It’s actually possible to identify an area of overlap where  all these categories intersect, and where the most meaningful questions are answered.  It is where our infertility struggles encounter God’s promises in a powerful, life-changing way.

How – and where – do we find that area of overlap?  Not by looking where we’ve been looking…

As Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  If we want to change our experience, we will need to change what we’ve been doing.  We will need to stop chasing information as if that, alone, could transform our experience.  It can’t, nor can it guarantee control.  And that’s what we’ve really been chasing.

Without realizing it, we’ve been pursuing a mirage – a vision of ourselves as so well-informed we have control.  No matter how hard or fast we chase after this image of ourselves, we will never catch it.  It is an illusion.  And it’s our  inability to do the impossible that is the source of our frustration and hopelessness.

Instead, we need to follow the psalmist’s advice, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”

How do we follow that advice?  We find rest in God when we stop chasing control, come to a stand-still, and shift attention from the obsessive quest for answers to His trustworthy omniscience.  He, alone, knows how to make all things possible.  He, alone, knows how to produce a miracle that defies all odds and confounds all experts.  He, alone, knows how this story will end and why this journey will have been a blessing-in-disguise.

How does that relate to finding hope?  It makes room for what we cannot explain or control.  It invites the miraculous into our story – and that possibility is great cause for hope.  It is bigger, better, and more powerful than any information we can find or any moment we might want to control.

What we need is not more information, but a hope that will not disappoint us. That is the very thing God promises to give us.  Claim His promise, lean into it, and find what you really need.

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The Rising Tide of Panic

Years ago, on a vacation to New Mexico, my husband and I decided to take a short hike in the Sandia Mountains.  We were told that the popular trail was well-marked, and so we set off feeling confident.  Several hours later, as the sun began to set, we realized we’d made a serious mistake.  We’d lost sight of the trail, but kept going — certain we could find it again.  Instead, we were now miles from the trailhead with no food or water.

No one knew where we were.  It was getting cold, and we were getting scared.  So, we began to walk faster.  Soon, we were almost running through the darkening woods.  I suggested, half-seriously, that we could spell out a rescue message with rocks.  My husband pointed out that no one was looking for us, so we’d be wasting precious daylight.  We were struggling mightily to control a rising tide of panic.

Not a bad metaphor for the infertility journey.

We set out on what we believe will be a short, safe and enjoyable journey to parenthood.  We’re with the one we love, and we trust this is going to be simple, so enthusiasm is high.  We’re going to have a baby!  But then, we discover we’re off the beaten path.  The route everyone else finds so easy to follow has somehow taken us somewhere else entirely.  How did we get so lost?

We realize we’re ill-equipped for what we’re suddenly facing.  What do we do now?  Can anyone help us?  No one knows exactly where we are – us included.  So, how do we find our way out of here?  The instinctive response to all this uncertainty is a rising tide of panic.  And with panic, comes irrational acceleration.

Peter Block, in his book The Answer to How is Yes, writes that “We treat urgency like a performance-enhancing drug, as if speed will hasten change….”  We want to change our circumstances, escape suffering and reach our desired destination, so we accelerate, thinking, “Go faster – it’ll be over sooner!”  That impulse led my husband and me to make some reckless choices as we tried to race through infertility.  We were rushing along half-blind – so intent on escaping the wilderness of infertility, we hardly stopped to think.

“Wait,” the Bible says.  “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”   That’s the answer… the solution… the way through this wilderness to the desired destination.  We need to realize, the voice saying “Hurry, hurry!” is not God’s.  And if it’s the only voice we hear, we’re definitely lost.  But, we are not lost to God.

We are never alone or abandoned in the wilderness of infertility.  We are constantly under the loving protection and guidance of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus counsels us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. ” This is the greatest challenge, and the great invitation, of the wilderness journey.

God already knows the precise day and moment when the journey will end.  He knows what will happen, and why this experience will have been a blessing-in-disguise.  This journey is an opportunity for Him to mold us – making  us more like the people He longs for us to be by the time we reach our destination:  trusting, grateful, God-reliant people.

Can we trust Him?  Can we wait with confident hope – focused not on the depth of our fear, but the goodness of our God?  The first step to saying “yes” is slowing down and waiting.  Only then can we hear the voice that whispers, “…This is the way; walk in it.”

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What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

Why are certain people so lucky, and others not?  Does luck play a role in ending infertility?  If so, how?  Does it affect finding the right doctor?  Choosing the right treatment?  Sustaining a pregnancy?  Having a baby?

When confronted with the challenge of persistent infertility, couples often develop a new fascination with luck.  They can’t help noticing other couples’ luck conceiving effortlessly.  They ask, “what worked for you?” – as if good luck might rub off on them.  They frequently express a desire to change their own luck, and to make it work for them (rather than against them).  They’ll come into the infertility group saying things like, “we don’t want to jinx ourselves…,” or “we’re crossing our fingers…,” or “if we get lucky this time….”

I know they just mean to hedge their bets; it’s a form of psychological self-protection.  But it’s also more than that.  Their behavior reveals an unconscious response to deep fear, rooted in the loss of control.

Fear is a predictable response to not knowing who, or what, is determining the course of events.  When those events are negative, and ongoing, their uncontrollability is frightening and destabilizing.  Is this just bad luck?  Or something worse?  Is God in this?  Playing what role?  Is He for us, against us, or a dispassionate observer?  There is an aspect of randomness to this experience.  Does anyone know what’s happening?  Can anyone do anything about it?

Couples don’t realize that – in the absence of answers to these questions – they’re tempted to default to superstitious, let’s-cover-our-bases thinking:  “If we do everything right and nothing wrong, and we cross our fingers and don’t tell a soul, maybe it will work… if we’re lucky [knock on wood].”

For millenia, God has watched people respond to uncertainty with superstition, worshiping whatever they believe will enable them to control their destiny.  When He sees us turning to luck and superstition — as if they have power — He knows we don’t actually trust Him.  Not His love or His motives.

Maybe we don’t believe He hears us and cares – at least, not about this.  Maybe we don’t feel safe in our relationship with Him, and so we don’t confront Him for fear that bad will get worse.  Maybe we feel lost to Him, or forgotten.  Maybe we feel punished and angry.  Maybe we are afraid.  Maybe all these things.  Maybe more.  Whatever the reason, we have chosen to struggle on in fear and uncertainty, rather than claim His promises and trust His faithfulness.

Is there any real alternative?  Yes – and Job, the Bible’s poster boy for suffering, shows us the way:

After a horrific series of tragic events, Job had an epiphany.  He realized that his circumstances did not destroy his faith; it was the growing, obsessive focus on his own perspective (rather than God’s) that blinded him to the truth of God’s goodness, rapidly undermining his trust and crippling his faith.

The same is often true of us.  We trust what we see from our perspective:  other people are lucky but I’m not, I’m a tragic victim in a heartbreaking story.  Meanwhile, from God’s perspective,  it looks completely different.  From His vantage point, there is cause for hope because He is at work laying the foundation for the miracle He has planned.  The facts don’t change — only the perspective.  But that changes everything.

We can cling to lucky charms, whisper superstitious phrases and cross our fingers before each set of test results.  Or, we can hand our fears to the only one who knows how the story will end, and give ourselves over to peace.  Our hearts can only have one most trusted source of hope.

Which will it be:  hedge your bets, or trust your God?

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More many more resources & cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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Devastated by Loss? Listen to This…

Sarah is a triplet who was six months into her pregnancy when she lost the baby, not long ago.  After a funeral, which her two pregnant sisters attended, Sarah and her husband tried to return to life as normal.  But nothing about losing a baby feels normal.

So, when Sarah’s due date approached, she and her husband headed to Mexico.  At the last minute, she decided to bring a copy of Pregnant with Hope.  She hadn’t struggled with infertility and wasn’t at all sure the book would speak to her, but something made her want to bring it anyway.

She called her mother from the airport a week later.  She sounded truly good for the first time since the baby’s death.  They were back from Mexico, she said, and she couldn’t wait to share some news.  She had read the book while they were there, learned about taking negative thoughts captive, and finally felt some peace.  She was starting to move out of the darkness that accompanied her devastating loss, and beginning to believe she would survive.

God is so faithful.  He knows what we need and when we need it.  He delivers messages of hope and grace to us through the most unexpected sources.  When life is painfully difficult, we are tempted to assume that He is absent – or worse, utterly unconcerned.  The opposite is actually true.  He draws nearer to us, seeking to comfort us in our fragile brokenness.

Losing a baby opens a black hole of despair that makes it hard to think clearly, much less hear God speak to us.  He understands.  So, He sends people to speak words of blessing, mercy and peace over us.  If we can’t – or won’t – hear those, He does not stop trying.  He finds other ways to speak to us.  For Sarah, it was a book from a family friend that materialized just before she left for a quiet, peaceful place.  She began reading, and God whispered the words she needed to hear straight into her heart.

Are you like Sarah – struggling to recover from a heartbreaking loss?  You may not feel able to let anyone near your heart, but God is waiting for the right moment to deliver words of comfort.  He is waiting for you to be still and listen.  Then, He will speak to you in a way you can hear.

When you agree to listen for His voice, you open your mind and heart to timeless truths that can renew your spirit.  You say “yes” to moving out of darkness and into the light He brings.  His words can heal your wounds, and nourish the seed of hope He planted in your heart long ago with sustenance only He can give.

He does not intend for your hope to die.

The Bible says, “No one who trusts God like this – heart and soul – will ever regret it.  It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be:  the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help.  Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

Are you grieving?  Do you sense that your dream of becoming a parent is slowly dying?  Listen for the God who deeply desires to comfort you, and ask Him to whisper words that give you peace.

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Humility Changes Everything

To all who are struggling with infertility,

I thought about you as I hiked up Humility Hill.  That may sound strange, but it’s true.  As I climbed, I realized that sharing this story might prevent you from making the same mistake I did.  So, here goes….

Two years ago, there was something I desperately wanted.  It wasn’t material “stuff,” it was a blessing – and one I was convinced was absolutely essential to the future I envisioned.  I’d done what I could to influence events in my favor, but the outcome was completely out of my hands.  So, I turned my attention to God and began to pray like crazy.

I would set off on long walks and pray about all the ways that saying “yes” to my desire would be wise on God’s part.  Like a persistent salesman, I showed up at every turn, relentlessly doing my best to show God the wisdom of agreeing with my extensive research, my wise judgment, my logic and reason.  I wanted Him to realize He didn’t need to think this through – because I already had!

All the traits and skills that had made me a successful advertising executive were brought to bear:  positioning, strategic thinking, timing the pitch, compelling arguments, downside risk assessment.  You name it, I covered it.  My prayers were 100% transmit, 0% receive because there was only one thing I wanted to hear from God:  YES.  Until I heard it, I’d keep at it.

So, did I convince Him?

No.

That’s why I call it Humility Hill.

I was hiking up the hill one day on one of my long walks, giving God an earful, when I reached my conclusion:  “… and that’s why I want you to do what I will.”  Those were the words my mind prayed – and they froze me on the spot.  I have no idea what really happened, but it seemed as if I turned to stone the minute I heard myself say, “…do what I will.”  It was if I’d said, “Obey me, God.”  I realized, that’s what I was really praying.  I was telling the God of the universe:  do what I say.

My will — not Thine.

That realization left me breathless.  I don’t know how long I stood there, not breathing.  Not thinking.  Not moving.  Just staring my hubris in the face.  I had spent months pestering God to bend to my will.  Begging Him, pleading with Him, browbeating and reasoning with Him.  I was horrified… and very ashamed.  I stood atop the hill for a long time, having no idea what to say or do.  I wanted to look away from the truth, but I couldn’t.  Then, I realized there was only one thing to say… the words of Jesus:  “Not my will, but thine.”

In that moment, I let go.  I released my grip on everything I desperately wanted to control.  God had revealed my arrogant self-absorption, and I chose to face it.  To humble myself and change it.  I chose – in that moment – to give up the fight for control.

A few months later, I got my answer.  It was as close to “yes” as it could be, but still be “no.”  It seemed clear that God was saying, “I want you to know I heard you – but I have a better plan.”  Not long afterwards, that better plan manifested itself.  It was, and continues to be, so much better than what I prayed for.

Because of that experience, I’ve learned to pray for God’s best in every situation.  I don’t try to tell Him what that is; He already knows.  And I’ve realized, I don’t always know.  The Bible says He “withholds no good thing,” and I’ve come to believe it’s true for those who trust and honor Him.  As a result, I find myself at peace – even in the midst of uncertainty.

If you’re ready to take God at His word, stop praying for your will to be done.  Pray for His best – and then, watch Him delight in giving you more than you imagined possible.

He will.

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For more resources and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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