Monthly Archives: September 2010

Reaching the Finish Line

In three weeks, my husband is running his first ultramarathon – a 50 mile/81K race.  He’s trained all summer long, heading out at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings for 6-7 hour runs, hoping to avoid temperatures that have frequently hovered near 100 degrees.

What makes someone want to do something so punishing?  Something that requires such discipline, determination and sacrifice?  How can it possibly be worth the effort and the cost?

I think the same questions could be asked of infertile couples.  What makes you push so hard to reach a goal that seems real, and yet so far away?  Why do you choose to suffer physical pain?  To endure fatigue, anxiety, doubt, isolation… so many forms of suffering?  Is it really worth it?  Isn’t there some other way to meet whatever need is driving you forward?

Here’s the thing….

When God puts a dream in your heart, He intends for you to fulfill it.  “…He works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” [Philippians 2:13].  He has a plan, and you have an important part in it.  Your sense of being called to something and simultaneously propelled toward it is no accident.  He has a purpose for creating this desire in you, and for urging you to act on it.

Of course, reaching the goal requires your best effort.  In some cases, it pushes you well beyond what you had imagined possible – or considered endurable – and yet, somehow you find the strength to keep going.

Why doesn’t God make it easier?  Why does He call you to what looks and feels almost impossible, instead of dropping success miraculously into your lap?  I’m convinced it’s because He intends to bless you in and through the process of struggling toward that goal before reaching the finish line.

Here’s what I mean….

My husband’s ability to run forever without stopping may not be important to God, but his health is.  His ability to listen to his body and care for it certainly is.  And, the huge stretches of time that he and God now spend together – away from the stresses of work, and the buzz of activity at home – most definitely are.

The official ultramarathon hasn’t even started, but in ways that matter more to God than any runner’s medal, my husband is already victorious.

The same is true for couples struggling through infertility.  Your ability to endure countless trips to the doctor may not be important to God, but your perseverance and trust are.  Your ability to be at peace in the midst of uncertainty is.  And, your increased desire to sense God’s presence and believe in His purposefulness – despite the test results, the miscarriages, and the grief – most definitely are.

Remember, the Bible says, “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

Claim this verse and run your race.  God is with you every step of the way.

====================================================

For more inspiration and cause for hope, go to  PregnantWithHope.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Trust

The Walk of Hope

I participated in RESOLVE’s first Walk of Hope on Saturday.  Along with about 200 other people, I walked through a downtown park and around a peaceful lake on a gorgeous morning.  It was a great way to start the weekend.  And that’s what seemed so strange.

The whole thing seemed so “normal.”

At 9 a.m., the park was already busy with morning runners, Farmers’ Market vendors setting up tables, and well-tanned athletes preparing for a beach volleyball tournament.  Like all of them, we were in the park for a specific purpose… but there was no stigma attached to us.

No one stared at us when we gathered.  No one avoided eye contact with us while we walked.  No one pitied us, offered inane advice, or asked us painful questions.  We were normal people in a normal place on a normal day…  raising money and awareness for infertility.

Why can’t it be like this every day?

A feature in the most recent issue of Conceive magazine gave me the answer.  The article talked about celebrities’ unwillingness to acknowledge battles with infertility.  With rare exceptions, it said, most celebrities prefer to give the impression that they conceived without any outside intervention – no matter how unlikely that may be.

These seemingly-harmless deceptions actually reinforce the stigma of infertility.  They set an artificial standard that implies  anything less than effortless conception is failure, and cause for shame.

When we buy into this twisted thinking and apply the same standard to ourselves, we pave the way for heartache.  We  reinforce the experience of infertility as a curse.  We also reinforce the desire to struggle in secret, forfeiting community and support in order to maintain the illusion of effortless conception.

Why follow the example of people who invest their energy in promoting false perceptions?  Why not value authenticity over deception?  Otherwise, when another month goes by without a pregnancy, we find ourselves painted into a psychological corner.  They pulled off their illusion… why can’t we?  Our failure reinforces our secrecy… again… and again… and again.

We feel so alone.  And we’ve brought it on ourselves.

The Walk of Hope was a great reminder that many other couples are also struggling.  We can be here for each other!  Shattering the silence and ending the secrecy is a huge step forward.

For a few hours on a spectacular, sunny morning, we showed our faces to each other and to the community-at-large.  There were numerous photographers present, but no one hid.  The loudspeakers blasted words like “infertility” and “struggle” across the park, but no slinked away or looked ashamed.  Why?  Because infertility is so common, it IS normal.

Somehow, in coming together, we found the strength to say, “It’s true.  Infertility has affected me, and I’m here to do something about it.”  What an empowering step to take!  We stood together in public and showed infertility’s many faces.  We hugged our friends, smiled at sympathetic strangers, and joined new acquaintances for The Walk and conversation.

It was wonderful because it was all so “normal.”

This is what every day of infertility should be like.  For everyone.

Join us on next year’s walk.

====================================================

For more inspiration, resources and cause for hope in the midst of infertility, click this link...

Leave a comment

Filed under Speaking Up

Translating Faith into Action

What happens to leftover embryos?

It’s not a small question, or an easy one.  Experts estimate that more than 500,000 embryos are cryopreserved in the U.S. alone – many because the genetic parents cannot settle on an acceptable answer.

Currently-infertile couples might think they’d welcome the problem of what to do with an overabundance of potential children. It would be a refreshing change from the constant sense of lack and failure.  But the truth is, once a formerly-infertile couple decides their family is complete, the question of what to do becomes an anguish-filled ethical dilemma.

The National Embryo Donation Center offers an answer to the question, “what now?”   They believe that choosing to donate embryos is both courageous and generous (genetic parents are not compensated in any way).  “It is the most life-honoring choice,” affirms Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director at the NEDC.  And, for couples on both sides of the equation – donors, and adopters – it can be a great blessing.

According to the NEDC, “helping another couple” and “giving the embryos a chance at life” are the most common reasons couples donate.  Many donor couples report thinking of their donation as the gift of a potential child to another infertile couple.

From a spiritual standpoint, donating frozen embryos becomes one more step in trusting God’s purposefulness throughout the infertility journey.  If He intends the embryos to thaw, transplant, grow and thrive, they will.  If not, they won’t.

God controls their destiny.

Jessica and Jeremy came to the NEDC to adopt a set of embryos after years spent battling infertility.  Despite having 1200 to choose from, they chose to adopt a set of “special needs” embryos.  “Being obedient to God’s direction, we picked the embryos we were supposed to have,” Jessica explains.  “We could have easily let fear sway our decision.  I’m so thankful that we didn’t!”

They conceived and delivered healthy twins, Grant and Maria.

Why did they choose to risk a problem?  According to Jessica, they were simply translating faith into action.  “The truth of the matter is, there is no guarantee with any baby,” says Jessica.  “If we put our embryos back in the adoption pool would anyone ever adopt them?   Many people asked why we didn’t go with the “strongest” [embryos] so we would have the best chance at success, but… I think it’s evident that we were blessed in our decision.”

As couples grapple with ethical and emotional issues around the question of leftover embryos — often with little or no compassionate guidance from their clergy/spiritual leaders — Jessica has this advice to offer:  “…Heed the call from God to step out in faith and be blessed just as we have been.”

=====================================================

For more info on embryo donation, contact the NEDC (866/585-8549) or visit their website.  For more resources, inspiration and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blessings, Hope, Perspective

Infertility and the Teachable Moment

Yesterday, my friend Stefan told me that someone close to him is struggling through infertility.  Frustrated, he said, “I told her to get in the infertility group at church, but she won’t do it.”

Knowing nothing about this woman, I said, “Let me guess.  She’s a Type A personality.  Very successful at work.  She’s married to an I-Can-Do-It kind of guy.  He hates to ask for help – takes pride in being self-reliant.  He’s a Fixer.  They’re keeping their struggle quiet because they’re going to push through it privately.  They’re just hoping it’ll be behind them soon.”

He almost fell over.  “You’ve described them perfectly!” he said, sounding totally amazed.

How did I know?  I didn’t… but it was a safe guess.  Over time, I’ve noticed a pattern working with infertile couples:  very often, they’re people who are used to success.

It’s the same story with every couple I meet through the infertility Bible study, and with people who contact me about blogposts or chapters in my book.  They’re used to succeeding.  They’re used to solving problems.  They’re used to getting things done – on time, and on budget.  When something is hard, they push harder.  Whatever it takes, they accomplish the objective.

Crazy as it sounds, this is the common denominator in every infertility story I know. I think it is the infertility story:  life was unfolding according to plan – then suddenly, we hit the wall.  What’s happening?!

I believe God is using infertility to create a teachable moment.

Think about it.  We want a baby and are motivated to do whatever it takes to make that happen.  He wants to teach us hugely important lessons that require a humble willingness to learn.  Those aren’t traits He consistently sees in us.  So, cue the infertility.

We try and try to conceive… remain childless… push harder and harder… become increasingly desperate… struggle for peace, hope and sanity… realize we can’t “fix” this… beg God for help… don’t get what we want (on our terms, or our timetable)…feel grief, anger, fear, despair…pass through many more cycles, struggling with the same issues… and finally become ready to end this painful process and completely relinquish control.

I’m convinced that the moment of humbly acknowledging “I can’t do this, God, only You can” is the critical first step toward learning the lesson(s) of this teachable moment.  “I choose to trust You and accept Your will for us, whatever that may be.”  When we can embrace the knowledge that those are not words of defeat – they are simply words of submission – we’re headed for victory.  The worst of the battle is behind us.

Are you ready for your infertility journey to come to an end?  Ask yourself if you are ready to accept whatever God gives you, whatever plan He has in mind for your future.  His best.  If you are ready to say “yes” unconditionally, you are ready to clear your only real hurdle.

Trust me, God will clear the rest.

=====================================================’

Want more encouragement and cause for hope?  Click this link…

2 Comments

Filed under Battles, Control, Humility

Misery is Optional

If you were asked to draw a Venn diagram of aspiring parents, you’d probably sort your two groups into those who get pregnant easily, and those who struggle to conceive.  The Fertile, and the Infertile.  Lucky, and Unlucky.  Blessed, and Cursed.  Happy, and Miserable.

That’s the way the world looks when you’re struggling through infertility.  Blissful pregnant women are everywhere – at work, in stores, on magazine covers – radiating joy and the confidence that goes with effortless success. Meanwhile, you are at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum – fighting tears, suppressing grief, suffering silently.

What if I told you that, as always, there is an area of overlap in this Venn diagram?  That it is possible to be infertile, and yet radiate confidence.  To hear the statistics for infertility, and yet anticipate joy.  To know the truth of your situation, and yet feel peaceful, hopeful and grateful.

How would you find your way to that “sweet spot?”

First, acknowledge that it feels virtually impossible to focus on anything but Now in the midst of infertility.  What are my counts now?  Should we have sex now?  What are our odds now?  It’s time for shots now.  We need advice, now.  Why don’t they call now?  I want results now!  I’m gonna cry now.  I need a break – now.  Now, now, now!

Then, realize that underlying all this urgency is the constant worry:  what if I miss it?  The moment, the advice, the appointment, the phone call….  What if I don’t do everything right at just the right moment?  Will we fail?  Will we never have a baby?!

That kind of thinking reveals a complete reliance on Self.  But infertility proves that no one is truly self-sufficient.  No amount of money, effort or determination can force a heartbeat into the womb.  You’ve tried and tried… and failed.

So, now what?  Scripture describes God as the one who “always leads us in triumph.”  What about shifting your focus from self-reliance to God-reliance?

God hasn’t abandoned you or stepped out of your story.  He’s not neglecting your suffering or turning His back on your pain.  In fact, He’s been working behind the scenes, insuring that “all things work together for good….”  He’s been putting solutions in place, so your problems won’t be the end of your story.

He’s been making the crooked places straight, and guiding your steps as He walks with you on this journey.  He’s been fulfilling His promises in ways you may not see or understand — yet.

Want to find the sweet spot where the facts of the moment don’t overwhelm your hope for the future?  Where it’s possible to face infertility head-on and still feel confident there’s a child coming?  If so…

1)  Let God lead.  Loosen your grip on the moment and listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit, the voice that says, “this is the way… walk in it.”

2) Focus on God’s abundant goodness.   Replace thoughts of lack and failure with memories of God’s faithfulness to those He loves.

3) Trust God’s plan.  He knows the precise moment when you will meet the sweet soul He wants you to love and steward.  He planted the seed of hope in your heart, and He will harvest it at the perfect time.

With infertility, the struggle is a given, but the misery is optional. Recognize that you have a choice about how to make the journey.  Go through it in the sweet spot.

===================================================

Want more resources, inspiration and cause for hope?  Click this link

Leave a comment

Filed under Perspective, Trust

When God Says, “No”

I was raised with a can-do spirit.  It gives me incredible satisfaction to tackle something I’ve never tried before and discover I can do it.  So, no surprise… that was my strategy for getting pregnant.  I figured:  it’s not rocket science, my parents did it on their honeymoon (and they weren’t even trying), and we’ll get it done in no time.

So, yeah… about that….

Our failure was disappointing, but not devastating.  Devastation would come further down the road.  After months of trying, then discovering I wasn’t even ovulating.  After blood draws, ultrasounds, injections, surgeries, miscarriages, and more.  Why did we have to go through so much pain to get to parenthood?  Why did it have to hurt so much – for so long – before we reached a time of joy and gratitude?

The Bible says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”   Hmmmmm.  Was that the case with me?  Put it this way….

I have come to believe that, sometimes, God’s best for me is a “no.”  “No” to my plan.  “No” to my timetable.  “No” to me being in control.  In the moment, that message causes so much pain.  It hurts my heart (don’t you love me, God?), my spirit (can I still trust you, God?), and my mind (this makes no sense, God!).  If I’m honest, I’ll admit it also wounds my pride (I resent this, God).

All too often, I want to be in control and accomplish my plan on my timetable.  Efficiently.  Effectively.  Apparently, effortlessly.  I secretly want to say, “I did it!”  Sometimes (despite the fact that I think I’m a great planner), God can see that my plan isn’t going to lead to His best for me.  So,  He says, “no” to my plan… and also, to my pride.

But, that’s not the end of the story.  When God’s “yes” comes, I can see in hindsight how His “no” set the stage for something better.  Something I could never have achieved without Him.  And I am reminded that His “no” wasn’t punishment given in anger; it was full of grace. 

Too often, infertile couples think of God as having the power to work with us, but refusing to.  That’s aggravating (!), especially for Type A personalities.  We want people on our team who are going to execute our plans, on our timetables – as in, “work with me, or get out of my way.”

But God’s not a subordinate with a performance appraisal pending.  We can’t threaten to fire Him if He doesn’t meet our expectations.  Sure, we can disengage and refuse to communicate with Him.  But as soon as we reach a dead-end, we’ll discover that we need Him much more than He needs us.

Remember:  God has the power – and the desire – to move us toward the dream of parenting.  He planted the seed of hope in us for a reason!  But first, there needs to be a change in us.  A willingness to admit, “I can’t do it all; only You can, God.”

Those words of humility and trust are the best offering we can make.  They  honestly admit our limitations (which are no secret to God) and our need for help & real hope (which are our free gifts from God).  The next time you hear, “no,” try seeing it as an indication that God is steering you toward His very best.  You may not like the process, but trust me — you will love the outcome.

=====================================================

For more inspiration, resources and cause for hope, click this link now.

2 Comments

Filed under Control, Humility, Trust

Infertility & Forgetting the Past

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” (Philippians 3:13).

Ask anyone going through infertility whether they’re focused on the past or the future and they’ll tell you:  no contest – the future.  It’s all about becoming a family, having a baby and getting on with happily-ever-after.

But is it really?

Ask yourself, “Am I forgetting what is behind?  Have I let go of the insensitive remarks, the thoughtless comments, the useless advice?  Have I stopped dwelling on the last test result?  The last ultrasound?  The last retrieval?  Am I done grieving the failed IVF?  The miscarriage?  The latest bad news?  Am I ready to move in the direction of hope again?”

Consider this excerpt from God Calling:

“A man on a march carries only what he needs for that march.  Would you pity him if you saw him bearing, too, the overwhelming weight of the worn-out shoes and uniforms of past marches and years?  And yet, in the mental and spiritual life, man does these things.”

I know when we were in the middle of our infertility struggle, I couldn’t step outside it long enough to observe myself objectively.  Had I been able to, I would’ve seen that I was marching forward… but looking back.  I was trudging along, bearing the increasingly overwhelming weight of every heartache, failure, disappointment and scrap of bad news from our infertility journey.

I probably would have told you I was honoring our past efforts by remembering them.  But the truth is, I was also rehearsing defeat.  Unconsciously preparing for more of the same.  Without realizing it, my thoughts were affecting my actions and my choices – which was affecting what unfolded before me.

That’s why Paul writes about forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.  If we release our grip on the past, and instead, lean into a future where we trust that God makes anything possible… anything truly becomes possible.  We don’t limit God with our fear.

How do we forget something so painful?  One definition of the word forget is to disregard intentionally or to overlook.   We have to intentionally disregard our past so that it doesn’t keep us from moving forward.  We have to let go of the old in order to embrace the new.

That “new” thing could be a new procedure, a new doctor, or a new reason to hope.  It could be a new perspective, a new sense of peace, or a new path to happily-ever-after.  Whatever it is, that new thing could make a big difference.

So, don’t deny what you’ve been through, but don’t let it determine what’s around the next corner.  Trust that God has a better future in store.   Trust that He’s working behind the scenes on your behalf.  And trust that letting go of the past can open the door to your future.

====================================================

For more inspiration, resources and cause for hope… click this link

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Hope