Tag Archives: IVF

“It is He….”

A couple weeks ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store when the woman behind me asked, “Did you write a book?” If you could watch the next thirty seconds on a slow-motion replay, you’d laugh at how long it took me to respond. It was so out of context, and I was so surprised that a stranger would ask me, that it took me a minute to process the question.

“Yes,” I told her, “I did.” In the video replay, cartoon question marks would appear above my head. Who is this person? How does she know me?

“Was it about getting pregnant?”

I nodded, and she leaned in to confide, “I tried for so long to get pregnant. We did IVF. It was so discouraging. Then, I heard about your book from someone at church. It changed everything. We had our baby. And now, look….” she pointed to a bulging belly. “Another one! Natural!”

Happy to share in a small celebration, I congratulated her and thanked her for telling me her story. As I picked up my bag of groceries, she urged, “Keep writing your blog.”

Since then, I’ve crossed paths with two other women who’ve told me the same thing:  “Keep writing. I know someone who needs to hear the message.” One is a woman raising twins who were conceived after she’d given up hope. The other has a daughter who’s struggling to conceive and is too stoic to admit how much she’s hurting.

What can I offer them — and you? I prayed about it this morning and a Bible verse came to mind:

“It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”   – Psalm 100:3

My first-grade class memorized this Psalm for a Thanksgiving assembly many years ago. We dutifully learned the words and practiced them every day for weeks. Little did I know, that would be one of many ways in which God would plant the seeds of His truth in my heart.

Decades later, I realize the powerful message contained in that verse.

“It is He that hath made us….” My biological parents went through the motions, but God brought me into being according to His plan and purpose. Although my conception as a (very!) unplanned honeymoon baby surprised my parents, it was no surprise to God. He intended me to come into the world as the person I am and at the moment I came.

He had a very specific plan for you, too. And your spouse. And the moment you met. And the life you chose to share. And, He has a plan for the next generation of your family.

You may try to manufacture life in the womb using the most advanced techniques you can afford. You may eat the right foods, swallow the right pills, give up all the wrong habits, and follow all the weirdest advice…. But the truth of the matter is, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”

You don’t have the power to control when a baby will be conceived… or whether a pregnancy will last… or whether the money you spend and tests you endure will result in joy or heartache. And no honest fertility specialist can guarantee success. Nothing you do — or don’t do — can make certain what you hope for.

That privilege is God’s alone.

Embracing that knowledge — rather than resenting it, fighting it, or running from it — is an important step of humility that can make all the difference in how long, or short, the infertility journey will be.

Have you ever heard the verse:

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  – James 4:6

It is now one of my favorites — but it wasn’t always. I used to read it focused on the first half — “God opposes….” — imagining God standing in opposition to me and my plans to become an incredible mom. It took me a long time to realize that God didn’t oppose my heart’s desire. But, He opposed my believing that I had the power to be god in my own life. He opposed me leaving Him out of a process that He alone could control.

Now, I’ve learned to lean into the second half of the verse. God gives grace, favor and blessings to those who humbly acknowledge: We are not the gods of our own lives. We do not control much of anything — but thankfully, He does. And scary though it may be at times, we choose to trust Him. His plan is perfect.

He who made us… gives grace to the humble. It’s that simple. And that challenging.

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Want to learn more about the God who helps those who humbly rely on Him? Read  Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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How Far Is Too Far?

How far is too far?  That’s the question Lisa asked me this morning.  Doctors say her husband’s morphology has bottomed out at 1%, but she isn’t ready to give up on the dream of parenting.  Neither is he.  So, the RE is recommending IVF+ICSI.

Here’s the dilemma, as Lisa put it:

“I don’t know what God would want me to do.  ICSI involves the doctors “choosing” which little one they want to inject.  To me, I’m not sure this seems natural, and it’s a bit scary!  But part of me thinks God gave us this science for a reason…. Is there any insight you can offer me with this moral/ethical dilemma?”

What does God think of IVF+ICSI?  Does He want couples to pursue it?  To avoid it?  To condemn it?  If science has outpaced the literal words of scripture, how can we know if God approves, or if He’s angry?  If He will bless those who pursue this form of conception, or curse them?

Those are hard questions.

When I look at the people who struggle hardest with them, here’s what I see.  They often fall into one of three categories:  active or lapsed Catholics, scripture literalists, and those who know little about what the Bible does and doesn’t say.  These may seem like very different groups to you, but they have one critically-important thing in common:  They’re used to having someone tell them what God expects of them.

For most or all of their spiritual lives, someone has told them The Answers.  The Rules.  The Expectations.  Now, they find themselves facing a question that could open or close the door to the future they deeply desire.  What does God want them to do?  Who can tell them the right answer?  And what if they get it wrong?!

I’m convinced this moment of anxious uncertainty is actually a gift.

Underneath the fear of seeking answers from the wrong source — or worse, guessing incorrectly — there is the newly-planted seed of a desire to know God’s will more fully.  There is an impulse to seek Him out.  To go deeper — beyond rule-following obedience, into a more intimate relationship with the God who longs to be known, to bless those who seek Him, and to reveal His will in and through their lives.

This is not the journey most infertile couples thought they’d be making when they began trying to conceive.  And it is not one every couple embraces.  But, I believe it is the journey infertility  nudges us toward – one which can ultimately enrich and expand the spiritual lives of future parents prior to becoming a family.  And that is a blessing.

But, in a moment of paralyzing uncertainty, it doesn’t feel like one.

So, if you’ve reached the same point that Lisa has and you’re wondering what to do next, don’t panic.  Trust me:  This is all part of God’s plan.  Commit to seeking His will and He will reveal it to you.  And as you do, remember….

1) Those who want to conceive but also want to honor God cannot look to the Bible for hard and fast rules when faced with infertility.  What we can do, though, is look to the Bible for guidance — and to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment.

2) God is omniscient and omnipotent.  He knows our motivations, our deep desire to parent, and our intention (or lack of intention) to honor Him in all that we do.  That matters greatly to the One who is able to open or close a womb at any time.

3) God sends us help in many forms, including science, doctors, and medicine.  Those who refuse to accept that help sometimes do so in an attempt to honor Him or demonstrate their faith in Him.  In fact, they’re requiring God to work miracles — or see His offered blessings rejected.  I believe their motivation has great spiritual value , but their rejection of God’s blessings may not.

4) I believe that when our hearts, minds and spirits are completely focused on doing God’s will, and we proceed with the deep desire that His will be done, God will open and close doors along our path to see that it is so.  In other words, He will guide our steps, illuminate our path, and fill us with the peace that assures us we are in the flow of His will.

5) The best way to assure His will is done is to trust Him, let go, and pray the servant’s prayer: “Thy will be done.”  God is well able to work within our circumstances to achieve His purpose.

Of course, each couple must make their own decision about which path to take.  The only Right Answer is to seek the God who longs to draw nearer to those who draw hear to Him.

Trust Him completely; He never fails.

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If you’d like to read another post on this topic, here’s a link.  And, if you want more inspiration and cause for hope, order a copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.


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Peace Despite Negative Outcomes

I got a bittersweet email from a reader. She had written to me last month asking for prayer as she and her husband tried IVF after five failed IUI’s and a miscarriage. She told me she’d already read Pregnant with Hope once, and she would be re-reading it as they made their way toward Transfer Day because it filled her with confident hope.

Her note this morning said, “None of our embryos made it to Day 3, but I’ve had peace throughout the process.”

How did she do that? How did she sustain a sense of peace despite all the uncertainty? How did she step into the moment of disappointment when she heard none of the embryos made it… and through it?

She chose to trust that God’s best sometimes begins with “No.”

Years ago, Garth Brooks released a country song about unanswered prayer. I heard it so many times that, despite my limited affection for country music, I knew the words by heart – among them: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” It took me years to realize that song was popular, in part, because it’s so true.

For much of my life, I prayed for specific requests to be fulfilled and equated that with answered prayer.  When I didn’t get what I wanted, I took it as an indication that God either didn’t care much about me, or that He wasn’t listening very carefully.

I was wrong.

In hindsight, I can see that the prayers I thought were not being answered were actually answered very clearly:  “No, because I have something better planned.”  “No, because there are things you don’t understand.” “No, because I can see what you cannot see, and I know what you cannot know about the future.” “No, because I love you too much to say ‘yes.’”

The early part of my life was a cake walk. It was easy to love God and trust Him – because I was perpetually blessed. Only when everything possible began to go wrong did I realize that trusting God meant thanking Him for what I didn’t think I wanted. It meant finding peace in the midst of complete chaos and total uncer- tainty, by faith.

When I found that peace and learned how to live into it – despite the stressful circumstances that threatened to hijack every aspect of my life – I stepped into a new relationship with God.  And I started becoming the person He wanted me to be as a parent.

Now, I know better than to tell God what to do. I recognize and respect the fact that His wisdom far surpasses my own. And, equally important, I trust His love for me. I trust that He wants the very best for me – and all those whom I love. So, I pray for His best — whatever, and whenever that may be.

The woman who wrote to me this morning has chosen that same perspective. She trusts this “no” is one step on the journey to the child who’s waiting in her future. The one who is nothing less than God’s best. Imagine God’s delight when it will finally be time to tell her, “Yes.”

 

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Prayers That Work

What do you do make of the verse “The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” when you’re seeing nothing but failure?  Does it mean you’re not in good standing with God?  That you’re unrighteous, and so your prayers are destined to be powerless?

I wrestled with this mightily when we were trying to conceive.  At the time, no one had the courage to confront the question with me, and the result was a lot of suffering and guilt.

I got an email this week from a woman requesting prayer.  She and her husband are about to start IVF – following six failed IUI’s and a miscarriage at 16 weeks.  She has prayed for a baby throughout her journey, but she sees no evidence that God is listening.  What does that mean — especially in the context of the promise, “The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective”?

The answer is in the first infertility story in scripture, found in Genesis 15.  God promised a very elderly Abram “A son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  Despite any guarantee that this promise would be kept, the Bible says, “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

Even though he knew the fertility statistic — not many wives conceive in their 80’s, Abram chose to believe God.  And God knew it.  The decision to trust God, despite what Abram knew about the present and expected in the future, delighted God – and God declared him righteous, by faith.

Not by action.

Soon afterwards, Abram decided to father a child with his wife’s maidservant.  As best we can tell, it was Sarai’s suggestion – but Abram went along with the plan because he, too, wanted a child.  Impatient to get the show on the road, they took matters into their own hands rather than waiting for God… and they gave birth to a mess of ruined relationships, resentment and hostility.

Not very righteous action.  Pretty profoundly lacking in trust.

But, that’s not the end of the story.  In the end, God’s grace led Him to forgive their impulsive decision to play God.  Once they made peace with the consequences of their actions and humbly accepted their failure to be God, He blessed them with a son – conceived by Sarah, against all odds.

What am I saying?  We’re all tempted to play God when we’re faced with infertility and the urgent need to conceive.  We may not take things into our own hands quite the way Abram and his wife did, but we understand the temptation to hurry things along when we don’t see evidence that God is at work.

Thankfully, God’s ready to forgive us, too.

If we choose to trust Him, then even if our actions sometimes betray our desire to believe, He is full of grace.  He declares us righteous by faith, not by perfect choices.  And, as the Bible promises, “The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.”

You’ll see.

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Ten Years and Worth It: One Couple’s Story

Alesha and Josh were high school sweethearts.  They married at 20 and conceived their first baby after 18 months of trying.  They lost the baby ten weeks later.  Very disappointed but not defeated, they spent the next two years trying to conceive again.  But, nothing.

They consulted the experts.  Tests revealed Alesha had a pituitary gland tumor, so she had it removed.  Then a reproductive endocrinologist discovered endometriosis, so she had a laparoscopy.  They tried Clomid, then IUI’s, but still no baby.  Five years into their journey, they did their first IVF.  Alesha got pregnant… but lost the baby.  Then, they did a frozen cycle… without success.

“Both of us are teachers, so we had a limited budget,” Alesha explained.  They’d taken a second mortgage on their house, but even so, IVF consumed all the money they had to spend.  Their extended family began holding garage sales to help them.  Alesha’s father even sold his beloved Harley.  “But we still didn’t get pregnant,” Alesha said, “and I felt like we let them all down.”

Determined to keep trying, they decided to relocate to Arkansas, a state that offers infertility insurance.  They sold their home, moved their worldly goods, and found new jobs.  Then, they got a call from INCIID.  Months earlier, Alesha had applied for a grant — but she’d never heard back and had assumed that meant, “No.”

Amazingly, they’d been chosen.  “That was when God told me, ‘August.’  I kept trying to figure out what that meant….”

They were matched with the Sher Institute in Las Vegas.  Alesha got pregnant, but she lost the baby a couple months later.  The Sher Institute found a creative way to finance another try, enrolling them in a research study that covered the costs of all medical procedures and most meds.  On August 3rd, they transferred four embryos.  Alesha conceived triplets.  They lost one… but miraculously, the other two survived.

Emily Lynn and Abigail Grace were born exactly ten years after Josh and Alesha began trying.

Why did they have to slog through a ten-year obstacle course to become a family?  What was the purpose of all that struggling and suffering?  All that moving, and job-hunting, and fund-raising?  Alesha believes it was, at least in part, about obedience.  And learning to trust God completely.

Rick Warren’s global bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life, opens with this four-word perspective:  “It’s not about you.”  Warren explains, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.  It’s far greater than your family….  You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for His purposes….”

After all the tests, surgeries, injections, inseminations, harvests, transfers  and miscarriages, Alesha and Josh think they understand part of God’s purpose.  They sense Him calling them to help other couples make the journey.  That’s why they are starting an infertility Bible study using  the book Pregnant With Hope.

“God puts people in my path constantly who are going through infertility,” said Alesha.  “One day, in church, I knew:  it’s time – you need to do this.”  She started researching infertility support and found there was nothing for infertile couples in Oklahoma (now their home).

Later this month, Josh and Alesha will host their first gathering.  They’re understandably nervous, but also excited to see how God will use them and their story to help other couples.  “Letting go  and giving God complete control made all the difference for us.  That’s what we want to help other couples understand.  If you give it to God, there is always hope.”



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The Infertility Prayer God Always Answers

A few days ago, I wrote about narcissistic fertility – the tendency of some “fertiles” to take pregnancy for granted, and to think of a baby primarily as an extension of themselves.  It’s easy to criticize that kind of self-absorption.  And, it’s tempting to think “I would never….”

The problem is:  we would, and we do.

Don’t misunderstand.  After the struggle and heartache of the infertility journey, I don’t believe any of us would take a baby for granted.  But, I do believe that many – maybe all of us – set off on this journey believing we deserve to be parents.  We want it, and we unconsciously believe we have a right to expect it.

We see the people around us conceiving effortlessly and assume, that’ll be me – pregnant and living  happily-ever-after.  We might never say so, but at some level, we feel entitled to that story.

Here’s the problem:  that entitlement attitude puts Self at the center.  It presumes that what we want is what’s best for us — because we want it.  In hindsight, that seems both arrogant and a little ridiculous.  The truth is, it’s simply human nature.

We tend to think of ourselves as able to make perfect plans and control our destinies… until we discover we can’t and we don’t.  That’s when we start to feel confused, frustrated, and even angry.

Now, we see a clear need for God in our story – but He seems to be withholding our heart’s desire.  Or worse, punishing us for something.  Why can’t we conceive?  And why does He insist on thwarting our plans?

Because our plan is not His plan.  It’s not His best for us.

So, now what?  How do we get past our emotional response to God’s “no,” and onto a path that leads to parenthood?  That’s the question I was thinking about recently as I read Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To.

I wondered: Is there a prayer God always says “yes” to when infertile couples pray?  If so, what is it?  What makes it work?  And does it always?

The good news is that there is one prayer God always answers for infertile couples.  And I’m convinced the purpose of the infertility journey is to prepare us to pray it with complete sincerity of heart, mind and spirit.

No one told me about it when we were struggling to conceive.  At that time, the God I’d grown up believing in no longer seemed generous, loving and faithful.  Instead, He seemed distant, silent, and even secretive.  I had some strong feelings about that, but I was afraid to express them for fear of making a bad situation worse.

So, we struggled on in silence (as if He didn’t know my thoughts).

I felt increasingly invisible and lost to God.  Either rejected by Him or simply ignored, all I could see was that He didn’t seem to be working with us.  In fact, He seemed to be working against us.  Rather than breathing life into our dream, He was thwarting our desire to become parents.  He could have made it happen at any time, but He kept saying, “no.”

Does it seem as if God is thwarting your will, too?  Are you doing everything you can to get to “yes” only to sense He’s repeatedly telling you “no”?  Then pray the prayer He always answers:

Thy will be done.

This 4-word prayer has the power to set life-changing events in motion.  It can overpower whatever emotional distress buffets us, whatever circumstances devastate us, whatever fears paralyze us, whatever thoughts terrorize us.  It is the “open sesame” that makes all things possible because it is the prayer that puts all things in our lives under God’s authority – including us.

It is a prayer of incredible power… because it a prayer of total submission.  It acknowledges that God sees what we cannot see, and knows what we cannot know.  It invites Him to accomplish His perfect plan in and through us, with our complete cooperation.

Can we trust Him enough to give Him complete control?  Can we stop obsessing over our own plans and trust that “no” means His plan is better?  Can we set aside our impatience long enough to give Him whatever time He needs to accomplish His purpose?  And will we?

That’s the hugely important choice we must make.

We can continue to insist on our plans and our timetable, giving God room only to optimize what we will for ourselves.  That path will never lead us to His best.  Or, we can let go of “when?” and “how?” and choose to trust Him completely and unconditionally.  That path leads to nothing less than His very best.

How do I know?  From personal experience, and from my front row seat watching the stories of countless infertile couples unfold.  Every single couple who comes to a place of being able to pray unreservedly, “Thy will be done,” finds joy.  Every.  Single.  One.

May it be so for you, too.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Moving on After an Unbearable Loss

There is a low point that some couples reach during the infertility journey.  It is a place of despair so deep and dark they wonder if they can survive it.

What they assumed at the time would be the worst of the journey is already behind them, rapidly receding in a past that pales in comparison to the deeply painful present.  Disappointment, discouragement, bad results… it seemed so challenging at the time.  Now, it would be a gift to return to difficulties no worse than what was faced back then.

This is a valley of darkness.

“Kirsten was 18 weeks pregnant and she started having a lot of bleeding,” Mike remembers.  “The trip to the hospital is a blur.  I remember the nurse tried to find a heartbeat in utero, and she couldn’t find one.  We both thought, ‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing’ because we were in such denial.  We thought, ‘The doctor will get here and it’ll be okay.’  He got there and it wasn’t okay.

“He left the room and a minute later, the baby came.  I had to run out of the room to get him.  He ran in and four nurses ran in after him.  I remember just standing out there in the hallway and feeling very dizzy.  One of the nurses got a chair for me and said, ‘It’s okay.  Just sit here.’”

The baby was coming too soon.  His first day outside the womb would be his last.

Where is God when our dreams are dying?  When the joy we’ve longed for and struggled for is slipping from our grasp?  Where is He when our hearts cry out for help?  For comfort?  For hope?

Where is God in such darkness?

He is with us.

“I didn’t think I was going to recover,” Mike remembers.  “When a nurse grabs you and puts you in a chair, it’s because she doesn’t think you can stand.  I don’t think I was capable of doing what I needed to do for Kirsten.  But I was only sitting for about five seconds, and then somehow, a feeling of calm came over me and I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Go to Kirsten.’  Somehow I went from not being able to stand up to being able to be with her.

“I tell you, that’ll make you believe in divine grace.  I don’t think there’s a psychological ability of the brain to reboot during a crisis – you’re more likely to shut down – but this was truly instantaneous.  It went from one second, ‘I’m nauseous and I can’t feel my legs’ to ‘It all went away.’  I’m very grateful for that.”

Despite feeling completely overwhelmed by heartache, as we struggle through the very worst of infertility, we are not alone.  When our spirits cry out, God hears us.  And He responds.  “I am with you always.”

There are moments… days… seemingly endless stretches of time when we feel no hope.  When it seems as if our greatest fear will be realized: we will never have a child.  Never have another chance at joy.  But scripture says that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him….”

Mike and Kirsten withstood numerous failed IVFs and the gloomy predictions of doctors, clinging to their belief that God had planted a seed of hope in their hearts because He intended for them to become parents.

With the help of a new IVF protocol they finally conceived again.  Their twins arrived safely.  And two years later, a younger sibling – conceived naturally and unexpectedly – arrived safely, too.

If you are struggling mightily to find cause for hope in the darkness, cling to these words from the author of Lamentations:  “I remember my afflictions… and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

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If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy, click this link for support and resources.  If you are looking for help, hope and inspiration,  please visit PregnantWithHope.com.

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