Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just Checking In...

Oy vey, I'm so unoriginal. I can't even tell you how many posts on our personal family blog have the exact same title as this post! =P

We went to my OB today. I think that we're coming to the decision that after my next ultrasound and/or the completion of treatment for my newest cyst, we're going to be in the market for a new OB. Part of our frustration comes from the fact that he's Catholic and we're Protestant so sometimes the differences in our approach to the bioethics of reproduction, therapies and technologies leave us feeling judged. I also feel like we don't get a straight answer in cases where he personally objects to the subject (sample collection methods, ARTs, etc). Until now, I've always appreciated that he's Catholic because when it comes to pro-life issues, I am as, or nearly as, conservative as the Catholic church and they've done a spectacular job championing the unborn where the Protestant church has failed miserably so I've often looked to them rather than my own branch of Christianity for guidance. I rested in the knowledge that we could always trust that anything he would recommend to us would be life and marriage honoring. But as we go further up and further in to this journey, we're coming to disagreement on some of the fine points, we're growing increasingly discouraged in our efforts to get solid medical information from him sans religious interpretation. I affirm his desire to practice medicine as a solid man of God but we believe different things on some pretty fundamental issues that is making it difficult for all of us to feel comfortable in this process.

Additionally, he has only been completed with residency and in his own practice for a couple of years so I think both his bedside manner and his experience with IF patients is lacking. Additionally as I've mentioned before, his practice has grown leaps and bounds since we first started seeing him in its infancy, so a lot of the personal care we valued has been exchanged for a "you're a number not a person" system.

On the other hand, I really value having a doctor who errs on the side of life. I really value going in to his office and everywhere from his literature to the art on the walls, marriage and family are honored and valued. We'll never have the experience of walking in to an exam room and finding a wall full of porn magazines, as was our experience at the specialist's office. And from a physical sense, every actual examination and my surgery have been as gentle and skillful as possible, leaving me with less discomfort than I've had with any other doctor. And if we ever did actually get pregnant, bar-none he is who I'd want to do the delivery.

I think where we're at is wanting to finish his treatment for my current cyst, and then move on to somewhere else, but in such a way that the door is open to go back to him if we ever get pregnant. But I'm a huge people-pleaser and I'm a big chicken so I don't want to leave and have him take it personally and for me to feel embarrassed if we come back in the future. So, it's a little ways away but I'd appreciate your prayers as we start to look for a new OB. I'd really love to find a Christian in a private practice that accepts our insurance and which provides the highest level of skill and care. How's that for specific ;)

The doctor did tell me that he does think I can physically carry a child. He did caution us against various risks associated with different procedures and medications bu he does think I can safely carry especially if I continue to improve factors like my weight, diet and exercise. So we were encouraged to hear that. DH was smart enough to ask the question-it had never even crossed my mind. I'm thankful that the answer was positive because otherwise I think I would have been very much caught off guard.

The end result of our meeting today is I think that DH and I are in more agreement on which ARTs we will pursue and which ones are out for us. I feel comfortable with our list. We've been in disagreement with each other about a particular procedure (which is actually the one that gives us the most chance for a biological child) and we've always said we'd defer to the more conservative opinion but I think after our meeting this morning, we are more in agreement than we were before. That's gratifying to me and an answer to prayer for me because I was the more conservative of the two of us. I think I would have always wondered if DH resented that I wouldn't try that one more thing that could make this happen for us. I know his heart and I know he wouldn't have but I think I still would have always felt guilty, though I am at peace with the decision as far as my conscience is concerned. So I am glad that we have harmony now and neither of us has to wonder if we denied the other something.

I'm also glad that we have our list in what I think is its finalized, or close to finalized, form before our next meeting with the specialist in two weeks. I feel like we're much more capable of making a level headed decision now than we were when we first got our diagnosis and than we would be if put again in a similar situation. Now I pray for the fortitude for both of us to stick to that list and if we alter it, may it be for the right reasons!

If you can't tell, I tend to think and talk myself in circles, to the point of exhaustion, so it's really freeing and a huge answer to prayer to have this particular aspect behind us.

Well I've gotta scoot. I'm going to try to fall asleep earlier tonight which means starting that direction earlier.

I hope you all are well! To my blog buddies--I'm WAY behind on catching up. I did a lot of reading today but I only made it partway through my list so I hope to do more tomorrow. Thanks for reading even though I've been a bit of a slacker! Have a great night!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Genesis 2

Our Pastor was teaching from Genesis 2 yesterday. I'm a visual learner so I confess that sometimes my mind wanders during sermons. Yesterday thankfully it wandered while still staying on topic.

The verses read were

(18.) Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (19.) Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. (20.) The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. (21) So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. (22) The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. (23) The man said, "This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
(24)For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (25) And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
It occurred to me when I was thinking about these verses that Adam and Eve were perfect and complete in this state. They had no children yet and yet God declared that His creation of them was "good" (Genesis 1:31). Not only good, but very good. The only aspect of all of God's creation to receive this added measure of God's pleasure.

Children do not enter creation until after the Fall. Theologically it makes sense that it almost had to happen this way. Otherwise we would have had a third or more perfect person(s) who may or may not have sinned with Adam and Eve. And in Adam and Eve's state of perfection, children were not necessary for labor or provision because there was no work, illness, or aging. They weren't needed to further the human race because Adam and Eve were never to die.

God did bless procreation pre-Fall (Genesis 1:28). So, it stands to reason that children were a part of the Perfect Plan, though He also had foreknowledge of the Fall so He also knew that children would become necessary once death entered the world.

All that to say that this is not a strong theological argument and I don't intend it as such. There are deep implications in both directions when interpreting this passage as a mandate or eternal value judgment on children or no children. I don't think the passage was intended to be any of those things. But at the end of the day, it is undeniable that for whatever reason, children did not enter the world until after the fall, and they became part of both our condemnation and our redemption. (Did not the Lord Christ Himself enter this world as a baby?)

No one can say how a pre-fall creation would have made that unit "More Good," and it is undeniable that children are a blessing. However, it cannot be ignored and it encourages me greatly that God, in His infinite knowledge of all that was and would come to be, declared the two-person family to be "very good."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Looking for Financial Advice

Hi everyone...

I'm looking for insight from other IF people who have been there, done that.

IF related expenses are stressing me out, and we haven't even accumulated them yet. Our insurance covers diagnostics but not treatment of IF. What that means is all the poking and prodding through now has been covered (except for my wretched HSG!--I still maintain that they should have paid me for enduring that nonsense!)--anyway, it's all been covered as they've tried to determine what the problem is. But once that is figured out, we're on our own, unless there is some other medical reason completely unrelated to conception that would necessitate the problem being fixed (which is where my surgeries for cyst removal come in). But right now I don't know if there's any realistic hope for that scenario if the doctor's suspicion is confirmed.

IVF runs about $15,000.

So does embryo adoption.

So does domestic infant agency adoption.

Any way you slice it, we're looking at $15,000 for a chance at having a child at the end of it.

That's really done a lot for our perspective. With every little luxury, we find ourselves asking "would we rather have this or a baby?" We've really cut down on our expenses and we're saving aggressively.

But this stresses me out on so many levels. First, I can't even fathom that much money. We make decent money for our place in life but it will still take a long time to save that much.

Second, it's hard for me to reconcile spending that much money when it only might produce the desired results.

Third, I have a really hard time not resenting the fact that we have to spend gobs of money on what plenty of other people get for free, including people who don't want it to begin with. I don't think about it often, but on the occasions that I do, it gets the better of me. It just gets me sometimes that this shouldn't be so dang hard. At every turn, there's a new obstacle! Sometimes I really want to ask why can't this just be easy!?

Don't get me wrong. I am not a money person (much to my husband's chagrin). I don't care about the amount. If I had it, I'd spend it on one of those three things and never look back. So it's not that I begrudge the expense itself (and certainly not the end result) and it's not like I'd sit around bemoaning all the things I could have or invest in with that $15000 instead. I've just never been wired that way. That's another of the endless ways DH and I are such a good fit--I tend to care too little about money and DH is a bit too squeaky (his word!!--his motto is "Frugal is fun!") we enjoy balancing each other in that regard.

I struggle with wondering how do you balance that with living life? We decided last year that we were going to stop living like we were in a holding pattern. We promised ourselves that we're going to enjoy this season of our life and take advantage of our childlessness and do things that we couldn't do if we were more tied down.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciated this last year of our marriage when we took that to heart and spent time traveling, sharing hobbies, going on dates and really just enjoying each other's company and relishing our companionship. I really cherish that and last year was my favorite year of our relationship. These kinds of things don't always have to cost money, but sometimes they do. Also, we both enjoy giving generously. That's really hard for both of us to give up. We want to continue making trips to see family and friends a priority and that too is hard to let go of.

It's just so hard to find the balance between so many goods!

I'm really not stressed about where the money will come from in the long run. I mean, I am a teensy bit, but I know that if God wants us to pursue one of those three options, he'll provide the means somehow. But I am stressed about knowing that we're walking the road in the mean time in a balanced fashion. Do any of you IF ladies (and gents!) have any practical suggestions? How do you maintain the balance in your marriage between planning for the future and delighting in the season that you're in? How do you manifest that in the tangible areas of life? Did you ever wrestle with the idea of committing so much money to a maybe? How did you reconcile that? Have you regretted any of the decisions you've made?

Right now I'm sort of afraid to move in any direction. I feel wedged in a valley between two insurmountable, mutually exclusive mountains. I'd really love any practical suggestions you have!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Forgive me as I blubber my way through this. I have no idea what the end result of this post but I feel the intense need to start writing down everything going through my head and heart, so here I go...

I do want to update but there's no good place to put it so I'll start with it and then get in to everything else. Thank you for praying for my illness. I am still sick but I no longer have the fever or the stomach issues and aside from some congestion and fatigue, I'm significantly better. I think a few more days of rest and fluids will see me back to my old self again and in the mean time, things are very bearable.

Back to the thoughts at hand.

Last night I was stewing and I came upon my scrapbook stuff. I've created several scrapbooks over the years, enjoying the creative process and the art of creating but relishing all the more dreams about all the stories I'd tell our children and grandchildren about us and their grandparents and their great grandparents. Last night I was feeling low and in a impulsive moment, decided that the scrapbooks didn't matter and no one would ever care about them because I'd never have anyone to pass them on to. Of the losses of infertility, loss of a legacy was one I hadn't really struggled with or considered before now. Fortunately I did not act on this and they still sit, collecting dust on the bottom shelf of my bookshelf.

Then today I sat and thought of our soon-to-be-born Godson, I cried. I was scouring the internet for patterns and how to videos for knitting or crocheting a baby blanket for him--something I always wanted to do for my own first born. But as I thought about it, I couldn't help but pour my own heart full of the thoughts I wanted to pour in to my own baby's blanket. The love and tears and dreams. I wanted to tell him about all the love in my heart for the child that may never be. I wanted to tell him how much I can't wait to be his honorary auntie. I wanted to tell him that in the absence of my own little heart to love, my heart is full for him and I can't wait to see his little face. I wanted to tell him how much I love his momma and daddy and how lucky he is to have them as his parents. I want to tell him that I can't wait to want his dreams for him and though I can wait an eternity for his heart to break, I want to be there for that too. I want to commiserate with his momma when she's exhausted and cheer with her when he says his first word or gets his first "A" in school. I want to tell him how sorry I am that we may never give him the playmate we 4 (us and his parents) always always wanted for him. (Who am I kidding-we wanted to give him a wife and seal this deal for good ;) ). That darned baby blanket does not even exist yet and already I've smothered my face in to it and bathed in my tears of both joy and sorrow.

Those tears were good. I felt like I went through a good mourning exercise as I processed my thoughts about the soft blue and white blanket that is so much prettier in my dreams that it will ever be in person, provided I can even muster the strength and skill to create it. I had in my head the image of holding that soft fabric in my hands and gently pressing my face into it to smell it and then sobbing quietly. And slowly, that image of that blanket was replaced with the hem of the cloak of Jesus. And I pressed in my face even deeper and breathed deeply of the sweet fragrance of Christ and thanked Him for his healing power in my heart.

I've spent some time in the last few days watching a Beth Moore DVD loaned to me by my sister in law. Anyone who knows me knows that I am *not* a Beth Moore fan. But the subject matter interested me so I asked her if I could borrow it and she mailed it to me. I was thinking today about how much I was pleasantly surprised by the study and even contemplating things I wanted to come here and share.

No sooner was my heart delighting in all those workings of God in the last couple days then my heart was under siege again. Out of nowhere I was thinking of those darn scrapbooks again and the Enemy taunted me with thoughts "You will never leave a legacy. Stop wasting your time. You could die tomorrow and never be missed. Who are you kidding?"

And I confess, I was weak to those thoughts and their lies and quickly I was feeling sorry for myself and for my DH. But God, ever faithful and ever gentle, was quick to rescue me...again. Does anyone ever feel like that's the story of their life? Don't get me wrong--I never want to be in a place where I feel I don't need God, but I do wish I didn't fail Him quite so often.

Anyway, He brought to my heart the song "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman. And then he brought the J family to my heart. They're a family from the church in which I grew up. I'm about equidistant between the ages of the parents and the kids in the family. S and R (the parents) mentored and loved me throughout my youth and even still in to my adulthood and I poured in to their kids. I love this family with my whole heart and they have a role in my life unlike anyone else. I can't wait to see them when I go home for visits and my heart swells with pride to see the remarkable young adults the kids have grown to be. How privileged I have been to share communion with this family! It occurred to me that I don't share a shred of DNA commonality with these people and yet S and R have left a forever legacy on my heart, and hopefully I've at least left a little one with their kids. They've set the example of love and faithfulness for me, and I realized how much I would have been cheated if I had been denied relationship with them because we're not blood related. How beautiful and rich is it that the family of God is one of adoption and not of biology! I've often pondered that on a cerebral level but tonight it was stirred fresh in my heart.

Tonight I'm tired. Open heart surgery is exhausting! But, I feel like a page has been turned and I'm filled with wonder and a little bit of anxiety and a touch of fear when I consider what this new chapter will look like. I think it's still appropriate to grieve and to acknowledge the losses in this process and to take a moment when the events of life knock the wind out of me. But I hope to begin tomorrow with a fresh perspective. I want to look for the opportunities God does have for us, instead of spending so much time grieving for the ones He has, in His vast plan, chosen to deny. I can't really remember the last time, if ever, I thanked Him for any part of this journey. I've thanked Him for the relationships I've developed such as the deepened relationship with my Sister in Law and with C from church, but I've always placed the infertility itself in its own mental trashcan, awaiting pickup any day. So, I confess this sin of selfishness and ingratitude, and those days when I think I know better. I'm thankful for His patience with me and for His precision in exacting His work in my heart. Slowly but surely, the garbage is being cleaned out, but it's been found in the filing cabinets of perceptions and dreams and entitlements and ideas and attitudes I've held on to for far too long and not in the pile of circumstances I'd mentally discarded as worthless.

I don't know what this new day will look like but I pray that my heart is filled with gratitude and patience as He reveals it to me.

I want to leave you with this song. I pray it encourages you the way it did me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Specialist Update

Thank you all for praying for our appointment today. Overall, my impression is positive.

The first praise is that we like the doctor a lot. He's very personable and seems very knowledgeable and competent. That's a huge relief especially given the personal nature of the treatment--we were really concerned about feeling at ease with him.

The doctor's suspicion is that there is a genetic abnormality. He took several vials of blood to screen for genetic and hormonal conditions. We go back in a month to review the results. From there we will come to a fork in the road. If his suspicions are correct, the next step would be a surgical tissue extraction to review the extent of the condition. If they are incorrect, he will perform additional exams to find another source of the problem. In the latter situation, natural conception would still be possible under some conditions with certain treatments. That is what we're hoping and praying for, and we ask you to join us in praying similarly, but we're also trying to remain realistic as much as optimistic so that we are adequately prepared for February's appointment.

I'm disappointed to have to wait another month before we have any concrete answers but at least we felt that the wait would be worth it with this doctor. I guess that's the price you pay for going to "the Best." I spoke to the Office Manager and she assured me that after this next appointment when we know which course we're pursuing, we can schedule our appointments several at a time so hopefully things can progress more quickly. I am a tiny bit frustrated that blood couldn't be drawn at the same time as the other tests, especially if it's standard procedure, but who knows why they do things in this order.

He also confirmed that he saw no signs of anything serious like cancer or a tumor or anything, which we weren't seriously concerned about but it's still nice to know.

Thanks for praying. Guess we just play the "wait and see" game a little longer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Specialist Appointment Tomorrow

Our first appointment with the specialist is tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:15. My best friend asked me what I was hoping to walk away with from the meeting. It was a good question, but hard to answer.

I guess my goal is that we would walk away knowing something. I'll be really frustrated if we waited almost 2 months, did the preliminary exam and a really extensive questionnaire only to arrive tomorrow to have a "Get to know you" meeting. My hope is that we did so much ground work ahead of time so that tomorrow would be productive. I know that we won't have all the answers tomorrow but I will at least like for him to have done some examinations and tests to maybe at least starting us down the road of a diagnosis of the source of the problem. I realize test results don't come back immediately, but if he at least administers some of them tomorrow, then knowing something more concrete could be around the corner. So we'd appreciate your prayers that tomorrow's meeting would be productive, whatever that looks like.

In other small news, I was really sick last night. It really just came out of nowhere. Monday afternoon I got a sore throat and I went to bed having taken some Nyquil. Yesterday morning I was ok, but tired and congested. I got home after class and lay down for a nap. I woke up last night violently ill with horrible nausea and prolonged vomiting, and a persistent high fever. The fever broke around 9:00 this morning and I went to the doctor for my previously scheduled insomnia appointment and he took a look at my current symptoms. He gave me medicine for a sinus infection. I didn't have the presence of mind to ask about the nausea and vomiting. My guess is that he'd blame it on drainage but I've never been that sick. Even smells were inducing vomiting. It certainly felt tenfold worse than the drainage-induced nausea I've had before. I did ok today, struggling again mostly with fatigue (I only got about 2 hours sleep last night) and congestion but just this evening I've been fighting the nausea again and I think a fever, too. If you could pray that I could keep food down and get over the stomach portion of this illness right away, I'd really appreciate it.

On a funny note, there was a fleeting moment when I was sitting on the floor with my head over the ivory throne when I thought "good night, is this anything like morning sickness? Why on earth am I asking for this?" I cursed my thoughts and immediately promised God I'd try to happily endure 9 months of morning sickness, but the thought amused me anyway. My thoughts quickly shifted to "good night, is this what a hangover is like? Why would anyone voluntarily do this?" Ah well. Such are the musings of a sick woman who has nothing better to do but think when in such a situation.

Back to the topic of the initial appointment. The doctor put me on a very low dosage of medication that is well established and has very little short or long term side effects, or risk for dependency. He said the only side effects are mild gastro-intestinal. I thought to myself, "You obviously don't know I take Metformin. Gastro-Intestinal Side Effects are my middle name." I resisted. However he did assure me that the two medications shouldn't compound each other. He said that the insomnia is most likely stress related from all the IF stuff because I can associate this most recent vengeful emergence with our November appointment so he wants to take it a month at a time, and take me off of it when my body is retrained and/or life calms down a little. I felt very comfortable that what he was saying was accurate and dependable, and with the big picture in mind. Tonight is my first test--we shall see how I do!

Hopefully I'll post tomorrow afternoon or evening with some productive news! We'd appreciate your prayers as we go in to this!

The Tyra Banks Show

I was so excited a couple weeks ago when I heard that the Tyra Banks show was doing an episode on Infertility. Now, I don't think I've ever seen the Tyra Banks show but I know that she has a strong presence in pop culture and I was excited to see someone breaking the silence in the public arena.

Then I read the prompt for the show:

Do you know a woman who is obsessed with becoming a mom? Have you seen and heard her struggle for years, felt her unvoiced jealously and seen her desperation first hand? Have you watched silently for too long as she gets her hopes up only to be disappointed and heartbroken when she can’t conceive? Has she tried extreme methods and spent a lot of money to get pregnant with no luck? Do you want to finally tell her she needs to stop the emotional and physical stress on her body and seriously consider adoption or a surrogate alternative? If you know a woman who is obsessed with becoming a mom and getting pregnant, then SUBMIT BELOW.

Please do not submit unless you are willing to appear on “The Tyra Banks Show".

I was so disappointed. Even the name of the URL is offensive. Mom Wannabe. Wow.

I sent the following letter to the show:

To Whom it May Concern:

I am very disappointed with your calloused treatment of infertility, as evidenced by the above description. It communicates a lack of knowledge, understanding and empathy for the plight of the millions of couples in this country alone who struggle with infertility.

Did you know that the stress infertility places on a family is akin to the stress experienced by cancer patients and their families? Do you know that the emotional process is similar to the grief experienced when a spouse dies? I think that if you did know these things, you'd never host a show designed to tell infertile women to "get over it."

Infertile people often struggle to find where they fit in this world. It's perfectly acceptable to be childless by choice, but for those of us who long for children, everywhere we look there are reminders of what we can't have. Disneyworld recently banned young children from one of its 98 restaurants. There was a public outcry that such a move was violating the "family friendly" goal of Walt Disney. In their ignorance, these people were essentially communicating that a "family" is strictly defined by having children. Subtle prejudices like this are prevalent throughout society. The American Dream is to have a house, a job and 2.4 children, right? One of the griefs of infertile people is finding where to fit when we lose our dream.

A show presented like yours will do nothing but harm and ostracize the infertile women watching. It's evident from Ms. Banks' public activism about body image, eating disorders and self esteem that she is passionate about the global community of women so I can only think that this problem has been created out of ignorance, not malice.

The suggestion that infertile people should "just adopt" is one of the most common and hurtful quips offered by well meaning people who don't know what else to say. Please allow me to share with you 6 key areas of loss experienced by infertile people:

1. Loss of control
2. Loss of individual genetic continuity
3. Loss of a jointly conceived child
4. Loss of the pregnancy and birth experiences
5. Loss of emotional gratification surrounding pregnancy and birth
6. Loss of an opportunity to nurture and parent a new generation

Adoption only fulfills one of those losses. For many, many couples, adoption brings a wonderful dynamic to their family. But for many others, adoption and surrogacy are not an option (for any number of reasons) and no amount of our fertile friends "finally [telling me I] need to stop the emotional and physical stress on [my] body and seriously consider adoption or a surrogate alternative" will change that.

Additionally, your presentation as worded perpetuates the myth that adoption is only for the infertile. Millions of abandoned or orphaned children around the world are in need of loving homes and the ability to provide that home has nothing to do with a couple's biological status. In truth, I could ask any stable family unit, "Why don't YOU just adopt?" and the question would be equally awkward. The decision to adopt is a very personal one with many facets, few of which have anything to do with fertility. Yet oddly enough, no one would ever think of asking a family with a couple of biological children why they don't adopt. Perpetuating the myth that adoption is a "substitute" for natural childbearing only hurts the cause of adoption.

Infertility is something that cannot be understood by anyone who hasn't been there. And believe me when I tell you that none of the infertile couples I know would wish this grief on anyone, so in a way, we are glad you (the fertile) don't understand. But I guarantee you that the response to a bunch of fertile people sitting up on stage preaching to their infertile friends to get over it will NOT be well received, and it will serve to ostracize further a huge community of people in this country who feel at odds with society already.

The decisions on what procedures to pursue and when in the treatment of infertility have emotional, physical, ethical and financial considerations and these considerations and decisions can only be made by the infertile couple with perhaps the input of a physician and religious leader (when bioethical concerns are present). It is not at all constructive for anyone outside those parameters, especially fertile onlookers, to try to dictate those decisions. My husband and I have a strong network of close friends whose input we may solicit. None of those people would ever think of dragging us on to national TV to tell us to "get over it." My guess is that anyone who would respond positively to your prompt IS an onlooker to the their infertile "friend" and has been left out of this loop in the infertile couple's life for a reason. I can't imagine any scenario in which someone close enough to an IF person to have input in to their journey would respond to your prompt because anyone close to this kind of situation to have seen the depths of grief would never be so insensitive.

I do applaud you for addressing the topic at all! Infertility makes the fertile world uncomfortable and so the response is often silence. However, I urge you to reframe your show in to one that is more compassionate and more useful to both the infertile people watching and their friends who are often at a loss as to how to understand their friends' heartaches.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Jennifer *****
I thought I'd post both the prompt and my letter in case anyone else was interested in contacting the show. If the show prompt was indeed written out of ignorance, we can hardly fault the writers if we do not help shed light on the situation. If you are so inspired, I'd encourage you to share your thoughts with the producers. You can contact the show here.

ETA: The show has apparently already been filmed. So I guess rather than asking them not to do it, urge them not to air it.

Hat Tip: Trish

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Small Update

I have a big praise. I came down with a sore throat and stuffy head yesterday afternoon, and so I took some Nyquil last night. I slept for 5 and a half uninterrupted hours and 3 more deep but broken hours. The bummer is that I woke up sick and that this is one of the days I couldn't sleep in and enjoy my slumber (my photography class starts today!) but I'm hoping after class ends, I can come home and get some more good sleep.

I also have a doctor's appointment tomorrow to discuss the sleeplessness and hopefully he can look at this cold or whatever it is at the same time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Specialist Update I

We had a bit of a disappointing week. We received the results from the test administered by the specialist. If you recall, our specific prayer was that these results would be the exact opposite of the results of the same test, performed earlier by a lab ordered by my doctor. My doctor had left out a key piece of information about the conditions of the test so we had a glimmer of hope that perhaps the results were due to a faulty administration and not a reflection of the actual condition.

The results of this second test were exactly the same as the first.

So, the next step is determining the cause of the problem that produces said results.

I felt a little bit kicked in the teeth when we found out. However a huge part of that was the method of notification. We received a bill with the diagnosis right on there. We've never even seen the actual doctor. This office does the test in advance so that the doctor can review the results and have something concrete to go off of at the first meeting. We didn't receive a phone call or a letter or the courtesy to make sure the bill arrived after our first appointment. Just a bill with the diagnosis right there in black and white. I called to confirm that they were indeed the test results and not what the test was checking for and the nurse confirmed that they are indeed the results. Even on the phone she was very matter of fact and not at all friendly. I guess I was just supposing that an office that deals with broken hearted IF people every day would have a clue. It's a significant, potentially life-changing diagnosis. I just think that getting it on a bill was a really crummy delivery method. My best friend did suggest that people probably don't go to this office unless they've already had bad test results elsewhere so in the initial results they're not telling anyone something they don't already know, but I still would have wished for a little more sensitivity, especially because they were partially responsible for the hope we had that perhaps the first results were faulty (it was the nurse's suggestion when I first spoke to her).

I know it's not a huge deal but it really doesn't set me up with a good impression of this office going in to our first appointment this week. I think that my frustration is magnified by my frustration with my own doctor, who also has adopted a "you're a number, not a person" mentality lately.

My DH is a good fit for me. I tend to care too much about bedside manner and he doesn't seem to care at all about it, so hopefully between the two of us we can come out with one balanced opinion. :)

We'd appreciate your prayers especially as we go in to this appointment this week. I've been willing and wishing for it to come for more than a month and now it's almost here and I'm filled with fear about the "what ifs?" Fortunately we have some nice distractions between now and then. We've got a Packer Victory to celebrate ;), lunch with my MIL tomorrow, a seminar with my BIL and his wife, and the start of my photography class, all before the appointment. I'm hoping those diversions will help the week to go quickly!

I know that perfect love casts out fear. And sometimes I'm afraid to voice these fears because they reveal my lack of trust and faith. And I hate that because I don't want to lack trust. I want to be wholly confident of God's good will and pleasure in my life. But that part of my heart is still so full of desire for a baby that I'm fearful that perhaps that desire and God's will could be mutually exclusive, and I don't know how to accept that, much as I want to. And I don't know how to find the balance between praying that it isn't so, and telling Him, "Yes, I'll love you, no matter what." Praying simply for "His will" seems empty and hollow because my heart betrays me. I want to want and do the right thing, but my flesh is weak. May His power be perfected in my weakness! That's certainly the only way I can envision any good coming from this.

I'd still appreciate your prayers for rest. I did get a lot of hours of sleep this weekend but they were broken up and I still don't find myself rested. We missed church for the third week this morning because my body physically ached too much from fatigue to get up. (I had several 4:00 and 5:00 am nights this week resulting in only 3 or 4 hours' sleep when I just could not fall asleep). I finally got up at lunch time and was able to do some grocery shopping tonight, but it took 3 hours and a lot of help from my husband because I was moving so slowly and stiffly (and in my defense it was our big, once a month trip so it usually takes a least half of that three hours). Anyway, I'm hoping the lengthy hours of rest will at least relieve some of my fatigue and that the busyness of this week will force my body to fall in to a more normal activity pattern that will produce more normal rest patterns, too. I may go to a doctor about a short term sleeping medication if I can't figure out something that will work because I'm at my wit's end with this fatigue. So, I'd really love your prayers that this cycle of insomnia would be broken!

Of course it is now 1:26 am and I am wide awake after tossing and turning for more than an hour in bed, but in the interest of at least producing the best possible chance for rest, I shall bid you all goodnight and return to my sweetly (though not quietly) snoozing husband.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review: Inconceivable-Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility

I've just finished reading Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility. Inconceivable is a 200 page autobiography of one Christian woman's journey through infertility and failed adoptions.

I'm rather at a loss for words when deciding what to say about this book. My overall impression is that it's pretty benign.

My first critique of the book is the cover. They say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but the cover illustration is so dark and brooding that I initially held off opening the book, thinking it was going to be depressing. The cover is really a minor issue but contributes to my overall ambivalence about this book.

One perplexing thing is that she says in her forward that her book is designed for people who have reached the end of their IF journey. However, I didn't really find anything she said to be audience-specific. Even if we were at the end of our IF journey, I'm not sure that I would have read anything differently and at no point did I feel she was addressing something that I couldn't understand or relate to.

The title of the book gave me hope that the author was going to give some practical, biblical insights in to finding peace. However, the book is so largely introspective and autobiographical that there is little room for actual instruction. This may not have been her intent, but it's certainly what the title communicates to me.

The author is a skilled wordsmith. Her prose is very conversational and easy to read. I read the entire book in the spans of several hours.

But at the end of it, I was left wondering "what's the point?" The book was almost like a blog. It was one woman's personal story with her own experiences, long narratives full of details about doctors, adoptions and church, and recordings of internal dialogues. When reading someone's blog (this one included, I know ;) ), sometimes the author's thinking helps you learn something about yourself or a new way of thinking about things, and sometimes you're invited in for discussion, but generally their (blogs) overall usefulness stops at helping you get to know the author on a personal level. Interesting, but not really helpful for much else beyond the author's life. And that's ok. That's what they're designed for. I guess I expect more from a book I purchased.

There's nothing wrong with the book, I just found myself pretty unaffected by it. As I said, she writes well. Her story is touching and she definitely knows the pain of this journey. Anything she said related to God or scripture was sound so I don't think this book is a negative contribution to the IF world. I just think it's pretty neutral on the usefulness scale.

I did find one particular passage beautiful and I wanted to share it. Toward the end of the book, the author is trying to reassure women that their purpose on earth is not confined to their genetic reproduction and she writes:

The truth is, you were created to sing. God has placed music within yo uthat is unlike the music of anyone else. No one else your particular view of life--your unique blend of character and experience. You were created for a purpose--you were meant to release your music as a gift to the world.

pg 200
I didn't find that particularly revelatory, but I thought it was very poetic.

I know my reviews are usually pretty lengthy and detailed but honestly, I just don't have much to say about this book. The bottom line is that if you're looking to walk through an IF journey with someone who has been there, then this would be a good choice. But if you're looking for any more than that, especially anything heavy on the teaching or personal challenge level, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Book Review: The Infertility Companion

I've been so excited about reviewing this book but have made it a policy to refrain from reviewing or recommending a book until I have completed it so I've had to wait. I finished it last night.

The Infertility Companion: Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility (Christian Medical Association) is a book that is part almanac, part dictionary, part personal testimony and part Bible teaching and study. It's written by an Infertility Doctor and an Infertility Patient.

I'll start with my critiques because they're pretty minor. My biggest complaint about the book is that for some reason I've not quite put my finger on, DH and I both found it visually hard to read. I can't decide if the text is smaller, the leading is smaller, the characters are closer together, the lines are longer or if it's because the pages are gray and not white, but I found it hard to read more than 20 pages in one sitting before my eyes were too tired. I've never experienced that with a book before and I'm quite confident it wasn't the content that made it hard to read so I'm quite befuddled. At times I was frustrated because I wanted to continue reading but couldn't comfortably do so. So, I know I've been talking about this book for weeks-don't be dismayed by how long it took me to complete it. It's not much longer or more difficult than any of the others--it's just typeset in an odd fashion.

My other critique is that the book is littered with one paragraph personal anecdotes from various people that I found distracting on almost every occasion. I struggle to see their purpose and at times, was frustrated by the incongruence that occurred when the anecdotes interrupted the primary authors' train of thought, with little explanation as to why they were offered in the first place. The primary text is stronger when one skips the interruptions (though for thoroughness' sake, I did read them all).

However, those two, minor things encompass the totality of my complaints about this book.

What I love about this book is how straightforward it is. This is not to be confused with authors who are insensitive. This book just lacks the emotional aspect of a lot of the other books, which my DH especially appreciated. He felt much more comfortable reading this book than reading some of the others I speak highly of, including ones I've recommended here. The book reads largely like a textbook on infertility, if such a thing could exist given the diverse nature of individual experiences. However, it is very conversational and approachable in tone-not at all dry and difficult to read like the mention of a "text book" would suggest.

The authors write with one voice and do an excellent job at it, which I think lends itself to the "neutrality" of this book. It's not a book by women for women, or men for men. It's a book for a general audience, which I think is rare in this particular genre of texts.

The book spends some time on the interpersonal aspects of infertility, including the patients' relationships with themselves, with each other, with God, with their friends and family, with Christendom and with the general public. It also address such things as parenting after infertility, secondary infertility, childlessness by choice, and responding to well meaning advice.

Perhaps one of the most instrumental things I've read in any book on the subject was in the authors' chapter on myths of infertility. In response to the myth "If you adopt, the pain will go away," the authors cited another author who identified six key losses that are rooted in infertility:

1. Loss of control
2. Loss of individual genetic continuity
3. Loss of a jointly conceived child
4. Loss of the pregnancy and birth experiences
5. Loss of emotional gratification surrounding pregnancy and birth
6. Loss of an opportunity to nurture and parent a new generation

pg 29

How freeing it was for me to read that it is perfectly normal to mourn the loss of pregnancy--a need that will never be met through born-child adoption! I've already shared this with a few other people because it was so instrumental to me to identify the various types and sources of grief and loss. I wish I could put it on a flyer and distribute it to the world and maybe then people would cease looking for trite things to say or ways to help their infertile friends "get over" this loss!

The rest of the book, however, is what I found most useful. It's an explanation and bioethical exploration of the tests and procedures common in the treatment of infertility. It covers everything ranging from sample collection to examinations to medications to surgical procedures. The authors are quick to confess their own limits and biases, but even with the procedures with which they don't agree, they highlight the benefits along with the risks. I appreciated this neutrality. They are also careful and responsible to state that their opinions on anything that falls outside the bounds of clear scriptural teaching and/or does not jeopardize innocent life is their own opinion and not gospel truth. On the other hand, where something does violate clear scripture or the sanctity of life, they are firm in stating its inappropriateness for the committed Christian (examples would be fornicating to produce fluid samples or children, selective reduction abortion, etc). In some cases (IVF for example), they are very helpful in helping the reader understand the limits they should place in order to keep the procedure one that honors God and human life. Where Catholics and Protestants might differ, they offer information and resources for both worldviews.

I appreciated how respectful the authors are of opinions that differ from theirs when it comes to matters of interpretation. There is no condemnation-only simple, undecorated statement of their opinion and where applicable, medical and scientific facts. They do not pressure the reader to come to the same conclusions and as I mentioned, are generous in even offering the benefits of procedures that they would not choose for themselves.

They offer a very useful grid for evaluating the ethics of reproductive technology. They have borrowed the framework from a secular textbook and offer it as being both useful and consistent with a biblical worldview.

The four principles are:

Beneficence-to do good. Thus, we ask, "Does it do good?"

Nonmaleficece-to do no harm. We ask, "Does it avoid doing harm?"

Autonomy-the patient has the right to make decisions about care rendered to him or her. We ask, "Does it respect self-determination, the patient's right to decide for him- or herself?"

Justice-fair, equitable, and appropriate distribution of social benefits and burdens. Our own definition of justice goes beyond this definition to ask whether something seeks what is right or due the patient in a given instance. So we ask, "Does it give what is right, due and equitable?"

pg 171
So long as the reader retains honesty careful grounding in scripture when answering the questions posed in this construct, I found this to be a very useful and practical framework.

The book also has quite a few extra curricular resources. The end of each chapter has discussion questions for the reader. I suppose with some moderation, they could be good prompts for a group discussion as well. The appendices of the book include a scripture-based workbook of questions and exercises for each chapter, an infertility medical workup worksheet, the Christian Medical Association Statement on Reproductive Technology, an IF glossary with common vernacular explanations, a list of resources and complete citations for all of the studies, interviews and writings cited in the book.

The book is very well cited. Each time the authors mentioned a clinical study, a public statement by a group or committee, a medical fact, and even in some cases a hermeneutic explanation, there was a corresponding citation. This set me at ease that the things that I was reading were true, or at least easily verifiable. It also gave me a place to go if anything piqued my interest to the point of wanting to seek out further information. I appreciated this responsible treatment of a lot of things that are offered as "fact" in a world full of questions and controversy.

I will confess that I did not complete the workbook or discussion questions yet, and am not sure if I plan to. However, I did read through them and found them relevant and thought provoking.

The book is like an encyclopedia insofar as there may be portions (even large ones) that are not relevant to you if you are not considering a certain procedure or class of procedures. I did read the entire book so as to have a firm understanding of it, but I admit to times when I had trouble staying interested in subjects that are not a part of our journey. I will say that the book can easily be read in sections or chapters. If you skip a section that is not relevant to your journey, I do not think it will make the rest of the book unreadable and I think you would still benefit. Each chapter can stand on its own and be contextually accurate and understandable. However, the book also feels unified enough to be read through as a traditional chapter book.

There is a ton of clinical information in this book, which distinguishes it from other books in this genre. For that reason, it's a lot more difficult to retain all of the information in the book than it is with other books that are more narrow in subject. For that reason I think this book is most useful when consulted many times, especially the subjects of particular relevance to the reader. I know I shall have to read through the details of some of the Reproductive Technologies several times before I feel I have a firm grasp on them but again, that selective reading is very possible in a book structured this way.

This book is an excellent resource for infertility patients. I'm not sure it's useful for pastors, friends and family or doctors, but I suspect it was never intended to be. This is not your typical infertility Bible or personal enrichment study, so I would not add it to my library in lieu of books that are more personally challenging, but it is an excellent academic reference resource, which is especially useful in a world where the sheer volume of facts and anecdotes can be overwhelming.

Library Update

There wasn't much interest in a lending library so I'm not going to organize anything structured. But, if you're a reader of my blog and want to borrow one of the books I review, just let me know and I'll be glad to send it out to you, with the strong request and understanding that you mail it back when you've completed it. You can email me through the link on the right. I own all of the books I've reviewed. I do not have any of the movies or music to loan, and the magazine articles are usually available online and I try to link to their text.

Bad combination: Exhaustion and Insomnia

Just a little update on the fatigue I mentioned the other day. Right now I'm struggling with being as tired as I was, but not being able to sleep at all. When I'm alone with my thoughts it's hard to keep my mind from racing. They're not always worries--sometimes it's curiosity, ethical dilemmas, prayers, memories but night time seems to be the time my mind and heart runs wild with the "what ifs" and "maybes" of this journey. And no matter how hard I try, I can't will myself to stop thinking! It's frustrating and exhausting because it exacerbates the problem of feeling too tired to do much. It also heightens my emotional sensitivity which I'm sure doesn't make me much of a good wife or friend. So, your continued prayers would be appreciated.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Just checking in

Thank you to all of you who have checked in on us in my absence of posting. I hope this finds you enjoying a Happy New Year.

I haven't posted for lack of anything profound, interesting or even new to say. I realize that what I say is not always or even usually profound, but I would so much like it if I had something to say today that was different than what I said yesterday. Methinks I'm just supposed to sit and stew in the current state of affairs and really internalize those lessons that are oh-so-easy to write about, and less so to actually adopt.

DH and I spent most of New Year's weekend sleeping. I don't know if it was just the cease in the emotional momentum but a few days to ourselves came along and "Wham!" we were both more exhausted than we could remember having been. We literally slept most of the day and most of the night of all of our 4 days of time together. Part of me was a little disappointed that we weren't out conquering the world together, but I am so glad for the rest, especially for DH. We did spend a few hours of every day shutterbugging--you can see the pictures by clicking on my flickr collage ----> DH picked up the other camera has now caught the bug too and so that was a lot of fun for us both.

I'm a little worried about me. I'm so tired all the time. I sleep a lot, and I have a hard time getting up the energy or motivation to do anything. Then the amount of work that piles around me overwhelms me even more and the cycle perpetuates itself. I just want to be released from this. I hate feeling exhausted all the time. The last of our birthday parties and functions have finally ended today so I'm hoping to get back in to the gym routine I established before my brother's fire and I hope that will help me. My sister in law suggested that it could be some depression but I don't feel sad or worried--it's just that I'm so weary! So I'd love your prayers for release from this. Thankfully, I have a DH who is patient with me!

There's nothing really to report on the visit to the new doctor's office. We went and turned in the ridiculously long (and personal) questionnaire and gave the sample for the test, and now we just wait. I don't know if they'll notify us of the results over the phone or if the doctor will tell us when we see him later in the month.

DH has asked me to keep specifics of the current problem we're trying to address private so I'm going to try to honor that by speaking vaguely while asking you for specific prayer requests.

Would you please pray that the results of this new test we just took are exactly the opposite of the first test of its kind that we took. An affirmative answer of this prayer would take a miracle and we're asking for one.

Would you also pray that if the results are the same, that the doctor would swiftly find the cause of the problem. Would you also pray that it would be a cause that can be easily fixed in such a way to restore the broken parts to proper function. Please also pray that whatever the cause is, is not indicative of a more serious, health jeopardizing problem.

Whether a problem never existed and the tests were wrong or if there is a problem but it is corrected, it is our heart's prayer that we would be able to naturally conceive a child that is biologically ours.

We know these requests are big and specific and we know that God's answer could be "no" but at least we ask.

Would you also pray that if the answer to all of the above is "no," that we would be given wisdom, guidance and unity on what procedures, if any to pursue. One book we are reading suggested that we outline which procedures we are ethically comfortable with before we need to make a decision so that they can be as objective as possible. We are so far from knowing what we may need to do medically and we still lack a lot of specifics about our diagnoses so it's hard to make all the decisions but we have at least started. There are a couple ideas that excite us a lot and a couple others that right now we are not in agreement on (and I think for the first time ever, DH is the more liberal of the two of us on one issue in particular!--that's been interesting!) So we would appreciate your prayers for harmony and peace.

We also pray that through it all we would make decisions that honor God and honor life. We pray that this doctor (whom we don't know to be a Christian) would honor our commitments and help guide us in a way that is supportive of that, rather than in a manner that attempts to persuade us toward something else. We pray that we would have all the relevant facts to make our decisions and that they would be made available to use in language, relevance and ramifications we can fully understand.

We pray for protection of our hearts. We pray that fertility would not become our god and that above all, we would seek and Honor God and His will for us, whatever that may be.

Have a great week, everyone!