Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Quickly I Forget

It's amazing. As faithful as the Lord is, I am the most forgetful person in the world. Thankfully, He never forgets to remind me, just the same.

As I mentioned, I spoke to the doctor's office on Friday. I am embarrassed to say that I am very overweight. I have worked over the last year to lose weight, to increase my exercise and to develop healthier habits about food. I have successfully done all of those things, but I admit it's a struggle for me, and recently, I haven't been as diligent as I should have been. As a result of my PCOS, I'm also insulin resistant, meaning my body can't absorb or use the insulin that it produces, and so, since it can't tell it has it already, it just makes more and I get a ton of extra, which is part of why my weight is so bad--it's a vicious cycle. But God has been working on all parts of me, not just my weight. We waited between transfers 1 and 2 while I lost some weight, but we also want to be conscientious about not waiting too long, both for my sake and the babies', so we went ahead with transfer 3.

The woman at the office told me that the human body is very instinctive and primal and insulin going all over the map makes it feel like an animal that is being hunted or is dying. The first thing it does when it feels that way is expel everything unnecessary. The body sees pregnancy as unnecessary to its survival, so too many variations in insulin would cause a miscarriage. I officially started freaking out.

I spent the rest of Friday worrying about every bite I put in my mouth. Was this ok? What about that? When she said to stay away from carbs and sugar, what exactly did she mean? All carbs, or just the simple ones? And did the sugar in fruit count? And were we talking never ever again, or just in moderation? And what about the carbs and sugar I'd already consumed that day and in the days leading up to that call? The whole thing was maddening.

But Saturday morning, the Lord graciously reminded me that HE holds these lives in His hands. He knows how many breaths and minutes they each have. And nothing can thwart His plans for them. Their lives are not at the mercy of me, or my diet. One potato or milkshake cannot put an end to lives the God has designed and willed into existence.

Now that's not to say that I don't bear responsibility in the care of these babies and of myself. Just as we ought not sin with impunity just because God's grace forgives, I ought not eat with impunity, just because He is sovereign. I ought take care of this body God has given me and I owe my babies the fiercest protection I can give them. So I don't under-evaluate the importance of eating well, caring for myself, and overall being responsible. And I believe that the underlying concepts behind what she told me are true.

I firmly believe that many times, God provides us with means within our grasp to tackle our physical ailments. I believe in doctors and medicine and diets and exercise and all that great stuff so don't hear me as saying "sit back and let God do it all." But I also know that running yourself in circles of fear is not what God has for us.

I also know that my doctor's office and I have hugely different worldviews. I don't know if they are believers or not but their practice certainly communicates to me that they believe it is their job to do everything in their power to control every variable. Their perception of their job is to keep me pregnant. And, insofar as their responsibility extends within their God-given talents, they are very good at what they do and I am grateful for skilled doctors and nurses. But the fundamental difference is that no matter what I do or don't do, God has plans for these babies.

I refuse to hand myself right back into the bondage of fear that God's been so gracious to free me of. I refuse to allow my mouth and my stomach and food to wield power over my heart and mind. I refuse to live as though these babies are "maybes" and that God is just sitting there, waiting to push the "yes" or "no" button on another day of their lives, based on what I do or don't do. But man! How quick the devil was to jump in on my thoughts again, through something as well-intended as doctor's advice.

So I'm continuing to take it one day at a time. I am doing some instructive reading on the subject, and I did cut out the empty calories that were nothing more than indulgences, and I'm making a more deliberate plan of action. But beyond that, I just have to continue to meditate on the fact that their lives are in the hands of the one who created them. I can't let the enemy of my soul and of their souls enslave me and them to mistrust, disbelief, and fear. That's far more toxic than a french fry. ;)

How gracious God is being with my forgetful self.

PS: People are asking how I'm feeling. So far, about the same. I am really tired, and I'm noticing some changes how I feel, which is a nice reassurance, but nothing so far that's caused me any discomfort, for which I'm grateful. I feel different enough to feel pregnant, but not badly. Thanks for those of you who asked.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Beta Update

God continues to bless us with good news. My beta today was 240. They wanted it to be over 100. Today was the 11th day past transfer. My beta with the girls was 117 at 10 days past transfer, so this is proportionately, a stronger number. I don't know if that means anything or not, but it was encouraging nonetheless.

My insurance only covers one beta, so we won't learn anything new again until the ultrasound, which will be in 3-4 weeks. I get the date for that on Tuesday. That's when we'll learn if it's one baby or two and I think that's when I get released to my regular OB, too.

They did tell me that that aside from genetic abnormalities with the babies, my insulin going all over the map is my biggest risk for miscarriage, so now I'm trying to be super careful with what I eat and really limiting any starch and sugar. Can you please pray with me that I would make a good transition into doing that? Thank you!

Thank you for your prayers and celebration with us. We know these little lives are a miracle and we give all glory and honor to the God who created them!

And now, just for fun...I picked two because we don't know if they're boys or girls yet, so let's be equal opportunity! :)

pregnancy week by week

pregnancy week by week

Celebrating today...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

After we lost our girls, I developed an impression of how I expected to feel the next time I was ever pregnant. I expected that keep my feet up, hold my breath, and live in constant fear that the worst would happen all over again. When you experience loss, it's only natural to fear its recurrence.

So I guess that since I got the positive tests on Monday, I've sort of been waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of my emotions. I've expected fear to take over and have tried to be on my guard against it.

But God, in His never ending compassion and love and generosity, continues to quell every fiber of my heart and mind and being with His peace. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. He's truly teaching me what it means to live as though I believe that tomorrow has enough troubles of its own, and so I will rest today in Him. I can truly say that I'm not worried. And it's not that I don't think anything can or will happen. I am fully aware of the fact that God can call these babies home any moment. But I'm also fully aware that if He does, He'll fully sustain us with everything we need to walk through that loss and that He'll use it for His glory and ministry among His people.

I'm a worry-wart and a control freak by nature. So all glory is unto God for this Supernatural peace, for it could not possibly and does not come from within myself.

In the mean time, by and because of His grace, we're concentrating on enjoying the growing life in me and thanking God for each precious day we have. DH kisses both me and my belly hello, goodbye, good morning, goodnight, whatever. It's so cute.

God knows what their futures hold, and what ours hold too. We refuse to let Satan use fear and history to rob us of that confidence and joy.

Celebrating today...

Week 4

I think it's so cool. The little babies, which were invisible to the naked eye just a week ago, are now, at 2.5mm long, visible.

Here's what's up this week:

Fetal development in pregnancy week 4:

By the end of this week the round and pointy ends of your little pear-shaped baby will be slightly more exaggerated and their body will look more like that of a miniature manatee. Despite your baby not looking particularly human without any eyes, ears or mouth, the earliest developments of what will become the larynx, internal ear, and eye lens are already forming, although you’d have to be a trained expert to recognize them for what they’re going to be in the future. Likewise, tiny bumps are forming on your little embryo which will eventually be their cute little arms, elbows, fingers, legs, knees and toes. What’s more your little swimmer will have a teeny tiny tail by the end of this week-- but don’t worry, it’s just the end of their developing spinal cord! A microscopic photo would reveal what seems to be their vertebrae filling out the spine and tail. Although they aren’t bones yet, but rather, the “bone seeds” that will give rise to your baby's tiny vertebrae, ribs and sternum.

And as for why I'm considered 4 weeks pregnant, even though the embryo transfer was just over a week ago:

Pregnancies are actually 38 weeks long, but doctors count them as 40, because the good old fashioned way, women don't know the exact moment their babies enter the womb. So, you just traditionally count 2 weeks from your last period. In essence, they're a free 2 weeks.

So, you have those 2 weeks, plus the 5 days old that the babies already were, plus the week and a half that it's been since the transfer, and you've got 4 weeks :D

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm one of THOSE moms

Who's going to bore you with all the little details about development!

I find this stuff so fascinating. God truly is the author of life--Who else could create something so complex?

Week 3: Your teeny tiny miracle pear

Fetal development in pregnancy week 3: embryo in first month Although your belly is still the same size and shape as it was pre-pregnancy, a plethora of amazing and dynamic changes are taking place despite this fact. Right now your little zygote is already 1.5 – 2.5mm in size. This is quite a change from the microscopic pack of cells you had just two weeks ago. Your microscopic little one is already composed of three complex “germ” layers: the ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm. Although you could hardly see them at this point, these layers are the beginnings of your baby's nervous system and brain, stomach and inner organs, and skeleton and connective tissue. Your baby is also starting to take on recognizable physical dimensions somewhat comparable to a very tiny pear. The round part of the pear will eventually become the head and the pointy part will be the spine. Perhaps the best part of this week is that somewhere around the 21st day, your miraculous little pear will have a beating heart, although the heart chambers and valves will not be completely developed for another couple weeks.

pregnancy due date

Monday, May 24, 2010

3 Little Letters

In the last several years, God's often said "No."

Today, we got these three little letters.

Y-E-S. Three letters, so simple on their own, but so powerful and generous when put together.

It's very, very early. (We did take a few tests at different times to confirm it wasn't a fluke). But it's so early, in fact, that the nurse at my doctor's office advised me to not tell anyone until after my blood test and ultrasounds, because "things might peeter out" and we don't want to go around having to "un-tell everyone."

That's one piece of "medical" advice I won't be taking. Our God is big and generous and these lives are already precious in His sight, and in ours. I don't care if we get to enjoy and bless them for 1 day or 1 million, we are going to celebrate their lives. I shall never regret this wonderful day we've had of telling family and friends, and knowing that so many people love these babies already.

We are just concentrating on enjoying these babies as long as we have them. God knows our hearts' desires, and our worries and our fears too, and we're just leaving them at His feet and celebrating the gift we've already been given and trying not to focus on what we might or might not receive tomorrow. God's grace is sufficient for today, and for every day hereafter. He knows what the future holds and holds it, us, and the babies in His hands. We are simply resting in that.

Our blood test is Friday. I don't know when any of the ultrasounds or anything after that will be. I've tried to be SO hands-off and laid back this time around, that I know surprisingly little about the next step(s) in the process. I don't know how many beta tests he'll do. I have no idea if this doc will do early ultrasounds or if he'll release me to my regular OB, at which point, I'll wait til the standard 8-12 weeks. I have no idea when we'll know if it's one baby or two who implanted.

I do know that if it's one baby, the due date is February 1 (according to the reliable internets ;) ) and if it's two babies, the due date is early January. My accountant husband is of course hoping that the two will be a tiny bit earlier, and give us a tax break ;) Haha! Stay put as long as you want, babies dear.

Thanks for celebrating with us, and covering these precious babies in prayer. We are praising God for exactly the amount of days He has numbered for them. Please pray for us too, that our hearts would continue to be guarded against worry and fear, and that they would be fortified with strength, peace, and trust.

Love to you all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why We Chose Open Adoption

We have a very open adoption relationship with the genetic parents of our embryos, Beau and Sheila. We talk regularly, we know each other's full names and contact information, we know about each other's families (and in some cases, have met some members) and we generally approach this entire endeavor as a joint operation. We intend for our kids to know them. Their kids already know us. We intend for all of our kids to know each other, and to have as much of a relationship with each other as they want and as is healthy. Neither of us is threatened by the other family. We generally enjoy each other's company. We talk about all aspects of this adoption-our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our regrets, our desires... and we also talk about other stuff, completely unrelated to adoption, simply because we like each other.

We know that we're abnormal, even as far as open adoptions go. Even open adoptions are not usually in as much contact as we are.

We get asked why we chose open adoption, so I thought I'd share.

The background is that when we started, open adoption terrified me. Petrified. I had the picture that the media and the Law and Orders of this world paint--co-parenting or the kid runs away to live with his "other" family, or one day the other parents wake up and change their minds and take our kids away. And I'm sure that once in a very blue moon, those scenarios happen. But, they are NOT the norm and they should not impact your decision on whether or not open adoption is right for your family.

But over a lot of prayer, reading, education, and talking with a lot of different adoptive families, some open and some closed, we came to the conclusion that Open was what God was fashioning for our family.

Specifically, and in no particular order:

We never want our kids to feel like a part of them is missing. I have no contact at all with an entire side of my family, and I always feel uncomfortable with that. I feel like there are parts of my past that are just "off limits." Now in my case, I don't WANT to know those people, but I still don't like the feeling of this "other" out there. We never want our kids to have to question, "I wonder what would have happened if..." or "I wonder what I would be like if..." or "I wonder what they're like..." We believe strongly that this sets our kids up strongly with a temptation to resent us or Beau and Sheila, or both, for keeping that kind of information from them. It may turn out that our kids have no desire to know Beau and Sheila--I've heard of adopted kids who have no interest in their birth parents. But we think that's the kids' decision to make, not ours. We want to do our best to make sure the kids have everything the ever think they need in putting together the picture of their lives.

We think it will mitigate struggles with the kids, especially in their teen years. If they know Beau and Sheila, there's no, "I bet my REAL parents wouldn't do this or that..."

We want our kids to know that Beau and Sheila love them very much. We never want them to think that they were unwanted, or unloved, or second-best to the children Beau and Sheila are parenting. And even though we could tell them those things until we're blue in the face, it's different when it's coming straight from the source.

We want to have access to our kids' genetic medical heritage, if it's ever needed.

We want all of the kids to know each other.

We think introducing the kids to them at a young age normalizes it. If it's all they ever know, there's no light switch at age 18 or 21 or whatever. It's not abnormal if they've never known differently.

There are other reasons, but those are the main ones. The bottom line is that we thought that it was the best decision for our children, despite any misgivings or fears we may have had. Over time, as we've gotten to know them, God has really confirmed and affirmed that decision.

We know that things will ebb and flow with different seasons and at different times, each family or family member may be more or less able to handle certain parts of this dynamic, but that's why we think our foundation of communication and honesty is so important. When we first got pregnant the last time, Sheila was able to say "hey, I need to process this alone for a while-I'll be back in touch when I am able" and because of her honesty, we didn't needlessly hurt her, nor did she have to feel weird about enforcing her boundaries.

I want to stress that this is NOT co-parenting. Though DH and I have not had opportunity to do MUCH parenting, we have had some. Every decision we've made about medications, transfers, doctors, procedures, thawing, freezing, etc, has always, always been completely our decision. Sheila and Beau have volunteered to be a resource if we ever wanted them to be, as people who have been through this before, not as the genetic parents. When we got pregnant, they celebrated OUR pregnancy. When we miscarried, they mourned OUR children with us. We named our girls, we made plans for future transfers, we made all of our decisions, completely and autonomously (from them, obviously not from God). They are very good at respecting us and our boundaries and affirming that they believe as much as we do that these are our children.

Sheila and I know we're unusual, even among open adoption families. We know that seeing both sides of the same coin, cooperatively, is rare.

So we want to give you the opportunity to interact with both sides of the story. We want to give you the chance to ask any questions you want, and we'll post the answers here in a Q&A post. The questions can be about anything related to EA--they don't have to be specifically related to open adoption. And She and I are comfortable enough that we can answer questions that people might think would hurt the other one's feelings (like if you want to ask her something about what it was like to place with us or something like that). So, whatever you want to know about Embryo Adoption, from one or both of us, now's your chance.

To ask a question, just send me an email. Please include your question, who it's for (Sheila, me, or both of us), and how you'd like to be referred to on the blog when I write "So-and-so asked...." If you have a confidential question, note that in your email and one or both of us will reply via email. Otherwise, we'll assume it's public. Please also know that this same Q&A, in whole or in part, may be posted on Sheila's blog if she chooses.

Sheila and I are really excited about telling our story and we think God can use it to really grow Embryo Adoption. So please, ask us ANYTHING you want! :) We really are looking forward to this.

Walking Pharmacy (FET Medications)

This post is going to be very boring for anyone who isn't looking for information on an FET. However, as I am wanting this blog to also be informative for people hunting information Embryo Adoption, I want to include the information.

So unless you want the boring details on all the different medications you're on for a transfer, skip this post.

DISCLAIMER: This post is NOT intended to be medical advice or comprehensive in its information. Never begin a medication protocol without discussing it with your doctor and your spouse and doing your own research. This is informational ONLY, for those just beginning to research the Embryo Adoption Process and who want to know what to expect.

I'm currently taking all of these every day, except numbers 1 and 12, which I alternate.
FET Meds

An explanation of each:

1: Progesterone: You will likely be on some kind(s) of progesterone. In 3 transfers, I've been on several kinds. This particular one is a vaginal cream called Crinone. In previous transfers, I've taken a vaginal suppository called Prometrium. You can also get it in injection form, which I am also on (see below for more info). In every transfer, I've been on multiple kinds of progesterone. Progesterone matures the uterine lining and makes it receptive to an embryo to implant. Progesterone typically starts the week before the transfer and, if pregnancy is achieved, continues throughout the first trimester.

2. Fish Oil Capsule: I take this every day as a supplement to make sure I'm getting the right kind of Omega 3s. The kind of Omega 3 Oil found in fish is only found in fish, and I hate fish, so I take the capsules. Omega 3s are good for your health anyway, but studies suggest it's especially beneficial for mom and baby during pregnancy.

3. My Daily Vitamin: Your doctor may prescribe a prenatal vitamin, or coach you to just take your regular vitamin and a folic acid tablet on top of that. My doctor has told me there's essentially no difference. I take this particular combination because it's one of the few vitamins I've found that is in capsule form (no nasty vitamin taste!) and it doesn't upset my stomach. Your vitamin/folic acid regimen should begin well in advance of your transfer so that levels are good when the baby is introduced.

4. Folic Acid

5. Levothyroxine: Thyroid medication. Though you may not have thyroid issues, your doctor may want to check your levels before your transfer, and after, especially if you have metabolic or hormone issues (which may women facing an FET do). Messing with all your hormones can wreak havoc on your thyroid. My problem is genetic, but was not discovered until a transfer cycle.

6. Cephlex: Antibiotic. Your doctor will put you on an antibiotic for the few days before and just after the transfer, to make sure you don't develop an infection from the procedure. I've typically been on either Zithromax or Doxycycline, but in this case, I already had a sinus infection, so my doctor just had me use this one, stronger antibiotic for both. Your doctor may or may not put your husband on an antibiotic too (my first doctor did, second doctor did not). The way I understand it, it is to prevent you from infecting him if you did develop anything.

7. Prednisone: I actually take 2 of these per day, but that's my last one so it's only shown once. Prednisone is a steroid. Both of my doctors have prescribed a steroid for just before the transfer until a few days after it. It is believed that it aids in implantation, and suppresses your body's tendency to attack the embryos as "foreign."

8. Acidophilus: I take an acidophilus supplement to ease the impacts of the medications (most specifically, the metformin and the antibiotic) on my stomach and digestive track.

9. Metformin: I have PCOS, and I take Metformin to treat its ovulatory and insulin effects. If you are on it already, most doctors keep you on it throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.

10. Estrace: is a form of Estrogen. It is begun a couple of weeks before your transfer and continues through the first trimester. Estrogen is essential for your uterine lining to develop appropriately for a baby and pregnancy. In a naturally occurring pregnancy, your body would produce its own estrogen for this matter, but since your body didn't manufacturer this baby, it doesn't know to start its engines and produce it accordingly, so you have to do this step artificially until the body catches on.

11. Baby aspirin: increases blood flow to your uterus and the uterine lining, which aids in implantation. If you start spotting, your doctor may determine that your blood flow is adequate and take you off it.

12. Progesterone: I take progesterone in Ethyl Oleate. You may take it in that form, or in an oil compound. I previously took it in sesame oil, which is common. I was taken off it due to an allergic reaction. The oil is drawn up with the big needle, and then you switch the needle to the one with the blue end, which is much finer in diameter. This is the needle used to inject the medication. Your doctor will instruct you to administer it in either your hip or your thigh. It typically begins a week-ish before the transfer, and continues throughout the first trimester.

I was terrified of the shots at first, but if you or your hubby are taught well how to administer them, they're a piece of cake. Put the bottle in your bra for half an hour or so to warm it. This thins the oil and makes it easier to administer. Don't artificially heat the oil because you don't want to burn yourself from the inside. If you don't want to go the bra method, use some other form of natural heat (such as friction between your hands).

Rub the top of the bottle with an alcohol swab. Fill the syringe with air, then plunge it in to the bottle and depress the air out. Then draw up the medication, slightly over the amount you're going to take. Trade heads on the needle. Flick out any air bubbles out of the needle and plunge some of the medication out if needed. Swab the area of the skin with an alcohol pad. Pull up the area, and pinch it, HARD. Relax the muscle by lying or sitting, or standing on the opposing leg.

Put the needle in straight, quickly, and all the way. Plunge the medication as quickly as it will let you, then withdraw the needle quickly. Massage the area hard, especially if you're using an oil compound. You don't want the oil to sit under your skin because you'll get knots and bruises. I also recommend putting a heating pad on the area after you're done to aid in the same purpose of dissipating the oil. Make sure you alternate sides so that you don't develop any one area that's too tender. Often times, it's the knots and bruises that hurt, not the injections themselves, so make sure you take the time to work them out.

13. Not pictured: Birth Control. If you suffer from irregular periods, your doctor may choose to put you on birth control for one cycle, in order to be able to better schedule your protocol and anticipate when the best time for a transfer would be. I did the BC route for transfers 1 and 2. With this one, I was regular enough on my own that I was able to skip the birth control, which I appreciated greatly.

14. Not pictured: Valium. The uterus' natural reaction to something invading it is to want to cramp up and expel it. Your doctor will more than likely, put you on valium (or something similar) to relax your uterine muscles for the day of the transfer, and prevent it from cramping up and wanting to kick out the embryos and the transfer tools. Make sure you make all decisions about thawing and transfer before you take the valium, because it can be very altering. You typically take this one hour before your transfer, on the day of transfer only.

That's it!

I've been on 3 FET protocols with two different doctors and they've roughly been some variation of this. Your doctor may have his own preferences but some combination of these kind of drugs (a vitamin, estrogen, progesterone, a steroid and an antibiotic) is pretty standard. Feel free to ask any questions and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Update on Arizona Right to Life Endorsement

I posted this update on the Arizona Right to Life endorsement at the end of the previous entry, but I'm also posting it here for those who may not have gone back to check it.

It was announced publicly on May 18 that the Arizona Right to Life PAC endorsed Senator John McCain. I rather wonder that it took them so long to announce this decision, given that it was made nearly a week prior to the announcement. It inclines me to believe that they had misgivings about the decision.

As a result of this endorsement, I you to withdraw any support you may have been giving to Arizona Right to Life, encourage your friends to do the same, and make sure the organization knows why.

As a point of interest, here’s a running list of former associates of Arizona Right to Life who are distancing themselves from the organization over this issue and who have come out publicly in support of Hayworth:
Douglas R. Scott, Jr., former Executive Director
Jay Nenninger, former Executive Director
Shane Wikfors, former Executive Director
David Roney, former Executive Committee Member, Chair of the PAC
Rachel Alexander, former member of the PAC

With regard to the other criticism in my post, about Embryo Adoption, a former coworker pointed out to me that on the issue of Embryo Adoption, I should not want my fellow pro-life laborers to depart from their Catholic positions to do their jobs. Of course not and I don’t intend to communicate that. My apologies if I did. But those persons put in conflict should either then change the mission statement of their organization to omit the reference to “non denominational” or they should resign from their positions if they cannot be both good Catholics and good pro-lifers. Considering that most of their objections are not even life issues (the Catholic church makes references to surrogacy, the dignity of the embryo, the baby’s right to be born to genetically related persons, etc), those arguments should be completely left out of decisions that the organization makes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PUPO: Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise (or, the Details of Transfer 3)

Thanks everyone for your prayers! We had a wonderful day with a very smooth transfer.

As we've said before, each of these tiny little embryos is a tiny little life. Each one is fully human and fully alive and fully created in the image of God. For that reason, we don't believe in discarding any embryos for any reason, so we chose to thaw just two so we wouldn't run the risk of having "extras" or more than we were willing to carry in pregnancy.

Embryos are graded when they're frozen. Our clinic also grades them right before the transfer. In the most common grading scale, embryos are graded on 3 points: a scale of 1 to 5 grades how well/much they’re expanded (5 is high, 1 is low). A grading of A-C (A being best) grades the quality of the inner cell mass. A second grading of A-C grades the quality of the outer ring, called the trophectoderm. The trophectoderm is what becomes the placenta. So, the best rating an embryo can get is 5AA. After that 5AB, 5BB, 4AA, 4AB and 4BB are all considered very good and then the 3s and Cs, and so on and so forth.

When we went in for the transfer, they said they'd graded the embryos 5AA and 4AB. We didn't even HAVE a 5AA to start with. So somehow between the early morning hours when they thawed the embryo, and the lunchtime transfer, one of the embryos actually improved! So we're praising God for already demonstrating how precious, individual, and cared for by Him these little ones are. I really wonder what was going through the heads of the doctors watching this. How miraculous that even after being frozen for 6 years, He re-energizes them and grows them in the blink of an eye.  He truly is a God of life. Not only did these precious babies survive the thaw, He caused them to thrive.

The transfer was, in the doctor's words, "as perfect as you can get." The process is done via ultrasound. You can see the tube go in to the uterine cavity, and then suddenly there's this burst of white and the babies are on board. There's just nothing like seeing that little firework of white suddenly show up on the screen. As much as infertility and having children in a non-traditional route causes the loss of a lot of "precious moments," who else gets to say they got to witness the moment their babies entered their bodies? It gives me chills to just think about it.

Here's a photo of them right after the thaw. The bumpy mass is the baby. The "shell" is what will become the placenta. If the babies grow as they should, they'll expand and fill out the shell and break through it (called hatching).  The baby breaking through is what grabs on to the uterus, not the shell itself. So they have to break out and grab on in order to have a successful pregnancy.

The doctor did say the babies had grown expanded and filled the shell by the time of the transfer (another miracle of growth and life!) and he also said the Embryologist did what's called assisted hatching on them, which means she made a little crack/hole in the "shell" to sort of help that process along. It's actually been demonstrated to help the babies because it's one less fight they have to fight.

So overall, we feel really good about how things went. Now, we just wait and see :)

I felt hit by a bus most of yesterday. We had lunch and bought DH a bathing suit and literally, I slept, or sat on my bum all day long. The amount of valium they give me really takes it out of me. I still feel sort of foggy today--but that's just an excuse to take it easy again another day :D

Thanks for praying for us and the babies. We're really pleased with how the day went!

I'm still not feeling anxious. The peace of Christ truly does surpass all understanding. Either way, God's plan for these little lives is unfolding before our eyes and it's our joy and privilege as their parents to sit in awe and wonder. We'll know in a few weeks whether they're bound for heaven or for earth, but regardless of their next destination, we thank God for their lives, for His work and protection, for His comfort, for His providence, for His mercy, for His love and tenderness, and for His miracles.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thoughts the Night Before Transfer 3

Well, here we are. In a little over 12 hours, I'll have babies on board again...I'll be PUPO again (pregnant until proven otherwise).

I'm doing remarkably well. This whole transfer has just been...different. In part, we didn't have a ton of time to stress about it.  It was just "bam, your transfer is in 3 weeks!" That was really good. Secondly, I've been on fewer and easier hormones--that's been good for me, and everyone around me ;) But most importantly, I've just tried to have a different attitude this time. The last couple of times, I've tried to be in complete control-with my environment, with what we do, with what happens around us.  And you know what? No matter how much I stress or control, I can't determine what's going to happen. No amount of worrying is going to save their lives or guarantee me the outcome I want. So really all it does is waste time, and disobey God's instruction to surrender, and rob me and Him of that sweetness that comes with resting in Him.

My prayer this time has consistently been for an increase of my faith. Every time my mind tries to go to the what ifs, I try to stop those thoughts dead in their tracks and pray for God's will instead.  God has generously and miraculously removed all fears, and uneasiness and I am going into this with a peace that I can only describe as supernatural. So this transfer feels different, because I think I am different this time around, completely and solely by God's power, and mercy.. That doesn't mean I don't still desperately hope I get to meet my babies in 9 months, or that I won't be brokenhearted if we lose these babies too...I guess I just feel less anxious about the outcome...more and better prepared to accept whatever His answer is. We'll see if I hold true to these words in a few weeks. Please continue to join me in prayer for peace!

We had a wonderful weekend. We filled it with spending time with each other and with people we love and it was such a wonderful distraction. Even if I wanted to worry about tomorrow, I haven't had time to. We started off yesterday morning just hanging out together. We had breakfast together, puttered around our house and then went to the movies. By the way, Le.tters to Ju.liet is very, very cute. It's 100% predictable, but it's also 100% clean and sweet, which is very rare.

But, I digress. We then went out to spend a couple hours with roomie and her hubby, celebrating their move to AZ and their new home with a wonderful housewarming party. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE having her here? Then we spent the afternoon with Mike, Krista, and the kids at an Aquarium that just opened up and at dinner. It's so fun to see and enjoy life through the eyes of sweet children.

This morning we went to church, where a group of intercessors gathered with us to pray over us and the babies. Then we spent the afternoon just the two of us, and then our WWF Family (us, Winns and another church family, the Freelands) came over and we enjoyed dinner, fun, and fellowship. Now, I'm blogging, I'm going to pack, spend some time in prayer, and go to bed! Tomorrow, we'll spend the night with my parents before coming home on Tuesday.

God has been so generous in His provision of sweet fellowship, quality time with people I love, fun, teaching, and great distractions!

Facing a transfer is always a little odd, because no matter the pregnancy outcome, we're releasing our babies. Anywhere between tomorrow and a few weeks from now, they'll be either with their Savior or burrowing in me. In some ways, the limbo is easier to deal with, because the status quo is familiar. Both of the other possible outcomes are a little scary.  So it's just odd signing off on the documents to make this life-changing decision on their behalf.  Thankfully, they are in the hand of our loving God--all I need to do is sign the paperwork!

Our praises are that the medications have been much easier this time around, that God has helped us spend this waiting time well, that He's grown us in faith and understanding, that He's surrounded us with such wonderful family and friends, and that He's given us His precious peace that surpasses understanding.

The babies will be thawed tomorrow morning, probably before we even wake up. If you'd like to join us in prayer, these are our requests. Please pray for their safety during the thaw process. We are thawing one vial of two embryos. Please pray for the embryologist as he/she handles their precious little lives. Pray that our wishes are respected and that each of their little lives are honored as just that, and not as "material" and "disposable." Please pray for my doctor as he does the transfer. Please pray for my comfort during the procedure. And most of all, please just pray for our babies. Their lives are about to change very dramatically, one way or the other.

I'll sign off with 2 songs that I've been meditating on and worshiping to this week. Not coincidentally, they're both by Avalon, my favorite group. There's a power and meaning in their songs that just swells my heart and soul, and really conducts me toward the heart of God. These songs remind me of God's trustworthiness, unchanging character, and unwavering love and faithfulness. I pray they encourage you, too!

Still My God

You Were There

After the last transfer, I was pretty heavily medicated, so I don't know how quickly I'll get back for an update, but I will when I can.

Goodnight, friends. I love you!

Goodnight babies, I love you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Angie Smith's book is free, now (digital)

Recently, I blogged about Angie Smith's book. I've given it a 5 star review. Right now, it's free from Barnes and Noble in digital form for the Nook and other compatible e-readers. Go get your copy now. I'm not sure how long it will be free.

Update: I guess you can download software that would let you read the book on your computer, too.

Shame on you, Arizona Right to Life

At the risk of burning a lot of bridges, I am going to share some things about my recently-ended employment, and about a conversation I had yesterday.

The non-profit for which I worked was Arizona Right to Life, which prides itself on being the oldest, largest, and strongest pro-life organization in the state. Well, it may be the oldest, but I do not believe it is either the largest, or the strongest, anymore. I'll say this up front: I believe that everybody there truly wants to save babies. And I even believe that they believe that what they think or do is the best way to do it.

There were some things I enjoyed about working there: I got to meet some amazing people: Congressmen Trent Franks, Sam Brownback and John Shadegg, countless Arizona State Representatives and Senators, Dr. David Prentice, Jim Sedlack, Joseph Scheidler, Janet Porter, Dr. Alveda King, Father Frank Pavone,  Bobby Schindler, and other amazing people who have worked tirelessly and thanklessly doing this incredible thing of saving babies. I never would have had a chance to rub elbows with these folks if not for my position at AZRTL and for those opportunities, I will always be grateful.

I have also had some amazing coworkers. AZRTL has a terrible habit of hiring tremendously talented people and then under-utilizing their talents. But every single one of my coworkers over the past 5 years has given their best anyway, and strived to function as best they were able in the parameters they were allowed.

However, I also believe that several people in leadership there have gotten caught up in politics, to the detriment of the organization and its credibility and effectiveness.

I resigned  for two main reasons: one was due to personal conflicts with the leadership which I won't detail here. The other was because the organization refuses to get involved in Embryo Adoption and to treat embryos in dishes and freezers as equally important lives as babies in the womb.

I was the Events Coordinator.  One of my jobs was to plan the Annual Pro-Life Conference. The conference typically offers a combination of joint sessions, and topic specific workshops. The workshops can be either specific or generic, and can essentially cover any pro-life issue. Sometimes it's broad like "Abortion: Just the Facts" and other times, it's very tightly focused like, "using Social Media to promote the Pro-Life message."  Sometimes it applies to everyone, at other times, it's been specifically for one group, such as post-abortive women, leaders of local chapters of AZRTL, men, college students, whatever.

To their credit, the conference we put on last year was incredible. It really was. I think it was effective, informative, relevant, and dynamic. I know that I was a major contributor to that success, but I also know that the relationships the organization has established over the years with pro-life leaders around the country, and the talent of my wonderful coworker (the Director of Education), Melanie, were huge factors, too.

I went to Melanie last year when we were putting together the curriculum for the event and mentioned that I wanted to offer a workshop on Embryo Adoption. Embryo Adoption is without question, a pro-life issue. 400,000 embryos are in frozen storage in this country.  There are 5 options for these lives: the parents who had them created can choose to transfer, carry, birth and raise them; the parents can donate them to Embryonic Stem Cell or other kind research, all of which kill the embryo; the parents can ask the lab that stores the embryos to destroy the embryo; the parents can leave them frozen indefinitely and when the bill for their storage stops being paid and/or the parents die, the embryos will be destroyed; or, the parents can place the embryos for adoption with another couple, who will transfer, birth and raise them. Obviously, number 1 is the best option, but the reality is that some people won't choose that, and some people can't choose that, even if they wanted to. Of the 4 remaining options, only one respects the life, dignity, personhood, and individuality of the embryo: Embryo Adoption. All others treat the embryo like it is non-human, disposable, and/or research material.

So, it should be a no-brainer that it's a life issue, and that a pro-life organization would affirm this. Our boss interjected and said that the conference would not cover the issue, because Embryo Adoption fell outside their mission. Excuse me?

The mission of Arizona Right to Life is:
The mission of Arizona Right to Life is to restore respect for and promote the protection of all innocent human life - the unborn, the elderly, the chronically ill, people with disabilities and others who cannot speak for themselves. Ultimately, our mission is to preserve, protect and promote the sanctity of innocent human life. Arizona Right to Life is a non-sectarian, non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)4 organization committed to articulating and protecting the right to life of all human beings, born and unborn. (Emphasis mine)

Which part of Embryo Adoption falls outside that mission statement? No one has ever been able to explain that to me. I was also told it was too specific, which is silly because they did lots of workshops on very specific topics.

They did say that they also object because they fear it would be perceived as an endorsement of IVF. That's just ridiculous, because babies are conceived through LOTS Of ways they find objectionable, and that doesn't mean the babies that result don't need our support and protection, nor does it  mean that anyone has ever said Arizona Right to Life supports THOSE things, even though they support life for the children. Arizona Right to Life MUST learn to separate the circumstances of conception from the child's life and its worthiness of protection. Your position on IVF is irrelevant to whether or not the child who results from it is worth your advocacy.

Some have even said that a promotion of EA would result in people doing IVF JUST to place the embryos for adoption. They must not know how expensive, painful, invasive, and emotionally distressing IVF is. No one goes through it just to give away the end product. And some say it might encourage couples who might not have done IVF before, to do it now, knowing that they can do EA with their "extras." Well, I guess that's a risk we have to take in order to save the other 400,000.  And we would never say that we shouldn't support traditional adoption because it encourages teenagers to have sex. This is the same thing. It might be an unfortunate end result, but so far the data doesn't support that, and the fact remains that there are still 400,000 in peril while we do nothing.

Without ever saying it, I think a huge part of it is the refusal of the Catholic church to support Embryo Adoption.  This is purely speculation on my part and I own it as such, but a lot of the leadership of the organization is Catholic and I think they are hesitant to take a position on something that their church might still (wrongly!) denounce. But like I said, I'm just speculating. And if that's not the reason, damned if I know what the reason is, because none logical exists. Other Right to Life Groups (Georgia, for example) support Embryo Adoption, so refusing to support EA is not part of the organization's national program or creed.

I almost resigned at that time. But I thought that I would try to stay on, and perhaps change some minds, and increase the awareness about EA. But I've been unsuccessful.

Yesterday, I had a talk with one of the organization's board members, John Jakubczyk, who was Vice President until recently, and President of the organization for years before that and who has been around the pro-life movement in Arizona and Arizona Right to Life since they started. The conversation was public, in front of many other people. Nothing about the conversation was private or confidential.

The AZRTL PAC was meeting last night to vote on whether to endorse JD Hayworth, or John McCain for Senator in our state.

As long as I've worked there, the policy that was always told to me about our endorsements was:

  • That the most pro-life candidate receives the endorsement

  • That all other things being equal, the incumbent receives the endorsement for all the hard work and pro-life votes they've already offered

  • The candidate must be electable in their estimation

This policy has never (or at least, not for 5 years) been written down (until I asked them to do it recently for the new website they're designing), but it was consistently what I was told to tell people when I answered the phone, I've distributed hundreds of voter guides with that explanation, and they've told candidates they don't qualify because they've failed to meet one of those criteria.

I debated John yesterday, who expressed his desire that the PAC endorse McCain. John J is a voting member of the PAC.

To address the points above:

  • John McCain and JD Hayworth are not equally pro-life.  Senator McCain has a 75% Pro-Life voting record, according to National Right to Life. JD Hayworth has a 100% pro-life rating. The main distinction between the two candidates is that John McCain supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research (voting as recently as 2007 to expand it) and JD Hayworth does not. 25% is a huge disparity. 400,000 lives is a huge issue. One candidate would jeopardize those 400,000, the other would not. One would kill my children and the other would defend them. Make no mistake. I appreciate Senator McCain's 75% that he did get right, and countless lives have been saved due to his efforts. But call me an idealist-I want those last 25%!

  • John McCain is the incumbent. However, JD Hayworth was also in office, and so he has a voting record, too, mitigating the "proof is in the pudding" argument. Hayworth HAS taken a stand for life. Additionally, incumbency has only historically mattered when all other factors were equal. As I've just demonstrated, they are not equal in this case.

  • JD Hayworth is electable, as evidenced by the fact that he did hold office for many many years, and more importantly, as evidenced by the fact that in this race alone, he is separated from McCain only by a handful of points. He closed the gap from 22 points to 5 points in 3 months, and we still have 3 months before the election. Considering that 5 points is the margin of error for most polls, they could easily be neck and neck. And historically, incumbents with less than 50% support are sitting ducks. So there is no way Arizona Right to Life can authoritatively say that one of these two men is more electable than the other. Clearly, Arizonans find both to be nearly equally viable, so this factor needs to be removed from the equation. And as David Roney points out, for President, Arizona Right to Life endorsed Mike Huckabee. Anyone who has ever voted can tell you that candidates tend to win their home state, and Huckabee was no where near McCain in the polls. But despite those "electability" factors, they endorsed Huckabee anyway. (And McCain has donated since that endorsement, so no loss of contact occurred in that case).

When I pressed John on point one, he said that he talked to McCain and McCain had changed his mind. I literally laughed out loud. For one, our answer to that has always been "prove it." Conveniently for McCain, the issue hasn't come up for vote since this alleged change of heart. So all we have is his promise that he would do the right thing, versus Hayworth's demonstration that he DOES do the right thing.

Second. He's John Maverick McCain. Changing his mind is what he does! He's a shoot from the hip, loyalty to no one or no cause, kind of guy. What on earth makes them truly believe that this change of heart, even if currently authentic, will be lasting? "Danged fence," anyone? How convenient that we applaud the same trait that we've (rightly) blasted others for.  Even though the change is currently in our favor, it's not safe to assume that it always will be, especially with this Senator.

John also argued that if RTL endorsed Hayworth and McCain won anyway, AZRTL would lose its access to Washington. Bull. First of all, if John McCain is the principled Pro-Life man they think he is, then being ticked off at RTL won't compel him to start whacking babies. And if it DOES, then we REALLY don't want him there.

Second if he is pro-life, he'll vote that way anyway, even if he doesn't consult AZRTL. Closing a relationship with RTL would not mean he'd close his relationship with every single pro-life advocacy group.

Third, even if said access IS lost, AZRTL has good relationships with Senator Jon Kyl, Representative Trent Franks, Representative John Shadegg, Representative Jeff Flake, not to mention with countless previous officials, and officials in other states and in other governmental capacities. So even if the John McCain door closed, that by no means would bar the RTL access to Washington, or even to Congress specifically.

Fourth, it's not like the "access" is that wonderful to begin with. In all my years there, I was never aware of John McCain or his office consulting RTL on how to vote on life issues. Never did he show up to any of our events, even when virtually all of Pro-Life his colleagues did (banquet 2006, Rally 2010).  He's departed from us on life issues (above-mentioned stem cell research) so even if he did consult their opinion, he's not respected it. Yes, he's thrown some money at the organization ($5000-$10,000 per year; I'm not divulging anything confidential. It's public information). But that's the only thing detectable he's provided in the way of support or "access." Versus JD Hayworth attended and supported their events, many times.

Fifth, even if John's right, and they DO lose access, it's short lived at best. John McCain won't live forever. And even if they burned that bridge in the name of principle, nothing says that all future access to Washington would be barred. But Arizona Right to Life is not willing to take that short term, limited risk, and instead, is making the much larger and more devastating risk of telling voters that McCain is the most and best pro-life candidate, when it simply is not true. An endorsement of John McCain would throw their entire credibility out the window, which is a far larger cost than a few years of McCain not speaking to you.

John J also told me he spoke to JD, and that JD understood why they "have" to endorse McCain. You know what? Even if that's the case and JD is being kind and gracious about this, it doesn't excuse Right to Life from doing the right thing.

Arizona Right to Life has endorsed John McCain in the past. But in the past, he wasn't challenged by someone who met all of the criteria. This time, he is. The game has changed, and Arizona Right to Life needs to do the right thing and change with it. The only right choice in this specific case is to endorse JD Hayworth.

This time around, Arizona Right to Life cannot truthfully tell the voters of Arizona that John McCain is the best and/or most pro-life choice.  I looked John square in the eye and told him that he cannot say that the man who would kill my children is more pro-life than the one would not. John dismissed that point completely and gave me a look that told me he thought I was exaggerating. But as Arizona Right to Life would tell you in every other conversation, they ARE children, and embryonic stem cell research kills them.

I learned today from multiple, reliable sources that Arizona Right to Life made the decision to endorse McCain. And with that, combined with the Embryo Adoption impotence, the organization lost every last shred of credibility it had with me. You cannot be pro-life and so blatantly disregard the tiniest and most vulnerable of the lives you claim to protect.

I'm well aware that I'm probably burning some bridges, and that saddens me. I know people will think this is unprofessional and/or in bad form or taste, but I have to make the sacrifice of people's good opinion of me and honor my conscience. And any true friend would want me to choose conscience over comfort.  And anyone who cares about Arizona Right to Life or the pro-life cause would want me to as well.  I cannot sit idly by and watch Arizona Right to Life mislead and misinform voters about such a life-or-death decision. Their arguments are illogical, their evidence refutable, and their decision laughable.

As of this writing, I have no affiliation with JD Hayworth. So this position is unbiased from a personal standpoint. (Well, as far as the persons of McCain and Hayworth are concerned. As far as the persons of my children are concerned, it's completely personal). However, this issue has me upset enough that I have decided I will be supporting his campaign, with whatever time and dollars I have to give.

Why do this? I've got to stand up for my children and the 400,000 others like them, always, but especially when others who should, won't. I must inform other Arizona voters of what's at stake when making a pro-life choice in this election. I must warn them that they can't trust the recommendation of who should be and has previously been an authority on this subject.  I do this to challenge Arizona Right to Life to do the right thing and change their mind.  I do this to encourage other voters to challenge them too. And I do it to call public scrutiny on the organization if it does not change its mind.

Though the endorsement and the Embryo Adoption thing are not directly related to each other, they are in that they both jeopardize these same tiny little lives.

What can you do? If you're a pro-lifer in Arizona, put the pressure on Arizona Right to Life. Call them at 602-285-0063 . Spread the word to other pro-lifers.  You can also vote for JD Hayworth. I understand if you don't vote for him because of other reasons, but if the life issue is your deciding factor, he is the most pro-life choice. Call National Right to Life and encourage them to endorse Hayworth.

Also challenge every pro-lifer you know, including Arizona Right to Life, to become educated on the issue of Embryo Adoption and to incorporate it into any pro-life advocacy. Encourage them to put Embryo Adoption in their curriculum. Ask National Right to Life to do the same. If you're in other states, call your local Right to Life affiliate(s) and other pro-life groups and see what THEY'RE doing about Embryo Adoption.  Make SURE they're making wise decisions with their endorsements. Call them on it when they're not.

I've said all of these things to multiple members of the organization's leadership, so I have no discomfort with sharing them publicly. I did try addressing my concerns with them. In my opinion, they did not adequately address them.

If by chance, my sources are wrong (and I don't believe they are), I will publish a retraction of my statement that their endorsement is of McCain. My conversations with the organization however, and the fact that they even considered endorsing him for the above reasons, remain the same regardless of their final decision.

Updated, May 18th, 2010: It has just been made public that the PAC endorsed John McCain. I rather wonder that it took them so long to announce this decision, given that it was made nearly a week ago. It inclines me to believe that they had misgivings about the decision. I therefore urge you to withdraw any support you may have been giving to Arizona Right to Life, encourage your friends to do the same, and make sure the organization knows why.

As a point of interest, here's a running list of former associates of Arizona Right to Life who are distancing themselves from the organization over this issue:
Shane Wikfors, former Executive Director
David Roney, former Executive Committee Member, Chair of the PAC
Rachel Alexander, former member of the PAC

There are others too, but they don't have a web presence for me to link to them.

Also, a former coworker pointed out to me that on the issue of Embryo Adoption, I should not want my fellow pro-life laborers to depart from their Catholic positions to do their jobs. Of course not and I don't intend to communicate that. My apologies if I did. But those persons put in conflict should either then change the mission statement of their organization to omit the reference to "non denominational" or they should resign from their positions if they cannot be both good Catholics and good pro-lifers. Considering that most of their objections are not even life issues (the Catholic church makes references to surrogacy, the dignity of the embryo, the baby's right to be born to genetically related persons, etc), those arguments should be completely left out of decisions that the organization makes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Today's Ultrasound, and Post Mother's Day Recap

Today's ultrasound went fine. This is a standard-procedure ultrasound wherein they were to determine if my uterine lining was of the correct thickness to proceed with the transfer next week, or if they needed to do something to thin or thicken it, or cancel the cycle all together. The lining has to be just right to accept the embryo-too thin and it can't support this new life, and too thick and the baby just can't burrow to where it needs to go. My doctor did say that things looked a little thicker than he would like, but the progesterone I'm starting this week should get it right to where it needs to go. (Shots start on Wednesday--dislike!) So, we are still on track for a Monday transfer.

I'm feeling better about this transfer. My friend Heather, a fellow Snowflake Mommy, encouraged me that just as each embryo is unique, each transfer is unique, and God's plan for each of these babies is unique, so I need to go in without the fear of the past crowding my expectations. I think I remember encouraging her with similar thoughts after her first transfer failed, but somehow, it's always easier to say it to someone else, and much harder to remember when it's about you. So, thank you, sweet friend, for the reminder. I've been praying for God to grow me in faith and expectation and trust for this transfer. It's so much different than last time(s). I do pray for it to "work" but that's not the primary focus of my prayer life for this transfer, and I'm grateful to God for growing my heart and understanding.

I have pretty incredible friends. For the first time in I can't remember how long, Mother's Day wasn't unbearable.

But before I explain why, here is the back story. One of the hardest things about being the mommy to children no one can know is their invisibility, and mine that comes with it. I often find myself frustrated with the hypocrisy that pro-life people will picket the abortion clinic and/or oppose embryonic stem cell research and/or tout the line "life begins at conception" but when these little lives are actually created, or worse, lost, they're not treated like children and we're not treated like their mothers.

I was their mommy the moment we adopted them, and I'm still their mother, even though several of them have already met Jesus.  And yet good, Christian, pro-life people will still refer to me (and the general class of women like me) as a "future mother" or "not yet a mother" or someone who "hopes to be a mother." It's positively maddening! If you're going to say these are human lives, then refer to them as such! These are real human lives in frozen storage who are our living children and who need our protection and care, these are real human lives going into my body, and the ones we lost were real human lives who died!

I know there is little-to-no malice in a lot of these kind of comments. But if we're going to be consistently pro-life, we have to rid ourselves of that kind of thinking. Each and every life is precious, regardless of whether or not we get to see and hold that life.

This sort of inconsistency is honestly, one of the reasons I resigned from the pro-life non-profit I worked for. They can't get on board with embryo adoption. And I can't wrap my head around that.

So anyway, that's one of the big reasons I struggle with Mother's Day. Before, it was just a reminder that I didn't have what I desperately wanted. Then, it became this awful message that I'm just not mother-enough for me to warrant mention or inclusion in such a holiday. Don't get me wrong. It's not about the gifts or cards. It's really, truly not. It's about the acknowledgment that my babies mattered;: by affirming that I am a mother, you affirm to me that their lives exist and matter. By remembering me, you remember them. And when all you have of your babies is love and hope and dreams and other invisibles, someone else acknowledging their existence means more than I can ever possibly explain.

But, the world just doesn't think that way.  People will often say that they're the parents or grandparents (or whatever) of ___ children, and only count the born-living ones. "Happy Mother's Day" is often only said only to those whose children they have held in their arms. Innumerable babies die before birth with no name, ceremony, or remembrance of their life.  Countless women whose only children are in heaven are afraid other people will think they're weird if they stand when the pastor asks all moms to stand up. I think it's just something unintentionally ingrained in us, that we often only acknowledge what we can see. I think it's not coincidence that we (well, I!) have the same struggles with faith!

Back to why Mother's Day was wonderful. From Friday all the way through yesterday, I received flowers, cards, emails, facebook posts and text messages from too many friends to possibly mention. And I just weep with gratitude. While the tangibles of the cards and flowers are nice and I cherish them, to each one of you who acknowledged my motherhood this weekend, thank you for that, and more importantly, thank you for remembering my children.  Thank you for claiming their lives and dignities and existence and personhood with me.  Thank you for investing in me and in them, with your prayers and your petitions and your encouragement. It means more than I could ever possibly tell you. I so incredibly grateful for you and I love you all, more than words can say.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shifting (Rather, Expanding) Focus + New EA Resources

This blog has had a few identity-crises in its young life. It tends to wander as much as my thoughts do, covering everything from the mundane goings on of our life, to our progress in our adoption, and everything in between. It serves as a way to keep people we know updated on our life.

But, we also want to serve as a "picture" of embryo adoption. I get emails relatively regularly from people who find my blog in their own search for more information on it. Honestly, as much as I love telling our story to our friends and family, those are the emails I love the most, because I have such a heart for spreading the word about Embryo Adoption.

I want this to be a real picture of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the plain-old hard. But I also want it to be informative in terms of the process itself, relevant developments in research and law, the emergence of new resources, etc.

So, to that end, I will now be including more clinical type information on my blog. I will still be including our personal story, because I think that's as relevant to the picture as "the facts" but be forewarned that those of you who bore easily may be skipping an occasional post or two henceforth :)

So, I invite you to keep reading, as much or as little as you would like, and let me know if you ever have any questions about Embryo Adoption!

Resources for the day:
•Governor Brewer (R-AZ), just signed SB1307 on Friday, which is a new bill that protects the dignity of the human embryo.  It bans embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, and combining human embryos with non-human cells or implanting them in non-human bodies. It also prevents the sale of human embryos.  This is wonderful news in the effort to restore and protect the dignity of these precious little lives.  It unfortunately does not prohibit the destruction of embryos; it simply says you cannot conduct research on them. While this bill does not pertain directly to Embryo Adoption, join me in praying that the people who once planned to donate their embryos to research would choose to give life to them, rather than their remaining alternatives of destroying them or leaving them frozen indefinitely.

•Canada now has its first Open Embryo Adoption/Donation program. Click here for more information.

•The Embryo Donation and Adoption Awareness Center has a list of all Embryo Adoption programs in the United States. There are countless additional donation programs, as many clinics offer private, anonymous options.

I think that's all for now, folks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Growing Faith

I've had an interesting weekend. I had some really good reconnect time with DH, which is always good for my spirit.

I received and devoured I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith, mother to little Audrey, who died a couple of hours after her birth. The book is amazing. My review is here, if you want to read it.

Angie's net point is that after traumatic loss, joy and grief are inextricably connected. And their connection is beautiful and necessary and divine.  This was such a refreshing change from the traditional notion that they are mutually exclusive, and one must "get over" or "leave" the one, in order to understand the other. The fear and the loss of the past will always be a part of my story and my heart. But, despite the fact that I've let them recently, they do not have to dictate my ability to hold onto hope for the future.

I talked to my best friend earlier in the week (a rarity with me working two jobs, her working part time and being a full time mommy) and shared with her the thoughts I shared in my last entry. She encouraged me to consider the thought that perhaps I was looking for fear.  I thought about it for a while, but didn't really draw any conclusions. Then this morning, I talked to Mike's wife Krista, and told her what I was wrestling with. She first very practically demonstrated several ways in which this time with Mike is different than the other times, so even if things were connected before, this is not the same situation. But moreover, she challenged me to think that maybe I was just looking for ways to put up walls to protect my heart.

I took Angie's book, Kim's words, and Krista's words and drew some conclusions tonight. They're all right. I am scared. At this point, fear, loss, and disappointment is all I know of this particular journey. It's become easy to expect little from God in this area of my life. In that regard, my faith has grown very small.

We were talking in Sunday school today and Mike (same Mike) made a point to remark about how wonderful it is that faith can grow. And we can ask God to grow it. It's not He gives our allowance at conversion and whatever we spend or lose, well, tough-turkeys.  We're out of luck. But our kind God bestowed even our faith as a gift. Even that is not something we must conjure up ourselves, for we could not. In His generous nature, He gives it to us, and when we lose, expend, or hide it, He generously gives us more when we ask.

It was good to be reminded of that, and by Mike of all people, who is facing far more than I am. My faith is small that God will answer our prayers for a baby. But I can ask Him to grow that faith. His answer to our prayers for children may still be "no," but He will generously give me all the faith I ask for.

You'd think that at my age as both a person and a Christian, I wouldn't need to relearn the same lessons over and over again. And here I am. So, I've been meditating on that and praying for more faith.

I'm a lousy housekeeper. Terrible. Awful.  I hate that about myself, but there it is. When I was a kid, my grandma had this little music box in her guest room, which is where my brother and I would sleep.

This box is full of little pieces of cardstock-each one has a verse on each side and one side of each piece of paper is assigned to a different day of the year. You're supposed to read the verse for that day, then move it to the back of the stack. More times than I can remember, once I was in the room alone, I would pull this box out, listen to it play "standing on the promises,"  and then take all the cards out and figure out how they could all be in order all year round, even though there were two different days on each card.  (Yes, strange things amused me). Anyway, because of this odd fascination, I was sentimentally attached to the box and asked for it when they died.

Back to my lousy housekeeping. Tonight, I was looking for something in my room, and moved a pile of stuff. In doing so, I bumped open the box, which was under the pile, sort of forgotten. I heard the familiar tune and let it play until it ran out and enjoyed the sweet memories of my grandparents.  I was looking at the little cards, and reading through some of the verses.

In a lot of ways, the box is sort of campy and silly-- pulling verses that make no sense without their surrounding verses and putting them down anyway. For example, May 28 reads, in its entirety "Distributing to the necessity of saints. ~Romans 12:13." Well, true, it is one verse for that day. But it's not even one sentence.  And no, the rest of the sentence and passage are not on surrounding days. So, it's not a prophetic or even overwhelmingly useful tool in general. Like I said, I keep it for sentimentality, not function.

But, I decided to look for today's verse. This is what it says:

Thanks, God.

The other thing I realized is that it's not my job to protect my heart, even and especially from the Lord. It's His job to protect it, and nourish it, and build it up, and teach it. Putting up walls of fear and bitterness and disbelief really only serve to punish me (self-inflicted) and distance me from my Jesus. Who do I think I'm kidding, anyway? It's not like He doesn't see what I'm doing. The only thing it solves is that when and if the heartache comes, I'm siting out in self-exile instead of in my Father's lap.

So, I'm trying to make a conscious, child-like decision to believe with abandon, to hope without fear, and to trust without worry. And those things should remain true, regardless of our pregnancy outcome. Keeping to that will require God's help, too.   Please pray for me as I embark on this.

I feel much freer this evening than I have the last few days. And I'm so grateful. I do want to appreciate and learn from this time and stay unbound from fear and distrust.  But sometimes I have a hard time getting over my own heart to actually be that way. But God is granting that desire even in spite of me.

So, it's been a wonderful, instructive weekend. Praise God!