It’s Just God’s Way of Showing You…

Consider this a fair warning type of post. It’s a rare complaint/whine from me, actually. The only comment I’m not fielding very gracefully is, “God is just showing you that he didn’t need you do IVF.” Here’s the fair warning part of the post: I will respond less than tactfully that God didn’t need us to do IVF the first eight times we got pregnant, either, and look how those turned out. Then I will smile and change the subject. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

I have heard this well-intentioned statement from a lot of people, and most of them are people that I love dearly. When I told one of my favorite people on the planet about how I was reacting to this, her response was exactly what I tend to think: “No, I almost think you had to do IVF; you had to be willing to do everything. I think that God is showing us he has a tremendous sense of humor and irony.” I love that my friend isn’t afraid to admit that God clearly has a sense of humor (he created me, after all), and he seems to have a flair for the ironic as well. I actually think God laughs when we attribute grander meanings to our circumstances. “That’s just God’s way of saying you’re going to have a boy.” “That’s just God showing you that you should be nice to short people.” “That’s how God shows us that artichokes are the perfect food.”

Of course those are ridiculous examples, and of course there is grander meaning to our circumstances, but I don’t think we know what that grander meaning is most of the time. I think that we rarely guess correctly when we try to guess how every circumstance fits into God’s plan. I think we might even be frustrated to know the answers most of the time; we’d probably be disappointed to know that our suffering wasn’t used as directly as we hoped. God has yet to tell me directly exactly why we had to have nine miscarriages to get to this point. I have no doubt that he has used our circumstances for his glory, but I don’t know why we had to endure all of what we’ve endured. No one does. We may never know.

What I do know is that to claim that this pregnancy is evidence that God didn’t need us to do an IVF cycle or didn’t use our IVF cycle for some part of his plan is malarky. It also trivializes our loss, not just the IVF pregnancy, but each of the eight miscarriages preceding that one. While that is certainly not the intention of my personal prophets, it is the emotional effect of their proclamation. Obviously, God didn’t need for us to do IVF to have a successful pregnancy; just as obviously, it wasn’t God’s plan for us to keep the previous pregnancies. Beyond that, I have yet to meet anyone who has the details about why those things happened the way they did except to say that God has a plan that we can’t always see or understand. That’s just God’s way of showing me that I have to trust him through every trial and every circumstance.

Period. End of Discussion.

This was the title of the post that was running around in my head last week. It was going to say that I hate the period after a miscarriage. As if the miscarriage wasn’t loss enough, you spend the month (actually, the rest of your life) after trying to cope and return to some sort of normalcy when you are hit with the ultimate normalcy of your next period. Maybe I’m weird (okay, there’s no maybe about that one…) or alone in this feeling, but the period after a loss can be harder to cope with than the moment of the loss itself; you can autopilot through a few weeks or even a month, and you can imagine that there was some sort or mistake in the lab work – or that it was all a nightmare that you’ll wake up from – until you start your period. (Squeamish folks/guys, skip to the next paragraph now.) Nothing feels more final or fatal than blood when you lose a pregnancy – it’s a constant, graphic reminder of your baby’s death. The return of a normal cycle just nails the coffin shut on your dead dream with the same bloody fatalism.

Here’s the rest of the story this month. Generally, I am only moody when I’m extremely stressed or my hormones are running amok, and my expression of moodiness is either to be angry at everything for no apparent reason or to cry at everything, also for no apparent reason. This was how I felt Monday last week, along with all of the general aches and pains associated with periods, so I consulted the calendar and discovered that I should be starting at any point. By Thursday, I was beyond cranky, so I decided to psych myself out with a pregnancy test – I could take it, see that it was negative and my imagination was running wild, and then feel free to start my period. God clearly has a sense of humor. That was the fastest changing, darkest line we’ve probably ever had on a home pregnancy test. I had just been waiting for my period to start so I could start taking the pill again so we could do the second opinion appointment so we could have a better idea of what steps to take next so we could… apparently watch God laugh at our attempts to plan.

I really considered not telling anyone, including my husband, until sometime next week. If it didn’t work out, I would only be a week late starting, which would probably not be all that unusual after an IVF cycle. As the opening paragraph indicated, I was already set to be a grump anyway, so who would notice if I was more of a grump? If it did work out, then I’d be far enough along to confidently yell “Surprise! We’re pregnant!” at random. You may be wondering why I considered not sharing this at all since I’ve been pretty open about everything we’ve dealt with. Honestly, I felt a little embarrassed. We spent the last two months dealing with IVF and another pregnancy loss – how could we have let yet another pregnancy happen? How could I possibly tell anyone without feeling like an idiot? I even hesitated to go to the doctor’s office on Friday. The staff would surely think we were nuts, and it’s hard to date a pregnancy that happens the cycle after a miscarriage, so… There were a million little nagging thoughts like that.

Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The nurse gave me several huge hugs, and the lab tech drew a souvenir pig on the test (I told her about inheriting my grandmother’s pig collection since they had pig stress balls to squeeze for blood draws last month…) which the nurse brought out and gave to me. My friends have been just as surprised as we were, but they have been amazing and supportive – as if I should expect anything less! You guys are awesome! My mom may win the best response award this time. She decided that we are having twins – one for me, and one for her. When I said Steven may not like that idea, she amended her decision to triplets – one for me, one for him, and one for her. I think there was a “Friends” episode like that: “There are three of them – surely they won’t miss one…”

The blood work Friday looked really good. The progesterone level was good, and the hcg level was 263, which might be the highest first test we’ve had. I know it’s the highest first level we’ve had in the last few years. If all is well, by Tuesday’s re-check, the hcg level should be at least over 600, and maybe even close to 1000. I’m hoping for 1000 tomorrow because that would be the best-possible-case scenario. It looks like we are right at five weeks, and this is where we always run into trouble. Right now, everything looks great, and I am hopeful that I have faced my last post-miscarriage period. Right now, I have no idea what God’s plan is, but I have no doubt he’s in control of every circumstance, regardless of the outcome. Period. End of discussion.


Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is not my favorite day to deal with, and this year it had the added sting of following so closely behind a loss and sharing the date with my birthday. I have often skipped church on Mother’s Day to avoid dealing with it – the awkward (for me, anyway) invitation to stand as an acknowledgement of achieving motherhood, the awkward (for me, anyway) gift that I can’t gracefully accept or decline without losing it a little, and the simple recognition of a day that I can’t really participate in even though I have children. It’s just not the same, and it’s a reminder of loss and unattainable dreams. The absolute hardest Mother’s Day church service is definitely baby dedication. It’s a sweet tradition – if you’ve had babies to dedicate – otherwise, it’s a good day to sleep in.
This year, there was no baby dedication during the service, and we decided to brave it. (Actually, I decided to try it, and my sweet husband who wouldn’t have been too affected by the day agreed to support whatever I felt like I could handle…) There was no extra standing ovation for the moms present this year, but there was a request during the greeting to hug a mom near you while greeting the people sitting around you. In the choir loft, mass hugging ensued, but I noticed one of our sweet older ladies on the back row had tears forming in her eyes while she tried to keep her face still. She and her husband have been married for over fifty years, and they never had children. She’s never told me so, but I get the feeling that she probably lost at least one pregnancy; she’s told me that people her age just don’t talk about things like that. I went over to give her a special hug, and she said, “It’s just a hard day.” I said, “I know” and spent the next song trying not to cry when I realized what I needed to tell her after the service.
After church I caught her in the ladies robing room before she had a chance to get out into the crowd so I could tell her this: “You are just as much a mother as anyone else here today who actually gave birth. You count today for all the time and love you have put into the lives around you – including mine. You are a mom, and you deserved a special hug today and to know that.” We were both crying by then, and she said, “It’s so nice to hear that you count.” It is nice, and it’s hard to feel like you count on a day like Mother’s Day when you have failed the simple biological task of becoming a mother. You feel like you shouldn’t count because you failed. It’s silly when viewed logically, but that’s the emotional toll.
I had the honor of helping another hurting lady through that day, and I was reminded less than five minutes later almost word for word by a sweet friend that I count for the same reasons I gave my choir buddy. Mother’s Day was still not an easy day for me, but it was a sweet reminder of how the body of Christ should work: serving and being served, building up and being built up, encouraging each other in love.


I say quite often that patience is not my strong suit. I won’t say that anymore. There is a long-standing “joke” among Christians that you should never pray for patience because God will give you opportunities to use it. Ask any group at any church what happened when they asked God to give them patience; they didn’t suddenly, mystically reach such a zen-like state that Buddhist monks were jealous and asking for pointers – they encountered circumstance after circumstance that tried their patience – a baptism by fire, if you will. We silly humans expect that if we pray for peace or patience that this brilliant light accompanied by an angelic “ah” chord will signal to us that we have received the requested virtue. God, on the other hand, likes for us to experience firsthand the results of said requested virtue by putting it into practice – usually immediately.

It has taken me years to accept peace and patience from God, but this last month has proven that I am finally getting it through my thick skull. We had a follow-up appointment last week with the fertility specialist. I was expecting him to say something along the lines of “your egg quality isn’t very good, so we just can’t expect a better outcome in the future.” I had been bargaining with God for an if, then result – a clean answer to move on and give up trying ever again to carry my own child. Even though my husband and I had carefully avoided discussing possible courses of action until we went to this visit, I was fully expecting to hear that we were done pursuing this route. As much as I had told myself that it would be a good answer – a definitive directive to go forth and adopt – I couldn’t deal with the thought of never, ever having a successful pregnancy, of never, ever having those special moments with my husband of feeling the baby kick or seeing our baby on an ultrasound picture while we both pretended we knew exactly what we were seeing in the grainy picture on the monitor. So, I put all thinking on pause for a few weeks until we went for the follow-up, knowing that after that visit, my soul would be crushed, and I would grieve more for the loss of that dream than for the loss of our last pregnancy.

In retrospect, I should have known from our medical history to date that there would be no such clean answer. Our doctor still has no idea why we can’t maintain a pregnancy, and he has recommended a second opinion visit with another doctor. As the doctor said, he feels like we’ve done everything we can to determine what the problem is, but for our sake he hopes another pair of eyes will find the magic bullet. I’m sure that for a doctor it’s hard to hope that you were wrong and that another doctor will solve the problem, even when you’re sure you’ve done everything in your power and doubt that there can be any other answer. That’s humility and love, and that’s why this entire doctor’s staff is so great at what they do.

Obviously, patience and peace have been two of the things I have begged God to give me, and I know that he has because of my response to last week’s news. We still have no indication that there is actually a problem, and we’re going to see another doctor who will not likely have anything to add to that statement. I’ve been waiting for that lack of knowledge to send me into a raging bull state of mind, but I’ve been surprisingly settled with the lack of answers. It felt like mercy to find that although I may not be able to carry a child for no apparent reason, the dream isn’t dead. We had already decided to table any further action, whether it’s IVF or just trying again or adopting, until at least the fall, so this doesn’t change that decision to pause for a while. We’ll go to the new doctor in a few weeks, and we’re investigating adoption agencies and options. We’ll wait, and we’ll know that we have the peace and patience to wait calmly and expectantly for God to direct our next steps.