Friday, March 25, 2011

fighting for joy

Gentle readers, thanks for your kind words this week. I have a lot to catch you up on.

Please understand my fear and paranoia at sharing our pregnancy news. Even now, at more-than-15-weeks pregnant, I'd love to tell you that my fears have disappeared and I have 100% trust in the Lord.

Sadly, they haven't, and I don't. Trust is something I am praying about and working on daily, even hourly. It's getting better, but I still struggle sometimes. Please pray that my trust, faith, and hope in the Lord continue to increase as I better understand his grace and mercy, and my dependence on him.

Brad and I went through IVF. We spent months praying, thinking, and seeking counsel about this decision because we are Christians and desired to go about it in a way that honors the Lord, and there are plenty of ways to dishonor the Lord with IVF. If you are in a similar situation and would like to know more about the decisions we made and the boundaries we set, please be in touch. I would be happy to talk to you and pray for you as you proceed.

To our joy, all five of my mature eggs fertilized. But by the time we made it to the doctor's office for a consultation the next day, two of the five were no longer viable. Not wanting to take any more chances with fragile, new life, Brad and I decided to transfer the remaining three embryos to my uterus that day. As our doctor said, "As advanced as science is, nothing adequately replaces the womb." We'd rather give our potential children a chance at life in their natural environment than allow any more to perish in a Petri dish.

We spent the next weeks praying fervently for triplets. One embryo made it.

The loss of all our embryos but one was rough. Of course, we are thankful that one seems to have finally acquired Brad's and my persistent natures, but the loss of four embryos, along with twins last summer and one baby in November, took a toll on us. We have seven children waiting for us in Heaven. Lord willing, we'll have one on this earth in mid-September.

IVF was physically unpleasant. I endured 48 shots in the stomach, numerous blood draws and transvaginal ultrasounds, anesthesia and surgery to retrieve my eggs, and more drugs than I've taken during the rest of my life combined. But, the emotional side was worse and I wasn't prepared for it. Maybe it's because I had already experienced pregnancy loss, but the grief of having four of our five embryos die sometimes overshadowed the joy of one succeeding. I've had to fight through periods of numbness and grief to find joy in this pregnancy. Remember what I said in an earlier post about replacement babies not existing? Well, it's true. Getting pregnant again doesn't take away what you've been through.

Of course, we are beyond grateful to God for this persistent little one, and we pray daily for his or her continued growth and development. A good doctor's appointment will put us on a high for a day or two, and we feel joyful and the fear subsides. But then numbness seeps back in and anxiety rises again. I live for my next doctor's appointment. I can't even think about my due date yet--it's hard for me to see anything on my calendar beyond the next doctor's visit. Thankfully, I visit the doctor more often than most women in my stage of pregnancy. But I have to constantly remind myself that my assurance is not in the doctor or the visit. Assurance can only be found in Christ.

Some people have asked us how they can be helpful. We cherish your prayers for our increased trust in the Lord and that this pregnancy continues to develop normally. We greatly appreciate your joy and encouragement, but we also ask you to remember our losses. Infertility and pregnancy loss are awkward topics--we get that--but ignoring them because we're pregnant now feels demeaning. Be joyful, but please don't overwhelm us with your enthusiasm, questions, or advice. Give us some time to work through our fears and to catch up emotionally. Pregnant women fall into one of two categories: those who know loss and those who don't. Because I'm in the latter, please understand and be sensitive to the fact that I will feel and act differently about my pregnancy than a woman in the former. Some things that mattered a lot with my first pregnancy no longer feel important.

As time passes, I continue to feel better on all fronts: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel more confident, hopeful, and joyful today than I was two weeks ago, and, Lord willing, two weeks from now, I'll be in an even better place than I am today. Recovering from loss and building up hope is a gradual, but steady process. Praise God I'm headed in the right direction.


Momma Fid said...

Hey girl!
I absolutely love how you articulate your feelings. You have a gift. I know you don't want but I can't help myself in this one little area. I had three miscarriages myself. I grieved for each baby and still think about them. However, pregnancy is one of the most wonderful, amazing times of your life. I remember telling people that I couldn't get excited about anything until I was holding a live child. Looking back I wish I let more joy in my heart instead of being consumed with anxiety and worry. I will pray for you and Brad and your wee one who gets stronger each day.

wee said...

thinking of you and praying for you :)

@rdweatherly said...

Rebecca, I catch a lot of flack for not being religious, not going to church, etc, but I have enormous faith. In the last couple of months, that faith has been tested more than I would have thought I could bear. Five people I know died in six weeks -- one being my father-in-law, another my high school sweetheart. My best friend has cancer. Another friend who beat melanoma before had three biopsies. My aunt is having a melanoma removed next week. A freak accident during surgery caused my cousin's heart to stop twice, and he has permanent heart damage.

More than once, I've thought I couldn't take another breath. Life has been so heavy, and I couldn't seem to get a moment's respite. And this is all just in my little world, which adds up to nothing next to tragedies across the planet.

People often say you should look at how bad others have it to realize how good you have it, but I've been sure these few weeks that I would drown in the sorrow and pain if I let any more in. I've taken the opposite approach by looking for something every day that I can be thankful for, something to smile about. Some days, I just say thanks for my next breath.

Tuesday morning, I read your blog and learned of your pregnancy, and I have to tell you that finding my smile has been easier since. That little flicker of hope, a promise of something to come, stoked my faith.

I've never wanted children. When you blogged about having such difficulty conceiving, I cried. I felt guilty for wasting a gift that you would be so thankful for. I'd have traded places with you instantly.

I can't imagine what you've been through, but I do know about pain and loss. I also know that we all have to take our joy where we can get it. Sometimes, it's like finding a cold glass of water in the desert.

Rebecca, be happy. You will never forget those babies. They'll live in your heart until you meet them in heaven. Until then, let them go. Take your joy. Embrace, however cautiously, the enthusiasm. It's the greatest gift we can give those we've lost. It's the best way we show our thanks for the gifts in our lives.

Every night, I chant to give thanks, to find peace and to remember there's a purpose to my every breath. Know that I include you and Brad and the future Vol in my meditation -- I thank you for being part of the reminder to smile because even in the darkest of days there is always a spark, I send you strength and peace to help stoke your faith and most of all I hope for you all. I hope you will realize the miracle of a living dream come true and the little Vol makes it to this world, so he'll know the color orange and two of the best parents that a little one could get.

If you need anything -- someone to listen, a hug, whatever, I'm here. Big love and hugs to you both. (Sorry for writing a novel!)

Sorry Sarah said...

This is beautifully written. In a very small way, I kind of understand how you feel. Because of my miscarriage, it was very difficult for me to allow myself to enjoy my pregnancy without losing myself in the worry of "what if..." I will pray that you are able to find peace and joy during this very special time.

Stacy said...

Howdy Blondie...beautifully said...and we are so thankful for how you share your heart and your trust in Christ in your blog! We will continue to pray for you, Brad, your sweet baby, and look forward to the day with you when you meet your other sweet babies who are with Him now. In Isaiah 61:2-3, God promises to comfort all who mourn, I pray that He will increase your trust and that you will be called oaks of righteousness, that He may be glorified.

hugs and prayers...