renewed hope.

It amazes me how quickly we can pull our eyes off of Him, without even realizing it, and fall into funks! Man! I was overwhelmed (in a GREAT way!) with the amount of comments, messages, IG messages, emails and texts received as soon as I posted my last post. Your words literally made me realize how the devil had taken a hold of my attitude and OF COURSE he would be sneaky enough to pull me down without even realizing it was him. I feel foolish! I know better than that! And yet, just like that “wahhhh wahhhh”. Debbie Downer Chelsea comes out and makes you all depressed too. Sorry peeps! Thanks for pulling me off the ledge, away from the black hole, and bringing me back to the light of HIM and His promise for us.

For anyone in a present day funk, here is a summary and clips of the encouragement I received…written to myself for those days when I need to re-read it. : )

Delay may not mean denial. Keep praying. We can only find abundant living in HIM. Sometimes in order to experience what He has planned for us and our lives, we have to go through the trying times. It teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances. Only HE can provide us the freedom from the worry and desire to plan our lives. God has never removed His hand from our situation. One day, we will look back and see His mighty hand richly moving in our lives. NOTHING can separate us from His love. Infertility never will. In fact, He tells us that in all things, we are more than conquerors! On the days when it seems tough to pray, turn it over to God. Let the Holy Spirit intercede for you. God cares, SO much. Infertility isn’t a curse. It’s a disease brought to the world because it’s a world of sin and sickness, grief and despair. And God mourns with us as well. However, He promises to bring GOOD out of every situation and He will.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3 ESV)

There are so many blessings all around me. I was temporarily blinded by ME and took my eyes off of Him. So, to balance out the depressing blog from last time, I wanted to share with you so many JOYS of the last few weeks! Because when we are in a funk, we need to take our eyes off our funk, off the “horrible terrible no good very bad life” and focus them on ALL that He has given us. Because it reminds us in Philippians 4 to ”Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” Prayers without thanksgiving are sure a selfish balance!

Let’s see …

Baby Ritchie got its first baby gift ever! A dear friend, Megan, sent this book and man! If you haven’t read it, have some tissues around when you do! (Speaking of Megan, say a prayer for her today as she is having her 2nd IVF egg retrieval!!) Anyways, it is so sweet and was such a special gift to receive in the mail. I can’t wait to read it to our baby one day!

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Two words that brings blissful tears to the eyes – Chicago. Pizza. More specifically Lou Malnati’s. I arrived home a few weeks ago to find this package sitting on my porch. Our friends Candice and Will and their precious baby Liam sent Josh and me two pizzas that were literally eaten within a week. SUCH a special blessing and one the our taste buds will forever be thankful for.

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Date nights! It seems like so often in the world of infertility the things that you look forward to all have to do with medical stuff! Doctors appointments! Yeah! First day of a new cycle! Yes! Transfer day! Hurray! So it’s always a lot of fun to do things that are completely non-related to the consuming TTC world. Josh and I got to sneak away to a movie last Friday which was such a blast.

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I am also so excited about some plans we have in July! I had been wanting to get away for a night and have some time where Josh and I can just be US. Sneak away from the IVF stuff and celebrate his birthday (turning 31 on July 8th!) and our anniversary (8 years on July 2nd!). However, when you are knee deep in infertility bills and costs, it’s really hard to feel like you can spend money on non-medical stuff sometimes. Your brain always kicks into the “what if…” gear and we feel responsible to keep saving in case we need to do a 4th cycle or for that baby that will eventually come. So in order to get away and still feel like we are being responsible, we decided to collect spare change from around the house and brought it to the bank. We had over $167 worth of change! Yahoo! And we cashed in a few credit card points and are now able to sneak away to a downtown Minneapolis hotel for a night and enjoy a dinner out. We used to go to this hotel for our first few anniversaries and I am excited to go back and have a carefree evening using “free” money. (What I tell myself, haha!).

our 2nd anniversary spent at the hotel :) We were babies!

our 2nd anniversary spent at the hotel :) We were babies!

I had a friend from Instagram also send me this book. (Thanks Allison!) It has been such a wonderful book to read and I highly recommend it!

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It’s heirloom tomato season and  that makes me very happy. I feel like I have eaten my weight in tomatoes and basil that last few weeks.

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I saw a fish in a sink used as a decoration at a restaurant yesterday and that brought on a giggle. It’s these little things!

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My sister and I had a wonderful Father’s Day with my dad on Sunday! We got to pack a picnic and head out to Lake Harriet for a fun day. I am so very blessed with such a great supportive, loving dad.

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And of course, always thankful for this tiny little silly peanut puppy of mine.

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The list could go on and on. I really can’t thank God enough for all I have been blessed with. And even when my heart longs for a child, to expand our family and to use the gift of motherhood that has been placed in my heart, I CAN and will be content in all circumstances … because He is in total control! That fills my heart with peace. When I try to make it all better and rely on myself to sustain me, well, Monday happens.

I started my shots this morning and with it, was filled with JOY and PEACE as I trust in Him. I pray this is the last “first shot” for a long while and am ready to tackle this next month. Our transfer is scheduled for July 18th – less than a month away!! So exciting! Keep us in your prayers as we travel down a slightly new road with this Frozen Embryo Transfer and all the emotions it can and will stir up.

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As I close, I just have to share this clip from an email I just received – not only was it so perfect to read this morning (Thanks Tiffany!) but it is so perfect for so many of us in whatever life is throwing our way….

“So as you begin the shots & FET process today, please remember that God knows what He’s doing, even on days when we think He doesn’t or maybe he’s got you confused with someone else’s plan. He does, we’re just scared for our own hearts, once bitten twice shy, so to say. All I know is that He sees, and so do we, that while you’re afraid, you still stick your hand back out there bite or no bite, you show up and do your part. God is faithful, He will meet you half way.”

He is meeting us all. We gotta keep on trusting, walking, and obeying. And He will be there for us throughout all of it! My heart is at peace.

in a funk.

My emotions have felt a little off this last week. As our FET gets closer and closer, I should be getting more and more excited, right? Instead, I feel like this time off has given me too much time to think, analyze, think some more. Someone told me with such joy the other day that “this will be it!” and it made me want to laugh in their face. I’m afraid this last week I have become a bit of a skeptic. I read a section from a book the other day and felt exactly like the TTC author:

Before I could get away my friend patted me on the shoulder. “My husband and I are believing God for a miracle for you. You never know. Maybe you’ll be a modern day Sarah.” I suppressed an irritated response. How many times had I heard that? More than I could count. I was sick of it. Sick of Sarah, sick of begging God for a baby, sick of being told to just have faith…” (Empty Womb, Aching Heart)

It felt a little too close to home. I am not angry, I am just tired of it all. I am frustrated that we have to do this again. I am scared that the outcome will be the same as the others. I keep seeing families around me getting older, adding new members and I feel old. I never ever pictured hitting my 8 year anniversary in July without a family full of children. I feel as if this journey has aged me. This next cycle feels like I am buying a lottery card. I HOPE I will win the jackpot but I don’t actually BELIEVE it will happen. I no longer can picture myself pregnant, no longer can visual our baby nursery and the thought of thinking up cute baby names makes me irritated and sad now as so many get taken by fertile friends.

I feel like I have become so used to things not working out, that the thought that they might actually work out seems preposterous. Confession – I actually rolled my eyes while praying the other night about getting pregnant. It was an unintentional act that appalled me as soon as it happened. Where did my faith go? How come my heart has become so cautiously skeptical?

I keep having these awful dreams where I find out I am 6 weeks pregnant and in my dream, go into self sabotage mode to do everything I can to cause a miscarriage. In my dream I am certain it will happen and want to spare myself the pain of bonding with the baby and having it catch me off guard, as the bleeding always has. They are horrible and I wake up abruptly, sad and scared. Why is it that even my subconscious is prepared for the worst, but never the best? Where did my dreams go where I am holding my baby? Changing diapers and playing outside with diapered children? At a baby shower that is actually MINE? It feels like I can’t escape.

It seems my heart has settled on that fact that maybe this isn’t in the cards for me. And I hate that. I am clinging onto the hope of having a child, but I want the belief that it can happen to come back. I am starting shots again this Wednesday and want to be excited at this chance and opportunity to have a child, not dreading going through the painful motions to only end up empty again.

In life, we go through seasons of doubt and fear, hope and joy. It does bring me comfort just scrolling through this blog to remind myself I have been in this place before. A place of neutrality. A place where I am feeling desperate. And a little lost to be honest.

I continue to cry out to God and wrestle with Him for the answers that my heart is searching for. I have to turn over that fear, doubt, frustration, sadness, hurt and pain to Him. As a devotional stated, “It’s better to shout at Him than to be silent, better to call him unkind than not to call on Him at all.”  It’s so true and I am thankful He is willing to listen.

It’s comforting to be in a place where I am reminded that God doesn’t expect me to love my infertility or be happy about this journey. It isn’t my place to compare what God has done for others with what He has done, will do or could do for me. I have to remember that my life’s purpose may be different than yours and trust that it’s all part of a larger picture, a puzzle that He can see the final result of. All He asks, is that when I have my days, or in this case, my week, that I bring it to Him. That I am honest with my doubt and frustrations because, well, He knows anyways.

It’s not easy. I keep seeing these miracles happening to all of those around me and I can’t help but wonder “Why not me?”. Why do they get another baby, when I am just asking for one? I feel weary. Which is when Matthew 11:28 comes to mind and sits on my heart: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

This isn’t something I need to handle on my own. It isn’t a battle that I am left alone to fight. Infertility feels consuming, but only if I let it consume me. If I take my eyes off of the One that should be consuming me, then I have lost all perspective.

So I keep fighting. I keep praying. I keep begging. I don’t know what this next month will bring, but I can only trust that if God has brought Josh and me to this path, then He will walk with us along it. That we will not be burned. That He will never leave us.

So I turn to you – my dear friends and faithful readers – asking for prayer as well. Prayers that my heart will be softened to believe that this is possible. That the dreams will go away. That the start of the shots in 2 days brings excitement for our potential blessing opposed to indifference. I could use a little encouragement. Not the “well, my friends neighbors cousins didn’t even have FALLOPIAN TUBES and she got pregnant so if she could, you can!” kind of encouragement. But I need cheerleaders – scripture, words of hope and promise, anything to re-energize me for round 3. I need a little caffeine boost to my heart.

HURTING

acu-whatttt?

First of all, THANK YOU for all the love and support that came from my last post. I was astonished by the amount of times it was shared, read and how many messages I received as a result. I had so many great conversations about other areas that people struggle in – women that complain about their body image when another would love that figure, or complaining about their spouse when others would love a spouse. Overall the message was received that we have to be extra cautious in a world filled with sin, where complaining comes naturally, NOT to turn our blessings into burdens. Whatever that they may be. The conversations had were excellent reminders to me that I am guilty of complaining about things that are blessings and it’s helped me put life’s “challenges” into perspective. Another conversation reminded me that we are called to carry each other’s burdens as Christians and the beautiful thing about that is that usually, we can pick our audience. Anyways, thanks for all the love and support! Meant so much!

So with that said ….

In the world of IVF, after a failed cycle, you have what is lovingly termed a “WTF” appointment with your doctor. You know, the What the fickle-doo happened!? talk. You basically fire off questions on WHAT HAPPENED!? Why am I not pregnant?! while your doctor patiently answers and re-answers the variations of the same question. I was able to have this conversation with Dr. C a few weeks ago and wanted to pass off some of the answers I was given, as many of you are asking these great questions to me! (I’ll summarize in a Q & A format and just include the highlights as to not bore you.)

Q: Are you concerned with my egg quality or has this just been bad luck?

A: I am not concerned about your egg quality. I really just think it’s been bad luck. The fact that you had blasts to freeze both cycles is great news and many don’t have that. But truly, everything else looks good. All other tests have come back really positive and I don’t see any reason to have concerns that this won’t happen for you.

Q: We were never told the percentage chance of pregnancy on transfer day. What was our percentage going into this last round?

A: With two morulas, grade B, it was only 30-35%. We tend not to share that unless asked as we don’t want to discourage our patients. (My note – I am glad I didn’t know that! We were told it would be higher at the start of the cycle but based on what was transferred, was much lower than anticipated.)

 Q: And what would be our percentage this time with an FET and the frozen embryos we intend to transfer?

A: Your frozen embryos are all grade B’s. With your age and the quality of embryos, I would give you at least 45% but likely much closer to 55%. At least.

Q: How does the thawing process work?

A: We thaw one at a time. We have an 85-90% thaw success rate and all 3 of your embryos are very strong. I wouldn’t be concerned that they don’t make the thaw. I recommend you transfer 2 again and we start by thawing the best embryos in order until we have your 2 thawed and ready for transfer.

Q: So tell me more about the FET protocol.

A: You would start with being on BCP (birth control pills) for about a month and then move to Lupron shots each day to ensure your ovaries are quiet. Then, instead of stimulating your ovaries, we simply need to stimulation your lining to make it ready for a transfer. We do this with careful monitoring and a few weeks of the estrogen pills and progesterone shots. You had great lining both times so I am not concerned that this will be an issue for you.

Q: Is there anything differently that I could do to make this more successful? A different diet? Weight loss? Acupuncture?

A: Your BMI is at a healthy level and of course we encourage all patients to have a healthy balanced diet. I have no concerns with you whatsoever. With acupuncture, there is absolutely no harm done and we have seen it to be very successful. We have a few acupuncturists that come in to do pre-and post transfer acupuncture sessions on patients in the clinic the day of the transfer. There is no reason I would suggest not doing it and many patients find it to be very helpful with their stress levels, as well as it does increase blood flow to the uterus.

Q: Anything else?

A: I have no reason to believe this won’t work for you. With many PCOS patients, we see a few cycles being common but we have high success rates with patients just like you. You have no male factor and only an ovulatory issue. I truly have no reason to doubt that you won’t have success.

So after that conversation, Josh and I both feel hopeful for this next step. I know that in the end, only GOD can make this work. And He already knows the outcome of this next leg in our journey. At times, I find myself completely filled with hope for whatever comes our way. Other times (usually between 2 am and 4 am), I find myself completely lost in a world of worry, fearful that this fight will never end. It’s usually in those moments where I think of Job. Our story is so far away from Job’s – sure, there are precious things we loved and lost, but some days I feel like I am walking this tightrope where I can’t bear to think about God allowing Satan to test us any further, remove anything from our lives, destroy what we care about. Would we get through it, with a love still shining for Him? Yes, I truly believe so. I just don’t know if I have the strength for that test. My mind will race – what will it be? Will something happen to Cali? My precious fur baby that brings me so much happiness? Will it be Josh’s job? Will it be the death of a close family member? Will it be a life-threatening diagnosis (or re-diagnosis) of someone we love?

In Jr. High and High School, we would travel with our youth group to conferences where at the end, me, an emotional charged teenager would stand, arms raised to the sky and cry out to God to “send anything my way!” Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. (Psalm 26:2). Now, I find my heart pleading Oh God, no more! Please stop testing me! No more trying! Give me a chance to catch up. It’s not that I don’t think I could handle it. If anything, this whole journey reminds me that my strength is not my own, and I know that God’s strength in me could handle anything. I’m just tired. I don’t want to be tried or tested anymore. I just want my miracle.

As we prepare for this FET cycle, I have decided to give acupuncture a try. I mean, there is no harm per my doctor and I have several TTC-er friends who swear by it. I was uncertain, still am. But with an open mind I ventured to my first appointment last week.

Acupuncture is a type of Chinese medication that uses carefully placed thin needles into certain points of the body to increase blood flow and stimulate parts of your body. It seems bizarre, but again, with no harm and studies showing it does lead to slightly higher success rates, I am willing to try it! (A recent study had 2 groups of 80 women undergoing IVF. One set was given weekly acupuncture and 34 of those women got pregnant, opposed to 21 in the IVF-only group.)

Unsure and somewhat skeptical, I called an acupuncturist, Lauren, that my doctor highly recommended and made my first appointment. She specializes solely in fertility acupuncture and from the first phone call, we clicked. I ventured to the clinic last week (dressed in comfy clothes as instructed.) As I entered the partial basement clinic in Uptown, I was a little hesitant. As I sat in the waiting room that smelled like dirt (because of all the herbal medications surrounding me, a frequently used type of treatment for those not undergoing IVF), I was concerned. As I listened to the littlest water fountain splash tiny drops of water over its edge onto the pebbles below, I had to go to the bathroom. (Not really, but they really should get a bigger water fountain.) It certainly was a little bizarre but I kept reminding myself if my highly paid doctor was suggesting this and her, I didn’t have too much to be concerned about. I met with Lauren and we went over EVERYTHING. We looked at my chart and talked about my history start to end. It was much more therapeutic than I imagined! She knew what questions to ask, empathized during tough stages in our journey and was incredibly perceptive with asking follow up questions that would tie things together. After about an hour and a half, she told me a little about what to expect. “A typical needle sensation may have a brief burning sensation immediately around the insert location but will be brief. Most you shouldn’t be able to feel. Let me know if any cause pain.” I laid on a table, similar to a massage table, on my back, and she asked me to pull my leggings up over my knee caps and pull my shirt up a bit to expose my tummy. She alcohol swabbed several areas and then quickly and simply began to place these tiny needles into me. A few in my shins and knees, 1 in each foot, ear and hand, 1 in my head and 1 between my eyes and a few in my tummy. At this point, I was really perplexed. Truthfully, I wasn’t in any pain. I felt 1 or 2 of them in my knees but otherwise I felt nothing. It was SO bizarre. Just as quickly as she inserted the needles, she turned on some relaxing music, put a few heat lamps over me, set a doorbell under my fingertips to call if needed and turned off the lights and left. “Now I will give you time to relax. Many clients sleep.” and poof! The door shut and I was left laying on a table in a lookout basement in Uptown covered with needles in the dark.

That’s when the insanity of all this kicked in.

What am I DOING?! I am laying on a table with needles all over me? What if I roll off? What if I stab my brain with a needle if I twitch really bad and roll? (Unlikely, I know, but still a valid concern at the moment). Did I feel a needle pinch? OUCH YES! That hurts! Wait, no it doesn’t. I don’t feel it anymore. Ummm, what kind of cd is it? Waves? Or fountains trickling? Hehe. I’m glad I don’t have to go to the bathroom. I’m bored. I have needles in me. This is weird. How do people relax? And sleep? I barely sleep at night in bed after laying there for 5 hours with several pillows! Wait, do I have to go to the bathroom? She said she will be back in 30 minutes. I am going to go insane. Insane. In-sane. Bane. Bane like the guy in Batman. That was a good movie. Ohhh like Dark Knight. Awww, Heath Ledger. That was so sad. OUCH! My ear. Wait, it’s gone. Sighhhhhh….

Then it all went blurry.

“Hi Chelsea, I’m back. How was your rest?”

WHHHHHAAATTTTTT????

I fell asleep.

I have NO idea how it happened. My heart was racing so fast and I was so confused for a minute (or 10) wondering how the heck that happened. I fell asleep. One minute I was re-mourning over the loss of Heath Ledger and worrying about Matilda (his daughter) and the next, I was being woken up with lights being turned back on and needles being swiftly pulled from my flesh.

I have no idea.

I wish I could tell you what happened in that 28 minutes. I stumbled to my car wondering if she drugged me with needles. I felt rested and great. Just sooo perplexed and I still don’t know what to think.

I had my second appointment today and while I didn’t fall asleep this time, I was relaxed again (I think?). I don’t feel any different, but I just don’t know what to think at this point. Only time will tell!

acu

Shots start in 2 weeks! Can’t believe we are here again. But I am ready and generally feel hopeful. At the end of the day, we trust in a God that cares and is the sole provider of our joy. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have difficult moments, but it means that when they come, I turn them over to Him with a trust that He is in control.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:7-10)