Sunday, October 7, 2012

Growing Pains


It's tempting to think that after 25+ years as a Christian, I should be at a place where I've finally "arrived". Sure there may be some tweaking here and there, but the major adjustments should already be taken care of. But as time passes, it seems that I become more and more aware of my sin, and, conversely, I see the magnitude of God's grace.

I have not arrived yet. God is still working on me.Unfortunately, the most recent season of growing has been very painful and is taking forever.
6 months of growing? No problem. 
A year? Ok, I can handle that.
A year and 1/2? Wait a minute, that might be a bit of a stretch.
2 years? Um, not fond of that one.
2 1/2 years? God, what's going on here?

Those who know me understand that I have a strong personality. Whatever God is trying to accomplish in my life right now, He's up against one impatient, stubborn, controlling idealist (which explains all the kicking and screaming).

During this last round of trying, my husband and I had been praying for safety over all of my fertility organs in addition to a healthy pregnancy. However, knowing the intensity of grief that overcomes me each month I discover nothing happened, I also have asked God to help strengthen me emotionally if this month it didn't work out.

We still are not pregnant, but I have seen God answer my prayers by encouraging me in the midst of this in different ways.

1) Reminding me that great things can happen far beyond what I can create when I give God the reigns of my life.
I've got a new favorite song right now called "Steal My Show" and in it TobyMac describes this idea of letting God take over. We all have a show and we all have a choice: We can hoard the control of our lives or we can surrender it to God to do as He wills. When I imagine what things could look like if I just let God take over, it's freeing and intriguing. We'll see where he takes this, I guess.


2) Reminding me that my circumstances don't need to control my joy.
I've been really depressed lately because it seems like everything we own is breaking. In the last month, I've had to replace my husband's SUV, our vacuum, our toaster, and my car battery. Some of these things we originally bought with the future of family life in mind, yet here we are having to replace them without ever having used them in the context of their planned future purpose. On top of that, I'm still working full time and have no children. This was not my plan.

God spoke to me through some people this week to help put my negativity in perspective. The first person mentioned that I can still use the time God has given me now to invest in the people around me. The second person shared how weshe had asked God to help her be content in the midst of an unpleasant situation because she knew she did not have it in her own strength to do so.

3) Reminding me that He loves me and wants the best for me, which is why I'm experiencing this season of "pruning".
This week's sermon at church was one of those "God is talking right to me" sermons. The pastor gave an introductory analogy about plants, which for those who know me, know that I am addicted to plants and the joy that comes from planting them and watching them grow. Then he went on to talk through John 15, which was summed up in three points:
  • God wants us to be fruitful people (becoming the best that we can be to advance the kingdom).
  • Fruitfulness comes through being conformed to the image of Christ (discipline [or pruning], obedience, etc ).
  • When we are conformed and are fruitful, we experience fullness of joy.
Listen to the sermon here. It's called "Finding God's Dream for My Life."


Monday, September 3, 2012

O, How the Years Go By

When nothing in your life ever really changes, time stands still. It's only when you think about what has transpired over the years that you can actually notice a difference.

Recently, I've been dealing with the reality of time passing as one by one, women in my life are announcing their second pregnancies or having their second child, all while I am still childless and pregnant-less. It's a situation I have mentally played out in my mind over and over, thinking through scenarios of the significant child-bearing-age women in my life announcing, yet again, that they are expecting. They never happen as I anticipate, but nevertheless I'm still faced with having to react to the news, usually on the fly.

It's an odd combination of emotions--sadness, joy, numbness, regret, self-pity. I would not wish this situation on anyone.

Most people are clueless when it comes to being sensitive to women who are struggling to become pregnant. I can understand. I used to be one of them, and I still am in some regards. But, that is why I make sure to help educate others when the opportunity arises.

For example, I'm at my sister's wedding surrounded by lots of little children, when someone comes up and asks me, "So, when are you going to pop one out?" In these moments, lots of responses run through my head, stemming from both logic and emotion, like: "Do I go into the whole mess of trying to explain all of my history behind my current childless state?" to "I think I want to punch you in the face." I didn't want to be rude, but also wanted this person to understand things aren't always that easy, so I opted for saying something more widely understood rather than getting into the actual details. As concise and matter-of-fact as possible, I responded: "Well, once my body stops having miscarriages, maybe I'll finally pop one out." The person was very apologetic afterwards, which wasn't my intent. I just hope she will think twice before asking someone who has been married an extended period of time and doesn't have any kids when they plan on having children.

Overcoming the fear of having another screwed up pregnancy to try month after month only to be met with nothing is trying. It's a daily battle to remain positive and teachable. Recent advice given to is that I may be suffering in this way, but there are others suffering in other ways. It is true. Each of us is suffering in some way. Likewise, I am blessed in ways that others are not blessed. So, I am focusing on keeping my mind filled with truth and caring about others so that I am not tempted to wallow in my self and self-pity (it is not a pretty place at times).

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scarf on a Plane

One of the things on my list of things to do before having kids is to learn how to knit. I received some knitting needles and yarn a couple years ago for Christmas and began a scarf but never finished it. Recently, I decided to start attacking this goal. Last week I took a business trip to Arizona and spent a total of 7+ hours in plane travel. Knitting is the perfect activity to keep busy when you can't go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone (I sat next to a guy who couldn't speak English). Needless to say, I had enough time to complete my scarf.

Unfortunately, we're one the verge of summer, so it will be awhile before this gets much use. I've started working on a crocheting project that I started a few years ago as well. If I get ambitious enough, I may even try knitting some baby items. I have a friend who has inspired me with her creations in that arena.


Since I actually finished this early on my return flight, I decided to do a little reading for the remaining of the trip and grabbed a little book from my backpack called "A Sweet and Bitter Providence" by John Piper. He goes through each of the four chapters in the book of Ruth, reflecting on the significance of the different events and how they point to the overall sovereignty and providence of God not only personally in the lives of Naomi and Ruth, but also as it relates to the genealogy of Christ the Messiah.

I love the story of Naomi and Ruth! God takes a sad situation and by the end of the story works it together for good. Of course, the whole time I was reading this book, the author would make comments that, upon me internalizing them, would make me start getting all teary-eyed and sniffling. Comments like:
"Just as surely as God brought the famine, God took it away. Naomi could see that. But she could not see all that God was doing. Later she will be able to look back, in the same way we can when we read the book a second time, and see the pointers of hope."
 "One of the main messages of this book is that God is at work in the worst of times."
"Not only does God reign in all the affairs of men, and not only is his providence sometimes hard, but in all his purposes his purposes are for good and the greater happiness of his people."
These sounds like some of the Christian cliches, but as I was reading this story, I could see how God was working in the lives of these people. Knowing the end of the story probably makes it easier to see.

The text that most caught me off guard was at the end of the book of Ruth. At the beginning of the story, she had been married for 10 years when her husband died, but they had never conceived. For all intents and purposes, she was barren. At the end of the story, she gets married to Boaz:

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went into her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son." (Ruth 4:13)

The Lord gave her conception.

That statement just made me think of how conception occurs under many different circumstances:
  • The teenage couple messing around and accidentally getting pregnant. 
  • The young married couple that got pregnant before they had a chance to think about it.
  • The established couple who made calculated choices to get pregnant.
  • The divided couple where one didn't want children and the other did and they got pregnant.
  • The woman who was raped under horrible conditions and got pregnant.
  • The barren couple who tried for years and when they had finally given up, they got pregnant.
Why does he give it to some and not others? And why does he give it in situations that are not desirable? Why not reserve the barrenness for the situations in which it is least wanted? I do not know. But no matter how it happens, one thing is sure. God gave the conception. It was not going to happen without His providence and purpose.

So, in my case, if it's in God's plan, he will do it. Oh the waiting...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Masterpiece

So I was washing dishes over my lunch break the other day and started remembering songs that I listened to as a little girl. One of my favorites was this song called "Masterpiece" by Sandi Patty. As I thought on the lyrics, I couldn't help but imagine myself in the future singing this to my child(ren). I think it will be a song I sing to them even before they're born. Of course, first I need to get pregnant.


Sandi Patty - Masterpiece from bobmarshall on GodTube.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sparrow

The other day, after 3 drying cycles and load full of clothes still wet, my husband found this upon further investigation:


A sparrow had made itself a home in our dryer vent opening and proceeded to lay some eggs as well. Of course, we had to clean it out and throw it all away. A couple days later, I looked out my kitchen window and saw the sparrow standing in the cold on the deck rail. I felt bad. Where was this poor sparrow going to live now that I'd decimated its home? It was then that I remembered:

His eye is on the sparrow.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
On my way home for lunch today I was reminded of this again when heard a song on the radio. It was a modernized version of the old hymn "His Eye Is On the Sparrow". They lyrics to this version are a little different than the old one, but they keep the same theme.

As time gets closer to when we can start trying again, I find myself internally conflicted. The thought of getting pregnant again terrifies me. I don't want to risk experiencing all the pain of pregnancy loss all over again, not to mention some kind of life-threatening issue. Yet, I so desperately want to experience the joy of a little baby.

I was encouraged by the lyrics in the song:
Why should I be troubled
When His tender word I hear
Know I rest on His goodness
In my doubt and in my fear
Whatever God's plan is, I know I can trust Him. He is good. I do not need to worry. As I step out in faith, He will lead me in the midst of my doubt and fear.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He's watching me.





Thursday, April 19, 2012

Negative = Positive

The last week I've been enjoying some time off from work on a 2-week vacation which has included time spent in the Shenandoah Valley, Washington D.C., and bumming around at home. I've decided I need to do this more often. Between having a PTO freeze the last few years at work and working to bank up my time so that I can use it for a maternity leave, I've pretty much maxed out my PTO savings potential. So, in order for me not to lose it, I need to use it. I plan on taking some more time off this summer!

The nice thing about being away is that it not only gave me a break from work, but also gave me the opportunity to think about something else besides feeling sorry for myself because of the ectopic pregnancy. I think the thought crossed my mind maybe two times the whole trip after seeing some moms with babies. Now, that's not to say I was not reminded about my situation every day, however. I had horrible cramps and heavier bleeding for the majority of the trip (how romantic!). I was not sure if the bleeding was truly a period or some sort of reactivation of my molar-infected cells eating away at the insides of my uterus and fallopian tubes (yes, my imagination is quite vivid). I had to throw this issue on Jesus multiple times so that I would not go crazy.

The second to last day of our trip I noticed a significant decrease in the bleeding. The last day it was the same thing. I was hopeful that perhaps this was nearing the end of over 55+ consecutive days of some form of vaginal bleeding. Once we got home, I had to go in for another blood draw. I was unsure what the results would be considering my disappointment from the last time and the analysis I had done in a previous post. You can imagine my surprise when my results came back at...

2.1! (a 99.4% drop!)

Anything <5.0 is considered negative, which to me is actually positive because this means:
  • I'm officially no longer "pregnant"
  • No more needle sticks
  • I only have one more cycle to wait before I can try again
I think I'm in shock. I don't really know how to feel right now except grateful! Thank you all who have kept Dave and I in your prayers!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Music

Music is the audible manifestation of emotion, the form of which is most easily consumed by the spirit. No translation or interface needed. Music + feeling = absolute comprehension on behalf of the soul.

I love the gift of music! Music helps you live life. No matter what you're going through, good or bad, there is a song to accompany you through it! (if you see a pun, none intended) I have a page solely dedicated to music on this site. My hope is that people can be encouraged through these songs in the middle of their difficult time. I've often used them as prayers.

When I first started experiencing bleeding with this pregnancy, I started my own music therapy plan. My mind can go down a really dark path if I don't keep it reigned in, so for the first 2 weeks I would just listen to praise & worship music. I wanted to fill my soul with the Great I AM and praise Him for who He is:

Awesome. Mighty. Holy. Powerful. Loving. Good. Just. Savior. Comforter. Healer. Everlasting. Long-suffering. Creator. Righteous. Merciful. Gracious.

When I am weak, He is strong. The music helped me rest in His strength.

My sister just recently introduced me to a song. In addition to this song becoming a current favorite of mine (and always running through my head), I've been inspired by the mission of the artist who wrote/performs it. Her name is Beckah Shae and she desires to make music with a positive message that is contextualized to our pop culture. Click here to read her story.

Anyway, when I first heard this song my imagination got the best of me. I immediately pictured myself in the ambiance of a heavenly night club (oxymoron?) where the music gradually enveloped me and I began to dance. My spirit was dancing alone, yet in the midst of many others. Translucent, sparkling rainbows of energy spiraled around me and whisked my hair. I could feel the freedom of weightlessness and freedom from the sorrow of this broken world as I danced uninhibited.

Back to reality.

I stink at dancing. Still, one my next to-do's is to start playing this song really loud in my living room and just start moving around in ways that I think are cool (even though, had I a mirror, I would humbly be met with the sad truth). I will get out of breath. I will be clutzy. But there is something poetic about that as well. It's being physical, being alive. It's loving the moment.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Trends and Forecasts

I had another blood draw today. It came back at 330. Not real crazy about this because it didn't even drop by 50% this time. It is still a downward trend, though and, typically, the closer to zero you get, the less percentage drop between draws.

The past few days I've had heavy cramping and increased bleeding/clots. I was hoping that it was because my blood levels were getting so low that my body is finally getting back to normal. Guess not. Not really sure what it means. The not knowing is what drives you nuts because you don't know  if what you're experiencing is okay or if you should be concerned. They always give you the same answer: if you are soaking an entire pad every 1-2 hours, that is too much. Well, it's not that much, but what is normal? I wish they would do studies and document it so that woman could gauge their symptoms across general trends in women instead of having to call the on-call residents who sound annoyed that they were interrupted for such stupid questions.

So, let's think about the numbers and get some hypotheticals.

If all I have is a 27% drop each week from now on, it will take 14 weeks to get down to negative. That puts us in the middle of July 2012. I'm assuming that I will not start to have a real period until these HCGs go negative, so give myself a week or two to start after that. Then I have to have 2 periods before trying to conceive. The soonest I could potentially conceive would be beginning of September 2012. Considering it typically happens within 3 months for me, the more likely date would be mid to late November 2012. Now, lets assume this pregnancy actually takes and is not a complete disaster. That puts me having my first kid in late August 2013. I would be 29 1/2 years old.

Let's be more positive about this now and assume this was just an off week. If I have a 50% drop each week from now on, it will take 7 weeks to get to negative, which is around the end of May 2012. Give me a couple weeks for a period to start and then add another cycle, the soonest I could start trying to conceive would be late July 2012. Again, if it takes 3 months like usual, we're looking at late June 2013 before a little Kuck comes around.

Again, this is all assuming somewhat of a happy path (though the ultimate happy path is that in the next two weeks this blood draw thing is over...). It could take 6 months to conceive. I could have a few miscarriages along the way. Who in their right mind knows?

So, I guess we have at least another year of paying down the house aggressively. If I'm good, maybe I can chop off 50% of our remaining balance by the time a baby is born. I wish I got paid more! As much as I like paying down my house so that I can reach the Dave Ramsey baby step 7 "Build Wealth & Give", I would much rather have a child. I knew I shouldn't have told God that if He helped us get rid of our mortgage, I'd give back to His service! He took me way too seriously! (Seriously, though. That is one of my life goals to give to others in need. I've been the recipient of so much generosity, I would like to bless others in the same way!).

Final thought: my husband and I never fully agreed on how many kids we wanted to have. He wanted 2 or 3 and I wanted 4 or 5. I've told him since all this started a few years ago that for every year we are married without children, I get to have a kid. We are up to 5!

I want kids, God! Thy will, not mine be done!

*                               *                               *                               *                               *
UPDATE:
I did end up calling the nurse last night and shared with her my symptoms. I couldn't take it any longer because all I could think about was "What if I'm getting ready to hemorrhage?". The bleeding just looks more like bleeding than a period, and reminded me of what things looked like close to when I did start hemorrhaging after my molar.

So, per the nurse and the doctor, the thought is that this could be a period. I asked if it was possible to have a period this soon when my levels are still positive. She said yes. So, if that is true, this ranks up with one of the weirdest periods I've ever had in my 18 years of perioding. These cramps are stronger than any cramps I've had in the last 5 years. But, if this IS a period, then maybe this will help my trends out immensely and I could potentially start trying sooner? We shall see.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Photo Album

When I was first married, my husband's grandmother gave me a photo album. It was filled with pictures from when he was a baby through his college years. This book was my guilty pleasure. I would sit for extended periods of time and just soak in every picture. I mean, who wouldn't want to sit and look through pictures of the man of their dreams?

My favorite part of the book was the beginning where all his baby pictures were. This man was a gorgeous baby. As I paged through, I would daydream about having his children and, with anticipation, imagine what our children would look like. I couldn't wait!

As time went on, it became more and more apparent that he was not yet ready to have kids. Confused and heart-broken, I put away the photo album. Very rarely did I look at it, and when I did, I wished I'd hadn't because it just made me too sad. Top onto this the whole molar pregnancy fiasco. What a recipe for dust collection! The book sat unopened for a couple years.

I just recently opened it again. It was like meeting with an old friend. Time has been good to this book 1) because it is in great shape, and 2) because it has given me the chance to heal in regards to daydreaming about its contents.

Here are a few of the reasons why I get excited about my future children:


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vicarious Mothering

The jury is still out as to whether or not this "mother" thing will ever happen to me personally. In spite of this, I do believe I have been given the gift of vicarious mothering opportunities over the years via different relationships in my life.

Relationship #1: Sibling
As the second oldest of seven, I have had my fair share of caring for children. I've often thought of myself as a live-in nanny, though it wasn't necessarily by choice. There were ups and downs.
UPS
DOWNS
  • Watching them fall asleep while feeding them
  • Helping them learn new things
  • Making them smile
  • Playing with them
  • Watching their personalities develop as they grow older
  • Kissing their cheeks
  • Taking care of them (when I was in a good mood)
  • Being stuck watching them for hours on end with no idea when my mom would come back home
  • Changing dirty diapers
  • Cleaning up after them
  • Dealing with strong wills with absolutely no authority to do anything about it
  • Taking care of them (when I was in a bad mood)

For some time, I felt the need to balance "sisterhood" with "nanny-hood" because there were so many times where I had to be responsible for their well-being. But as the years have gone by, my relationship with my younger siblings has slowly morphed into sister/equal, which I quite enjoy. The transition has been a unique experience.
Holding Christine at my Kindergarten graduation when I was six. She is the middle-middle child of us all. We had "school" when she was little and I helped teach her spelling and math before she was even in pre-school! I have enjoyed watching her grow up and develop her many creative talents (art, music, communications). Once I graduated college, I felt strongly about encouraging her during her college years. For the last six months she has lived with my husband and I. It has been a privilege to mentor her as she makes the transition into adulthood. She has taught me many things as well! I will miss her!
Holding Christopher when I was six, right before going into 1st grade. I remember planning his birthday parties with my other sisters when he was little. He and I are similarly strong-willed and passionate about what we believe, so it was always a character building experience to watch him when mom was gone. He made it very clear to me that I was not the "boss" of him. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow up to be a man who is a deep thinker, born leader, and hard worker. He has taught me how to love no matter what!
Multi-tasking with Nathan when I was in high school; I'm playing checkers, feeding him pretzels, and eating the pretzels he's offering me at the same time. Of all the siblings, he's the one I probably helped raise the most, primarily due to my age at the time. I made a point to make sure this child had a proper baby book, took him to the pool, picked him up from school, and the list goes on. I kind of spoiled him, too. After moving out of the house, I can remember being emotional at the thought of him growing up. I will never forget the day I called home and heard a deep voice on the other end: "Chris?" (No) "Dad?" (No) "Nathan?!!?!" (Yes) Yeah, I started bawling. He's in high school now and I am so proud of him!
Holding Hannah on a weekend home from college. I had the privilege of caring for her in her toddler stage. While I didn't have as much time with her compared to the others, I did have a year with her. I would feed her, put her down for naps, take her on walks, dance to music with her, and of course spoil her. She's always had such a funny personality. At 3/4 years old she would call me at college to talk. I would ask, "Does mom know you're on the phone?" She would usually dodge the question and change the subject. She's in grade school now. I love getting to know her and having "sis time" together.

Relationship #2: Aunt

Being an aunt is so much fun! I love my nieces and nephews! The great thing about aunt-hood is that you have all the benefits of the "ups" listed above, but hardly any "downs" (that's what the parents are for!). Though, I will say I have had to change diapers with these guys, and some pretty nasty ones at that, but it is worth it! I find it miraculous how much love can come out of a person. Just when you think you've loved it all out, another baby comes along and you find more.

These are my older sister's kids (she is older by 1 year). I love these guys! Each personality is so unique. Watching them grow up is so cool! Of course, every time I see new pictures on facebook I get teary-eyed because they live so far away. I cherish every visit!
These are my younger sister's girls (she is younger by 1 year). I'm so lucky to be close enough to be able to see these sweeties every few weeks. They bring me so much joy!

Relationship #3: Friend
As a friend, you don't have quite as many opportunities on the "ups" side and virtually no downs, unless you elect to babysit! But you still have the joy of watching the kids grow up and hearing the stories of the crazy things they do with their parents. They can be quite entertaining at 10:30 p.m., especially since they are not your own!

Relationship #4: Teacher
I've had the privilege of being a Sunday School/VBS teacher at different parts in my life. Most recently, I have lost some of my patience for misbehaved children that stems from lazy parenting, so I have not been as involved. But, in my earlier days, it was so much fun. I really tried hard to help the kids learn about Jesus and tried to incorporate memorable/out-of-the-ordinary activities in my teaching to make a difference. I find so much joy seeing from a distance how these kids grow in the Lord. It is an honor to have been a small part of that development.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gloria

I went in for an last-minute appointment the other day. I had written an email via my online patient portal asking about how long this bleeding is supposed to last (because it just seems to be taking forever to go away) and then somehow that turned into a nurse calling saying "We want you to come in today." So, I did.

At least they let me keep my pants on.

It was pretty much just a conversation with my doctor. He is a resident. (Side note: Ever since having doctor friends, I've really come to appreciate all the hard work and long hours they put in. They do not get compensated nearly enough if you ask me.) Anyway, we talked about how long the bleeding would last and he said around 6 weeks for me due to the size of my "mass." We also discussed what signs to look for if something was infected because I was worried about that. You see, my bleeding is not really bleeding. It is weird dark brown who knows what. Sometimes I wonder if having a D&C prior to treating the ectopic would have had much effect on the amount of bleeding or not? My personal feeling about D&Cs is that I don't want people "blindly" scraping out the inside of my uterus, but the bleeding does go away quite quickly after having one, which is nice.

We also discussed trying to conceive again. This is what started brief moments of tears every once in awhile. I was quite surprised at my emotional outbursts because most of the time I am fine talking about things. I think "trying again" is definitely a sensitive topic because you try to discuss in "when" terms, but I always replace the "when" with "if" in my head. When you try again... (you mean, if I try again, doctor...) When you get pregnant again... (you mean if I get pregnant again...). My internal dialogue always needs to be kept in check. I've given myself permission to think these things but my rule is: "You can go there if you need to, Jess, but you can't stay there." I believe it will happen again, but there is part of me that doesn't want it to happen because it is too painful to go through the loss.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him what kind of resources they have to help with the emotional healing of all this. Not that I don't have a good support group. I do. But I was curious because I thought to myself, "What about the people who don't have anyone? This would have been a horrible patient experience in respect to treating the emotional well-being of the patient." He said that they usually do it for miscarriages. I would consider ectopics and molar pregnancies types of miscarriages, because in some ways the grief would seem to be the same. He asked if I would still like more information. I said, "Certainly."

A few minutes later, a nurse came in asking me how I was doing. I said "Good" even though I had been teared up a bit. She's like, "No you're not." Uh...Ok. I thought to myself. The nurse proceeded to start talking and, in spite of the rocky start, I instantly connected with her. She just had a spirit of comfort that put me at ease. As she was talking I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Who is this woman?" and I looked down at her name tag.

It read: Gloria.

Gloria!?!

Back when this all began, I had a lot of phone conversations with a nurse. Her name was Gloria. She was amazing. I had very candid conversations with this woman and she was the nurse that convinced the doctor to start getting blood draws early on per my deeply emotional request. When I felt like no other staff was taking me seriously, Gloria did. It made all the difference, because my fears ended up being confirmed. I can only imagine how much later all the "discoveries" would have been if she hadn't listened to me back from the very beginning.

The day I had my ultrasound appointment where they confirmed the ectopic, I asked for Gloria before I left. I wanted to tell her how sincerely grateful I was for her and all she did for me over those weeks. Unfortunately, she had already left for the day. I was bummed. I didn't think I would ever get to meet her to personally share my gratitude.

But there she was! Right in front of my eyes! I immediately interrupted and exclaimed, "You're Gloria!" She looked at me kind of funny and then I started showering her with "thank yous" and "I'm so glad to finally meet you". I explained to her who I was. She remembered me from our phone conversations and of course I started bawling. On the verge of tears herself, she got up and gave me a hug and said, "I don't mean to get churchy, but do you believe that things happen for a reason?" "Yes, I do!" I replied.

After things died down, she left the room and came back with some literature and a tiny square of baby-theme printed fleece in honor of my loss.

So, my last-minute appointment turned out being not so "last-minute" at all. It was a divine appointment with Gloria, who most definitely lived up to her name; through her I saw God's glory.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grief, Joy, Peace

Latest news is that my HCGs are down to 952! Almost lower than when I got my first draw. We are getting somewhere. I'm still bleeding but am hoping that it will go away sometime soon. After my uterus emptied the first time, things got really light almost gone, but then after the chemo, the bleeding came back and has been there ever since. Not sure what's going on. As long as I continue to bleed I worry at times about if a molar is in there somewhere, but as long as my HCGs go down, I gain more confidence that this is truly going away.

I thought that my grieving was over back during the first week when this all started. I was reliving lots of feelings of "Why me?", "Why again?" "Why now?" and had bursts of intense weeping. But then it was gone, almost euphoric, and I felt so much at peace. Even when I struggled through the idea of having to make the choice to end my baby's life, I felt at peace. Even when I relived the methotrexate shots, I felt at peace. In the midst of dealing with all this behind the scenes, but having to go to work and it being absolutely crazy busy/not normal schedule, I felt at peace.

Then last weekend, something snapped. My attitude stunk and it made everything around me worse. As I look back on this, it seems to me that in times of deep emotional stress, this happens. It's like you're given grace and peace for a period of time to be able to function through the initial blow. It's like you do what you have to do, you're in a dream or something. But then, it will come back and if you're not expecting it, it hits hard. Something triggers the experience all over again. I remember when my sister's fiancee passed away having this experience happen. It happened with my molar. And it's happened again.

I thought I was going to be in the clear! I was feeling so good!  Different things trigger different griefs. There are "pure" griefs. I think I've experienced most of the pure griefs. Things like when the clinic nurses ask me in the appointment, "When are you due?" and I have to say "I'm not. It's ectopic," which proceeds to send me down the mental path that "I was due in October and was going to have a baby to shower with gifts for Christmas, but I'm no longer having a baby." Or when I passed some clot/tissue thing and I thought for a brief moment, "I'm sorry baby. I will see you again someday." However, I must say that for certain "griefs" of mine, they have had time to root. In all honesty, it's transformed from grief to bitterness. Things like:

  • Going to work everyday. I've been working at this place for over 5 years now. Great place to work. Great people. But everyday I go to work is a reminder that I have no children. My famous quote is, "I love my job, but I hate going."
  • My marriage anniversaries. I've been married almost 5 years! It is wonderful! I love my husband. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me. But when I think about how long I've been married and how long we dated before that, it turns into an even bigger number and I think to myself, "I should have had kids by now."
  • Pregnant woman. I think pregnancy is awesome. The gift of life is so beautiful! Babies are beautiful! But every time I see a pregnant woman (and there are so many!) it is a reminder of two things: 1) I will never have a care-free, innocent pregnancy experience. 2) I do not have any children.

Needless to say, bitterness is not becoming and so it is really an intentional skill of mental gymnastics (along with the help of the Holy Spirit) to master my mind. I can't NOT think about these things. They come up practically every day. But I CAN choose to not dwell on them and think about other things instead. I didn't do it last weekend, and it was bad. Oops. Today is a new day and my magnolia bush is blooming, so I will rejoice in this!

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Later after writing this, I read my devotion for today and it had some good things to say about rejoicing. I'm still working on this lesson in my life, so I really needed to hear it!

Rejoice in the Lord - Buddy Riddle, Senior Pastor of Harvest Church in Houston, Texas

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:4-9

What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? I mean really be at peace and rejoice in the Lord. Now some of you may be thinking, “Pastor, you don’t know how bad my life is or how bad my life has been. It would be pretty hard for me to rejoice right now.” Well, we all have a starting point, and you won’t understand how to “rejoice in the Lord” if you start in the middle.

In the verses above, Paul is not saying “don’t worry, be happy.” He’s talking about a supernatural joy that comes not from circumstances, but from a deep contentment in Christ. We so often want to try to get peace and joy from our circumstances, and we keep asking God to change them. But what God wants to do is show us that the path to joy starts by trusting in the sovereign, living God through the person of Jesus Christ. He wants to show us that we can have unbelievable, supernatural joy in the middle of any circumstance. Really. It can happen.

We place such false confidence in our circumstances bringing us joy. You know, the “If I just had fill-in-the-blank, I could finally rejoice. “And just how long would that last if you got it? The reality is that our circumstances are always changing. Think about it; if you found the most wonderful circumstances—your spouse, your baby, a new car, a boyfriend or girlfriend—pick whatever you want. Will it stay the same? Well, will it? The spouse will change, the baby will need changing, the car will soon lose that new car smell, that boyfriend or girlfriend will be disappointing—it all changes. Circumstances are shifting sand and you can’t stand on them—or find deep joy in them alone.

The starting point is finding joy in the person of Jesus Christ; not success, not people, not money, not status, not drugs and alcohol, not therapy, but in a deep, abiding relationship with the Lord. You may ask, “So, exactly how do I do that?” Cultivate a relationship with Him through prayer where you both talk to Him and listen to Him. You know you are having a good relationship with someone when you are actively trying to hear what they have to say. Abide in Him. Spend so much time with Him reading His Word and praying that talking to Him becomes natural. Joy will now come, and over time, you will see that no matter what the circumstance, your joy and peace, as long as it is found in Christ first, will remain.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring's a comin'

I love waking up in the morning when hardly anyone else is up yet. It is so peaceful. I went down this morning to get my blood drawn again. I wonder how much more it will go down today? Maybe I'll be in the triple digits now? I stopped by Caribou afterwards and got a Carmel Highrise with a french toast muffin. Mmmmm! It is my reward for being stuck with a needle. I know that I use that excuse too often to splurge on little things like that (which results in many cups of coffee/smoothies/sweet treats), but I can't use it for much longer so I'm living it up while I can!

When I came home, I took a trip around my house to check on my plants and trees. For the last few years I've been slowing adding to my yard. My husband bought our house before we were married and it was brand new. New houses are such a great blessing but they lack in the greenery department! I grew up in New York countryside, so I had lots of old, tall trees around all the time. I am quite tree-deprived now. However, like I said, I'm remedying the situation.

I have two trees in front, an autum blaze maple (pretty in the fall) and a fruitless white flowering crab (pretty in the spring).
Autumn blaze maple (last spring)
White flowering crabapple (last spring)
Crabapple blooms (last spring)


I also have a white magnolia bush in the front (enchanting in the early spring because when everything else is brown and dead, it is flowering. Just what a Minnesota girl needs to keep her hopes up for warmer weather!).
White magnolia bush (last spring)
Magnolia blooms (last spring)

In the backyard I have a quaking aspen, whitespire birch, fat albert blue spruce, and black hills spruce, and lilac bushes around the deck.
Back yard (last spring)

I can't wait for this spring!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good News and Reality

Good news! No surgery for me. Thank you all who prayed. My HCG levels dropped 36% down to 3482. The doctor said that this is just the trend he was hoping to see. I will get one more draw on Saturday, and if that shows a similar trend, I will end up getting weekly Friday draws until my values are negative once again. I'm hoping these continue to drop! No more surprises, please! Thank you!

As far as the logistics of trying again, it takes about 4-6 weeks for the ectopic to reabsorb itself and I have to wait at least 2 cycles. Like I said before I have a 15% chance of having an ectopic now. A 1% of a repeat molar. And, like all women, a 25% chance of miscarrying. I can't remember math class, but I think I'd add all those together to get a 41% chance of screwiness. However, unlike 75% of most couples, I've consistently been lucky enough to get pregnant within my first 3 months of trying, so I can get more tries to fix it sooner, I guess (assuming it's not the 1%, in which case I'm waiting another whole year...). I always told people if I can beat 1/1000 I can beat X. Well, my new odd is 1/500,000. So, a 59% chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy? No problem.

I'm kinda bummed about the whole methotrexate in my system thing. I've tried for a year to get my body clean and ready to go to start trying again and now it's all dirty again. God is going to need to work some miracles, because I cannot logically prevent myself from dirtying it up when my pregnancies go sour. When your choices are die or take care of this pregnancy gone awry that will kill you, you do what you have to do. Hopefully 2 months is truly enough time to get this junk out of my system. Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.

I'm excited to begin my Jillian workout again (I've been off it for a month) and hopefully get back on track. My work schedule is going back to days, so I am super bummed. I love having the mornings to get things done around the house, workout, drink coffee, listen to the birds, whatever. Maybe I should go to .5? Unfortunately, that's not gonna happen in my current work environment any time soon. Oh, well!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Choosing to Believe

Whenever something crappy happens in life, it is very easy to get depressed about it--at least for me. I am not a person who is defaulted to optimism. I lean toward pessimism and cynicism and realism. But that is not an excuse to run on a loathing rampage because, at the end of the day, we all have a choice. No matter how our personality leans, we can choose to respond positively or negatively to the situations that happen in our life.

I sit here today waiting to find out if my HCGs dropped at least 15% after a second shot of methotrexate or if I will need to have surgery tomorrow to remove what is left of my ectopic pregnancy. I really do not want surgery. It's scary. I also sit here thinking about the future. Do I want to try to get pregnant again after all of this hassle, all of this grief, all of this emotional roller coaster...again? The odds have not been in my favor so far, why would next time be any different? It's too scary to try again.

While I was in the middle of my sulk fest, the lyrics to a song popped into my head. It is a hymn I sang in church as a little girl.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living, just because he lives.

Two years ago, I would have had some sarcastic come back to this. Something like, "Who cares that Jesus lives? Who cares about the future? It's not changing what is happening right now. I'm still experiencing crap." But I think the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart because it's making more sense to me now. My sister reminded me the other day: Even in the midst of the suffering we go through, we can praise and thank Him because He has overcome sin and death. There will be a day when this kind of stuff won't happen any more. Oh my gosh, I just thought of another song that talks about this:

Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns (I don't typically recommend Casting Crowns because I find their songs all the same and annoying, so it is humorous that their song is coming to mind as an object lesson)

Here is another one: There Will Be a Day - Jeremy Camp

Here is the truth Revelation 19-22:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS...
(It goes on to talk about how Jesus defeats Satan and how there is a judgement for all people)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 
This is faith: Believing all of this and believing that it matters right now, even when it doesn't feel like it matters or that it is not logically apparent to make a difference with the present circumstances.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One More Shot

Well, the doctor decided to scrap the idea of getting a baseline draw and just had me come in today for another blood draw and see where the values fell. My values would have needed to be at most 5049 to meet the 15% drop. They came back at 5392. I was faced with the option of another shot of methotrexate or surgery. They seem to really push surgery but, I'm sorry, I don't want someone digging around in me unless absolutely necessary. So, I took the shot. Apparently they are not hopeful that this will be successful because they said their best guess was that I have a 20% chance that the second shot will work. However, the levels have started dropping, which is encouraging, so I will hope that they go down enough over the next three days. If they don't go down15% by Wednesday, surgery is unavoidable. They will not give me a third shot. More to come, I suppose!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lab Drama

My latest drama has been that the lab screwed up my sample somehow for my last draw. I was drawn at 5pm Thursday evening and they ran it Friday morning. The values were 5950 but they had to cancel the test for some reason (sample age, whatever that means...someone left it out somewhere or forgot to send it?). So, I got redrawn Friday at 3:30 so that they could run the test again. Well, that sample must have gotten lost somewhere again because I still have not received the results back (it's been over 12 hours and the test is run continuously 24/7 in the lab).

I'm trying not to freak out. This draw was supposed to be used as my baseline for determining if my levels were dropping enough or if I needed another shot. I'm not sure how they are going to do this if they don't have a proper baseline. I've already put the second draw out one day already...you'd think time is of the essence here!  I spoke with the doctor yesterday and she seemed to think I was not out of the woods yet for the potential of a second shot. I'm just hoping that if I need it they will be able to give me the shot and not wait the 3 days between draws. I'm also more nervous that this is getting bigger and could rupture so I have to keep taking that thought captive. I'm also working 2-11pm this weekend and the rest of the coming week so that adds a little stress. Never a dull moment, I guess.

Theme verse of the week:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.(Ephesians 4:4-9)

Theme song of the week:
"No Matter What" - Kerrie Roberts

Please pray that I can just focus on the present instead of worrying about the future!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Round Two

Well, we found out two weeks ago that I was indeed pregnant. It was exciting, but, of course, there is always a caution because you never know what is going to happen. Within 3 days of finding out, I began to spot. This was obviously alarming to me because this was the same time period--between 5 and 6 weeks--that my molar pregnancy started revealing itself. After 3 days, I ended up calling and requesting a blood draw. The uncertainty of it all was mentally unbearable. My first result came back at 911. Two days later it was 1394. My molar levels were in the 9,000's by this point, so in my mind I ruled out molar pregnancy but knew I had 2 other hurdles standing in my way: Miscarriage or Ectopic Pregnancy.

Based on the results and the fact that I was still bleeding, I went in for an ultrasound. It came back clean. What a relief! My uterus was practically empty. Now all we needed was a blood draw to confirm and I'd be good to go (as good as you can be with news of a miscarriage...but it could always be worse). Unfortunately, I missed the easy route. My blood levels raised more questions than answers because they'd increased to 2447. Two days later, there was another increase to 2965. This was not looking good. Miscarriage was looking more and more like ectopic. The doctor said the ultrasound wouldn't be worth it at this point and I proceeded to wait 4 more days for my next blood draw, hoping that something wouldn't burst inside me somewhere.

My blood results came back Monday at 4376. After speaking with the staff, I was told to come in and get and ultrasound and meet with a doctor. The ultrasound came back positive for an ectopic pregnancy. It was a 2.1 cm spot in my left fallopian tube on the bend near the ovary (apparently most of them occur here). There was no fetal pole and no heart beat, which was reassuring in some sense, because your only options are either 1) wait it out and see if it takes care of itself (if it doesn't, your tubes will rupture), 2) get a methotrexate shot (chemotherapy drug that I had w/molar pregnancy...it essentially inhibits cell growth), or 3) have it surgically removed. Apparently I qualified for the methotrexate treatment because the mass was small enough, I have not experienced any pain, and there was no sign of a live fetus. So, that is what we did. I had the shot last night. We are praying that the first shot takes care of the left over placental tissue that has still been growing. They will potentially do one more, but if the second one doesn't work, it is off to surgery. I have 2 blood draws scheduled, one Thursday and one Sunday. There needs to be a 15% decline in the hormone levels between those two days to confirm that the first shot is working.

So here we go again. Round two. Not exactly what I was hoping for with my next pregnancy. I feel like 1 in 100,000 (odds of molar & ectopic...if you factor in complete molar it's 1 in 500,000). The last two weeks I've been grieving in various ways and in some ways I was still dealing with the grief from the molar. Until I have a healthy pregnancy, there is no way to get around the feelings of injustice and jealousy when I hear of others getting pregnant and having kids, but it's something I feel and let go in the moment; it is too ugly of an emotion to allow it to fester and settle in.

Do I understand why this is happening? No. Do I like it? No. Do I trust that God will work this for good? Yes. Will He bring me through this? Yes. Is God still good? Yes.

Please continue to pray:
  • That this first methotrexate shot works according to plan.
  • That my body can heal without too much scar tissue (I'm now at risk of having another ectopic in the future because of this...15% chance).
  • For strength for Dave & I to deal with the emotions/stress of the situation in the midst of other stresses of work.
  • For a future healthy pregnancy at some point in the near future and the courage to try again.
  • For emotional/spiritual/mental healing through the grief.
  • For protection over our marriage from spiritual attack.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.