Saturday, January 21, 2012

Infertile Women of the Bible: Sarah's Story

I was riding in the car this past week and started thinking about how the Bible has stories of different women who struggled with infertility. In biblical times barrenness was a social stigma. I decided to do some reading to see how they dealt with it and maybe gain some perspective.

The first woman I think of is Sarah. Her story is found in Genesis chapters 15-18 and 21. Sarah was married to Abraham, who is the father of both the Islamic and Jewish nations. The story begins with God telling an 80-something year old Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations. Up until this point he had had no children and was already planning on passing on his estate to one of his servants. Instead of responding with, "God, you're nuts! I'm 80-something", he believed and trusted that somehow God would make it happen.

Now, the Bible doesn't explicitly mention anything about Abraham sharing this information with Sarah, but I can imagine he may have told her what God had said based on her reaction in chapter 16. She heard that God had promised her husband would be the father of many nations, but realized that in her early 70's things just weren't happening for her anymore. She decided to take matters into her own hands. Perhaps instead of the nations coming through her womb, God meant that they would come through the womb of her maidservant Hagar.

Sarah asked her husband to sleep with Hagar, and he agreed. Hagar got pregnant and bore a child when Abraham was 86 (Sarah was 76). Now, this blows my mind. Why would Abraham do this? I can imagine some time had passed between when God had promised Abraham children and that perhaps he thought to himself, "This is a socially acceptable way to get an heir. Maybe this is how God's promise will be fulfilled," and just went along with it. But why would Sarah do this? It's bad enough to live childless with your husband, but then to have to deal with another woman having your husband's baby? Bad idea, sister! She was definitely acting out of desperation and it back-fired on her resulting in heartache and jealousy.

Fourteen years later, God spoke to Abraham again reiterating the same promise, but this time calling out Sarah as the woman who would give birth to this child. He was 100 and she was 90. This time, she overheard the conversation and contrary to Abraham's faith, she was skeptical and laughed at the idea. Nevertheless, God kept his promise and that year Sarah conceived and gave birth to her son Isaac (which means "he laughs"). She's quoted as saying this at his birth, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age."

There are a couple things I take away from this story:
  • Trust God. God hasn't promised me I'll be the mother of many nations, but He has placed within me the desire to have children. I can trust that if this is what God has planned for my life, he will accomplish it. If he can do it for a 90 year old, he can do it for a 28 year old. This is faith. (Can you imagine a 90 year old woman in labor? Crazy!!)
  • Wait on God's timing. It took 15-20 years for God's promise to be fulfilled to Abraham and Sarah. Why did He wait so long? I don't know, but it specifically says that God did it "at the appointed time." I've been waiting five years and am not sure how much longer I'll be waiting. But no matter what I do (tracking BBT & cervical mucus, ovulation kits) or how hard I try (having sex as much as possible), I will not get pregnant until God wants it to happen. I can rest in knowing He's working on it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

177.5 and Counting (Down)

My doctor recommended that I lose some weight so that I'd be at a healthier weight once I get pregnant. So, one of my goals during this waiting period has been to lose 20 pounds. My methods thus far have been schizophrenic at best, but there has been gradual progress. I started at about 185 with a body mass index (BMI) of 26.2. That officially classifies me as "overweight." I am proud to say I am now 177.5 with a BMI of 25.1, just two tenths of a point away from "normal" weight! My goal is 165, which BMI-wise is still well above the low end of normal. I have not been that low since Sophomore year of high school. I played basketball back then, now I play on the computer all day, so we'll see how feasible this is.

Now, I technically started consciously making an effort for weight-loss back in November. At that rate, I'm on average about 3 pounds a month (though, technically, I lost most of the weight in November and have just kept it off the last month and a half). If I keep that up, we're looking at goal weight sometime in May. I'm hoping I can speed it up a little more than that. But, I'm not just looking for a quick fix, I'm looking for a lifestyle change. Working 40+ hours a week doesn't lend itself to lots of free time or energy. Plus, the lazy in me is very easily convinced. Mind over matter.

How does one lose 7.5 pounds over the holiday season? I don't really know, but I'll tell you what I've been dabbling in that seems to have worked at least a little. Per doctor's orders, I read The Mayo Clinic Diet. Considering I work at Mayo and was treated there, I figured Mayo has a pretty good track record in my life, so it was worth a try. Now, obviously I have not been following this religiously or I would have lost a lot more weight by now. But, I have been using some of its principles as a guideline, which have proven to be at least somewhat successful. In some studies, molar pregnancy has been linked to diet, so it has been a bigger motivator for me to be better at what I put in my body.

A lot of my maintained success I believe is due to the first suggestion in the book: 
Add 5 Habits
1. Eat a healthy breakfast (but not too much) - This one I have tried very hard to do consistently, but is still a challenge for me. What it comes down to is if I can't eat before I leave for work, I have to eat it as soon as I get there, otherwise I lose track of time and run around in meetings and it never happens. My favorite breakfast which I eat almost every morning is Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake. My sister introduced this recipe to me and I love it! It is healthy (whole grains/fiber/fruit), easy to pack up in the morning, and I can bake a batch that lasts all week. I actually made up a dry ingredient gift jar of this stuff for some gals at work because I love it so much and wanted to share it. I add 1/8 cup of whole flax seed in addition to 1/8 cup wheat germ (one of the best sources of folic acid which helps prevent neural-tube birth defects) to be even healthier. I also use honey crisp apples. They really have the best flavor I've found.

2. Eat vegetables and fruits (4+ servings veg, 3+ servings fruit) - I can master the fruit one of this easy. I love fruit. My favorites to pack with me for work are bananas and those Cuties (I finally broke and started buying them even though I think they're too expensive. They are great for snacks). Vegetables are not so easy. Sometimes it's just the veggies on my frozen pizza. But I have started stocking some fresh veggies like carrots, celery, and cucumbers in the fridge since those are easy to snack on. I've also stopped buying so many canned vegetables and switched to frozen and we'll eat those as sides every once in awhile. Otherwise, Voila has been my dinner saver many a night, taking the place of hamburger helper. They have lots of veggies, so in my mind it is a quick and healthy option.

3. Eat whole grains - In addition to the oatmeal bake, I've started buying whole grain sandwich bread. My husband has been surprisingly supportive in this and has started eating it too. My favorite bread right now is Health Nut. I also received a rice cooker for Christmas, so I plan on making more dishes with brown rice as a side. Before, my rice never turned out, but ever since getting a rice cooker, it's been perfect every time. It's super easy and easy cleanup. I love my rice cooker!

4. Eat healthy fats - I'm not good at this one. We don't keep a lot of nuts in the house (I would be the only one eating them). And when I'm cooking I switch between the healthy olive oil and the condemned butter. Sometimes you just need the flavor of butter.

5. Move! (30+ min of exercise every day) - Ok, I go back and forth with this one. I hate throwing out the "I work full time" card, but I really think this contributes to my lack of success. My schedule has a lot to do with it. Two months ago, I was working 2-11. That is the best shift in the whole world when it comes to getting things done in the day. I woke up, ate breakfast, worked out, cleaned the house, went to work, and then went to sleep. It was amazing! Now, I'm back on my regular schedule which is: Wake up, go to work, eat breakfast right before lunch, work all day, come home tired, and don't do anything for the rest of the night. I do enjoy exercising once I actually do it. My first go-to is Jillian Michael's 30-day Shred DVD. I love the 3-2-1 interval training system. There are 3 workouts on the video which help add variety, but you have to work up to them. I also jump rope in my garage. Jump roping is hard, but I've finally worked up a little more endurance. I picked jump roping because of the different benefits. I also like pilates for the benefits to the core and flexibility. I figured these would be good things to have in shape before having a baby. I'm not sure how easily I will bounce back, so if I can help give myself better chances, I'm willing to try.

A lot of my delayed success I believe is due to failure to heed the second suggestion in the book: 
Break 5 Habits
1. No TV while eating (and only as much TV as you spend exercising) - According to this rule, I have at least 2 hours of exercising to do each day. My husband and I watch a lot of Netflix, so I'm not ready to let this one go yet, but I do believe it would make a difference.

2. No sugar - I can't realistically make this work without being rude to people. At least once a week I go to a Bible study where someone makes a sweet treat, so this rule gets broken because I'm not going to not eat something someone made. I also have a weakness for Starburst, sour Skittles, and sour gummies. I believe the sugar should be in moderation and I tried extra hard over the holidays to be mindful of this, which is why I didn't over-do it this year. 

3. No snacks (except fruits & veggies) - I've been succumbing to this one lately, though I do try to be good and just eat the fruits & veggies. Sometimes I just can't resist the Cheezits.

4. Moderate meat & low-fat dairy - I'm pretty good with meat moderation but the dairy is harder for me. I love cheese. I try to buy 1% (my husband doesn't like water...I mean skim) and I get low-fat sour cream. Otherwise, my dairy is as pure as it comes.

5. No eating at restaurants - I've been trying to do this one more anyway because it is good for the budget. but there are nights where we have to be somewhere and it's just easier to grab something fast food. We also try to do at least one date night a month, which typically ends up being a sit-down restaurant. I can't be a purist with this one at this point.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I created this blog to express the thoughts and feelings running through me at a time that was very sad and scary. Originally it had been story form in the third person, which was a good creative outlet for me. I still have things to say from time to time, but will now do so in first person and in more plain language.

That being said, you may have noticed my absence on this blog over the past year. This was primarily due to lack of drama. There are not many ways that you can say, "I had my blood drawn, and it was negative." or "Yep. Still waiting." Secondly, I had been putting in many extra hours at work and lacked energy or brain power to do much else after coming home. Thirdly, I needed time to move on, and writing on this blog proved to be more of a reminder than a relief after awhile.

As of December 16, 2011 it has been a year since my last chemo, which means I'm officially cleared to start trying to conceive again. I actually got the okay in November, but they told me they wouldn't care if I ended up getting pregnant between then and my December draw. Apparently they really didn't care because I never went back in December since they never scheduled anything.

We have begun trying again, unsuccessfully thus far. At times, waiting 2-3 weeks to know if I'm pregnant seems to be more mentally trying than actually waiting a year to start trying! The first month TTC I was consumed with worry (What if this molar thing happens again?) and constant self analyzing (I'm feeling ___. I wonder if I'm pregnant?). It didn't help that I had not been tracking my periods prior to that and so I had no idea if I had actually missed my period or if it just wasn't here yet. I decided after that experience of mental anguish that I should do my brain a favor and start marking the calendar.

The second month TTC wasn't too bad, though nothing came of it. The week I was supposed to be ovulating was also the week that my sister had her baby. Considering I was going up to help her for a few days and would be away from my husband, I think I weakened my odds a little bit. I was a lot better mentally, though. I have been practicing a lot more self control when it comes to reading baby articles online and wondering what is going on inside my body. I think when you want something so bad, there's temptation to have it consume so much of your time, energy, and thought life. I know I can get carried away.

Getting my period is good, in a way, because I have my answer, but it's also disappointing and I think I've cried each time I've realized it has come so far. I just want to start a family. I try not to get too discouraged that I'm not pregnant yet. I know that it takes time. However, the women in my family are very fertile and so at times I have to fight comparing myself to them or falling short of my personal expectations. Both of my sisters have expressed how they have their period once and then get pregnant. I'm one of seven kids, so I'd have to think that my mother is also quite fertile (she gave birth from age 23 through 43).

Something that I think has gotten more disheartening over time is seeing women I know get pregnant and give birth during my "waiting" period. I wonder why it was so easy for them to conceive (or so it seems; I don't know everyone's pregnancy story) and why they can enjoy the naive experience of pregnancy/childbirth vs the having to combat the "gloom-and-doom-knowing-what-can-go-wrong" experience. I do have to be careful on facebook because the pictures and announcements are painful to see at times. Another interesting tidbit of my whole experience is that my younger sister gave birth three months prior to my husband and I TTC the first time. Then when I got pregnant, I found out that my older sister was also pregnant. I had the molar, but she had a healthy pregnancy. Then, after my older sister had her baby, my younger sister got pregnant again and had another one. A lot can happen in a year and a half.

Sometimes I find this whole situation ironic. I am a person who plans and controls things very well. I am also not always the most patient. So, I am experiencing something that really is out of my control no matter how much I try to plan. I also have to wait a lot. When I'm finally in my right mind, I go back to the fact that God is in control. He's brought me through lots of things in my life and He will bring me through this. I don't always give my feelings/fears to God, and that results in a lot of heartache. What I've been really trying to practice the last few weeks is to keep my mind filled with the truth of the Word so that I can combat the negativity that so easily creeps into my mind. This verse comes to mind a lot:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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." Philippians 4:6-7

Here's another good one that I just thought of:

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

For those of you going through this, whatever the stage, I pray that you would continue to confidently seek after Jesus in your time of need. He is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. Tell Him what is on your heart and rest in His peace.