Faith & Infertility

Open your eyes and believe – struggling with infertility on Easter

Happy Easter, everyone! I apologize for the late post this week – it’s been busy with the holiday season! Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a kid, my parents’ house was filled with smells of strawberry gelatin from the egg-shaped Jell-O jigglers (that never quite turned out egg-shaped) and distilled vinegar from the egg dye for hard-boiled eggs. My brother and I would have these extravagant designs for our Easter eggs, and in the end, they were all shades of purple or brown from trying to mix too many colors in our elaborate decorating schemes. During the early morning hours, my dad would keep watch outside our bedroom doors while the “Easter bunny” (I won’t spoil it for those believers out there) frantically hid eggs and Easter baskets outside around the house. There’s nothing quite as exciting as searching high and low for eggs and baskets on Easter morning. I’m not even ashamed to admit that I hunted for Easter eggs and baskets well into my 20s! The first, and only, Easter Erik and I spent together, we searched for eggs outside my parents’ house – Erik will deny it, but you heard it here first people!

My feelings on Easter have changed a bit the last two years, while we have been struggling to start a family. In fact, I think Easter is one of the most difficult holidays for people going through infertility struggles. Think about it – in this day and age, with the commercialization of Easter, every advertisement is a blaring reminder of babies – filled with fuzzy chicks, furry bunnies, and adorable kids – the girls in frilly dresses and the boys in cute bow ties, all in an array of pastel colors. When you go to church on Easter morning, you can hear the buzz of excitement from the children explaining where they found their Easter baskets and what was inside them. Even the Easter basket itself is filled with symbols of new life – chicks and bunnies, green grass, and eggs – there are eggs everywhere! Chocolate eggs. Plastic eggs. Hard-boiled eggs. Dyed eggs. And jelly beans – which aren’t really beans but candies meant to be shaped like eggs. Trust me, eggs are the last things I want to see or be reminded of after the last two years of doctor’s appointments, where the obsession has been on counting eggs, measuring eggs, scanning eggs…

Most importantly, let’s not forget, Easter itself is literally a celebration of life – it’s a story of the resurrection of Jesus – a work of God so incredulous that no one believed what they saw, or rather, what they did not see on Easter morning, as Jesus’ tomb lay empty. It’s the day God showed His promise was true – that those who believe will be granted eternal life. The Easter basket was intended by German tradition to be a symbol of the promise God fulfilled and is meant to celebrate life. In my love of Easter, I would argue you’re never too old to get an Easter basket. But I believe as we age, our hunt changes from a literal search for physical eggs and baskets to more of a spiritual, figurative hunt. Instead of candy or stuffed animals, we search for answers, for hope, and for peace, in relation to whatever we are facing in life at a given time. Me, personally, I’m searching for a child – an addition to my already amazing, but somewhat incomplete, family.

I remember Easter last year – my cousin, Laura, who I love dearly, announced to the family that she was “eggspecting” (did I mention she’s also very creative!) and my beautiful sister-in-law, Kristi, had the start of a baby bump where my precious niece, Violet, was growing. And I remember thinking, next year that will be me! Easter will be filled with new life and exciting beginnings! I’ll be the one finding cute ways to announce we are expanding our family! I’ll be the one looking for a cute maternity dress to wear to church Easter morning!

Well, Easter has rolled around and I’m no further in the hunt for my “Easter basket” than I was last year. I woke up early before church on Easter morning to take Reggie for a walk. It was cloudy and drizzling rain, dampening my mood even further. As I walked, I contemplated how I would face the day. And I remembered a message my friend Jared had sent me following last week’s post on faith and peace in Sometimes We Just Need a Sign– he told me that I would never find real peace until I unconditionally placed trust in God and believed in Him. He told me that Easter season was the greatest time to offer up my suffering and believe. My devotions book that morning reiterated his thoughts; it said

“I am calling you to a life of thankfulness. I have designed you to live by faith, not by sight.”

I believe I’m supposed to be a mom, just as Mary believed that Jesus was alive. I realize I can’t see when I’m supposed to be a mom any more than Mary could see Jesus’ body in the tomb on Easter morning – but does that mean it doesn’t exist? No – if anything it’s affirmation that through trust and faith, our prayers are heard and answered in God’s time. I came to this conclusion by the end of my walk, and as if to reassure me, a beautiful sunrise broke through the rain and the clouds. And if you remember my post last week, I am always looking for signs – and I took this as a beautiful sign – as if to say, where there is darkness, there can always be light. Just like for every Good Friday, there is an Easter morning.

IMG_5079

So it was on this early morning Easter walk that I think I found my “Easter basket,” and instead of it being empty as I had expected, it was overflowing – with hope, with peace, with love, and with LIFE – my life. And I was reminded of the beautiful gift of life throughout the day – holding my niece in church and hearing her laugh, receiving prayers from my mom, reading a card from my dad reminding me I am strong and to never give up, and the many hugs and laughs I shared with my family.

IMG_5083

I truly hope all of you found your Easter baskets this year and that they were filled with life…If you didn’t find what you expected to, look again. Maybe what you were meant to find isn’t actually there at all – just like the women looking for Jesus’ body on Easter morning. Maybe what you were meant to find is something you cannot see, but rather something you have to believe. For all of you out there who are waiting for something and searching for answers, trust me when I say you will not find peace until you stop looking and start believing. Easter is a celebration of life – it’s a reminder to believe in the life you have been given and the paths you are following; there is a reason for every triumph and every struggle. Open your eyes and believe – I know that you too will find there is sunshine for every dark day.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Faith & Infertility

Sometimes We Just Need a Sign

This week was a challenging one for me…I had a fertility appointment Thursday. Erik is on the road for baseball, so I went alone. The pieces of my story will fall into place in future blog posts, but for the purpose of this entry, you should know I am on my second fertility doctor. I have already tried clomid, an estrogen modifier, and letrozole, a hormone-based chemotherapy drug, both of which have been shown to be effective fertility drugs. I have tried both drugs in various dosages without success. During my appointment, the reproductive endocrinologist outlined the next recommended step: hormone injections with intrauterine insemination (IUI). I learned about the entire process, practiced how to inject myself, and was advised of the cost…which is not covered at all by insurance. I mean, since when does trying to become pregnant cost as much as a car? Oh and by the way, if it doesn’t work, you still have to pay for it – when will they invent a “money back guarantee” for women struggling with infertility? Tearfully, I left the office and went back to work to treat my patients, distracted by the idea that unless I have tens of thousands of dollars lying around, I may never become a mom. I dutifully finished work, went to my car, and sobbed. In my irrational and inconsolable state, I’m thinking, how will we afford this? What if it doesn’t work? And the bigger question, if I have to work this hard and go through this much to get pregnant, is it really all in God’s plan for us to have a baby? At what point do you stop and say it isn’t meant to be?

I was raised Catholic and Erik was raised Lutheran. I would be lying if I told you we went to church on a weekly basis, but we are both faithful people. Faith, by definition, is the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Many of us have religious faith, meaning we have complete trust in God. When Erik and I got married in the Catholic church, we were required to sign a form agreeing to raise our children as Catholics. Coming from separate religions our views varied slightly – how would we choose for our children? Ultimately, we signed the form but agreed that as long as our children had faith and a good moral compass, it didn’t matter which religion they followed.

Thinking back now, it all seems ironic. As long as our children had faith…it seems hypocritical, as I often find myself questioning if there really is a God, and if there is – does He hear me? If He hears my cries, how can He be so silent? Is God still at work when you seek fertility treatments in bringing a life into this world?

A strong part of my faith is the belief that we all serve a higher, predetermined purpose. Within my very being, I know I am meant to be a mom. I know that part of my purpose is to bring life into this world…But lately, I am forced to question my purpose – are these signs telling us we aren’t meant to be parents now…or ever?

As you know from last week, I have an amazing support system. I expressed my concerns to a few friends, and all gave me the same answer: we are blessed to live in a world where there are options for people like me – that God created brilliant scientists and technology to facilitate the process of bringing life into the world. They also reminded me that science only goes so far and the rest is in God’s plan – His hand is always at work.

So do I find solace in this? Sometimes. For most of my life, up until this moment, my aspirations have fallen so perfectly in alignment with God’s timing – I am truly blessed. I feel selfish at times, questioning God’s plan for me, debating what is fair and unfair, given the amazing life I have had and continue to lead. But this week at my appointment, for the first time, I was struck with the realization that perhaps my plan doesn’t match God’s plan…not now at least…and maybe not in the future either. And I’m terrified. I’ve prayed for answers, and I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights, fearful and angry, and this week was no exception.

But then this – Erik called me Friday – he has been working with our tax guy for the last few weeks getting everything in order for tax day. He told us last week we would have to pay-in a large amount – this had added to my stress at the fertility appointment, knowing Uncle Sam was taking a fair share of our savings. How would we ever afford fertility treatments now? But on Friday, the tax guy said he made a mistake – we wouldn’t have to pay as much as he had estimated. And guess how much the difference was? The amount for one round of IUI treatment…

Is that a sign? I need to believe it is. There have been, and I’m sure there will be more, times where I have given up on God…but clearly He hasn’t given up on me. I have come to believe that sometimes when I ask God for strength, instead He gives me an opportunity to be strong. When I ask Him for more, instead He shows me to appreciate what I already have. When I ask Him for guidance, He silently opens doors to lead me to where I belong in His plan.

Whether you believe in God or not, it doesn’t matter – what matters is that you have faith – that you believe in yourself…that you believe in your purpose in life – whatever it may be…that you believe in the love and friendship that surround you…that you at some point stop trying to control life and start living the life you have been given…no matter what you’re going through, whatever you are questioning, don’t let sadness and doubt blind you to the good in the world. Open your eyes, see the signs and miracles in everyday life – whether they are an unexpected tax return, an especially sunny day, or a kind smile from a stranger – they are all meaningful, relatively speaking…

And with that, I can find peace for now – that doesn’t necessarily mean staying positive, and it doesn’t mean my world isn’t filled with storms – but it does mean trusting my life is happening how it was meant to…I don’t always have to agree with the plan, but relatively speaking, I can live with it.