“In His Time” by Gina

When my husband William and I got married in November of 1997, we were both ready to begin our family immediately.  Little did we know, God had other plans for us.  After four years of trying to conceive and to no avail, we decided to seek medical help.  For years I had doctors tell me that there was nothing wrong, that we just needed to relax and quit worrying about things and that if we were not so uptight, it would happen.

I started researching infertility and began charting my cycles each month and after about a year of doing this with no results, I was convinced that there was something wrong.  I had to change doctors three times because it seemed that no one would take me seriously and listen to what I knew was going on.  Through the testing that followed the next several years, it was finally concluded that I had severe endometriosis.  As most who suffer from endometriosis know, this disease can be extremely frustrating.  There are so many unknowns and it usually leaves you with many unanswered questions.  Some common ones I struggled with were: “Why do I have it?”  “What did I do to cause this?”  And the most frustrating of all for me was, “If every test comes out that nothing is physically wrong with my reproductive organs, why am I not pregnant yet?”

These questions plagued me for years, and like many other women who have struggled with infertility, I watched time and time again as my friends and family conceived, carried their babies to term and delivered beautiful, healthy babies.  My emotions were so unstable during this time.  My friends and family were afraid to share their joyous news with me, which hurt me because I truly was so happy for them, but every positive they received made me feel so sad about my situation.  It seemed like a never-ending roller coaster ride that I didn’t want to be on.

I think the most hurtful thing during that time was that I felt that God was not answering my prayers but pouring out blessings on everyone around me.  I compared my state to that of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:10 as she dealt with her own barrenness,  “ And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” I truly was in this state as well.  I prayed, I wept, and bitterness was beginning to set in on me.   I felt so self-centered and selfish, always thinking about me and my condition.  Looking back, those were some very sad and lonely times for me.

Over the next few years, William and I considered in vitro fertilization (IVF).  We even got as far as meeting with a physician and were actually filling out the paperwork when both of us immediately knew that this was not the path that we were to be taking, at least not at that very moment.  We continued praying and searching for alternative ways to build our family.  An attorney introduced us to the idea of adoption.  We first looked into overseas adoption, but could not find peace in that decision and decided that was not the path we were to take either.  We finally settled on becoming a resource family through the Department of Human Services.  This decision was absolutely life changing for us and I mean that in the best way!  I still can’t believe how everything fell into place as we began to start our family and I would like to share a few pieces of that story with you, so you can see just how great the Lord worked in our lives.

We were approved in August of 2003 to become adoptive parents.  I was praying that we would be placed with an infant.   I wanted so badly to experience that part of motherhood.  Our social worker told us it would take some time to be placed with a child, especially an infant, sometimes it could take several years.  I was very surprised when our phone rang in December of that same year with a possibility of a 3 ½ year-old boy.  I have to admit, at first, I was not on board with the age of the child; I was hoping for a newborn or at least a baby that was under a year old.  I went and met with the social worker and as soon as she showed me the pictures of Tevin, my heart melted….I saw a beautiful little boy who needed a home.  My eyes were not clouded with age; age didn’t matter.   He was such a cute little guy and so in December of 2003, Tevin came home with us!   Talk about a wonderful Christmas gift.  After only six months in our home, we finalized the adoption of our first child.  We were finally parents and I was a mommy!   God had answered our prayers!  God was so good to work out so many problems that could have occurred during that process and then, He continued to pour out blessings on us over the next few years!

In November of 2005, I was called to give temporary care to a newborn baby boy for another foster parent who was dealing with health issues in her family.  That temporary care turned permanent the first week of December and it looked like this little baby might possibly be up for adoption as well.  On December 19th, I received a call that they had found a family for the baby to live with.  I was very heartbroken.  Although the goal is always for reuniting with the parents or biological family, in the back of my mind, I always thought what if…I was not prepared for the phone call that I received three days later.  I received the call on Taleah on December 22nd.  Her birth mother was in the hospital delivering her as we spoke, and they wanted to see if I was up for keeping another newborn.  I hesitated after they told me that she had three other siblings in custody and that the only reason she couldn’t go there was because that foster home was full; however, if a spot opened, they would move her to be with the siblings.  I almost said no, but something (God, I believe) prompted me to say yes and so we took her.  The next day, I went and picked her up.  She was amazing and I fell in love with her quickly!

Two days later, on Christmas Day, I knew that her leaving my home would be too hard for me to take, especially if her stay was extended, so I wanted to meet with the other foster family and tell them my heart or tell them to take her quickly because the DHS workers really felt that this baby would go up for adoption.  We went out to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas dinner and she had a HUGE surprise for us!  The other family that had the other three other siblings was her current preacher and his wife, who was also my husband’s and my former preacher!  They too were resource parents in another county.  They had already adopted two of her siblings and had the third in foster care at the time but knew they could not keep taking this couples’ children.  Space was limited and they already had ten children in their home with plans of adopting them all.  They had been so burdened by not knowing where Taleah was that they had decided to call DHS after Christmas and tell them that they would do whatever they needed to make a space for her.  They were telling this story to my mother-in-law and when they compared details, they realized that we were the other foster family.  When they found out that she had been placed with William and me, we all knew that God had worked this out perfectly and that it was a miracle.  MANY tears of joy were shed that day!

Several huge things happened that don’t normally happen in a case like Taleah’s that I want to point out, so that God can get all the glory.  First of all, her siblings resided in another county and the fact that her mother delivered in our county opened the door to us even being able to foster her temporarily.  Secondly, had the little boy that we had in our home not been removed three days before Taleah was born, we would not have been the ones to receive that telephone call.  God’s hand TRULY was present in yet another wonderful Christmas present for us.  Telling that story still gives me chills, it is so AMAZING and hard to believe that it happened at all, let alone the way that it did.  Everything just fell into place perfectly.

After being blessed with our first two children through adoption, we decided that the timing might be right for us to try IVF.  We still struggled with the thought that perhaps we were taking things out of the Lord’s hands if we sought this route of treatment.  After talking with my pastor’s wife one day, I was explaining to her that I felt so selfish for still wanting to conceive and carry a child, especially after the Lord had been so good to us through adoption.

She said two things that really helped me get past any struggle I had with IVF.  The first was, it wasn’t selfish of me to want to be a mother in the sense of carrying and delivering a child.  God had created women to fulfill that very function and that He had placed that desire in my heart as a woman.  The other was the struggle that William and I dealt with on taking things out of God’s hands.  She said to me, “Gina, if God does not intend for you to bear a child, you will not bear a child.  You cannot take anything out of God’s hands!”  Her words of counsel put us at complete ease with pursuing IVF.  If the process worked, great!  If it didn’t, we had already been blessed with two beautiful children.

We were referred to a wonderful doctor and in the fall of 2007, our third child, Kaylee Rose, was born to us.  Our final addition to the family arrived in the spring of 2009.  We named her Kimberlee.  I’m not sure of the exact statistics on IVF, but I know that the percentage of success on a first try is somewhere around or below 50% and on frozen cycles, the success rate is much lower, probably around 35% or even lower.  We tried two cycles and both were successful!  I am still in awe at God’s allowing us to experience the joy of parenthood by adoption and by conception.  One boy and three girls later, our family is complete, unless of course the Lord decides to allow us any more children!

Looking back over the last thirteen years, I can now see how important it was for us to wait on starting our family.  God was trying to teach me patience so that I could experience the full blessings that He had in store for me.  In Romans 5:3, the Bible says ”And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”  This verse proved so true in our situation.  Had we been able to immediately conceive and not go through the tribulation of infertility, our family would not be complete because we never would have considered the adoption process and we would not have Tevin and Taleah today.  God had other plans for our family.  He had bigger and better plans for our family.  While I couldn’t see His plan clearly years ago, I can now see clear as day just what He had in mind.  I learned a very important lesson through all this and it is that the best blessings come “In His Time.”  Some things are worth waiting for!

Gina

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Our Road To IVF – Money Issues

Our road leading to IVF seemed long.  From the first time IVF was recommended as our best chance at pregnancy, it took about 3 ½ years for us to eventually proceed with IVF, mostly because of concerns about the cost.  However, with pastoral and godly counsel and much prayer, we felt God’s hand upon us, even guiding us to the center He wanted us to use.

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”
(Elisabeth Elliot in “God’s Timing”, Faith That Does Not Falter.  )

This quote describes our road to IVF.  After surgery and treatment for Stage IV endometriosis, my doctor’s recommendation was that we try to get pregnant for a year, but if not, she said our best chance for pregnancy was IVF.  We were not initially inclined to do IVF.  At first, it seemed drastic.  If it was still possible to get pregnant within that year, why jump to IVF, when it would cost $10,000 (in 2001) for a 50% chance of pregnancy?  This was something we reasoned together but did not try really communicate with our doctor to find out more.  The $10,000 would be worth it if I got pregnant, but to spend that much money and not get pregnant with one chance and then be out $10,000 seemed like a huge risk to us.  It would have been both financially and emotionally devastating.

I didn’t get pregnant on my own that year, and after seeking treatment from a different specialist, we were again advised that IVF was our best chance for pregnancy.  At the time, we wanted to try IUI since it did not seem as “invasive” and was also less expensive, although the success rate was not as high as IVF.  When IUI didn’t produce a pregnancy, we sought to add to our family through adoption and also started to read a little more about IVF.

In the spring of 2004, my sister called me about an episode that aired on Dr. Phil.  It was about a shared-risk program for IVF in Washington, D.C.  I looked it up on the internet also and found out shared-risk costs more than one traditional IVF cycle, but some programs refund 70-100% of your money, if you do not go home with a live baby after a certain number of attempts.  It sounded like something feasible for us, maybe a financial risk worth taking.  It is more like a type of insurance, since we did not have insurance coverage for infertility nor live in a state that mandated coverage.

Summertime rolled around and my husband decided to ask our pastor’s counsel about IVF.  It was like a burden lifted off of us when he talked to him.  We had a green light!  I remember asking him, “Why did you ask him about this now?  Why not a year ago?!”  The doctors always said we had “a window of opportunity”.  All I can say is…

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”

That summer the show on Dr. Phil aired again and my mother-in-law taped it for us.  After my husband’s talk with Pastor, we watched the program.  I looked it up on the internet and tried to figure out how we could make it work.  It would be costly just for traveling and lodging.  A few days later, I did a web search on shared-risk IVF and a company came up called Integramed (now known as Attain IVF.  They did a similar shared-risk program with a handful of approved reproductive centers in the U.S.  At the time there were no centers in our state, but the closest one to us “just happened” to be only four hours’ driving distance from where we lived and 5 miles from my sister’s house!  That location definitely sounded more practical and feasible.

I prayed for peace about this center.  We also scheduled an IVF consult with our doctor locally to compare options.  I prayed Psalm 102:2b “In the day when I call, answer me speedily.”  And He did!  Praise the Lord!  By the end of October, in one day – the same day – the Lord answered my prayer by closing the door on our local doctor and opening the door to the center out-of-state.

Isaiah 30:21. “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

We knew this is where the Lord was leading us.  Within two weeks, we had our first appointment.  Then we were accepted into the shared-risk program, and by January 2005, we did our first IVF.  This definitely turned out to be the best option for us because we I did not get pregnant on the first attempt, although if I had, it still would have been worth it to us.  It was God’s timing, and…

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”

Note: I am presenting our story of shared-risk as one of many financial options to have a baby.  We had our baby in 2006, and so I am sure there are now even more programs and ways to save money, raise money, get the most out of your money – all that will hopefully lead you on the road to having your baby.
Article on Affording the Cost of Infertility Treatments

Our Road To IVF – Moral Issues

When we did not become pregnant on our own, I began to wonder how I, as a Christian, should feel about assisted reproductive technology.  I didn’t know much about procedures like AI or IVF, except having developed a few preconceived ideas from a couple of ladies who had experienced infertility and shared their thoughts.  Based on that, I wondered if it was even ethical or moral for me as a Christian to pursue.  How do I determine what is right or wrong?  Were we taking the situation out of God’s hands?  These are just a few of the moral issues I needed to discover the answer to.

After searching on the internet, I came across the website for the Christian Medical and Dental Association (cmda.org) and found they had published their statements concerning issues and ethics on Reproductive Technology & Health.  Even among Christians in the medical field, there was agreement on the biblical principles but not total agreement on the practical application of the principles.  Not every technological procedure may be morally justified.

Below I have shared a couple of statements that stood out to me when reading from the CMDA website:

“Paradoxically, the advent of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has in some instances increased the anguish of infertile couples.  Because these technologies are now available to those who can afford them, couples must make choices about whether to undergo such assistance, how many cycles to attempt, etc.  Such additional choices can cause them greater turmoil – socially, financially, and morally.  Just because certain technology is available does not automatically mean that it is morally justified or that it should be used.”

“Conclusion: CMDA affirms the need for continued moral scrutiny of our developing reproductive technology as it impacts the family.  We recognize that as physicians we must use our creative capacity within the limits of God’s design.  Couples who suffer from infertility should be encouraged to seek pastoral guidance and counsel, as well as to pray for God’s wisdom in the use of these technologies.”

This website has proven to be very helpful to me and brings to the forefront the sovereignty of God and the sanctity of life when seeking direction about assisted reproductive technology.  I trust it will be a great help to you also.

But If Not

With the passing of another Mother’s Day, I was reminded of people for whom this day is difficult – not only women who desperately want to be mothers, but also mothers who have lost babies or older children who were supposed to outlive them, as well as others whose mothers have passed away.  Most of all, I couldn’t stop thinking about a friend who has experienced infertility herself but encouraged me during my trial of infertility.  You see, she never did get pregnant.  I don’t know all of her circumstances and decisions that were made, but for whatever reason, she and her husband either weren’t called to adopt or perhaps those plans fell through also.  I don’t understand why God didn’t open her womb.

I wondered how could my blog help someone like her?  Maybe it’s not supposed to be able to help everyone.  But if you are in her shoes and you have stumbled upon this blog, I hope my words don’t ring hollow because God did open my womb, but He hasn’t done that for you.  You might say I can praise Him because He did give me the desire of my heart – a baby.  I can only say the thoughts I am sharing came before I knew what He would actually do in my own life.  I do praise Him for my outcome.  But if not, I would hope I could still trust Him, praise Him and keep serving Him.

In the Book of Daniel, the Bible teaches the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  King Nebuchadnezzar was enraged they would not serve his gods and worship the golden image he had made.  They were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down.  I remember their words of trust and faith in their God (who is my God!).  In Daniel 3:17-18 they said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou has set up.”

We need to recognize these three men did not look to God for physical deliverance during their moment of trial.  Instead, they placed their faith in the God who is able, not necessarily the God who will, though we might hope for it.  Their public faith didn’t force God’s hand, but instead their faith that God is still God stood strong, whatever the outcome.  I borrowed these words for my own fiery trial and remember praying, “I know you are able to deliver me from my barrenness, oh God, but if not, by God’s grace, I will still trust, serve and praise you.”

Our son was 1 ½ when we decided to attempt IVF again.  We wanted another baby!  Another friend of mine had one miracle son, and since it was taking much longer the second time around, she also went to see a fertility specialist.  My news wasn’t what we had hoped; the doctor actually cancelled my cycle because I didn’t produce enough follicles to proceed, and that was using the protocol with the highest dosage.  I was only 38.  My friend also didn’t have good news – the doctor told her it was a miracle she got pregnant the first time and didn’t even recommend IVF for her.  She was even younger than I.  We both found out about the other’s results the same day at church, and I’ll never forget that day when we hugged and I said, in thankfulness and in tears, “At least God gave us both one son!”  Then she told me to stop before I made her cry.  I remember my nurse saying it wasn’t impossible for either of us to get pregnant, but it wasn’t worth paying that much for IVF for a 2% chance.  A little over a year later, my friend called to tell me she was pregnant – 7 weeks along!  I was thrilled for her, and her news also gave me hope that God could do the same for me.  It just seemed destined to turn out that way.  Her baby is now almost 6 months old, and no, I haven’t gotten pregnant.  Most say I would be hoping against hope.  True.  Against hope, I am still believing in hope.  (Romans 4:18-25)  God is able.  But if not, I will be ok.  By God’s grace, I will still trust, praise, and serve Him.  God is still good.

If you are childless, perhaps not by your choice, then you can even identify with the sufferings of Christ greater than my own experience.  I wonder if there is anyone who would give a word of encouragement by sharing how you have coped with this.  How have you viewed God in the difficult times or when He didn’t deliver what you wanted?  It may never get easy – the barren womb is never satisfied (Proverbs 30:15-16) – but if you can say God is still good, I would love to hear from you.

*Excerpts from AIA Devotional on Daniel 3

My Opportunity for Importunity

In January 2005, we were accepted into a shared-risk program for IVF.  Our 1st IVF attempt in January of that year did not result in a pregnancy.  Although it was difficult to hear that my pregnancy test was negative, we knew we had two more chances.  My husband’s words of comfort were that he was still confident I would get pregnant.  In my previous post, I said the evangelist’s message on importunity was preached on March 30th.  That gave me renewed hope to persevere in my petitions, to keep praying for a baby.  The dictionary defines importunity as the quality or state of being overly persistent in request or demand; to beg for urgently.

Our 2nd IVF attempt in April was cancelled because of a cyst.  Our 3rd IVF attempt in July resulted in a pregnancy – for about a week.  One of two embryos implanted, but it did not continue.  After the July IVF attempt, we thought we would have one last chance with the shared-risk program, since it allowed three attempts.  What we did not realize at the time was that they considered the cancelled cycle one of the attempts.  So one day they left a message on our answering machine saying they were refunding 70% of our money!  After praying about it and consulting with our specialist, we decided to try one more time.  That IVF – 3rd attempt to us – occurred in October 2005.

I mentioned hearing that message on importunity twice in the space of seven months.  It was as if the Lord knew I needed one more shot of encouragement to keep praying and asking.  On October 30th, the same evangelist preached at our church from the same exact text!  I smiled to myself when I realized it was the same message.  I thought, “God wants me to hear this message again!”  It was for me!  This was my opportunity to keep praying.  I just said, “OK, Lord.  I’m going to keep asking you for a baby.”

Again, this was the evangelist’s message.  Praying is asking.  Importunity means relentless asking.  Keep at it until our prayer is answered.  Keep praying until we get what we wanted and asked for, not a no, or a maybe, but a yes!

My retrieval day was 4 days later on November 3rd.  This final IVF attempt was not without another exercise in faith that I’ll share in another entry, but on November 16th, my first pregnancy test was positive and this time, it continued!  I was finally pregnant!

The November 17th entry of Streams in the Desert shares these thoughts on importunity.  “God will hear prayer, but He may not answer it at the time which we in our minds have appointed; He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations.  Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication.  Never let us despair.  God’s time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing has arrived.  Ask in faith, nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the King delays to reply.”  C. H. Spurgeon