About Me

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Hi. Welcome to my "taboo" blog. My name is Steph, and when I first started this, I was still in my thirties. In 2017, I switch decades! I am a Christian, so underlying everything I do and say is the Word of God, and the foundational truths I have learnt over the years. This doesn't mean I'm perfect - I am human. It just means I recognise I need God's help to live this life and try to live out His way, as best I can. So that's me in a nutshell. Thanks for taking the time to read through my blog, I hope you draw strength, hope or encouragement from what you read.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prayer for the "Hopeful Grandmothers"

I realised today that the Journey for Bubba I am doesn't just affect me. Nor does it only affect Hubby. My mum sent me a simple text and I saw, for the first time since I started walking this path, how it is affecting my mum too.

"I've just seen the most perfect outfit for your babies. The Lord should quit tarrying!"

As the only girl in a family of boys (there are even more boys than girls among the children of the next generation!), I see how my mum is also holding onto the hope that one day, her only daughter will have a baby. Being the mother of a daughter who is pregnant and about to give birth has a different feel to it than being the mother of the son whose wife is having children. There is a different dynamic to experiencing the pregnancy of a daughter, than of a son, purely because a mother knows what her daughter is going through. I've read stories from women who became closer to their mothers after childbirth, because they had a shared experience between them... mother and daughter against the rest of the world.

There is also the element that when a woman is poorly, or she needs something, more often than not she is more likely to go to her mother than her mother-in-law.

For my mum, she has had the privilege of become a Grandmother, through two of her sons, and she loves all her grandchildren to bits. But I now know that she is walking her own path on our Journey for Bubba.

Far from feeling pressured by the text, far from feeling, "Oh no I can't produce a Grandchild from my parents". far from feeling they are on my case to give them another Grandchild, as I know some women do, I felt a sense of relief and understanding, that even though my parents are so far away from me, they - my mum in particular - are with me in this testing season. She is fighting her own struggle, on my behalf - as well as her own. They say that when you become a mum, you never stop being a mum, even when your own children become parents themselves... This is obviously so true in my mum's case. She feels my pain, because she has her own pain. She has a walked a similar path in her own past, so she understands better than most how I am feeling.

Father God, I lift up my mum to you - and other mums like her - who watches me struggle on this Journey for Bubba. She has her own desires to be a Grandma to our Bubba, and I now realise how she struggles, just like me, when she goes to the shops and sees the cute baby stuff. Lord, I thank You for the faithful prayers of my mum, on our behalf, and I pray that our prayers would join together in agreement, because You said, "if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:19). Father, I thank You because she has listened to me so many times on the phone, and her heart must have broken when mine was breaking, she must have cried silent tears as I sobbed out loud, she must have longed to take me in her arms, just as I long to hold Bubba in mine. Father, thank You for placing me under her care - and the care of my father. I ask You would grant her wisdom and uphold her, as she supports Hubby and I through our Journey, and as she walks her own path beside us. In Jesus name.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Supernatural Childbirth - Another Helpful Book

Before Christmas, a friend of mine lent me a book she had been reading. She is, like me, struggling to conceive. She is further on in her journey, having tried IVF a couple of times. It helps to know that we are not the only couple in the Church who have been struggling with this issue. Anyway, she had bought a book called Supernatural Childbirth, by Jacki Mize (view book and biography on the Publishers website).

Now a few years ago, this book was doing "the rounds" among my pregnant friends, because in it Jackie talks about having pain-free births for the last three of her four children. So I have to be honest and say that initially, when I was given the book, my first thoughts were, "thank you very much, but I won't read that". I took it home and put it on my bedside table praying, "Lord, if You think there is something I can get from this book, then please prompt me to read it, otherwise I'll give it back to her in a couple of weeks."

I then forgot about it, as it gradually became buried under my Bible, my journal and a couple of other books I was reading!

About a week ago, it was staring at me from under my Bible, and I decided to read it. I have to be honest and say it was not what I had expected. I guess because it is called supernatural childBIRTH, and because all my pregnant friends had read it in preparation for their labour, I'd had pre-conceived ideas about it not being relevant for someone struggling to conceive - almost forgetting that my friend who gave it to me is also TTC.

Jackie Mize says, thoughout the book, that to start praying for a supernatural childbirth is best before you conceive. She talks about her own struggle to conceive, and the lessons she learnt through talking with God about her struggle, and about the prayers she prayed leading to the result of having three children supernaturally, pain-free and without complication. She says it's OK to ask God for a particular gender, and it is more worthwhile asking God before you conceive, rather than expecting Him to change the baby's gender in your womb! She says it is more beneficial to pray over every aspect of the pregnancy and labour before you are, as you invite God into the whole process, rather than at the end of it.

She looks at the relationships in the Bible of the "barren women", and shares some of the insights God gave to her and her husband, including some important lessons regarding the curse given by God after Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden (see Genesis 3:14-19). She explains how the Holy Spirit had revealed to her and her husband that the word "sorrow" doesn't mean sadness / pain etc.. as has been interpreted for centuries. Rather the Hebrew word "sorrow" has the same meaning as "grief" as used of Jesus when He faces the cross. Jesus is not sorrowful - He is grieved.

One of the greatest aspects of this small book, for me, was the fact that throughout there is a sense of Jackie and her husband Terry TOGETHER in the journey. Her husband shares her sorrow and grief and together they seek God for conception and a pain free pregnancy and delivery. There's such a sense that she was not alone in her Journey for Bubba.

At the end of the book, Jackie provides the reader with a selection of prayers she prayed, not as a "this is how it should be done", but as a "this worked for me, allow the Holy Spirit to adapt it for you". Sometimes I find it hard to know HOW to pray, so having this book has opened up a way for me to pray when I don't know how to. Not because I don't rely on the Holy Spirit, but because it helps to have the guidance of others who have gone before me.

The upshot of this is that I have ordered the book for myself, and the corresponding Prayers and Promises for Supernatural Childbirth which Jackie produced later!

If, like me, you sometimes just don't know how to pray, because infertility is one of those topics which isn't discussed much in Churches, then I would recommend you have a look at this one. Praying for our Bubba before he or she arrives, covering him or her at every stage of life, from conception to development to their arrival in the world, seems logical to me. I often pray for Bubba, but reading Supernatural Childbirth opened my eyes to praying wider... for a healthy egg and healthy sperm, for development in the womb, against any complications etc... as Jackie says, its better to pray before something has happened than after!

Another Word For The Hubby's

Genesis 25:21
Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

I know I have used this verse in a previous blog, but the other day I was praying and really felt a strong prompt to pray for my husband to pray for me. More than just to pray for me, to PLEAD with the Lord on my behalf.

Pleading with the Lord has a stronger emphasis than a simple "Lord let her have a baby". It carries weight. It carries a sense that Isaac felt the burden of his wife's struggle and became involved in way that goes beyond merely comforting his wife each month.

According to the dictionary, to plead is:
  • An EMOTIONAL appeal 
  • To appeal earnestly - to BEG
  • To use arguments and PERSUASIONS, as with a person, for or against something.
Far from being a passive type of prayer we can all be guilty of, particularly when asked to pray for someone, to PLEAD with the Lord meant that Isaac connected in a deep emotional way between how his wife was feeling. It meant that Isaac empathised with his wife and stepped into the gap with the Lord. It became an issue of importance to him, as well as to her. The fact that his wife was barren, and therefore a burden to her, meant that instead of leaving her to carry the burden herself, Issac took the load with her, and took it to the Lord.

I can imagine Isaac on his face before ADONAI, tears rolling down His face interceding and fasting, reminding God of the promises He had made to his father Abraham, that he was a child of the promise, reminding the Lord that it was His command in the first place for a husband and wife to be fruitful and to multiply, reminding the Lord that He was the Creator of life, and begging Him to change His mind on leaving Rebekah barren. 

God listened. 
God answered.
Rebekah conceived.

Father God I pray that You would stir up the hearts of the husbands, that they would connect with what their wives are going through and would step in the gap on their behalf. Lord I pray every husband who knows You, would connect with the journey his wife is on, and would connect with You, PLEADING with You to answer their heart's cry. 

1 Corinthians 11:3 says that the man covers his wife, and I pray Father God that husbands would cover his wife through intercession, not because You will listen to him more than you will listen to us women, but because You want Him to walk with his wife on Your behalf. In Jesus name, I ask that You would send Your Holy Spirit to stir up the heart of every husband of the wife who reads this prayer, including my own. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facing Infertility Head-On - Next Step Decided

As much as I want to just bury my head in the sand in the hope that God will make it all go away, so I don't have to deal with "it", I've reached the place where I know He won't. I have to deal with "it". It won't just go away. Although I don't feel strong enough, I know that the Lord will be with Hubby and me EVERY step of the way. Because the last 17 months have shown me He has been with me already. He has comforted me during those moments when it's become too much to bear. 

"It". Infertility. 
The name for the difficulties women like me face, if we don't conceive within a certain length of time. 

When I last spoke with the Consultant, the week before Christmas, he left me with a decision to make about our next step. I've already outlined the three options which had been presented to me (click on the links to read more, if you want to know more):
The way he had presented the options to me, made it seem as though I would have to go through the surgery, in order for the drug treatment to work. But I really didn't feel comfortable about having surgery - especially if I don't need to have it. 

So with this in mind, I contacted my consultant to find out if it would be possible to have the fertility drugs first and then keep the surgery option as a back-up. I would rather not have had to make any decision at all, to be perfectly honest, but like I said, burying my head in the sand isn't an option anymore. I kinda did one of those "prayers" before hearing from the consultant that God would help me be at peace with the decision I made, but that if I could avoid the surgery, I would really appreciate it. 

It took a lot to just pray that, at New Year, I normally spend some time thanking God for the past year and praying for the year ahead, but this year, all I could bring myself to write in my journal was the fact I had nothing to say at that time. The desire for a child threatened to over-shadow my desire for a closer relationship with the Lord, no matter how many times I tell myself, "God is in control" or, "I trust God with every area of my life"!

I really appreciate that God loves me, and knows how to bring reassurance and peace into my heart, so when the consultant's secretary called me back with the answer I wanted to hear, I felt so at peace with the next step I would be taking. I don't have to have the surgery straight away, I can try a course of the fertility drug first. This is such a relief to me, as I know God heard my heart's desire to try to have Bubba in as natural a way as possible - having the surgery would have felt more like an invasive intervention than just taking a few pills... in my head it does!

So, the next step has been decided and confirmed. There is just one test outstanding before we can start the course, which is Hubby's department, not mine - for a change! And then the Journey For Bubba moves forward to the next step. Whatever the outcome, I know God is with me, upholding me and strengthening me at every point. I have no doubt there will be some tough heart-aches and tears while we are on this next step, but in the Lord, there will also be joy and laughter in this season. Finding the balance between faith and practical progress is tough sometimes, but honestly, I hope Bubba is conceived during this next phase, but if he or she isn't, "it is well with my soul".

Monday, January 14, 2013

Empty Womb, Aching Heart - A Very Helpful Book!!

A few weeks ago, I really wanted a book I could read in relation to this journey of struggling to conceive. I didn't want one of those self-help, got all the answers, this worked for me kind of book, I just wanted something I could dip into for encouragement. Did such a book exist??

As I searched the internet, I found something which seemed to fit my criteria - "Empty Womb, Aching Heart" by Marlo Schalesky. It is a collection of stories from real people who have walked this path before me, and there is no fan-fare presentation which made me feel worse than I did already, for not having enough faith or whatever, rather they are people who have thought the same thoughts as me, and fought against the same feelings of injustice as me.

The testimonies are from women, couples and men and are woven into five sections with the headings:

  • Struggles of the heart
  • Struggles of the mind
  • Struggles of the body
  • Struggles of the spirit
  • A word of hope

Within each heading, I found someone who's story I related to... I've been in the situation where it seems like everyone around me is pregnant, except me, I've struggled with being in Church on Mother's Day, I've received maddening advice from well-meaning women, I've struggled with the thoughts that I am less than a women because I've not yet been able to do what is supposed to be a natural part of being a woman, and I have wondered if God was punishing me. So as I read through each of the chapters, I found a connection with the encouragement each author received from the God Who really does care and understand what we are going through.

One of the things I really valued was the fact that this book didn't try to give any answers, nor offer any false hope or false promises... in some of the cases, the decisions went beyond the woman's desire to conceive, to her desire to be a mum, and looking into adoption or surrogacy... not every journey will have the outcome we think it should have. This is a very sobering thought!

The final chapter included stories from those who had become mum's, through one means or another. I found this an excellent way to conclude the book. I appreciate the fact that the author / editor Marlo  wasn't trying to make anyone feel guilty for feeling the way we do in this walk, rather, she found a way for us to identify with people who are just like us, to learn from them, to be encouraged by their stories and to find relief in the fact that, as one woman said, It's OK to cry, it's OK to grieve and it's OK to get mad at God!

I would have loved to know the outcomes of each of the stories highlighted in the book, especially as it was first published in 2001. It would be interesting to know where each of the couples are at now. But ours is not to know, ours is to read, dip in and out of and gain strength from the testimonies of women who God has led on this path before us.

I would urge you to check out this book, especially if you feel you are the only one who struggles with your faith and your journey to conceive.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ovulation Testing Kit - A Reminder of My Struggles

I never thought I would be one of those women who would need to use an ovulation test kit, but here I am, awaiting the arrival of my new tool in this battle against infertility. I wonder how long I can avoid being one of those women who texts Hubby to say "NOW!"???

I've read stories of the women who have used these kits, and they become the "bridezilla" of the TTC world...! Some of the women admit that they end up losing the natural desire for intimacy with their Hubby, because their sole purpose becomes to conceive and make sure the time is right.

We are blessed, in a sense, that living in this century, we have all these tools and resources available. I can't imagine what it would have been like TTC before a woman's fertility was fully understood. I feel a sense of guilt now, at not being able to have a baby naturally, but back then, a woman didn't just feel guilty - she was outwardly blamed for her barrenness. I mean, look at Henry VIII's poor wives. When they didn't produce a male heir, or even a female one, she faced the prospect of being be-headed or divorced. That's pressure!

But even within the Church, before we really allowed for God's awesome grace, a woman was blamed for not being able to have a baby. Not only does she carry the grief of the struggle of the journey she is on, but she has to face the agony of believing she had done something so bad God wasn't pleased with her - and EVERYBODY knew about it.

I'm glad that I live in a culture today which recognises God's loving kindness removes our sins "as far as the east is from the west", and His grace covers us. That He won't punish us by holding back the desires of our hearts. There are times when I do struggle with the fact I don't have a child yet, especially as a Christian woman. But when I signed up for a life with Him, I signed up for a life doing things His way, and not my own... even though I may not understand what is happening. And I don't understand it! Particularly when Hubby sticks on Jeremy Kyle and we watch as women who are on drugs or drink alcohol or whatever, who don't care enough about themselves so sleep around, and have no idea who their babies fathers are, they just want the maintenance money, or a better council house. How cynical of me!

At the back of my head, when I first started on this path, I did think that everything would be OK, because I have God on my side, which is why I think I wasn't so offensive in my battle to conceive. I thought God will make it happen. The only tool I used was a fertility chart application on my phone which would tell me each month when I was most fertile and the day it considered I would ovulate, based on the data I input. But now, with having ordered the ovulation test kit, it feels as though I have been made to take the step I had been trying to avoid. The step of accepting that I am one of the many women who are struggling to conceive naturally, and so I need to use intervention techniques. I want to try to keep the path as "natural" as I can for as long as I can, but without throwing away the future I long for.

What I really want is to hear from God. But at the moment, He is silent. I don't have a verse, I don't have a Word, something which will give me an idea of what decision I should make. I don't even have the promise that I will have a child. Does it mean then, that God's silence means it is not in His plan for me to be a Momma??

This is such a lonely journey, but the fact I have had to order the ovulation test kit, has made it feel even more lonely, because it has become even more real... even more arduous. I don't even know why. I think because it is hitting home. A blocked tube. Only every other month is a worthwhile opportunity to conceive Bubba. I may have been TTC for 18 months, but in terms of my body, I've only been TTC for 9 months, because my stupid reproductive system is flawed... is broken... is not working properly.

Oh Lord, where are You??? Please speak to me. Will my story end the same as the stories of the barren women in the Scriptures - Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth... they all conceived didn't they? We never meet a woman who was barren and didn't end up having any children, do we?? All journey's have an end point as much as a beginning point, and I know what I want the end of this particular story to be!

Maybe the ovulation test kit will help Hubby and I achieve this before we have to make the decision about my next step! Ha! Only the Lord knows.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Decision About My Next Step: Option 3 - Fertility Drug

My third option, in an attempt to try and have a baby with this blocked Tube, is through a course of Clomifene - a fertility drug. In some weird way, in my head, this feels like the more "natural" option... Because there is no surgery, not injections, no removal of eggs etc, I can almost convince myself that taking the Fertility Drugs is as close to conceiving natural as I could possibly hope.

The tablets are to be taken between days 2-6 of my cycle and increase the production of eggs in my ovaries each month, encouraging more than one egg at a time to be released.

As this is a lot less precise, it is advised, according to the handout I received, to buy one of those ovulation kits, so Hubby and I can ensure we are hitting the right time (I am so glad I have more than one relative who works for Boots!! Love their discount benefit!!). The other thing the consultant advises is for us to have intercourse every other day after each cycle of the Clomifene, for 5-6 days, just to make sure! This can be quite demanding, I would imagine, because regardless of how ill / tired / annoyed / upset etc... either of us are. I'm hoping Hubby will begin to understand the enormity of the situation, but I'm fearful about out times of intimacy becoming a chore. I've heard stories about women who have become mechanical about making sure they have intercourse when they ovulate... I don't want to become like that. 

The hardest thing for me about this, would be regularly taking the tablets - even just for the five days. I'm so rubbish at routine. When Hubby and I first married I went on the contraceptive patch, to avoid the daily routine of taking the pill, because I have forgotten to take them in the past (when I was younger, I was prescribed the pill for the severe cramps I had during my period).

The other thing to take into consideration are the side effects, the biggest one being the increased risk of having a multiple birth; but I think this seems a better risk than the increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which faces me with the option 2. I know there are added complications for women who are expecting more than one baby, including higher risk of miscarriage, but the way I see it is that there are risks involved in every decision. 

Other side effects include hot flushes, breast discomfort, skin rashes, tummy bloating (I get that anyway!), nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision - this last one is so severe, I would have to stop the treatment immediately.

There is also a slight risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Sydrome, where the ovaries are stimulated too much, producing excess fluid which can leak into the body, and accumulate around some of the vital organs around the body. This can only be treated by hospitalisation.

Although not physically demanding, in the same was as the laparascopic surgery would be, there are still demands on the body in the regular checks, blood tests, etc which would need to be carried out. But it is also emotionally demanding, and can be quite discouraging, month-after-month. Unlike previous months, there is the added pressure because of taking Clomifene, there is an increased expectation each month that I will be pregnant. 

When I asked the consultant about the rate of success for the fertility drugs, he wasn't really able to answer, as he said there are too many factors surrounding the condition of the woman and the condition of her her tubes, etc, the age of the woman, the condition and quality of the sperm, and so many other factors, that he was unable to give me a rate of success for using the drug alone, as a fertility treatment. researching online, I can understand why he wasn't able to give me a figure, as the rates offered range between 30% - 60% of women who take Clomifene end up having a baby.  

The other downside is that the Consultant can only give a six month course of Clomifene. If I don't become pregnant after six months, then the treatment stops. 

In some of the stuff I have read, there is no mention of it being used as a successful way to help a woman with blocked tubes to conceive. The problem is not so much that I am not ovulating, the problem is more to do with the egg successfully travelling down my Fallopian Tube each month to meet Hubby's swimmers. I'm not sure how this would work on the "off" month - when the Tube which is blocked is supposed to release the eggs - whether Clomifene stimulates the healthy side each month anyway. Need to check that out.

I did try to speak to my Consultant, to find out if I were to take option 3, whether I can go back to option 2 if the Fertility Drugs don't work, or whether the drugs should be the final step. For myself, I would rater have the surgery as a back-up option, purely because of the physical trauma of surgery, and try taking the Fertility Drugs first. 

So now I have to wait for the Consultant to come back to me after the Christmas break. How he answers my question will determine how I work out what my next step will be. Till then... more waiting!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

News Headline Anger!

There are few things which can really annoy me when I read the papers. But I was hit by the headline, Horrifying story of pregnant South Africans who are deliberately binge drinking... so they get more welfare for the babies they harm in the Daily Mail this morning. 

I get mad because there are many women, like myself, who would love to have a child we can love and nurture and watch develop as we care for them and raise them as best we can. But to see women like this - and I don't doubt for one moment this kind of behaviour, or attitude, is restricted just to "South Africans" - who are abusing their God-given gift before the child has even been born, such a wicked and evil society! 

The fact that the state, technically, allows this to happen, by giving hand-out's to women like this, knowing full well what is happening during pregnancy is an abomination (there's no other none-swearword strong enough to put across how I feel!!)! And we have all heard the stories of the women in our own gloriously moral nation, who also purposely have lots of babies, so they can get more money and a bigger home, courtesy of tax-paying "infertile" women, like me.

Any woman who abuses her baby, even purposely disfiguring him or her during pregnancy, stunting the decent start in life they deserve, just for the extra financial payment they will receive... how on earth can God allow this to happen?! This is when my faith takes a beating, when I know that God knows what the "mother" will do before she has even conceived, why does He allow this to happen?? And why, are there women around the world who would treat their precious gift with the love, honour and dignity every human life deserves. 

This kind of situation demonstrates in a big way, how little many people today regard human life, when people think a child they disfigure will earn them more money - and I totally understand that situations in some of the poorest countries are difficult, but I cannot understand this evil behaviour one bit. The money is not for your addiction, love, the money is to provide the child you harmed during pregnancy with the care he or she will now need.  

How sad that we live in a world where "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25), without respect for the lives of those around them - or placed under their care. How sad that women like me cannot do anything except walk on our own path on our own journey's, trying to not be affect by stupid attitudes like this. In the papers there seem to be more and more articles relating to the abuse and disregard of babies during pregnancy or during their early years, or maybe, because of where I am at, I just notice them more??! 

Isn't it funny how in some Countries, people "play God" by creating life, while in other Countries people "play God" by destroying life. How frustrating! How annoying! How upsetting! Maybe it's just the hormones talking!!

God says He stands for justice and hates injustice. Where is the justice in this type of situation? Where is the justice for the child whose mother cares more about her next fix, than she does about the helpless life growing within her. Lord, let justice flow, like rivers and mighty streams, and wash over our corrupt world destroying injustice, let Your healing waters take their place and restore these children and babies under the shadow of Your wings. Where they have been abused, unwanted, uncared for, Lord I pray You would hold every single one of them in Your arms, protecting them from the injustice of their circumstances.

OK, rant over!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Documentary on Fertility And Prayers For The Process.

Just watched a BBC Four documentary, Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic, which was recorded during 2012 at Liverpool's Hewitt Fertility Centre, by Richard Macer. He followed the journey's of four couples who had not yet been successful in conceiving a child, and so they were attempting a course of IVF.

The opening statement made by Richard, is that Britain is "in the grip of a fertility crisis", as more and more of us struggle to conceive a child naturally. One of the opening statements of gynecologist Richard was following was that a woman who is infertile is suffering from a disease - as he defines as disease as the body's inability to function what should be a normal process. In his opinion, every woman should be offered the chance to be treated for her illness, and so they offer women two courses of IVF on the NHS (so if a woman is a step-mum, it wouldn't hinder her from having the treatment).

It was interesting to see how the process works, and how the team of embryologists consider what they do to be as emotionally charged as they follow the couples they are trying to help. In the case of one couple, where the husband had a low sperm-count, the embryologist "played God" and chose which of the sperm she considered to be the strongest swimmer, which she then injected into each of the eggs which had been collected from his wife - in this instance, five eggs. Although the five eggs were fertilised, only one of the eggs  continued to develop, with the other four deteriorating. This meant the "selection" of the best embryo was made, and then implanted back into the wife. Sadly, when the pregnancy test was done 10 days later, I cried with the women as she read the negative result.

One of the other cases, the embryologist separated each of the eggs into their own petri-dish, and then some of her husband's sperm were injected into the dishes, to fight their way in "natural selection" toward the egg. After a few days, again the strongest egg was chosen and implanted back into the woman. Again, more tears were shed when they realised that the healthy, "camera shy" egg they had been shown prior to implantation, was not a successful pregnancy. This second couple had been through the two rounds of NHS treatments, and were not sure they could cope with a further course of IVF. It is an emotionally exhausting, mentally draining procedure each time, and not one they felt they could embark on lightly.

Of the four couples, only the final couple Richard introduced to us, had a successful pregnancy, and their son was born in December 2012. Again, I cried with this first time IVF couple, as she had received the news they had been hoping for when they first started IVF.

If you want to know more about what IVF is, and how it works, then I would highly recommend watching this hour long fly-on-the-wall documentary. I find there is nothing better than following another person's journey, even just to know I am not the only person struggling with this difficult path known as infertility.

It was interesting listen to the observations of a man who interacted off-camera with the four couples he was following, and the staff they were interacting with - including telling one nurse who didn't have children, and hadn't wanted children, that she may be considered special! Awkward!! Lol!! I don't know much about him, I don't know if he has had to walk a journey of infertility himself - a look at his limited FB page shows he is a father, but he is sensitive in his communication with each of the couples, even at the end of the process with those who have not had a successful round of IVF. Through his narrative, it was easy to identify with the way the staff felt, as each embryologist did her best to try to make a success story for the couples they were trying to help. Because we had been given a brief glimpse into their Journey's for Bubba, I felt the heartache of the couples who didn't have a positive pregnancy test result. This confirms to me, that IVF is not for me.

Lord I pray for each of the couples who were featured in tonight's programme. I pray You would comfort each of them through the grieving process, even though it may be almost a year since they were filmed. For the couple who suffered the ectopic pregnancy after the programme was filmed, I pray you would draw close to the mother who lost her child she had been carrying. I pray, Father God, that You would map out out each couple's journey for Bubba, and lend them Your hand to uphold them through the tough times. I pray Your peace would be with them, and I pray, Lord Jesus, You would bring success for each of them - however this may look to them individually. 

And for each couple who has taken the step to entrust their baby to the success of IVF, Lord I pray You would lift them up through each course they attempt. Be with the people involved in the process, and let Your peace rule their hearts and minds. 

Can Acne Really Be a Friend For The Journey?

I have recently come across something called "face mapping", which was developed by the International Dermal Institute for Dermalogica. It is a system of looking at what the spots on our faces COULD be telling us about our internal state of being.

Although there are as many ideas about what a break-out of spots in each of the zones on our faces mean, the thing which struck me, as someone who has one tube blocked,  is that according to the Face Mapping image which popped up on my Facebook page, the acne which arrives on my chin, on-schedule, every month, may actually be an indication of which side I am ovulating on.

The theory goes that if the spots on my chin (The chin being the place where we get the hormonal acne each month and so is the outward sign we are ovulating, as if most of us hadn't gasped that monthly annoyance ourselves!!!) seem to alternate which side they pop-up on, then this may be an indication of which side I am ovulating on.

Unfortunately, I don't know how true this is, so I don't know how valuable the information to those of us who are on a Journey for Bubba, but it could be that God has created it within our bodies, the ability for our inner-self to inform us physically of what is happening below the surface! How great that would be if it is true - and how I wish I had known sooner.

So, I can only remember the last couple of cycles, and the spots did seem to pop-up on different sides of my chin each month. This month, we have the right side with the delightful outbreak, last month the left side had the unsightly blemishes, and the month before that, I was trying to hide the right side, when having photos taken!

Now, I am no scientist. But at this stage, I am prepared to look for as much help as I can find in having success on this Journey for Bubba, and one of things I would find most helpful, is knowing which month I have ovulated from the "good", unblocked, fully functioning Fallopian tube, as opposed to the blocked, nonfunctional one. So, I am going to test this theory out for a while, it may help, it may not. But I feel a little "happier" at thinking that maybe my body is not against me after all, and is actually trying to help me on this path, rather than completely hindering me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Decision About My Next Step: Option 2 - Laparoscopic Salpingostomy

So the second option open to me, is known as laparoscopic salpingostomy. It is basically keyhole surgery carried out under general anesthetic  The consultant will make an incision in my bellybutton, allowing him to insert a laparoscope (a thin, tube-like camera), then he will make three other incisions, inflate my abdomen with gas, and proceed to open the left tube, which is blocked, and check on the condition of the right tube - which could have some scarring or growth on it too.

This is obviously pretty invasive, and when I asked my consultant the success rate of it, he told me there are no guarantees that once opened, my tubes won't become re-blocked again. He also went on to say that although it is difficult to say how successful the laparoscopic salpingostomy is, nationwide, it has approximately a 40% success rate - ie live births. The other downside, he said, is that there is a much higher risk of ectopic pregnancies, following this type of fertility treatment.

Now, when it comes to pain, I am the biggest wimp - I won't go paintballing, because the idea of paying to be bruised really makes me shudder! I can see the value in attempting surgery to try to open my blocked tube, but the recovery rate is anything from 2 - 6 weeks, depending on what the surgeon ends up needing to do while inside my abdomen - and on how fit and healthy I am (suppose I should start working on that bit now then!!!).

This would obviously have an impact on work, and as there are certain times of the year when I need to be available, this will impact when I have the surgery (having the Conference Coordinator unavailable for the conferences is a bit pointless!). Some of what I do, I should be able to do from home, when I am able, even if I can't get to the office. 

Hubby wouldn't be able to take much time off, to look after me, so I spoke to my Mum who said she would be willing and able to help me following the surgery, should I decide to go through with it. Apparently, other women who have had the laparoscopic salpingostomy have suffered from a pain in the shoulder from the gas for the first couple of days after the operation. One woman said this can be eased by positioning the body, as the gas rises to the highest it can reach - so when sitting up, locates itself in the shoulder and back, when lying on the left side, the gas locates on the right side, etc... this seems to make sense, and may be a way of helping with this aspect of pain management. 

My problem is the idea of undergoing surgery for something which has no guarantees of working, and puts me more at risk of problems - complications which can arise from any surgical procedure, as well as the increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Should I really put myself through an operation and then find that it hasn't made any difference anyway?? But then if I don't go through with it, will I regret it anyway??

I really need to find God's peace in this decision. No one can make this decision for me, unfortunately, and it's not even a decision Hubby and I can jointly make - as he says, it is my body which is going to have to go through the recovery and trauma of the laparoscopic salpingostomy. No, only God can help me make a decision. I've only spoken to two others about it, my Mum, who thinks I should try all options anyway so that I can look back without regrets, and my Sister-In-Law who regularly allows me to sound out on her, without telling me what I should do, and prays for me with the difficult decision I have to make. 

Lord, please help me to chose the right option for me and for the future you have for me. Let me know Your peace Lord and to know which direction to follow.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Decision About My Next Step: Why IVF Is Not For Me

So I have a decision to make about what my next step with be in treating the blocked tube as Hubby and I try to conceive. The first option thrown at us by the Consultant, was to pay for our own courses of IVF treatment, as I was not eligible (Hubby has a son already - apparently that's supposed to make up for my inability to conceive and I should be thankful for another woman's child in my life!).

In previous postings, I have mentioned how I would not go down the road of having IVF treatment. This was a decision I came to after researching what happens during a course of IVF, and I felt that morally (and probably emotionally too, if I am honest!), I couldn't deal with it.

I didn't like the idea of multiple embryos (AKA babies) being created and then being discarded or killed when they aren't used. For me, I have always held the belief that a life starts from the moment we are conceived... from Scriptures such as, Psalm 139: 13-16: "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made... My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." and Isaiah 44:24: "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself" (Also the same statement is made in verse 2 of the same chapter), or Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

For me, life is life from conception, not from birth, or from a particular point in the developmental process (for some people, babies aren't considered "human" until they show rational thought!). Which is why I didn't think I could handle the process of going through the IVF course. When I learnt that they take a number of eggs and sperm and put them together to fertilise, thus "creating" life multiple times, but only one, two or at most, three are replaced back in the mother's womb, the rest are either frozen or rejected, I struggled to come to terms with balancing the creation of life with the destruction of that same life. 

Now some may think that it doesn't matter because the baby has been fertilised rather than conceived. But for me, the moment the cells start dividing - the organism is living, creation is occurring. 

It became an easier decision to live with, when Hubby and I found out we would not be eligible for NHS treatment of IVF anyway, because of Hubby's son. I think had I not reached the place within my own heart of what I would do in the possibility of infertility, the news from the Consultant a couple of weeks ago would have been devastating. Instead, I have a peace about this particular decision about what to do next.

Earlier this week, there was an article in the Daily Mail on Wednesday 2nd January, 2013, which discusses in more detail the process of IVF, called "1.7 million embryos created for IVF have been thrown away, and just 7 per cent lead to pregnancy". This is not me being political - I just found the article quite informative, and helped me to explain in more detail, why I made the decision I have.

If you are in the process of IVF, or are considering IVF, please don't think I am trying to condemn you. This is just a blog about my Journey For Bubba... each of us may be on a similar road, but our Journey's for our Bubba's will be different.

I pray the Lord's leading a direction for each of us will help us all with the decisions we have to make.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Women With Similar Stories, But Different Responses.

Two women with similar stories. Two women with different responses.

In the Bible, there are a few stories of women who have been labelled as "barren". That's how they are introduced to us. There's Sarai (changed to Sarah), wife of Abram (changed to Abraham), who "was barren; she had no child" (Genesis 11:30). Notice how in the one sentence we are informed twice of her label, just in case we missed the point. This obviously makes the miracle of God's provision of Abraham's heir through his wife even more amazing.

But for a while, my focus hasn't been on Sarah, nor on Elizabeth - who bore John the Baptist - both of whom are the names of women people have mentioned to me when they are encouraging me.

I have been studying Rachel and Hannah. Two women from different points in history, who have a similar story, but who respond in very different ways.

Rachel. The wife of Abraham's grandson, Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with God). Rachel, who was so loved by Jacob that he worked for her father, his uncle, for an agreed period of seven years, but was duped "at the altar" into marrying Rachel's older sister, Leah. He loved Rachel so much, that he agreed to work for a longer period in order to have her as his wife too.

Rachel, the beautiful younger sister, younger wife, "but Rachel was barren" (Genesis 29:31). Not only did she face the monthly struggle to deal with another failed attempt to conceive, but her sister was producing heirs regularly, causing a bitter rivalry between the sisters, and deep envy and resentment within Rachel. One was loved. One could bear children.

In those days, barrenness was the worse "illness" any woman could be dealt in life. If a woman couldn't conceive, that was enough for her husband to divorce her. She was expected to produce an heir for her husband. This is why we see Rachel, as her Grandmother-in-Law before her, in her desperation to bear a child for Jacob, offering her maidservant to her husband as a surrogate for her inability to conceive.

We catch a glimpse of Rachel's desperation in Genesis 30:1 when she cries out to her husband, "Give me children, or else I die!" It's not until you have experienced the struggle to conceive a child do you fully appreciate Rachel's deep cry. Sometimes, when the verse is read out, it is spoken as if in normal conversation, but I imagine Rachel allowing the words to burst from her heart through her mouth in a moment of an impassioned plea, with tears spilling down her cheeks... "Give me children, or else I feel I have nothing else to live for - I have no future, no purpose - I would rather be dead"... her anguished sobs bouncing around the walls of their room as Jacob tries to comfort his wife, and another monthly period begins... "I want to be a mother above everything else, give me children!" Her animal-like wail reverberating throughout history, caressing the heart of every women who understands Rachel's pain and anguish.

It's almost accusatory, her challenge to Jacob. It's almost as if she has allowed herself to believe he is with-holding from her and only giving his seed to her sister. You hear it in her words, "YOU, my husband, give me children too". He becomes angry - which I see as a sign of his helplessness at her situation. He knows her frustration, but knows he cannot replace God in her circumstances. He knows he is helpless against the Creator God  Whom he once wrestled, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" He responds.

A woman loved by her husband in spite of her struggle to bear him a child.
A women who railed against her husband.

Then a few centuries later, we meet Hannah. The wife of a man called Elkanah, who was so loved by him, she would receive double portions of the offerings, "but Hannah had no children" (1 Samuel 1:2).

Hannah, like Rachel, was one of two wives to the same husband. Hannah, like Rachel, was barren. Hannah, like Rachel, was taunted by the other wife. We don't know much about Peninnah except that she had children, and she "provoked [Hannah] severely to make her miserable... year by year, when she went up to the House of the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:6-7).

Hannah was so heartbroken by her own sorrow and distress, coupled with the derision of "her rival" that Hannah was no longer able to eat. She was suffering so much every month, that I believe depression (bitterness of soul - verse 10) literally seized her at the hopeless beginning of another cycle each month, that Hannah couldn't do anything to contain her grief. She couldn't eat. She could only cry - weeping, mourning in deep despair and anguish.

Again, it is not until you are in this situation every single month, where you feel a grief for what you have lost, the chance to conceive - gone... again, the failed attempt to have a baby, the painful waiting process before your period has started again. When you endure this cycle month in, month out, year after year, you realise how each month a woman, like Hannah, grieves at what she has not been able to bear. Each precious egg which falls away, dying with the wasted opportunity of a precious life.

This is where the similarities between Rachel and Hannah end. Hannah, and it may have taken years of  the cycle of torment for her to reach this place, but here we find Hannah turning to God. Crying out to Him. Praying to Him, asking Him to open her womb, to allow her the joy of bearing a child, as she poured out her soul, her anguish, her pain, her sorrow to the Lord.

In these two stories, I can see how important it is for us, as women, to have the freedom to mourn our circumstances. It's OK.

In both of these women's lives, we see how God "opened up their wombs". This shows me that it's OK for us to share our fears and sadness with our husbands, but not to blame them. To seek comfort from them, but not to put them in the place of God. They may not always understand what we are going through, but God does. This is why, I believe, He has introduced us to women like Rachel and Hannah in His Word, the Bible. Because He understands our sorrow. He understands our grief. He understands us.

We are different, but maybe we are in a similar situation in our separate Journey's for our Bubbas. But I hope, like me, you find comfort in knowing that God sees our situation as being so important, He allowed us to find women in His Word who we can identify with. I pray that 2013 will bring a change to the Journey you are on. And I don't say that lightly. Whether it is a change in who we turn to, or a physical change in the joy of finding the journey itself has become what we are hoping for, on;y God knows. But I pray you will know His blessings in your life, as I seek His blessings in my own life.

Shalom in Jesus for 2013!