Sunday, December 4, 2011

About Us

Welcome! This blog is a means to help me as I traverse the path of unexplained infertility (and now adoption), but unlike some blogs out there, I am dedicated to keeping God in the center of this journey. If I did not have my faith in Jesus Christ, I know that I would be a bitter, angry, and depressed woman and wife. So if you don't want to hear about how God has moved in my life through this trial, how much I depend on His love, strength, and power, then please move on to a different blog that is more suited for you.

I firmly believe that with God, nothing is impossible, and as a result that is where my hope is grounded. It's a hope that I pray is never quenched or weakened. It's a hope that gets me through the low points. It's a hope that does not disappoint in the end because I know that God is causing all things to work out for the good of His glory and will. Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. And if you are reading this and are struggling to grow your family as well, I would love to have a chance to pray for you and help one another through this journey.

Here is the background of our story: Michael and I have been married since May 2007. On December 4, 2010, we decided to begin trying to start a family. I'm a planner, and had high expectations that we would get pregnant right away, just in time to announce it to our families on Christmas morning. But to my surprise, we did not get pregnant.

At first I did not track much about my cycle, but after 3-4 months of no success, I jumped into Control Mode and learned all about how to track and chart your fertility cycles (using the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM for short). At the 8-month mark, we had routine blood work and other testing done. Michael's semen analysis was "good" and all my blood work was "normal," except that I learned that I have low progesterone levels (despite a normal luteal phase length).

It was at this point, that I finally learned to surrender to the Lord and let Him lead this endeavor. I realized how much I had been trying to control. Everything from what food I was eating, lubricant we were using, position we were...doing, the timing of sex, etc. As if I thought I had the power to create life! I confessed my controlling heart, and made a personal commitment to give this desire over the Lord and to trust His timing, not mine.

My OB/GYN at the time took my low progesterone level to mean that I was not ovulating and wanted to prescribe me Clomid. I tried to explain that I didn't believe that was the case because I tracked my temperature and cervical fluid (sometimes I refer to this as cervical "stuff" since the hubby doesn't like the word fluid/mucus, lol). I also told her I didn't feel comfortable using an ovulatory drug right off the bat, and would prefer to first try supplementing the low progesterone level, then go from there. My requests were not well received.

After prayer, we made the decision to not see her again and take a month off to wait until September 1st when my insurance would switch back to my previous provider. We felt led to go see our previous family doctor, who attends our church: Dr. S. Being the planner I am, I made a 7:40AM appointment on the 1st - no waiting around people!

Michael was able to attend with me and Dr. S. even prayed over us at the end. He also prescribed me a topical progesterone cream to help supplement my low levels.

As December 2011 was approaching, I knew it was time to schedule my annual OB/GYN appointment. Not wanting to take control of this, I did a quick search of all the OB/GYN's in my insurance provider's network and scheduled an appointment with a doctor. But I kept hearing conflicting opinions from friends about who I should see, with one friend telling me that Dr. S. recommends a particular OB/GYN doctor, Dr. H. I realized as I was praying one night that it was silly for me to worry and fret about what doctor to see, and instead prayed for a clear sign if I should switch my appointment to see Dr. H. instead. The sign I prayed for was to see or hear the name Amy the next day (Dr. H.'s first name is Amy).

Lo and behold, God has a lovely sense of humor. As Michael and I were driving to church the next morning, we were behind a car for several miles that had a "Vote for Amy" bumper sticker. The funny thing was that I did not remember my prayer in that moment - it wasn't until I was talking to a friend after church that it hit me, and I just felt so much awe and wonder that God had so faithfully and specifically answered that prayer. (And my friend wondered why I suddenly had zoned out.) So the next day, I called and switched my appointment to Dr. H.

My appointment with Dr. H. was also wonderful. It turns out that she also goes to our church (perhaps a reason why Dr. S. recommends her), but more than that she was so kind and encouraging. She looked at all my records and told me she's confident that I'm ovulating regularly, but wanted to take a peek via ultrasound to make sure everything else is looking good. I never thought I would get an ultrasound unless I was pregnant, but I was so thankful for her attentiveness and wanting to check things out (without charging for the ultrasound). She confirmed that my uterus and lining look great (no polyps or fibroids). She also confirmed that I do not have PCOS, and that "it looks like you ovulated on the left side this month". I can't tell you how excited that made me since I had felt twinges of pain on the left side that month. It was like confirmation that "Yes, your body does work properly." She encouraged me to continue trying the old fashioned way, but that if I desired to, there are next-step options. She also wanted me to come back for another ultrasound just before I ovulated the next cycle to help us plan the timing better. My appointment for this was on the 29th of that month. She again confirmed that everything looks great, and that I'm ovulating.

Soon after this appointment, I realized that tracking my temperature everyday was only causing me to stress about the finest details, so I made the decision to no longer track it. How refreshing and relaxing it has been since I made that decision! I continued to use the progesterone cream until December 2012 (I'll fill in some details in between next).

On September 19, 2012, I had another appointment with Dr. H. to discuss my next-step options. She basically said we have two routes to take: continue down the diagnostic path or begin infertility treatments. She is a really nice doctor, because instead of telling you what to do, she gives you the option (all doctors are supposed to give you the option, but many come across as being pushy). We took some time to discuss and pray about this decision, and we decided for me to have an HSG test done to check if my fallopian tubes were open or blocked. Assuming they were open, we would then begin using Clomid the following cycle.

My HSG test was on October 4, 2012 and thankfully the results were good - both tubes open and looked great. The test itself was akin to being abducted by aliens (or so I would imagine), but I made it through it, and am thankful for the good news.

We used Clomid for one cycle in November, but decided to discontinue using it. Why? Read on...

In September, we watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives. It recommends that everyone eat a whole foods, plant-based diet in order to achieve optimal health, prevent many common health conditions, and even reverse certain conditions already plaguing your body. As researchers by day, we greatly appreciated the mountain of scientific evidence presented in the documentary that supports their recommendations. At the end of the movie, we turned to one another and both said, "Let's try this!"

Then we watched a special feature on the DVD, consisting of some deleted scenes when the film crew was interviewing Dr. Pam Popper of the Wellness Forum. In her interview, she spoke about how eating an animal-based diet can negatively affect so many aspects of your body, including hormones, and how she has had hundreds of clients come to her with unexplained infertility or other infertility issues and has helped each of them structure their diet so that they were able to conceive a child. We turned to one another again, and realized that we now had even more reason to try this new diet.

Now, when I say "diet," I do not mean a temporary eating plan to achieve a fitness or weight loss goal. I mean our everyday, rest of our lives kind of diet. Our daily diet. Our new way of nourishing our bodies.

We began this diet on October 28, 2012. We also became members of Dr. Popper's Wellness Forum, which comes with a wonderfully informative Wellness 101 course packet and DVD. It's like drinking from a fire hose at first, but it is so clear, convicting, and compelling. Our new diet is discussed in further detail here.

For us, it's like James 4:17 - now that we have learned the right way to treat and nourish our bodies, we cannot simply turn our backs on this information, because it would be as if we were intentionally not honoring the temples God has given us, which is sinful. Looking back, it is so clear to us that God was taking steps, leading us and preparing us to the point of watching this movie and being open to the idea of radically changing the way we eat and live. Our former selves would never have been ready for this. Had we never struggled with infertility, we never would have had an interest in making such drastic changes. This diet is certainly not the path of least resistance, because in our culture, it can be challenging to choose healthy foods when so many unhealthy foods are always presented. This diet takes planning, commitment, and self-motivation to stick with it. But for us, it is worth it completely because we both feel and look so much healthier than when we began.

Continuing with our lifestyle changes, we had a phone consultation with Dr. Popper on December 6, 2012 -- just over two years after we first decided to start a family. This consultation was such a blessing, and I have never felt so much peace from the Lord. It was so clear to me that we are on the right path, and this is what God wants us to do right now. Focus on improving our health and waiting patiently for His timing.

During the consultation, Dr. Popper asked me a few background questions about my female history, and based on my answers (painful menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, migraines, etc.), she said all my symptoms are indicative of having too high estrogen levels, which happens with an animal-based diet (dairy). This would explain why my progesterone levels were low, and why using the topical cream would provide some relief from my symptoms. She said that having begun this new diet, I am well on my way to balancing out my hormones naturally. (Using topical progesterone cream, or Clomid, was treating the symptom, not the root cause.) She said it could take years for my hormones to completely level out, so she recommended not worrying about actively trying to conceive for a while and just focus on our health. She said I should first notice that my menstrual cramps diminish significantly, and eventually I should notice my periods getting lighter and shorter and my cycle lengths getting a bit longer.

The first period I had after stopping all hormone supplementation was one that was free of PMS, menstrual cramps, and headaches. It was so encouraging to see the things she said should happen actually happen!

So at this time, I'm hoping that I will continually be more relaxed about everything, and continue to improve my overall health through diet and exercise. And of course I hope that if the Lord wills, hopefully one day I'll wake up and be pregnant.

In the fall of 2013, the Lord moved in our hearts to begin the journey of adoption. We realized that a biological child is no better/worse than a child we receive through adoption - they would each be our child (or on loan from heaven). Once we felt that conviction, we started the process. We're currently waiting to receive the baby that God will choose to be our own. We pray for his/her birth parents because we love them and know that their incredible sacrifice will one day be one of the greatest gifts we will ever receive.

Before I close this first blog post, I just want to also discuss how I've seen the Lord move in our lives. There have been several things that I consider blessings as a result of infertility:
  • First and foremost, my relationship with the Lord has grown tremendously as I've learned how to completely depend on Him. He is my rock and strength, and I would be lost without Him. My prayer life has also grown exponentially.
  • Our marriage has grown stronger. When we first started trying, Michael wasn't too thrilled about having kids. He was sort of giving in to my desire, and was more or less indifferent. As it didn't happen right away and I began to struggle with the pain of it, he didn't understand at first and wasn't as sensitive or supportive as I needed. It probably didn't help that I was still in Control Mode and demanding sex everyday during my fertile window without regard for his feelings. Ladies, don't put so much pressure on your men - it's not easy for them to feel like they're being used for their...seed. But as I learned to put God back in the center, Michael changed dramatically. He strongly desires to be a father soon, and shares my pain with me. He is so sensitive and supportive. I am SO thankful to have him as my partner through this. God is my rock and strength, but Michael is the physical presence that I get to hug and cry with whenever I need it. I love him so much more every day as we go through this together. I'm so glad we didn't get pregnant right away because we would not be as close as we are today.
  • I'm so thankful for all of our friends who continue to pray for us and encourage us. I'm also thankful for the friends we know who have struggled or are currently struggling with infertility because we have learned much from them. As painful of a trial it is, that I wouldn't wish on anyone, it's nice to realize you're not alone. So far from alone!
  • We're thankful for our family who also has been loving and supportive through this. We waited a while to tell them because we were still hoping we'd get pregnant soon, but we decided it might be best to tell them so they know where we're at emotionally.
  • If we had gotten pregnant right away, we would not have had the opportunity to lead our Sunday School class for the newlywed and young married couples at our church. We were asked to lead a few months before we began trying, but at that time we knew it wouldn't be too much longer before we started trying for a family, so we declined. But as months and months passed without getting pregnant, a second opportunity to lead came up, and after prayerfully considering it, we accepted since we felt led to not let this time of "waiting" be wasted. We felt led to dedicate this time to growing our marriage and ministry together and enjoy the time of "just us" before children. We led this ministry for another year, before deciding to move on to a different ministry: helping others improve their overall health through diet and exercise. We are still in the early stages of this, so I don't have much else to add here yet.
  • I'm also thankful that we didn't get pregnant right away because I would have never met my present OB/GYN, Dr. H. Now hopefully, if I do get pregnant, I would love for her to deliver our children.
  • I'm thankful that I wasn't pregnant while we went through the adventure of building our first home. Some people say building a home together is a great way to ruin a marriage, but that was not our experience. Stressful at times? Certainly. But we greatly enjoyed designing the plans, picking the fine details, and watching it form before our eyes. We also dedicated this house to God by writing scripture on the framed walls (before they put up drywall). So now it's reassuring to know that in our bathroom (where I take my pregnancy tests and experience monthly disappointments), I have lyrics from John Waller's "While I'm Waiting" song, and James 1 encouraging me to consider it all joy when I encounter various trials.
  • We have learned how sensitive of an issue this is. We used to haphazardly ask people, "So...when are you planning to have kids??" Having now been on the receiving end of that question, I realize just how personal that question is. It really makes you think twice before prying into others' lives.
  • We've also learned how to be thankful and grateful for what we DO have instead of focusing on what we don't have. There is always something to be thankful for. You just have to CHOOSE to dwell on that. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Furthermore, we have learned to be thankful for every trial and period of suffering...even while still in the midst of it. God's light seems the brightest when you're surrounded by darkness. It's been a growing experience to seek a joyful heart even when we're hurting.
  • I'm in awe at how the Lord is using my painful trial to further His kingdom. God has led me to write many of the posts on this blog, and it seems to find its way into other's hands who are struggling with infertility. I pray that anyone who reads this blog will feel encouraged and full of hope.
  • We are so thankful for infertility opening our hearts and minds to trying a whole foods, plant based diet. It has dramatically improved our health and we now plan to raise our family with this way of eating.
  • We are also amazed at how God used our infertility to completely open our hearts to the idea of adoption. Being perfectly honest, we never once considered adopting a child. We were totally the "Oh, that's so nice [for you]!" type of people. That just goes to show you how powerful God is and how His will cannot be stopped. We now hope and pray that we can grow our family through pregnancy someday AND adoption - and we're currently pursuing adoption first! We are SO excited to become parents, and hopefully soon!
Thank you for stopping by my blog, and I pray that the Lord would bless you in your family planning endeavors!

Romans 5:3-5
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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