Our girls are home! I make 16 bottles a day, change about 20 diapers, and love every minute of it. Noel is right alongside me, feeding them, burping them, and soothing them when they cry. In his words, he’s in utter bliss. I can’t help but feel rather triumphant lately. In fact, I feel victorious. After all, the very desire of my heart has come to pass. I am the mother of two beautiful, healthy babies. When I saw my OBGYN for the routine, follow-up visit, she commented on how I’ve overcome my medical problems to make my dream of motherhood come true. With total certainty, I can say that all of the victory must be credited to God. Only did my hope come to pass when I got out of the way. Sometimes I feel like I have a lot in common with Rebekah from the book of Genesis, besides both of us having twins. While I have never connived to help steal a birthright, I have attempted to sidestep God in the pursuit of my own will. It was only when I arrived at a place of submission that God opened the door for me.
In January 2010, Noel and I decided to consult a reproductive endocrinologist. I researched many infertility clinics and chose a highly respected specialist, Dr. M. We sat down with her that January, and she explained that I would have to give myself daily injections in the stomach of a medication called Menopur, which would make me ovulate. My body doesn’t make eggs on its own. She also explained that I would need to be closely monitored while on the medication. Since our insurance wouldn’t cover the medication or the monitoring, and since it could take several cycles, we spent 2010 getting financially prepared. Our first cycle began December 2010 and was a total failure. I learned two things very quickly. First, the nurses at Dr. M.’s clinic didn’t understand what it meant to be Panhypopituitarian; therefore, they could not answer my questions about how my treatment cycle was going. The second thing I learned was that the nurses’ main job was to keep the crazy women who are hopped up on massive doses of hormones AWAY from the doctors. Other than the consultation in January, I never saw Dr. M. She never sat down with us to explain how my treatment was going or why it failed. When I insisted on seeing a doctor after 3 weeks on the medication, I saw her colleague, who told me that if my body didn’t respond to the medication by the 4th week then I’d never be able to have children. After that cycle ended, I decided I wouldn’t be going back to Dr. M.
After giving my body a month to rid itself of all the hormones, I tried another endocrinologist, Dr. R. The best thing about Dr. R. was that he didn’t waste our time. In February, he put me on a very high dose of Menopur, and after 5 days, he told me that it wasn’t working and that there was no reason to continue that cycle. He said to give myself another month to process the medication and then call him in March if I wanted to try again. The difference in the first and second attempts was that because of the higher dose of Menopur I had an adverse reaction. I ached from head to toe, and my hands and feet swelled. This reaction lasted for at least a month after I stopped the medication.
So Noel and I began March of 2011 very confused about what to do next. I was beyond frustrated. I felt like my lifelong dream of being a mother was slipping through my fingers. To be totally honest, I was angry. In fact, I was angry at God. I felt that I had been a really good sport about all these medical issues I had been forced to deal with and that I should be allowed just this one thing. Was it too much to ask? I only wanted what everyone else seemed to have with total ease. Why couldn’t my body do what it’s supposed to do for once? I completely stopped praying, which had been a regular practice for me since I was a little child. I didn’t even realize the work that God had begun in my life.
As I was feeling all of that anger, I was actually lying to myself, not admitting even to myself the truth of what was in my heart. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t praying or seeking God about becoming a mother because He had already blessed me so much that I couldn’t ask for anything else. It’s true that I am a very blessed person now and was a very blessed person then. However, that was obviously not the reason I had stopped turning to God. I didn’t like the way things were going. What if I didn’t like what He had to say about the matter? What if His plans lay elsewhere for me? I’d rather do things my way than risk getting an answer that was contrary to my plan. The only problem was that my way wasn’t working at all.
Fortunately, God never turned away from me despite my dreadful attitude. In church one Sunday at the beginning of March, our pastor at White Oak Baptist spoke on James 5:16:
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
As he was speaking, tears came to my eyes. I knew I wasn’t being honest with myself or with God. My body wasn’t in need of healing, but my spirit was. As we drove home, I told Noel the truth about how I felt, how I was angry at God, and bitter in my heart about things not going according to my plan. I had wanted everything to work out just the way I wanted it when I wanted it. Mainly I was scared that I would never be a mother. Noel told me that he was totally open to us adopting. He recognized the possible health risks involved in pregnancy for me, as well as the emotional turmoil caused by each failed attempt at infertility treatment. I was so touched by his offer. We hadn’t really discussed adoption, and I hadn’t know how receptive he’d be to the idea. I felt like a door had opened after so many had slammed in my face. We began talking about adoption more and more, and I started thinking that maybe God was leading us in that direction.
I started praying again, asking God what to do. Should we try another round of infertility treatment or start the adoption process? I would wake each day hoping for some divine arrow in the sky pointing us in the direction we should go. Thankfully, God gave us almost that much help. Our pastor began a sermon series on the will of God. He said it was less about asking God which path to choose, but all about drawing near to God, seeking a relationship with Him, and being thankful for whatever situation you’re in. It was then that I finally understood what was so wrong with the way I’d been going about things. I started spending time each morning reading my Bible and praying. I would ask God to simply give us enough light to take one step. I stopped asking for all the answers at once, just that God would guide us through each day. I focused on pursuing God instead of pursuing my plan. It was at this point that I got the idea that most people would find totally insane.
I realized that I wanted to pursue both adoption and conception at the same time. I knew that we couldn’t pursue both to the end, but we could begin the adoption process and try one more cycle of infertility treatment. Noel and I began researching adoption agencies and attending orientation seminars. We also met with one more reproductive endocrinologist. We found an adoption agency that we were very pleased with and started the lengthy application process. We decided that it’d be best not to publicize this cycle of infertility treatment. It’s a total emotional rollercoaster, and it was much less drama just to keep it quiet. When we had our consultation with the third doctor, Dr. G., we asked him if it made sense to try again. He said that it was definitely possible to conceive, and that the previous two doctors hadn’t used the correct medication. Menopur contains equal amounts of two different hormones. I needed to take these two hormones separately so that the doses could be independently varied, meaning I’d give myself two shots in the stomach everyday instead of one! I told Dr. G. that I didn’t want to be treated like a science experiment and only wanted to try again if he was confident that pregnancy was possible. He looked straight at me and said, “You are a science experiment.” I knew then that he’d at least be honest with me!
During April and May, we worked on the adoption process as Dr. G. gathered all my medical records to make a detailed plan of action. When I worked on filling out the adoption application, I worked on it with the full intention of completing the process and adopting a child, not like it was a back-up plan. I continued to pursue God and spend time in prayer and study every morning. I felt totally assured that motherhood was in my future; I just didn’t know by what means and was trusting God to guide us on our path. One of the verses that helped me tremendously was 1Thessalonians 5:18:
“In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I adopted the mantra, “I will praise you in every circumstance.” I just knew that no matter what happened that it would be the will of God and part of His perfect plan for me. When I began the cycle with Dr. G., I honestly didn’t believe it would work. After a few days, Dr. G. told me that things were looking good, and it didn’t really register. After a week, Dr. G. told me that the treatment really was working, and it still didn’t register with me! When we got to the second week, and Dr. G. told me that I was almost ready to ovulate; I finally started to realize that we had a chance. I kept praying and talking to God and repeating that I would praise Him in every circumstance.
I completed the medication on Wednesday June 15 and ovulated two days later. I’m going to leave out all the details and just say that Dr. G. told me to take a pregnancy test in two weeks on Friday July 1. On Monday June 20, I woke up to realize that my stomach was swollen and hard. I figured it was because of all the hormones I had taken and that I needed to give them time to leave my system. By Thursday I was so swollen that I looked 6 months pregnant and was having trouble concealing my bulging stomach from my family! I called Dr. G. and informed him of this new development. He simply said that I needed to rest and drink lots of water. I knew I should stay home from work Friday but didn’t know how to go about it. For those of you who don’t know, I work with my dad. I didn’t want to call in sick and alarm him, so I decided to go to the office. After lunch I told him that I was having female hormone problems and that I needed to go home. No dad in the world is going to question his adult daughter about female hormone problems, so he just said he hoped I’d feel better, and I headed home.
By that evening, my abdomen had swollen so much that I was having trouble breathing. I called the doctor’s office, and the nurse who answered asked if I’d weighed myself. I stepped on the scale and saw that I was 15 pounds heavier than the week before! She told me to come into the emergency room right away. Noel came home, and we headed to the hospital. The emergency room doctor said I was having a reaction called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, or OHSS. My ovaries had been over-stimulated by the medication and were producing huge amounts of fluid, which was filling up in my abdomen. He said that they’d draw blood to see if I was pregnant but that it was probably too soon to tell. He also ordered an ultrasound of my abdomen to see how much fluid had collected.
What happened next still baffles me. I was wheeled down the hall to the sonographer’s room. Noel went with me. The sonographer was performing the ultrasound and kept shaking her head. She asked me how long I’d been trying to get pregnant. I said 6 months. She just shook her head. She asked how many cycles of infertility treatment I’d had. I said 3. She just shook her head. She asked how long I’d tried to get pregnant before trying infertility treatment. I explained that the only way I could get pregnant was through medical intervention. She just shook her head, and said, “Well, you’re not pregnant.” I was shocked. I started trying to figure out how she’d know. Had the lab results come back, and she’d seen them in the computer? I knew she wouldn’t be able to tell from the ultrasound. I waited a few minutes and said to her, “So I’m really not pregnant.” She replied, “No, you’re not pregnant.” Once she’d finished the ultrasound, she told me to sit in the wheelchair and wait for her to come back. Noel sat next to me, and I began to cry. I knew that it was a really long shot to get pregnant, but I just wasn’t ready to hear the news, and not from such an unsympathetic person. Noel comforted me and told me not to listen to her since there was no way for her to see from an ultrasound if I was pregnant. I tried to control my emotions and repeated in my mind, “I will praise you in every circumstance.” I knew that if I wasn’t pregnant then it wasn’t God’s will. The sonographer returned and took me next door to get a chest X-ray. In front of me, she told the radiologist, “She’s not pregnant, so you don’t need to shield her.” I was shocked. I’ve never had an X-ray without being shielded. When the radiologist saw the look of shock on my face, she said, “Don’t worry. I’m still going to shield you.”
When I got back to my room, the ER doctor told me that the results from the blood test were inconclusive. It was still too soon to tell if I was pregnant or not. I was shocked again! I told him about what the sonographer had said. He was flabbergasted! He confirmed that she had no idea what he was talking about and that I definitely could be pregnant. We just had to wait a little longer to find out. I still don’t understand why the sonographer said what she said. Anyway, the bad news was that I had to go into Dr. G.’s office the next morning to have my abdomen drained, which is about as fun as it sounds.
We found out I was pregnant two days later when Noel had to rush me back to the ER because my abdomen had swollen up again the day after it was drained, and I was unable to stay conscious. Thankfully I was conscious when the doctor gave us the good news. I wish I’d had a better reaction though. I looked at Noel and said, “In your face, Sonographer!” I quickly realized how inappropriate that was. I was very ill. I also told Noel that I thought that sonographer was from the devil, and was trying to get me to blame God. You know, like what happened to Job. Please understand that I was VERY ill and not thinking clearly. Noel reassured me that it was highly unlikely that the sonographer was from the devil, but that she was a moron.
Unfortunately this was just the beginning of my ordeal with OHSS. I ended up having my abdomen drained 3 times, being admitted to the hospital for two weeks, and having a drain tube inserted in my abdomen that had to stay in for 3 weeks. I had issues with OHSS until about the 20th week of pregnancy. After the swelling in my abdomen stopped, I had horrible pain in my back and rib cage, followed by most of my skin peeling off, followed by most of my hair falling out. Sounding a little more Job-like, right? Just kidding!! Beth Moore said in one of her Bible studies that we all want to be overcomers, but we don’t want to undergo anything. Well, I guess I had to undergo somethings so that I could be an overcomer! God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave us twins, since I will not be attempting to get pregnant again. Those of you who’ve read the first post of this blog know that finding out I was pregnant was just the beginning of my journey with God. He had, and still has, much for me to learn. I’m so thankful that He is a patient teacher. I know that He will use our beautiful Lily and Avery to teach me many more lessons. For now, we bask in the glow of our loving God and the two little angels He has given us.