The time we had hoped would never arrive is here and we are as rested and prepared for this unknown quantity as we can be. I pick up the phone to call the NHS clinic to request IVF treatment. It occurs to me in the days leading up to this next bit that some insider info might be useful just in case it’s not quite what we’re expecting and I’m grateful for a couple of friends’ advice, but the phone call still throws us. We had thought from the wording in the letter we have received that we would start treatment straight away but we are warned by those in the know not to get our hopes up and that treatment starts after one more cycle because we need to learn about the medications and how to use them first. I am struck again – why is this process never ever clear? How does it get so lost in translation?
I call and am told to expect a call back within 72 hours. An anxious seventy-two hours comes and goes and I receive no such phone call. This doesn’t bode well. Our most precious desires and commodities are in these people’s hands and they don’t even lift the phone to us.
When the telephone finally rings I am spoken to in a medical language I don’t understand by a woman who doesn’t slow down to explain what she means. I am asked questions that she should know the answers to – the answers are on my notes in her office and I don’t have a copy. I am grateful that the thread of what I can glean from her echoes what my friends have told me so we can now adjust to a final month before IVF may begin (perhaps there is still hope even now?) and I am told to expect another phone call to confirm an appointment for our drugs lesson.
But I am already weary from this new fight which has barely begun again. It frustrates me, angers me, rips me up that this quest to become a parent is back to being a battleground and that we have to struggle to be heard and helped by the people trained and qualified to lead us through this difficult journey. This beautiful, natural, mysterious, wonderful road to conception is transformed to engaged phone lines, medical jargon and hurried explanations using acronyms that mean nothing to our naive minds. I come back to where I started, “Don’t make me go there, Daddy. This is not how it’s meant to be……….”
It feels bad enough that we’re steeling ourselves for the rounds of scans and blood tests; the pin cushion effect of more injections, internal examinations, pessaries, emotional upheaval, potential side effects from medication and stress over parking and driving and never-ending appointments. But to have this experience further intensified by poor communication and lack of time makes my blood boil and has me in danger of throwing in the towel and walking away before we have even begun.
And yet – where is my grace, where is my compassion for the over-worked, exhausted nurses who stay late to finally make that phone call to me and who hold my hand when we attend our drugs appointment and repeat over and over that they are here for us and no question will be treated as silly? Afterwards I reach for the biggest box of chocolates I can find at the supermarket and mark it for the staff for our first treatment appointment. I claw back my frustration and choose to take the opportunity to pray for each member of that team who see anxious face after anxious face and who are kind and tender in reality even if this consideration is lost in translation down an overloaded phoneline.
And I take a good, long look at what is really going on in my mind – because that is where the battle is really raging.
It’s only in the midst of facing this new phase that I realise how frightened I really am. I attend my parents’ church and cry my way through a sermon on faith verses fear. I am a mess of anxiety and tears. I dot-to-dot across a page of options and can’t seem to work out which one I really want to follow. I just want to run away. And of course I can run away, but is regret harder to face than fear……? Would I always wonder, “What if?”
I can’t help feeling that the shadow that has been following me for so long has at last emerged. Goliath has finally stepped out from behind his mountain and suddeny I see IVF for all it is to me – a huge giant that I cannot possibly go out and fight. I search through my faith reserves and fret that they are looking a little sketchy. I wonder about my hope in successfully undergoing the treatment and find her cowering in the corner with her hands over her eyes. I look about for courage for I find I have to step out by myself – beyond the hand holding it’s only my body that will be put to the test. What if I’m not actually tough enough to get through this? What if I am ill on the treatment and am hideous to be around? What if I lose who I am and start to crack up? What if the panic attacks and palpitations come back? What if I can’t sleep? What if it’s all for nothing? What if God isn’t actually in this after all? What if I can’t find Him? What if it doesn’t work?
And then I remember David’s words of defiance and faith as He squares up to Goliath on the battlefield in 1 Samuel 17, ” I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel…..Today the Lord will conquer you…..and everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours”.
It is His battle, not ours.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).
Helena, when will you learn to stop trying to do this by yourself? When will you stop fighting and striving in your own strength? When will you stop carrying what is too heavy for you and lay it at the cross that Jesus suffered for you? When will you remember by heart that your hope is not in doctors or IVF or positive test results but in an Almighty God who sees and knows all things and who is limitless in power.
My heartbeat slows down as I come back to calm. His strength in my weakness; His pathway for my life; His rest in my striving. I come back to a place of peace. God knows the outcome of this next bit and all I have to focus on, all I have to do is choose how I will walk this path. And I choose to walk it with Him.
God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.