Brave New World – our private IVF journey

In December 2015, after our round of IVF on the NHS failed before it had barely begun, we decided to consider private treatment. Although I carried on writing, I felt unable to publish these particular blogposts in real-time. IVF cranks everything up a gear: the stress, the emotions, the significance  of decision-making, the waiting, the impact of the potential outcomes. Despite the success stories, IVF has a high rate of failure and one goes into it on the understanding that there is a very real chance that it will not work. On account of all of this, I felt that although my desire is to be open and vulnerable, this period of time felt far too raw and weighty to share with readers as we were living it, so I have waited until now.

I have learnt along the way that every individual IVF journey is different and varying in its range of issues and complications.  I have also learnt that IVF treatment is an assault on both body and mind and not for the faint-hearted.  It demands much of every couple that chooses to go through it.

I want to share our IVF story in part to open a window into this world for those who will never have to go through it, to explain a little of what it can be like – and also to encourage those who are in the midst of it that you are not alone in the ups and downs, the straight-forward bits and the times where it all feels like it’s falling apart.  It’s not a quick read because, as it turns out, ours has not been a simple story but my hope is that it will be insightful and encouraging.

When we first started to consider IVF treatment we were given wise advice by our fantastic church leader: if you’re going to go for it, work out where the end point is going to be so that you don’t feel tempted to go back again and again, addicted to pursuing the dream of pregnancy and not knowing when to call it quits.  I.e. If you’re going to commit this to God, know when the door has been pushed and refuses to open and choose to accept and walk away.  We heeded his advice and agreed together that we would try one round of treatment on the NHS and one private cycle and that would be all.  When the NHS treatment regime floundered and sank in November 2015 and we were offered a second attempt, we politely declined and moved on to our other option: private treatment at Create Fertility in London.

If you’ve read other posts on my blog you will know that we first heard about Create Fertility through an out-of-the-blue conversation during my parents’ holiday in January 2014. (An occurrence that Christians choose to call “Godincidences” because our Father is intentional in setting up these moments).  Our first few appointments with Create in the spring of 2014 were embedded in peace, and in practice proved hugely helpful in exploring a number of previously undetected issues.  Our decision to go back to the clinic for IVF treatment months later was made in an instant.

The IVF treatment cycle at Create proved to be a much calmer affair than our time with the NHS.  We finally felt confident of the care and service we were receiving and for the first time the emotional and physical challenges of infertility were acknowledged beyond the vague offer of an appointment at a counselling service.  That’s not to bash the NHS, who do a wonderful job, but there was no doubt that this was different.  We felt seen and heard.  We were told to throw off our previous bad experience and see this time as new and brimming with possibility.  We sensed hope in the waiting room as a central, palpable heartbeat of the clinic and our weary faith began to recover.

Alongside daily injections, my treatment cycle was made up of an internal scan and blood test on alternate days to monitor progress.  To save the daily four-hour round trip from home, we called on the kindness and generosity of friends who willingly opened their homes to us and our strange new way of life.  I remember thinking a year before, as we began to contemplate this plan, that I couldn’t visualise staying in London for treatment – and yet a year on, here we were.  I guess God prepares us over time for the out-working of the decisions we feel called to make. Being totally honest, it was a humbling and vulnerable move to say yes to staying at someone else’s home.  It’s one thing to go through infertility behind closed doors and another thing to share it with the people you know well, but the act of passing days in a different house, going to sleep in a strange bed, finding a new routine in an unfamiliar space, admitting that you don’t just need the help of your nearest and dearest but also of those who barely know you……I have learnt to throw pride aside and just be very, very grateful.  When you’re brought low enough and offered assistance you take it even when you wish you could maintain your independence.  I am moved by the willingness of others to stand with us on this journey in the big gestures and the small.  God has reminded us how much he loves us by encouraging us to move from self-sufficiency to allowing Him to love us through the kindness of those He has placed around us – and our proud hearts have yielded.

During treatment I found beautiful little God-assurances for my anxious mind.  It brought me joy to see how quickly the soothing affection of an incredibly friendly ginger cat could change an unfamiliar house to a comforting home-from-home. IMG_3763I spotted a pair of white porcelain turtle doves in our friends’ sitting room one evening and smiled to myself at the recurring theme of peace for body and mind that seems to return over and again. The buzz of being back in London soon permeated the days and we found fresh delight in being tourists.  The more practiced I became at giving myself the injections, the less intimidating they felt and the more I could take them in my stride as part of a daily routine.  The drug side effects weren’t great but I had plenty of pleasant distractions to take my mind off feeling ropey.  We started to feel like we could do this.

The majority of women will never have to see an ultrasound image of their empty womb.  For any woman going through IVF, the black and white image of a curved blank space on the screen can become far too familiar. Over the years, the pain of seeing friends’ baby scan pictures has never lessened.  I yearn for the day when I will recognise the outline of a tiny shape indicating new life at home in that same space inside my body. Outside the consulting rooms I struggled to hear God’s voice in the midst of the medical chatter, yet I was pleased to discover that I have  learnt to lean on the foundations of my faith even when I can’t sense His presence. I know who God is and His Word reminds me of His beautiful constancy.  When I finally called out to Him that I needed to know Him tangibly, He answered me with unexpected messages of support from friends and joyful moments as I encountered Him in songs, in Bible verses and even in the commentary of a photographic exhibition.

IMG_3427January is the month of the snowdrop and its appearance is one of a few things I enjoy about having a birthday in the winter.  During my trip to London I learnt that the snowdrop is also known as the ‘flower of hope’: a hardy little bloom, a pioneer that strikes out on its own, unperturbed and emerging in the coldest of months and harshest of environments.  In January snowdrops line the banks of ponds, roads and gardens and it seemed to me that they were there to impress upon us the delicate reminder of hope over and again.

In time we passed the dreaded “Day 8” which had marked failure under the NHS.  Every day which followed felt like a victory as we moved towards success.  A day I thought I might never see – egg collection – arrived triumphantly.  We had made it.  As I closed my eyes in the operating room and dreamt my way through the procedure I found myself on unsettled seas.  I don’t know if this was just an unusual side effect of the anaesthetic or a strange forewarning of the coming days.

You see, the physical discomfort which accompanies IVF procedures often seems to end up feeling like the minor element of the whole process.  The hormone drugs can produce strange, unwelcome sensations in one’s body but you know that within a matter of days the injections will stop and those side effects will leave.  The psychological battle is harder and more unsettling.  We knew to expect phone calls and updates from the clinic’s laboratory over the days which followed egg collection, as my eggs and his swimmers were left to party in their individual petri dishes for 24 hours.  We knew that statistically only 70% of those eggs were likely to be fertilised.  What we didn’t really think to predict was what might happen next and I had forgotten that despite a smooth ride so far, I might need to fasten my seatbelt and prepare for the next loop on the rollercoaster.

I received an unexpected call on the day after our first update and the news the lab gave me felt like a huge blow to our future.  None of the fertilised eggs were displaying normal behaviour and the clinic wanted us to be prepared for further bad news.  I put the phone down at the end of the call and stood in stunned disbelief.  We had not allowed for this level of damage.  I called my husband and could tell from his silence that he too was struggling to digest this information.  I was at a friend’s house to play with her children and knew that I had to put any further processing on hold.  It was only when I climbed into the private safety of my car to leave that I let out the confusion and fear and sobbed over my steering wheel.  And then I picked up the phone and dialled P for Prayer.

If I can impart any wisdom from our infertility journey it is this: when life is going well, pray.  When life is going badly, pray.  And that includes picking up the telephone or knocking on a door and asking to be prayed for if the words don’t come easily from your own lips.  I knew I needed to have the authority of God spoken over this shaky situation and so I called a faith-filled, power-praying, life-declaring friend and breathed an Amen to her words as she claimed turnaround over the situation.  And then I drove home to collect my husband with worship music turned up loud, singing God’s faithfulness over our circumstances, “You delight in showing mercy and mercy triumphs”.  I felt empowered, emboldened, defiant – this biological baby – babies – form the heart of God’s promise to us.  Turnaround was coming and mountains had to move out of the way.

My  husband and I drove from the train station up to a higher place – following the clouds to an open space and striking out across the tops to rage (him), confess (both) and shout at our mountains to Get Out Of The Way (me).  I saw my husband’s fresh despair but I found myself simply outraged and resistant to the news from the lab. With fresh conviction I had been reminded that it’s not over til He says so. In the face of a bad report whose words am I going to believe – the report that I can see in the natural, or the life-giving words of the One who holds all things in His hands?  It’s not finished until He says it is – and not a moment before.

As we stomped and bellowed, a strange sky blew over above us.  The light grew pinky-orange and took on an unfamiliar glow.  We looked up and saw slivers of rainbow ribbons disappearing and reappearing against the pearlescent shimmer of the evening’s clouds.  We stopped and watched in awe, suddenly silent and amazed.  This wasn’t a usual sunset; this was a strange event I had never witnessed before.  (Nacreous clouds as it happens; a rare event in the weather system). And as we watched I couldn’t help but feel that the rainbows in the midst of the clouds weren’t an accident but a reminder of God’s promise in the midst of the storm –  to come up higher, to look up to Him and to trust in what He had told us.  We went to bed that night resolved again to commit our future family to God and to speak to our problems to submit to the authority of heaven.

The following day the phone rang again and this time the news was different as we, and our praying friends, had hoped – one fertilised egg had miraculously recovered and was developing normally.  By the end of the week a second had also recovered.  Two viable embryos had been placed carefully ‘on ice’ by the end of our treatment cycle.

I believe and trust that my God is the God of turnaround.  Again and again He shows me it is true.


Ding, Ding! Round Two.

The longer I have been on Infertility Island the more lessons I have learned.

Firstly, I have become bi-lingual in the languages of English and IVF.  Never did I – your average punter – expect to understand the workings of my reproductive system so well, the names of different drugs, how best to carry out a blood test, how various hormones in the body work and respond, what follicles look like on an ultrasound scan and how to assess the shape and thickness of the uterine lining at various stages of a woman’s cycle.  It is strange how quickly we adapt to a new definition of ‘normal’.

Sometimes my head spins when I consider the buzz of the IVF lifestyle.  It is a world all of its own and one must put the blinkers on and hunker down to survive another treatment cycle.  There is an overwhelming sense of information overload as you try desperately to digest what you’re seeing on various screens, the impact of the outcomes and results of each scan and test on your future, whilst trying to stay away from online forums or compare yourself to other women in the same situation.  For me, the moment of egg collection has defined this medical intervention at its most intense: surrounded by medics – one at each arm and three at the bottom of the chair-bed – I have surrendered to their skill, precision and professionalism.  It is a whirl of questions, reassurances, canulas and stirrups and then I disappear once again into my sedated sleep.

It took us a very long time to decide whether IVF treatment was a path we wanted to walk.  As Christians we took many, many months to decide where we stood ethically, morally, spiritually on the process and its potential outcomes.  I am convinced that our discovery of Create Fertility clinic in London is God’s plan for us.  Unlike the NHS, it offers a mild IVF treatment which involves less hormone stimulation and therefore less intervention and fewer side effects.  The clinic’s moto is “Quality not quantity” (of eggs and embryos) and we both felt comfortable and confident that this fitted with our own ideals of treatment and diagnosis. Owing to the nature of our infertility issues, we were encouraged to have three rounds of mild IVF before having an embryo implanted. Furthermore, at my first scan at Create, the consultant discovered another polyp and that little beggar would have to come out before any precious embryo(s) could go back in.

One thing we have had to get used to over the last few years of infertility is the curveballs that have tried to throw us off course.  Over and over again we have had to negotiate delays and disappointments, unexpected results, medical advice and further procedures.  I have wondered with every hurdle whether we shouldn’t just take the hint and give up, but faith doesn’t give up.  Ever!  Each delay has knocked us down, forced us to re-group and then sent us scrabbling for our Bibles and worship music.  It has pushed us deeper into our pursuit of vulnerability and intimacy with God because we have had to concede again, and again, and again that without Him we can do nothing.

I found round two of hormone treatment to be both easier and harder than round one.  I thought that I might be at an advantage in knowing what to expect – certainly the injections were a lot less traumatic and hurt less as our technique improved with practice.  The headaches and lethargy still shocked, brought about by the hormone medication and a virus I picked up.  I was more prepared for the rhythm of the scans but also a little surprised that the anxiety in between appointments was fairly consistent with our first cycle. Always the holding of one’s breath and uncertainty.  Still the waiting and wondering, the praying and trusting.  I still find it is much safer not to contemplate too often how very, very significant what we are doing feels.

I have read that the stress levels a woman experiences during infertility and IVF treatment are the equivalent to that felt by those going through cancer, AIDS or heart disease. It’s a bit of a controversial statement perhaps to make the comparison. These three illnesses are often life threatening and infertility generally isn’t.  Yet as someone who is coping with infertility there is much reassurance in the thought that all the scans and medication, the endless waiting for test results, the prodding and poking, the invasion of one’s body, the loss of dignity and much more, is as intense, unpleasant, exhausting and unpredictable as other more common attacks on the body.  Being told that one is not imagining that it’s the toughest experience of life so far is both comforting and sobering.  It has also given me a much deeper respect and admiration for anyone undergoing treatment for cancer, AIDS or heart disease.  Until you go through something even vaguely similar you don’t appreciate how dignified and strong these patients are and I am humbled afresh by their courage.

Unlike the “bigger” biological enemies of our society; infertility and IVF aren’t talked about in the same way.  Neither is miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or disability.  I am gobsmacked still by the insensitivity and the ignorance that surrounds these issues.  We have a long way to go before we fully understand and recognise the impact that infertility has on the identity and the spirits of women, of men, of couples in this position and their subsequent bravery in the face of it.  I am truly grateful that my God did not miss the point and that I can find peace, hope, courage and joy in many tales in the Bible which explore such a painful reality.  These spirit-breathed stories were written with women like me in mind: mothers-to-be with sore hearts who spend time pouring over the details of others’ testimonies in order to learn how to get in front of God in this time.

We were relieved to find that our second cycle passed with relative calm.  My body was less willing to respond to the regime of drugs this time.  Fewer eggs were collected and yet by the end of the cycle we had secured one perfect embryo to join the other two.  This time there were no hiccups during the nail-biting week when the lab phoned us with updates and I recovered quickly.  We knew that it would be another six weeks before we could go for our final round of treatment and so we embraced the on/off see-saw of our treatment cycle and returned to the rest of life as we knew it.


The F Word

We had expected May to go much the same as the other two treatment cycles.  The offending polyp which was preventing implantation had been easily removed from my uterus (if you’re curious to know more, see my blog post about that here) and everything felt beautifully set up for the final run of treatment and – finally – implantation.

On account of the blip in our second round of treatment the clinic had decided to put me on a different drug to resolve a problem with a hormone imbalance which was preventing my body from responding efficiently.  Sadly, rather than making all the difference, my body simply refused to respond at all.  After several days of injections, two scans and lengthy conversations with the consultant we had to accept defeat and agreed to cancel the treatment cycle.

Disappointed is an understatement.  I couldn’t even make it to the reception area before dissolving in frustrated tears on the receptionist.

This was meant to be the final haul to the top of the mountain.  This was meant to be the fulfillment of God’s promises.  This was meant to be the beginning of something new and the opportunity to join other newly-pregnant friends in their sweet state of being.  This was meant to be the end of the tears and yearning.  Wasn’t it?

I have pondered the word ‘failure’ a lot since the treatment cycle collapsed.  It feels like the most appropriate word to stick on one’s forehead when there is no-one else to blame. A friend of mine has described the struggle to conceive as like failing a test over and over again when everyone else is flying at it.  You wonder why you just can’t make the grade but nothing you do seems to bring about the positive result you’re looking for.

Physical failure when something is so out of one’s control is, of course, a nonsense.  I can’t help the fact that my body doesn’t work properly.  It seems I was just born like this.  I couldn’t have done anything to change my ovaries’ response to the new drug.  And yet – doesn’t the responsibility fall to me and my deeply wounding deficiency that I couldn’t fulfil the necessary requirements to move us on a step?  Isn’t it – coming to the crux of it – my fault that we’re not pregnant at all?

It is so terribly hard to declare oneself as “fearfully and wonderfully made” when there doesn’t seem to be much to be in awe about.  Having inefficient ovaries and a polyp-prone uterus seem to be fearful and wonderful errors of craftsmanship rather than God’s supernatural plan to create me exactly like this.  How can something that doesn’t work normally be perfect?!  They’re called “wonky veg” for a reason – because they don’t meet the ideal criteria.  And neither do I.

Often in life when we fail at something we have control over, we can learn from the lesson, accept the mistake or the error of judgement and move forwards.  When a failure remains a failure despite our best efforts there is nothing more we can do to bring it back from the edge of disaster.

And that is when we need a Saviour and Redeemer.

IMG_3877It was only when I had been back at home for a few days that it occurred to me to update my calendar, which I had allowed to fall behind.  I was rather astonished to see that May’s verse for the month was from Matthew 11:28: Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  As I recovered from the immediate shock of our treatment failing it occurred to me that we had been living the IVF lifestyle of back-to-back clinic appointments for the last eight months.  Mentally, emotionally and physically, my husband and I were exhausted from the constant treadmill of scans, drugs, injections, procedures, uncertainty and phone calls.  My body had been pushed and pulled over and over to force it to respond in an unnatural way.  Each month I would weather the hormonal surges and unpredictable cycles of a body trying to find its equilibrium again.

Allowing Jesus to take the oars of that little boat I had been so furiously trying to keep on course was the best decision I could have made as we re-settled into this unexpected period of more waiting.  God knew before I did that I needed to come to a place of rest to recover and re-find my home in Him.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.


Just Watch What I Can Do!

What do you do when you’re presented with unexpected time on your hands?

This is a question that has come up for me again and again as we have waited to fall pregnant.  For most women my age, children are a regular part of their hectic schedule and free-time/me-time is a luxurious and rare occurrence.  For me, the spare hours of each day still stretch out for me to fill in whatever way I choose.  After May’s treatment failed I realised that I had won myself an unexpected seven weeks of space and making them count seemed to be of the utmost importance.  No pressure there then!

What I can say is as that as the weeks passed and July rolled around, the tone of life shifted dramatically.  Exhausted and bored of the extreme caution of the last three and a bit years, I threw anxiety to the hills and immersed myself in all my favourites.  I went to the gym and pushed myself as hard as I could, delighting to see my muscles slowly begin to re-find their definition.  We escaped for a few days of holiday and enjoyed long strenuous walks and glasses of wine accompanied by big bowlfuls of dessert without guilt whilst dreaming about the future.  I threw myself into work and spent as much time with friends and family as I could.  I sought out God’s word for my life and made time to soak in His presence.  I moved from a place of prostration in my exhaustion to feeling the loving, tender hands of my Jesus restoring my body and soul.

And as July arrived, the sunflowers started to bloom and with them a fresh reminder of His promise to us on our calendar:

IMG_3878(1)

As we approached July and counted down to the re-run of our final cycle, we heard God clearly tell us to expect things to be easier from now on. Father God knows me well enough to know that sometimes I need to hear things a few times before I will really believe Him!  As if to show us that He was serious, He took us through a practice run of His favour and swift goodness by leading us from a tentative decision to buy a house in the area we wanted to settle in, to securing a property that was more than we could have dreamed of – over a matter of days!  The first time we bought a house we went through years of angst before securing it.  This time God was confirming that He was serious: Just watch what I can do, guys.  This doesn’t always have to be a battle!

Perhaps you know the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20?  God kept drawing it to my attention as we prepared for our final round of treatment.  King Jehoshaphat calls out to God for help in the face of a huge battle and the Lord says to him, “You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”  The next day King Jehoshaphat and his army head out to the battlefield with a choir of singers leading the army.  And as they sing praises to God, the great threat they had been so fearful of self-combusts before their eyes.

Just watch what a good God can do!

We went into our final round of treatment confident that we were about to see God blow everything from before out of the water.

Over the last few months I have revisited the book, A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers.  It’s a captivating easy-read about a number of women in the Bible who were all part of Jesus’ lineage.  As I began my final round of injections and we set off for London I started to re-read the story of Joshua and the Israelites taking the Promised Land and the role that Rahab played in saving her family from destruction.  There was much to encourage me in this story.  Just like the story of King Jehoshaphat, God had a radical, unusual plan for His people and one which they would never have dreamed up by themselves.  He demanded their absolute faith and obedience and He showed them just how powerful He is.  There would be no debate in the months to come as to how Jericho had fallen: God had taken the victory by His might and power.  I had a feeling we would be saying the same of our own challenge.

Our appointments passed easily and for the first time I saw my uterus on the ultrasound scan looking healthy and  free from any ‘unwanted extras’.  My ovaries expanded nicely with a neat cluster of follicles that responded beautifully to a new drugs regime.  On the clinic’s graph which plotted our progress, we watched a little army of dots (follicles) edge their way in tight-formation up the growth chart.  We couldn’t help but feel excited.  In our spare time we felt God’s love soaking into us through the care and actions of those on hand to host our stay in London.  We felt so taken care of and were amused when a church service we attended seemed tailor-made to us.  God’s favour was totally upon on us.

IMG_4172Before we knew it egg collection had rolled around and with it the best set of results of our whole IVF treatment.  We prayed that nothing would stop this marvellous progress from unfolding and even though we experienced a minor panic on the day of egg retrieval when the medics failed to turn up on time, we were rewarded with a smooth procedure and a bumper crop (for my ovaries anyway!) of eggs. Just look at what a good God can do!

The one slight hitch to our plans came in the form of a fresh delay.  My body had responded beautifully but had been pushed to its limit and needed time to recover.  I was in danger of developing a fairly common – and in the severest cases life-threatening – post-IVF condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).  The consultant was also concerned about the possibility of blood clots.  An embryo transfer was completely out of the question as I was instructed to take at least another six weeks of rest. I was sent home with a series of new injections to take to rebalance my body – something which I had not bargained on.

I wonder how much of a control freak you are with your life?  Historically I have always been a planner.  I don’t need everything to be organised in every area of my life but I am a fan of having a general sense of ‘ducks in a row’.  My family is the same.  We like routine and we like to know where we stand.  Infertility and IVF are not conducive to such a mindset!  Over the many months that we have been in this I have learnt to take a different approach to the ‘grey’ areas of life. These days I find myself increasingly frustrated with people who seem to think that life should always operate in black and white and go exactly as they plan.  Perhaps they have been lucky and life has panned out like that for them, but my hunch is that generally it just doesn’t work like that.  Moreover, it’s often in the messiness that we realise how weak we are in ourselves and how much we need to allow God’s power into our lives.  The great thing about life ‘not going to plan’ is that the interruptions aren’t freaking out our Heavenly Father even if we’re not quite sure how to handle such matters!

I have come to understand that when it comes to the human body and medical procedures one cannot guarantee that everything will go smoothly.  There may be delays.  There may be errors.  There may be disappointments and the unexpected.  There may be a call to dig deeper into our resources of resilience and strength than even we knew we possessed.  We are frail human beings no matter how much we like to pretend we’re gods of our own making.  But – and this is the golden ticket – we never, ever have to do any of this by ourselves. This is amazing grace.  This is unfailing love.  And God is especially good at all the bits of life that weren’t in our masterplan.

Over the following days I did develop mild OHSS (around 35% of women who undergo IVF will).  My painful, swollen ovaries started to recover but my abdomen began to swell with fluid from my follicles that had nowhere else to go.  I watched it balloon before my eyes.  My pin-cushion tummy turned purple and blue from the fresh round of injections used to counteract the worst of the symptoms. I counted a total of 40 needles had been inserted into this small area of skin and muscle over the space of two weeks – and that was just on this treatment cycle!  Resigned to my bed as I fought with lethargy, pain, panic attacks and crazy hormonal surges which made me dizzy, faint and flushed I found myself really wanting to wallow in the misery of our situation.  Sick and tired of the battle to simply start a family – something which so many people take for granted – I was fed up with the never-ending assault on my emotions, my body, my marriage, my friendships. I had worked so hard to make this process seem as normal as possible, but the truth is that there is nothing normal about IVF at all! I was determined not to lose the awe and wonder of this cycle’s success –  so very much to be grateful to God for – and yet I hadn’t banked on needing to reserve a bit more fight for the aftermath of the treatment.  I was spent.  Utterly spent. And incredibly uncomfortable.

Whatever people might have been led to believe, IVF is not an easy option for starting a family.  So many couples are willing to go through it, knowing all the while that the process is brutal and the success rates, in actuality, are very low whilst the personal costs (physically, emotionally, financially) are very high. For many, it is a last resort for biological babies and the hope that it might yet lead to pregnancy is the pull that helps them survive the procedures.  It requires courage, steadiness, bravery and strength.  Holding onto the stories of those who triumphed becomes a lifeline. For us, Father God has been our anchor.

As I write this, the bruises caused by the injections are still visible, ugly stains across my skin, but they will fade.  Daily our hearts still ache with the pain of the waiting and the longing of our future.  The battle to remain soft-hearted towards God, towards anyone outside our circumstances, continues to be a tough call when it’s so tempting to feel wounded, to be the victim.  As I watch my body heal I know there is much in my broken heart that also needs to be mended.  But I am open and yielding in the Potter’s hands these days and I trust that He is re-making me.

As we go back into a time of waiting, of preparing, of hoping and praying that our embryo transfer later in the year will yield our hearts’ desires, we know we take with us a deeper faith and authenticity that have been influenced by our IVF journey.  We have pursued One voice amongst all the others that has called us on and led us higher. Infertility has an unkind cousin called Shame who peddles his wares at every opportunity, but we have chosen to stick close to our favourites – Vulnerability, Worthy and Loved – because we know we are more and not less despite our circumstances.  My womb remains empty for now and yet I am always pregnant with His hope.

If you’re going through infertility and/or IVF today – or have been through it – know that whatever the outcome, you are MORE and not less because of it.  And if you will let Him, Jesus has shown me that He is the most capable at navigating through these often uncertain seas.

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