Navigating the Unexpected – Part 2

The weeks settle down and I think very little of it when I bleed a fortnight later, reassured that my body is settling down. The follow-up from the clinic is to carry out one final pregnancy test, having allowed sufficient time for everything to have returned to normal.  This seems very straight-forward.

The week of Pee Stick Day falls in the same week as I turn 35, and for some strange reason I decide to do the test on my birthday.  I wake feeling rather un-birthday-like anyway as my husband has to leave for a two-day work trip away before it’s even light, so cards and presents and celebrations aren’t high on my agenda. But when the pregnancy test is still positive I am a bit bemused. Perhaps things haven’t settled down as much as I had thought…..?

I call the clinic and to my surprise the nurse questions me over the telephone about unprotected sex. I think back over the last few weeks…..the struggle to return life to normal…..the lack of any kind of libido…..the long periods of silence between us…..the yo-yoing conversations caught between faith and fear….the nights of sleep where our drained bodies seek refreshment to survive another day of just being ok.  Not much sex being had I stutter in my embarrassment down the ‘phone line…..The nurse says something about the possibility of a new pregnancy and I ponder the heavy swell of my chest despite the bleeding but cannot believe that this could be the reason…..Time alone will tell.

Twenty-four hours later I am sat alone in a side room of the Early Pregnancy Assement Unit with the results of a scan and blood test before me. No evidence of the previous miscarriage. No evidence of a developing pregnancy. Instead, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms of a very early, very new pregnancy, conceived naturally since our last miscarriage.  Tears and words of confusion stumble out of my mouth in the nurse’s direction. I don’t understand. I have to return 48 hours later for another blood test to see which way the pregnancy hormone level swings. Hopefully it will be good news. I call my husband who is somewhere on a building site in south Wales to explain. This is all so surreal!

They are a long 48 hours and we start to wonder…..

Conceived naturally………after forty-seven months of trying for a baby and failing, we have conceived naturally!!??

Perhaps this is a gift from God, a redeeming of the last few weeks of disappointment? Perhaps this is why He encouraged us to stay so focused on hope after our recent loss?

What kind of parent do I want to be? What kind of future am I choosing to pray over this child? What identity and inheritance am I going to call in for this tiny new bundle of hope fighting to make its way into being in my womb?

We allow hope to rise this time. We put our hands on my tummy and speak life over this little surprise. It’s a new year, a new situation, a new pregnancy. This time perhaps the miracle will come.

But when those 48 hours conclude and I call the clinic for the next set of results, I am shocked to hear the words “sub-optimal fall”, “possible ectopic pregnancy” and “methotrexate” uttered.  We have to wait another 48 hours for another blood test result. I go to work as normal but find I cannot concentrate. I excuse myself to the bathroom and sit and sob in my fear and confusion.

What is going on? What is coming next? I cannot see. I cannot see. And I’m so very, very frightened. What is the point of praying now? God doesn’t seem to want to answer my prayers. Why ask for something else, for a redeeming of the situation or a normal miscarriage when it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference what I request?

Where are you in this, God? What are you doing to us?

At last we hear and it’s not what we had hoped. This new pregnancy has also failed before it had got going. It’s a double agony. We had barely grieved the first loss and here we are with a second on our hearts. Yes, it was early days. Yes, there wasn’t even a heartbeat yet, but still the reach for new life has been cut short again.

We leave half-relieved that my body is at least disposing of this new miscarriage by itself but too shocked to compute the rest.

Where are you in this, God? What are you doing to us?

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Navigating the Unexpected

As we head into the major Christmas festivities I start to bleed and am grateful that my body is releasing what was not to be this time.  We focus on the mystery and majesty of Christmas Day and have free hearts to be joyful with our families, unlike past Christmases where joy has escaped us.

Then on New Year’s Eve I experience a different kind of bleeding and agonising pain and as we roll into the new year I am told by the IVF clinic to do a home pregnancy test and make a swift move to the nearest hospital for a check up.  The consultant is adamant that the test will be negative but that I must make sure all the same.  I wonder how it can possibly be anything other than negative after all this bleeding?!

But the pregnancy test confounds us for it is positive and my husband and I sit together, for the first time in almost four years, with this strange, new, longed-for phenomenon before our eyes.  It says PREGNANT! We review our prayers and wonder whether this is another of God’s amazing turnarounds and He will mystify the doctors after all?

But it is not to be.  I call the consultant back and he tells me that it is likely to be retained product, a chemical pregnancy, but nothing going on inside that will grow into a normal baby.  Although one or possibly both of the embryos have implanted and the pregnancy hormone level has done its very best to linger and slowly rise, the pregnancy is not a normal one and I am in fact miscarrying.

As we begin to realise that this was not what we had first thought, first been told – not a failed transfer but, in fact, a failing pregnancy – we fan the hope-flames a little more, asking God to bring this Lazarus-baby back from the dead.

The days which follow involve more blood tests, more waiting but then the miscarriage is confirmed for definite and I find I can’t muster the faith-conviction for God’s resurrection power though I try.  In my heart I am at peace with this near-miss but we also find we are simply too numb to process it all.

And yet there is light in this darkness.  There is treasure in this new aching.

We are learning for we count and celebrate the victories.

After all these years we have finally seen our first positive pregnancy test.  We know that my body can receive an embryo and it can implant.  My HCG level can rise to new heights.  Those embryos were healthy enough to give their inherent design a good attempt at life, though they weren’t physically able to develop normally.

We have not been wrong to believe we can get pregnant (and there have been so many, so many times when we have asked ourselves whether the tree we were barking up was actually empty).  My faith-eyes are seeing through different lenses now.  I feel empowered and confident to call in our family now, to command my body to fulfil its purpose, to stand on hope and beckon in our miracle because I know now with more certainty that it can happen.

We have witnessed a near miss but we are closer now than ever before. The trees might not be in full fruit yet but they are definitely waking up for Spring and barrenness is coming to an end.

Breathing Underwater

I think I know the outcome before it happens.  I have a sense in my body that what we are longing for isn’t going to be.  As we wait for the phone call to reveal the result of my blood test my prayers switch to panicked begging.  Please Lord, please let this be a pregnancy.  In the final minutes as we wait I get a message from a friend who doesn’t know that today is The Day. She says God has put us on her heart.  And I know then that it will be a negative because He has done this before…..the provision and the protection and the extra prayer to carry us through our pain and confusion.  And when the nurse finally calls as we sit curled on the floor waiting, I can hear that the tone of her voice is positioned to break bad news and I find I cannot react as I expected.  My husband allows his disappointment and sadness to flow; but I find I can’t.  I am counting the silver linings and listing what I have learnt but I can’t quite accept that this is where we find ourselves when we were so sure it would go well.  I think perhaps it hasn’t sunk in yet.

The tears come in time.  My two little babies…..lost to us.  Never to be met.  All that hoping and praying.  My hope feels like it’s in tatters.  The same old rotting question raises its head again: why why why why why why why?  And I do yell at God that I can’t find the sense in this when He has walked it all so closely with us.

The morning after the night before dawns and I long to stay under the covers and hide, rather than face the day ahead. But as he kisses me goodbye, the father of my almost-were-going-to-be-babies says he cannot get worship songs out of his head and I am in wonder at this change of heart attitude.  Over the course of the hours as I prepare for work I receive message after message of encouragement and solace.  One arrives out of the blue from a friend that I haven’t heard from in years and with no knowledge of our situation.  She has no idea just how significant her picture is and I am in awe that God is lifting our heads in hope even now.  I share here her message and another significant message that I received because it matters much to me that if you’re in your own waiting right now, you know that it doesn’t have to be the crappy, lonely, blank space that it so often seems to be.  God is the shield around you in this very moment and the lifter of your head – and I don’t say that lightly.

Hi lovely friend – you been on my mind and I just wanted to share a little something with you – no idea if it’s relevant or not!! We’ve been approved to adopt again and are going thru the process of finding our child – it’s a bit frustrating and tricky and heartbreaking at times but last week I felt God speak and today I felt like I wanted to share it with you. People always say when one door closes another will open but they never talk about being in the corridor. The picture I had was of being in a lovely corridor – we’d entered this corridor by making a decision to have another child and we’d walked through the door that represented making that decision and now we were sat in the corridor. There are doors along the corridor (for me each door represents a child) some are shut and some are ajar but the doors that are ajar are just that – we’ve knocked but not been invited in yet. Even if an ajar door opens it just leads to a waiting room and there are no guarantees that we will be invited through to the next room – we might just be sent back to the corridor with heart ache and disappointment as our companions. But I felt the corridor was an ok place – it was light and airy and nicely decorated- it’s not somewhere I want to become settled with but it’s a transitional place – one of discovery and learning, one where hearts are shared and tears shed with each disappointment that comes along.  But above all else it’s a place of hope – it’s somewhere where we can look back and see how far we have come but it’s hopeful because there are more doors ahead and we don’t know what adventures lie behind that door when it finally opens and we are done with the waiting. It’s in the corridor that we find God.

My precious friend, praying for you this morning and had a picture of a very thin, fraying thread. As I was praying I saw you holding on to this all too familiar thread, worn at the edges, almost breaking in places and stretched far more than it should be but still somehow in tact and slowly and surely pulling yourself up again, out of the depths of grief and hopelessness and at the top is God’s hand, pulling you up, not dragging you beyond your strength and speed but going with your pace and steadily drawing you closer to him again. And when you get there, when you choose to draw near again, the biggest embrace is waiting for you and he will hold you tightly again until next time, when he will walk through it again with you and hope alongside you for the best outcome.

I also felt as I was praying that this would have been good, it would’ve been great, it would’ve been excellent, in fact, to have been pregnant now… But I was reminded that what we perceive as good, great, excellent is not always the BEST scenario. As frustrating as that is, and equally annoying when other people’s prayers for good timing match perfectly with His BEST, it’s just how it is for some of us.

So, I’m praying that you will hold on to that thread of hope in his BEST and know he is there, ready and waiting for you and also mourning with you and longing for this timing to come together. And it will my sweet friend, I believe it, as I do for me too. There’s so much we don’t understand and our tiny pea-sized brains are nothing compared to the perfect masterplan He has for our lives.

But even these amazing words of comfort aren’t enough for me and I resolve to defy my husband’s humility and refuse to play worship music as I drive to work, breaking the habit of these recent weeks. Two fingers up to you, God. Today I don’t feel like praising you. Today I choose BBC Radio 2!

I am ten minutes into my journey when a line in a song that’s playing stands out to me, “leave your sadness by the river”…….I recall……. they are like trees planted beside streams of water, bearing fruit in all season. Yes, I conclude, I need to leave my sadness by the river – God’s living water. I can be that tree with roots set deep that lets the sadness flow away downstream. In time. The song ends and a new one begins, “I believe in miracles ‘cos it’s a miracle I’m here. Yes you could call me spiritual ‘cos physical is fear”. Ok now He’s got my attention…..”Something like flying, hard to describe it, My God I’m breathing underwater.  Something like freedom, freedom, My God, I’m breathing underwater”….The song builds and grows, culminating in a swirling, heady gospel track which shifts from despair to joy. And I don’t know what to do with myself. I can feel my heart strumming faster as I hear these words. I can sense joy leaping despite my best efforts to stay miserable. I can feel the need to praise Him rising from deep within me. And as I park the car and walk to work I find I am struggling not to walk along with both arms in the air in worship. How. Can. This. Be??

On huge, strong wings like an eagle, Father God has flown down from His sanctuary and scooped me up from the ground and we are soaring towards the bright and glorious sunshine of His mighty goodness. The exhilaration of flying; the freedom from despair; the determination to sustain the hope…… THIS is the crown of beauty. THIS is the oil of joy. THIS is the garment of praise.

I marvel at the ‘how is this possible?’ for the rest of the day, floating further and further away from the wrenching pain of disappointment.

Only supernaturally. This is nothing to do with us. Maybe we laid a foundation of praise in the waiting time and we are seeing the fruits of that now but it still doesn’t make any sense.  And when I get home and explain all this to my husband and play him the song, he bursts into tears as we fling our arms in the air and dance around at this ridiculous and unnatural reaction to bad news.  Our desires for a family haven’t changed at all, but somehow Father God’s determination that we will take this outcome and see it as a blip and not a full stop in our story is pushing us onwards. I wonder whether we are no longer writing this story ourselves……the plot isn’t my choosing and the way the characters are behaving is quite bizarre….

I turn my head towards the author and perfector of our faith and He smiles a knowing smile of assent.

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