It’s TRIPLETS

Transfer day came and again Derek got to be in the room as the doctor placed both blastocysts inside my uterus. Then the 10 day wait came. We waited to see if one or both of them would attach. (sidenote: while we waited, we went to the lake and Derek was tubing and broke his jaw…It is never a dull moment around our house). Day 10 came, and I went in for blood work that morning. We went home and tried to stay as distracted as possible while we waited for the doctor to call and let us know if my numbers were high enough for the possibility of a pregnancy. I will never forget that moment. We had just pulled our car into the carport and Derek was walking to get the mail. I yelled for him and we sat on the driveway and listened to the doctor tell us that my numbers were really high. He mentioned that twins were even a possibility since the numbers were so high. We sat on the driveway and cried and prayed and cautiously guarded our hearts for the possibility that this news was too good to be true. After experiencing an ectopic, miscarriage was very much on our minds. We waited 2 weeks before we got to have an ultrasound. At that point I was 6 weeks pregnant. We found out at this ultrasound that is was in fact twins. We were overjoyed. We went back one week later for one more ultrasound with the fertility doctor and this time he paused in the ultrasound and acted like something was wrong. Our hearts sank thinking that we had lost one or both of them. Thankfully the pause was because we had actually gained a baby instead of losing one!! haha We never even considered the possibility of triplets. It was less than a 1% chance. I mean we only put in 2 blastocysts so the idea of getting out 3 babies hadn’t crossed my mind. I have since learned that identical twins are not genetic. Identical twins are created when one embryo or blastocyst splits into 2. Our twins were mono/di twins. This means that they shared a placenta but had separate sacs in the uterus. In order for this to happen, the blastocyst must have split before day 7. We inserted them on day 6, so it happened pretty much instantly. When they split after day 7, they become mo/mo twins and share a sac, or they become siamese twins. Both of these options are much more dangerous. It is amazing that ours split at just the right time. So we had one set of identical twins and a third fraternal baby. I was immediately terrified. I was scared for the babies because I knew that carrying 3 babies must be incredibly dangerous. I was scared for me and my body and scared for how Derek and I would physically take care of them. I was scared of skipping straight to zone defense from the beginning with 2 parents and 3 babies. How would we hold them or feed them or comfort them with only 2 of us?!? My mind was spinning. Derek promises he almost passed out, but all I remember was him grabbing my hand and gently whispering, this is great! We can do this! These are our babies. We can do this together. He was and remains to this day such a rock in our whirlwind days. I love the way he balances me. The doctor immediately jumped into explaining that I would most likely be on bed rest for several weeks or months. He explained the dangers but also encouraged us that this was very doable. Honestly though, I don’t really remember much of what he said. I was in a complete haze. If you have ever watched Parks and Rec, we are Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. *Spoiler Alert* Go back and watch the scene where they find out that they are having triplets. That is very similar to how it went down. We were terrified and excited and confused and so many more emotions all at one time. And just so you know, zone defense is very doable and so much fun. Now I can’t begin to imagine life without one or all of my 3 very different babies.

While this was and will always remain a beautiful moment in our story, it still took me 15 weeks before I could actually say the words “I am pregnant” or “I’m going to be a mom” out loud. I would get seriously mad at Derek when he would make me say it. I’m tearing up as I type this because of how scary and emotional those first few weeks were for me. I had been in so many doctor’s offices when bad news was presented. I had believed that “I’m pregnant” moment to be real so many times only to be disappointed. Why would this time be any different? Surely the shoe was going to drop at any moment, and I would wake up to discover that again something was wrong and this was not going to happen. I felt like saying it out loud would jinx it. I thought it was too good to be true. I was so scared and so numb at the same time. It’s hard to explain what shape my head was in after 3 years of hearing “No” from God over and over. Those heartaches didn’t just disappear. The pain didn’t magically turn into rainbows. It was hard. It still is hard sometimes. In the few weeks after we found out, I actually spoke at our school retreat. The topic was about seeing God in the midst of pain. I looked at almost every story in the Bible that summer in order to gain insight into why God says no and what happens later after He says no. As I examined scripture for my talk, I came up with 3 main reasons that God says no. The least common reason was for punishment. It was actually very rare. The second reason God said no was so that He could say yes to something else, or He just waited for a while to say yes. The third and most common reason that God said no was just because this world is broken and bad things happen (message me if you want more info on scripture references). My talk centered around how I believe that God does not make the pain and suffering happen in this world, but that He is so good at taking the ugly and broken and turning it into something beautiful ( I feel like that is a recurring theme in this blog). In fact, He is so good at this that it often looks as though He planned it all along. I could have ended my talk by saying, “I’m pregnant!” But I didn’t. I didn’t want the people in the audience that are still hearing “No” to think that something is wrong with them. We didn’t get pregnant because we prayed hard enough. We didn’t get pregnant because we pleased God or did something to deserve it. We didn’t get pregnant because we waited long enough. I don’t think that God planned on my fallopian tubes being messed up. But I do know that even in the darkest days, even when all feels lost and you feel incredibly broken, God is there, and if you allow Him to, He will use your brokenness to create something beautiful. So many of our friends and people we know, still don’t have their babies. Many people try IVF 1, 2, 3, 4, …10 times and it never works. Some people are still waiting. I hurt with you. I don’t understand why God says No still, but I do believe that even when He does, He is still good. A good Father does not clear a path of perfection for their child.  A good parent lets their child fall and hurt and while the good parent comforts them in the pain, they don’t take it away because life has good and bad. I could go on and on about my thoughts on this issue. I could go into my thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11. I could go off on why I think suffering exists. I could go off on story after story of God turning ashes into something beautiful, but instead just know that I am not blessed because I got pregnant. I am not whole because I got pregnant. God is not good because I got pregnant. God is good, I am blessed, and I am whole because I serve a God that transcends the pain and loves the broken, the lonely, and “the other.” God was good before I got pregnant. My story didn’t begin or end with our pregnancy. It is just part of our story, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Ethical questions about IVF

This is Derek. I’m trying to write some too for the blog as we talk about our story. For this post, I’m going to discuss some of the ethical issues within IVF and infertility. I’ve put this into a question/answer format to answer questions that either people have asked us, we’ve asked ourselves, or our friends who have gone through IVF were asked by other people. I hope this makes it a little easier to see various objections to the process ethically, and kind of walks you through how we arrived at the decision we did.

IVF is incredibly expensive, so why don’t you just spend the money on adoption? Why don’t you just adopt?

I put this first because, honestly, we wrestled over this question more than any other. It hits close to home because Megan and I are passionate about adoption. We actively support and work with a special needs orphanage in China, and we think adoption is something Christians in the world should be more active in. IVF is also incredibly expensive and costs about the same amount as a new car. Is it justifiable for us to spend so much money on something unnecessary when there are plenty of other kids in the world that need parents? Should we spend money on something medically unnecessary when that money could be spent on adoption? First off, it’s absurd to think that only infertile couples should be asked this question. We rarely think about adoption before buying a car, or buying a new house, or getting the kitchen remodeled. Infertile couples do not solely carry the burden of adoption or the weight of financial decisions in lieu of adoption. “Why don’t you just adopt?” is a question that can be asked before any major purchase. Many object to the cost of IVF while failing to look at their own finances. It’s an easy way to pass the buck onto someone who we don’t understand. This is something we often do to the “other.” Any question that begins with “Why don’t you…” is often a failure to empathize or understand a person’s background. Secondly, I can’t explain how much infertility hurts, and how strong the desire for biological children is. We really wanted to explore all of our options, and after three years of trying, we needed to take this path to its end whether that was biological children or not. While we were working with the fertility clinic, we also were actively pursuing adoption through various programs in the Atlanta area. However, we decided we really wanted to explore our options for biological children until we ran out of them. We decided we would give one round of IVF, and then stop. But at least then we could have closure, and wouldn’t have to play the what if game.

Doesn’t IVF create a lot of embryos which in turn causes the death of many unborn babies?

I get this concern, however it’s primarily based out of a misunderstanding of biology. In “normal” pregnancies, women regularly miscarry around 20% of the time. On top of that, it is estimated that around 30 to 50% of the time eggs which are fertilized naturally miscarry before even implanting in the woman’s uterus. This is why even fertile couples don’t get pregnant the first time a woman ovulates and has sex. This is why no doctor will consider you infertile until a year of actively trying (which is incredibly). Sometimes (obviously not all the time) when a woman’s period is late it’s because an egg was fertilized but didn’t make it past the first couple of days. There’s a natural dying off of fertilized eggs because of natural factors at play. We see a lot of the same tendencies and percentages at play in fertilizing eggs during IVF. Also, I find it interesting that the same people that would like to decry IVF creating life through embryos dying do not hold funerals for miscarriages. We obviously see a difference between a baby and an embryo in the way we as a society treat losing each. Miscarriage is incredibly painful, losing a child more so. While all life is sacred (embryonic or not) and should be treated with incredible dignity and respect, there is also a difference in our treatment of these two and should be.

Is IVF playing God?

The rationale goes that we should accept what God gives us and that IVF is taking life into our own hands and trying to replace God. I would push back against this. We regularly do not accept the hand given to us. I reject the fact that I am near blind without corrective lenses, so I wear glasses. Oliver was sick last week, and we gave him antibiotics. We play God every time we treat a disease or have life saving surgery. We give prosthetics to people who were born without the legs or arms. Aren’t we playing God every time we heal a disease or correct a birth deformity? IVF is simply curing the disease of infertility. IVF brings life to this world and undoes the damage of inferility in people’s live. It’s a beautiful thing and participating in the work of God restoring creation.

What about the left over embryos?

Before you sign up for IVF there is a enormous packet to fill out with what to do with the embryos. You can destroy them, give them to research, or anonymously donate them to another couple. We chose to adopt them out to another couple if we didn’t use all of ours. I was actually really excited about the option of donating unwanted embryos to couples who were struggling with infertility. Part of me was excited to help other couples in need, but the other part of me was excited to imagine every little ginger I see from now on as possibly my kid. Sounds weirder as I type it than it is in my head. However, many object to IVF but don’t realize adoption is an option. There is no need to discard any viable embryos created during the IVF process.

Is implanting so many embryos dangerous and does it cause multiple pregnancies? Will the doctors need to abort one for the others to survive?

You can always implant one embryo and in fact our fertility doctor demanded it for our first attempt. For the second attempt our doctor did not want us to do two embryos, but he understood and eventually after signing a waiver allowed us to implant both of them. Implanting 3 – 4 embryos at a time is something that is highly discouraged today, and was something more common when the percentage of success was much lower. The rates are so much better now that doctors want most couples to do one and at max two. At no point did any fertility doctor suggest we should abort one. Our high risk OB did offer that as a possibility, but we declined and she seemed pleased about that. She wasn’t pushy, and it was definitely not expected or encouraged just simply offered as a medical option, and after that day it was never mentioned again.

There are numerous other issues surrounding infertility such as suffering and the why behind painful issues like it. There’s even more advanced issues such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Hopefully I can write on here about some of those in the future. I think Christians need to start having conversations about reproductive technologies and bioethics.  The world is changing and creating questions that the Church is ill-equipped to handle currently. I believe we as a Church must move past the stigma of infertility in order to be able to grapple with these bio-ethical dilemmas that both this generation and the next will be forced to answer.

The Beginning

Derek and I got married 5 years ago, and we have had so many fun adventures together. A little over 3 years ago we started learning about what it meant to be in pain and to suffer together. We have grown so close to each other, and I think that we make the best team. However, this period of time and this part of our story together is something that I really want others to know. In the church and in our society, often pain gets covered up or patched up too quickly. We want everything to be ok too fast. Derek and I pray that our openness and honesty with our pain and questions through infertility and also our joy and celebration with the triplets will help others find hope and comfort. We also pray that it will help bring understanding to those that have never experienced these things before.

On January 26, 2015, Derek and I lost a baby. We had been trying to get pregnant for several months and were ecstatic when that pink line finally appeared. We immediately started dreaming of what he/she would look like and let our minds run wild with how wonderful it was going to be. We honestly did not know anyone at the time that had suffered through a miscarriage, and it just isn’t very socially acceptable to discuss (I’m hoping that is slowly changing), but at the time the thought of losing the baby had NEVER crossed my mind. Then, weird things started happening. At 8ish weeks, I started bleeding and thought I had miscarried the baby but my numbers were still high so they just monitored my progress. Finally, it was discovered that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This is when the baby starts growing in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. If we hadn’t figured out the problem, in just a few days or hours it could have ruptured and been extremely dangerous for me. I had surgery to take the baby out which was overwhelming in so many ways. I had a miscarriage in a sense, but it was different. They had to physical go in and take the baby out which really messed me up. That’s something that we have been through this whole journey…different. But I know that I am not alone. I want to speak out and tell our story in hopes that other people feeling the same way can find comfort in my openness and honesty. Here is something I wrote 7 months after losing our first baby:

It is almost September 4, 2015. The day our little baby was supposed to be due.  After 8 months of trying, Derek and I finally got pregnant and in January found out that it was an ectopic pregnancy.  After losing the baby, we were broken but surrounded by so many people that love us. My dreams of names and nurseries and even sleepless nights were crushed. However, we still had hope though that after a couple months, it will all happen as we had dreamed. Surely if God is a good father then He will allow us to have a family and raise a child up in the name of the Lord. That’s all we wanted to do. Now here we are 7 months later, still broken and with hope all but lost. Hope is too hard. Hope means that every month I open myself up for more brokenness. Every month as I sit in pain, I feel as though I have lost yet another child. It never gets easier. For the last couple months I have given up hope. I don’t dream about names any more or due dates. I don’t pray for a baby anymore because I just don’t want to be disappointed again. I’m tired of being in pain. So is forgetting hope the answer? Or is there a way to live in hope that keeps me from getting crushed. Romans 12:12 says to rejoice in hope. How in the world is that possible? If you have hope it means that you have something to hope for which means you don’t have what you hoped for. It means you are empty but waiting for something to happen. What does it look like to rejoice in hope? Should I be happy that my dreams of becoming a mother seem so far out of reach? Should I be joyful in the fact that instead of staying home this year and learning how to raise a child, I am taking fertility treatments and making my mind and body crazy with tests and medicine. I sure don’t feel joyful. I feel tired and angry and sad. There are things in my life that bring me joy – my amazing husband, our supportive families and friends, our jobs and ministry…so I can be joyful, but I don’t want to be joyful IN hope. I want to be joyful despite my hope.  The message translation says to be “Cheerfully expectant.” That sounds like an oxymoron to me. All I really want to do is stop caring, stop dreaming, and stop hurting.  Maybe the problem isn’t whether or not I hope, but what I hope for. I have always laughed when my students read Psalm 37:4 to mean that God will give them whatever they ask for, but that’s kind of what Im doing.  I’ve lost hope because my life doesn’t look like what I think it should. I also laugh at all of the parents of my students that want to plow all of the problems our of their child’s way. As a teacher, it makes me cringe when parents fight the battles for their children and the student never learns anything. If God is a good father then I know that He shouldn’t take all of my problems away but shouldn’t He give me the strength to not feel broken or the peace that passes understanding. Why don’t I feel that? How am I supposed to act like everything is normal and happy only to be crushed every month again and again? How am I supposed to go to school on September 4th and pretend like nothing happened?  The answer: ????

Hope – 

noun: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Verb: to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to feel that something desired may happen.

This way of thinking is not possible if the thing that I want is to have a baby. Because right now, in all reality, that may not happen, well at least for a long time. We have already decided that we will happily adopt and I am so glad that God gave us that calling through all of this but it will be 3 years before we will have a child through adoption. So, if the thing that I want or look forward to is to be a mom then I will be setting myself up for more heartache. There has to be another option. I have to transfer my hope from things turning out the way they should in my own personal world and focus on the goal of Gods Kingdom being known. If I put my hope in the fact that God is shaping me and molding me and forming me to be a better disciple and better leader for His Kingdom, then no matter what happens at the end of this month, I am not left alone and shattered. It gives my hope and my pain purpose. I have HOPE that God will redeem this crap. I have HOPE that God will transform my broken pieces into something that can be used to bring hope to others. My HOPE is NOT that one day I will be a mom, even though that’s true. I know that one day – maybe far in the future –one day I will be a mom. But that’s still not what I HOPE in. I need to put my HOPE in something that wont let me down. 

So here I stand, or have fallen, with nothing to offer but the broken pieces of me, begging to be transformed into something more beautiful, something more like Jesus. I have HOPE that one day I will be whole again.  

(back to Sept 2017) Now looking  back, its crazy that it did in fact take 3 years for us to have our baby(ies). I never would have pictured it turning out the way it did. People tell me all the time that it was all part of God’s plan, and maybe it is, but really I believe that God took a terrible thing and redeemed it and turned it into something beautiful. That’s what He is best at doing. I serve a God that doesn’t create the ugly, the broken, the pain, but takes those things and makes them new. Our journey in meeting our triplets was a long and hard one, but God sure did shape my heart in the process. He made me a new person. Even though we have our beautiful babies, I still struggle sometimes. That pain of infertility did not just disappear. I still sometimes ache when I think about that baby we lost or the failed round of IVF or the months and months of negative pregnancy tests. It was and still is painful. I still often feel angry that God allowed it to happen. I also see many friends that are still waiting and still don’t have a baby in their arms. I don’t have my babies because I prayed harder or because God loves me more or even because I deserved them. God redeems in all sorts of different ways. So if you are still in the middle of infertility or mourning a miscarriage or lost child, this is not where your story ends. I don’t know how it will be used, but have hope that your pain will be transformed into something beautiful.

Over the next few weeks I will post a new part of our story and slowly build up to the present. Along the way I will reflect on how God was working or the questions and frustrations that I had and am having at God. I believe that God is a God of beautiful redemption and that my story is just beginning. I would love for you to follow along with me in this journey. Let me know if you have questions or comments too. I would love to hear from you.