Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Brief History of Time

Ok,  it might not be so brief, but hopefully it will give you the picture your looking for :-)

For as long as I can recall, I have had only really two goals in life...

Get Married (WooHoo! got that one sorted!), and then have children... (umm, yeah - still working on the recipe for that one...). So anyhow back in December 2001 Sarah and I got married. We decided that it would be prudent for us to wait a few years before we seriously started thinking about kids. So Sarah went onto the combined oral contraceptive and was on that for a total of probably three and a half years. During that time one of Sarah's Sisters became pregnant with her first child. That was fine, but it sort of gave us the impression that when a couple decided that they wanted to get pregnant then they stop taking their OC's and low and behold within a couple of months women get pregnant. By this time many of our married friends were starting to have their first pregnancies - and in time we decided it was our turn.

 We might as well have kept taking the OC's because from that time until now we haven't even had a flicker of hope from month to month. There was the occasionally ridiculously late period, but otherwise no missed periods, no positive pregnancy tests, no real glimmers of hope. Now as you may have realised we are Christians, and I think that there is a perspective out there that good Christians get everything they want from God, and that life should always go from strength to strength with blessing after blessing showering down from heaven as God lavishes his love upon us... I can frankly say that has not been our experience.

The person who tells you that being a Christian makes all your problems go away, and makes life so much better, is probably missing something fundamental in their walk with God. God never promises that life will be a bed of roses, but what he does promise is that he will work through us and in us using his whole tool box - which will occasionally include pain and suffering to produce character and all those other things that he says are important for us to learn. 

Sarah has had to have surgery for endometriosis, and I've had numerous tests. Apparently with Sarah having had the surgery it essentially puts her fertility back into the normal range, however my issue is with a low sperm count, and morphological issues. Our specialist puts our chances at bout 10% per year, and so after 10 years he said we may get 1 or 2 naturally born babies. But that IVF provided some real benefits for us in increasing our chances. 

According to the statistics I've seen, each cycle has about a 50% chance of producing a live birth at the end - that includes the first "fresh" embryo that is implanted directly after fertilization, and also the subsequent embryos that are chryogenically frozen for later use. 

About 6 weeks ago we were right in the middle of our first experience of IVF...

It was exciting, scary, unbelievable... That was a very special time - we really felt that for the first time we were being given a real shot at potentially getting pregnant! Where our chances previously were negligible, they were now real! I distinctly remember the day after fertilization when Sarah answered the phone and it was the fertility clinic calling to tell us how many embryos we had. Bear in mind that up until this point we had no evidence that conception had taken place - for us this was a HUGE milestone! When Sarah got off the phone - I figured out from her end of the conversation that it had worked. I asked her how many - she said "FIVE!", I couldn't believe it! I'd mentally prepared myself for perhaps 2 or 3... we spent the next hour at least in tears of relief, and Joy all because the miracle of life had started on it's journey - and as far as we were concerned, this was the first real evidence that we would ever have kids! 

Apparently it was a good looking embryo that was selected to be implanted, and the implantation process went just how it's supposed to in the textbooks - so those were not the issue... But 12 days later we had the blood test that gives the first indication of pregnancy. Initially Sarah and I were quietly confident that this was our time, and that God would give us the easy road just this once - that he was smiling on us... But towards the end of the time leading up to the blood test, Sarah was feeling that things weren't right. I figured that she couldn't possibly know what it's supposed to feel like and reasonably quickly dismissed her apprehension. But she was right. The blood test was negative - and so we were back with both feet firmly planted in the ground. It's times like that that I feel that reality sucks. We found ourselves in a state of confused disbelief - and apparently even the people at the clinic were surprised that it didn't work. Somehow that wasn't quite the comfort I'm sure they intended it to be. 

Our belief is that there is a point at which the soul is imparted to the embryo - sometime between conception (sperm+egg=embryo), and when the brain is fully developed. I've always erred on the side of earlier rather than later. I've never felt comfortable with abortion at any stage, and that includes the emergency contraceptive (I'm a pharmacist you see - so this is quite topical). I think it is the ultimate arrogance to state that it doesn't matter because it's still in the womb. Who are we to say that a life hasn't been lost in our situation? But I know that we may very well have had this happen to us a number of times before now - but have just never known that conception had occurred. I know that if God had intended that embryo to become a live birth - then he was the only one who could do anything about it - it was entirely up to him - and it still is. 

So here me find ourselves - waiting for Sarah to complete her current cycle so that she can take the drugs which will manufacture the conditions necessary for her womb to be as receptive as possible at the correct time - so we can thaw some embryos and try again... 

I've said it to some of my friends - I feel a bit like Job... in the last few chapters he gets a little indignant and asks God to justify all the suffering that he has had to experience... God has a different approach to getting Job to realise his place in the world.  He asks Job several chapters worth of rhetorical questions like "Where were you when I created the heavens and the earth", and "Can you control the wild beasts of the earth"... basically God's saying - when you are equal with me - then I will explain myself to you - in the meantime just remember that being God means that I don't have to explain myself to you. So I'm trying to learn from Job's experience - I don't particularly want any object lessons like he had!

Abe's Oddyssey is very much in God's hands...


I Believe in Miracles said...

Hi Abe! Welcome to the blogger world. Y'all are a little ahead of us. We're just about to go through our first IVF. I cannot even imagine the pain you (and Sarah) are currently experiencing. This is a great place to find solace, comfort and wisdom. I love meeting other Christian bloggers, so I'll try to keep up with your story. I hope #2 is a charm. ~Nity

Searching for Serenity said...

Welcome Abe! I'm new here too and we are also dealing with male factor issues. I'm relieved to get a male perspective and will be reading your story. Thank you for sharing.

I will be cheering for you and your wife throughout this journey.


bleu said...

Hi and good luck. I wanted to explain that in IVF or any procedure for that matter they do not actually "implant" the embryos. They transfer them into the uterus. There have been some rare Japanese trials with actual implantation years back but they showed no increase in positive outcomes. So the embryos are simply transferred to the uterus and arrive where they normally would at around day 5 in the process were it happening naturally. The implantation takes place immediately after that and is why the uterus needs to be prepped and the lining thick enough to support such implantation when it takes place.
I wanted to explain that so you understood the process a little better.

Also on average IVF takes 4 tries to be successful. That is an average stat and can be helpful to know after the devastation of a first negative.

Good luck.

Abe said...

Thanks guys for your kind comments! I'm looking forward to getting to know you all and hearing your stories too! I guess we're all in this together aye. I've been reading about plenty of women's perspectives on what they are going through with infertility, and felt that it was about time that I unashamedly put my feelings and experiences out there. I haven't figured out yet how to reply to each of you individually in a way that is meaningful - so hopefully this will do for now...