We need to fast forward a few years, though. Naomi was born in February of 2006. I think at that point, Jason might have said our family was done. I, though extremely thankful and perfectly content, knew in my heart of hearts that I was not there. And truth be told, he knew that too. There would be an occasional comment about growing our family again sometime in the future and he would just kind of glance at me with the raised eyebrow as if to say, "we're going there again?". If you couldn't tell, it's quite an emotional road as I know those of you who have experienced it know. We would share a smile (after the raised eyebrow) and that would be the end of it. I had no word from God to "be silent" (guess He knew I didn't need it this time...) and I didn't feel anxious or stressed about what our "child bearing future" would hold. Adoption was not off the table in my mind, but at the same time, I was not really ready to fully consider that option either.
So we coasted for a few years. I saw we because it wasn't really an issue that needed to be talked about at that phase in our lives as a couple. However, that's not to say that the idea of becoming pregnant and having a baby was EVER far from my mind. If you've walked the fertility road maybe you know what I'm talking about when I say, you ALWAYS know exactly where your body is physically (counting days becomes as easy as breathing), and at least for me, EVERY MONTH I wondered if this would be the miracle month. Come on, you've heard the stories I'm sure. Couples who tried everything the fertility world has to offer only to come up with empty arms at the end of the day as far as biological children, and then, lo and behold, positive pregnancy test. I wondered every month if that would be us, and every month I would feel a little let down that that was not God's chosen path for us. Don't hear me wrong, this was not something I was obsessing about or overly emotional about. It was just- always. there. In my head. The wondering, hoping, wishing, the "how cool would that be!". Come on God, show your glory THIS way, MY way!
(oops- so here's my side note- I lied...) I realized I haven't mentioned in the telling of this story the significant role that Beth Moore's bible studies have played in this journey for me. I said before that I am a journaler and I also keep old Bible Study books that I've written in. Sadly, they are all in storage (in my mom's attic in America) where I obviously can't access them so it's hard for me to give many details but I can definitely tell you which study I was in during various parts of the journey. And let me just tell you that God has used that precious woman and her Bible studies in AMAZING ways in my journey. She truly has a gift for communicating His word and for being a vessel through which He can speak. If you haven't done any of her studies, I highly encourage it, or at least check out her ministry blog. When Jason was diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of treatments, I did Jesus the One and Only. During the fertility treatments, Believing God was wonderful. There have been others along the way but I specifically remember those and if I had the books with me, I would likely go through and give you specifics of every lesson learned along the way and every truth applied, so maybe it's good that I don't have them!
Anyway, that's where we were. Very, very happy with our 3 beautiful, healthy girls and truly overflowing with thankfulness. And then in happened. I was at a Bible study with some girlfriends in the fall of 2009- we were doing Beth Moore's study of Esther, and God spoke very clearly to my heart.
I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was opening the door for us to do IVF again and that He was not done growing our family. Oh boy. So I go home and tell Jason that we need to pray about this, because I am completely convinced that I have heard from the Lord. I got a bit of the raised eyebrow in response but mostly because He was bracing himself for the emotional me that was to come. We both knew the potential difficulties- emotionally, physically and even spiritually of the road ahead but we prayed together, consulted the doctor again and agreed to move forward.
Moving forward this time meant that we were going to go with a natural cycle IVF. In other words, I wasn't going to take all the crazy medications. My history showed that it really didn't do much for me anyway so no need in injecting myself with all that stuff and sending my body into even more of a hormonal mess. We did decide to take Clomid for a bit of an extra boost, but not all the shots that typically go along with IVF. This also significantly helped with the cost which was also a bit of an issue. So, here we go again...
Oh, and again, what timing! Like I said, all of this was taking place in the fall of 2009. By the time we had all the doctors appointments, got all the logistical details worked out etc, the timing was falling right around Christmas. At this point, our family and even close friends, for the most part, had NO IDEA this was something we were even considering (and I'm generally an open book but we were holding this one close to the chest). It probably wasn't even on their radars. Naomi was 3 going on 4 and I'm betting most people figured we were done with the fertility thing. Anyway, being the emotional sap that I am, I decided that it would be totally perfect to have a "pregnancy surprise" for our families for Christmas. (no, I obviously didn't learn anything 5 years prior). So, besides the few who helped keep the girls during procedures, we didn't tell anyone what we were doing. I was full out, 150% convinced that this was going to work the first time and that we would get to knock everyone's socks off with our wonderful Christmas news. Again, how hard headed am I?! good grief. Well, I'm guessing you can see where this is going. The 1 embryo that was implanted didn't "take". Negative pregnancy test. No Christmas surprise. okkkaaaaay.
Well there you go. Obviously, I have misunderstood AGAIN, Lord and am NOT learning the lessons you have for me, here! What the heck? I mean, we're content with our family (or we WERE!), YOU TOLD me to do this! I convinced my sweet husband to do this! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?! Inhale. Exhale. Breath. (I don't know about you, but I'm so thankful we have a heavenly Father who can "take" our rants!...)
More regrouping, evaluating our financial situation, praying, praying, praying. God still speaking to my heart to press on. God speaking to Jason's heart to trust me in pressing on (scary!). So we do. (press on, that is) Doctor says it can take more time this way, be patient. Another cycle, another round of ultrasounds, everything is ready and here we go again.
So, maybe I should explain a bit of the IVF pattern here. You go in for the procedure (under IV sedation) to have your eggs removed. I've heard of women who, due to the meds, have upwards of 20 eggs removed and fertilized. As I said before, that never happened with me. 2, 3 I think was the most. Then, the doctors look at the eggs and determine if they are actually the quality that can be fertilized. If they are, they inject a sperm into the egg and watch it under the microscope for a few days. If it begins to divide and grow as an actual embryo would, then you are ready for the second procedure. Procedure #2 is within 48-72 hours of the first and they take any viable embryos and implant them into your uterus (this time no IV sedation, just a full bladder). After this procedure, you have to lay completely flat on your back for 1-2 hours and then return home and are essentially on bedrest for 3-5 days. (this routine differs, I'm told, depending on your doctor). My understanding (remember that I avoided the internet at all costs on this topic) is that in some cases, embryos are classified as "high quality" versus "low quality" and in cases where many embryos are fertilized, couples are given the option of only implanting the "high quality" embryos and freezing the rest for later "tries". This was not an ethical issue that we had to face as we never had more than 3 eggs to fertilize. Also, I made very clear to my doctor, that I was not interested in classifying the embryos. If there was an embryo there, I wanted it put back in, no matter the "quality".
So, here we are, spring of 2010, ready to try again. I go in for procedure number 1 and she is able to retrieve 2 eggs. She is not very pleased with the quality and tells me to call her in 2 days and she will let me know whether or not she was able to fertilize the eggs. I call. She says she was able to fertilize 1 but at this point it is not dividing as an embryo would. She says we will give it another day and to call back tomorrow. I call in the big gun prayers. All the friends and family I can think of who are aware of our journey are praying. I call back the next day.
Nope. No embryo. It's not meant to be this time.
ok. well then. I wrote about this part of our journey here. Take a look- I can't adequately express again what I was feeling at that time. I don't share in that post exactly what I'm talking about, but now you know...
So now, as you can imagine, we find ourselves in an interesting place. This is not a road we can continue to walk financially. Enter unexpected financial blessing #2 (at least) which gave us the freedom (again) to not have to evaluate this decision from a financial standpoint. We've now been walking this road again for 6 months. I convinced my husband saying I had a Word from the Lord. He had been led to trust me in this, but here we were, no pregnancy, running out of options. How long are we going to keep this up?! That was the question. My sweet husband's practicality was balancing my "all or nothing" emotion. What to do?
After much prayer, we decided to have our last shipment of "boys" sent from California. We would give it one last go. I promised you a story regarding this shipment so here it is. So, the first time we had the "boys" sent from California to Beirut (in 2004), they went directly to the lab technicians at the American University Hospital via FedEx. I was not involved at all in the process aside from making sure the addresses were correct and paying the bill. This is, after all, a liquid nitrogen tank- not something I"m exactly qualified to handle, despite my nursing degree! However. For whatever reason (and if you live overseas or have ever lived overseas, especially in the Middle East, you know that there is no rhyme or reason to the postal/shipping system) this time they were telling me that the package could not go directly to the hospital that it had to come to me. I had to be the one to handle the pick up from customs and the delivery to the hospital. Ok. Bring it on. I am NOT going to let this stop us! Like, I said, this is a liquid nitrogen tank. of my husband's "boys". coming into customs in the Middle East. And it's time sensitive because if it gets delayed too long in customs, they will no longer be frozen "boys" thus making them unusable. Could get interesting!! And did it.
I'll spare you most of the details, but let's just say that if you were to envision a big, dark warehouse type room with lots of Arab men sitting around smoking cigarettes and going through all the packages that arrive and deciding what to release and what not to release, you would not be far from the truth. And here I come busting up into their little world with my note from the Ministry of Health in Lebanon (ordinarily quite an ordeal to obtain but God opened doors right and left and made it easy) that says "please release the "boys" of Jason Cox to his wife for fertility procedures". Yeah. Let's just say that was quite a day. So, after spending about 3 hours in the customs warehouses at the Beirut airport, I walk away with a liquid nitrogen tank full of "boys" and deliver it to the American University Hospital. And yes, they were still frozen. No delays. Praise God for the little miracles along the way! And then I went home and cried. It was a wee bit stressful...
So, here we go again. Summer 2010. Best we can figure, this is our last shot. We can't justify spending more money, this is not something our emotions can continue to take over and over again. Again, I will say that never in this process were we opposed to adoption. We had not ruled it out. But we also knew that this was not the way that God was leading at this point.
Lord, we've heard you. We're acting on what we've understood. Please...
So here's where I'm going to get really vulnerable with you. As part of this story I have to share my experience, and what happened in the OR as part of the second procedure is a huge part of that story. Remember, I was not sedated. I was completely in my right mind. I promise. And no, this is not a way that God typically speaks to me. Had never happened before and has not happened since. But here's what happened... The lights were off in the room besides the head light my doctor wore. The lab technician walked in with a tiny tube holding the embryos (2 fertilized successfully this time). As I was on the table, waiting for the doctor to begin, I very clearly saw Jesus standing at the bottom of the table beside my doctor and He had His hands cupped as if He were holding the babies in His hands. It was more the form of what I knew to be Jesus, but it was so clear in my mind. So clear that I can't begin to adequately describe it. You'll just have to trust me. He was there, cupped hands that He held out to me. And then it faded and the procedure was done. So there. At that point, my heart knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was giving us the baby that He held in His hands. His creation, to be our child. The next 2 weeks were of course difficult, but nothing like any 2 week wait I had experienced before. I was so sure of what was happening in my body, already so joyful. Elated. I hadn't even shared my little OR experience with Jason yet. It was too precious to my heart to share just yet and, anyway, I planned to share it with him within a few short weeks when I took a positive pregnancy test. I guess you could say I held it close to my heart.
Two weeks passed before I knew it this time. We were preparing for a visit from my parents and a dear family friend so we were busy enough to help pass the time. Then the big day. Pregnancy test day. And I even waited for the right day this time.
negative. Wait, WHAT?
There is absolutely no way that is right.
So I did what any
sane (desperate) person would do, and I marched myself down to the pharmacy and took another.
WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!???
So then I did what any on the verge of losing it person would do- I ran. Quite literally. We lived about 100 yards away from a beautiful walkway by the Mediterranean Sea at the time, so I popped on my headphones, woke Jason up to tell him what happened and where I was going, (I told you I waited until the right day, but it was VERY early on the right day. Bless his heart, he was just as shocked as me and I woke him up blubbering then headed out the door), and then I ran. Hard and fast I'm pretty sure.
With feet pounding the pavement, music (a mix of praise and worship and country- weird I know) blaring in my ears, and tears running down my cheeks, my heart cried out to God.
I don't know about you but sometimes I pray best through praise and worship music. Someone else has best said exactly what I'm feeling, and I pour that back to God. Surprisingly this time, though, it wasn't a typical praise and worship song that spoke to my heart. It was country music, which I personally believe can have just as poignant of a message as some praise songs. And the song I heard this day, this morning packed quite a punch. I cry to this day every single time I hear it.
Click here for the link to Martina McBride's "Anyway"
Here's what hit me the hardest and the deepest:
You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
DREAM IT ANYWAY
God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
When I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I DO IT ANYWAY
The world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
BELIEVE IT ANYWAY
It seemed pointless to even ask the what next question. There wasn't supposed to be a "what next?". It would be financially irresponsible to continue like this. It would be emotionally irresponsible.
Dear God, my heart cries out! Where are you in this? I have dreamed, I have prayed, I have believed with all my heart! WHY did I see what I saw in the OR that day? Am I going crazy?
"The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. "
Ok God, what next?