So, Dave and I feel a strong calling to go ahead with IVF.  After much prayer and counsel from church, family, and between the two of us, we feel that we have to go ahead with it at least once to find out if this is what God wants for us.  We know that God commands us to have a child and that he wants this for us.  In our hearts, we feel that since he has provided a way for us to go ahead with this, we must try this before we can fully move on to other options he may have for us in having a child one day. 

My period began on Jan 31 which is the start of the IVF cycle.  On Day 3 of my cycle I started birth control pills.  I know, this sounds backwards, but using birth control pills before a treatment cycle has been shown to decrease risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and ovarian cysts and may even improve the odds of success.   So, as backwards as it may seem, we are going forward with the plan.  On day 8 of my cycle, Dave and I began taking a prophylactic antibiotic (Zithromax) to help clean out our reproductive tract.    We’ve just completed taking our antibiotic, so now we’re waiting for my suppression check on Feb 24.  This visit will take a look at my ovaries and see if the birth control suppressed my system.    They will also do a trial transfer to make sure it goes smoothly for the real thing.  Mainly that the catheter goes in smoothly and there are no problems. 

On Feb 26, I will begin FSH injections which are going to boost my ovaries to make many follicles that will become mature eggs.  So, we mainly need to pray that I respond to these injections because if I don’t have at least 5-8 mature follicles that measure 18-22mm, they will cancel the entire IVF cycle.  Without enough follicles, there is less a chance of conceiving, so they like to see at least 8.  On the other hand, if there are too many, they can also cancel to avoid hyperstimulation.  It’s a very narrow window of getting it just right.  I will do injections for 8 days with some intense monitoring to make sure I am responding well yet not hyperstimulating.  And then when they feel the follicles are ready to go, they will retrieve them to put together with Dave’s sperm.  Right now we are looking at the transfer to take place the week of March 7.  It’s not far off at all and I am excited and nervous.  Once they retrieve the eggs, they will inject them into Dave’s sperm (this is called ICSI) and then we all pray that they fertilize over the next 3 days.  On day 3 or day 5 after retrieval, I will go back in for the transfer.  This is where they will take the embryos and implant them into my uterus.  If we’re successful, we’ll probably know early April if we conceived, and our babies will be due early December.  We’ll have quite a Christmas gift this year if we’re successful.  

I will keep you posted on our progress.  Date may change due to my response to medications. 

IVF medications arrived!
A box full of medications.
              So, lately we've got money on our minds as we're trying to brainstorm any possible way we could raise money fast.  But Sunday God sent us a couple that we were able to talk to and feel encouraged.  I have always wondered through this whole process if God wants Dave and I to adopt.  Dave and I love kids and even on Sunday mornings when we work the nursery, we treat those kids like their our own, so I know adopting and loving a child even if we didn't have them would not be a problem. 
            Since we work the nursery every other Sunday, we attend the 11:11 service at our church.   The 11:11 is a more intimate, contemporary service and we really enjoy the change every other Sunday.  Service is a bit different in that you sit at tables with other people.  Dave and I typically like to sit in the back.  Personally I feel much more free to worship when I sit in the back.  So we chose a table that was empty in the back.  The service always fills up so eventually a couple came and sat down with us.  It was obvioius that they had adopted because they were caucasion and holding an African little girl.  During worship it was clear to Dave and I that we should talk to them before we left that morning. 
             After service, we were able to talk with them and ask them questions about their adoption.  They have 3 other children but felt called to adopt.  They told us about the agency and answered our questions about paperwork, financial expectations, and the length of time it takes to adopt.  They were able to get Sadie within a year from the start of the process.  We exchanged phone numbers and they told us to call if we ever had questions.  We explained to them our situation and where we were at but had never ruled out adoption. 
           When we left we both knew that God had placed that couple in our lives for a brief time for a specific reason.  It's so neat when God speaks to us through others.  My heart is more and more open to adoption.  Dave and I would love to adopt a child internationally and learn all about their culture.  But I still really long to have a baby and sometimes adopting a baby is extremely hard esp. internationally.  Domestic adoption would probably give us a better chance of getting a newborn and even being able to attend the birth of the child.  I don't know how this will all work out- esp. when everything cost a lot of money.  The couple told us not to let money scare us away from going through with it.  They said everytime money was due, God provided.   We'll see what the Lord reveals to us in the coming weeks.  I did fill out an online application to receive the information packet from the agency.  Part of me fears waiting to start this process if we go through with IVF and fail, because then we're back at starting over.  I think we're going to start the process and the paperwork and see what God does with it.  Right now we're just gathering information and talking to those who have been through it.    I have to say thinking about it excites me.    I think it's an incredible privelage to be able to love a child and give them a life they never would have had if we hadn't chosen them.  What an amazing gift if would be. 
So, we got the quote from the financial counselor at NFC.  Let's just say it's not good.  I almost cried when I added up all the cost for IVF.  We knew it would be expensive, but were hopeful that insurance might cover a better portion of it than what she's showing us.  All I can think of now is how can we come up with $12,000 fast.  We're racking our brains............   I've come up with some practical ways.......... Dave and I could do waitressing at a restaurant for 2 months in the evenings to earn extra cash (tips can be good money),  surveys online (who knows if those work), selling stuff on craigslist,   starting my own business of DVD picture slideshows for special events.  Dave has also come up with some interesting ideas............  playing the lottery reguarly, signing us up to drive cars with advertisements,  searching Vanderbilt's website for current research studies that pay patients for being involved (we didn't qualify for any of these),   altering our budget so we can put more towards our child fund.   Well, we're still thinking.  Since we're Dave Ramsey followers we really dont' want to go in debt having a child esp. since that's not a good way to bring a baby into the world (with debt).   However, we don't want to wait 6 months until we can save up enough money to proceed.  I've read online where some people take out of their 401K, or they take out a loan, but again we don't really want to go in debt.  Our only option is to figure out how to make the money.   We're def. going to be cutting back eating out if we eat out at all, no more new home decor or furniture.   We can cut out that stuff, and that helps but it still doesn't give us what we need for a while. 

It's been hard waiting all this time,  but then we get to this step in the process ( of course we didn't know we'd end up doing this) and now we don't have the money to go ahead with it. It's terribly frustrating to us.  We're stuck.  Perhaps God is teaching me another lesson in patience.   I've learned that typically the things we obtain in life that come easy or free are typically not as appreciated or taken care of, and the things we have to work hard for are cherished that much more.  But somehow, even though I feel I've really learned this, it keeps staring me in the face.  No instant gratification for the Stanley's.    I don't know if it's possible that any more waiting could cause us to appreciate our child any more.  This child is already so loved, so prayed for, and will be so spoiled when he/she/they arrive. 
As you read in Karen's previous post, we are now pursuing IVF.  If you have been following these blogs during this time or even reading them after we reached a certain point and told everyone, thank you for your prayers.  The journey we are on is one neither of us thought we would have to go through.

So after our IVF education class, it is a little more clear now the direction we are headed.  We are headed from 2 to 12.  IUI would take very little prep on our parts, and then 2 weeks to find out if it worked.  But now, with IVF, there is so much to do and it will take 12 weeks plus to complete the IVF cycle completely.  I know this journey has already taken a toll on Karen: mentally, physically, and even spiritually.

I know for a fact the Karen is tired of thinking about getting pregnant, running over all the possibilities of how to get pregnant, and the disappointment that has come every 25 days for the past 2 years.  Physically, we have tried everything she has read.  Her body has been poked and she has had surgery; she has had other, let’s say, procedures, during the IUI process.  But the biggest part I fear is spiritually.

Her trust in people has never come easy, so that spills over into her trust in God.  I know she will always trust him, but she has really had to struggle with trusting God, his timing, and being patient while He works.  I know I can also say with confidence that there have been parts of this journey where I have been no help and cannot even imagine the struggles she has had. 

So this leads me to also admit that I have no idea what I am doing.  Not having experienced anything like this before both scares and frustrates me.  I don't know what she needs and if I don't know that, I have no clue how to give it to her.  I don't want this to get in the way of loving my wife and being the encouragement she needs.    I want to be understanding of her, of the pains she has, and the struggles in her life right now because of this journey.  I just don't know how to communicate understanding sometimes.

So, 12 weeks of more poking and more fertility drugs.  So if anyone has any suggestion on how I can talk with my wife, be understanding, and show my true interest in her and this journey, I welcome your feedback.  I don’t want the IVF cycle to push us apart or prevent us from growing closer together when it should be pushing us closer to each other and to God.  Maybe the few months we have to wait to save enough money for IVF will give us a chance to relax, not think about it, and just focus on us.
Today Dave and I met with the congregational care minister at church.  We felt like it would be beneficial to speak with someone who could provide us with some spiritual guidance and wisdom while making such big decisions.  We weren't exactly sure what to expect when we arrived, but Ken was very nice and made us feel at ease.  The last time Dave and I were in the pastoral offices of our church  was for our marriage counseling.   

We didn't meet for long, in fact I think we talked with him for about 25 minutes.  We were able to express all our concerns, fears, worries, and questions.  He  in return was able to provide us with a totally new perspective that neither one of us had considered.  Ken challenged us to think about things:  such as.............if God provides us with the means financially to go ahead with IVF and we decide not to do it, are we denying a life that God wanted.    As we got into the number of embryos to be fertilized and freezing embryos for future use and how we go about that or if we discard embryos is that abortion.    We told him we were both against that and didn't want to do that if we were destroying life.  However, Ken made us look at it a whole new way- he said I think that  even if you fertlize all the eggs and several do mature that we could implant, you are simply choosing life - that embryo that is chosen wouldn't have been a life if we didn't choose to implant it.  He said I wouldn't look at it as denying life to the other embryos but that you're choosing to give life to one.  He also gave us a peace about freezing embryos if we have any left.  He said in a few years if you want to have another child, you probably aren't going to want to pour your time, energy, and finances into this process again by starting over if you have the option to freeze embryos and skip to the implantation process. 

When we left the church, Dave and I felt such a peace come over us.  It was like God knew we needed to speak with someone who could offer us some insight into what we're going through and help us see things a different perspective on the whole thing.  I think we feel at peace about the procedure and feel more definitive in our dec

So, I've been waiting for today to come.  After our 3rd failed IUI round and speaking with NFC.  They recommended we take the IVF Class to learn more about IVF and decide if we want to go ahead with it.  This is the next step in our journey and so at the price of $215 we took the class to learn more about IVF.  The class went well.  Dave and I sat in the waiting room with about 5 other couples we assumed were waiting to take the class with us, however, when the IVF nurse called everyone to the door who was there for the IVF class, Dave and I were the only couple to approach.  This was totally fine by us, because we got a private class.  It was great because we were able to ask our IVF nurse any questions and concerns we had without feeling hindered by others in the room.  And in return, she was able to individualize her teaching to our specific problems and my cycle.  It was one of those little blessings from God that made me smile today.  She said they typically have 6 couples per class, but this time was different.  It was great!

After class, we were filled with more knowledge of IVF, but I'm not sure we felt any more secure in the many inherent ethical dilemmas we will face during IVF.   For instance, there is the decision of how many eggs to fertilize, and then there is the decision of how many embryos to implant, and then what do you do with the embryos you don't use- do you freeze them or discard them?  All my life I have held strong opposition to abortions.  And now, we're in a situation where depending on what you consider life- We are really going to have to figure out what we believe because we're making decisions regarding embryos and life.  And let me tell you, it's not easy.    We're deciding the things that God normally decided for us.   Usually getting pregnant or even the number of babies we have whether it be a singleton or multiples is decided by God, but when you do IVF  you're making the decision based on statistics and percentages.   I know that God still has control and it doesn't matter how many we implant, the number of babies he wants us to have, we will have.  And I know this to be true.  It's just tough getting to that point of IVF where we can see what God wanted and how it all turns out. 

Our Sunday School class is studying God's will right now and it's been such a struggle for me to sit through class.  With our struggle to conceive and being faced with such big decisions that we've desperately sought God's will for, and fervently prayed for, and still not having a clue what he wants us to do, it's frustrating to sit and listen to a lesson on God's will.    If only I knew.  If only I knew what he wanted.  The lesson got pretty thought provoking as we learned that it's not always making the "right" decision or if there is truly one right decision God has for us, but more importantly that we are seeking God in our decisions.  Sometimes I think these tough decisions in life are simply God's way of telling us we need to rely on him more.  He's not so much concerned with the decision we make as he is our relationship with Him.   This gives me peace in knowing that although we haven't heard a definite answer from God on what He wants us to do, he could bless us whether we adopt, or whether we have multiples through IVF.    The point is, God can bless us with more than one decision we make.  There may not be a "right" decision.  My job as a Christian is to trust him, seek him, rely upon him, and do my best to honor him in the decisions I make.  So, Dave and I are now praying that we honor God in our decisions, the many decisions we will be making in the coming weeks.    That whatever the outcome he be glorified. 

This whole IVF process is very expensive, time-consuming, and will require much time off work, a lot of injections, taking numerous medications,getting several blood draws and other monitoring visits.  Not to mention the emotional drainage from going through all of this if in the end it doesn't work at all and to be reminded that some people get pregnant by surprise.  But, in the end if it does work the joy and excitement our hearts will experience.  The gratitude and praise to God for blessing us with a child or children.  The gift of knowing that children are truly a blessing from the Lord and not to be taken for granted. 

I will keep you posted on our IVF journey.  We will begin this journey in about 2 weeks when my period comes. And then I will be blogging daily with what's going on and any updates. 

As a child in Sunday School I can still remember singing a song that recently has come to mind as we make some really big decisions.  I wanted to share this song with you, perhaps one you also sang in Sunday School.  And, I just happend to find kids singing it at a church just like I did when I was a little girl.  In my Life Lord, Be Glorified. 

           We're home from spending time with my family over the holidays.  The next couple days will reveal if this 3rd round of IUI worked for us.  I can't say enough how wonderful it was being home.  Being surrounded by family especially over Christmas is such a precious gift.  As I get older the greatest gift each year is celebrating family, the love we share, and most of all the love and forgiveness of our Savior Jesus Christ.  That is much to celebrate.  We were so incredibly busy over the holidays I had no time to dwell on the fact that I might be pregnant or I might not.  I honestly didn't think about it much at all and that was wonderful to me.   The mental break from it was welcomed.   I get so wrapped up in this sometimes I forget to enjoy the other things God is giving me everyday.  I don't want to miss his other blessings. 
          Spending time with our nephews is always enjoyable.  Little Rick is such a talker now- he's a very smart little guy and he teaches us new things everytime we're home.  He loves to sing and dance and he just started writing his name.  It's so much fun watching him grow up.  Cristian is the protector.  If anyone is messing with his mama he is all over that.  He's going to be a great brother as they get older and look out for his family no doubt.  His smile lights up a room and his hugs make me want to melt.  He loves to cuddle when you catch him at the right time.  I soaked that up.  Miguel is a very content little baby.  He's probably already learned he's just going to have to go with the flow with his two older brothers who constantly go.  He's got these big squishy cheeks and he's just beginning to smile and coo.  
         This time leaving home was quite difficult.  I finally gave my mom the news and updated her on what we had been going through.  She didn't probe or ask but I felt like it was time to tell her what was going on.  Dave and I never intended to hide this from our families but of course wanted our baby news to be a big suprise to everyone when we announced it.  We just had no idea it would take this long to get pregnant.  The longer it has taken the more we felt like we were hiding something from those we love.  I know that our families will be praying for us and that gives me comfort to know even more are praying for our baby.  The goodbye sadness caught me off guard.  I think sharing this with my mom made the goodbye a little harder.  I gave my dad a hug who always says something that makes you feel so incredibly loved which started the tears, and then a goodbye hug to Christine really did me in.  Saying goodbye to the nephews is getting hard too!   Anyways I managed to makek it to our car and wave goodbye and finally stopped crying down the road.  I told Dave I had no idea where that came from but it was sudden and there was no stopping it.  He just took my hand and smiled giving me a reassurance that it was ok.  
            I return to work tomorrow and will probably have a very busy day.  Mondays are always our busiest day and after a holiday wknd. even more so.  I wish we had more time off.  Dave has tomorrow off so he'll be taking our Christmas decorations down and getting some stuff done around the house since we've been gone for a while.  And then he'll come take me on a lunch date:)  
           When we got home tonight I had a pink show which typically signifies  my period.  I'm trying not to think about it but think tomorrow will prove to be a rough day back esp. if my period decides to come also. 
           This song has given me comfort lately as I know that his hands are holding us through this.  I've gone through a period of pushing him away and feeling like our prayers are not being answered.  But I know that he is sovereign and I will look back on this trial we're going through and thank him for strengthening my faith.    If you are going through a trial, I pray that you feel the comfort of our Father's love.  I pray that you truly know He is enough.