The first thing is I can’t believe how much better I feel.

This makes sense, because cycling again, and being away from home, was stressful.  I was full of angst and fear and worry about what we could lose, and after last week’s bout of puking stomach bug, I felt a little traumatized by my body’s sudden betrayal.  We stupidly scheduled a long weekend trip that featured a nine-hour drive, with only one day at home before making the Chicago trip.  We’re not easy travelers, and back-to-backing it would have been hard even without the puking bug, which had to hit us on the same day as the nine-hour drive home.

In the very limited sphere of our IVF plans, we lost a lot.  Losing a full sibling for Daniel is a little bit hard, and of course we were hoping for another just like him, even if  that isn’t … wasn’t very possible.  Once we got the first phone call that two embryos had died, I feared / knew that we were a lot closer to losing everything we had.  Or at least everything we had in that freezer.

It didn’t help that Daniel kept us awake most of the night before with a very rare restless night.  He probably picked up on our tension.  Having to get packed and out and to the hospital early was stressful, and once we got the bad news, the exhaustion just magnified everything.

In terms of going forward, and what next, and all that, I feel only a few things.  When we got the news – and can I just say that getting bad news in a hospital gown with half your ass hanging out is extra sucky?  At that point I was exhausted and hormonal and the idea of cranking it up again, finding a new clinic, yadda yadda, seemed impossible and ridiculous.  But when my husband expressed despair about not being able to try again,  I had a big, loud, angry NO in my spirit at the idea of “stopping.”  Of just saying, that’s it, I don’t have any more cycles in me, it would be easier to get used to having an only child than it would be to go back to the drawing board.

Throughout our time of doing IVFs and struggling and all that, I have logged endless hours thinking and discussing what God thinks about infertility, and IVF, and all that.  When a natural process like conceiving a child goes off the rails, many religious people get uncomfortable.  We like to believe that when having a child works as planned, all we do is roll the dice by having sex; God decides when the seed yields a baby, and when it doesn’t.  Fabulous.  That is a lottery most of us will hit.

But if the baby never happens in the usual way, then the paradigm doesn’t work anymore.   Did God just decide “no” for us, “no” every month, every egg, every time?  That’s a lot of “no.”

And then we look around, and see that the paradigm doesn’t work all over the place.  When a woman has a lump in her breast, is God saying “no” to her hope that she will live a long life?  Not necessarily.  Did God say “no” to most of the people who got smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid – until there was a vaccine, and then God started saying… what?  “Never mind?”  “Drat, foiled again!”  Who can fathom it?

I had to adjust my own paradigm, and that means that it got bigger.  God says “yes” to the seed planted in the usual way – for some.  God has said “yes” to the embryo that grew in a laboratory for us, and God apparently said “no” various times as well.   But now I think that we see “yes” and “no” where we want to.  Need to.  Some of us religious folk see “no” even where it breaks our hearts, because a God who takes away but stays within the paradigm is better than a God who seems terrifyingly random.

When we started third phase of IVFing, which means we got the batch of embryos from IVF #4 that seemed promising, transferred two, and froze nine, the paradigm snapped into place easily.  We had nine frozen, and I figured that if God said no to every single one of those cycles until all of those embryos were gone, then maybe God really didn’t want me to have kids, and we would have had to waste a lot of time and money and tears to find that out.

That was actually one of my biggest fears.  And how mean is a God who would do that?

Obviously I am grateful beyond measure that we didn’t end up that way; I had the amazing experience of pregnancy and we have a gorgeous and healthy child who brought, and brings, indescribable joy.

And now that the finale of that batch seems to slam the door on our hopes for a sibling, I’m realizing that the paradigm works when we want it to, and doesn’t work when we don’t.  Because when I think about letting this be “it,” I feel the big “no,” and I remember that we always followed our hearts.  There were opportunities to stop.  There were people who said “Your poor body has been through so much,” which always feels like a veiled criticism to me.  There were setbacks and obvious opportunities to see a big “no” from God.

But I never wanted to stop.  The only “no” I could hear was my own: NO I don’t want to stop. I never got beaten down by it all, not enough to just walk away.  And I still don’t.   This is a lot to consider, and I am looking at it carefully.  Having an only child doesn’t fit my family paradigm, but that doesn’t mean I can’t decide to embrace it.  Being a mother, or being someone who “conquered” infertility, being the little engine that freaking finally could, is some kind of identity that I like for myself.  Who will I be if I’m not trying to overcome?

These are valid questions and I’m not minimizing them.  But I do have clarity on the God / yes / no thing.  If a single person has a crappy date, or is dumped by her boyfriend, is God saying “no” to marriage or companionship for her?  I sure hope not.  Even if a woman is dumped by ten boyfriends in a row, no one would say that she should give up and embrace singleness.   If an unemployed person applies for a hundred jobs and never gets so much as a rejection letter, because that’s how bad things are these days, would we say that God is saying “no” to that person’s hope and need to have a job?  Would we say ‘Isn’t it time to stop?” in that annoying, pitying tone?  I don’t think so.

I am trying very hard not to figure out where to cycle, and what it would cost.  (We still have insurance coverage, can you believe it?)  I am leaving a space in my ideas about now and the future, so that a one-child family can take root as an acceptable plan, if it should, or can.  I have faith that God will let me know if there is something new, different, better, that I should be doing instead of trying for a sibling.

But to those who will say “Do you think it’s time to stop?”  or “I guess you’re supposed to have just one child,” – and what is up with thinking that’s an okay thing to say?  Seriously?  In many minds there is still a kind of prejudice that says an infertile woman should accept her fate, and there is something wrong with “needing to be a mother” so much… and of course there is equal censure for the woman who is childless by choice, isn’t there?

Anyway, I hear the phrase “… time to stop…” and I understand the benefits of it and I’m not ruling it out.

But on that question I also, still, have a great big “NO.”