Faith in Stacy’s embryo adoption

Faith in Stacy’s embryo adoption

Stacy and I met online. Years ago, when we were in some of the harder days of infertility, Jennie Allen wrote a blog post about me, encouraging women to pray for me and lift a sister up. Stacy saw her post, was in a similar boat and could relate, and just like that, we became friends. Seven years later, and she’s been a cheerleader and supporter through our long waits of IVF, the needles and procedures of FET, loss, and joy.

Recently, in this post, I talked about faith in every chapter of IVF. I mentioned Stacy and how her faith in this whole process, including the unknowns in what she’s recently gone through, has really blown me away.


What made you decide to try IVF?

We tried to have children for 10 years (Clomid, IUIs, 1 ectopic pregnancy) before pursuing IVF. It was very important to us to be able to pay for it out of pocket, so we saved up and it was our 10th anniversary present to each other. When we went for our first visit in February 2012, we found out our insurance had added one phrase effective January 2012, and IVF was covered in full. We only had to pay for our meds. God is so good!

Did it work?

In May 2012, we had our egg retrieval and had 7 embryos make it to blast. We transferred 1 embryo and became pregnant with our first daughter, Hannah Leigh, who was born in February 2013. We moved from Cincinnati to Danville, VA in the summer of 2013, so when we decided in 2014 to try for a second child, we had our remaining 6 embryos transferred to Duke. We transferred 2 embryos (ours were frozen in pairs) and became pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, I lost 1 baby around 8 weeks gestation and developed a large hematoma. I was placed on bed rest for the next 8 weeks to protect our baby while my body absorbed the hematoma. In June 2015, we had our second daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth. In the summer of 2018, we decided to try for another child. At this point, we live in SC, just south of Charlotte, so we decided to travel to Duke for treatments again. We love the doctors and nurses there! I turned 40 in May, and we transferred 2 embryos in early September. We were now pregnant with twins again! I gave birth to twin boys, William James & Samuel Wade, 13 days before I turned 41.

Talk a little about how it felt knowing there were remaining frozen embryos: 

After the boys were born, we knew our family was complete. We had always prayed and longed for 4 children. But, we had 2 embryos left…and that was something we never imagined. We knew that no matter what we did, we did not want the embryos destroyed, and if we weren’t going to use them, we needed to figure out what to do. I did some research on embryo adoption, and we quickly decided a national bank was not for us. I reached out to a few close friends who were trying to have babies, and offered our embryos to them first, but they both declined. I then contacted a few friends I knew in the adoption world to see if they knew any Christian agencies that handled embryo adoption. We used Quiver Full Adoptions Inc in Greenville, SC.

What brought you to thinking of embryo adoption?

We believe life begins at conception, and destroying them was not an option, so embryo adoption seemed like a perfect fit.

How did you know this adoptive family was the family God had for you?

We spoke with 1 other family, and reviewed the file of another before being matched with the Fullers. From the first time we spoke on the phone, the conversation flowed easily, their beliefs were in line with ours, they were open to an open adoption (before we even knew what that meant) and we felt so comfortable with them. After we got off the phone, we both said God had answered our prayers for these embryos.

I’ve loved seeing your theme / heart of thankfulness as you tell your story. What are you thankful for in all of this?

I’m thankful for the relationship we have with all of the Fullers. We don’t just want a relationship with our genetic children, but also with Ariana, Casey and their adopted son, Seamus. We’ve spent time together, we talk, text or FaceTime frequently, we share all our life together, not just things about Finn. Ariana (the adoptive mom of our embryo) has become one of my dearest friends!

What relationship do you plan to have moving forward?

We have an open adoption. Finn (and the other embryo) will know their genetic siblings and us. Right now we only live a few hours apart, however that will change with Casey’s Army career, but we will make it work. We think of all of them as an extension of our family.

How have you seen God’s hand at work in designing your beautiful family?

Like I said before, I never imagined we would be in this place, however God’s plan was greater than we could have even thought possible. Everyone always tells us how wonderful we are, but it is all God.

How has your faith been strengthened through all of this?

We would not have made it through this without our faith. God has walked through the entire process with us. One of the hardest parts was the psychological evaluation – they ask a lot of hard questions that you don’t think of. We left in tears, but prayed that God would continue to guide us if this was His will. It was also very difficult seeing a picture of Finn when he was born. He looks so much like my kids, and it took my breath away. I shed a lot tears that day. Later that night, Casey had time to send some other pictures and one was of Ari holding Finn. When I saw her joy, it took away all the pain I had felt.
How can we pray for you and your family?

Pray for all of us on this journey. It has gone so well so far that sometimes I worry it’s too good to be true, but I know that’s just Satan. I know God has intertwined our two families for life, and I look forward to living our lives together.

—————-

I just love this story because it’s an aspect of IVF that I think a lot of people are unaware of, and a unique way God is at work. Thank you so much for sharing, Stacy. May God bless your faithfulness as you stand in a place you didn’t ever see yourself being in, and for choosing to walk forward in faith.

A weather time machine

A weather time machine

Weather has a way of bringing us back to a place where we’ve been before. It acts as a quick and sometimes fickle time machine to a past memory. Like how intense West Texas dust storms remind me of Harmattan Winds and how our lives in Guinea and Senegal were often coated in layers of dust that blew in from the Sahara desert. We could write messages to one another on the thick layers that coated our table, or on the screen of our balcony where our clothes hung on the line to dry. The wind and rain before a big thunderstorm takes me right back to being up on the flat roof of our village house with our dog Roxy watching the skies turn from dark shades of blue to black. We had no tv or weather alert, but we knew what was coming because it was rainy season, and this was the norm over the span of a few months, hurricanes sweeping in every few days it seemed. I had never lived this close to the ocean before, so close that on a very late night (where there were no ceremonies or drums), we could hear the waves crashing in. The hurricanes were so strong at times that palm trees would blow over. But we’d hunker down in our house, until the wind would stop and the rain would ease. And then there’s snow: a magical piece of my Colorado childhood that I missed living in Africa. I missed snow, fall, and seasons in general. And then God, always with that sense of humor, moves us to the dessert of West Texas where triple digit temperatures last for long stretches in the summertime, and snow is rare. So rare, in fact, that we’ve only seen it (a dusting, even) maybe 4-5 times in the four years that we’ve lived here. But we do see plenty of dust, summertime winds, potential tornadoes, and Africa-like high temps.

But today… today is a snow globe of instant transportable memories to young-Jenn, walking about in the snow, all bundled and with a shawl draped dramatically over my head and shoulders, pretending to be on some grand adventure searching for Ma and Pa in a winter’s blizzard. The snow also takes me back to the icy state of Wisconsin for Bible College, road trips to Chicago, where we lived in Pennsylvania, and Missouri, then Ohio, and Quebec where the real, real snow exists (and yet, people were so used to it that life went on in the most beautiful way).

I wouldn’t want to be living anywhere else right now, but today I’m sure grateful for the little weather time machine that takes me back to all the memories that snow holds for me. And even on the hot and dusty days, I’m thankful for the connection I have with my African friends on that side of the globe.

 

The waves of lately

The waves of lately

Whoever said it was a wave of grief couldn’t have been more accurate.

The water is calm, all is calm, you’re walking the shoreline picking up shells (texting a friend, wrapping a present, doing your nails) feeling the sand under your toes, watching the sea gulls swoop down low, wading in the water admiring the different shades of blue (going for a coffee run, reading a book, doing last night’s dishes), and then out of nowhere with the sun still shining above, a wave hits you and takes you under (someone asking about your recent loss, things looking different than expected right now, people comparing their own losses, remembering the money you saved for the transfer, thinking through the years of waiting and planning for this, the anticipation throughout the FET process, more hard appointments and bloodwork to come after my D&C surgery, Noella telling people there are no more babies in mama’s belly).

The waves were easier to navigate these past few weeks because Shawn was unexpectedly home with me, and it’s a storm we’re learning to sail together.

I remember the day we found out there were three viable embryos from our IVF cycle with Noella. This was news we had waited a long time for, both in the sense of our marriage, waiting and hoping to hear that a baby was on the way, but also in the process of that 4th IVF cycle, we waited all day every day for a call that would tell us if we had any viable embryos at all. I was inside our townhouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming, setting the table for dinner while Shawn grilled outside, a blanket of snow under his feet. The nurse called to give me the results saying that three of the four embryos we had were viable! She caught me off guard when she asked, “Do you want to know the genders of your three babies?” “One minute!” I said. I flew open the sliding glass doors that led outside to where Shawn was grilling. “Three of the four are viable!!! Do we want to know the genders?” I asked. Shawn said excitedly, “Sure!!” I held the phone to my ear and told the nurse, “Sure!” “Are you sure?” She asked, laughing at our quick and nonchalant process of deciding if we wanted to know the genders of our future-babies.

We were floating on a cloud for a long time after that. 2 girls and a boy!!!!!!!!!!!

But God had different plans, which has been both something incredible (the arrival of two girls in two very amazing, but different ways), and the loss of our boy/girl twins.

The waves crash in unexpectedly at times, and they knock us down and it hurts and it’s confusing as we navigate this storm, these losses together. But there is a different kind of wave that can swoop us out to sea, but this time we’re relaxed and lounging on a tube, ankles crossed and face toward the sun. It’s the wave of joy for the very life we’re in. Strange, isn’t it? The next thing we know we’re bobbing up and down, enjoying the ride, a little girl that we prayed for on each of our laps.

Faith in every chapter of IVF

Faith in every chapter of IVF

Getting to the point of even deciding to give IVF a try is huge. A lot goes down before you even muster up the courage to go in for that first consultation. Then of course, the emotional journey and the rollercoaster of the various treatments continue from there. For us, it was trial and error and loss and some failed fresh embryo transfers before we mustered up a lot more courage, and with shaky hands and hearts, decided to give IVF a fourth and final try. Then came the miracle: Noella Pearl. Along with her IVF cycle, came two others: a boy and a girl. They’re the two that we lost recently, and while healing comes at a very slow pace, God is good. And we can’t ever forget, as long as we live, the surprise miracle that showed up in the best possible way, right in the middle of it all, and that’s Shilo Hope.

Through each chapter there’s been a theme: learning to rely on and to trust God. We had to trust Him when infertility was never-ending, and we felt forgotten. We had to rely on Him when we needed money to pay to see the best doctors, and to pay for shots and syringes, and medicines, and egg retrieval surgeries and treatments and travel. We had to trust God when things were good too: when Noella was growing in my belly, and when Shilo was on the way… when dreams were coming true! We are having to trust God now when things have taken a turn from how we thought and hoped they’d turn out.

There’s the aspect of having to trust God with how many eggs you’ll get from your egg retrieval surgery. That’s something that’s completely out of your control, as is the number of eggs that will fertilize and actually become viable embryos. We have been in the boat of going through it all just to get one embryo (that didn’t make it after all). We have been in the boat of transferring the three embryos we got (all at once!), having nothing left to freeze, then having the transfer fail, and being back at the beginning: empty handed, penniless, and discouraged. We’ve been (back) in the boat of transferring all we had (two), and ending up once again with nothing: no pregnancy, no positive test, just losing the two we had for a short time. We’ve also been in the boat of having two to freeze (the twins we lost most recently), and there’s something so special about knowing they’re “there”, waiting to join the family. Again, it’s all a process out of our control, even though yes we made decisions to do the treatment, try and have them, transfer them, etc. It’s still God who is above all and in all and over ALL. Even the hard chapters. It’s interesting to do something like IVF and have no idea how it will turn out or how your cycle will end up. Will you end up with any viable embryos? Will you end up with more than you anticipated? How many will freeze well, thaw well, etc.? Will your health and family circumstances allow for another pregnancy? If not, what do you do with your remaining frozen embryos?

This leads me to tell you a little bit about my friend Stacy and how her faith in this process has really blown me away recently. But that, my friends, is for another post…

Stay tuned.

Little Noella
Little Shilo

 

36 is a fudgesicle in the bath

36 is a fudgesicle in the bath

36 is a fudgesicle in the bath while the girls nap. Hot water and bubbles and chocolate by myself. Yes, please! That’s how we’ll celebrate. Today, in 2020 fashion, has been weird, different, not easy. It’s my birthday, but Shawn’s working til 8:30pm, I have a migraine, I’m getting over some kind of chest congestion (glad to have had a negative Covid test at least #brainswab), and the girls are extra fussy as they deal with the same lingering symptoms. Along with everything else is that thing you want to rush but can’t: grief. I was supposed to be pregnant on my 36th birthday. Pregnant with twins, even! And now I’m not. It’s hard to balance the loss, the heartache, AND the gratitude I feel for this life I’ve been given. 36 was supposed to look a little different this year. But as I look around it’s still the sweetest life I could have asked for. Well, and this fudgesicle ain’t too bad either…

A space like that

A space like that

I saw some friends this morning. They gave me hugs and told me they’d been praying. I didn’t want to be the grieving girl. Grieving girls are sad, and I’d rather be the fun and happy girl. But I didn’t choose this path. I come home, worn from seeing people; but also encouraged to have seen them. I eat the rest of the brownies Ashley brought and take a lavender bath while the girls nap off their post-playground exhaustion. I wonder how Shawn’s doing today. It’s his grief too. It’s his son and his daughter too. What plagues me is the mindset that pushes me to hurry through all of this. People tell me to take my time, but the fast paced mentality of our society doesn’t make me feel very welcome to sit and feel sad for long. I think about how long we’ve known about these twins. “Miscarriage” doesn’t ever seem like the right word, does it? It feels too common. But no loss, even if someone has known something similar, is ever commonplace. It’s holy and it’s special, because love was there. Four years. That’s how long we knew we were “expecting” these twins. Although we didn’t always know we’d transfer them both at once. I don’t want to rush through this grief, because I know the only way to the other side is through. And that’s the most painful part. I want to feel the loss, as uncomfortable as it is to embrace. I want to cry one day, laugh and play with my girls the next, feel the heaviness the next day, and run carefree in the yard the day after that. I want this to be a space where joy and sadness and hope and grief and sunshine and tears can dwell together. Because God is in a space like that. 

The wave of both grief and joy

The wave of both grief and joy

The grief of losing twins
The grief of losing two at once
The grief of knowing we lost a son
The grief of knowing we lost a daughter
The grief of lost family dreams
The grief of having planned and saved and gone through the whole process of transferring our two remaining embryos
The grief of knowing everything was perfect: levels, and numbers, and check-ups, and labs, until for no reason, things weren’t perfect
The grief of remaining bruises on my belly from so many shots
The grief of unused shots and medicines sitting on the laundry room shelf
The grief of watching Noella in her sweet innocence question when my belly will get big, and asking how many babies we have in there now, and why babies are with Jesus
The grief of suddenly not being pregnant anymore
The grief of cramps in place of little twinges
The encouragement of a hot bowl of gumbo from a neighbor on our first cold day
The love of praying friends, some who can relate, and some who pray anyway and love just the same
The joy of being with our girls: one an IVF miracle, and one a natural miracle, and thanking God for them
The joy of flowers delivered to our door from church staff
The thoughtfulness of cards and chocolate covered strawberries sent to our home
The laughter that still sneaks in, even when you’re sad and questioning
The journey of all of this with someone you love, and someone who also happens to bring you peanut M&Ms
The peace of knowing we did all we could do, before God, to bring these embryo babies into our family
The peace of knowing that it’s okay and normal for grief to take however long it takes, but to know that when we know God, there’s always more to the story (even if we can’t see or understand it)
The joy of roses from a friend
The joy of seeing community care for us
The peace of remembering that the loss doesn’t get smaller, but that life gets bigger (see old blog post), and how God has brought us through hard times before
The peace of knowing God has a plan, even when it doesn’t make sense to us at the time
The joy of remembering that our God is close to the brokenhearted, listening, and catching every tear to show us one day down the road that we cried, and that He’s redeemed it all

Flowers, cards, and food! Friends, family, and community have been such a blessing to us.
Loss: seen through flowers

Loss: seen through flowers

I love the one with both of our hands together, the one where Shawn is holding the white flowers that each represents a baby that we’ve lost. There are nine of them. Nine too many. Nine little souls with Jesus. Nine little goodbyes that came too soon. Nine little parts of a greater story that we cannot yet understand or know the ending to; at least not yet. Nine little beauties created by a good and all-knowing God. Nine little loves.

But what I really love are the two unexpected pops of bright pink, two unforeseen miracles in our lives and in our family. Two daughters that God has so graciously given to us.

11 lives, each designed, crafted, and created for a purpose.

11 lives, each a unique testament to a faithful God.

 

Faith in these two losses

Faith in these two losses

From the beginning of this whole journey: the process leading up to the transfer, the trips, the shots, the transfer itself, we wanted to share it all because it was a journey of faith for us. Not every unknown journey is a journey of faith, we have to choose it. And we wanted this one specifically to be one of faith. We didn’t expect to come to a point of having to (once again) choose faith in loss. We didn’t expect to (once again) have to choose faith in grief. That to me, is where the rubber meets the road. It’s hard to trust God in the unknown, but it’s harder yet to trust God when the ‘known’ is a failed pregnancy (as it was called). How does one walk in faith when you lose two babies in one week? How does one turn time and time again, to a good, loving, faithful God, when their physical body and their heart are aching in grief?

We simply do not know. Just like we simply do not know, nor can anyone explain, why we lost both babies: a son and a daughter. I guess faith is saying, “This hurts. We don’t want to go through this. But we know you’re still good, God. Make something of this mess, this sadness, this confusion, these tears. Here’s the pen. My hands are shaking from crying and I can’t hold it right now.”

Thank you for your prayers
Trust in the waiting

Trust in the waiting

We already love you both. And that’s why this is hard. And beautiful too. And exciting too. We have known about you for four years. It’s like a pregnancy of the mind that lasts for a long time, the thought of you always there. For four years you’ve been a dream, and now we’re so close to you becoming a reality. But we’re still in the waiting. We’re still in the not-there-yet, not-official-yet, and that makes me want to stop and cry. It’s the greatest mix of emotions: I’m pregnant, that we know and rejoice over. But when we placed you both in your little home inside of me, exactly 30 days ago, we haven’t been able to know since then what’s taken place. Are you both in there? Have you both implanted? Shawn says you have. He says you’re close together and comfy in there.
We will know more soon. We will look for two heartbeats on the monitor. We will anticipate two souls close together and ready to grow side by side. It’s one of those times I want to grasp onto what I think should happen. I don’t want to hand over the notebook and pen to this story, even though God has written a faithful beginning and ending to every chapter we have entrusted to Him so far. (And even those chapters we haven’t handed over.) A tear slips away, splashing onto my cheek. We want to hear two heartbeats, God, because that’s what our hearts are set on, but we know your plan is a good one.
There’s always a choice in the waiting: it’s whether or not we’ll trust the One worth trusting.