16 years of us

16 years of us

Let’s get married and…

go to Puerto Vallarta, almost miss our flight, ride dune buggies through the mountains, have the chef make us a special dessert, move to Ohio, embrace fall in the hills of Appalachia, move to Wisconsin, be missionaries in training, have Valentine’s Day at a German restaurant, you surprise me with a diamond watch you worked hard for, move to Pennsylvania, then Missouri, then let’s move to Quebec in our car, see snow up to the roof, meet great friends, learn French, eat so much maple syrup, move to Guinea, experience new transitions and culture shock and even more languages, battle malaria, meet beautiful people, experience hospitality, markets, gunshots at night, and an evacuation to Senegal, live in the capital, have language sessions, move to the village by ferry with our new pup Roxy, work with a small church, translate Bible lessons into French and teach the lessons, make new friends so different than us, see the beauty there, live around ocean breezes, palm trees, and huts, move back to the capital, try IUI three times, try IVF three times, cry over the loss of six embryos that never grew past that point, travel, laugh, learn who God is, learn who we are, enjoy our years as just the two of us, return to our homeland, move to Colorado, experience reverse culture shock, search for and find our new footing, move to Wyoming, nervously try IVF number four, get pregnant, promote to Texas, welcome baby girl Noella Pearl, own our first home, enjoy happy days, welcome surprise baby girl Shilo Hope, travel, seek out our community here, find our new rhythm as a family of four, make our home our own mix of worlds with palm trees, bougainvillea, and grey paint, do a Frozen Embryo Transfer with our remaining two embryos, and as always, see God at work.

Here’s to another 16, and another 16, and another, and another, and lots more after that.

Hope and ongoing treatment

Hope and ongoing treatment

We are less than a month away from the big day, the transfer and implantation of our last two remaining embryos!!!

Hope swirls around our minds, as we pull 10ml of Lupron into the syringe, and grasping it like a dart, inject it into my belly. Hope builds as the bruises form, as I give myself another Lovenox shot, as I take 7 pills with my breakfast, and rip off and replace the estrogen patch doing its job of thickening my lining for the big day. I follow my nurse’s orders and go in for blood work nice and early, and get an ultrasound to confirm that this host of pharmaceutical wonders are doing their job. I feel nauseous some days, jittery others, and any other fill-in-the-blank emotion you can imagine, moment by moment. The “devil shot” as I call it (progesterone in thick, sloooow moving oil, inserted intramuscularly, and well, it just freaking hurts) will begin soon. Nurse Shawn will step up to the plate for that one. (Hot nurse alert.)
It’s almost game time, which is exciting and makes every pinch, poke, and prod so worth it.
And it puts hope on the table, once again.
There are times we were scared to hope but we did it anyway.
We hoped through tears, we hoped through fear.
Hope can feel dangerous, you know.
But not giving into the beautiful free fall of hope doesn’t change the outcome, just like allowing paralyzing fear to take over won’t change the outcome.
The outcome is set. Written in history before we even got there.
God is there and he holds our results in His gracious hands. It doesn’t mean there’s not the temptation to fear, to wonder, to remember past results and outcomes. But even then, EVEN THEN, His good hands were guiding us every step of the way. Yes, hope can feel dangerous, and risky, but it’s worth it every time when hope and trust are paired together. Paired up like bruises and belly shots, excitement and nerves.

 

“The hope He gives will never disappoint.”

Needles up, grace upon grace

Needles up, grace upon grace

It’s weird and hard, so hard, to be back in this fight for a baby. Babies! It’s weird and it’s hard because this time around we have our home, arms, and our cups full with two toddlers! We’re answering a million questions a day, teaching and training and reading and playing and picking up toys and crumbs, and what are we thinking adding two to the mix???! My mind plays tricks on me and I begin to doubt if this is what I want. I begin to question if this is possible. Not just the pregnancy, not just the morning sickness, not just the “too big to move”, not just the growing pain, not just the breastfeeding trials and tribs, not just the birth and recovery, not just the postpartum of it all, the pain, not just the up all nights, and the raising of little souls, but the FIGHT TO GET THERE. We have these two embryos that have been long prayed for. Tonight at 8:30 Shawn will come home from work and give me shot 1 for this Frozen Embryo Transfer cycle. Shot 1 of many because they will continue every day, sometimes 2 or 3 a day for awhile for me. It’s hard to stay in the game, to have the courage needed when you’re worn out from all day of teaching little ones how to say “p-p-p-please”, and how to share and take turns, and we don’t put that in the toilet. I feel like I’m gearing up for battle, but my mind is weary and I need a nap before I even get started. My sister asked me not too long ago if I wanted this, and if now was the right time. (It was one of those questions I needed asking, but only a sister could really ask.) It made me stop and think. YES. I want this. WE want this. THIS is what we prayed for. Back in 2016 when we had lost and lost and decided to get up and give IVF “one more try”, Noella and these two are part of that story. So, YES I want this. We prayed for these two. They are clear and tangible and living beings that are answers to long ago prayers. Yes we’re in a new season now, with two at home. Two varieties of miracles. And YES this is the right time. Because it’s now or never when you have two babies waiting to join the family. But in this new season, this being my first fertility treatment as a mom, I have to give myself grace upon grace to realize that this is really hard! This is different. It’s ok to semi-spaz at what’s to come because I know some of the challenges that may be. But I also want to fight well through this treatment and remember that this opportunity is one we prayed for from way back. And God is a gracious giver of good gifts. Even if there’s some pain and some struggle along the way. Maybe behind the pain and struggle is a gift we can’t yet see. One that makes us rely on him like we never have before…

Needles up!

The best things are worth fighting for.
Fries, socks, and pineapple

Fries, socks, and pineapple

Baby embryo Noella and about 1/4 of the needles it took to get her here. 10 days and it all starts back up again!

It’s almost shot time and I’m ready for it!!! I was just telling Shawn that it’s all the waiting, and the working up to it, and the appointments here and there, that are hard for me. I just want to get on with it, do the transfer, and see what’s going to happen already!

I love this picture because it amazes me to see that with lots of God’s power + some science + ALL OF GOD’S POWER + some shots + a bruised belly, amazing things are possible. (Psssst, MIRACLES, even!)

Shawn and I love hearing about animistic societies, and what they believe, because as missionaries you have to understand their thinking in order to accurately present the Truth. If you just show up and start talking about God, they might say, “Yea, sure we believe that, He’s the man that lives up the river.” Or they might believe He’s the sun. Animism is seen with the Dao people of Indonesia and how they would run and scream in circles, stomping as hard as they could, when there was an earthquake because they believed it was a giant evil snake under the earth and that they needed to scare it away. And how Guineans believe that if a pregnant woman is seen drinking Coke it means she wants to kill her baby. Or if an owl is heard at night, it’s the sound of death looking for its next victim. I could go on forever with examples from people we lived around and beliefs that seemed so strange and so far off to us, but were reality to the very core of their existence to them.

But here we are back in America, and animism can be seen here too. Even in the TTC (Trying to Conceive) community. For example, they say that a woman who just had an embryo transfer MUST eat McDonald’s fries afterwards for the baby to “stick”. If you look up #FET (frozen embryo transfer), sure enough, people are seen posing with their bright red boxes of McDonald’s fries, post transfer, stating that they’re #PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise). Another one is wearing a special pair of cozy socks on transfer day to “ensure the treatment will work”, and eating the core of the pineapple is another common practice to “guarantee” a positive pregnancy test.

It’s hard when you want something to work to not look for all the little ways to help make it happen. I get it. And then there’s the downward spiral of questioning IF you did everything right, did it well enough, followed the protocol accurately, etc. But ultimately, God is the author of this story. He knows my body, these embryos, the medications, the doctors and nurses working closely with us, our lives, our family, and even if I missed an important step in when and how to take such and such shot, he can work beyond our human abilities. A lot of people give science all the glory when it comes to IVF and FET, partly because doctors are incredible and embryologists are super impressive, but above all, God has the ultimate say in this whole process, and His Ways are what we stand back and marvel at. Fries or not, He is the Creator.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fries, socks, and pineapple, it just can’t be where our hope comes from. I’m all about some McDonald’s fries, and I’m hoping Shawn reads this post before he comes home from work so he can get the hint and bring me some…. Or, better yet, so as not to be seen as animistic, I’ll have him bring me a frosty and Wendy’s fries. Anyone else in love with that combo? C’MON don’t @ me. It’s quite possibly the best sweet and savory duo of all time.

Want to know what’s WEIRD? And emotional? (For Shawn too, this is the husband’s/man’s journey too!) And I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s so weird and so emotional knowing I’ll probably be pregnant soon but I’m not yet. I’m taking my prenatal vitamins, we know the due date (EARLY JUNE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but, alas, I’m not pregnant. YET. But Lord willing I will be soon. And possibly WITH TWINS. (<--- that one's going to have to remain in all caps for some time). It's a wild ride and we just keep praying that this works, and that these two can join our family. But ultimately, for God's will to be done. For the Author and the Creator can surely be trusted.

Protocol and one day closer

Protocol and one day closer

It happens every single time. I know it’s coming, I try and brace for it, and then I’M SO OVERWHELMED I CAN’T SEE STRAIGHT AND HAVE TO CALL SHAWN CRYING. It’s FET protocol day. It’s the day you’re sent THE EMAIL from your FET nurse, once you’ve received the green light from your appointments saying you can move forward with the transfer. This email comes with like five attachments, which would overwhelm me on a good day. One of the emails is a consent form where you sign in front of a notary saying that yes you consent to getting pregnant (okay, it’s worded more legally and fancy and uses words like “I, and we, agree to transfer our frozen-thawed embryos to my uterus… there are limitations and risks…” and so on and so forth, legal stuff). There are forms color coded to the rainbow and back, telling me when to order this medicine, when to start injections (BEFORE 7PM ON THIS GIVEN DATE, oh perfect, Shawn’s at work til 8:30, guess I’ll be asking the neighbor for ‘injection into my swollen belly’ assistance #casual), and be at an appointment SATURDAY BEFORE 10AM for a lining ultrasound and labs…) and just when I’m feeling overly overwhelmed, I read on to see that this local appointment that I need is on a Saturday, and they’re CLOSED ON SATURDAYS. Great. The email casually says, in more color-coded threatening language that if I can’t have it done here on that date, with same-day results, that I will once again have to fly to Denver for the appointment. I’m already flying to Denver THREE times for appointments, no one blinking an eye at this SAHM’s commute. Do I look like I commute? I have to pack a CARRY-ON and have a BOARDING PASS for a TWENTY MINUTE uterine lining check and labs. (Sorry if you’re squeamish about the word “uterus”, guys… Shawn loves it. He can’t stop saying the word, it’s his favorite. He says it daily. JK. Carry on…)
SIGH. It’s just so overwhelming because it’s a HUGE thing. Life is at stake here. And shots. 3-4 months of shots (I’m tired of shots. They hurt. I’ve had enough of them over the course of my life), and medicine, and patches, and not knowing how I’ll respond, or feel… and once again, what the end result will be. Some days I’m afraid a natural pregnancy has made me weak. I’ve been through this before, but what if getting pregnant the natural/common way has made me a baby and I can’t fight for this with the same gusto and be brave and belly up to more belly shots (some go from August 18 to 6 weeks postpartum just because of a genetic blood clot disorder, I had the same with Noella and Shilo). But then Shawn says, “YOU GOT THIS BABE. You’re the strongest woman I know.” And Erin reminds me that, “God, who is the Great Sustainer, has got me.”
I take a deep breath and vow to move forward, attempting to take it day by day, taking on one chunk of the color coded craziness at a time, and moving one day closer to our babies. (The two that are frozen, in Denver, and have been since fall 2016, waiting to be transferred to my UTERUS (your favorite word too??) in LESS THAN 50 days!!!!

And then the Fed Ex guy arrives with my huge ol’ box of meds and I have to call Shawn for another quick little pep talk.

The emails and the giant boxes of meds are daunting, but we’re one day closer!
My giant pile of shots and meds arrived. When I spiral into feeling overwhelmed by the process, I remember how grateful we are to be here.
Support and happy tears

Support and happy tears

I’m in row 23, seat D, flying back to DFW, and I’m happy crying. Or at least, there are happy tears as I think back over the last 24 hours.

I’m crying because my sister and sister-in-law (aka: Iggy now bc she so fancy. All it took to earn that title was a little rhinestone on her dipped nails… oh brother) were THERE for me this week during my pre-FET appointments in Denver. My mom and dad and childhood friend Amanda and cousin April were there too. They came to see me, brought me caffeine-free drinks because I had to tragically cold turkey abstain from caffeine for 72 hours (chocolate included), they picked me up and dropped me off at the airport (is there a greater act of love? Maybe that and helping someone move) when I had planned to just take an Uber, they did my nails, bought my dinner, and brought me cards and unexpected thoughtful gifts. They asked questions about when my due date will be. Not “when’s your due date going to be IF this works”, but rather, “when will your due date be?” They accompanied me to my appointment even though they had to wait in the parking lot due to Covid-Never-Ends. When I was getting my blood drawn (how many vials? Too many…) they saw me in the window and waved at the Phlebotomist and I, and took Boomerangs as I came out of my appointment. I was happy to have it behind me, and grateful for another green light toward our upcoming fall transfer.

I guess the happy tears are also because (sob) there were times in the past, in our earliest days of infertility, that I didn’t have the support of anyone but Shawn. And don’t get me wrong, he’s enough of a partner that he was the only cheerleader I ever needed! But there were lonely times in the past for the both of us, especially when no one knew what we were doing, or that we were undergoing any kind of treatment at all. They had long stopped asking when we were going to have kids, because too much time had passed to where it was awkward for everyone if they brought it up. I guess they never looked under our kitchen sink and saw the XL Sharps Container where I put my used syringes.

We lived overseas and far far away from family in those days, and they certainly cared in their own ways once they knew, like all the times my sister-in-law Heather wrote asking how the shots were going or when my next appointment was, or the times my mom would send a little sunflower card with a note of encouragement inside. And of course Kari was there round two of IVF in Dakar, there to make fun of me when I woke up from surgery, unaware of what language to use, and what country I was in, exactly. (You can read this post to take a look back at our first 3 rounds of IVF.)

Oh, but this time, this week, just knowing someone was in the parking lot waiting for me, willing to give me a ride, and ask how the appointment went, and with an iced vanilla latte to boot, makes me so very grateful.

Waiting, looking back

Waiting, looking back

Once upon a time…

One embryo transferred – negative pregnancy test

Three embryos transferred – negative pregnancy test

Two embryos transferred – negative pregnancy test

One embryo transferred – positive pregnancy test, so many happy tears, Noella Pearl born 9/24/17

Baby Shilo joining our family, in the most surprising and beautiful way – born 1/23/19

And now, we’re back to where it all started: waiting for another transfer. It’s crazy how the ROLLERCOASTER of emotions is the same. It all comes rushing back. Lately my big question/freak-out moment is: WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK? (Meaning loss. Sobbing on Shawn’s shoulder again. Things not turning out like we hoped or planned. Meaning grief. Heartache. We’ve been there. We know how that feels. This outcome is not known. And that’s hard and it’s scary.) to —-> WHAT IF IT DOES WORK?! (Meaning YAY times YAY times YAY, an answer to prayer, but also HOLY CRAP! KIDS upon KIDS upon blessings. TWINS? FOUR KIDS UNDER FOUR? HOW?) I told you it was a rollercoaster…

There’s a life changing situation before us and we have no say, no control, no power to know what will happen. It’s a game of trust. And the game goes like this: will you trust the one who knows, and not just knows, but knows what’s good, what’s BEST? It’s a check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ kind of game. You either do or you don’t.

Not too many people are told, “hey, you will probably have twins but we don’t know for sure. Yet.” How does one process that? How does one sit with that? How does one wait? How does one trust?

One learns to trust by looking back. He was faithful then, He will be faithful again. Over and over again. If there’s a negative test, if there’s a positive test, one heartbeat, or two.

About 80 more days and we will know a little bit more about what God has planned…

One of the miracles we’ve seen so far…
Plead-praying and trusting

Plead-praying and trusting

Four times that I remember PLEAD-praying are when we were about to attempt IVF take four (the IVF cycle that brought us Noella and the two remaining frozen embryos we’re about to transfer this fall), when Shilo was sick in the hospital, fighting for her little life, when I thought our plane was going down, and when Shawn was traveling back at night in the dark, after the mandatory curfew, in rebel controlled West Africa.

I needed, I wanted, I NEEDED to see God work, to move, to act fast. I didn’t make room in the conversation to listen. I didn’t make room to hear what He might have to say, or what lesson He might have for me. I just wanted to know that He was hearing me.

I saw His goodness when it was all said and done, I saw is His power, I saw answered prayer, and that answer was yes.

Seeing that brought me to trust Him more. But this time around, in the waiting line for babies #3 and 4, the prayer is a little bit different. This time, it’s less urgent. When you’ve tried and failed three times and your heart has been ripped apart over the disease of infertility, you plead-pray when you decide to risk it all one more time (money, physical pain, the unknown) – and try again for the fourth time. You beg God to allow it to work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still an unmistakable desire that has stayed with us since fall 2016 for them to join our family. That’s how long we’ve known about them. This time, while there are still a lot of prayers bouncing around in our hearts and minds, every single day, there’s less pleading. But there’s a sense of peace that is recognizably all God. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen how God works no matter how urgent the prayers are. Maybe it’s because little by little, God is showing us that he is in control, no matter how we pray. No matter how our words come at Him. Maybe, after all these years, we’re coming to see God’s goodness is good because it’s what he allows. It’s what He deems just right for us, big picture, according to His will and His plan for our lives.

Gosh, that doesn’t make it easy. Trusting “what is, or what may be” as good, because you trust that God is good, is not for the faint of heart.

Some days, sitting in this ‘waiting line’ for a fall 2020 transfer (it’s not here yet, but it’s coming), already beginning some medication, and booking my July trip out to Denver for a gamut of tests and a day’s workup, I can get anxious, worrisome, curious what the outcome will be. This isn’t just a thing in our lives where we’re curious about how it will turn out – this is our family, this is MAYBE TWINS!!! So yea, I can get anxious, especially as we get closer, to want to plead-pray my way to the day we find out the results of this procedure. I want to plead-pray my way to instant, positive results. I want to plead-pray my way to two heartbeats. I want to plead-pray my way through the wait and the ups and downs of FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer). But I am also seeing, in time, when I take my hands off the controllers, I remember that it’s ALL GOOD, because God is there, involved, writing the story.

Stay tuned, and feel free to pray. God listens, no matter how we come at Him.

TWICE the love? Only God knows

TWICE the love? Only God knows

This fall.

This fall is when we plan to move from the “pregnant mindset” of knowing there are two more to come, to hopefully knowing there are two more growing inside of me!

TWO

AT ONCE

A DOUBLE TRANSFER

THIS FALL

OH MY!!!

We don’t know what will happen, but we’ve decided to jump in head first, go big or go home, and trust the lives we have (two frozen embryos) into the knowing and mighty hands of God, and transfer them BOTH AT ONCE.

As I mentioned briefly in this post, even through the struggle with infertility and its treatments, Shawn and I wanted to share openly about the process because we were confidant God would work, and we didn’t want to just show the polished, smooth, end result of a positive pregnancy test. And this feels like the same kind of thing. We’re back at the beginning, with high hopes, a somewhat daunting process ahead (although nowhere near as overwhelming as a full IVF process), and we’re wanting to take little steps toward where we feel God leading.

It’s amazing how quickly the fear of the unknown + the deep rooted need for control over our lives can take over: in many areas of life. In this, the hopes to grow our family (times two), the struggle is there once again and I find myself looking for what faith looks like practically. How do I trust God with something so special to us, something we prayed for and worked for, and waited for, but something that is still so fragile and bearing unknown results? Will the transfer work? Will I get pregnant? Will it be TWINS? (All caps because we too, are still letting that sink in, we too, are wrapping our minds around the idea of TWINS.)

There are risks. Risks in whether or not it works. Risks in being vulnerable about the process.

But God doesn’t see it as a risk because he already knows what is going to happen, because he is already there.

Now he just wants to see our faith as we wait and as we begin this process for a fall 2020 double embryo transfer.

Thanks for your love and prayers as we move forward, and with God’s grace, go big or go home.

 

Two more babies, in His time

Two more babies, in His time

This is one of those posts that even as I’m writing it, I’m not sure I’ll ever hit publish. It’s so personal. It’s so very special. It’s so near and dear to our hearts. It’s our whole world, because it’s the family we’ve prayed for.

It’s the news that we have two more frozen embryos. We have TWO MORE CHILDREN, ‘frozen in time’ in Denver, Colorado. They are 2 of 3 embryos we had from Noella’s IVF cycle. With our fourth round of IVF that we did in 2016, we were able to get five embryos. After the testing and biopsy we had done, three of those five were viable for implantation and pregnancy. One of them is two and a half now, sitting next to me in her pig tails and rain boots. We know the genders of our two remaining embryos! We (think) we know their names! And not a day goes by that they don’t cross our minds. They are answers to prayer, designed and created by God, part Shawn and part Jenn, part of our family, there since 2016, but not here yet…

I know. It’s a lot to process. It’s a bizarre thing, to know you have more children to come but trusting God for the right timing, a safe thawing and FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer), a healthy and safe pregnancy, birth and arrival.

As a writer, I love to open our world a little bit when we can. The thing I like about being open on this blog, and sharing the personal side, is that we can look back on it. I love coming across a blog post I wrote during a low or challenging season. Partly because it reminds me what it was like (not that I could ever forget), and partly because it shows me how far we’ve come (by God’s grace alone), and it makes where we are now that much sweeter.

A big part of me hopes that, in sharing this big and personal news, that we will all be able to see the faithful hand of God throughout the wait and process of these remaining two joining our family.
  One reason I chose way back when to start blogging about infertility was because I didn’t want to get to the end of it, with a baby on my hip, and no one have a clue about the tears, the loss, the gut wrenching years of praying, hoping, and waiting that we went through. I wanted people to see that God was faithful “even then”, and that he provided, in big and little ways.

And we turn to God, once again, and trust him with our future. A future that is unknown to us, there is still risk and chance involved in these embryo babies joining our family, but it’s a future that is known and crafted by God- the very creator of life.

________

As was the case in the past with a personal blog post, there are some questions we may not answer. But as always, we welcome your prayers as we raise Noella and Shilo, and dream of the day the six of us can be together.