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.

A human kind of mom

A human kind of mom

I wish I wasn’t the human kind of mom.
I wish I was the steady, patient, soft-spoken at all times kind of mom.
I think back to those first moments with you, and I’ll never forget that deep-within vow to love you always, love you steady, love you gentle.

And here we are now, day 999 in quarantine and I’m wishing I were on a beach somewhere. Just me. And a margarita. Shawn can come too, I guess, if he doesn’t talk too much.

This post is me preaching to the choir, the congregation, and the guy in the hall pretending not to listen. This is me preaching to the weary mom.

You don’t need to be the ‘coffee to wine’ survival mom kind of mom. Because if you know Jesus his grace can meet you before you shuffle out to the kitchen to grab a mug from the cabinet. And he has this supernatural way of filling you with what you need for the day, and he does it before the caffeine even hits your bloodstream.
If you’re the human kind of mom, there’s grace for you. No need to question if you’re good enough, because we’re basing all of this race on WHO HAS DONE WHAT FOR US, not on what we do, or what we accomplish, or how we measure up.

Mom guilt is banned from your vocabulary because you ARE the human kind of mom, and if you know Jesus, his blood (something so red and vibrant and unmistakable) has the power to wash you WHITER THAN SNOW. Lower the expectations, stop looking at someone else’s race, and love what’s right in front of you. Love without thinking. Love because you’ve been given a fresh start today. You’ve been given a fresh start every hour on the hour, even when you and the Quarantine Crazies are losing their ever-loving minds. Even when stepping on LEGOS is a real hazard of the job and your response to the pain is rather regrettable. (Maybe not the best time to be FaceTiming grandma…)

Know that you’re right where you should be in this season – with your babies, in your home, and it’s one of purpose. Don’t think ahead and don’t wander back to where you once were. You might catch your mind drifting back in time and dwelling on an ancient past activity some have spoken of, but you’re unsure now if it’s real or just an urban myth people speak of. It’s a thing called “sleeping in”, it’s a think called “a clean house”, it’s a thing called “quiet”, it’s a thing called “doing what you want when you want”. Or you may catch your mind drifting toward the future and daydreaming of similar activities, or that beach I mentioned. But know that your purpose is here, now. Your purpose is to play and teach and feed and guide and hug and forgive and mold little minds and spirits. No amount of quiet or things going exactly the way we want them to can compare. Live your purpose with boldness, even when it’s the same thing every day all day. Even when you want a break or a vacation or a caramel feaking frapp to yourself, remember that your time to mom is now. Your time to hold and talk and listen are now. The past and present remain where they are.

This season of being a stay at home (human) mom + quarantine days are long (x12) and the human in me wants to find an escape. My flesh is selfish and I need God’s grace EVERY MINUTE of the day to fight to stay in the game. This game matters. This role, your role, matters. Love, service, beginning again, His mercy, making this moment count, their childhood, today, this race, responding well, IT ALL MATTERS!

To our girls in a pandemic

To our girls in a pandemic

Our dear girls,

Thanks for being our sunshine during this time. A pandemic has swept through our world without warning and it’s not an easy time for anyone. Jobs and the future of our health and economy are in question, people are out of work, hospital staff is working hard to help those in need (uncle Dr. Seth in the ER!), there’s a shortage of masks and ventilators, many things are cancelled or closed, and those of us at home are trying to remain positive even though we feel isolated and a little stir-crazy distancing ourselves from people, going out, social gatherings, church, and trips to town (We’re not “stuck” at home, we’re safe at home – what a good perspective.)

Your dad is still working like normal, which for us is more frustrating than if there were a Shelter in Place (like many cities are under at this time), because the store is pretty much dead (and he works on commission…), but yet he is still “at risk” interacting with the general public. It’s an odd time, that’s for sure.

It’s easy to give in to fear when the future, even tomorrow, is unknown. But when we don’t have the answer, we use that as an opportunity to trust God. To practically stretch our ability to say, “We don’t understand, God, how long things will be like this, what’s to come of our jobs, our health, our economy, but we trust you because YOU ARE WORTH TRUSTING.” That’s what times like these are good for.

An exercise in faith. An exercise in circling back to the truths of who God is. And what he is, which is trustworthy. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.

You’ll come across lots of these exercises in your lives, girls. You might as well know that upfront. They may not involve a global pandemic, but they may involve other times of fear, unknown, sadness, confusion, and fog when you were hoping for a clear pathway towards which way you should go next.

It breaks my heart on so many levels to think of you ever having an ounce of worry, fear, or sadness in your lives. I wish I could swoop in then like I can now when you’re scared of a bug. Nowadays, I can quickly remove it (the bug, the fear) and hold you, kissing those chubby cheeks, brushing the strands of golden hair from your forehead, and whispering to you that it’s no longer there, that I am here, and that there is nothing to worry about. You’re safe on my lap.

While I can’t always swoop in with my mom cape to protect you, I can little by little, train you to see those moments as opportunities to practice, grow, and strengthen your ability to tackle and conquer fear, worry, and the unknown. Your dad and I can teach you how to choose faith, so that the next time when it’s not a ladybug, but thunder, or not a storm, but something else, you can remember that God is with you, for you, and fighting on your behalf. And that with him, and by trusting in him (even when you don’t understand the situation), you have the powers you need to fight well.

That, dear girls, is our wish for you with whatever your futures hold.

Until then, let’s enjoy some sunshine, a bucket of soapy water where we can wash some rocks for fun, and pick the purple weed flowers. And if you see a bug, I’M ON IT.


Isolation and the good news

Isolation and the good news

The isolation left a small scar on me. It’s one of those scars you can’t see, like the infertility, like the fear of riots breaking out when I was stuck in traffic, tear gas burning my eyes, like the fear of Shilo struggling to breath in the hospital.

I wasn’t alone when I felt the most isolated. There was Yassine bringing a live chicken to my door, loads of kids climbing our fence to see the white people and their big black dog, a housekeeper in our house folding our clothes and hauling water for us, making Shawn and I argue in English with a smile so she couldn’t understand our words or read our body language, people knowing every move we made, and asking 1,000 culturally appropriate questions about our day, our spouse, if we had electricity, if we had news from our families, and if we were in good health or not. This was the routine every single time we left our house, and every single time someone came to our house. (In other words, all the time.)

We were not alone, we were surrounded by people, inquiries, community, friends, friendly faces. But, at least in the beginning, these were people we didn’t know or understand. It was an isolation of being close physically, but their culture, their fetishes and charms, their language, how they ate the parts of a goat, how they washed their clothes, how their marriages worked, how they raised their kids, how they went to the market for one onion at a time, was so foreign to me that it left me feeling like I was in the middle of a loud room where everyone could see me and talk to me, but I was in a glass cage and couldn’t communicate back to them. It hurt that I couldn’t get pregnant and the women all around me spent their days having, raising, caring, swatting at, clothing, feeding, laughing at, yelling at, and talking about their children. It was another level of disconnect even though I was sitting right there with them on the bright plastic mat, helping pick bugs out of the rice. I was isolated in my own world. But it wasn’t my world it was their world. At least in the beginning.

Now I’m isolated again, but this time physically isolated in a place where I speak the language and I know the people because their culture (for the most part) is my own. I’m laying low in my own home because a virus is threatening our world. We remind each other that God knows and sees and cares. And he DOES. I count my blessings because I have a lovely home far beyond the shacks we’ve shared in the past. I count my blessings because I get to be with my girls and play with construction paper and (supposedly) washable markers. And then, sitting there with my phone in hand, I’m once again trapped in isolation. I scroll scroll scroll for connection since I can’t meet, gather, or congregate right now. But social media is a false sense of connection. I love seeing your kids grow, your beautiful bathroom reno, that funny meme about toilet paper in trees, but do you care about me? Do you know me? Do I know you? How are you really doing? Are we going to check in on each other? We’re staying in because it’s recommended, because it’s the best way for us all to protect ourselves and those who can’t protect themselves. But we’re no stranger to laying low, to staying in. We had a case of Ebola in quarantine across the street from where we lived in Dakar. And Ebola was a much more certain death sentence. (Some) Americans are losing their minds right now and stocking up like the world will end by Thursday. Some are being escorted out by armed guards (#texas) when they throw a fit over how much toilet paper their family NEEEEEEDS. The entitlement leads me to feel critical which leads me to feel lonely. “I don’t understand these people! I’m not like that… (am I?). I can’t relate.”
Suddenly I’m back on that bright plastic mat picking bugs out of rice and I am a stranger in my world. But this time it’s a world with every ease and convenience and comfort (on a good day), a language I understand, but a world where we have to run to keep up, we don’t eat nearly enough meals together, or invite people over (no matter the mess), and the connection, the real connection, is lacking. As a society we spend every day working 9-5 (Dolly version), scrolling when we get a chance, and not sleeping well. And it all begins again tomorrow.
Now we have a virus that has shut us in.
I wonder if God has a message for us in all of this. (He always has a message if we listen.) Maybe the message is that we can’t outrun or out-scroll our loneliness, or our greatest need. Maybe it’s not what country, context, or culture we’re in that breeds isolation, but who we are running from. God is the only one that will love and comfort and accept us. He already saw us at our worst, AND CHOSE US ANYWAY, when his son Jesus came and took our place on the cross, dying the death that we deserve. Only perfection would do which is why Jesus chose to take our place. We could never be good enough, measure up, or work hard enough. But by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us, the sacrifice he paid for us, on our behalf, we can be saved. And that’s the best news no matter where we find ourselves or what’s happening in our world. He’s the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14.)

He’s not afraid of our germs, our weaknesses, our flaws, our fears, our isolation. He pulls us in and accepts us and offers us the connection we’ve been searching for (or running from).

“You’ve been my Savior, Sustainer, when I’m at my end
My Healer, Redeemer, again and again
My Mother and my Father, Brother, Sister, and Friend
Everything I’ve needed Lord, You’ve always been
Everything I’ve needed Lord, You’ve always been” (this song)

Can you love me where I’m at?

Can you love me where I’m at?

Can you just give me some grace, mom? You can’t see it, but in the back of my mouth molars are cutting through my gums and it hurts.
Can you just love me right where I am? I was up at 2:30am and then again at 4am because baby couldn’t find her pacifier. I know I’m the adult, but sometimes I want to be loved and cared for too.
Can you give me grace today, mom? I’m two and my vocabulary only goes so far. I want a straw for the pink cup, to be precise, and I shall now repeat my request 7200 times.
Can you just love me right where I’m at today, Shawn? I’m battling the “Is this my life? Yes! I love it. But it’s hard. Did I choose this? Yes! And I love it. Help, please!” mind game.
Can you give me grace when I’m exhausted too, Jenn?
Mom, can you just love me right where I’m at? I’m not wanting to eat even one bite of the chicken casserole (even though it has noodles and cheese).
Can you love me today, Shawn, even when I can’t seem to complete one single task?
Can you show me your love through a patient tone today, mom? I’m just a baby. Even if I did pull all the important folders off the shelf and scatter them from east to west.
Mom, I don’t know why I’m crying but can you hold me? Again? Please don’t put me down. I know you want to finish the laundry, but can you hold me instead?
We want grace. We want to be understood. Let’s start by being the ones to offer grace and understanding.
You are loved today, even when you’re fussy, having a hard time, not able to communicate, or doubting yourself.
This is when we will show you love. The unconditional love of family.
Now, come sit on my lap with your blanket, and we’ll rock together. Me loving you, because he loved me.

The light and love of Shilo

The light and love of Shilo

Shilo,
You came flying into this world full force, 9lbs of big cheeks and big hair, and it’s been that way ever since. You came with so much light and laughter. You were just a few weeks old and you were laughing out loud. You love to entertain and you love to laugh. So much about you, and your first year has been unexpected and full of joy. From watching you and your sister discover each other, and interact with each other, to watching you grow into the next milestone. We are so happy to celebrate you today. We can’t wait to watch you dig into a cupcake and play with your birthday balloons. We pray that you’ll never lose that unique and precious spark that God has placed in you.
Happy 1st birthday to our sweet girl, Shilo Hope DeAtley.

Pizza party in the rain

Pizza party in the rain

It was kind of a hold-your-breath and hope that everyone naps, where’s the chocolate, Shawn’s out of town, solo parent, “Is this wet from water or pee?”, loses her patience because someone asked for ice (really? Ice?) AGAIN!!!! kind of morning. That’s not the kind of mom I wanted to be. The kind of mom who feels frazzled and exhausted. But the 24/7-ness of caring for and raising these girls and loving them well is freaking exhausting on the best of days. And I wouldn’t trade it for the WORLD. This is everything we wanted, even when it’s hard. Just because we wanted babies for so many years, didn’t mean we came into this na├»ve that things would be all lullabies and cuddles. But still, some days humanity gets in the way (ours, theirs) and it’s hard.
So when I knew Sweet Mother Theresa with a crown of daisies upon her head was coming to babysit while I went to my Legacy meeting (women of all ages studying the Bible together), I was more than ready!
She even came early so I could sit alone in a coffee shop like a statue with a stack of books, but too enamored with the quiet to actually read.
When the time came for her to come, the rains came down hard and fast. San Angelo has been in a drought, so we welcome the rain with open arms and a silent whisper of thanks to the One who sent it.
But the rains came faster than the streets could keep up with, and the big Texas trucks flew around me, unamused that my tires were weak and tired, and unsympathetic to my nerves growing behind the wheel.
I made it to the coffee shop, but I was too nervous thinking about how I could get all the way to where I needed to go. I tried more than once to get back out on the loop, but water was rushing and I was too nervous to go all that way, unsure of where exactly I was going, and how high the water would get.
I kept trying, but my nerves would take over, feeling a slight hydroplane here and there, and seeing those Big Texas trucks flying up in my rearview mirror.
Finally I pulled over in a nearby neighborhood in tears. THIS is my night away! The sitter is there! But I can’t get to my meeting, I’m just too unsure of myself, the tires, the water, the situation. But I don’t want to go home. Shawn was in Tampa but texted a quick, “Call Wendy.” So I did. I called Wendy, rain making it hard to hear. “Hey. I’m in your neighborhood. I was going to go to my Legacy meeting but I can’t get there, there’s too much water on the road. But I have a babysitter and don’t want to go home.” Not one moment passed in time before she said, “Come on girl.” So I did just that.
It was the evening I needed. It made me feel so special to come in from the pouring rain, to be given a big hug, both of us noting that we do best with the spontaneous. “Maybe we should order pizza!” she said.
A pizza party, yes. 100%. Let’s do it. She made a wedge salad in a matter of minutes, cracking the head of lettuce to remove the core, adding bacon, apple slices, candied walnuts, and bleu cheese dressing to top it all off. There’s something in my soul that loves to be in the kitchen watching someone else cook. Especially when I’m there as the guest. I guess it takes me back to when my grandparents had me, just me, one of five, over for dinner and a sleepover. They were both there to listen and talk to ME! In my current season of serve, serve, care, care, if felt so good to have someone else ask if I want ice. To ask if I wanted a blanket while we sat on the couch watching the majestic animals walk across the desert. Wendy’s husband came home with the pizza, started a fire, gave me an update on the rain so that I’d know if I could get home okay, and then we sat around talking and laughing for the next few hours.
It’s a story of a spontaneous pizza party with friends who opened their doors to a friend who happened to be stuck in their neighborhood in a flood, flooded with nerves, and overwhelmed from a long day of self getting in the way of selfless love. It’s a story of hospitality.
In Africa, everyone was always dropping by (and then staying for hours and hours), and wanting us to stop by. Even if people were eating their meal outside, gathered around a communal bowl of rice, it was rude for them to not invite you over to share with them. It was rude for you to not stop. That’s communal living. It was sometimes a bit much for us Westerners, but now there are many times I miss it. I miss someone stopping by, I miss the known open invitation that we are always welcome to stop by.
So this is my invitation to you to stop by. We all need community. And it doesn’t always have to be planned and worked around nap time and when my floors were last mopped (probably last June). If my house is a wreck and my girls are in whatever state they’re in, all the better. Because that’s life, and you have no choice but to take us as we are. And we will certainly, always take you as you are. We’ll order pizza. And wings. And bread sticks. And if I have the stuff I’ll make you a wedge salad. (But full disclosure, I probably won’t have the stuff.) But I’ll definitely make sure you have a glass of ice for your drink.