Her first doll, survivor’s guilt, and timing

Her first doll, survivor’s guilt, and timing

When I wake up in the morning I’m still in awe that this is happening. Not in a gushy, “Oh my word, Shawn, place your hand on my stomach” kind of cheesy realization. It’s more of a deep and quiet thankfulness as I think about what has and is happening. Every week that passes is so exciting for us. Every milestone, every fruit-to-baby size comparison, every appointment, every thing that makes this feel so real (hearing the heartbeat, seeing my belly grow, calling her by name) is a dream come true. Again, not in a pastel-colored rainbow kind of way, but in a “we prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and he has answered” kind of way.

But there’s this awkward pull that I often feel, and all I can really contribute it to is something similar to survivor’s guilt. For so long we battled this disease of infertility. It hurt, it was hard, and it felt unfair. And now, here we are on the other side! After all those prayers we’ve been ushered into the realm of the blessed. (Still a statement that brings mixed emotions for me, because we were blessed then too…)
For so long we didn’t know what would happen. We couldn’t control or change our circumstances. To me the timing of it all is a difficult thing to wrap my mind around. I would watch the months and the years pass, looking ahead to a new year with excitement and wonder, “Could this be the year that we’ll finally have a baby?” And time would pass on by. This idea of dreaming about how our family would grow was so far beyond our reach.

If I’m being perfectly honest, in some ways it doesn’t feel fair that I’m pregnant. Why should I receive this blessing? It feels too good to be true. What about the others still hoping, aching, and praying for a baby? At the same time, it doesn’t feel fair that for all those years I couldn’t get pregnant and others could. Why did I have to wait, to feel that bitter sense of cultural isolation, and grieve through six different losses? Why were they able to plan their families, have children without struggle, and experience new life without knowing loss? These are questions that are often on my mind.

It’s hard to break away from living in-between two worlds. I lived there in that world of infertility, loss, and heartache for so long. But by God’s grace I’m not there anymore. But my heart still knows that old zip code. I can relate to the women who are watching the year go by, not knowing when their adoption will be finalized, or if / when they can afford their next fertility treatment. I know how it feels to wonder if / when you should give up, or stop trying, or stop praying. Does there come a time when you stop praying for the same thing over and over? I know those emotions all too well, and the ups and downs that come with them. It feels never-ending sometimes. It stung when someone said to me the other day, “I’m Fertile Myrtle without even trying! I wink at my husband and get pregnant.” Well guess what… that wasn’t the case for us. That’s not the case for a lot of couples. They hear these comments, and see families growing, and they wonder if / when their day will ever come.

My heart still goes to bat for these women because I was in their shoes, and on their team for so many years. These comments, and the insensitive remarks are (still) hard to swallow. My heart will always be with these women because it’s a road I’ve walked. But it’s also a road I’ve survived. I hope that in some way, I can create a new path where we see and love the person. Not a mom, not an infertile woman, or a woman without kids, not a single woman, not a woman in waiting – just the person. I hope we can merge together on a path of acceptance, sensitivity, vulnerability, and hope. What’s it like for you? What are the challenges? What are the joys you’ve seen? Let’s point each other to a Jesus who cares for us as we are and where we are.

As I find myself on a new path, one we’ve prayed to be on, I feel this tug to want to tell everyone where we’ve been and how we got here. To me this isn’t just “any ol’ pregnancy” because it’s a miracle that it even happened in the first place. But as I’ve met people and shared here and there, I’ve realized that not everyone cares, not everyone will be sensitive, and I’ve found that it’s not very easy to explain in a casual social encounter the path we’ve walked. To even mention that we worked hard to get here, and that we did 4 IVF treatments, doesn’t really communicate the depth of where we’ve been. People don’t know the whole story. And it’s not really possible to jam 1000 thoughts into just a few minutes. And I’m trying to let that be okay. Not everyone has to know the whole story. At least not right away. But we know the story, we know what a miracle this is, and we know what God has done. And that’s what’s important.

My heart goes out to the women who are still waiting, praying, and hoping. At the same time, I decided early on that if this day ever came, I would be unapologetic with pictures, posts about the baby, etc. This is a day, a time we’ve waited for and it’s going to be celebrated at each and every step of the way, at each milestone that brings us closer to meeting our daughter. 

I hope that the sharing of our story dares you to hope, to dream, to keep praying, to keep climbing. May it remind you that your story is not over yet. May it show you that God is always at work- through the sweet and the bitter times, he is there, he is God, is able.

A friend sent us the cutest little ballerina doll for the baby. There aren’t even words for the ‘hugeness’ of this season. We’ve waited, and waited, and now it’s HAPPENING, YOU GUYS! Our hearts and minds have a hard time taking it all in some times. But God is with us on every path we walk in this life. He’s there to hold us steady when it’s rocky, and to rejoice with us when we see the answers to a long-awaited prayer.

Our friend Judith sent us the sweetest package of gifts for the baby, including her first doll. IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!? Although it’s not always easy to process where we’ve been and where we are now, we’re filled with great joy.
A daughter

A daughter

It’s with great joy that we share with you… it’s a GIRL!

One of the sweetest things about our fourth round of IVF, aside from the fact that IT WORKED (!!) is that because of the particular treatment we did this time, we got to find out on October 11th, 2016, (a day we’ll never forget) what the gender of our baby was! It’s crazy to think that we knew two months before we even did the embryo transfer, and 10 weeks before we even knew if I was pregnant or not what the gender was. How incredible!

Yes, we have a name!!! Woohoo! We’ve had a girl’s name in our back pocket for about five years, not knowing if we’d ever get to use it. We’ll let you know what the name is when the time comes. But, for the curious types (don’t worry, I’m one of you), I can tell you that she will be named after someone we met when we lived in the village.

One of the things we’re thankful for looking back over our four IVF treatments is that things were made very clear for us by God which way we should go, and at each turn along the way. We were never put in a place of having to make a hard choice, or to make a choice that we were never intended to make when it came to our treatments. We saw the Creator at work, and we were amazed at what he had planned out for us all along.

Including the news of this baby girl… arriving this fall.

 

Our circumstances, his goodness

Our circumstances, his goodness

I guess deep down I have an issue with the phrase, “God is good!” and I’m not sure why. Other than maybe the skewed way it’s often interpreted. The bottom line is that God IS good, and one thing I want everyone to understand is that his goodness has nothing to do with our circumstances.

After a long battle with infertility, we have the answer to our prayers: a lime-sized baby growing in my belly! It’s a dream come true for us as a couple and we praise God every day we wake up and realize in awe what’s (FINALLY!) come about for us.

But let one thing be crystal clear: God is not just good now that we have this miracle we’ve hoped and wished for. He was good THEN and he’s good NOW.

God is not just good now that we have this lime-sized miracle we’ve hoped and wished for. He was good then and he’s good now.

I guess it’s just hard for me to hear, “God is good!” in response to this joyous news because while it’s very, very true, it makes me think about the years we cried and struggled. What about those years? Was God good then? What about season after season that the answer to our ongoing prayer was, “No”, or “Not yet”? What about the times when we were drowning in grief after another loss, and standing in church, we saw young families and soon-to-be-parents singing praises of God’s goodness? From the outside looking in, it seemed like God was good to them. Did he forget about us? Where was this ‘goodness’ in our lives then? This goodness everyone was standing up singing about. What about the road that taught us that God is good, even then? Even when we don’t understand, even when we question, even when we doubt, and even when hardships of various kinds come, and our circumstances don’t “feel” like the gifts of a good, good Father. Did we have to walk that road to learn these lessons about God, to see him up close in that way? I don’t know, but I hope we never forget how that felt and what we learned along the way. I hope we never forget that awkward, steep climb that taught us that God is who God says he is. Our circumstances don’t change his character, his heart, his plan, his purpose, or even his goodness.

I also think about those who are learning what the goodness of God means in spite of life-altering news and devastation. What about them? How does this common phrase impact them? What about those suffering day in and day out with a disease doctors haven’t really been able to diagnose just yet? Is God good then? If so, what does that look like for them? Are people still telling them, showing them, reminding them that God is good, or are people, is the church, waiting for a miracle? For a happy ending? It takes a level of faith that doesn’t come easily to trust that God’s goodness is there, and real, when the hard times come, and especially when they come and stay for awhile.

Circumstances – good and hard – come into our lives and we can’t always change them, or control them, or explain them. It can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve come face to face with your circumstances + questioning the goodness of God. May these circumstances stretch our faith, albeit uncomfortable at the time, to better trust God and his character. May we be able to see him in a new light. Maybe through the dark days his goodness is evident in the form of a deep compassion that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see. Maybe his goodness is shown in a new light as he wipes the tears from your eyes and heals your broken heart. Maybe his goodness is there in the form of provision when you’re at the end of your rope. Even then, our God is able. He’s present. He’s good. That’s something we saw then and something we’re seeing now. May we never forget it.

Grace for right now

Grace for right now

When there’s been a big life transition, such as hearing on a Tuesday that you’re moving to Texas, and leaving the following Monday, things packed and loaded, goodbyes said in a fast and furious manner, and the next steps unknown (housing, friends, community, what we’ll think of our new town), there’s a lot to write about. I don’t even know where to begin.

But as I scan over our life right now, the move down here, our first few days here, these past few weeks and months, one word appears over and over: GRACE.

(For the record, the bed bug bites I have all over my body, no thanks to our hotel, and the incessant itching do not fall under this category. They are just plain miserable.)

When I look around our living room and see pictures on the walls, and dishes in our kitchen cabinets, I see God’s grace. The fact that we found a place to live day 2 in San Angelo is nothing short of grace. We prayed, and we hoped that we’d find something right away, but we also didn’t know what to expect or what would happen. Not only did we find a place, we found a place with a backyard, a patio, a fireplace and a mantel, and all in a nice neighborhood. I see grace there.

Yay! I’ve always wanted to have a house with a mantel to decorate.

There are two ultrasound pictures on our fridge now. We didn’t know if we’d ever see the day. But here we are: seeing and experiencing a miracle.

These pictures bring us great joy.

To be honest, it’s almost too much to take in on some days. The grace in it all. We’re used to God’s grace in the hard times, in the loss, in the disappointment. It’s a sweet grace, but it’s different. It’s more of a help you through, “I am here for you”, a “you will survive this with my help, my love, and my presence” kind of grace. But now we’re experiencing this grace in the form of a gift, in the form of an answered prayer, and it still feels so surreal. It’s this dream come true after such a long road. We fought hard and prayed hard to get here, and the beauty in it all is that God’s grace was always there for us. It was then and it is now. They just look very different.

It’s a season of learning to embrace God’s grace. It’s here, it’s happening. These ultrasound pictures are not fake. I didn’t print them off of Pinterest. They’re ours! That’s our growing strawberry-sized baby. And that’s a grace we’ll never take for granted. One we’ll never stop being grateful for.

There’s the (unexpected) grace of my dad deciding to take a road trip and come visit me, right when Shawn left town for a week of meetings (the company is putting him up at a resort in Florida, don’t feel too sorry for him), and during a time when I was really dreading being alone in a new town by myself.

I’m thankful for the grace for Shawn in his new position, in a new store (it’s a Furniture Row here, so there are about three stores in one big building, and he loves it so far. He works with some great people.)

Shawn doing some work in the warehouse.

I see grace in the transition of being new in town (again). I want friends, a community, a go-to coffee shop, a church family, a friend I can text about nothing and everything … and I want all of that RIGHT NOW. But I know these things will come. There’s grace in the waiting, grace in the newness of a fresh start in a new city (which we really like so far).

Two things we like about living here: the warm weather and the friendly people.

There’s grace in this brand new chapter. One that includes a fresh start, the adventure of moving to Texas, and a long-awaited baby.

Wherever you find yourself, there’s grace available for you. If it’s the hardest time of your life, God’s grace can see you through. You can trust him, you can walk with him, you can cry out to him and let him be your sufficiency. He is able even when we’re not.
If this is a sweet time in your life, and prayers have been answered and it almost feels too good to be true, the same God is walking with you. Open your hands and allow his grace to overwhelm you in the best possible way. That’s where we’re at and we’re so grateful. We’re grateful that no matter life’s path, his grace is sufficient.

Texas it is y’all

Texas it is y’all

And just like that, we’re moving to TEXAS! (Should I have inserted a y’all in there somewhere? Did I just break an unspoken rule? I guess I’ll cut myself some slack since I’m sitting in my living room in Wyoming, far removed from the culture of when and how to insert the word “y’all”…)

In some ways, this move is not a surprise to us because Shawn’s been working really hard towards a promotion. We’ve been praying often for God to guide our next move, these next steps of our future, and the timing of it all. We’ve prayed specifically for the right town, with the right community, with the right friends for us, and the right place for us to get involved in whatever God wants us to get involved in. We had told Denver Mattress (now with 111 locations across the USA) that we were open to moving anywhere they wanted us for this next step / promotion with the company. That really opens up the map of possibility. But we prayed for GOD to place us where he wanted us for this next move. Even though DM had a hand in choosing where we’d end up, we wanted to walk by faith and ask God to choose for us. We knew that if we asked, he would guide us, as he has so many times in the past.

In many ways, Cheyenne has been our temporary “hold” and we knew that. It’s one of the only places we’ve ever lived where we knew moving here that it would be temporary, but we just didn’t know how temporary. So, as you can imagine, it’s been really hard to get out there, make friends, get involved in church, in the community, etc. It was hard because “our next, more permanent home” was always somewhere on the horizon…

So while in some ways this move isn’t a surprise to us, things are still moving really, really fast, and our lives are suddenly changing! Once everything was officially official, we got about a week to move (we leave on Monday!). Wowza! Good thing we know how to pack a house in record time. To offer a little back story, Shawn got a call to consider two locations to promote to in the span of about a week. One location was offered to someone else, and then a few days later he had a phone interview for the San Angelo, Texas store. The next thing we knew, the district manager flew to Cheyenne to have lunch with us (Mmmm, hello Rib & Chop House!), to interview us, to let us ask any questions, etc. (We love that Denver Mattress always consults the spouse to make sure they’re on board to relocate. They really care about family, which is a respectable thing to see in a company.) Then it was a few days of waiting and wondering, and then on Tuesday we got the call that made it official. And the next thing we knew, we were pulling out the boxes and embarking on move number 15.

With every move comes a whole mix of bittersweet emotions: excitement for the next step, sadness because we’re leaving friends and coworkers (and this time, our family just an hour away!!!), it’s a hectic time with a lot of mini freak outs (on my part). Mainly because in the span of about 6 days we’re packing up our life, driving 12 hours, moving to a place we’ve never been before, where we don’t know a soul! It’s overwhelming to say the least.

But we’ve prayed for this next step, and for God to guide us.

We’ve always been the “go big or go home” type, so maybe Texas suits us…

Thank you for your prayers as we begin another big life adventure and transition!

s&j

 

 

Worth it

Worth it

The first three IVF cycles we went through (March 2013, 1 embryo transferred, June 2013, 3 embryos transferred, February 2014, 1 blastocyst embryo transferred) each held their own level of pain, anticipation, excitement, and in the end, grief. We cried and we mourned the loss of each embryo, each baby, each new dream. And there were eight years of prayer, hope, and three IUI treatments that led us to the point of even trying IVF in the first place.

And now, with a little blueberry-sized baby DeAtley growing in my belly, we are standing in a place of grace we had wondered if we’d ever get to experience. It’s hard to communicate what it feels like, after all these years, to have this dream, this 12-year prayer for a miracle unfolding into a reality.

The shots aren’t over yet. There are still about 6 more weeks of 2/day shots, but we know that they’re worth it this time. The pain, the questioning if we should move forward or give up, the pokes and prods, the tests, the expense, the travels to and from out-of-town appointments, the fear of the unknown, the recovery, the surviving on hope, the fight to keep going, the ups and downs, the disappointments, the determination, the throwing up on the side of the highway because of side effects from meds, the isolation, the emotions, the surgeries, the prayers, the struggle, the tears, the needles, the wait, the risk … it’s all worth it now.

A picture of our embryo at 5 days of life, sitting next to a month worth of shots. In our 4 IVF cycles, I’ve had this amount of needles times about 20. By God’s grace, it was worth it this time. It’s all by God’s grace.
The miracle

The miracle

We have no words. No words but a tearful THANK YOU, GOD!

We are walking in a surreal dream. We’re amazed, thrilled, grateful, speechless. Nothing about our journey has been typical. Including the sharing of this happy news at just 6 weeks of pregnancy. But you know what? We couldn’t keep it to ourselves any longer! We wanted to share with our faithful friends and readers that God has answered your prayers! He’s answered our prayers, the prayer we’ve prayed over the past 12 years. The prayer for a baby.

We have no words. No words but a joyful THANK YOU, GOD!

Hold on tight, we’re climbing higher

Hold on tight, we’re climbing higher

Shawn has told me so many times throughout this treatment that I’m the strongest woman he knows. That’s so thoughtful of him to say, and it means so much to me. He’s my rock and I couldn’t do any of this without him.

But I can’t be strong anymore. At least not today. The unknown and the waiting have taken their toll on me. And every morning for the next 10ish weeks, Shawn has to mix and inject the DEVIL shot (progesterone) into the muscle in my butt (#romance). It’s a slow-moving, thick oil, and it’s awful. And it hurts. And my muscles ache. I’ll be right here crying on the couch if you need me. (With this huge stack of Christmas cookies…)

I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come, and the journey isn’t over yet. But that’s just it – it’s not over yet. There’s more to come, and I’m tired of the roller coaster. I hear the harder the climb the better the view, but the climb is wearing me down and on some days, I’m struggling to keep walking. What will the end result be? Will all of this be worth it in the end? My mind loves to remind me of our 3 previous failed cycles and what it felt like, how terribly bad it stung, deep in our souls, to hear that our embryo(s) didn’t make it. We wondered if we’d ever have children.

And here we are, still wondering. But we’re closer than we’ve ever been. So we try to keep our hopes high and our prayers frequent as we continue the climb, strap ourselves into the roller coaster seat, and hold on tight as we ride into the unknown of another day in our IVF treatment.

We try to keep our hopes high and our prayers frequent.
These bruises and scars

These bruises and scars

May the bruises and scars on my belly be a visual of love.

May they push bitterness and tears away as they tell a story of love between two people, willing to take a risk. And another one, and another one, and another one.

No matter the outcome of this treatment, may they show courage.

May they show two people who got up again, and kept walking even when the road was hard, costly, and unpredictable.

May the bruises and scars show a couple who fought to grow their family, for their future together, and for love.

May they show a husband who felt every prick through his kindness, his support, his encouragement, and the handwritten notes left on the kitchen cabinet.

May the bruises and scars show lots and lots of prayer, over the span of many years, and faith in what seemed and felt impossible.

May the bruises and scars show great determination, the chase for a miracle, and continued hope.

The bruises and pain aren’t pretty – but love is.

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Thank you for praying and hoping with us as this long treatment continues…
Green light, comparison, giving it to God

Green light, comparison, giving it to God

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Time for more belly shots. (Well, not that kind. HA!)

We got the green light from our doctor to move on to phase 2 of this IVF treatment (aka: FET, aka: Frozen Embryo Transfer). That’s great news! I was thrilled to finally have an actual date that I could write in my planner. A date that I could highlight and draw little hearts around. Shawn was so excited he used exclamation points when he texted me back (coming from the guy who never uses punctuation). This is the big end goal we’ve been working towards for months now. This is the time when 1 of our precious embryos will be transferred to my uterus to hopefully implant and continue growing!

I know we’re nearing the end, and that should give me a burst of energy and confidence. But I’m feeling weak. I’m excited, but some days I just don’t feel strong enough to head back into such an intense and emotionally draining time. Our nurse emailed me our schedule for the FET cycle and I was instantly overwhelmed. There are so many dates, details, important notifications, and everything is perfectly colored coded in little blocks, and we have to find a notary to oversee the signing of official documents, and… AHH! Then there’s the list of medication that have to be taken BEFORE 7pm, the dates where we have to rearrange our schedules, the all-too-familiar- list of “bee sting” and “fire ant” shots (as I call them), and… AHH! This has me feeling overwhelmed, weak, and susceptible to comparison.

Why do so many people get pregnant for free? I think of that sometimes as I’m giving myself a Lovenox (blood thinner) shot in my stomach. Why do so many people get pregnant pain-free, the month they decide to stop birth control? It’s easy in our given state- in treatment, nearing the transfer date, having gone through years of infertility, and the treatments to combat it, to fall down the slippery slope of comparison and jealousy. WHY THEM!? WHY NOT US?!

Here’s one thing I’ve learned / am learning: with every look to the right, where we find someone who has it better than us, there’s the sobering look to the left where someone has it worse than us. The moral of the story, and something that I’m always learning is that our situation and their situation are different. There’s no use in comparing. There are a million “behind the scenes” that we may not ever see or understand. There’s no use in throwing yourself the pity party you think you deserve because someone else can come and crash your party with their own pity party, making you reevaluate your life, your blessings, and your suffering. Something that has really highlighted this lesson for me has been my job as a caregiver. It’s not just seniors who need help and care. It’s 40-somethings who have a debilitating disease, who need you to put the straw in their mouth for them just so that they can drink some juice.

Life is not fair and whoever said it was lied to you. We don’t know what life will hold for any of us. So we take it one day at a time and we struggle through loss and hurt and devastation to get back to a place of gratitude. That’s where joy is found, no matter our circumstances.

If we know God, we’re blessed. And not like the #blessed our culture talks about, but the kind of blessed where we don’t deserve a thing, and yet God has been gracious to us.

I’m always having to refocus my sight. If I look at them, or at her, my own situation becomes too much to handle. Instead, I focus on this opportunity we’ve been given, the opportunity to even live in a country where fertility treatments are possible. I focus on the miracles up to this point that God has allowed, aligned, and given so graciously to us.

This ain’t our first rodeo. And maybe that’s why I’m so susceptible to fear and comparison. Shawn and I know how it feels to go through IVF and to get to the end of a hard road just to find heart wrenching news, forcing you down a path you don’t want to walk down. Again. A lonely, rocky road.

But as my friend Karen reminds me, “NEW DAY, NEW HOPE.” I love that. I try to remind myself of that when the “this is too hard, unfair, scary, unknown” sweeps over me.

This quote by Bob Goff is like someone taking me by the shoulders and shaking me. I can relate in so many ways. I guess if I had to narrow down a specific prayer for today, for my overwhelmed/excited/nervous/hopeful (<— those aren’t all separate emotions, they’re rolled into one big tangle of how I feel) self, I would pray that there will be growth in our lives. No matter the outcome of this precious and terrifying treatment. Because as I’ve said for years, (and it’s easier said than done), if we’re going to have to go through it, God might as well take it and use it for his glory and in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.

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