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.

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.”