Sunday, June 7, 2015

It Takes A Village

It takes a village to raise conceive a child.

We are gearing up to do another frozen embryo transfer at some point this summer and in our days of preparing I have realized there are A LOT, A LOT of people involved! It's kind of comical because the act of conceiving a child should be private, romantic, and between just a husband and wife. But unfortunately, that ship sailed for us a long time ago. For us, it truly takes a village of people to help make the possibility of conceiving a child even work.

Here is our village:
Insurance Company (sadly they don't cover much, or anything, but still find myself on the phone with them quite a bit)
Fertility Pharmacy
Coordinating nurses from RE's office (spend lots of time on the phone with these sweet ladies)
My regular OBGYN in Dallas
Blood work laboratory
Our RE in Houston
And I think most importantly our support system:
The family that graciously watches our little guy while my husband and I travel to Houston or while I go to appointments. It is impossible to take a 2 year old to an acupuncture appointment, trust me I've tried...more than once.
The family and close friends that pray us through this process. They encourage us, care about us, and fervently pray for us. There is one thing I know, it is impossible for us to make it through these fertility treatments without relying on God through prayer!

This village is important to us. It's our means to growing our family. It may not be romantic or ideal but it's our reality and we are thankful for each one of them. The Lord has blessed us with amazingly wonderful doctors and nurses who are always caring and encouraging. And family that will do anything to help us. We do not take any of them for granted. I even wanted to give the FedEx man a big hug and kiss when he delivered my package of medication. I really did think about taking a selfie with him and our box off goods because he too plays an important role. But I thought that may cross the line of awkward, so I refrained. :-)

Even if you aren't facing infertility, we all have things in our life that others help us to accomplish, things we can't do on our own. Who is in your village?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mended By God's Grace & Mercy

I recently read Mended by Angie Smith as part of the infertility bible study I do through my church. I highly recommend this book to any woman! It is not specifically written for women struggling with infertility, it applies to anyone. She writes about how God has mended her life through her brokenness and how He has worked to shine through her trails. She does make reference to her experience with infant loss and those chapters and stories really spoke to me. God definitely used this book to soften my heart after our recent miscarriage.

At the beginning of the book she challenges you to break a piece of pottery and then glue it back together. While it may seem like a silly activity there is so many meaningful parallels to draw from it. At one of our group meetings we each broke a perfect piece of pottery and tediously worked to make it look somewhat similar to how it started. Although we all walked away with several cuts and glue gun burns, we also walked away with a deeper meaning of how God constructs and uses each of our lives.

After our ectopic pregnancy and then our miscarriage my life felt like a broken piece of pottery. I felt like someone had taken my life, thrown it carelessly on the ground and allowed it to shatter into a million pieces. As our plans went awry I felt broken and as though the broken pieces of my life didn't make since. We had covered each frozen embryo transfer and subsequent pregnancy in prayer, yet nothing was working the way we thought it should. I spent my fair share of time frustrated and angry with God.

But the beautiful thing about our Savior is when our lives feel shattered, He doesn't walk away. He sweeps up all the pieces and works meticulously to make it whole again. Using His grace and mercy He forms a new piece of pottery. Once broken, a piece of pottery never fits back together perfectly. It has cracks, cracks that God views as necessary because they allow His light to penetrate through. That picture at the top is my piece of broken pottery. Each crack represents trials and struggles that the Lord has had me walk through. Sure I wish many of those cracks weren't there but at the same time, they allow God to shine through in my weakness. Those cracks are part of my life that bring Glory to God. While it's often hard for us to make since of a pile of broken clay, God sees each piece as working together to fulfill His perfect plan. It is the mending of our lives that God uses to make our lives whole. Most of my cracks are made from infertility struggles. But for others it could be job situations, family relationships, marriage difficulties, financial hardships, or a myriad of other trials. Friend, God never views our lives as random shards of broken clay. He knows how each piece should fit together. Allow Him to mend you with His unending love, grace, and mercy. The outcome is a unique, one of a kind, piece of pottery perfectly formed to allow Christ to shine through!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

National Infertility Awareness Week: You Are Not Alone

When our infertility struggles began in 2011, we didn't tell very many people. We told our immediate family and I told two close friends who were also struggling with infertility. Praise the Lord for those friendships! I believe I was in denial. I truly thought our journey would be short lived and we would be pregnant soon, so why tell. But months passed quickly and before we knew it we were at an infertility specialist facing serious fertility problems and major treatments. Our lives were consumed with doctor's appointments, blood work, ultra sounds, and trips out of town. (Side Note: When we first began seeing our doctor we lived in a small town a little more than an hour from our RE's office in Houston. He came to our town once a week to see patients but we still spent a lot of time on the road traveling to his main office.) I began to feel like I was living a double life and keeping this huge secret...well I was. At church on Sunday friends would ask how my week went. I remember so clearly giving blank stares, stumbling over my words, and giving a very weak "Oh fine, just the normal stuff." with a forced smile on my face. When in reality I was hurting and facing the BIGGEST struggle thus far in my life. We were spending all of our free time, all of our money, all of our energy doing fertility treatments with no success. We missed parties with friends, bible studies, work, and church to be at the doctor for timed ultra sounds or give myself timed shots or be on bed rest from a transfer. All the while friends just thought we were 'busy' or 'out of town'. On top of the immense struggle we were facing with our infertility, keeping the secret made it even harder...we felt so alone!

Why didn't we tell others? I don't think I really knew how to talk about it. I was very emotional about it and felt I would cry when telling someone else. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and awkward. I didn't want others to feel sorry for us. I didn't want pregnant friends or those already with kids to feel strange around me. So we kept quite, but it was miserable. Honestly, besides family and close friends we didn't even tell everyone that our son was conceived through IVF. I remember while pregnant a friend asked me if our pregnancy was planned (BTW never ask anyone that). Um yes, very VERY planned, as planned as you can get!

Slowly as time passed and people asked we began to just be honest. There is such freedom in honestly. The weight of the struggle began to lift, the burden of our secret got lighter, and the loneliness slowly slipped away. Now that we have one child nearing the age of 3, people's favorite question is, "So when are you having another child?" (BTW, another bad question to ask someone). And now I just tell them the honest truth. We are desperately praying that God blesses us with another child. We conceived our son through IVF. We have been doing more fertility treatments for another child but have had several losses this past year. Just by simply being honest I have been so blessed. Friends have opened up and told me about their struggles and losses they have kept secret. From being open I have learned that infertility and pregnancy loss unfortunately affects way more people than I ever knew....I truly am not alone! Friends have reached out to cover us in prayer and positive encouragement. For me being honest and open has been so healing. I have joined an infertility support group through my church. A safe place to openly talk about how infertility has affected me, the scars and wounds it has left. It's a place to connect with other women walking the same path. Because I am open to sharing our story I have connected on a deeper level with friends struggling in the same way that I never knew were and I have met new women that I would have never met otherwise. Sharing our story and being a voice for others struggling with infertility has truly blessed and strengthened me. And I pray by sharing my story I can bless and encourage others.

So to the woman that silently took another negative pregnancy test this morning....I understand your hurt. To the woman that saw another empty ultra sound...I've been there. To the woman who is just starting fertility treatments...I know the fears you are facing. To the woman that celebrated a much anticipated pregnancy only to suddenly lose it...I've experienced your horrendous pain, I'm grieving with you. To the woman spending all your free time and money at the doctor....I understand what you feel like you are missing. To the woman that is scared to tell others due to shame and embarrassment...I've been there and so have many many others. I completely understand that blogging about your infertility is not for most people. But I do encourage you to slowly start sharing, just one person at a time. You may not always be received positively. Some people don't know what to do or say, it can be awkward. But you will also find great freedom, support, and encouragement. You will learn that you are not alone as you find others willing to say 'me too'! I encourage you to find a support group where you feel comfortable and safe openly sharing the good, the bad, and the very ugly parts of infertility. Be a voice for infertility and make others aware that it's a disease we fight daily. It has the power to steal so much from us, but it doesn't have to! With 1 in 8 couples facing infertility, we are not alone!

Click the links below to learn more about infertility and RESOLVE'S NIAW:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One Year Ago

This April marks one year we have been trying with fertility treatments for our second child. One year ago we went in for our second frozen embryo transfer since having our little boy. This would be our first attempt at trying for Baby #2. We went in so excited to grow our family and with little doubt or fear that it would work. After all the only other embryo transfer we had done went perfectly and resulted in our precious, then 1.5 year old, boy in the picture below! Amen! We tried to prepare ourselves for a failed transfer, but lets be honest, we had pretty high expectations all around.

Well, this transfer did result in a pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy. I miscarried at 6 weeks. I didn't even know that an ectopic pregnancy was possible with IVF. Unfortunately it is possible, although rare! Ectopic pregnancies can be very dangerous with ruptured tubes and internal bleeding. It was very strange going from excitement over a baby we had prayed endlessly for to worrying that the pregnancy was putting my health in danger. We switched from praying for a healthy pregnancy to praying that the pregnancy would end quickly and without complications. Thankfully, I miscarried without losing a tube or anything worse. However, I did not miscarry quickly. It took a LONG 6 weeks and literally dozens of blood checks for my hormones to finally return back to normal. I believe I had my HCG level (pregnancy hormone) checked 18 times in a six week span....I lovingly call it HCG hell. :-) I got to know the sweet ladies in the laboratory too well!

So, the past couple of weeks my heart has been sad thinking about this precious life we lost. This baby's due date was December 15th, which means he/she would be about 4 months old. One hard thing about infertility, failed treatment cycles, or pregnancy loss are the dates that become burned into your mind. You never forget. Every time those days come and go it's a reminder of milestones you are missing, dreams for your family that didn't come to fruition, and hopeful plans shattered. I never imagined one year later we would still be struggling to grow our family, never.

I frequently make secret plans in my head to calm the anxiousness I feel with the passage of time. For example, after our ectopic pregnancy I always thought I'd be pregnant by the time the due date rolled around. I wasn't. In fact, on the due date of December 15th I had just finished miscarrying for a second time. When close friends announce a pregnancy I usually think surely I'll be pregnant by the time her baby is due and our children will be close in age. Well, many of those babies are approaching their first birthday's. And I definitely thought I would be pregnant one year after our ectopic pregnancy. News flash, I'm still not pregnant. Anyone else struggling with infertility play this same mind game with yourself? It really can drive you crazy! Although making these secret plans is my first reaction to calm my anxiousness I have found it only drives my feelings of envy and jealously. This mind game of secret plans often leaves me feeling empty, hurt, and self-pitied especially when they fail, which this past year has been 100% of the time. 

I do not understand why God has allowed this past year to go the way it has. I do not understand why God has not blessed us with another child. The reality is I may never understand, but the beautiful thing is that it is not my job to understand. My only job is to cling unswervingly to my Savior as He works out His perfect and sovereign plan for my life. So when I begin to make 'secret plans' rooted in comparison that ALWAYS fall short, I like to remember that God's plan for other's lives are not His plan for my life. If I live each day comparing my family to others we will fall short and miss being used by Christ in this life and fulfilling our purpose. He has created a uniquely beautiful and special story for me and my family so that we can be used by Him. Though I do not understand this part of our story, the infertility and pregnancy loss, I find peace in knowing that God confidently knows our WHOLE story. Our lives are not happening by chance but have been masterfully planned by Christ. In the midst of this trail remembering that brings me great joy!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Get Up And Walk!

I have been working on starting this blog for way longer than I would like to admit. God laid it on my heart a while ago to start blogging about our story. I have been putting it off and putting it off. You see, I used to have a blog several years back. It started as a way for me to keep my friends and family caught up on our lives when we moved away. It was fun to begin with, but became burdensome to me after awhile. I felt people were expecting me to update and disappointed when I didn't. It constantly hung over my head like an outstanding homework assignment that never ended. So I eventually stopped and felt such freedom! When I began feeling God calling me to start an infertility blog, I thought really God, really?! Don't you remember I did that once and it didn't work out well, I failed! I heard the call from God and tried to put it on the back burner. But God in his persistence kept the thought in the forefront of my mind and on my heart until I had no other choice but to listen. I began several months ago with small steps, deciding on a name. Then finally I began designing my blog. Just recently I wrote the beautiful tabs you see at the top of the page. Each of those steps has taken me an eternity to finish. I began getting caught up on the details wanting everything perfect for when my blog 'hit the market' (as if thousands will immediately be reading) . I have also been slowed down with a host of excuses that I constantly battle: I am not a writer, grammar is not my strong suit, I don't have time to blog consistently, I'm not sure I'm ready to share the details of our story with everyone, I'm leery of publishing things on the internet, who will read it anyway, and on and on! In toying with Bible study, to clearly speak this truth to me the other day...

I don't want perfection, I only want your obedience.

Wow! When the Lord speaks that nugget of wisdom to you (especially me a very Type A perfectionist) , it quickly makes everything else fade away! Turns out there is a diseased and crippled man in John 5: 2-9 that I can completely relate with. This man had been an invalid for 38 years! He had been by the pool of Bethesda hoping to be healed. The sick, blind, and diseased would gather by this pool as it was believed that angels would stir the water. When the water was stirred the first person to enter the water would be healed of his ailments. This crippled man had been waiting by the water trying to get in each time it was stirred, but someone always beat him to it, he couldn't move fast enough. He sat by the pool watching others pass him by time and time again. I'm sure he felt hopeless, looked over, of little importance, wondering about his place in life. Until one day Jesus walked by the pool and saw the man...I just love their conversation, this is so me:

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."      8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. 

When Jesus asked this invalid a very direct 'Yes' or 'No' question, the man answered with excuses. To me his excuses imply that he had little faith in Jesus to heal him, didn't fully believe Jesus could perform such a miracle, maybe didn't even recognize Jesus for who He was. Yet Jesus, takes the man for what he is, crippled and sick, and heals him in a second. Instantly that invalid was provided with everything he needs by Jesus, what a miracle! This got me thinking, Jesus told me to share my story, to blog about what I've learned through our infertility struggles, and my answer to Him was not a direct 'Yes' or 'No'. Instead, like the invalid I have spent months dragging my feet, making excuses, while others obeying God pass me by. What do my excuses say to God? Perhaps that I have little faith that He can provide me the right words to type, that I don't fully believe He will provide me time to write, that He will bring the right people to my blog to read it, and that He will grow and protect me through my sharing. Jesus is saying to me, "Get Up!" Get up and do what I am asking of you! Get up, I am calling you to obedience not perfection in the small details! Get up and do something with the infertility path that I have allowed your life to take.

So here I am, sharing our story and what I have learned. Our journey to children has been messy, difficult, challenging, heartbreaking, and rewarding all at the same time. It has been filled with mountains of JOY and valley's of deep dark despair. But the same Jesus that saw something in that desperate crippled man, pulled him out of his agony, and healed him is the same Jesus that has been with us every step of the way. He has pulled us out of anger and bitterness after every failed fertility cycle or pregnancy and healed our hearts, always providing us a way. I am finally GETTING UP AND WALKING, firmly saying YES to Jesus and sharing the JOY I have found in Christ through our infertility struggles. Hope you join me for this crazy ride!