12 weeks and LOVING it!

We have made it to 12 weeks!  It is a BLESSED, HAPPY, SOLID number!!!  It felt so good to get that pregnancy update from baby center today!

Over the past few weeks we have really begun to embrace our pregnancy and my ever so slightly growing bump.  Last week, I even splurged and bought some maternity shirts.  Not that I need them, what I really need are some pants, though rubber bands are doing me wonders.  But, I have to tell you that I kinda hit the jackpot at ROSS of all places.  I bought 9 new maternity shirts for $76 total (The really nice kind with rouched sides!)  It felt great!  Ross, is the one place that I essentially have a free ticket to shop all I want!  My husband loves to save money and Ross fits nicely into the budget.  Typically little money is spent there though as I have never really enjoyed shopping and especially not at stores like Ross that require massive amounts of patience to sift through all the clothing.  But the maternity section was small and quite easy to maneuver.  Anyway, all the shirts are are super cute.  I should post a few pix.  The experience certainly beat the $24 I paid at Target for one shirt.  Anyway, there is always a compromise though.  I am going to splurge on one pair of fantastic maternity jeans.  I live in my jeans and have yet to find anything I like, so I am going to go for it, though I hope to purchase them through consignment…but if not…then I am just going to take the plunge.

Anyway, enough ramblings about clothes.  On to some God talk.

For some time, I have felt that I need to do more for women battling with infertility.  My heart is soooo heavy for women yet in the trenches and I want to help them find hope.  It was SO hard for me to cling to hope and not give up on my faith entirely at times during our long road to conceiving.  I have felt in my heart a real desire to write some sort of devotional or bible study to help encourage women through this season in their lives.  We’ll see what becomes of it, but I can’t seem to shake the idea.  Honestly, it seems so daunting to me. I am not a good writer and to put together some sort of booklet sounds like a huge undertaking, but at the same time, I want to be a voice of compassion and encouragement to women going through this.  Fortunately, for so many of us, we have found community and a voice through our blogs, but I know there are so many more out there that are feeling humiliated, isolated, and without support during one of the greatest challenges that life can bring.

Anyway, so that is a bit on that….

We have begun to tell family and friends about our pregnancy and it is just wonderful to hear their responses.  It is like a long awaited Christmas gift that we are just now beginning to unwrap. My husband and I cherish these moments together with our family and friends and find such joy in their responses.  I think we will wait to post it on facebook for some time just because I kinda like keeping it to our inner circle for now.  Maybe when I bust into those maternity clothes I will post a little pic or something, but for now, it has been so delightful just letting people know as we run into them or call them or however the connection may occur.

Praying for so many of you ladies and so thankful to be able to share in your stories!  This community is a tremendous blessing and source of encouragement for me!

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10 weeks 3 days. Doppler Success!!!!!!

Well, we did it.  We gave in and bought a fetal doppler.  Honestly, I had no idea these existed and were available for home purchase until reading about them on people’s blogs over the past few months.  I never thought I would get one.  But since graduating from the RE after our first ultrasound at 6w6d, we have yet to see the OB.  Our first OB appointment is at 11w1d, which happens to be next Wednesday, but I’m not even sure they will do an ultrasound then.  It is supposedly an “intake” appointment.  This OB practice is very laid back or at least that is what I am telling myself as they weren’t in any hurry to get me in.

So, on to the good news.

We ordered a Sonoline B off a website called Clinical Guard and paid about $55 for it.  Not bad and I am SO happy we bought it.  It was worth every penny.

It took us about 5 minutes to locate the baby’s heartbeat.  During those 5 minutes, all we could hear was the placenta.  That, in and of itself, was quite reassuring to me.  I didn’t mind if we couldn’t find the heartbeat, knowing it was still early to get a good listen.  But I kept probing and then all of a sudden the pitch changed as well as the sound.  You could hear the valves close and I knew we had honed in on our baby.  The heart rate was 164bpm.

Yeah!!!  This was the best thing I have heard in weeks.  Music to my ears!

 

Battle scars. When will I settle in? 9w4d pregnant.

I wish I was able to let go and get excited about this pregnancy.  I wish I could experience the resounding JOY of a first time mom.  I wish I could DREAM about nurseries and bonding with my baby and dwell on our sweet future together.  I think about these things, but do I DREAM?

Instead, I feel cautious.  I am SO happy to be pregnant, so blessed to finally be in this place, but it is NOT the bliss I would have always thought it would be.  Leading up to my first ultrasound, I was nervous, my mind fraught with anxiety.  When could I OWN this pregnancy?  When would I settle into it?  When would I just ENJOY being pregnant everyday?  The ultrasound came and went and though I worry so much less now about whether or not it is real, I have to admit that I have yet to settle into it.  Yet, to wake up in the morning, overcome with feelings of joy and elation that we are PREGNANT.  In my heart I am so thankful and praise God each and every day for this little miracle.  I have been researching baby gear and look forward to putting together a nursery, but I still find myself…well, numb.

This numbness of mine has resulted from so many months of battling with infertility.  Unmet expectations, broken dreams, waiting, enduring, hoping, and so much failing.  A relentless cycle that has left my soul forever changed, my heart hardened.  As the months turned into a year + many months, more and more I began to protect myself.  I worked hard to keep the pieces of my life together.  I went into full on self-protection mode and was able to give very little to those in my life and in my community.  Month after month, I continued to reach out, clinging to any hope I could find in God, Google, or some new treatment plan.  Time and time again, failure.  After a while, I grew calloused, I had to find a way to cope with infertility and no longer allow it to own me.  I had to find a way to rid it of the power it had over me and find myself again.

Well, new life has begun in me and with it, I am trying to restore my heart.  As I learn more about myself and how I respond to pregnancy, I realize just how much work there is yet to be done.  This journey is far from over.  I want to feel again, to LIVE in the moment again.  I want to enjoy each and every moment of this pregnancy and this beautiful baby that is growing in side of me.  I don’t want my past to determine my future. I realize that infertility has shaped me in countless ways for the better of my future family.  I want my children to have a mom who feels their pain and disappointments, who laughs at their sweet jokes, and whom can cry when necessary.

I will regain my soft heart…one day I may even wear it on my sleeve again.  In the meantime, I just thank God for this amazing privilege of finally working towards becoming a mom.  A dream I had all but given up just a few short months ago.  I hope I can find myself settling in soon and I hope that this baby in my belly is in our life to stay.

 

***

I had written this post last night and then thought I should sleep on it before posting it.  Part of me feels guilty for the feeling the way I do, for not being OVER the MOON excited.  But then, as I logged in to my Word Press account this morning, one of my dear blogging friends, Chanel, just found out yesterday that her baby had no heartbeat. This was her second U/S.  She had had a fabulous one just a few weeks ago.  Chanel and I received our BFP within days of eachother and so I have felt a special connection towards her and this baby.  I am heartbroken and so very sad for her and it just serves as another reminder of just how hard this journey really is.  There are no guarantees once receiving that long awaited BFP.  Please send her some LOVE!

Paradise. Redemption. Stories.

3 words. 3 words that I have pondered over the past month. 3 words with multiple applications. 3 words with tremendous significance for my life. 3 words I hope to reflect on over coming posts.

;

PARADISE. Thanks to Coldplay, I have began to really re-ponder this. What is MY paradise? WHERE is my paradise? When did I first lose sight of what paradise looks like to me?

REDEMPTION. Why don’t I have it? As far as I am concerned, Infertility is a pretty CRAPPY redeemer. Why have I allowed it to set the terms of my life? Why have I allowed it to hem me in? I have access to the ONE and ONLY REDEEMER. I want to see REDEMPTION in my story and I want to start seeing it NOW.

STORIES. Brandy Carisle. The Story. Part of the first verse…

All of these lines across my face

tell you the story of who I am

so many stories of where I have been

My life is a story. Each crease, each scar, each expression…so many stories of who I am.

***

My vacation did amazing things for me. We are already deep into our IVF cycle, yet (by God’s grace alone) it does not reign over me. Trust me, I have been clinging onto this feeling for dear life recognizing that it could be ever so fleeting if I am not careful. As a result, it has been difficult for me to write about it lately. I am afraid to give it more power in my life. It has already tried to take so much of me. Thus, I have been trying to keep my beloved friend, infertility, at bay and on the back burner. She has been all too pushy and demanding. Quite frankly, I am TIRED of it. So, she’s taking the back seat for a bit. She needs a reality check of her own. She’s gotta realize she doesn’t own THIS girl. Try as she may to take over my life, it just AIN’T going to happen. Check ya later, infertility. *smile*

More to come.

(Picture taken in the gardens of the Chateau Cheverny in France).

A unique story, all our own.

I struggle with this pain that I feel.  This sense of loss.  This sense of hopelessness.  How can I, someone who has soooo much feel so hopeless, allowing myself to sink into depression at times, when God has been so good to me?

It’s true.  He has been sooo good!

Working in the medical field…daily, I am in contact with people whose stories are so much more troubling than mine.  Stories of loss, full of heartbreak and physical challenges.

The mid twenties woman ravaged by a meningeal infection, now without limbs and forever wheelchair bound.  She can’t even scratch her arm or move an annoying strand of hair from her face.  Or the mid twenties something soldier fresh home from his tour of duty in Afganistan (x2!) only to be diagnosed with a devastating brain tumor…now confined to a nursing home, unable to communicate and move though everyone is pretty sure his mind is completely intact. Or how about the young thirty year old, born with a disease that progressively renders you immobile and mentally impaired with a young death a certainty. I could go on and on.  Each story humbles me, breaks me.  I am so thankful for the blessing of being alive, able to move, and able to communicate with those so dear to me.

I think of my friends who are still single…approaching their mid-thirties who have DREAMED of having a family of their own.  Friends who are so beautiful and would make the most wonderful wives.  Not only do they feel hopeless as to whether or not God will ever bring their knight in shining armor into their lives, but it is nearly impossible for them to even entertain thoughts of one day having a family.  It would only deepen the pain they are now experiencing.

I think of the homeless, the poor, those who grow up without families who love them.  Is it even fair for me to dwell so much on this pain I experience?  Is it selfish?  Have I lost touch with reality?

I have learned that it doesn’t matter.  We simply cannot compare.  God gives each of us the stories he desires to use to grow us, mold us, and make us into the people he has called us to be.  I think of the growth that has already occurred in my life as a result of this trying past year.  When my husband and I are honest with ourselves, we both agree that we are now in a much better spot in our relationship and in our walk with God than we could have ever dreamed of being in over a year ago when we started trying to conceive.  God needed us to walk into our pain and meet him there.  He needed us to be honest about it, feel our pain and experience it fully – to find him there, to lean unto Him there.  It makes us deeper, more understanding, more compassionate and thankful individuals.  We are better able to weep with those who weep and now have hearts with room to carry hope for others.

I wouldn’t trade any of it.  I would not trade a single day, month, or even the past year.  I love the story God has for my life.  He never promised it would be bliss, but he did promise a light load should we put our trust in him.

Matthew 11:30. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What does that mean?  To me it means that we, as a body of Christ, are to carry each other’s burdens, moving ever in hope towards his promise of perfect peace.

Thank you, Jesus, for this story of ours.  May we glean every last morsel of truth and character development from it.  May we be vessels of your glory and mercy in this world.

My own mother fading…

I am losing my mother.

I first noticed it about 5 years ago.  While I was in Philadelphia, I would go visit her in Maine.  She was living out there for a year, away from my dad, to finish up her Master’s in Nursing.  She had been working on it for 8 years via distance learning.  She had poured her soul into this program.  It had consumed so much of her time, her life, her love.

It was time.  Time for her to move out to Maine and just finish it up. This was a big deal for her.  She had married my dad in college, a month or two before she finished.  She had never lived alone, never been responsible for paying bills or managing every aspect of a home of her own.  She thrived.  I was sooo proud of her.  So proud of the way she rose to the challenge and flourished.

I would often visit her over that year.  Flights were still cheap and I was terribly lonely.  As soon as I was done with classes on Friday, I would hop a flight to Manchester, New Hampshire and she would meet me and we would travel back to Maine.  I have fond memories of our time together in her little one bedroom apartment.  It was on one of these trips back to her place that it stood out to me.  It was a particularly beautiful evening.  I was driving and we were just relishing in thankfulness for the glorious colors of the night sky and being able to share it together.  But it grew odd as I noticed her comment on the sunset time and time again.

“Isn’t it beautiful?”  5 minutes would pass.  “Isn’t it beautiful?”   20 minutes passed.  “Did you notice how lovely the sunset is tonight?”  This went on maybe 5 or 6 times.

“Yes, mom it is.  It’s gorgeous.”  Hmmm…this is rather strange behavior.

And that is how it started.  It grew slowly, gradually over those first 2 years.  She finished her Masters’ and moved back to my hometown, but within a year she could no longer work.  No longer teach nursing.  She would forget her lesson plans for the day, forget that she had assigned homework or that she even needed to grade it, forget which days her students were in clinical.  She had been teaching nursing since I was a young girl…this was old hat to her.  But it was unsafe and unreasonable for her to continue to work.  It was a huge blow to her self-esteem.  So much hard work, so much effort, so much enthusiasm to offer, but she could no longer keep it together.  Tears come to my eyes just imagining how she felt.  To realize that you are losing your mind.

She is still aware that she is losing her mind.  She oftentimes doesn’t even want to talk because she is so afraid she will say the wrong thing and embarass herself or that someone will grow frustrated with her repeated questions.

My grandfather died of Alzheimers about a year and a half ago.  They are very similar people.  Both driven and hardworking individuals who often hold their stress in at their own expense.  I sometimes wonder if these sorts of personal attributes precondition people for this later in life.  She has been all but diagnosed with pre-Alzheimers.

She turned 60 a few months ago.  She has aged beautifully and you would never know it.  Yet, she can no longer maintain her home.  She has a difficult time putting a salad together.  Dinner is not an option.  It is very stressful for her and challenging to figure out how to put various ingredients together.  She can’t be trusted to drive anywhere outside of our little niche in Washington State as she now gets lost and confused about directions.  She loves to do yard work, but even that is not longer an option.  There is poison oak in the field beyond my parent’s home and she forgets that it’s there.  That she shouldn’t go out there to pull weeds.  But she does, because there are weeds…that need to be pulled.  So she does.  And the poison oak is back with a venegence.  The back field, her own yard…forbidden from her.

But she can do dishes.  Oh, how she loves to do dishes.  Something that is simple, but meaningful and helpful to people.  They don’t have a dishwasher.  She takes great pride in washing each dish and will do it throughout the day.  Though she doesn’t know where they go, she stacks them and attempts to find each and every last one a home.

I am losing my mother.  I can no longer share my heart with her, my fears, my joy or even my desire to get pregnant with her.  It doesn’t really register.  She is very much childlike now.  She has moments of clarity, moments that I stand back in amazement of her memory. But mostly, there are soft round spheres of conversation.  We always end up where we started and again and again.  It grieves me.  She is too young for this.  A brilliant mind burdened with loss.  It’s so unfair.  I need her.  We all need her.  She deserves to enjoy this time in her life.  Enjoy her children and their families.

I want to be the best daughter to her.  I want to make the most of every opportunity I have with her.  She is one of the most sweet and gentle woman you’d ever meet.  So charitable and kind towards others.

I pray for a miracle.  A miracle for her, a miracle for me.  I pray for peace.

Beauty from the ashes.

Infertility.

Define infertility.

The inability to get pregnant after 1 year of frequent and unprotected sex.

***

So where am I?

One year?  14 months?  Or the end of cycle 13.  How do I quantify where I am?  I am referring to the duration of time we have been trying to have a baby.  How long has it been? Do I count from the time I went off Birth Control pills or do I count from when we actively started trying…or do I count according to the number of cycles we have been through?

Ahh, the ups and downs of cycles.  Initially, it was no big deal…we figured you have unprotected sex during your fertile window and boom…pregnant.  Of course, we had the jitters that first month…I thought for sure I was pregnant.  Is that a cramp?  Yep, the nipples are tender.  Is that nausea I’m feeling?  We went through at least 4 or 5 pregnancy tests.  We were definitely going to get pregnant this month.  My positive result was coming.

My period came and went and we were stuck feeling somewhat defeated.  A saying from my childhood echoed in my mind.  “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”  We are type A people.  With a little hard work, we ALWAYS get what we want.  Thus, we were quick to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and get ready for round 2. This would DEFINITELY be our month.

The months came and went.  We began to grow weary and anxious.  What could possibly go wrong?  Why is this not working for us?  We began to chart basal body temperatures (BBT), use ovulation predictor kits…and a few other unmentionable things were done to hone in on ovulation and keep track of where I was in my cycle.  We sought care from our OB/GYN.

A little embarrassed at first to see her, (I mean, after all, it had only been 6 months) but we were medical people and are used to being our own best advocates and taking initiative.  Our doctor felt like we were healthy and knowledgeable and left our journey in our hands.  “You guys call the shots.”  Whatever you want, you just let me know.  We began testing and continued to try.  Normal.  Normal.  Negative.  Normal.  I began to go to an acupuncturist.  Started herbal therapy and all but eliminated caffeine, soy, and alcohol.

The diagnosis: Unexplained infertility.

There it is.  Just like that.  “We really aren’t sure why you are unable to get pregnant.”

Of course, everyone had all sorts of advice for us.  Some of my favorites are:

  1. Just relax and it will happen.
  2. Maybe you should go on vacation.  It will happen.
  3. Maybe you should think about adopting.  It always happens after you adopt.
  4. It must not be God’s will for you right now.  It will happen when it’s right.
  5. Don’t worry so much.  It’s a natural process.

Thank you.  Thank you so much for your advice.  How long did it take you to get pregnant?  1 month, 2 months?  Wow…by chance?  Great.  Really sounds like a lot of experience to draw such fine wisdom from.  Advice from well-intentioned friends and family.  It was heartbreaking.  I don’t want your advice, I just want you to give me a hug, ask me how I am doing, offer to pray for me and with me.  That’s all.  Yet, the words come like stabs into an already bleeding heart.  A heart so full of pain, sadness, and oh so lonely.  We seek great comfort in our Lord and King.  So thankful for the courage that he gives us.  So blessed by his presence.  We wait in hopeful expectation of the joy that he will bring forth from this anguish.  We do not yet know what shape or form it will come in, but I know it will.  Beauty from the ashes.

So now I wait.  I am always waiting.  But that’s okay.  It’s growing me.  Daily, I grow stronger.  I keep thinking of what God said to Joshua (1:9) –

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This is actually the third time in the first 9 verses that God says this to him.

“Be strong and courageous.”

My battle hymn. May this be true of me in this journey.