Saturday, April 29, 2017

Listen Up! An Ongoing Journey

I think one thing that people may forget is that infertility doesn't just go away when you have a baby. Whether you are able to conceive {on your own or with medical assistance} or you adopt a child and bring them home, the scars and affects of infertility still linger. There will always be glimpses of the struggle that creep up, and there can often still be difficult roads to face. 

For us, this is still the case because we lost babies and we still have babies waiting for us. Does holding Eli and Maddie make it easier? Yes. Absolutely. But infertility is a part of our story, and we cannot just put it behind us and "move on." In our specific case, there is still an element of sadness knowing that we will not have a little Mike or a little Erin running around. We still grieve sometimes the loss of having our own genetic children. We also still grieve the loss of our 6 babies. It's still hard to process that we won't get to hold and parent them this side of heaven. 

Because of our losses, it's scary to face future pregnancies, knowing that there are no guarantees. We know that in choosing the road we have, we could still face more heartache and loss. While we want to add to our family, we are also 100% committed to adding to our family; there is no changing our minds. And the whole process can be daunting at times. It's something we can't just say, "let's go for it!" and then "hello, baby!" We have to prepare both physically and financially in order to add to our family. There are doctor appointments, tests, medications, follow ups, etc. 

Please understand, I love my babies fiercely, and I will forever be grateful for the beautiful gift of Embryo Adoption. And I am beyond excited at the prospect of adding the 2 little ones who are still waiting for us. I am constantly amazed at how the Lord has chosen to grow our family, and I cannot imagine it any other way. But the process for it all is just different for us. And it's just a constant reminder of our infertility and brokenness. It's easy to get caught in thinking about the "what if's" and "could have beens." 

Unlike many of my friends, I will never have the fun of seeing 2 pink lines on a test without a medicated process and scheduled procedure. I will always struggle to fully enjoy a pregnancy, free of fear and worry, because of our losses. And I won't be able to look into the face of my children and see my husband. 

But I praise God that I have the opportunity to see 2 pink lines on a test because of medicated processes and scheduled procedures. I praise God for the gifts of life that only He can provide; even if He chooses not to give us 2 more children, I praise Him for the gift of pregnancy with Eli and Maddie. Something I wasn't supposed to experience, but, by His grace, did. And I love that Mike and I get to daily discover together who our kids will be and what they will look like. These are incredible blessings that should not be mine, and yet the Lord has made a way in the midst of all the "can'ts." 

And so we commit to walk this ongoing journey with Him. He is our Sustainer, our Provider, our Strength.

Friday, April 28, 2017

{Flashback Friday} :: College Junior

Junior year officially started my enrollment in the business school. Even though I had been taking business classes the past 2 years, I was officially able to apply to the business school and declare my major. I chose to double major in Management and International Business. My last 2 years at Baylor were FULL of studying and working, but I still found some time for fun :)

I returned to Resident Life as a Community Leader for a second year, and ended up back in North Russell. So the 3 years I lived on campus, I called North Russell home. And I loved it. This second year as a CL brought a whole new set of challenges, but I was thankful for the opportunity to love and serve another set of residents. And of course, it was a whole new {and fun} staff :)

Sarah was the first resident that I met. I was thankful for her sweet spirit on our hall throughout the year.

North Russell Staff 2005-2006

My residents for the year :)

Baylor football still hadn't reached the fun RGIII days, and we were terrible. But it was still fun to go to the games. I loved that I got to continue hanging out with former residents, and I love these sweet girls. Sarah and Regan lived on my hall the year before, but we still found time to enjoy football games and hang out.



Just like the year before, I spent a lot of time with my CL staff. Staff development, training, and just having fun together was a big part of my junior year. We also spent a lot of time with other hall staffs, which was also really fun. I got really close with my hall director Shannon; I was so thankful for her sweet friendship.

Staff development

We loved the other hall directors!

Another CL dinner...we had a lot of them :)

With sweet Shannon; she was such a blessing to me!

With Tonya and April

Our hall directors decided to have us camp out in the middle of the quad while the residents were gone for a break. So we set up tents and made a fun night of it! 


It was SUPER cold, but it was fun to be "camping" with fun friends.

Fun birthday dinner with sweet friends

With my sweet friend April

Yes, that's me playing Rock Paper Scissors. My Strategy and Negotiations class hosted a full Rock Paper Scissors tournament, and I made it to the semi-finals. Ha!

One of my favorite traditions at Baylor is Diadeloso, or Day of the Bear. We get a day off from classes and the campus turns into a fun flurry of activities, games, and entertainment. This year, the theme was Snow Dia, so they hauled in a bunch of "snow" and had all kinds of cold activities. 



Starting my junior year and leading into my senior year, I got involved with the World Hunger Relief Farm in Waco. Their mission is to help alleviate hunger around the world, so they help train missionaries on the best ways to help communities build sustainable farming techniques. Since we got involved as a class project, we were there from a business side to help the ministry grow and market, but we also had ample opportunities to volunteer. There was no shortage of farm animals, and I did a lot of sowing of seeds, and even cut grass with a sickle :)


For our staff end of year party, our chosen theme was "Soccer Moms." Our outfits were complete with fanny packs, pearls, and kid buttons. It was definitely a fun way to wrap up another great year!


Our minivan :)

With Ginnie :)

And I can't believe that the end of my junior year is when I started blogging! It's crazy to look back over 10 years of writing, but I am thankful to have this record in my little corner of the internet.

Something fun to note is that I actually stayed in Waco the summer between my Junior and Senior year. I don't know why I don't have a single photo because it was the BEST summer. I stayed behind to take classes at the McLennan Community College. I worked at the front desk at the North Village, the new apartments on Baylor's campus at the time, so I got to live there for free. I also worked in the dean's office. The campus/city clears out during the summer, so it was definitely a change of pace, but one I loved! I grew to love Waco and its unique charm!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Listen Up! Even If

Today I'd like to talk about a harsh reality that many couples face regarding infertility.



The reality I'm talking about is having to face a life without children. Many couples who struggle with infertility do go on to become parents, either through a miracle, through medical treatment, or through foster care or adoption. But there are some who don't. And as you walk through your journey, you never know if that's going to be you. 

We constantly had to lay our hopes and dreams of a family before Jesus. And it was the biggest test of my faith. Could I really be ok if the Lord closed the door to Embryo Adoption? Could I still love and wholeheartedly follow Jesus if He chose not to give me a family? That seems extreme, but when you are faced with the loss of something that has become so important and desirous to you {read: an idol}, it's a reality I had to work through with the Lord. Could I really praise Him in ALL circumstances?

I'm on the other side, and I am holding babies in my arms. While our path to grow our family is far from traditional and not at all how we planned, the Lord allowed me to experience pregnancy, and I have 2 beautiful babies that made me a mom. So it's easy for me to say now that I could absolutely be ok with the Lord shutting all the doors to a family. At the time, I was trying so hard to get there, and I believe the Lord brought me to a place where I was able to surrender to Him. But it was such a struggle in my heart. And it's something I have to always be willing to do.

I didn't have this song during my journey, but a friend shared it with me the other day, and I thought it was perfect, and aptly named "Even If." She is currently walking a similar path to ours {infertility, Embryo Adoption, loss}, but is still waiting for her take home baby. And her faith is such an inspiration to me. I pray that it is an encouragement to your heart today, whether you are trying to wrestle with surrendering your dreams of a family or something else to the Lord.



They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I'm losing bad
I've stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it'll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can't

It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say 
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

You've been faithful, You've been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
'Cause I know You're able
I know You can

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your might hand
But even if You don't 
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Listen Up! Facts About Infertility

Continuing National Infertility Awareness Week...


Today I wanted to share some facts about infertility. There has been a lot of awareness in recent years, so I feel like people have a better grasp of the struggle that 1 in 8 couples face. The more that couples talk about their stories, the more that people can understand and offer support.

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse {six months if the woman is over 35} or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.
  • Approximately 1/3 of infertility is attributed to the female partner, 1/3 is attributed to the male partner, and 1/3 is attributed to a combination between both partners, or is unexplained.
  • A couple ages 29-33 with normal functioning reproductive systems has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month. After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance.
  • Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth.
  • Approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures. Fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies {like IVF}.
  • 15 states have either an insurance mandate to offer or an insurance mandate to cover some level of infertility treatment, and 8 of those states have an insurance mandate that requires qualified employers to include IVF coverage in their plan offered to their employees.
So in short, infertility does not discriminate between men and women, most couples facing infertility don't need IVF to achieve a pregnancy, and infertility related medical expenses are expensive.

We had both male and female infertility factors. We fell into the small percentage of couples that needed the most advanced {read: most expensive} form of IVF. We chose to go the Embryo Adoption route instead of IVF, which ended up being less expensive than IVF, but we still had our agency costs and our insurance did not cover any of our medical expenses for our transfers. The Lord was faithful to provide in every instance, but I just wanted to share a glimpse into the cost burden that many couples face in trying to grow their families.


*Info from resolve.org



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Listen Up! Our Infertility Story

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Since infertility is part of our story to building our family, I wanted to share some information this week. I know that infertility is not everyone's struggle, but it is a struggle that 1 in 8 couples face. So there is a high likelihood that either you or someone you know have faced the devastating news that your hopes and plans to build a family may not happen like you thought. And because so many struggle in silence, I wanted to take some time to bring awareness to this issue.


I have shared our story here on the blog, but thought I would share the brief{ish} version today. So if you would be so kind as to listen up! Because we would like to share our story. {Ok- totally cheesy, but trying to go with the theme here...not my favorite theme, but we'll go with it}  :)

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July 2011: Mike and I got married and pursued ministry in McKinney.

September 2012: We decided we were ready to grow our family.

December 2012: I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease {which put everything on hold}.

May 2013: Jesus graciously allowed me to achieve remission and we got the green light to start our family!

May 2014: We tried for the obligatory year without any success, so I went to see my OBGYN who gave us our initial infertility diagnosis and referred us to an RE.

August 2014: After months of testing, we received our final infertility diagnosis- we had less than 1% chance of conceiving on our own and our only hope was IVF with ICSI, and even then we were not given great odds. We chose to pursue Embryo Adoption instead.

October 2014: We mailed off our application to Nightlight Christian Adoptions and started the journey toward Embryo Adoption!

January 2015: I had a laparoscopy to remove what they thought was a blockage in my fallopian tube. Instead, they found Stage IV Endometriosis and a cyst. Thankfully, they were able to remove it all.

April 2015: Contracts were finalized and 6 embryos became legally ours!

June 2015: Our embryos {finally} shipped to our clinic, and we officially started our first transfer cycle.


August 2015: We transferred our next 2 embryos, but lost our remaining 2 embryos in the thawing process. We were elated to find out we were pregnant!

September 2015: Unfortunately, we miscarried and were left wondering what God was doing.

October 2015: We decided to try for another match, so we began that process again with Nightlight.

January 2016: Contracts were finalized and 4 new embryos became legally ours! This shipping process was A LOT faster, so our embryos shipped to our clinic this month too.

February/March 2016: We transferred 2 more embryos and were elated {but cautious} to find out we were pregnant with TWINS!

November 2016: Eli and Maddie were born!

-------

This is BY FAR the condensed version, but from start to finish, it was 1,524 days. From the time we decided we were ready to grow our family to the moment we held Eli and Maddie in our arms. And yes, I was counting. I was desperately trying to cling to Jesus, but this was such a dark time for me. So many questions, so much disappointment, hurt, loss. Looking back over these events, I can remember the pain and the struggle as if it was yesterday. 

Yes, we are now "on the other side." We get to hold and snuggle our long prayed-for babies, and it would be so easy to lose infertility in our rearview mirror. And there is a part of me that wants to leave all of that pain and hurt behind and never think of it again. But the reality is that infertility never really leaves you. Those scars still remain, and there are always glimpses of our struggle that crop up again. But I know the Lord wants to use our story of pain and struggle for His glory. I don't want to forget our journey, because I want to be able to speak into someone else's if I can. I want to pray for the things I know their hearts need. Because the Lord was faithful to provide that when we needed it most. 

So today I share a piece of our story, in hopes that someone feels a little less alone in their struggle. I pray that the Lord uses our story to encourage others in their journey. No two journeys are alike, but the God I serve is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I want more than anything for the 1 in 8 to know the depths of God's goodness, faithfulness, and sufficiency. Because even if we didn't have Eli and Maddie, He would still be good. Even if we were still waiting, He would still be showing Himself faithful in the midst of our struggle. And even if He chose to close the door to parenthood for us, He is all that we would need. 

You are not alone, and He has not forgotten you.