Thursday, February 19, 2015

The family of God

11 years ago, we joined a little church. We've made most of our closest friends through that little church.

A couple of years after we joined, a woman started a small group for the young married ladies.  She and I formed a one-on-one relationship. Through some intentional ministry and prayer on her husband's part, he and Todd formed a one on one relationship, too.

Her husband died about a year later. A couple of years after his death, his widow mentored me through my first miscarriage with the wisdom she learned in her own grief. We bonded in our grief and became close friends.  Out of this friendship came the opportunity to help her with details for the wedding of her son and his high school sweetheart, who had just graduated college. I didn't really know bride and groom, because they were much younger than I was and had lived away at school for most of the time we'd been at the church, but was happy to help my friend.

Around the same time, we became close with Mike and his family. Mike became Todd's best friend, and to me, the older brother I never had.   Mike died several years later.

Mike's wife remarried. She married the dad of the highschool sweetheart my mentor's son had married.

Those highschool sweethearts are now among our closest friends, and they are the parents of Matthew's best friend in the entire world. He says he will marry her one day, and that would be a-ok with me.
 
I love this intricately woven family of believers and how these relationships encourage us in Christ while also offering sweet memories of our past, and the hope we all have of reunion in Christ. I love that because of all the different inter-weavings of relationships, our kids get to be a part of each other's bigger story, bigger family, and we get to enjoy that too. The family of God is amazing.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Glorious Unfolding

Hi friends,

Thanks so much for continuing to read with me. It's currently February 4, and I am going to try to write down the events of the last few months. I don't know how long this will take because at this moment I don't know how long this post will be. Bear with me, it might be lengthy. Edited to add: Epic is a better description of the length of this. It took me a week to be able to write it.

As you all know, our last Frozen Embryo Transfer was scheduled for the end of November. My beta draw was supposed to be on December 1. Because I'm terrible at waiting, I had stocked up on Dollar Tree Pregnancy Tests and started testing about 4 days after my 5 day transfer. I tested morning and evening every day thereafter until November 30. All of the tests said negative. My friends at church asked me if I knew anything and I told them that I was sure it was negative.

On December 1, I was out of tests and I knew that finality was coming. I went and had my blood drawn and cried through the entire test. I remember crying, thinking, "my family's entire future is now in that stupid little vial of blood." I knew once the number came back, there was no room for hope anymore.  I remember crying and praying in the car that I was still going to trust and believe, even when He said no. And as much as I could, I meant it and believed it. I had been through loss so very many times before that I knew that I could say that earnestly.

That day, not knowing it was the day of my test, a friend called and told me she was treating me to a special event I had wanted to attend so that we could enjoy a girl's day together. Later that day, another friend spontaneously dropped off  a tub of my favorite cookies and a gift card to buy dinner since I had just broken my hand. My best friend texted me sweet encouragement.  I remember thinking that God was just buffering me and helping me feel good and loved before He broke my heart.

I waited the rest of the day but the doctor didn't call. We were out that night for a family date night so I picked up another pregnancy test, made by a different brand. We got home and I took it, and the test looked positive. I remember looking at it and telling myself that I must be seeing things or reading the test wrong. I made an excuse to go back to the store, and I bought the idiot-proof kind with the words. When it came up with "PREGNANT," I was speechless. I wish I could describe the feeling I had when I saw that test. I think it is probably the closest I'll ever come to the feeling "normal" women get in surprise spontaneous pregnancies. It was a wonderful gift.

I told Todd and he too was speechless. I've always been a little disappointed that building a family this way means that I don't get to make "surprise" announcements and do cute little things. Because this news was so unexpected, I actually did get to do that with Todd and it was really precious. His reaction is one I will cherish forever. We called our parents and I called my best friend. I told her the story of the gifts I'd received that day and I said, "I just have never felt love like this--all these nice things, AND a baby?' My best friend, in her wisdom, said, "Jen, even if you hadn't gotten pregnant or if something happens to this baby, you know God still loves you, right?" I said that of course I did, and I believed it. We wrapped up our call and I invited my other best girlfriend to come over and I got to do a "surprise" with her too, and again, it was a special sweet moment.

The next day, I called my Pastor at church. Aside from Todd, our parents, and my best friends, his reaction was the biggest and most enthusiastic. The memory of that phone call and the love I could feel for our baby in that moment is something I will remember forever. We called other friends and relatives we wanted to tell directly and enjoyed the day celebrating.

The doctor called later that day and confirmed that the beta did say I was pregnant. He said he number was low, but that all numbers had to start somewhere. He wanted me to repeat the test the next day.

I repeated the test on Wednesday. On Thursday he called, and he said that my beta was relatively unchanged, and had actually gone down 2, from 29 to 27. He said that I would miscarry that weekend. He told me to stop taking my medicine. I asked if I could repeat the test one more time and keep taking my meds until then and he agreed. Nothing happened Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. My symptoms were increasing and like my other two pregnancies, NVP started early.

On Sunday, I started spotting and cramping a bit and then bleeding more heavily and I thought this was the end. We cried and grieved. We told our families that we were in the process of miscarriage. I arranged for Matthew to go to my in-law's house the next day so I could finish the miscarriage in peace. But the next day, it had all stopped.

On Monday, I felt more nauseated and more pregnant, so I called my OB here in town. My OB is profoundly pro-life, while my RE is not. I knew that my OB wouldn't throw in the towel one second earlier than he should. They were able to fit me in but said it was too early for an ultrasound. They drew more blood.

On Tuesday, they called and said my number was exactly the correct number of times multiplied as it should be from the previous Wednesday. She said my progesterone was a little low, but that there was still reason to hope. Tuesday night, we celebrated all over again. We went to dinner, we had "un-miscarriage cake" and we marveled that God was not bound by numbers.

On Wednesday, I was at a doctor's office with my son and started spotting. I proceeded to spot the rest of the week. I called my OB who said there was nothing we could adjust or change, we just had to wait.

Saturday morning, very early in the morning, I woke up with contractions. My miscarriage before Matthew was bloody and emotionally traumatic, but I don't remember it being painful. This miscarriage was a completely different story. It was painful and difficult and a lot like labor, except for the pushing.

Thankfully, everything physical ended within a few days and I did not need medication or surgery. I did take comfort in that.

That's when his most recent crazy train started. Suddenly, I found myself questioning a lot. God had taught me to hope again when I had lost all of that. He had given me a pregnancy, and then I was told the baby was dying, and then it wasn't dying, and then it died again. I felt like I had been jerked around by a capricious master who was testing me. Dear readers, I wasn't. Even now I have to remind MYSELF that I wasn't and that these feelings lied to me.

I don't have any more answers than I did on December 14 about why all of this happened or what God is going to do with it, or why He allowed more pain.

I became numb. I wasn't angry or bitter.  I was confused and and reclusive. I didn't talk about it. I was fine as long as I left the lid on that box. I felt like my soul was disconnected from the rest of me. I could repeat a creed of belief, but I could not access a part of me that felt belief. I couldn't make it through a church service without crying because I felt like a hypocrite, listening to words and singing songs that I didn't comprehend.

I was at church on December 24 because I set up our Christmas Eve service every year. My Pastor came and found me and asked if we could talk. He just listened as I poured out my broken heart. He encouraged me with the truth of God's character, but didn't chastise my feelings or attempt to correct me.

I sort of fumbled through the end of the year. As I mentioned, I was fine as long as I wasn't thinking about it.

My grief took me through a lot of questions, doubt, and anger. I would silently lecture myself about my feelings and stuff them back in.  My best friend continued to gently reach out to me. My pastor reached out to me some more.

And then one night, it just all came out. I said everything I had been thinking and feeling out loud. I confessed my fear and my pain, and my mistrust, and my doubt. I think I cried until 3:00 in the morning.

And then the healing began. People had encouraged me that God was "big enough" to handle my feelings but I didn't really behave that way. Because I was ashamed of what I was feeling, I didn't want to confess my feelings. It's not in my personality to rail at God--not because I'm so spiritual, but because it's just not something I've felt right in doing. But in sharing, I became unburdened. He means what He says when He tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, and that His burden is easy.

There were some hard, tangible steps He took me through. I got rid of all of my maternity clothing. That was hard. But he allowed me to have a sweet friend who is newly pregnant that I could share them with so I got to be a blessing, instead of just a Goodwill donor. I got rid of all of my clothes I had stored in a hope chest in case I ever had a daughter. That was hard too, but I know that my good friend's daughter will one day wear some of those things. I have all of my snowflake clothes divided up and waiting to go out in the mail to other snowflake mommies. As difficult as it was to do those things, they facilitated an uprooting in my heart of some past pains and old dreams and helped me let go of some of *my* plans for our life.

My birthday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, my mom and brother's birthday. New Year's Day, and Matthew's birthday all also came and went in this time, and the time of fellowship and celebration with friends and family facilitated much healing, too.

I won't sugar coat anything. This still hurts like hell. I miss my babies. And I always will. But I choose to believe that God's will is best, even though I don't understand it. I choose to believe that because I trust the God whose Hand created me and all of my children, and which guides me still, and holds me in my pain. But life lost is not something to be gotten over, it is something that becomes a piece in the puzzle of our lives. As life goes on, God's picture gets larger, and more pieces are added. We learn to appreciate the beauty of the new picture. While I will always miss my children, I hold sacred the opportunity we had to deliver each and every one of them out of frozen limbo and into the arms of Jesus.

In the meantime, God has been reminding us of the dreams He gave us a long time ago of pursuing traditional adoption. We had always thought our family would be built through both. We went through Embryo Adoption first because biology has a shelf-life, but we always thought that when that season of our lives was over, we would move to traditional adoption. We've planned to adopt since we were in college. As our story has been filled with pain, we shied away from daring to take that next step, for fear of more pain. But God kept it at the forefront of our minds.

We believe that He is calling us to traditional adoption now.  So, earlier this month, we officially submitted the paperwork to begin that process. We have to have our homestudy updated, and then we can begin the match process. In the meantime, we're fundraising. Traditional adoption, as many of you know, is around $25,000. We are busy working for the big local consignment sale, and 2 big giant garage sales. People have been donating things we can sell. I am also starting a small business (more later!) to help earn some extra money.

Lastly, we set up a fundraising profile page. We're using a site called adopttogether.org, which came highly recommended from several people have used them. It's like kickstarter, but for adoptions only. If you're interested in looking, our profile is here.  We chose them because they don't have an "all or nothing" aspect like the other crowdfunding sites do. Donations to it are tax deductible. We thought the added accountability might be of comfort to some people who considered donating, and we like that people can donate anonymously if they want to.

We've started to talk to Matthew about it and he is excited. It's giving us things to talk about in his adoption, too, because there are distinct differences, like the fact that new baby won't grow in my tummy but he did but they both had first mommies and daddies who loved them. So it's creating some good opportunities to get him to ask questions about his story.

We're pursuing a Domestic Infant Adoption. We sort of see a boy, but who knows what God will bring our way. We'd appreciate your prayers for the birth mom who will find herself in a position where she feels the best decision for her child would be to place it with another family. My heart is so tender for any woman who finds herself in that position. We'd appreciate your prayers for us, too!

So phew! A lot has happened, but God has been constant through it. I feel like "Glorious Unfolding" is our theme song.

In the meantime, Matthew has turned 4. I can't believe I have a 4 year old! He had a wonderful birthday. We're still dealing with some side effects of Kawasaki Disease and have to watch one issue with his heart, but it's all still in the realm of normal and the doctor said it's not time to be concerned yet.

Well, when it was essay-writing time in school, I always struggled with the conclusion. I'd say everything I had to say, and then I didn't know what else to say. It's no different now, so I guess I'll just say, thanks for reading all of this! Have a great week!

And, here's a bit of cuteness:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Giveaway-Clothes for Parents of Snowflake Girls

Many years ago when our EA journey was just beginning, a lovely woman sent me a package full of clothes covered in snowflakes. To this day, it was one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

Those clothes have sat in a hope chest all these years, waiting for a little girl to wear them.  I guess it just won't be my snowflake who wears them.

I have a whole box of things she sent and things I later added myself.

If you have a snowflake girl age 2 or under, please post the size she is in or will be in for winter clothes. If she'll still be under age 2 next winter, feel free to post that size.  If I have anything that matches up, I'll be glad to send things. I will email you for your address.

Let me know! I really want these things to go to another snowflake so please only post if your daughter is a snowflake :

ETA: I should have said if your daughter wears a size 24 months or smaller. It's fine if she's older than 2, but the largest size clothing I have is 24 months.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hi Friends

Hi Friends,
I'm still here. My blog says that 75 people checked this blog today...why, I don't know. But it touches me to know you are all still out there and still care.

To be honest, I am struggling. A lot. I want to be authentic here, but I also want to be responsible with my story, my testimony, and my grief, and right now my heart is so dark, that I don't think it would be wise to put that all out there. I'm trying to take a more "Mary pondered these things in her heart" approach to this. Some of it is self-preservation, some of it is not wanting to be a bad example to others in grief, and some of it is sheer lack of ability to put everything into words.

So, I appreciate that you all have continued to check on me. The miscarriage was pretty physically traumatic. I don't know why it was 10 times worse than the one I had before I had Matthew and I was pretty unprepared.  But, it seems to have resolved itself and physically I am all back to normal. I'm grateful that it all occurred on its own and I didn't need drugs or surgery.

Husband is in about the same place I am. Matthew is pretty unaware of what happened. He did ask me recently if he is still a big brother and that broke my heart. He's also asked twice in the last week why we don't have any kids in our house for him. That's been hard to manage. I don't want to explain too much to him and break his heart more than it needs to be broken.

So, here we are. Thank you for your prayers...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Miscarriage...Again

I miscarried over the weekend. We've determined that I can't ever go through this again so this is the end of our Embryo Adoption journey. That's all we know now. Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rescinding

We've all heard of false positives and false negatives when it comes to pregnancy tests, but I have just experienced a

FALSE MISCARRIAGE!

I am so thankful for the God-given gift of maternal instinct, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit that encouraged me to hold out hope, keep taking my medicines, and ask for another test. The repeat test showed that my levels have now *multiplied exactly as they were supposed to* and, from everything we can know right now through lab work, the baby is JUST FINE. We're not sure what I experienced over the weekend or why the levels did what they did and there are some abnormal markers that they really would like to see improve, so we can still really use your fervent prayers, but hope is not lost, and baby is still here and growing!

I am so frustrated that my hand prevents me from typing everything that has happened in the last few weeks (I do my updates on my phone) so I am seriously considering vlogging it because there is so much glory and miracle to tell of!