Saturday, October 14, 2017

Part 5: Easter Eggs

The next day, two days after our world was rocked, was more of the same. Nature again. It was the only place big enough for my soul’s cries. 

I stumbled through the week, my lab redraw that Thursday. I went over to the office on my lunch break. 

Held out my arm again. Gave my blood. 

I requested to see my doctor, so I sat in his office and said, “Shoot me straight. Tell me what this really means. I’ve been all over the place the past couple days. I’m a nurse. I can take it. Just tell me.” 

His response?

“I would be surprised if you could get pregnant even with medication. You will likely need IVF and donor eggs.” 

I held it together for the most part. I walked out of his office. Bawled to my sister on the phone, and went back to work (laboring moms and birthing babies). And then that night, Stephen and I were going to bed, we’d made it through Wednesday night, our ministry night - biggest night of the week for us. And work the next day. 

And I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.  

I let it all out. The sobs, the dark thoughts. 

“This is really what God had in store all these years and didn’t tell me? Why would this be what God has for us? For you? After all you’ve been through, THIS is what He has for you? A wife that can’t give you children?! God knew all along this is the way it would be? How? How can He be a good Father and have me work for 11 years in a hospital caring for everyone else as they have their babies and I can’t have my own?! Really?”

That seemed like cruelty to me. 

These thoughts, all verbalized to my stone-faced husband. 

My numbness had seeped into him. 

All my tears. The snot. The pained, twisted face. He saw it all. And just soaked it in. 

We prayed. Somehow in our mess of questions and heart ache. 

And I drifted off to sleep wrapped in his arms, tears falling down my face and soaking my pillow.

I went to work the next morning, as Stephen hit bottom. 

It was his turn to wrestle. The deep dark wrestle of a soul unsettled. 

Thank You, Lord, for not letting us hit this place at the same time. 

Oh, His grace. Even in the dark.

At work that day, I talked with an obstetrician I work with. She talked me down off the ledge, medically speaking. IVF and donor eggs was all I could see. She cleared that air and said there’s no way I should jump to that. There are things to try first. A low AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) level cannot diagnose diminished ovarian reserve. 

One end of the spectrum to the other. It was confusing, but these words sounded better than those of the previous day.

I immediately called Stephen and told him. But the damage was done. Our faith had been hit with a mighty blow. 

And so began the days of telling our families. Sharing with some friends. We needed...I needed people to be with us in this. 

Easter came the Sunday after this hit. Stephen and I were serving in the nursery together (Again, really, Lord?! Obviously, we signed up for this prior to the week of darkness). It was also my, my ovaries, my eggs - however many were left - another year older.

It was a hard day for sure. All of it kind of surreal. The sweetest husband bringing breakfast in bed. Precious moments shared before a full day ahead. Then holding babies in the nursery...those soft hands, little baby noises, fuzzy heads - a miracle neither of us broke down. 

And easter eggs everywhere. The pharmacy down the street had eggs for sale. 

Eggs! $2.99 a dozen! 

If only it were that easy. 
We shared a sweet lunch with family, then dinner and cheesecake celebrating with friends that night. 

God gave us the most beautiful sunset on the way to dinner. His reminder again:

I am with you. I am in you. I see you. The hurt. I am with you in it. I know. Oh, child, how I know. 
A lot of people wake up for the Easter sunrise to celebrate our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
But this year, for us, God spoke through the sunset.
In all the joy of the day, we were in pain.
This was our reminder of His everlasting love.

In May, we began medication to help my body mature more eggs for ovulation, hopefully increasing our chances of conception. We began praying for twins. 
It was an act of fear for me. 

If we only got the chance to do this once, if there were barely any eggs left, let’s just shoot for twins, knock out two for one. 

God, you gave me a desire for four children. And now maybe none? Could you give us two at a time? Since we don’t have time?

It’s one thing to say “I’m scared” to someone. It’s another thing all together to look up at the sky and cry out “I’m scared” to the One who created you, the One who fashioned those clouds you see. 

He is so big! So great. So mighty. 

And God holds us when our strength fails. It’s like in the Footprints poem “it was then that I held you.” This would be a time where I could look back and see only one set of footprints. He is holding me. 

Holding us.

As He says in His Word:

He is our refuge and strength.
A very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

And this: 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For it is He who delivers you...He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark...For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.
Psalm 91: 1-2, 4, 9

Oh sweet Lord, we need to dwell in You. Oh to rest in Your dwelling place. A place of peace. A place of rest. The place you protect, Lord. The place you restore.

Forgive us for our unbelief. Help us to stand. Help us to stay offensively walking in Your Kingdom, here on earth and not begin to walk defensively in our own worlds. Nothing in all this changes who we are or Whose we are. Give us wisdom as we walk to choose Kingdom of Heaven thoughts, Kingdom of Heaven actions. Help us to discern enemy attacks and fight covered in your armor. 

That was my prayer. 

And as the months and days went by, being with Stephen became a thing of great comfort. He was the only one who really got it and was in it with me. He was sort of like a shield. If someone asked a question about starting our family, he was there too. He was there to help deflect. To help absorb the pain. He was steadiness when I wanted to die inside. He would know the pain without me having to explain. 

Thank You, Jesus, for this man. For his faith when mine is weak.

Work was, well, hell for awhile. We prayed and prayed for me to be tender, not cynical. For God to give me strength to take care of laboring patients, whether they be teenager, adult, first baby or fifth. Can’t say I am proud of every moment, my actions, or my thoughts. 

But God never left me, never let me down. 

Even when I had to turn my head toward the computer and pretend to be charting to hide the tears. So far, we’ve made it through every shift without a complete breakdown or walking out. 

I’ve been close. 

And then there are the “socials.”

Social situations = Introductions often including “Oh great to meet you! So excited for you guys! When are you gonna start popping out babies?!”

Social invitations = An event where someone inevitably asks “How are you?” “I’m good!” [lie]

Social media = birth announcement...cute baby pic...another birth announcement...cute baby bump pic...daddy dates...mommy dates...first day of school pictures...another cute birth announcement.

No thanks.

It was like an assault and I never knew when or where it might come from. I felt exposed and vulnerable. The end of a day meant I could finally collapse in bed, battle-weary and bruised. Rest for a bit, wake up, and enter battle again. 

Ready or not. 

So I backed up. I withdrew as much as was possible without seeming odd. Without anyone noticing. 

But inevitably people notice.

If I didn’t attend your gathering, I’m sorry.
If I took forever responding to your text, I’m sorry.
If I seemed distant in our conversation, I’m sorry.
If I looked the other way as you walked by, I’m sorry.
If I didn’t ooh and aah over your baby like you thought I would, I’m sorry.
If I missed your birthday, first day, last day, big’s not because I wanted to. 

It’s been a time of just trying to hold on. 

Hold on to Who God is. Who we know Him to be. 

Trying to answer the whys and walk through the pain. 

And doing that on display is exhausting. So I backed up. It was way easier than being fake. I’ve never been good at that. This journey is no different. 

As the battles increased, the feeling of being overwhelmed set in. 

How long would it last? How long could I last? 

Up next Part 5: The Clouds Begin to Part. Finally, right?! Don't worry, I'm with you. I think we've been through the darkest part of our journey in these posts (whew!), but God has so much more to reveal. I'd love for you to keep reading and sharing! Please feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Part 4: When Dim Turns To Darkness

A few days later (after my check up appointment), I get the phone call I never want to get. 

It was Monday, April 10, 2017....6 days before my 33rd birthday.

I’m at work, so I duck into an empty room. The doctor on the other end sounds so serious. This can’t be good. 

And already, mind spinning, mouth dry.

I piece together his words, like a nightmare of a puzzle, one I’d halfway expected and at the same time never thought would actually be a reality. 

“Your anti-mullerian hormone level is really low. It’s a level we expect to see in someone in their 50’s, not their 30’s. It indicates diminished ovarian reserve. If this is accurate, I'm going to send you to a specialist right away.”

Anti-malaria what?! I’ve never had malaria. I’ve taken malaria pills before...oh my gosh, did that cause this?!

Diminished ovarian reserve? what the heck is that? how? oh God, HOW?
why are my ovaries acting like they’re 50? who told them they could do that? 
my eggs are gone? where the heck did they go? 

And through the racing thoughts, I hear him say it might be a mistake and he would like a redraw. 

But I know. 

I know after months of let-downs, not to let my hopes up. It’s not a mistake. I’ve known all along, haven’t I?

So I hold back sobs enough until I find a coworker friend and bawl on her shoulder. But then I have to make the dreaded phone call to Stephen. He needs to know. Needs to know that his wife really is a failure. 

Her body really is failing us. 

I go to the back hallway, sneak into an empty room, close the Stephen and ask if he’s got a few minutes, if he’s sitting down, as I sit down myself. I recount details the best I can, my head throbbing for holding back the tears, willing my voice to be normal as a rush of emotion is dying to come out. 

He takes it all in stride. I’m not really sure if he knows what it all means. But he sounds strong, steady. Sad, but sure. He says we’ll talk more when I get home.

I hang up and try not to lose it. Try not to let the dam break loose. 

Not here. 

Now now. 

In an empty birthing room, all by myself. I let some sobs out. Enough to hold the rest of the pressure inside. I have a shift to finish, laboring patients to take care of. Three more long hours left. 

It’s a day where everything changes in an instant. Where the fear in my gut finds a voice, but in that same moment as my body goes hot and cold and numb, where my eyes sting with a rush of tears, there is that steady Voice answering...

I am in control.
I Am.
I Am that I Am.
That is the One in control.

Another hour slowly passes. 

I get a chance to sneak into the bathroom, and as my world spins, I steady myself on the bathroom sink and repeat the words from Psalm 46 that He etched into my heart only two nights before:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth gives way
And though the mountains slip 
into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
There is a river whose streams 
make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her,
She will not be moved;
God will help her when the morning dawns. 

I needed His help.

I finished my shift, and drove home. 

But it didn’t get better that night. I felt like I was spiraling downward. And fast. 

I didn’t know what to think, to feel. Numbness set in pretty quickly. 

But Stephen was hopeful. He knew God was bigger than this. 

That afternoon after our phone conversation He went to Scripture. To a verse that was paramount for Him in our dating relationship.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Wait. An egg?? That’s not what it said last time he read it! He looked again. It said egg. How could that be? What’s happening? Then he looked at the book he was in: Luke 11. 

The verses God had revealed to him years before was from Matthew 7. It says this:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 

Oh my sweet Lord, you brought him right to that verse in Luke because you had a message for him. For us. 

You will give us an egg. 

You’re not giving us a scorpion. This journey might feel like scorpions all around. But You, God, You have an egg.

What a sweet reminder, a direct Word from God immediately following the hard news.

But for me, the next morning happened in slow motion. The day before’s lab results still a reality. The night before’s conversation of how my body was failing us still in my mind.

We woke up, Stephen held me before he left for work, told me he loved me, whispered in my ear “I choose you, today and every day,” and off to work he went. (He had no idea how in the coming months, those words would be a lifeline. A reminder of his steady resolve to choose me, no matter what, children or not. It’s amazing how the mind can play tricks, tell you things that are so far from truth. Why would he want to be married to you? You’re not pretty enough. You’re not faithful enough. And on top of it all, you can’t even have children! Then these words would softly come back to me in the midst of those dark thoughts. I choose you, today and every day. I would take a deep breath and choose to trust him.) 

But this morning, I grabbed the tissue box and went back to bed. The dam finally gave way. Mind a mess of thoughts, none good. Tears, big crocodile tears, running down my face. 

Then sobs. Thank goodness for pillows. And being in a house all alone. Somehow the sobs don’t seem as bad muffled in a pillow. 

And somewhere in the middle of it, I remember what I learned in nursing school about self-care and grieving and I know you can’t stay in bed all day. I get up to try to eat something, and I want to go to the park. 

I get as far as the kitchen before I melt in a puddle on the floor, gutteral sobs coming from my body. 

A sound I’ve never heard before. 

It scares me enough to pick myself up and move again. I go to the park. 


Where God always is. 

And no one would know me. Phone in hand, I stumbled - quite literally - down the path. It was too noisy. I turned around, drove to another park. More secluded. No people. No street noise. 

Just me and God. 

And this song “Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts)” found its way through my phone speakers. It was on repeat. 

Thank You, Lord, for helping me when I was literally at my lowest. Truth washing over my soul when my thoughts couldn’t be trusted. 

I think I managed to shower when I got home, put on some make up and have something ready for dinner before Stephen came home that night, his shell of a wife could at least look the part.

I took this picture that day at the park. I'm not sure why really.
I was laying on a picnic table, the "Lord of Hosts" song on repeat,
and the sky was so massive, so beautiful. And the sun, so piercing.
It's ironic now, the intense light in the darkest of dark,
that's right where God meets the dark...
and He is the Light.

Thank the Lord, our journey doesn't end there. Part 5: Easter Eggs coming soon!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Part 3: God's Light In The Dim

A couple weeks after naming my fear of infertility, Stephen and I were with our students at Woodlands Camp, up in the north Georgia mountains. It was DIGG retreat weekend. One of our favorite weekends with our students.

Saturday morning, I found myself up front in the big new sanctuary room, surrounded in a sea of students, worshiping with all their hearts. The theme of the whole weekend was prayer. 

In the middle of these students, my arms in the air, we sang these words 

With every breath
With every heartbeat

And I prayed, Oh God, would you make a heartbeat inside my womb?

It came from the depths of my heart before I really even knew it. And the answer before I could’ve ever formulated it on my own. It’s my favorite when He does that. When my heart gushes out a prayer, an ask, a longing, a surrender. 

And He answers from His glorious goodness. A voice so soft, so tender, but so sure. I knew it could never be mine. Not even a question. It couldn’t be mine because I couldn’t have even thought that fast. I had barely completed my heart prayer and there was His voice. 

The sweetest. 

The most tender. 

That voice that says everything is going to be OK. It begs me to trust Him, not in words, but in a knowing. Like He knows me and I know Him. It was almost like I could feel His hand on my soul, calming me. And His words? 

I will.

He will. He didn’t reveal the when. But He gave an answer. He will make a heartbeat inside my womb. 

He will. 

And He is so trustworthy. So. Trustworthy.

I sat back down and couldn’t stop thinking about what I heard. How kind of God!

Right after this session, we went into a time of prayer. Each student and leader encouraged to head to one of the designated spots to connect with the Lord.

I opened my Bible and started reading. God brought me to this passage:

Isaiah 42:5-9, MSG:

God’s Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies, laid out the earth and all that grows from it, Who breathes life into earth’s people, makes them alive with his own life: “I am God, I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, to make a start at bringing people into the open, into the light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons. I am God. That’s my name. I don’t franchise my glory, don’t endorse the no-god idols. Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled. I’m announcing the new salvation work. Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it.

Wow. Ok God. You are God. I am not. Your ways are so much higher than mine. We trust that You will.

Then March came. 

Surely this would be the month! After what God had spoken!

Nope. Sure wasn’t. 

I had God’s sweet reminders, but I also had my body’s rude ones. 

It was hard to hear His voice through the warring. There was peace and trust and comfort whenever we read His Word. 

But there was also reality of how my body wasn’t cooperating. 

My daily temps were no longer an easy chart to read. They were haywire, leaving me confused and frustrated. I wanted so badly to be able to interpret timing accurately, for me, for Stephen. All he could do was look to me and trust what I was seeing and feeling. But it didn’t make any sense.

And then the night sweats. 

They started as far back as October, not consistent. But they were there. In Kenya too. And now, in March, I wake up drenched. An awful reminder of my body operating against my will. It’s something I have no control over. 

Talk about getting in your head. Waking up to your alarm at 5 in the morning, wet and gross. A slap in the face. But there wasn’t time to dwell. I’d shower and rush to work, another 12-hour day of caring for laboring moms ahead. 

And God would encourage. 

He continued to speak. 

One of the ways I love to meet with Him is through nature. I just love experiencing His creation. Often I feel like it’s a gift of beauty He created just for me. I see and feel His love so easily through nature. 

One morning I was sitting with Him on our bed, the window blinds open, a full view of the trees right in front of me. I was pouring my heart out to Him about our desire to have kids and mourning another month with a period. In the midst of my pain and prayers, He brought the sweetest birdsong in through the window. I looked out and saw a robin. He reminded me of His Word in Matthew 6:26:

Look at the birds of the air...are you not much more valuable than they? 

It had a way of instantly calming my soul.

A few weeks later, He did it again. 

That birdsong, drifting in the window. 

I had been sitting with Him for awhile, I hadn’t heard any outside noises. None at all. And then there it was, clear and loud and it literally stopped my thoughts in their tracks. It was like His direct song of peace for right then in that moment. 

One morning a few more weeks later, I was having a sweet lazy morning breakfast at home with my husband. Pancakes and OJ and lingering conversation. As we washed the dishes and put them away, I glanced out the window above the sink. I did a double-take! There on the fence sat the fattest most pregnant robin I have ever seen. The one, I am certain, has been singing to me. 

Lord, have your way.

Even yet, even with moments like these, at this point I was feeling raw. Not sure what to think. To feel. Not ever sure what my body was doing. 

And all this 8 months in, without any real reason to believe I couldn’t bear children. 

Thank you very much, little childhood fear run rampant in my heart and mind.

It had finally been long enough to seek some medical advice. Run some tests. Do some lab work. Ask the hard questions. 

It should all be fine. Shouldn’t it?

I hate tests. All in my school years, I loathed them. Well, here was a test. A big one. One I could fail and have no control over. 

I stick out my arm, give my blood and say a prayer. Will it to be good...healthy?

And we wait.