Tag Archives: fertility

Seeing Red

Some dates are etched in your memory forever.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Days our loved ones pass away. Major life events. We all can list at least a few dates that automatically stick out in our minds, whether for welcomed reasons or not.

December 4, 2013 will always be one of those days for me. That was my estimated due date for the child I miscarried on April 1st at 5 weeks gestation. That was the day our child, as microscopic as he/she was, went to be with the Lord. That was the day part of me went to be with Him, too.

To say I was heartbroken after we miscarried is a gross understatement. If you recall, there was a lot already going on in our lives in early Spring. It was so much that the most grounded people would feel like they were losing their grip on their sanity prior to what transpired on April 1st. As we all know, the roller coaster wasn’t over, though.

Once the bleeding stopped, I was emotionally as empty as my formally impregnated uterus; in a matter of a few hours, the life had been sucked out of me, literally and figuratively. Like millions of women each year, I was left to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and move on.

For me, though, “moving on” was going to be a long, long journey.
It was going to be a much longer, harder, more private pilgrimage through grief than with what I (and, in some ways, others) was comfortable.
It was my journey, though, nonetheless.

The first few weeks, I would come home from work some days and just sit on the floor in our empty nursery. I would begin to replay over in my mind the trauma that had been the few weeks leading up to me unexpectedly getting pregnant, as well as the subsequent drama which led to finally having a confirmation that I had indeed miscarried and wasn’t losing my mind...or was I? 

When I was alone, the previous few months played out like a dramatic Nicholas Sparks’ movie in my head. Scene after scene, I saw the characters, i.e. me and my husband, develop and the plot thicken and thicken some more. The plot became so thick, I felt as if I were traveling through a dense fog in my head, a fog which would last for months. Some days the fog was so thick, I couldn’t tell if I was indeed the protagonist or the antagonist of my own story; some days I felt like both, sometimes simultaneously. As I dealt with post-miscarriage health complications for months on end on top of my grief, there seemed to be no climax of events (let alone a resolution) in sight, in my real life or in my imagination.  I wanted out of the madness. Honestly, some days I wanted to just go to sleep and never wake up. I wanted peace and rest, and those things seemed hard to come by at the time.

After all, it was hard to feel at peace when you feel you have failed as a woman, and more importantly, as a wife. For a myriad of reasons, that’s the way I felt for a long, long time. Thankfully, though, after months of spending time with the Lord, countless hours of conversation with my husband and a few close friends, and being forced to deal with the root of my feelings, I (for the most part) don’t feel that way anymore.

Thank God, I don’t usually feel that way anymore.
One day, I hope to say I don’t ever feel that way anymore.
One step at a time, though.

I don’t really feel it necessary (at least now) to take you through the play-by-play of the highs and lows of my journey of grief. I guess after the realization I came to during my mid-life crisis, I don’t feel anymore like I “owe” you, the reader, an “all-access” pass into the most personal caveats of my life. I guess I’m still learning to have boundaries in my relationships, online and off. I have to say, after a year of a lot of hurt and heartache, it feels good to not (usually) feel guilty for protecting myself emotionally.

Just know that the last 8 months of my life have been filled with extremely personal, heart-wrenching moments. It hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, many times it’s been rather ugly, but it’s always been one thing – real and raw. After all, love it or hate it, I know no other way to be. If there’s one thing I’ve re-learned during the craziness that has been my 2013, it’s that I can’t control a lot in my life. God, in His sovereignty and goodness, numbers my steps, oftentimes much differently than I would. On the flip side, though, I’m learning there are some things I can control, namely having healthy boundaries with people and owning and being proud of, instead of shaming, my own journey.

And oh the journey it has been.

I’m thankful, though, I’m finally far enough down the path that I can say I’m thankful for the past 8 months. I may not ever understand why John and I had to lose a child, or why it had to affect me so deeply, but I do know good has come of it.

do know that what Satan meant for evil, my gracious Lord meant for good. Yes, He meant it for my good and, more importantly, His glory. Those nights I lay crumbled up on the floor in my empty nursery, when I wasn’t sure if I was the protagonist or antagonist of my own story, I had forgotten to ask the Author and Finisher of my story who I am. Instead of trusting Him, I listened to my doubt. Instead of believing I am who He says I am (beloved and loved, far from a failure), I believe the father of lies who is always out to steal my (and your) joy and vision. Thankfully, I don’t forget anymore.

In the Old Testament, when God’s people had an unforgettable encounter with the LORD, they often built a memorial out of stone in commemoration of the event. They (and sometimes the LORD Himself) wanted a tangible reminder of what the LORD had done. I, too, wanted a tangible reminder of how the Lord had restored and healed my heart, so I completely changed my appearance (at least for now).

For almost 28 years, I was a blonde. Now, I’m a red head. 🙂

2013-12-05_16-12-01_263When I look in the mirror, I am constantly reminded of the fact I not only look like a completely different person, I am a completely different person because of God’s gracious work in my life! I’m pretty sure I will eventually go back to my roots (or closer to them than I am now 😉 ), but for now, I needed an external expression of a very powerful, inward change. The dye is temporary, but the branding on my heart is forever.


I finally see He is bringing much beauty from the ashes of my once shattered heart.
He is mending and strengthening. He is healing and restoring.
He is being what He always is – good. So, so good.

I’ll leave you with a song that has meant so very much to me over the past several months.

 

Father, thank you for loving me so.

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Filed under Baby, grace, Life, Marriage, Miscarriage, Redeeming Loss, Sanctification

Cosmic Shift

Drafts. A post. Lots more drafts.
That’s been the extent of my blogging the past several months.

Tears. Refining. More Tears. Did I mention tears?
That’s been my life the past several months.
Much of that just hasn’t been put into words, here or even in-person.

Why?
Well, because…

Sometimes the most powerful, gut-wrenching yet healing moments in life leave us simply so undone we (even I) am unable to utter a sound, let alone wax poetically about the cosmic shift occurring within. We are unable to ascertain just exactly what our Creator is doing in the miry depths of our disheveled soul, which can leave us feeling vulnerable to the core and, at times, scared of what is next. All I know is that, if we surrender to the beautiful chaos, when He’s done chipping away and putting back together, we will never be the same. I will never be the same.

Thank you, Father, I will never be the same.

More to come. 🙂

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Filed under grace, Life, Sanctification, Simplicity

Joy Through Infertility – Another Perspective

Sorry it’s been a while.
I really wasn’t planning on being gone so long.
Then life – lots of it – happened.
One day here soon, we’ll get to (most) of that. Promise. 🙂
If you need to catch up on our journey, now is the time.
Things will move faster from here, Lord-willing.

For the time being while I sort out this new season of life, I wanted to share with you a powerful piece I read today by one of my favorite writers, Holley Gerth. Even though I’ve never met her (or honestly talked to her), I absolutely adore her transparency and was extremely blessed when I read this today.

Thank you for your heart, Holley. It is astonishingly beautiful.

I’ll be back soon to update you on where we are in our ever-changing journey to parenthood; exciting things are happening! God is faithful. 🙂

When God Changes Your Plans {An Infertility Update}

Nurture Bracelet by Lisa Leonard

Nurture Bracelet by Lisa Leonard

Friends, this post has been a long time coming. And I’m going to ask for your grace in advance. Because it makes me knocking-knees nervous to write it. Infertility is such a personal subject for many different reasons besides the obvious. But enough of you have asked and I’ve done enough praying that I just want to give you an update.

Before I start I want to include this disclaimer: If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey it’s that everyone’s story is different. What I’m sharing applies to my hubby and I alone.

When Mark and I married in 2000 we thought starting a family would be easy for us. Doesn’t everyone? When we officially began the process to become parents about five years later, we soon realized that wouldn’t be the case for us. Long story short, we went through years of grief, loss, doctor’s appointments and some serious wrestling with God. Out of that process came my first devotional book, Rain on Me {recently released in a new edition as Under God’s Umbrella}.

During that time, over seven people on separate occasions prayed over me that “God would bring new life through my words.” I tucked each of those statements away in my heart, not sure what they meant. God provided many other instances where he used people, even women I didn’t know, to speak into my life that I was not barren. And one day I looked at the Scripture passage about Eve who was called “the mother of all living” and I knew in my heart that every woman is a mama. Yep, every single one of us brings life into the world in some way.

And mine was not going to be through physical kiddos.

It took me years to even dare to whisper that to the closest people in my life. Our culture is so focused on physical family that it felt scandalous–and possibly unchristian–even to speak those words out loud. When I began to, the response was usually, “Have you ever thought about adoption?” The answer: Yes, of course we had. We had thought, prayed, wrestled with it. And yet we never felt like God was directing us that way. That was also an extremely difficult decision in a generation that is passionate about adoption {and rightly so!}.

From time to time I would ask God again, “Are you sure we’re on the path you want us on?” And inevitably within twenty-four hours someone would send me a note saying, “I’m not sure why I’m sending you this but I think God wants me to tell you you’re already a mother.” Truly. I wrote every single time that happened in my journal.

So I’m here, friends, almost ten years from the time we started this journey. And I want to tell you this: my heart is healed, my life is full, and I’m a word mama to the hearts of thousands of women around the world. I’m truly, deeply blessed.

We could have gone out and found a way to get a baby. We live in a culture where we can make that happen. And it would have done away with a lot of the hard questions we’ve had to answer the last few years. But if we had, it would not have been God’s best for us. I would have been like Sarah and whatever option I chose would have been my Hagar.

So I’m officially announcing that our infertility journey is done. We are in a new season–one of so much life, growth, and joy. One I wouldn’t have chosen but now wouldn’t trade because as David said in the Psalms “better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.” In other words, I want to stay in the center of God’s will. I trust him to continue filling the mama-longing in my heart {Ps. 84:11}. I trust him to take care of me when I’m old {Is. 46:4}. I trust him to have a plan that is greater than mine {Rom. 8:28}.

And in that I can rest.

Even more than rest, I can rejoice.

It is well with my soul.

I am a mother. And it is good.

XOXO

Holley

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Filed under Adoption, grace, Miscarriage, Redeeming Loss, Sanctification

Why We Halted Our Adoption: The Answers – Part 21

You weren’t the only one who thought we’d never reach the final post in this series. It’s been a long haul, full of the highest mountain top experiences and the lowest emotional valleys, but we made it. 🙂

Let us review: Why did we halt our adoption?

The simplest answer is because we cannot afford to pursue adoption and surrogacy at once.
*For more on why we before 3 weeks ago we never dreamed surrogacy would be an option,  and how we were both finally at peace with moving forward with our adoption plans, please see Part 1.
*For more on the Facebook message I received 3 weeks ago from practically a perfect stranger that would rock anyone’s world, please see Part 2.
*For more on our surprisingly spirited 1st reaction to that message, please see Part 3.
*For more on the questions we both had, and the emotional struggle I went through, once the surrogacy option was presented to us, please see Part 4.
*For more on the initial, God-filled meeting I had with the woman who strongly felt God may very well be calling her to be our surrogate, please see Part 5.
*For more on the extremely disheartening news we received the day after I met with the woman who appeared to be an angel sent by God to carry our biological child, please see Part 6.
*For more on the strange, but strong, intuition I was feeling just a little over a week after our dream of surrogacy seemed to be slipping from our hands, please see Part 7.
*For more on all the signs that just weren’t going away and ultimately pointing to my intuition being most likely true, please see Part 8.
*For more on the dramatic turn of events that took place one early morning, please see Part 9.
*For more on the painful drive, and then wait at the hospital, I endured while waiting to hear if my intuition was true, please see Part 10.
*For more on the internal conflict I felt when I found out my intuition was wrong, please see Part 11.
*For more on the decision I made to go seek a second doctor’s opinion on what had (or hadn’t) happened, please see Part 12.
*For more on how we found out we had actually miscarried our baby, please see Part 13.
*For more of how the miscarriage affected me emotionally,  and why I chose to share my grief, please see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my “Redeeming Miscarriage” series.

*For more on the messiness of life, in particular my life, please see Part 14.
*For more on a new, mysterious word that was going to affect my life, please see Part 15.
*For more on the possible reasons why I was suddenly not in the best of health, please see Part 16.
*For more on my two days of testing to try to figure out the problem, please see Part 17.
*For more on the uncertainty that came with the initial results, please see Part 18.
*For more on the time I spent waiting to know our future, please see Part 19.
*For more on a sudden, unexpected change, please see Part 20.
_____________
Numbers talk, and mine had just decided to finally find their voice.

Just a few minutes prior, I was astonished to learn that a few months ago, the predictors used to measure our pulmonary function tests had made a rare and sudden change. This change was so rare, nothing like it had occurred since I started going to that hospital almost 9 years ago. Furthermore, if measuring my past few tests according to the old standards, the lowest my lung function had measured during all of this uncertainty was 97% – a number I had seen many times since my transplant in September 2005, instead of 92% That day in mid-May, it was actually sitting at 99%, a number just as high as it had been in September last year.  No, it wasn’t over 100%, but when you are trying to figure out what exactly is going on and every % is being scrutinized, having 99% (my normal is 98%-105%) of my lung function instead of 95% (what the new standards ranked me at that day), was a huge, huge deal.

Walking into the transplant clinic, re-calculated numbers in hand, I still didn’t know why this change hadn’t been taken into consideration, but I was about to find out. I was a woman on a mission. I wanted answers, and I wanted them now. I was sure there was a reasonable explanation. I just couldn’t come up with one off the top of my head.

I didn’t need answers just about my pulmonary function test.
I needed answers about my antibodies.
I also needed an answer on whether or not I was pregnant.
It was going to be an eventful visit.

I got all checked in, had my vitals taken, and got settled in my spacious patient room. It wasn’t long before my nurse, Kerri, came in and got the visit started. I really like Kerri. We get along quite well. She asked me the usual questions, told me about her weekend, and listened to my findings in regards to my pulmonary function tests. She seemed intrigued but clearly didn’t want to say much. She and I both knew Dr. Kirby was the one with whom to speak about this issue.

He wasn’t too far in timing behind her and, like usual, showed up relatively quickly. Unlike usual, another doctor was with him, tagging along to learn more about the never-dull world of lung transplantation. I had nothing against the guy, but I wasn’t really wanting to “confront” my beloved doctor in front of a complete stranger. I didn’t want to make him look bad in front of his colleague, but I had some things I had to say. Even though we had unexpected company, my curiosity couldn’t wait.

For the next several minutes we went over what I knew at that moment compared to what I knew when I drove into the parking garage approximately two hours ago. The poor doctor who came with Dr. Kirkby just silently stood in the corner while we discussed the ends and outs of pulmonary function tests and the change that, as far as I could tell, hadn’t been considered when analyzing my data since the miscarriage.

I asked extremely pointed questions, and like I expected, I got extremely honest answers. No, the sudden change hadn’t been taken into consideration. It was what it was. You can’t change the past. On the other hand, even if my lung function hadn’t undergone as large of a percentage change as first suspected (which was a very good thing), there still had been a change, a change worth investigating with everything else going on. Yes, the number had gone back up, but even if you used the old standards, it still wasn’t my highest reading recorded since my transplant. When you have antibody issues, it is better to be safe than sorry, after all.

Furthermore, the bronchoscopy would have still been necessary with all the antibody issues I was currently experiencing, since I hadn’t had any biopsies taken in 6 years; that’s like a lifetime in the transplant world. At that point, the pH probe test I also did 6 weeks prior wasn’t explicitly labeled “necessary,” but at least it was now done and showed I wouldn’t need surgery anytime soonIt wasn’t worth focusing on whether or not I should have done it. It was over. Bottom line, we were all thankful my lung function was up from 6 weeks ago and also higher the two times before that day than previously thought. For the sake of clarity, we agreed from now on, we would use the actual reading instead of the % any time my test results were discussed, in case of any more sudden changes in the predictors in the future.We agreed to be thankful and move on.

After months of uncertainty and so much emphasis on a percentage of lung function that never even existed, it wasn’t exactly the explanation I wanted to hear, but I accepted it and still loved my doctor just as much as before. I guess when you have been shown so often how much your doctor and your team care for you, when you’ve felt less than comfortable with – or genuinely cared for by- other physicians over the years, it’s easier to “forgive” oversights from those whom you trust. Yes, some unnecessary worry over my lung function could have been avoided. It didn’t matter, though. Unfortunately, all was not now right with the world. I still had a major antibody issue, one that was more than likely caused by the miscarriage and a serious issue, no matter what “system” you used to measure my lung function.

What I didn’t have, though, was a positive pregnancy test. Thank you, Lord!

Since we no longer had to worry about me being with child (still not sure why I was so whacked out) and my lung function was once again completely normal, our focus was once again on my antibody level.

Thankfully, the good news just kept on coming.

I was also informed that my former doctor, Dr. Astor, who had been in charge of my case from the first time I set foot into that hospital when I was 18 (2004) up until 2010 had been consulted about my antibodies and given his opinion.

“Don’t treat at this point,” was his answer.

Better yet, that was his answer even before the change in predictors for the pulmonary function test was even broached.

Though some in his field would disagree with him, with no signs of antibodies in my lungs, and my lung function so incredibly high, he didn’t find treatment necessary. Trusting his years of experience, Dr. Kirkby agreed with him. Consequently, as long as my numbers didn’t come back sky-high this time around, he made that sentiment his recommendation, as well.

If the numbers were still rapidly climbing, we’d just re-evaluate.
I was sent home to wait – again.

2 days later, my new antibody readings came back.

37% was my new measurement – only 2% higher than 6 weeks before. The numbers thankfully weren’t doubling anymore. No treatment was needed. I wouldn’t need to be seen for 3 months, and then we’d test again. We weren’t too worried at this point, though, since my lung function had gone up, I hadn’t shown any signs of rejection, and there were no antibodies in my lungs. For the first time in over 4 months,  I was free to go back to life as normal. Let me tell you. After everything we had been through the past several months, “normal” never sounded so, so good.

The End…of this chapter, at least. 😀

A new series to come on our plans to move forward with our family. You don’t want to miss it. 🙂

*John and I could never say thank you enough to those of you (strangers and friends alike) who have prayed us through this journey. Your love and support means more to us than you will ever, ever know.Whether you choose to continue to follow my blog or not, please keep those prayers coming! Thank you for giving us the privilege of seeing the body of Christ at work in such a beautiful, inspiring way. Though we never would have imagined what all 2013 would entail (thus far), we are so thankful that, though our circumstances have been far from consistent, not only has He remained constant but so have the prayers of the Saints. We love you all.

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Filed under Adoption, cystic fibrosis, grace, Health, Life, Miscarriage, Transplant

Why We Halted Our Adoption: The Tests – Part 17

As one who thrives off spontaneity, I don’t mind bumps, or even the occasional pothole, in the road called life. Note – I said occasional pothole, not the never-ending, sanctifying “pothole” that has been 2013. 

Over the past few months, though, I’ve learned to embrace the craziness that is my life and have an attitude of thankfulness for being afforded the opportunity to see His hand in so many different, difficult circumstances. After all, how many other people can say they have experienced the highs and lows of adoption, surrogacy, miscarriage, and transplant all within a few months? 😉

Let us review: Why did we halt our adoption?

The simplest answer is because we cannot afford to pursue adoption and surrogacy at once.
*For more on why we before 3 weeks ago we never dreamed surrogacy would be an option,  and how we were both finally at peace with moving forward with our adoption plans, please see Part 1.
*For more on the Facebook message I received 3 weeks ago from practically a perfect stranger that would rock anyone’s world, please see Part 2.
*For more on our surprisingly spirited 1st reaction to that message, please see Part 3.
*For more on the questions we both had, and the emotional struggle I went through, once the surrogacy option was presented to us, please see Part 4.
*For more on the initial, God-filled meeting I had with the woman who strongly felt God may very well be calling her to be our surrogate, please see Part 5.
*For more on the extremely disheartening news we received the day after I met with the woman who appeared to be an angel sent by God to carry our biological child, please see Part 6.
*For more on the strange, but strong, intuition I was feeling just a little over a week after our dream of surrogacy seemed to be slipping from our hands, please see Part 7.
*For more on all the signs that just weren’t going away and ultimately pointing to my intuition being most likely true, please see Part 8.
*For more on the dramatic turn of events that took place one early morning, please see Part 9.
*For more on the painful drive, and then wait at the hospital, I endured while waiting to hear if my intuition was true, please see Part 10.
*For more on the internal conflict I felt when I found out my intuition was wrong, please see Part 11.
*For more on the decision I made to go seek a second doctor’s opinion on what had (or hadn’t) happened, please see Part 12.
*For more on how we found out we had actually miscarried our baby, please see Part 13.
*For more of how the miscarriage affected me emotionally,  and why I chose to share my grief, please see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my “Redeeming Miscarriage” series.

*For more on the messiness of life, in particular my life, please see Part 14.
*For more on what I never told you had happened after the miscarriage, please see Part 15.
*For more on the possible reasons why I was suddenly not in the best of health, please see Part 16.
________________________________________________

I like little get-a-ways with my husband.
I don’t, however, like them being booked for medical reasons instead of pure pleasure.
I guess you take what you can get.

We headed off to Columbus with our deeply discounted hotel reservation in hand, not sure what the next two days held.

We pulled into the familiar Outpatient Parking Lot for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and walked hand-in-hand to the new GI center for my first procedure, placement of the 24 hour pH probe.

If you recall from Part 16, I wasn’t just going through the normal, hard recovery from miscarriage. I was also having a decrease in lung function, and possibly a rise in antibodies; neither were good. If that wasn’t enough (it felt like more than enough, let me tell you), there was also another possible explanation for my decreased lung function.  Once again, the dreaded words “Laryngopharyngeal Reflux,” i.e. “silent” reflux, and “Nissen Fundoplication” were said.

Nothing sparks uneasiness into the heart of a transplant patient’s heart (at least this one’s) like those four strange words. It is an understatement to say they were the last words I ever wanted to hear at that point.

I think upon hearing them, I even said out loud “Shoot me now.”
I just couldn’t help myself.

I didn’t want to be a part of the majority of transplant patients who had been diagnosed with “silent” reflux post-transplant and had to go on to have the horrible (in my mind) Nissen procedure. I didn’t care if there was the possibility that I was unknowingly (hence “silent” reflux) aspirating stomach acid into my lungs, causing corrosion and consequently my lowered lung function. I had absolutely no desire to deal with the effects of the surgery, in particular the fact that if I endured the procedure, I’d never, ever be able to throw up again! 😦

After not too long, my name was called and we headed back.  We went through the usual taking of the vitals, an explanation of how the probe would work, what I could and couldn’t eat while it was inserted, what to do with the buttons on the holster, etc.

Before I knew it, it was time to have the probe placed. From what I had heard countless times from others on a Facebook transplant group, the actual placement would be “horrible,” not to mention the next day of my life. According to some, the next twenty-four hours would be known as the “longest day of my life,” and I would be “in tears” by the time I got the probe out. Furthermore, if the results came back poorly, and I had to have the Nissen surgery, I could pretty much kiss life as I knew it goodbye. Let me tell you, nothing psyches you up to get something done to yourself like reading through dozens of depressing posts from others about their experiences! 😉 Needless to say, after hearing numerous depressing accounts from so many others, I came into things with a lot of trepidation and preconceived, ill notions.

I can’t speak for the others, but I’m happy to report my experience with the tube insertion was far from traumatic. In fact, I was labeled the “best adult patient they’d have seen,” since I didn’t make a peep during the minute or so the few feet (literally) of very, pliable thin tube were placed down my nose. Was it the most comfortable feeling? Of course not! Did it make me feel like I was going to gag? Sure! As I’ve always said, though, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger! I’m never been one to whine or freak-out about medical procedures, so I should have known from the start that I’d be OK.

I was whisked off to get an x-ray to make sure the tube was in its proper spot. Once that came back fine, the part of the tube that was sticking out of my nose was taped to my cheek, and I was free to go. For the next 24 hours, I was going to be a prisoner to the tube and the holster on my jeans. Before we left, we chatted with the nurses, who were extremely friendly and helpful, and headed back to the parking lot. The entire thing only took about an hour, which left us the vast majority of our day.

You’re probably asking, “What exactly does one do with a tube in their nose for 24 hours?!”
Well, if you’re me and have no shame, lots of things!

I certainly wasn’t going to waste a day in Columbus sitting in a hotel room, just because I happen to look like a freak and every time I took a step, felt the tube making its presence in the back of my throat (weird feeling, let me tell you). We went and made the most of our day. We walked around Easton (an outdoor shopping center), went to Polaris (an indoor mall), and went to Cheesecake Factory (my favorite) for dinner. Trying on clothes wasn’t the easiest, or fastest, thing to do with a tube in your nose and a holster attached to it, but it certainly made for a fun time! 🙂 As you probably suspected, I got stared at dozens of times during our adventures. If you know me, though, I’ve never been one to care about what complete strangers think of me, so I didn’t mind being the subject of whispered comments (like I couldn’t tell they were talking about me – silly people) said by those with whom I came in contact.

During the course of that day, you name it, we did it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You only live once, right? 😉

I can’t say I slept like a rock with the probe – hardly so. Though it disturbed my sleep, it was tolerable. I managed to get a few hours of shut-eye before it was time for testing day #2. I will admit by that morning, I was ready for the tube to come out but far from being “in tears.” I probably shouldn’t have, but now that I had experienced the “horrible probe” for myself, while we drove to the hospital that morning, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments I had seen prior to having the test done. In all honesty, I was baffled by how different my last 24 hours were compared to what had been described time and time again. After living with it myself, I just didn’t understand people’s extreme hatred for such a small piece of tube. I couldn’t speak for them and their experiences. Maybe 99% of people really do have a much worse time with it than I did. Once thing is for certain, though: their comments had me all upset and worried about having the pH probe for nothing! Honestly, I thought the whole thing was a complete breeze. No, I wouldn’t voluntarily sign-up to have it again, but on the same transplant board on which I had read so many “horrifying” tales of individuals’ 24 hour experiences, I was going to be sure to write a very positive review of mine. Others deserved to know the pH probe test can actually be a fun experience, if you don’t take it too seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. At that point, I was still adamantly opposed to having the dreaded Nissen surgery and fervently praying I didn’t need it. Like I said, I hadn’t minded the test to determine if I had a problem, but the thought of having to actually go through with the surgery itself still wasn’t appealing to me – at all.

Once we got back to the hospital, it was only a matter of 20 minutes or so before I was freed and could breathe out of my nose once again. The nurses laughed profusely hearing about all the things I did during my time as the tube’s prisoner. I was happy to bring them some joy, as I’m sure that most people they see (at least from what they told me) are grumpy and far from congenial.

We said our goodbyes, went and got my port accessed, and headed off to our next stop – the bronchoscopy suite.

Now when you think of the word “suite,” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, I picture a very large room (with a view) with a king-sized bed that has a pillow-top mattress and sheets made out of the finest silk. I envision a white, terry cloth robe wrapped around my skin, as I light candles around the perimeter of the already-filled jacuzzi. Oh, yes. Can you picture the tranquility with me?

Sadly, this wasn’t the type of “suite” that awaited me in a different part of the hospital. Instead, I was given a windowless box for a room, a far-from comfortable hospital bed with stiff, old sheets. I was, however, thankfully spared from the paper-thin gown, though sadly no soft robe awaited me. John was given a chair in the corner. Do you know the saddest fact of all, though? I know for the aforementioned items our insurance company paid far more than we would have for the grandeur previously described. Oh, the joys of hospital life! J

We made ourselves “comfortable” and settled in. It wasn’t long before my doctor and nurse were in and the pre-op conversations began. We quickly went over how I’d been feeling (great) and how I tolerated the tube (perfectly).

All was well – that is, until we went over my blood work taken earlier in the week which was finally back from processing. We learned that in a matter of 6 weeks, my antibody count had risen from 17% to 35%. It hadn’t only increased again since the miscarriage, it had doubled. That fact wasn’t good news. No, that was not good news at all.

After such an easy and enjoyable day the day before, talk about taking the wind out of someone’s sails. It became quickly apparent that it was a very good and necessary thing we were taking biopsies of my lungs that day. Maybe the issue really was sudden “silent reflux” (which at that point didn’t sound so bad, after all), but I was skeptical at best (even before hearing the latest antibody numbers) of that being the culprit of my downturn in health. At least in my mind, with my antibodies seemingly out of control, it did not seem plausible that they weren’t contributing at all to my decreased lung function.

After we finished chatting and I signed what I liked to call the “you-could-be-harmed-or-even-die-during-this-procedure-but-now-you-know-and-are-still-giving-me-legal-consent-to-do-it” form, it was time to kiss John goodbye and go off to la-la land for a while.

As I awaited the anesthesia to kick in (I don’t go down easily – shocking, I know) and the bronchoscopy to begin, my mind was plagued with the questions that had been haunting me since I was first told about the mysterious antibodies less than a week after we lost our child.

“What is happening to me, Lord?” “Are we ever going to be able to have a family?” “When is enough, enough?” “Am I going to die because of this?”

If antibody-mediated rejection was indeed setting in, time was of the essence. No second could be wasted. It didn’t matter how I felt. Something was up. The elevated antibodies and simultaneous decreased lung function were players in a developing story; that story was just a subplot in the larger tale called “my life.” At that point, I was just praying the sudden subplot didn’t develop into the main plot, that the whole tale wouldn’t be labeled a “tragedy,” where the protagonist (i.e. me) meets their demise in the end.

Part 18 to come!

 

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Redeeming Miscarriage: Part 2 – The Calling

56 days ago, while being examined to see if I had indeed miscarried…

Because I didn’t know what else to do while I lied there in the stirrups completely exposed and vulnerable, I decided to bare my soul, too. I told her about how I was born with cystic fibrosis and had a double lung transplant at 19, how we had always had plans to adopt, until just about a month ago when we were approached about surrogacy but then found out we couldn’t afford it, how I then started strangely feeling pregnant right after that, had fought with myself for over a week about it but been told just yesterday I was never pregnant, and then today that I most likely had been, which is why she was now examining me. As I took her through step-by-step through my life, especially the past several weeks, it began to hit me – My life thus far read like a fiction book which was “too good to be true.” Remarkably, though, none of this was fiction. No, amazingly all of it was the truth, the almost unbelievable, even for me at that point.

The suspense novel that was being played out over the past several weeks, aka my ever-twisting, unpredictable life, incredibly wasn’t over. No, an hour later, just as I had suspected, my biggest fear was confirmed. I had indeed been pregnant but sadly wasn’t anymore. The symptoms I felt, the intuitive thoughts, and most importantly, the promptings from the Holy Spirit, all of it was true.  I wasn’t crazy, after all, though I now so desperately wanted to be declared as such.

In that moment, the moment that I became a mother, yet knew I would not be given the opportunity to mother my child this side of Heaven, after everything else that had transpired before this ultimate blow, even I felt like my life was stranger the fiction. As I stood there in the hospital entryway with my husband’s arms tightly squeezed around me, with neither of us uttering a word, I longed to just be one who was just an innocent bystander to the madness, one who just read without consequence the train wreck that was my life. I wanted to be anyone instead of the one who was not just living this “hell” on earth but who was also called to share its events with others.

Yes, I said intentionally said “called.” I chose that word on purpose. I can’t say I always understand the calling to share my weaknesses with others in such an intimate way that the Lord has placed upon my life. I can’t say that in my flesh I always enjoy it, either, because I don’t – hardly so. I can say, however, that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I am following His will for my life when I allow Him to speak through me in a very public way in my most vulnerable of states. He’s used me before, and by His grace, He’s choosing to use me again. It’s not always fun. It’s not always easy. It’s not always (or should I say “usually not”) what I would choose for a way in which to glorify Him, but it’s the avenue through which He tends to give me.

So, that leaves me with a choice: Allow Him to use me as He sees fit, or forsake my calling and be a ‘normal’ person, one who processes their life in a much less public way. The most redeeming, most healing, and most obedient answer for me, at least usually, is the former. I don’t pretend to think that everyone is called to such a life, because I know that’s far from true. I also know with marriage comes a responsibility to be sensitive to your spouse’s feelings, and the way in which they are most comfortable with processing, which is why (believe it or not) everything that we go through doesn’t end up on this blog. Even I have a filter through which I pass through what ends up in the public’s eyes; my filter just happens to be named John. 😉

I am thankful that my husband sees the beauty in my desire to be vividly transparent with others, that he allows me to be extremely transparent about our life together as one. Unlike when I was single and dying and bearing my soul to the world, now bearing my soul has to do with two people’s lives, not just mine. Though his personality and usual way of processing is very different from mine, and typing out a blog post would be about the last thing he’s wanted to do after the traumatic events of our lives the past few months, he allows me to because he sees the value in my (and therefore, at least in a way, our) calling, in allowing Christ to be glorified through our weaknesses.

For some silly reason, I thought (at least sometimes) that after we wrote the 2nd book, that my life of transparency about my life may be over, at least for the most part. I thought maybe that ultra-open chapter of my life was once again ending, as it had so abruptly when I first got married 3 1/2 years ago, and a new, much-less-public, but far more rewarding, one was beginning, i.e. motherhood.

I simply had no idea that my journey to motherhood, though, would be but just another avenue by which the Lord would call me to a life of not only openness but also one of allowing Him to make beauty for ashes, too.

I had no idea that this journey would be 10x harder than 8 years ago when I almost losing my life, when I was grasping for every breath and going to sleep every time not knowing if I’d live to see another day. I had no idea that my journey to motherhood would test me and my trust in Him to the core. I had no idea that my love for my husband, and therefore my desire to keep him from experiencing all the pain I know too well, would cause me so much grief when I could no longer shield him from the inevitable.

I was far from versed in what was ahead for us down a road to parenthood so many had sojourned before us. I knew the journey would most likely be much more difficult than for most, but even I was unprepared for the trials we’ve come upon along our path. I didn’t know that “I surrender all” for me would mean the Lord allowing us to conceive and then, in His sovereignty, taking that baby to be with Him in glory. I had no idea so many opportunities to cry, to doubt, to fear, but more importantly, to smile, to trust, and to praise, were in store. I’m sure many more of both are waiting for us. Thankfully, though, my precious Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ, knew what was before and knows what lies ahead. He is all we need for this journey, no matter what is ahead. After all, this world is not our home; we’re just passing through.

As I pass through, though, I have decided to follow Jesus. For me, following Jesus means sharing my scars, my failures, my fears, and my shortcomings with all of you. It means making myself walk (in this case, type) back through every emotion I have experienced and bringing you along for the ride, so that He can impress upon your heart the same lessons He has taught me. I know from plenty of experience that these are lessons that are only learned in their fullness when you have experienced the highest highs and the deepest lows surrounding the crucible of the situation at hand.

Please think something through with me: Imagine I had gone ahead in Part 7 and told you I, unbeknownst to us, actually was pregnant myself during Part 1-6 of the last series. If that wasn’t a shock enough, in the 3 days since I had last written a post, I had actually found out I wasn’t just unknowingly pregnant but had already lost the baby. Wouldn’t that had been a lot to digest in one sitting? What if I had taken you all the way through not only that news but the surrogacy process (at least as we know it right now) in one post, too? Not only would those 2 posts had been ridiculously long, they would have been horribly emotionally overwhelming – for you and for me. Honestly, besides the obvious reasons why that method wouldn’t have been a good idea, I think dealing with what has transpired in such a way would have been irresponsible, horribly destructive, and far from wise.

Instead of being careless, I walked – and will continue to walk – you through this journey painstakingly slow on purpose. Why? Because I always live posts ahead of you. I know what is coming next and therefore know you need time to digest what has happened thus far; too much at one time, and I’ll lose you. No, I – because I honestly feel it is how God has asked me to do it – choose to walk you through my life bit by bit, always with complete emotional vulnerability, so you’re not overwhelmed by too much at one time but also feel a “part” of the “story,” at least in a way. It’s true. I wanted you to believe I was pregnant, and then that I just crazy, and then once again that I was pregnant, and then crazy again. Why? Because that’s exactly how I felt when I experienced this “story”  I call my life you log on (thanks, btw!) to read.  I wanted you to be heartbroken when, after being so thrilled for us about how surrogacy seemed to be just falling into place, you found out that the complicated process was going to cost us far more than we first thought. That is exactly how we felt, after all.

Why, though? Why get your emotions involved, too? It’s not your life, anyway; you’re just trying to read a blog post. Well, because  If I don’t get you emotionally vested, you won’t read. It’s simple as that. There are billions of other pages clamoring for your attention every time you get on the Internet. If I just lay out the facts all cut and dry, short and sweet, not only will I not be processing my life in a way that is unnatural to me, I’ll lose your attention.

If I lose your attention, I will lose the opportunity to allow Him to impress upon your hearts the message of the drum I will beat until the day I die – that God is sovereign and good – no matter what happens in your life. He’s just as sovereign and good now – 56 days after my miscarriage – as He was a few months ago when I had no idea what all was in store. He’s just as sovereign and good as He was before we were given the estimated bill for surrogacy as He was when I received that Facebook message that started it all. In fact, He’ll be just as good if, after years of heartache and trial, I die and am never able to be an earthly mother. If you get nothing out of my blog, I long for you to get that concept. Yes, bringing everything back to His greatness, my friends, is the method behind my madness.

So, if me giving you a front row seat to my life leads you to Jesus, then I’m game. If it means not shying away from my grief and my hurt, but embracing it and allowing Him to use it for His glory, I’m all about it. If it means continually going through things that I don’t ask for, that I don’t want, that I don’t understand but things that make me more like Christ, more sensitive to His people and more aware of our desperate need for Him, I couldn’t ask for more. After all, I always ask Him to please redeem whatever difficulty I go through in His time, preferably while I can see it, in His way, for His glory and my good.

It’s my daily prayer that my openness gives others  – including you – permission to grieve, to share, to stop pretending everything’s OK, to admit life’s overwhelming and far from clean and cookie-cutter….or is that just my life? 😉

As you’ll learn more and more, my life is far from easy…but as I’m learning again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Part 3 to come!

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Redeeming Miscarriage: Part 1 – 53 Days

53 days ago, after much speculation, we found out we were pregnant. 53 days ago, we found out just that – we were pregnant – but sadly weren’t anymore. 53 days ago, we found out our baby was no longer with us but instead with the Father of Lights, the One who knew their days before the beginning of time. 53 days ago, our lives drastically changed and have never been – and will never be – the same.

Why?

Because 53 days ago, I became a mother.

You may very well disagree with that statement. I know that for a fact, because a brave few, even one on Mother’s Day, have let me know that they don’t view me as a mother yet; they don’t think it’s healthy for me to, either. We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess. Thankfully, we’re also allowed to vehemently disagree with each other sometimes and still be walking in holiness and love.

I’m glad, because despite what the enemy, and even well-intentioned humans, say, I am a mother.

As I said on my Facebook on Mother’s Day:
: Today I cry tears of sadness because of our child who is no longer with us. Today I cry tears of hope, because that child is safe with the Lord & we’ll see them again. Today I cry tears of grief because I long to have the opportunity to mother my children, all of them. Today I cry tears of joy when I think about all the ways in which God has already, and will continue to, use my precious kids. Today I cry tears of thankfulness, because, like Hannah, the Lord heard my cry & answered my prayer. As a result, no matter what others may think, this Mother’s Day I AM a mother & no one will ever take that away from me.

That post so succinctly sums up all the emotions I have had over the past 53 days.

Please understand, I haven’t been intentionally keeping those emotions from the public. I have sat down to blog probably a dozen of times. There were times the words just wouldn’t come; it’s hard, even for me, to always put into words the plethora of feelings I’ve experienced the past 7 weeks. Other times, the words were there, but the tears that accompanied them made it too hard to sit and write, to immerse myself in the sorrow and try to walk away unscathed and ready for a day’s work

That being said, it would be an understatement to say the emotions surrounding the miscarriage are still raw. Honestly, I think they always will be, at least in a way. No, I don’t cry every day anymore, but that doesn’t mean all is forgotten. Call me crazy (I’m used to it), but I am so very thankful for that fact. I am so very thankful the Lord hasn’t forgotten about our child and I don’t have to, either. Moreover, I am so very thankful that God never gives us more than we can handle and always blesses us in exceedingly abundant ways, if we only choose to look at our earthly life as a vessel for His glory, a vapor in time. Our child’s life inside the womb only lasted a few days, but the impact they have left on our hearts while we still walk this earth – and their time with us in Glory – will last forever.  While we are apart, I refuse to forsake my child and act as if they never existed, even if their conception was far from planned. Instead, I choose to allow Him to use their microscopic life for His glory and daily thank Him for answering my prayer.

How, you ask, did He answer my prayer?
My child, whom I will never meet here on Earth, is dead, after all.

The answer to that question wasn’t always so clear to me, either. About a week after the miscarriage, though, the Lord made the answer very clear while driving home from work one night.  I will never forget that night as long as I live. It was around dusk, and I was driving down a busy road that leads to the entrance to our subdivision, having a conversation out loud with the Lord, which is quite common for me. It was my first day back to work after the miscarriage, and had been an abnormally very long day due to a work-related function after office hours. I was exhausted – physically and emotionally –  and just wanted to go to bed.

While driving down the familiar road, I said very angrily to the Lord, “Why? Why did I have to get pregnant, just so You could take our baby? Couldn’t You just have let us adopt and left us alone? First we can’t afford surrogacy, and then our biological child dies?! Nothing good is coming out of any of this! Why aren’t you answering our prayers and giving us a family? Why are you torturing us instead? I  want our children to be used mightily by You, Lord. Haven’t I prayed that for years?! Please just let them be born, so they can be used by You.” As tears rolled down my cheeks, the Spirit of the Lord began to patiently and quietly speak to me, just as it had so many times before.
“I did answer your prayer, Amber. I am using your child mightily for my glory.”

His answers stopped me dead in my tracks, and I have never been the same since. There was no point in arguing, in saying, “but that’s not what I meant.” It was, after all, far from what I meant all those times the past several years I had petitioned the Lord to use my children. God in His sovereignty and goodness, though, still chose to answer my prayer (at least with this child), albeit in a different, harder-to-understand way. Though my flesh didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to, the only thing left to say in that surprisingly peaceful moment was ‘thank you.’ Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Several weeks after that encounter with the Lord, I am still saying ‘thank you.’

I don’t know how to explain it, but because of His grace, my womb may be empty, but my heart is full.

Though there is still sorrow that comes with their loss, I am still standing in awe of how the Lord is choosing to use our first child for His glory and our good. I am still saying thank ‘thank you’ for how the Lord is choosing to use this blog to reach thousands of people I don’t even know. I am daily blown away with how He’s encouraging so many through my willingness to be so open about our truly miraculous journey. As I’ve told you before, I couldn’t make the past 2 1/2 months of our lives up if I tried.

If you haven’t been following along, please go back and catch up, so your faith can be strengthened as ours has. God isn’t done with the story. I can assure you of that. As the days go on, more will be shared that has happened. Through sharing, we are simply trying to be His vessels, to point all the glory and honor back to Him. We didn’t ask for any of this, but I am certainly not going to waste it. To be able to praise Him through this storm, I have to allow the Lord to redeem it, to use it — for me, though John often wishes otherwise, that comes with bearing my soul to all of you. Thanks for listening, for the private messages and emails, the cards, and more importantly, the prayers. We are truly, truly blessed. 🙂

More to come!

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