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What a difference a year makes

It was a few days before Mother's Day 2017. I walked to the mailbox expecting the usual junk mail that is apparently keeping the USPS afloat these days. But there it was. That white envelope clearly labeled with the return address of the surgery center. My stomach dropped as I begrudgingly tore back the paper.

I knew the medical bills were coming, but something about sending someone a $4,500 bill for a D&C mere days before Mother's Day seemed exceedingly cruel. As if having lost a son and a daughter a month prior wasn't horrific enough.

Mother's Day 2017

The girl in this photo hiding behind her $2 sunglasses and plastered-on smile was broken. Her heart was shattered, her mind anywhere but at peace, her body overweight and exhausted--the toll of months of fertility treatments and the death of a dream. She was scared of what her future held. Would she recover? Would she ever get to be a mom here on Earth? Could she handle transferring that last embryo? Could she keep putting one foot in front of the other if there was another loss?

Fast forward a year. A mere 365 days.

Mother's Day 2018

The girl in this photo looks a hot mess, but looks can be deceiving. She is crazy tired because she stayed up too late last night seeing an off-Broadway musical in Indianapolis and she doesn't quite recover from that like she used to. She has spent her Mother's Day afternoon snoozing on the living room couch and hoping beyond reason that the swelling in her feet would come down a little. Her body is ever-changing and it's still exhausted, but her heart is full and her mind is as whole as mass quantities of hormones will allow it to be. She's in awe of every kick to the ribs, every punch to the bladder and every time she can feel her daughter's head pushing on the side of her abdomen. Her life is a living testament of God's goodness, "yes" answers to prayers, the miracle of modern medicine, and never giving up hope.

Nearly seven years of waiting, praying, hoping, begging. A one-year journey from the pits of despair to being 7 weeks from meeting our daughter.

"Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5b (NIV)

Sarah was 90 when God gave her and Abraham a child. (Genesis 17; Hebrews 6:15)

Joseph waited 13 years to go from slavery to palace life. (Genesis 37)

Job patiently endured unimaginable suffering because he knew the Lord was faithful. (Job)

Ruth was widowed and left her homeland before eventually meeting her Boaz. (Ruth)

Elizabeth was "very old" when the Lord opened her womb and blessed her and Zechariah with a son--John the Baptist. (Luke 1)

Chances are, you're waiting for something. Maybe you too have suffered unimaginable loss or hardship. My friend, you and I are in good company. And we remain in good company when God redeems our pain.

To the woman who longs to be a mom and to the mom whose babies are in Heaven, know that my current pregnancy hasn't made me forget the pain that Mother's Day can bring. I know it well. I see you. I relate to you. I will never ever forget the struggle or the pain or the babies who are now in the arms of Jesus. You are not alone. If I can encourage you of anything, it's to hold onto your faith and never stop hoping, because oh what a difference a year can make.

It's not that simple

There's something we need to talk about, and it's not going to be easy. It's a topic rarely discussed, probably because it comes with a lot of really hard emotions and, honestly, a degree of shame. But this is something I've been wrestling with and I know I'm not alone. I hope you'll read my heart in this.

Y'all, this subsequent pregnancy after a loss thing? It's hard. It's a type of hard impossible to understand completely without living it. I hope that by making the incredibly difficult decision to share something so vulnerable, I can help you understand why I seem a bit detached from the congratulatory hugs. That it might make some sense as to why I've not purchased a single baby item yet. That it might explain why I'm in a daze most of the time.

I have spent every single day since that positive pregnancy test in an internal battle with a fear so deep, I can feel it in my bones. I live with that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach (and no, I don't mean morning sickness). I don't sleep too well these days. Worst of all? I have actually felt faith shamed for my fear, to the point where admitting what I'm dealing with has been really dang difficult. After all, I should just trust God. Just choose faith over fear. Just relax. Just. Just. Just.

It's not that simple.

I trusted God and praised Him with my first pregnancy. I had full faith that we'd be welcoming our first child on Nov. 19, 2017. My heart and world shattered that March day on the ultrasound table and I have never been the same. A part of our family is missing. That's no small thing. I have so many questions about why, but I also know that I have to accept that no answer would be good enough or simple enough for my human mind and heart to comprehend.

From the moment we found out that we're expecting a second time, my anxiety has been through the roof. It's a constant thought that if we lost one, we could lose another. You guys, I'm flat out exhausted.

Were you aware that research shows that 40 percent of women who suffer a miscarriage have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder three months after the loss? This stuff is no joke.

A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't cure the pain. A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't replace the child(ren) lost. A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't erase the past.

Every day, I give thanks for this new life growing. And every day I beg God to protect that life. To allow that life to grow and to flourish. To allow me the honor of earthly motherhood. I pray that the Lord would calm my heart and mind. I pray for bigger faith. I pray for the ability to let go of fear. I pray. And I pray. And I pray.

He has been faithful to send empathetic ears and the right words at the right times. And empathy is exactly what I've needed. My mom has it mastered. My closest friends have it mastered.

I'll never forget the day when a friend said this to me: "It's okay to be nervous. I'm praying for peace for you, but also not guilt if you feel nervous too."

Oh, sweet grace. The heavy weight of shame over my fears was suddenly a little bit lighter.

So what's my point here? It's simply to offer a glimpse at the emotions associated with loss and life. It's to ask that when you encounter a momma in a subsequent pregnancy, that you offer her empathy and grace. That rather than questioning her faith or telling her she "just needs to trust God," you pray fervently for her aching and anxious heart, and for her growing child. Trust me, she wants to feel joy. She doesn't want to be living this way. She wants to feel calm. She wants to enjoy everything about this pregnancy. She really, really does.

It's just not that simple.

The best birthday yet

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

It was a chilly morning. I rolled out of bed somewhere around 5:15 am, stumbled through the dark and managed to find my gym clothes. By 6:05, I was at the local YMCA questioning my life decisions while a buff little fitness guru kicked my rear into smithereens. I'll admit it was miserable, but I was 34 now and this was hopefully my last round of high-intensity interval training for quite some time.

The nerves that morning were indescribable and continued in the days ahead. The birthday texts and Facebook posts flooded in as we drove the hour to Indianapolis. I knocked back my water, ate my Valium tablet and waited. And waited. And begged the nurse to let me go tinkle. Twice.

Speaking of Valium, why do they make you take that before you sign the consent forms? Nothing like signing your life away when you're high as a kite, am I right?

Finally, in came the doctor. "Are you ready?" she asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I said.

Into the procedure room we went. Up first: A stop at the embryology window. Name. Date of birth. Number of embryos. 

One. One little embryo. Our future as parents hinged on a microscopic group of cells we were already madly in love with. If I didn't know for certain that there's a God who holds my future, I'm not sure I would have had the guts to try this again after the nightmare of the first round of IVF. But I believed God had led us down this path after years and years of praying and asking Him to either grant us a natural miracle or show us what to do. He knows the desires of my heart. After all, He put them there. I believed that one way or another, He would fulfill this dream, whether via this embryo transfer or another journey He hadn't yet revealed. And so we proceeded, not knowing the plans He had for us, but knowing that He did have plans.

The embryo thawed perfectly and transfer was flawless.

Hurdle #1: Cleared.

The 10 days between transfer and beta #1 were painful. When my phone rang and the clinic number came up on caller ID, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Sweet nurse Janet on the other end of the line could hardly contain herself: 338! 

I'll be brutally honest here: I had to stop myself from blurting out a curse word in her ear. My first beta with my first pregnancy was only in the 70s. This 338 was huge! 

Hurdle #2: Cleared.

My second beta followed 48 hours later. The numbers needed to have doubled at that point. Well, at 892, they had done more than that. Praise God!

Hurdle #3: Cleared.

The fourth hurdle brought the most anxiety of all. The first ultrasound is the time when we found out that our first pregnancy wasn't viable and that I would miscarry. I went into the ultrasound this time around feeling as fearful as I can ever remember. Immediately, the doctor shouted, "HEARTBEAT!" I, of course, cried. Jake sat behind me in silence staring at the monitor. There was a baby in there! 

Hurdle #4: Cleared.

The first trimester has not been a walk in the park. Anxiety is a beast born of Satan. As any subsequent pregnancy momma will tell you, there's a fear that lives inside of you that reminds you of the past and makes you wonder if this one will slip through your fingers too (a topic for a different post). I've had to wrestle with a minor complication early on that did nothing to calm my fears. And, like most pregnant women, I have been walking around sporting a lovely shade of green and trying not to ralph everywhere. But, it's like I told a friend: I'm super happy to be feeling crappy! 

The pitter patter of tiny feet is on its way to our home. Now at 12 weeks, baby will be joining us sometime around late June.

It's hard to express just how faithful God has been throughout this entire journey. He was with me when we suffered our greatest loss back in April and He is with me now as we pray expectantly for the safe arrival of the most precious and miraculous gift we could have ever hoped for.