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.