What do you place your Hope in?

When peace like a river attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea billows roll, 
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well with my soul. 
-Horatio G. Spafford “It is Well with My Soul”

If you grew up in church like me, I’m sure you have heard or sung this famous hymn on many occasions. When these words were written, the author Horatio Spafford had just suffered an unbelievable tragedy. His wife and four daughters were on a ship crossing the Atlantic when it collided with another ship. His four daughters were lost at sea and his wife miraculously survived. When Horatio and his wife were reunited, they once again set out to cross the Atlantic by ship, this time together. As they sailed over the place where their four daughters were lost, Horatio wrote the famous hymn “It is Well with My Soul.” If you’re interested you can read the full story here.

Throughout our first battle with infertility and as we are in the midst of our second, I’ve found one of the hardest things to cope with is this extreme dichotomy of the desire to build up hope each month and the need to taper expectations so that we are not completely crushed every time there is bad news. As a husband, my instinct is always to try to fix things for Katie. When she is sad or stressed, I do or say whatever I can to make her happy or less stressed. When we were going through our first battle with infertility, this usually meant spouting off a million reasons why the new thing we were trying was 100% guaranteed to work. This was great in the moment, but when we got yet another negative test or doors kept closing on us, all that hope that I built up actually ended up making the disappointment worse.

After Katie’s recent surgery, the doctor told us we have a 3-6 month window in which we have the best chance to get pregnant. In one sense, this is kind of exciting news. For the first time in our whole journey we know what has been causing our struggle and we even were able to take steps to make it better. To be honest though, my initial reaction to this and many opportunities in our second battle has been to try to lower our expectations. Our first journey left my callused and conditioned me to expect and prepare for the worst to lighten the blow when the disappointment does happen. This attitude seems logical, but honestly it has not been sitting right with me and I have been reflecting on whether or not this is the right mindset to have. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” This verse clearly tells us that my mindset of lowering expectations and expecting the worst is completely contradictory to what God wants for us.

Why would God call us to a spirit of hope, when that hope is often times the very thing that causes disappointment and loss through infertility to hurt worse? I have realized that the majority of the time I place my hope in things that are tangible to me and I think many people do the same thing. We place our hope in the next cycle or next test results. When the next cycle ends up in disappointment or loss or the test results have some horrible news, that hope is crushed. We search for the next thing to put our hope in and the spiral continues. It’s exhausting; it beats you down.

God calls us to hope, but I think he calls us to hope in Him and His promises rather than finite or tangible things. In Romans 8:28 God promises this, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose.” What if we placed our hope firmly in that promise? So that when another cycle fails or when test results aren’t what we had wanted, our hope is not crushed. Our hope remains because it is rooted in the fact that God will use this disappointment or tragedy for our good. This doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to be disappointed or mourn for our losses. Jesus himself mourned loved ones who passed away. Disappointment and heartache are natural and legitimate feelings to have. When our hope is in the promises of God however, that hope remains intact throughout that mourning period and beyond. We may mourn, but in our hearts we, in full surrender and trust, can genuinely say, “It is well with my soul.”

The Hymn “It is Well with my Soul,” is an incredible example of this. Horatio Spafford wrote his hymn from a place of deep mourning. He must have been devastated, angry, confused and a thousand other emotions one would experience after losing four children. And all of those emotions were legitimate and okay. But his base, his foundation, his soul or whatever you want to call it was focused on God’s promises. He didn’t understand why it happened and he probably never did on this earth, but his hope was in something bigger, in something eternal. Because of that, in the middle of the worst circumstances anyone could imagine, through his mourning he continued to worship and trust God. I wish I could sit here and tell you that this is exactly how I feel and behave each disappointment Katie and I face. I almost feel guilty writing the sentences above because I am not even close to the standard that Horatio set. So how do we get to that point? How do we get to a place of being able to say and truly believe that each tragedy and each disappointment “is well with my soul,” and continue to hope and trust in God’s promise that he is working all things for the good?

The answer: we can’t. There is no way that we as humans can suffer through what we suffer through and still have that attitude. We can’t go through month after month of negative tests, miscarriages, insensitive relatives, friends getting pregnant without trying, surgeries and countless medical tests and still have the peace and hope to say and believe “it is well with my soul.” Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to have this attitude by our own power. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” This gift of unwavering hope comes only from God. This is something I know I need to start praying for on a regular basis. I pray that wherever you are in your journey, no matter how battered or worn down you feel, no matter what tragedy you just suffered or what door has closed that you would ask God for the peace to say, “it is well with my soul” and continue to hope in his promises.

Conquering Anxiety – Chris

If you read The Lexington Story, it may seem like our 1st battle with infertility ended with nothing but pure joy and happiness until our daughter was born. So many good things happened to us in that two-month stretch and everything seemed to be adding up to the future we had hoped and prayed for. The Monday before Katie and I went to New York and found out we were pregnant, I had accepted a promotion at work. Three days later on Lexington Ave, we found out we were pregnant. Just two months later we were closing on our very first house and moving out of my parent’s attic. On the surface, life couldn’t get much better. So how did I respond to these blessings? I wish I could tell you I responded with ceaseless praise to God and spoke of God’s favor on us as a witness to others. Instead, I responded with crippling anxiety and several panic attacks.

My anxiety came from a place of believing that I wasn’t good enough to handle my new job and that I certainly was not cut out to be a father. I prayed for this new job for months and we prayed for a baby for years; all of a sudden I had both of those things and I was panicking. “Put me in coach… oh crap take me out take me out, I’m not ready.“ During this time, each day was a massive battle just to get out of bed and go to work. This should have been a time filled with great joy and anticipation of what was to come. I had somehow taken all of the blessings that God poured out on me and twisted them into negatives and something to worry about.

I have no doubt that the timing of when I felt the conviction to write this blog is directly from God. I recently started a new job and those familiar feelings of anxiety have been creeping back into my life again. I’ve been reflecting the past few days on the lessons I learned during my battle with anxiety and panic attacks while Katie was pregnant with Lexi. I wanted to spend some time writing those out to remind myself of how to conquer it, and hopefully help some others that may be struggling with this awful battle as well.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is something that probably everyone has felt at some point. It’s a normal part of life to feel anxious about something, once in a while. For me, it was a lot more than that. I had a sense of dread and fear consistently the majority of each day. I did a lot of research while I was struggling with it to try to figure out why it was happening to me. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a website that does a good job of explaining it and gives some resources. If you are struggling with this, I would encourage you to visit their site and check out some resources, but I jotted down some of my main takeaways below:

  • Occasional Anxiety is completely normal.
  • Anxiety Disorder, on the other hand, is “persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming” and causes fear of normal, everyday situations.
  • Basically, if it effects how you live your life on a daily basis, you should start to pay attention to it.
  • Anxiety can be triggered by traumatic events. I believe that my anxiety was brought on by our struggle with infertility – especially our miscarriage.

How I Beat Anxiety the First Time

  1. Prayer

I mentioned above that I had prayed for my new job for months and we had prayed for a baby for years. When both of these things came to fruition, the intensity and passion of my prayers in those two areas of my life dwindled significantly. Finding consistency and passion in my prayer life again was a major factor in conquering my anxiety. I had to rediscover the desperation in my prayers for both my career and for fatherhood.

For my career, I no longer prayed consistently for God’s favor on my job each day once I had it. The prayer was answered and I foolishly thought I didn’t need God’s favor in this area of my life anymore. The only prayers about my career consisted of “Help me to have a good day today.” The turning point happened when those prayers for my career went from those passive, robotic requests to match my passion and desperation that I had while I was still praying that I would be offered the job. Favor with my peers and management, success according to God’s will and for opportunities to be a witness to those I worked with became everyday sincere requests. Instead of praying meekly for a good day, I was now leaning into God and everything He had for me.

We continued to pray every day throughout Katie’s pregnancy. The prayers, though, were from a place of fear instead of intentionally leaning into God’s favor. We prayed nervously each day that God would watch over our baby and keep her safe inside the womb. The change came when those prayers became declarations that we trust that God has our baby in His hands. We began praying consistently that God would transform us into the man and woman we needed to be so we could be the best parents possible for Lexi. Much like my career, our prayers in this area, changed from meek to bold. God just blessed us with the biggest miracle either of us had ever experienced with the conception of our daughter. We knew he answers big prayers, but we weren’t praying for big things. Changing that helped kick-start my climb out of anxiety.

  1. Priorities

When I look back, I realize that relative to the big picture, the things I was most worried about were actually very small. Some of the best advice I got during my struggle was to have a very strong conviction about what my priorities are. Playing the “worst-case” scenario game became one of the most useful tools I would implement while struggling with anxiety. It would go something like this:

  • For this example, let’s pretend I was having anxiety about a meeting I have to lead.
  • If I completely bomb the meeting (like Jerry in Parks and Rec), what’s the worst that could happen?
  • Everyone could laugh at me or make fun of me behind my back.
  • My boss could hear about what happened and have a discussion about it with me.
  • He might even yell at me or formally discipline me.
  • Heck, he could even fire me and blacklist me from ever working in the industry again.

Before I knew what my priorities were, this scenario could absolutely cripple me. I don’t want to get fired. Of course I need a job. How am I going to support my family?

Once I thought through what was most important in my life and let that prioritization be a major factor in every decision, action and even thought, the above scenario actually didn’t seem that bad. The priorities that I became dedicated to were 1) my faith 2) my wife and our child 3) success in something I’m passionate about. Even if I got fired for bombing a meeting: I would still have my faith, I would still have my family and maybe it would even be an opportunity for me to pursue something I’m more passionate about. Knowing my priorities and letting them be a major conviction in my life was a huge step in climbing out of the anxiety trap I had fallen into.

This Time Around

As I start to reflect on how I got to this point of anxiety creeping back into my life again, I have to wonder how I let it happen. I think it would be easy to use the excuse of my new job and Katie’s recent surgery. There is a lot going on in my life right now, and our second infertility journey is becoming more intense and all consuming again. But if I’m being honest with myself the only reason anxiety is starting to rear it’s ugly head again is I have let my prayer life completely slip and I have not been living with conviction about my priorities. I am so glad I serve a God who gives second and third chances! Once again, God has blessed me with an awesome opportunity in my career and has provided us with some answers in our fertility battle. This time around, I want to apply the lessons I’ve learned from the past right away. I will refuse to let a movement of God become overshadowed by me being paralyzed with anxiety and fear.

I pray that if anxiety is something you struggle with, whether in the middle of your storm or after it seems like God has answered your prayers, that you would not cower from it. I pray that your prayers would stay bold, that you would lean into God’s favor and continue trusting for your miracle. I pray that you would know your priorities and live with conviction for them. Most of all, I pray that you would not allow anxiety to interfere with the blessings that God has or will be pouring out on your life.

When God Calls You to Rest- July 2018 – Katie

Sometimes on this journey, God calls you to action. Whether its treatment or adoption or various other routes, He calls you to move. Other times, God calls you to rest. Chris and I have only been back in treatment since February, but honestly, I’m tired. The poking, the testing, the hoping and the disappointment is wearing and I’m starting to feel numb to it. So far, we’ve done 1 testing cycle, 1 timed cycle and 2 failed iui’s. I have a surgery coming up in August and we could potentially sneak one more iui in for a final shot. The more that Chris and I have thought and prayed on it, the more we are both feeling the call to rest this month. We made this decision a couple of weeks ago, and it felt like the biggest weight has been lifted. No tracking, testing, or doctors appointments to worry about. I’ve also been back in school, so I contacted my advisor and requested to delay my next class until September.

Last night after we put Lexi to bed, we decided it was a perfect night to sit out and enjoy a fire. Sitting around a fire is one of my favorite things to do with Chris. It’s a place where we can come together and reconnect. It’s where some of our best conversations happen. Chris asked me how I was feeling about our month of rest coming up. At first I said that I was really excited, and then I told him about the internal battle that I’ve been having. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going back and forth. I get really excited to not worry about everything, but then I get really scared that I’m making the wrong decision. As we talked it over, Chris gently reminded me about how important rest is in our lives.

This internal battle that I had been having over the past few weeks had me questioning. How often do we lay our worries down at the feet of Jesus, and then pick them back up? How often do we tell God that we fully trust Him in His infinite wisdom and then suddenly decide that we need to do more on our own strength. I’ve been feeling myself fall into this trap lately, which is why I’m committing the month of July as a reset month. It will be a time to fully refocus and refresh. The busyness of life has caught up to me and I’m looking forward to a restorative month of rest in Jesus.

I’ll be the first to admit that rest can be hard. I like to be busy. Being active makes it feel like we are making progress and getting somewhere. However, being in a state of rest can actually be even more productive. It’s important to remember how important rest is to God. In Genesis, in the creation story, God added in a whole extra day solely dedicated to rest. Wow! Even the creator of the universe made time to rest. Several times in the New Testament are examples of Jesus resting. After preaching, he would leave the crowds to be alone and pray. Clearly, this should be a top priority for us as well. Being in that state of rest and wait is where God can do some of His best work in our lives. When we wait on God, He reveals His plans to us and more importantly, he reveals Himself to us.

To clarify, physical rest is very different from spiritual rest. If we are tired, we might sit down with a cold drink and put our feet up or even take a nap. Spiritual rest is finding time to be renewed in the Lord. The culture we live in today is so fast paced. We are able to press a button and have things happen instantly. With this constant buzzing all around us, it’s easy to get lost and worn down. It can be maintained for awhile, but eventually it will catch up with us. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In this verse, Jesus doesn’t only call the hard worker, but also the burdened. Infertility is a huge, monumental, enormous burden. One that is too big to carry alone on our shoulders. The beauty of this verse is that Jesus promises rest to those that answer his call! His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Do you feel yourself getting weary from the craziness of life? Consider setting some time aside each day to rest. Make spiritual self-care a priority in your life! Finding quietness and solitude allows God the opportunity to speak into your life and restore your soul.

In Sickness, in Health, and in Infertility – Katie

On Friday, Chris and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. It feels like just yesterday that we were walking down the aisle and starting our lives together. We had a wonderful night, celebrating over dinner and drinks and reminiscing over the favorite parts of our wedding day. We decided that once we got home and put Lexi in bed, we would have a glass of wine and look through our wedding album together. As we turned the pages, we laughed at the events of day. The boys played ping pong at Chris’ parents, while the girls got ready at my parents house. We had mimosas and took our time doing hair and makeup. The ceremony went well except for a few hiccups. We smiled as we remembered the pastor called me Katherine instead of Kathleen, and at one point, I had forgotten to say my lines. I stood there for several moments while Chris and the pastor kept nudging me to speak. Everyone, including the whole audience laughed together. We had decided not to write our own vows, but say the traditional “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” vows. Later that night, as I was thinking over the past 5 years, I realized something. Infertility has been at the forefront of our marriage. Marriage takes hard work in everyday context, but this is an added stressor that we had to overcome together. Over three of these past five years have been focused on starting and then growing our family. It has certainly been the hardest thing that I have ever gone through, but it has strengthened our marriage in unbelievable ways. Looking back, knowing what we know now, our vows would have said: “in sickness, in health, and in infertility.”

fullsizeoutput_941

Chris and I met in middle school and became friends our freshman year of high school. During our junior year, I was sitting in the library with Chris passing notes back and forth in a book. He asked if I had a date to the prom, and when I said that I didn’t, he suggested we go as friends. I was excited because it was right around the corner and I was scared no one was going to ask me. We started hanging out more and more. Chris officially asked me to be his girlfriend shortly before the prom and dated for the duration of high school and through college. College was a challenge in the beginning. Chris went to a school in Florida, while I stayed back in New Hampshire. Long distance was the first major hurdle to overcome in our relationship. We always told each other that if we could make it through that, then we could make it through anything. Looking back now, I see how there were so many little factors along that were preparing us and strengthening our relationship for more challenging things down the road. After a year and a half, Chris decided to finish school in New Hampshire. Everything was wonderful! He proposed, we got married and started our lives together a whole week after graduating. The first few months of marriage were amazing. We had been dating so long, that it was such an easy transition into married life. We were genuinely enjoying each other and the new life we were building together. First was love, then marriage, and then for us? Infertility. Years of hoping, longing, sadness, exhaustion, anger, bitterness, frustration, tests, and invasive procedures. Finally, we were blessed with a miracle and I will never take for granted just how much of a blessing she is. Now, as we try for our second, we are headed down the same road. Jumping in head first, because as scary as it is to reenter the world of infertility treatments, I know just how badly I want to expand our family. We are ready to do whatever it takes!

In marriage, infertility can either tear you apart or draw you extremely close together. Why? Because infertility is stress. Its shame, its guilt, its doubt, it’s a financial burden and it’s continual loss every month. It’s always on your mind. You are carefully examining every single step and wondering “Should I eat this food?” “Am I too active?” “Am I not active enough?” “What supplements can I add to my routine?” “Will this activity ruin my chances of conceiving this cycle?” to even deeper thoughts of “What did I do so wrong in my life?” “Why don’t I deserve a baby?” “is God punishing me?” “What’s wrong with me?” The list goes on and on, but you get it, it’s consuming. Day in and day out, it never leaves your mind.

During the first few years of marriage, I was struggling with these emotions. I was so excited to be a wife. I really did want to make my husband happy, but the one thing I wanted to do most, I couldn’t. He was tested, all of his tests were normal, and deep down, I knew it was me. Watching every interaction he had with children was gut wrenching. I knew how bad he wanted it and saw just how great of a dad he would be. I felt so much guilt over that. Guilt and shame that my body couldn’t do the one thing it was designed to do. And doubt. Would my husband prefer a wife that could give him a baby? Do I even deserve him? Am I holding him back from having the family he always dreamed of? These thoughts plagued me for months, but over and over again, he reassured me. He stood by me in my weakest moments and built me up. This journey has been far from easy, but I have found such an amazing partner in my husband. By now, if you’ve read any of my posts or updates, you’ve probably noticed I post a lot of stats. I do this because I think they are extremely eye opening. This topic of marriage is no different. A study was posted in U.S. News that couples going through infertility are three times more likely to divorce. It makes sense. Infertility is a serious stressor on marriage and the findings in this study should be shocking, but they aren’t. It’s hard to plan a life with someone, with kids being a major factor. When that plan takes on a different path then what you had planned, it’s easy to grow apart. I believe it is so important to be aware of the challenges and to actively work on fighting back against these odds. I wanted to share several major ways that have kept Chris and I have stayed closer than ever through this.

1). Communication

Communication is so huge. I can’t emphasize it enough and it takes work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. For some people, it’s easy to share what your feeling and thinking, but if you’re an introvert like me, it’s even more of a challenge. Add in the complicated emotions of infertility and it gets even harder. This is something that I’ve struggled with and have had to put serious effort into. When I’m mad, I’m notorious for giving the silent treatment. Chris has been amazing on working through this with me. It’s taken years, but we are finally in a place in our marriage where talking through our differences has become natural. Mostly ;). Communication is a two way street also. It’s so important to listen to your partner. Asking questions is a great way to do this. Before we start any new testing or procedure, we ask each other “how are you feeling about this?” “what do you think of this?” and so on. Actively take the time to listen to their response, too. Don’t watch TV, play on your phone and remain preoccupied in whatever else is going on. It seems pretty basic, but it can be easy to skip this important step. As you go through life together, it can be easy to fall into a routine of every day life. By asking deeper questions, and actively engaging in communication, you will start to know your partner better on all levels.

2.) Support – This point goes hand in hand with communication. It requires time, energy and major effort. It’s something that you have to work for. When dealing with infertility or any other major trial in your marriage, it’s important to stand by your spouse and build them up. No one knows your partner better than you. You have to be their greatest support system! During the first few years that we dealt with infertility, somehow Chris would just know when I needed a hug, just to cry with me, or lift me up by making me laugh. Encouraging words are one of the most powerful tools of support that we have. When we speak uplifting words, they give motivation, they give hope and they give life. Support is so much more than just words, though. Support is action. . I can remember so many times he would come home with flowers, or chocolate when another cycle failed. Not only was he telling me that he was there for me, he was showing me.

3.) Jesus – Keeping Jesus at the center of our marriage and our Infertility struggle is honestly something we haven’t always been good at. Like many, we go through phases we’re we pray with each other every single day and study devotions and read scripture together. Then, all of a sudden we realize we haven’t prayed or touched a bible together in days. When we look back, we find that in the seasons of putting Christ at the center of our lives and our struggle, are the seasons we have grown closer through our journey. By walking hand and hand together with Christ it allows you to connect spiritually with each other, it builds grace, patience and forgiveness into your marriage and it makes supporting and communicating with each other so much easier. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” With Christ as the third strand in your relationship, infertility will not easily break you.

~

As we closed the photo album, I looked at the two of us. We were so young. We had no idea what was about to hit us. Infertility has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I understand why it can break a marriage. Chris and I have had to fight back, but I believe that going through infertility has actually strengthened our marriage. It takes intent and hard work.

Do you feel yourself drifting from your partner on this journey? Don’t let infertility pull you apart. Work hard and put in the effort. Not only will you survive in your marriage but you can thrive!

Setting Boundaries – Katie

It’s been about a month since starting this blog, and it has already been such a blessing to me. The women who have reached out and have connected with us have brought me so much joy. One thing I don’t want for this blog is to pretend that I have all the answers. I’m still a work in process. My journey of stepping out in faith is still in the beginning stages. Infertility involves a lot of complex emotions and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m afraid of getting hurt. Last week, I was really struggling with some tough questions between guarding my heart and standing in faith. Even still, I feel that through this journey with secondary infertility, God is revealing himself to me more and more.

Here’s the event that triggered these questions. Last week, Kim, the infertility coordinator called me to see where I was in my cycle. I was over a week late but this wasn’t a surprise. We tracked my cycle through a series of 5 ultrasounds and blood tests to see that I didn’t ovulate. Anovulatory cycles are long and unpredictable so this shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. Regardless, Kim still acted surprised and said with a twinge of attitude “well, did you take a test yet?” Take a test? I didn’t ovulate! No egg equals no baby. I replied “no” and she told me to call her back if I had any news. Annoyed, I hung up the phone but didn’t test. I couldn’t.

When we first started trying to conceive in 2013, it was exciting to take a pregnancy test. I would watch my calendar and count down the days until I could finally take a test to see if it would be the month where two lines appear. The first few months, it wasn’t that hard to see a negative. As we reached 6 months of trying, I was still excited to take that test, but it would usually leave me in a puddle of tears. As the months moved into years, and we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, I stopped testing every month. Physically seeing that one line appear on a test was just too hard. It was a boundary I had to put in place to protect my heart. Now that we are trying for our second, it’s a boundary I still have continued to use. I’ve been pregnant. I know what it feels like, I track my cycles rigorously and I don’t need a test to tell me. When we get pregnant again, I’ll just know. Then, I will allow myself to take a test and rejoice at those two lines.

It took two days after her phone call to test. For days, I kept throwing the thought around and I slowly let a small amount of hope creep in. What if I did actually ovulate, but just really late? I started to allow myself to dream that after all of the bad news this cycle, that maybe this would be our month. Finally, two days later, I broke down and just decided to take one. I watched the little water line pass through the test window and begin to dry. The whole time I kept repeating to myself, “your not pregnant, don’t get your hopes up, your not pregnant, you have no symptoms, you didn’t ovulate, your not pregnant.” Still, I got my hopes up. When the test dried, again I saw that one little line. My lips began to quiver and tears pooled in my eyes. I looked up at the ceiling to try to keep them from spilling out but it didn’t help. I was devastated. Physically seeing that one line brought back that familiar crushing feeling. The feeling I try so hard to avoid every month. Another no. Another dream gone. Another setback on growing our family. I took several deep breaths, dried my face and tossed the test in the trash.

That night, after everyone was in bed and asleep, I couldn’t shut my brain off. I watched the clock hit 11:00, and then 12:00 and then 1:00 and so on. The events of the week were replaying over and over in my mind. I was struggling with the boundary I had put up with testing each month. I kept wondering if this boundary was allowing me to let my faith weaken. Is my attitude towards it one that trusts and believes God’s promises or am I playing it safe? Am I only just dipping my toes along the shoreline afraid to go in any deeper? My thoughts were jumbled and I was trying to sort it out. Are the lines between protecting my heart and standing in faith getting blurred? This is a hard question for me. There is so much emotion involved. Maybe not for someone who has never gone through infertility, but those that have, know it’s brutal. There is so much emotion connected to those little plastic sticks.

As I was laying there, I tried to think what the Bible says about boundaries. One of my favorite verses popped into my head. The first time I read it, I was a teenager. I meant something different to me then and I can still picture the words highlighted in about 3 different colors.

 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 .

 

I knew in that moment, at 1:08 A.M. that God had brought that verse to me. The act of taking a test each month is hard. Physically witnessing only one line pop up causes me to waver in my faith. Negative thoughts enter my mind and I begin to doubt over and over again. It’s soul-crushing, and usually sends me into a downward spiral of tears and sadness. A spiral that takes days to come out of. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this verse is referring to guarding our thoughts, feelings and desires. What we dwell on in our souls, comes out in our every day lives. I’ve seen that play out in my life, month after month. I would dwell on that negative test and negativity would come forth in my life.

This verse is telling us to stand guard from potential dangers. Dangers like negativity, doubt, lack of faith, and pregnancy tests.

As the night faded into the early morning hours, my restlessness was subsiding. I concluded that I’m not accepting defeat and giving up by refusing to take tests. I still do have faith in God’s promises to me. However, I don’t need a test to become a stumbling block on this journey. Each month, I pray for our miracle, but I also pray for Chris and I to trust in His perfect timing. For His will to be done in our family.

Honestly, my initial experience with trusting God’s timing in our journey to have Lexi was seriously lacking. My walk was filled with doubt and questions. I constantly wondered what I had done in my life to make me so underserving. This time around, I still struggle, but I believe that God is showing me that His timing is perfect and is far better than the picture I have drawn up in my mind. His timing has a purpose. His timing is never early. It’s never late. It’s never cruel, and it will definitely be worth waiting for. God has been changing my heart to believe this more and more. This season of waiting in my life is hard. I don’t have all the answers, but I know God is using it to change and prepare our hearts for something beautiful.

Maybe you aren’t walking down this road with infertility like me, but have a similar experience in your own personal life. Are there any area’s that have become a stumbling block in your walk? Consider putting up boundaries in these areas that cause you to waver in order to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

 

Mother’s Day Project 2018 – Katie

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Growing up, Mother’s Day was always flowers, cards and celebrating all the mothers in our lives. I never realized that there was a whole other side to this day. A side that isn’t mentioned often. Because while for some Mother’s Day is especially joyful, to others it can be a painful reminder. It’s a beautiful day to celebrate mothers, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with those who are not. To celebrate all the women in our lives who are not and never will be mothers- either because of infertility, broken relationships, loss or by choice. Because the value of a woman is not defined by the number of children she has the ability to have. I think there are a lot of people who are like I once was, oblivious to the heartache of so many on this day. My hope is that this post gives a little insight to just how incredibly brave and strong these women are.

I’ll never forget my hardest Mother’s Day. It was 2015, after we had just had our miscarriage the previous October. I was slowly healing, but the day reopened many wounds that I had worked so hard to get past. The anger and bitterness came spewing back. It was such a painful reminder of everything I wasn’t, everything I wanted to be and everything my body couldn’t do. I went through the motions that day of bringing flowers, sending cards and replying “great” when asked “how are you”, but inside, I was deeply hurting.

Chris did something so wonderful for me that year. I had told him that I wanted a way to memorialize our baby, as part of the healing process. He had a beautiful idea on his own and took our wedding bands to the jeweler to be engraved. In mine, he had a tiny ruby embedded. Every time I take my ring off and run my fingers across that tiny stone, I feel peace. It was a such a special gift that brought me immense comfort that year.

Even though I am blessed with my daughter now, this day still holds memories of what it once was. So on Mother’s Day this year, I want to celebrate all women in all stages of Motherhood. Women who long to be mothers, women who have lost children or mothers, women with broken relationships with their own mothers or children, single mothers and women who choose not to be mothers. The women who choose not to be, this day can make you feel shame and guilt for your choices – just know that you are enough. All women deserve to be celebrated on this day! I know that I could just make this about my experiences, but instead, wanted to give all women the opportunity to have their stories shared. On social media, I invited women to either write a few words about the day or share an experience from Mother’s Day. As I got several responses I was amazed at their spirit. Their words are powerful and show that even in the middle of heartache, they are strong. Here are their stories of hope and encouragement:

“After struggling through a ten year infertility battle, we are now in year five of accepting our childless life. Because of this journey, Mother’s Day evokes a lot of different emotions for me. In the beginning of our journey, Mother’s Day brought hope- hope that I would be a mom and celebrate with my own little. As our infertility battle continued, Mother’s Day became more and more difficult. It began to cause great sadness and grief, wondering why God wouldn’t allow me to be a mom. When we finally decided to accept that we would live a childless life, I decided I would “redefine momhood” for myself. At first, that meant I embraced my dog mom role. Every other day of the year, I knew I was a mom to our fur baby. But Mother’s Day made me feel like a fraud. I cherished the year we had with our exchange daughter. I still felt like a fraud, but I still soaked up every minute of celebrating with a two-legged kid. The year after she went back home, I had shaken the feeling of being a fraud. I was so confident and happy… Until the waitress was oblivious to the fact that we, too, were there to celebrate Mother’s Day. The fact that I was dressed up and with my fur baby, I was not a mom to her because I didn’t have a little one in my arms. This year, I’m feeling stronger. I know I am a dog mom and a host mom. I know I love with a mom heart. Hope has come back-not that we will have a little, but that I can enjoy this day as the mom I am. Non-traditional, for sure. But a woman who deserves to be shown love by those she loves with a mom heart.”-Brandi Lytle, author of Not So Mommy blog.

 

“A bittersweet reminder”

 

“Longing, sadness and hope”

 

“Acceptance, hope and opportunity”

 

“Last year, one of my sweet friends sent me a text message saying she left something on my porch for me. I went outside to check and she left me a note along with a blessing bracelet. The strands that wrapped around my wrist were to run my fingers along, the metal to grasp and breathe. Focusing my attention on taking a breath and bringing it back to God. This bracelet touched my heart so deep. My husband and I have been struggling to conceive for almost four years now and that small bit of encouragement and kindness meant so much to us. We are thankful to have others standing in faith with us.”

 

“Empathy, bitter, façade”

 

“Heartache, over-comer, God”

 

“After losing a baby on Mother’s Day which was heartbreaking, I made the brave decision not to tell the other children until the next day because I didn’t want them to feel sad and awkward on such a nice day. Every Mother’s Day hurts, but I grieve with my partner and time is such a good healer. We went on to have a beautiful little girl.”

 

“Overwhelmed, gut-wrenching/heart shattered, hopeful”

 

“My bestie texted me 2 weeks before my due date for my first little angel: I just wanted to tell you happy Mother’s Day. I’m sure this day has been very difficult and trying for you and Eric and I’m sorry you’re having to go through it. But you are still a mother and you will be able to be one for the rest of your life regardless. I hope someday you will enjoy this day and celebrate your ability to give life. I hope you’re not taking it too hard because things happen for reasons which are beyond our control. I love you.”

 

“I felt alone in the wait when friends distanced themselves from me and began to exclude me because they didn’t know how to handle what I was going through. I wasn’t looking for sympathy but just looking to feel normal while battling infertility. To be embraced and not excluded. A time I felt especially loved was when people would take the time to listen. My family and friends were my biggest support.” -Angela, author at While in Waiting Blog

 

My goal is that if you’re reading this and currently struggling with infertility, miscarriage or any other situation that makes this holiday difficult, I want you to feel encouraged, and hopeful. Most importantly, my greatest desire is that you don’t feel alone. You deserve to be celebrated today. Many of you have experienced unimaginable heartbreak and have been given a hard road. Be kind to yourself and do what you need to do to protect your heart. Shut down social media, get your nails done, buy yourself something you’ve been wanting, or, maybe book a night away with your partner. Whatever it takes, do it!

If you’re reading this and haven’t experienced anything but joy during this holiday, know just how incredibly blessed you are! I hope that you enjoy this day to the fullest, even when the kids are fighting, even if the mothers day craft made a mess, and “even if” doesn’t happen. When you wake up and look at your tired eyes, your stretch marks and that last bit of baby weight that won’t budge, look at it with pride. Don’t rush past this mirror on Mother’s Day. Take a few extra minutes to really look at yourself and love what you see. Millions of other women around the world would give anything to have what you have. Motherhood is a beautiful gift and you deserve nothing but love and celebration!

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with this verse.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

So on Mother’s Day this year, follow the command given in this verse. Celebrate the mothers in your lives! Shower them with flowers, cards and love, but also take the time to look around you. Let’s also not forget the women who mourn on this day. Consider a few ways to make them feel special. A note, kind gesture or a simple “I love you” go a long way! You may not know what to say, but just being there and not saying anything can mean the world to a hurting friend. Try not to give advice, but be a shoulder to cry on and have the heart to listen. Acknowledge your friend or family member struggling on Mother’s Day and let them know you love them and stand with them.

Finally, to all the women on all walks of their journey, whether joyfully celebrating, mourning loss, or are still only mama’s at heart, Happy Mother’s Day!

The Mother’s Day Project is a yearly post that will highlight and celebrate the individual stories from women to celebrate their courage and strength on this tough day. A special thanks goes out to all the brave women who shared their thoughts this year. If you missed the invitation to share your story this year, email us at steppingintograceblog@gmail.com to have your story, words or thoughts included in next years post.

Freedom – Chris

2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

          The lowest point in my life came when Katie and I’s circumstances seemed like they couldn’t get much worse. Just when we had taken a small step towards adoption, the door was slammed shut when our landlord in essence kicked us out of our rented house. On top of that, our 3rd IUI was cancelled and our Fertility Doctor had told us there was nothing else they could do for us. Every door seemed to be slamming in our faces at the same time. The best way I can describe my emotional state during this time was a feeling of all-consuming helplessness; that I must have been doing something wrong if God would let this happen to me; and even jealousy towards those around me whose circumstances were better.

I think a lot of people get to this all-consuming and helpless “rock bottom” point in their journey through infertility at some point. It feels like you have weights strapped on, standing in the deep end of pool that is slowly filling with water. It doesn’t seem so bad at first… you decide to try for a baby and nothing happens the first few months, no big deal the water is only up to your knees. Then as the trials continue to compound, maybe you get some bad test results, or you suffer through a miscarriage, or everyone around you cannot stop getting pregnant; all of a sudden the water seems to be getting higher and higher. Every time you try to do something about it, you feel stuck.

God promises in 2 Corinthians that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. In this verse, Paul is talking about the new covenant; through Christ’s sacrifice, we no longer need to abide by the Old Testament law to atone for our sins. We, as Christ Followers, have freedom and forgiveness from sin through what Jesus did on the cross. I think it’s easy to try to apply this verse to an infertility journey and think that freedom means freedom from our circumstances. But actually, I believe it means freedom not from circumstances, but the toxic thoughts and feelings we all experience during those circumstances. Freedom from the feelings that we are alone and God doesn’t care about us, of jealousy and anxiety. Freedom from the feelings that we are somehow to blame for what is happening to us. Freedom to worship and praise God in the middle of the storm.

Constantly seeking out God’s presence will bring us freedom in the midst of our struggle. The circumstances may continue, the water may continue to rise. But He will provide freedom from the weights that make us feel like we are drowning when the waters rise. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom.” Seek His presence and find freedom in the midst of your circumstances today.

Stepping Into the Water – Katie

I was sitting in church several weeks ago, listening to a story that I had heard many times. It was the story found in Matthew 14 when Jesus walks on water. I grew up in church and heard this story many times. But, for years and years, this story wasn’t alive to me. It was always so literal and I always questioned why Peter had doubted Jesus, standing right in front of him. Something had occurred to me while I was sitting there. So many times, in this journey, I’ve been Peter. I’ve doubted and questioned and asked God why.

During our first few years with infertility, it was so difficult to trust Him. I watched people all around me get pregnant, while month after month, I saw negatives. It wasn’t until after I received my daughter that I said “now I see. Now I trust your plan for me and I see that it is good.” Peter didn’t believe until Jesus had reached out and rescued him from the waves, just as I couldn’t either.

As I sat in back of the church that day, I realized something. As we begin the battle with secondary infertility again, Jesus is calling out to me. He’s asking me to step out on the water and to put my faith in Him.

Infertility is a storm that you face every single day. Some days might be easier than others, but other days, the waves rage and take you under. It can be easy to lose sight of Him when you feel like you are drowning. But, when the wind picks up and the tidal waves come, that’s where God does more than we can imagine. He’s calling out to us to step into deeper waters, because there in those waters, is where you experience His never-ending grace and mercy.

During one of my recent appointments, I was devastated. Nothing had gone right. I left the office that day feeling so burdened and I fought back tears all day. The waves were intensifying and I could feel myself getting sucked in. Later in the day, when I had taken a moment to reflect, I heard Him whisper to me. It was so simple, yet so powerful. He said “eyes up, Katie” And I realized, again, like so many times before that I had lost my focus. I was focusing on my circumstances and I had taken my eyes off of Jesus. When we focus on the waves, they can seem scary and helpless. When we keep our eyes on God, the waves no longer seem as powerful. This is something I need prayer for daily. I don’t know how long this trial will last or where it will lead us. I know that I will go through times when I feel like I’m drowning, but I pray that my focus through this will remain on Him. He is bigger than this storm and He is bigger than infertility.

Chris and I discussed this over dinner one night before we started this blog. We knew that we wanted to write but we were caught up on what we wanted the name to be. After discussing this passage, we just knew. We had to name it Stepping Into Grace because that’s what our journey is about. Were taking steps out into the water, placing our faith in him and resting in His ocean of Grace.

I want to encourage you today, if your circumstances make you feel like your being swept under the waves, take steps toward Jesus. He is calling you. Because when the storm is raging, that’s when you experience Him. That is where you experience His grace.

All In – Chris

I’m going to make an obnoxious generalization: I think a lot of men are fixers. If your significant other can’t reach something, you get on a chair and get it for her. If the pickle jar is stuck, you open it. You get the idea. I know it makes me feel useful, and like I’m contributing my part to the relationship. That’s what makes dealing with infertility so hard. You can’t fix it. Oh sure, you can deposit tons of samples into cups and bring them to labs (read the Lexington Story for more), but you get to the point of your journey where there is literally nothing else you can do. It’s a lonely and awful feeling; all you want to do is fix it… but you can’t.

I know for me, disconnecting is an easy coping mechanism. It’s so easy to bury the pain and the stress and think about other things; work, sports or whatever you’re into. When the infertility discussions do come up, it can quickly be buried with “it’s going to be okay,” “we’ll figure it out” or “let’s get ice cream.”

I’ve realized something. That’s not enough. One incredible thing that has come from Katie and I’s journey is the closeness and intimacy that it brought to our marriage. That didn’t happen until I made the conscious decision to go all in emotionally with her. To cry with her, to pray with her and to be angry and confused with her. It’s not as easy as burying feelings and trying to brush off conversations. But if you go all in and embrace the storm with your partner, the intimacy and deepness that will come into your relationship makes the storm make a little more sense.

This is something I struggle with every day. It takes a conscious and deliberate effort to fully invest emotionally. I encourage you all of you men to find a way to remind yourself every single day to go all-in emotionally through your infertility journey. It might not be as easy right now, but I know that this is one way to turn something hard and awful into something positive for your relationship.

NIAW 2018 – Katie

This week, April 22-28 is National Infertility Awarness Week and what a perfect time to start our blog. When Chris approached me with the idea to write a blog, I was excited! So many of the blogs that I read on infertility are written by women. They are all wonderful, but having the perspective of a couple, going through the same journey is something unique. National Infertility Awareness week is so important. When we first began trying to start a family nearly 5 years ago, I had no idea that infertility and miscarriage were possibilities, let alone something that would happen to me. Once in awhile, I would hear of someone experiencing a miscarriage and would think “that’s so sad” but never knew how immensely painful it can be. 1 in 8 couples in the US will be diagnosed with infertility. 1 in 4 will experience a miscarriage. These are huge numbers. Chances are that you or someone you know will be diagnosed with this disease.

I married my husband at 21 and just over a year and a half later was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. I was blindsided. How could two healthy people, who were so young, not get pregnant? I was unprepared for how lonely, frustrating and cruel infertility can be. After a lot of heartache and tears, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in 2016. Currently, we are now in the early stages of fertility treatments for our second. I believe that Chris and I are on this journey for a reason and am excited to share with you what we learn along the way.

This year, the theme for NIAW is Flip The Script. Infertility does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at anytime. This blog was started to bring hope and encouragement to those who are in the pits of infertility. Above all, my greatest desire for this blog is to bring awareness not only to infertility but to a God who is BIGGER than infertility! You are not alone in this! Lastly, know that you are so deeply and fiercely loved by a God who desires good and wonderful things for your life.

“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” Jer. 29:11.