4/28/2015

What I Learned in the ER

A high fever got us an admission into the Emergency Room over the weekend.

To say I was terrified for my little gal who had her first fever would be a complete understatement.

Days after returning home from the stark little hospital room, my eyes are still bloodshot from the tears and worry that overwhelmed me as her momma.

Knowing her temperature reached dangerous levels was scary.

My heart broke as they pricked and prodded her little fingers and toes.

As they swabbed her throat, checked her ears and monitored oxygen levels with equipment three times larger than her little body.

We watched from afar as techs brought in heavy machines to take chest x-rays, held her little hands while nurses collected blood work.

And we waited.

We waited a long wait.

Every minute felt like an eternity.

My mind raced.

"What if they find something on the chest x-ray?"

"What if her blood counts are off?"

"What if there's something more serious going on?"

The worry literally consumed me.

Family members -- including both of our daughters' birth families -- prayed hard.

Hours later when the doctor returned with test results, I felt like I could breathe again.

Not only had her fever dropped to 102, the doctor told us her body was likely fighting a virus that's been going around, and that it had to "run its course."

"Everything came back clear," she said as she stroked Olivia's warm, weak hand.

The news was a weight off of our shoulders.
Reason #450987 we love having an open adoption: Extra prayers when you need 'em.
As relieved as I was, I couldn't help but think about parents who don't get that news.

Who receive a more serious diagnosis.

Who -- instead of going home -- are transferred to an oncology floor or a specialist to determine a long-term treatment plan.

To those parents: 

My heart goes out to you.

I cannot imagine the fear and worry that consume you.

And I'm praying for your strength.

To those of you who know parents of medically fragile children:

Make time today to call them.

Support them.

Drop off a meal.

Send a note of encouragement.

Pray for them.

Offer childcare for their other children.

Be present.

We need one another. 

4/27/2015

15-Minute Monster Bars

Monster Bars
Need a go-to crowd-pleaser?

I've gotcha covered!

This recipe for monster bars is EASY, makes a TON and takes [you guessed it] only 15-minutes to bake!

1 Stick Margarine
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Sugar
1-1/2 Cups Peanut Butter
3 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 tsp Baking Soda
4-1/2 Cups Oatmeal
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup M&Ms (or any chopped chocolate candy you have on hand would work great!)

Mix all ingredients in order.

Press in greased jellyroll pan (I use an 11x18" pan; the bars should be thin).

Bake at 350* for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

4/25/2015

You Are Not Alone: Finding Hope After Infertility

What a week, you guys.

To the courageous women who shared their struggle with infertility: Thank you for sharing your hearts and stories so openly.

To the readers who learned something new this week from these women: Thank you for validating our experiences.

My hope is that after reading these stories, we'll all be better equipped to support and encourage and embrace those around us who may be struggling with infertility.

I'm thrilled to wrap up National Infertility Awareness Week with a guest post from my friend Amy who I think offers great insight as to how she's found hope after an infertility diagnosis.

Here's Amy in her own words:
NIAW
Finding hope after infertility...

If I would have been asked to write about this a year ago, I would have said, “Nope, not possible."

Oh, how I was wrong.

Oh, how I wish I could help you see that hope is on your horizon.

God will take that brokenness you feel and turn it into feelings of hope, peace and readiness for what He has planned next for you.

I remember all too vividly those days of sitting on my bathroom floor surrounded by negative pregnancy tests.

Tears streaming down my face and begging God to just “fix my body."

I remember the nights where I cried myself to sleep in my husband’s arms, because I felt like I would never get my chance at having a family.

While those days are still a very vivid memory – they are also a very distant one.

It still amazes me how much things can change in the course of a year.

Navigating the trenches of infertility has taught me so much. It has taught me that I am stronger than I ever knew.

In those trenches, I found this strength I never knew I possessed.

There are moments today where I still look back and think, “Wow, I made it out of that chapter of my life a better person.  A stronger person.  A more grateful person.”

I no longer let infertility define me.

I don’t let it stop me from having my happiness.

Infertility is still a part of me, a part of our family and our marriage and my heart.

But now it is a part of me in a completely different way. Before, infertility was my weakness.

Infertility was my embarrassing secret.

Infertility was the part of me that made me different and less worthy than my friends who were fertile.

Infertility actually made me believe that my friends were able to have children because they were better people, better equipped to be mothers, more worthy of God’s blessings.

Infertility convinced me that because my body wasn't able to produce a child, I might as well give up.

How could I ever have happiness?

Writing that and reading it back makes me sick to think I felt that way and that I let my infertility control me like that.

Saying that out loud saddens me, because I let the devil get the best of my heart and my mind.

It was then that I decided I would no longer let my infertility take away the happiness and joy in my life.

I knew that it was time to use my infertility in a positive way.

I started to write about my journey, and I felt the calling to be an encouragement to other women who were on the journey with me.

I could use my experience with infertility to build other women up and to remind them they are worthy of being mothers and having the family they so badly desire.

I now can see that God had me walk those trenches with a very specific plan for my life.

He has big dreams for our family, and I can look back now and see the reason for each and every tear I shed, for each and every minute spent wondering why I was called to experience infertility.

Today, I feel hope. 

Today, I have a grateful heart. 

Today, I no longer let infertility control my life. 

I am so thankful that I have found my strength to make it through hard times.

I am so thankful that I can help other women find their strength while they are in the trenches too.

Your hope is waiting for you. 

When you find yourself so deep in those trenches that you feel like you’ll never come out of it – remember that your hope is just on the horizon.

You don’t have to wait for your happiness.

Your happiness can be found right where you are.

It isn't always easy to see – but don’t give up looking for it.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to wait for your hope.

You don’t have to wait for your happiness.

You can still have both of them during your battle.

So, to all of you sweet women who are reading this:

My prayer for you is that you can see that hope today. Know you are not alone and that God has beautiful things planned for your family.
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/24/2015

You Are Not Alone: The Problem Was Me

My friend Jealaine is a momma and a pastor.
NIAW
Look at her sweet family.

When Jealaine gave me permission to share some of her family's struggle with infertility, I was honored to share it with you all.

Here's part of Jealaine's story:

With every pregnancy announcement, I died a little inside.

I smiled and celebrated on the outside, but on the inside I was crying and screaming, and at times, just plain pissed.

See, in several cases of infertility, the cause is unknown.

But even after having my husband tested, we knew what the problem was.

The problem was me.

I felt like I was Hester Prynne wearing her big fat “A”.

Except I wore a big, fat “I”.

I was tested to make sure my hormone levels were what they needed to be.

I had to have a procedure to make sure my Fallopian tubes were “open and ready for business” (as my doctor said).

And then I got the medication we would need to (hopefully) create a baby.

Clomid was our drug of choice.

I didn’t have too many side effects, which was nice. But, it was also weird.

I remember drinking a beer on a Saturday night and thinking, “This is the last time I will drink for a while,” because as soon as I started the Clomid, there would be no drinking.

Now, here’s where things get a little personal.

If you’re in any kind of loving relationship, I hope that there is a physical aspect of that relationship.

When you’re trying to create a baby (versus have a relationship for pleasure) it pretty much sucks.

We were encouraged by our doctor to be physical “every other day…if not every day.” 

What!? 

Think about the chore you loathe the most.

Yep…it started to feel like that...

Read the rest of Jealaine's post here as well as 10 things she's learned after struggling with infertility [My favorite is #7 about people blowing hot air up your ass with their ridiculous "solutions."].
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

You Are Not Alone: Infertility After Giving Birth

NIAW
Jeff and Keri live in Kansas and had a handsome son in 2008.

When they wanted to grow their family, though, it wasn't happening. And this past year, after four years of tests and struggles, they decided to "let go" of that dream.

Here's Keri in her own words how how infertility has changed her:

I get it. I understand the feelings that go with infertility…and there are too many to name. I’m thankful I can relate to another woman who has, will or currently is struggling.

I’ve learned that I don’t have control over what my body will or will not do and it is not my fault.

I have ongoing guilt for even desiring a second child…BECAUSE I ALREADY have one healthy one. I have so much and some women can’t even get pregnant once, let alone four times and have one successful pregnancy!

I learned to do my very best to make sure my son knows he is ‘enough.'

The times he heard me talk about being pregnant or the times he saw me cry when I no longer was – he knew how much his mommy wanted to give him a sibling and I couldn’t. So when someone asks, "Is Duke your only?" or, "Are you going to have another?" I am always quick to respond – He is our lucky one!

One year after officially letting go of ‘trying,’ I still cry. I still wonder, what if….  I still get pissed. I still dream. I still wish.

I’ve learned that what I have – a husband that loves me, a healthy active son that I adore and my health – are bigger than what I dreamed of/ hoped for and what I thought my family would look like.
My husband and I learned that infertility can easily define a relationship – DON’T LET IT.

Our trio was always enough, yet the desire was there to add to it.

After way too many doctor appointments, having enough blood drawn to make my arms ache, taking medication that I/we said WE DID NOT WANT TO DO (in the beginning stages of infertility), injecting my stomach with more medication, trying a few rounds of IUI, genetic testing (on me only b/c I needed answers to see if it was me and I didn’t want to know if it was my husband for many reasons), tears tears tears, ultrasounds, sonograms that would show I was certainly pregnant but a baby was not developing, telling people we are pregnant only to retract it a short time later, counseling and real conversations between a couple that are so real it hurts.

We knew we needed to let go and move forward.

I sold almost every baby thing we saved for the next baby we hoped to love, I gave my maternity clothes away, I QUIT keeping track of my ovulation schedule, we agreed to actually use precaution to NOT GET PREGNANT  (that was crazy) because the decision we made was one we made together.

It’s a good life. 

Live it.

Love it.

Embrace what you have and know that your history has made you who you are today.

Be proud and share your story. 


National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/23/2015

You Are Not Alone: Faith + Infertility

Struggling through infertility can be a trying time in someone's life.

When a pastor who struggles with infertility reached out to me, I knew this perspective was valuable and one worth sharing with all of you.

Here are words of wisdom about infertility from an Iowa Pastor:

Many people may turn to their faith when trying to comfort a friend or acquaintance in their struggles.

Most of the time, they have only the best intentions.

Sometimes we just don’t know what to say, so we may try to “spiritualize” the issue in an attempt to comfort or reassure.

What many may not realize is that some of those commonly used “religious” phrases don’t always comfort those who are struggling, but may in fact anger or further upset them.

Below is a list of some of those phrases that you should consider removing from your vocabulary altogether.

They are not helpful.

1) “God has a plan,” and, “It’s all in God’s timing,” or, “Don’t play God- God will make it happen.”

You may think these phrases are helpful to tell someone struggling with infertility. They aren’t.

Basically, what you’re telling us is God is waiting for the “perfect time” in our lives to cause us to become pregnant which makes us wonder what’s wrong with us that God hasn’t “allowed” us to get pregnant yet.

We start questioning what we’ve done to deserve this.

Also, if it’s all in God’s timing, then what about all of the unplanned pregnancies, the couples and young girls whose lives and bodies are changed forever because they didn’t want or expect a baby at that point in their life?

If God makes those who WANT a child wait for the “right time,” while those who didn’t want or expect a pregnancy are upset at a pregnancy they weren’t planning for, then that suggests that we have one sick and twisted god.

One of the hardest aspects of infertility is the waiting.

Time drags on forever.

Each month there is a build up of excitement and hope that this month could be the month that a pregnancy is achieved.

If/when it doesn’t happen, the grief hits like a ton of bricks.

The whole process has to be started all over again and the frustration grows.

Some of that waiting may include procedures and medication that may or may not work.

Couples struggling with infertility know the waiting game all too well.

It’s hard enough wondering when or if our prayers for parenthood will be answered.

Many people wait years and years to have a child and every passing day that it doesn’t happen, the whole wait only gets harder and more frustrating.

To think that God is causing that suffering by making us wait for “the right time” is just a bit hard to fathom.

Please don’t make us feel like the reason we don’t have a child yet is because God doesn’t want that for us.

2) “Put it in God’s Hands and Let It Go.”

Couples struggling with infertility already feel like things are out of their hands.

Many couples go through several different kinds of treatments with no results.

It is incredibly frustrating.

Telling those struggling with infertility to give it to let it go and give it to God is not helpful.

Many times women/couples have already felt like they have pleaded endlessly with God to give them a child.

They have trusted that God would hear their prayers and that they would conceive.

When that prayer isn’t answered it can be devastating.

It is not so easy to just “let it go.”

The daily pain of living with infertility is not something couples can just let go.

Every day can be a struggle.

Every test, every procedure, every month that passes with a negative pregnancy test, every comment from a friend or family about when they’re going to have a child…it all wears on couples.

There are many unknowns.

This isn’t something that couples struggling with infertility can just shrug off and forget.

There are of course other options available, but the pain of not being able to conceive a biological child is a pain that will never go away.

Don’t trivialize a couple’s experience by telling them to give their problem to God and “get over it.”

I promise you; it’s not that easy.

3) “God just needed another angel” (for those who suffered a miscarriage or lost a child)

This statement is NEVER HELPFUL.

If a couple who experienced a miscarriage says it; then fine, don’t correct them.

If it gives them comfort to know that their unborn child is resting in the arms of God; then let them have that.

But, please, don’t EVER be the one to say this to a woman/couple who is grieving the loss of a child they will never get to know.

To suggest that God needed another angel more than they needed or wanted a child is suggesting that our God is so selfish that God would rather add to a personal collection of cherubs than give a woman/couple the opportunity to parent a child.

It also points to a God that willy nilly takes people out of this world and causes pain and heartache.

God is the giver of life; the one who created the world and breathed breath into humankind.

God is not a life-taker!!!

4)  Implying that the person/couple has sinned and doesn’t deserve a child

I cannot stress enough how important it is to NEVER fault a woman/couple for an inability to conceive a child.

There is already MUCH guilt and shame felt by those struggling with infertility.

There is frustration that our bodies aren’t working the way we want them to.  The feelings of isolation and sadness and grief are hard enough.

We don’t need people telling us that perhaps it was something we did that caused the issue.

Some couples never know why they weren’t/aren’t able to conceive.

Sometimes our bodies fail us by no fault of our own.

In the Bible, women were often blamed if they were unable to give a man a child.

If a woman was known to be barren, then she could be replaced by a woman who could bear a child for a man to continue the family line.

Don’t blame the woman/couple.

The grief of not being able to conceive is a lifelong grief that never goes away.

Don’t add to their grief by making them feel like they did something to deserve that kind of pain.

5) The Bible says….(followed by a judgment or condemnation)

Some people/traditions are against any type of medical procedures that helps achieve a pregnancy.

Some believe it is “playing God.”  They’ll use Scripture to back up their claims.

Scripture is the revelation of God to God’s creation.

It proclaims God’s love for God’s creation through Christ’s death and resurrection.

It shows us how we are to conduct ourselves in this world as children of God, in service to God and neighbor.

However, many times people try to use Scripture as a judgment or an excuse to point out wrongdoing and condemn a person or their actions.

The Bible is not a weapon.

Please don’t use Scripture to shame somebody struggling with infertility.

There is already enough shame surrounding this issue; they don’t need to feel that God is against them too.

Now that you’ve been given some phrases and hints that aren’t that helpful, here are some ways you CAN support women/couples in their struggle:

1) Let them know that you care and that you are praying for them.    

A simple statement that lets them  know that you are keeping them in prayer can be helpful.

Infertility is an incredibly isolating thing to go through.

Many women/couples are too afraid to tell others about it because it is either just to painful to talk about or because they fear what people will say to them or think of them.

Knowing that they are being thought of and prayed for might help them not feel so alone.

2) If you feel the need to check in on someone you know is struggling with infertility, ask a generic question like, “How are things?” 

This gives them the option to fill you in on their situation with as much or as little information as they feel comfortable sharing.

Asking personal or specific questions can be irritating.

A woman’s/couple’s journey through infertility is really none of your business.

If they want to fill you in on what’s going on with them, they will in their own time and in their own way.

Leave them some space and let them know you are there for them if/when they want to talk, but don’t make them feel pressured to share information with you.

Space and support are much appreciated.

3) “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

Never underestimate the power of  a simple “I’m sorry” statement, especially if you really don’t know what else to say.

Sometimes the worst kinds of comments come from people who feel awkward and feel like they need to say SOMETHING.

If you really don’t know what to say, then it’s probably best to not say anything.

I’d much rather hear an “I’m sorry,” than, “Maybe God just isn’t ready for you to be a parent yet.” 

The former will convey support an sincerity. The latter will just make me feel like a failure. It will also probably make me less trusting of the person who said it to me.
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/22/2015

You Are Not Alone: 8 Things We've Learned From Infertility

Going through infertility is hard.

I've been there.

But I'd venture to say it's just as hard watching two people you love go through it as well.

Today's post was written by my amazing, brave sister-in-law, Jess.
NIAW
Things We've Learned From Infertility:

1. No one outside of infertility will completely understand how you feel or all of the things that you’re going through…

You can write page after page, explain things again and again, but your family and friends will not understand.

Many of them will try, but they won’t get it and you shouldn't expect them to.

It’s your journey.

I have met a handful of women struggling with infertility in the past couple years.

These women get it, and it’s been essential for me to have that support and friendship.

2. Starting a family can be expensive…

Whether you choose IUI, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, embryo adoption, domestic infant adoption, or international adoption, it’s all expensive!

You’ll re-prioritize your budget- cutting shopping, going out to eat, vacations.

What’s free for most costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for you.

3. Although people have good intentions, sometimes things they say can hurt. You’ll learn what not to say…

I will never again ask someone when they will have kids or when they plan on starting a family.

I’m sure I've done it before!

But if you've experienced infertility, you know how difficult it can be to answer these questions.

I will never ask someone if they’re pregnant.

I've been asked, and I have briefly thought about saying, “No, it’s just the weight I've gained from going through... (IVF, IUI, femara, clomid, etc.).”

I've been pretty open with my family about what we’re going through.

During an IUI cycle a family member of mine commented on how exciting it would be to test on my own.

No, actually it’s not; I've taken a bazillion pregnancy tests. It’s not exciting, and it was like every other one: negative.

4. Staying busy can help…

In a world where you constantly think about what cycle day you’re on (more than the day of the week), I've found it helpful to try to stay busy! The two-week wait can be a killer!

When we first found out I had PCOS, 6 months into trying, we decided to get a dog.

She’s a handful, but it has been one of our best decisions. She keeps us busy and active!

I also took up sewing, originally making a quilt for my future child, burp rags, and blankets.

I started making some for others and may sell them in the future. I find it somewhat therapeutic.

I started a crocheting class recently, and I’m hoping to learn how to crochet blankets, baby hats, and some of those cute baby sandals!

5. It will affect your marriage…

For better or worse.

Fortunately, for us, it’s made us stronger.

I worried when I was diagnosed that my husband wouldn't love me as much and that this could tear us apart.

But it hasn't, it has only strengthened our relationship.

We communicate better, can comfort each other more, and are closer (just because we’re the only ones who know what we’re going through).

We lean on each other.

6. It will affect your other relationships…

Something I've really struggled with has been envy.

It has affected my relationships with family and friends.

Some of my relationships have struggled because of this.

Things that won’t work for you, will work for someone else.

Some people won’t agree with your decisions or your plan to start a family. That’s okay; trust your heart, but also your head!

But some of my relationships have grown because of our struggle.

You’ll learn who your true friends are, and you will cherish them.

People have been so supportive!

They have sent flowers, meals, cards, and kind words (just simply saying I’m here if you need to talk).

7. I’m stronger than I thought I was…You won’t be the same person.

You’ll do things you never thought you could do.

When I got my meds and schedule for IVF, I felt like backing out.

It was overwhelming.

But you’ll do the injections, the ultrasounds, the blood draws, the negative tests, the positive tests and miscarriages…the heartaches.

You’ll get through it.

And when you do get through it, however that may be, you’ll come out a different person.

8. Someday you will be a mom, and this will all be worth it

I haven’t reached this point yet, but I know it’s true.

I know one way or another I will be someone’s mom.

Everything I've been through will have been worth it to get to that point.

This is not the end.

I've always believed life is a miracle from conception, but now I believe it even more…if that’s possible.

So many things have to go right.

When I hold my child, I know it will be impossible for me not to remember what a miracle they are.

I will cherish every moment.
NIAW
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

You Are Not Alone: 10 Things I've Learned From Infertility

A Des Moines couple has had quite the journey with infertility.

Trying to conceive for 2.5 years, they've survived one miscarriage, five rounds of IUI, more than seven medications, 20 acupuncture appointments and countless doctors' visits, blood draws and ultrasounds.

To say they're in the trenches is likely an understatement.

Prayer warriors, let's pray for this couple as they navigate this hard road.

In the meantime, here's a guest post from our sister in infertility on what she's learned on the roller coaster:
NIAW
Ten Things I've Learned From Infertility

10. Infertility has taught me who my biggest cheerleaders really are.

9. Infertility has taught me that trying to make a baby is not fun at all and is actually really, really
hard.

8. Infertility has taught me how strong my relationship with my husband truly is. All though I hate
this journey, I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else.

7. Infertility has taught me that 28 days is a very long time. And the “two week wait” is even
longer.

6. Infertility has taught me to share my story. You never know when you will be that person that
someone else needs to lean on.

5. Infertility has taught me that experiences shape you.

4. Infertility has taught my very Type A (and goal oriented!) personality that some dreams might
actually be out of reach.

3. Infertility has taught me that insurance companies do not view an infertility diagnosis the
same way they do diabetes, allergies, or any other diagnosis needing medication and treatment.

2. Infertility has taught me how strong I really am.

1. Infertility has taught me that I am not alone.
NIAW
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/21/2015

You Are Not Alone: What I've Learned From Infertility

NIAW
Meet Amanda.

She's an infertility warrior and a mom via adoption in North Dakota.

Here's her story [click here to read more from her blog]:

What I've Learned from Infertility

On almost a daily basis and because of my openness about my infertility struggles, I encounter women who deal with the demon of infertility.

Each of us copes with it differently.

Most of us are angry, and all of us can't understand why we are going through it.

I am not going to sugarcoat this entry.

Infertility SUCKS!  

It is equivalent to the devil.

If there was a curse word to describe it, it would be the nastiest curse word.

It causes you to feel emotions and bitterness that you never imagined you could feel.

It makes you angry at every pregnant woman you see, including your own family members.

It causes you to question your faith and gives you feelings of anger towards God for allowing this to happen.

Many who've never experienced it will tell you, as they did me, that there are worse things.

Yes, that's true.

Infertility won't kill you, so yes I guess they're right.

But without a family, some people feel so incredibly empty inside and it can lead to bigger issues.

Depending on their diagnosis, infertility can cause physical pain each month, which is also a constant reminder to them about their inability to conceive.

I was fortunate enough to have a large infertility support group who understood exactly how I was feeling.

We also found a great group of doctors and nurses who helped us emotionally.

Through it all, we ultimately decided that we wanted to be parents and adoption was our path.

The path we were destined to take from the beginning.

It wasn't an easy road, it was just as difficult.

Just a different kind of difficult.

I still think about my infertility and how it has affected me.

I wouldn't change a thing because it's formed me into the wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend that I am today.

But through it all, I am able to look back at the years we struggled to conceive and learn from them.

I've learned so much from infertility.  

It was a constant reminder that I was not in charge.

I couldn't control what my body did, no matter how many IVF cycles we did.

It taught me patience.

Lots and lots of patience.

So many times I wanted to hurry things up so that I could see the end result.

I learned slowly -- very, very slowly -- that it didn't work that way.

It has helped me understand the women who come to me for support.

I am there to listen and pray with them.

I will share my experience a million times if it means that our story will help just 1 person who struggles.

Infertility has taught me so much.  

Most importantly it's taught me to trust God.

He decided how we became parents and gave me infertility so that I would fully understand the pain of it all.

After all, unless you've walked in someone's shoes, you can't fully understand.

I've walked in some pretty large infertility shoes.

I may have tripped and fallen along the way, but God helped me up.

He'll help you, too.

Just take his hand and let him lead the way.
NIAW
National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up April 19-25, and I'd love to share some of your stories. The theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/20/2015

You Are Not Alone: We Felt Weak, But Not Defeated

NIAW IVF
Photo credit: Heart Shot Photo
Look at this sweet family of three.

Abby and her husband became parents after in Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Here's Abby in her own words:

IVF is hard both physically and emotionally.

But here is the thing...

By the time you are considering IVF, you already know what "hard" is.
For Steve and I, we had already done tests and treatments. Shots and pills. Ultrasounds, chiropractics, diets, you name it.

We endured all the trials and tribulations of the disappointments of each negative pregnancy test.

We felt weak, but not defeated. 

We knew IVF was still a possibility, and we were lucky to be introduced to people who had success.

So although I was bawling at every diaper commercial on TV, we were able to dig down deep and find the strength for IVF.

We started the process in October of 2013.

The protocol often consists of a few weeks of birth control to start. It helps the doctors have complete control of your hormones. I remember feeling ridiculous since I swore off birth control forever a couple years prior because it was obviously a waste anyway. But shortly after starting the birth control, we started the injections.

Here is the funny thing about the shots...

I felt so empowered. 

I actually loved it.

It felt like I was DOING something to help my body make a baby.

There were lots of shots. Lots.

There are horror stories all over the internet about how they make you feel, but I think the internet holds the worst stories and not enough of the best.

My body responded well.

I didn't have bloating or pain, but the ultrasounds showed the meds were doing their job.

After my egg retrieval, we were lucky enough to have seven embryos reach the 5-day blastocyst stage.

We transferred one beautiful embryo and froze the other six.

Then we waited.

And then we cried.

Because our beautiful embryo in all its perfection did not take.

We lost it. 

Needless to say, I was wrecked.

That might have been the thickest grief I had ever experienced.

I felt hollow, literally and figuratively.

But we knew we had six little snowflakes waiting for us.
We scraped ourselves off the floor for a frozen embryo transfer a couple months later.

That is how we got Levi.

He is our frosty baby.

Our cryogenic cutie.

If anybody out in the blogosphere is considering IVF, I would encourage them to give themselves some credit for all the turmoil they've already endured.

I understand it isn't for everybody.

There are plenty of reasons not to pursue it.

But sometimes when you are already considering it, you just need a little push in the right direction.
NIAW

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/19/2015

You Are Not Alone: 7 Things I Want You to Know About Infertility

Miki and her husband Tyler are some of our family's dearest friends.

[Read more about their journey through infertility and adoption here and here.]
NIAW
They're amazing.

So amazing, that I'm letting Miki kick off the guest posts this week for National Infertility Awareness Week with Seven Things I Want You to Know About Infertility:

1. As much as it feels like it, you are NOT alone.

2. God is not punishing you for something you think you did/didn’t do.

3. It is OK to be upset/angry about your situation because it totally sucks.

4. Everyone has their own comfort level with infertility treatments – just because you may choose not to pursue certain (or any) treatments does not make you any less deserving to be a parent.

5. Although infertility is not something to be ashamed of, it often feels like a scarlet letter – try not to let it define you because you are so much more than someone who is struggling to conceive a child.

6. You will constantly question every tiny detail of your life and, most likely, there is nothing you are doing that is causing you to not conceive.

Drinking a cup of half-caff rather than decaf coffee isn't the reason you aren't pregnant this month (Yep, I blamed myself for that one many times!). Am I running too much or not enough? Did I drink a glass of wine on the wrong day? You will drive yourself crazy and blame yourself for your struggle even though IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

7. It is OK to do fun things and enjoy life while struggling. Take time to enjoy being a couple because always focusing on what you don’t have will put a strain on your marriage. Try to find a hobby or something to do once in a while to take your mind off of infertility.
NIAW
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

You Are Not Alone: What to Expect When You're [NOT] Expecting

For years I was a television news reporter who chased after bad guys.

What a lot of people didn't know, though, was that off camera -- for many years -- my husband and I were burying a lot of pain and heartache with infertility.

I'm open about our struggle now, as well as our journey to meeting our two beautiful daughters. But before we pursued adoption, we felt broken, lost, confused and angry at the world.

When you begin the process of starting a family, you don't expect to hit roadblocks.

There's all sorts of books about "What to Expect When You're Expecting," but there's no guidebook for "What to Expect When You're NOT Expecting."

I don't have a bestselling book [hey, maybe someday...], but I do have this corner of the world wide web...and this week during National Infertility Awareness Week, I've decided to use this space to share personal stories of infertility that I hope will encourage you and offer insight you'll find valuable.

Please check back daily for stories of women who have courageously allowed to let you all into what can be an extremely painful time in their lives.

Before guest posts begin, I'm going to share what I shared at this weekend's Voices of Infertility event in Waterloo:

10 Things to Expect When You're [NOT] Expecting

1. Expect this time in your life to be a roller coaster.

You'll go from a hopeful heart to picking up a broken pregnancy test after slamming it against the wall when you see the 238440th negative sign. [Not saying this has ever happened...eh hem...]

2. Expect to be angry.

Sometimes it may feel like no one understands what you're going through and that your thoughts about others seem cruel.

But infertility is painful and isolating.

It's okay to be mad at the fact that you're struggling to achieve what so many people get to experience freely.

3. Expect to restrain yourself when people complain about being pregnant.

There's nothing worse than women who appear to be ungrateful for an opportunity that's been so difficult for you to experience.

I know you'd happily waddle around in swollen ankles and smile [okay, maybe not smile...but gracefully cope] with morning sickness if it meant you could experience pregnancy.

4. Expect to nod and smile.

People will think they have all the answers.

"Just relax." "Go on a vacation." "Adopt." "Try this position." "Try that diet." "Try acupuncture." "Try this herb or that supplement..."

Seriously.

You may want to practice nodding and saying, "Okay," for every absurd piece of advice from well-intentioned people who think they're experts.

5. Expect to feel broken.

I can't tell you how many times I curled up in a fetal position on my bathroom floor and begged God to fix me.

But hear this from me: As broken as you may be feeling right now, you do not deserve to experience what you are going through. Infertility is not your fault.

6. Expect infertility to consume you.

There are dozens of message boards and Facebook groups where you can chat about cycle days and upcoming procedures.

It may become your life.

You can easily be consumed in learning about others' experiences and comparing them to your own.

While sometimes these situations allow you to second guess your path and decisions, these types of avenues can be really great at reminding you that you're not alone.

7. Expect to grieve.

Infertility is the loss of a dream.

While there's no tangible baby you're sad about, it's okay to cry about the loss of the future you planned for your family.

It's also completely normal to grieve differently than your spouse or partner.

Allow yourself time and grace to heal.

8. Expect to be anxious.

If you're dealing with infertility, you likely have about five calendars for different cycle days and appointments and procedures.

It's hard to not be anxious when it seems like your body has turned into a human pin cushion and revolves around a monthly calendar.

And dare I say the phrase, "Two-week wait?"

Seriously.

It's awful.

When you have no control over your future or the outcome of what you're trying to achieve, it's terrifying and completely okay to be anxious.

Don't allow yourself to drown in anxiety, though. It may be a good option to seek professional help (a lot of people who struggle with infertility do).

9. Expect to blame yourself.

It's completely normal to feel like infertility is your fault.

But, friends...It's not true.

We don't blame ourselves for cancer or diabetes or any other health diagnosis.

Don't blame yourself for infertility either.

You didn't choose to be infertile.

10. Expect to never be the same.

If it hasn't already, infertility will change you, and it will change you forever.

I tell people all the time that I'm not grateful for going through what we went through, but I am grateful for what it taught me.

I'm grateful for it strengthening my marriage.

I'm grateful for our experiences because they reshaped the vision we had of our family.

I'm grateful for all the chaos that motherhood brings because I waited so long and worked so hard to get here.

And I'm grateful for the people I've met along the way -- the bond of shared heartache is a strong one, and we infertility warriors have to stick together.
NIAW
Infertility Warriors. Love that we've made it to the "other side" via different ways, but we still continue advocating and supporting others on their infertility journeys!


National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.

4/16/2015

How Infertility + Adoption Made Me A Better Mom

It's no secret how grateful I am to be a mother.
After years of infertility and now two kiddos under the age of two, I’m not embarrassed to wheel a cart through the grocery store with two kids in tow and realize I have a crushed Cheerio on my butt from sitting in a messy car.

For 1,402 days I wanted the beautiful chaos that is motherhood.

Read more about How Infertility and Adoption Made Me a Better Mom via Adoption.com.

4/15/2015

Slow-Cooker Applesauce

I have a toddler who is obsessed with Applesauce.

Obsessed.

We go through it like there ain't gonna be any at a store tomorrow.

I came across an Easy Slow-Cooker Applesauce recipe online, and knew I had to try it.

You guys.

It's. So. Easy.

Plus, it's taste-tested and approved by a very-picky 20-month old. ;)

Below is my version of the recipe with fresh lemon juice and bit less sugar.

(To view the original recipe, click here.)
Recipe

12 Jonagold Apples (peeled and cored)
½ cup Sugar
1/2 Freshly Squeezed Lemon
1/2 cup Water
Cinnamon (to taste)
½ cup Water

Cook in slow-cooker on low for 6-hours. 
Mash.
Store and refrigerate to enjoy in the days to come!

Related content:
Top Freezer Meal Recipes

4/13/2015

They're Only Little Once

Peace and quiet is a commodity 'round here.

Seriously.

It's such a rare occasion that when both girls are napping at the same time, I feel like I need to buy a lotto ticket [and I don't even play the lottery].
It's our routine to read a book before nap time.

Note: I said a book... as in a single book.

Often times, though, that book turns into 230947 more books.

And right before we empty out the entire bookshelf, my daughter's eyes start getting heavy.

"Yes. She'll go to sleep right away," I think to myself, feeling like I won some sort of a game.

I lay her down gently in her crib then tiptoe out of her room, so as not to wake her or her nearby sleeping sister.

I tiptoe down the creaky wooden staircase into our living room...

My world is silent.

But my mind isn't.

Aside from the celebratory "Alleluia's" being sung in my head for [somehow] managing to get both girls asleep at the same time, my brain won't shut off.

I have piles of things to do - an impending deadline for Adoption.com, food to prep for dinner, bottles to wash, laundry to fold, a dishwasher to empty and reload, a dog to take out, mail to go through, a grocery list to organize...the list goes on.

But the other day as I was sitting in the quiet, I found myself doing something unusual.

I tiptoed back back up our creaky wooden staircase where our 20-month old was fast asleep.

And I picked her up.

I held her -- her head nestled underneath my neck and arms draped over my shoulders.

For an hour, I just held her.

I didn't think about the to-do list that never gets done.

I didn't care about the books and sippy cups thrown all over the house and Cheerios shoved between the couch cushions.

I didn't care about the load of laundry waiting to get tumbled in the dryer or the dishes in the sink in dire need of cleaning.

I just cared about her.

You see, the quiet and calm may come and go in our house -- it always does.

The to-do list never gets done -- it's always there.

But our babies?

They're only little once.

And we should never be too busy to snuggle the ones we love.

4/12/2015

Making an Open Adoption Work

Our daughters have different birth families, but the same forever family.

There are lots of different ways we choose to stay in touch with their birth families.

And truth be told, we wouldn't have it any other way!

Read more about open adoption via my latest post on Adoption.com.

4/09/2015

You're Invited: Voices of Infertility

NIAW
I talk about infertility a lot.

And with National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) coming up, I'm going to continue the conversation with your help.

Because far too many people are struggling with infertility in silence.

I know because I was one of them.

Let's change that you guys.

Let's break the silence and talk about what we're going through.

Let's talk about what it feels like to be unable to conceive and give birth to a child.

We talk about cancer, we talk about jobs, we talk about ourselves, our hardships and lives.

Let's talk about this stuff, too.

--

My friend Andrea started a wonderful support group for people in the trenches of infertility.

I was honored when she asked me again to speak at the group's annual event that connects people with resources and hope.

If you've been struggling with infertility, please come.

If you have neighbors, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, and colleagues who you care about, please come.

Even if you're not directly impacted with infertility, please come.

We need each other.

One in eight couples struggle with infertility.

I'm telling you:

You know someone who is in the trenches.

You know someone who needs your support, your encouragement, your hugs.

You know someone who needs your understanding.

--

At the 2015 Voices of Infertility, you'll have the opportunity to hear from people who have gone through infertility treatments, miscarriages, even adoption.

You'll be able to connect with clergy members who understand the struggle at church, with experts in alternative fertility care in Iowa plus resources to help you navigate this fork in a road you didn't choose to go down.

And, perhaps most of all, you'll leave knowing you're not alone in this journey.

See you Saturday, April 18, at 10 a.m. 

PS: Bagels + refreshments provided!

4/08/2015

Shredded Ranch Chicken

Shredded Ranch Chicken
4 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 pkgs Cream Cheese
1 packet Dry Ranch Seasoning

Cook all ingredients in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken shreds easily.

This recipe was inspired by Slow Cooker Crack Chicken at CookiesAndCups.com

4/07/2015

Sometimes, I Just Stop.

I'm wrapping up my first full week as a stay-at-home momma.

Whew!

Lemme tell ya...

I'm pretty sure it's easier working for people who don't need diaper changes and feedings and 24/7 entertainment.

Just kidding. Kind of...

Some of you who follow me on Facebook know we invested in a double-stroller.

You guys.

It's ah-mazing!

I LOVE the double-stroller! If I could kiss the person who made the double-stroller, I would. Truly. It's genius.

The other day, as the sun was beaming down and a breeze was blowing gently across the river, I turned a corner toward the local park, and I just stopped.
Smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk, I stopped.

I looked down at two little girls soaking up the sunshine and fresh air.

And tears started welling up in my eyes.

How did this happen? 

Two years ago, I thought I would never be a mother.

And now I am.
And as I was stopped in the middle of the windy sidewalk, it hit me.

How was I deemed worthy to be chosen as the mother of two beautiful girls?

How have we went from a family of two to a family of FOUR in two years?

Tears started trickling out the corner of my sunglasses.

And feelings of gratitude and joy overwhelmed me in that moment.

I took a deep breath.

God's plans for my life were certainly greater than my own.

Suddenly Olivia spotted a goose.

"Honk-Honk! Honk-Honk!" she yelled excitedly.

Then I snapped back to reality and realized the two people at a nearby picnic table were probably wondering what the hell was happening with a 20-month old "honking" from a double-stroller stopped in the middle of a sidewalk by a weeping mother.

Everything's okay, people. Everything's okay...

Anyway, I share this story because I know sometimes it's easy to lose hope.

Sometimes it's easy to take what we have for granted.

And sometimes, it's okay to just stop, breathe and soak in the goodness around us -- even if we look like we've completely lost our minds in the middle of a bike trail.

Related content:
To My [Infertile] Friend
Infertility

4/06/2015

Why We Don't Celebrate 'Gotcha Day'

The days our daughters became a part of our family are truly unforgettable.

We met Olivia swaddled up inside a big hospital on a hot summer afternoon in Texas.

My heart raced as we made our way to the nursery to find her.

When we made it through security the nurses ushered us in to meet our daughter.

I was shaking.

"Can I hold her?" I asked with tears streaming down my face.

In the months that followed, our love only grew for our sweet daughter.
Six months later, in accordance with state law, we were able to finalize her adoption inside a packed court house where I again wept at the fact that she was my daughter...forever.


Fast forward 18-months...

On a freezing night in January we made a 3.5-hour drive on icy roads to meet 1-day-old Kendra.

We were bundled up, but the nurses recognized us the second we turned the corner.

"You must be Shelley and Chris?" they asked, and they wheeled our new daughter into a suite where we spent the next 24-hours together.

We hope to finalize Kendra's adoption sometime this summer, but we won't call it 'Gotcha Day.'

I'm not opposed to celebrating the days we met our daughters, or the days they legally become a part of our family forever.

In fact, we tend to do big celebrations 'round here...with cupcakes, too! :)
Scratch Cupcakes
But the wording of 'Gotcha Day' just makes me squirm.

It seems insensitive to first families.

I think back to this past January when we left the hospital and prepared to drive home through a blizzard so Olivia could meet her new sister.

I remember saying goodbye to Kendra's birth momma in the hospital.

She hugged us and gave her precious, beautiful daughter one last kiss with tears streaming down her face.

And then she walked away.

She said goodbye and walked away.

In that moment, I was in physical pain.

I remember my legs literally almost giving out on me, and I cried the most uncontrollable cry I've ever experienced.

I could barely catch my breath until I hunched over the hospital bed and closed my eyes.

"God, give me strength. Help me pull it together," I prayed.

I felt like our joy came at the expense of her grief and sorrow, and it hurt every fiber in my body.

I know every family is different, but when we celebrate the days we met our daughters and when they became part of our family, we also grieve the moments -- and the tremendous loss they experienced -- when they said goodbye to their first families.

That's why we'll never say, "Happy Gotcha Day," because the truth is this:

While there is beauty and redemption and happiness with adoption, there is also loss and sadness. 

As a family, we've decided to celebrate our daughters' "Adoption Days" by calling them what they are: Adoption Days.

Related content:
Our Daughter's Adoption Finalization
She's Ours
Baby Book For Adoptive Families

4/01/2015

Infertility: Say This, Not That

I get some of the best ideas and stories from YOU.

After I featured this blog post by my friend Amy, a reader asked, "What should we say to infertility warriors?"

And then I realized, it's easy to talk about what not to say because it happens so often.

It's easy to stew in the hurtful, off-the-cuff comments because they're tossed around freely.

But what can you do -- what can we all do -- to help our brothers and sisters, friends and family members, colleagues and neighbors, who may be trudging through the trenches of infertile hell?

I'm not an expert by any means, but I have been known to spend many 'a days sulking on the bathroom floor next to wadded up Kleenexes and wrappers from negative pregnancy tests by my side.

So, on that note, here's five ways I'd recommending supporting someone struggling with infertility:

1. Ask them what they need.

You may not know exactly what it's like to be in their shoes, but you can still support them.

"Hey, I don't know what it's like to be in your shoes. What can I do to best help during this time?" is a great place to start.

Some ideas include [but are not limited to] the following:

Cook or send a meal on IVF retrieval or transfer day. And don't forget dessert. Lord knows women doped up on Gonal F injections or progesterone suppositories could use some chocolate.

Send flowers on a failed treatment day.

Mail a card of encouragement in the middle of a cycle.

Snag a gift card for a manicure or pedicure.

Send a box of sunshine for a day-brightener.

2. Validate their feelings.

The inability to conceive a baby is extremely painful.

Life passes infertile couples by while they sit in an empty house with broken hearts wondering if they'll ever experience the joy of feet pitter-pattering down the hallway.

Validate your friends' feelings.

Let them know it's not fair they have to go through this.

Make sure they know it's okay to be open and honest, even if it means having a breakdown over a margarita during a not-so-happy "Happy Hour."

3. Support their choices.

You may not agree with infertility treatments or procedures your friend chooses to pursue.

You may wonder why your friend decides to stop fertility treatments.

Or why your friend wants to explore surrogacy or donor sperm or donor embryos or adoption.

But lemme be upfront and honest here: 

Your opinions don't matter.

Decisions on how to grow a family are agonizing for people struggling with infertility.

Put your personal opinions aside and support your friend's decisions no matter what.

4. Act Be interested.

Google search terms and common infertility phrases so your friend feels comfortable confiding in you (i.e. IUI, IVF, morphology, etc.).

And if your friend feels comfortable opening up about her struggles, let her know she can trust you with her raw, honest feelings.

That means don't gossip about what she tells you over coffee with your friends tomorrow morning.

5. Be courteous.

Remember them on Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Remember their hearts at Christmas or Valentine's Day.

Understand they may not be happy during holidays or birthdays or other days hallmarked with happiness.

Share your pregnancy announcement with them privately, and allow them time to process your good news at their own pace.
National Infertility Awareness Week
National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up April 19-25, and I'd love to share some of your stories. The theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.