Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finding The Good Things

It was one year ago today that I wrote my first blog post. After debating with myself for a couple of weeks, I finally decided to give blogging a try. I'm sure that many of us can think of pros and cons that go along with it, especially if your main focus is on something that is a painful subject to think and write about. I'm glad to say that I can look back on the year with joy and gratitude. It has been a year of growth and change for me, and writing about it has been a true form of therapy.

The first post I wrote was called "Why Blog?" It was pretty brief, but I had so much more that I needed to say! I knew that day that even if no one ever read a word of it, I had made the right choice to put all of it down. It's interesting to look back on those first thoughts. It wasn't the beginning of my journey with infertility and miscarriage, but it was definitely a new chapter. Here is what I wrote in that first post:

I decided to start a blog mainly to have a place where I could just sit down and write about some of the feelings that accompany recurrent miscarriage. I thought that if I put it out there, maybe it could encourage someone else who might feel that they are alone. Infertility can be a very lonely battle, even for married couples who are in it together and people who have great families and friends. It’s hard to find others who feel the way you feel.The other reason I wanted to blog at this time is because I’m in the thick of it. I’m not looking back at a dark time in my life while standing on the other side. I’m in the valley now. Maybe you’re like me and you find it easier to hear someone who’s in the valley with you. I hope to someday be on the other side of this horrible problem. But I thought the time to write about it was now.The last thing I want to do is use this as a place to air all of my grievances and hurts! Sure, those may come out here and there, but what I want to do is try to create a well-balanced and honest picture of what we’ve been through. My aim is to not focus on all the bad stuff but to just be honest. Believe it or not, there are good things too! Sometimes they are hard to find but I’ve spent years trying to discover them and hold on to those good things.

A year ago I had no idea what the "good things" might turn out to be! I didn't know that I would get to know some incredible people who share so many of the same hurts. I certainly never imagined the strong bonds of friendship that have been formed over the past 12 months. Each and every person I have "met" through this blog has been one of those unexpected good things!

Last August I came across Beth's blog Walking the Journey. I read a post she had written called "I Know" and it touched my heart in such a real way. Soon after that, we began corresponding by e-mail and we continued to get to know each other through our blogs as well. Our relationship quickly developed into a close friendship, especially while my husband and I were away from home during a very stressful evacuation from Hurricane Ike last September. Beth's unwavering prayers and support during that time were invaluable. Over the past nine months (interesting, right?) we have begun to see how the Lord put us together at the right time, and we have been able to encourage one another during some very hard times. We could see that, although our paths were different, we were more or less on the same journey.

I've been away from blogging for a few weeks because my husband and I were on vacation all last week with my family. We had such a great time enjoying the beautiful Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and just being together! (More to come on our vacation soon.)

On Thursday of our vacation week, Chuck and I hopped in the car and drove a couple of hours east to meet up with Beth and her husband Kevin in person. What a blessing it was to hug her neck and visit in their living room! For me, it was like this whole blogging experience had come full circle. It was the second time I'd been able to meet a blog friend in real life (read about when I met Tammy HERE), and it just reassures me that none of this is accidental. I'm so fortunate to be able to develop what I know are lifelong friends. Even though this is a struggle, it is so good for my soul to know that amazing things can come out of it.

We had a great evening in downtown Asheville with Kevin and Beth. They treated us to an awesome dinner, but it was the company that made it so special. It was hard to leave after just a few hours together. Beth sent me away with a beautiful plant that now resides on my favorite desk in my living room. It was a great visit, and a great reminder that there are blessings to be found even in the midst of trials.

Stacey and Beth in Asheville, NC

Beth, your friendship is so precious to me! Thank you for welcoming us into your home and into your lives. We love you both.

(You can read Beth's post about our meeting HERE.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tired of Fighting?

If you read my blog regularly and have a good memory, you might remember that I have been studying the book of Philippians for the past few months. I wrote a post about it back in February when I first started attending the Bible study, and I can't believe that 16 weeks have gone by! In the original post ("Perspective"), I wrote about how much I was looking forward to studying a book about "how to have joy no matter what." Now, as I near the end of the study, I want to write about something I learned this week.

While studying the last chapter of Philippians, I took a long look at Phil. 4:6-7. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." These are powerful verses, and I've been trying to soak them in. I know that I believe them, but how do I live it? How do I overcome my anxiety and truly live in peace?

One of the things that is so hard about the struggle with infertility and miscarriage is that it feels way too big for me. It is so far beyond anything I know how to handle. I'm not suggesting that it's the hardest thing in the whole world by any means, but being pregnant six times and not being able to do anything to help those babies grow and thrive is incredibly hard. Watching each one slip away has been devastating for us. After almost eleven years of marriage, we still have no children to hold in our arms and fill up our home. Even now we are in a season of waiting, and we have no idea how long it will last. All of these facts are hard to ignore. I wake up every morning painfully aware of them. I don't have a definite medical reason why this is happening. Although my doctors have identified and even corrected some problems over the years, we have no guarantee that I will ever deliver a baby. Sometimes I let the future scare me. Many times I let my circumstances rob me of my joy.

A few things clicked for me today as the Bible study led me to 2 Chronicles 20. I hope you'll read the whole chapter, but here's a recap:

Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) is warned of an impending attack. He immediately decides to inquire of the Lord. All of the people of Judah gather to seek the Lord's help, and Jehoshaphat leads them in prayer. For me, the highlight of this king's prayer is in 2 Chron. 20:12: "We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." Okay, now this I understand! Although I don't have a vast army threatening my life today, I do feel utterly powerless against my foe. I have no idea what to do other than keep my eyes on the Lord.

When we read further, we learn that God spoke through one of the men in the assembly. Here is what is recorded in verses 15 and 17: "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'"

The people of Judah not only obeyed God; they sang and praised Him BEFORE they knew the outcome. Of course, God came through on His promise and the people rejoiced. In verse 30, we find Jehoshaphat's kingdom at peace because "God had given him rest on every side."

As I studied today it became clear what in the world these verses have to do with the fourth chapter of Philippians. What was the result of the people's obedience?

1. They rejoiced in what the Lord had done.
2. They recognized God's power and strength.
3. They rested in His peace.

Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I don't know what to do as my battle with infertility continues. The people of Judah were told to take up their positions and to stand firm. Yes, I have a part to play that is not entirely passive, but ultimately the result is out of my hands, and I'm okay with that as long as the battle is God's. I want to keep my eyes on Him, rest in His peace, and rejoice no matter what the outcome will be.

*All verses are quoted from the NIV. If you want to know more about this Bible study, click here: Precept Ministries

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On Mother's Day...

I didn't feel that incredible sense of sadness like I normally do.

I didn't think very much about how many years I have spent waiting for a child.

Something that weighs so heavily on my mind and heart almost every other day of the year did not upset me terribly on Mother's Day, of all days.

We were not able to spend the day with either of our moms this year. We had seen my in-laws recently, and they had other weekend travel plans. We'll see my mom next week during our vacation together. It was okay that we couldn't be together with them today.

What in the world did we do, then? Chuck and I stayed overnight at his sister's house to celebrate her birthday (which is tomorrow). We had a nice dinner out, stayed up late visiting, slept in, played games together, and did some shopping. We had fun! We were busy, and I really wasn't sad all day.

Amazingly, it was Mother's Day and I didn't cry...

Until we got home and I found a bouquet of flowers left at my front door by a beautiful friend from church. She had filled a little apple juice bottle with water and put the flowers in it so they would keep until we got home. It was adorable and so sweet. Okay, so I had to wipe away a few tears then.

After having been away from my computer all day, I then checked my email. There I found the sweetest notes of love and encouragement from two of my blog pals. One took a moment away from her own special day with her daughter to write a note to me. You see, she also knows loss. The other knows what it is like to yearn for a baby for years and years. She knows what this wait feels like. Despite their own struggles, these precious friends sent words that really spoke to my heart and reminded me that I, too, am a mother. I had to wipe away a few more tears.

There was another email from a dear friend of mine. I've known her since elementary school. She is a beautiful, single woman in her thirties, who understands how isolating a holiday like Mother's Day can be for me. Like she shared with me today, she is all too familiar with those feelings when Valentine's Day comes around. What a difficult day that is for so many singles who would love to be a couple. She reminded me that others can relate to what I feel, even when their situation is different.

I found yet another email from a friend I haven't seen in about 13 years. We worked as counselors at a summer camp together all those years ago. We recently got back in touch through Facebook, and she knows my general situation. She has beautiful children of her own. I'm so humbled that she would remember me. I was so touched that she would write, because she realized it might be a hard day. My tears continued.

Heaven only knows how many wonderful friends and relatives have remembered us today, and how many have mentioned our names in their prayers on Mother's Day. I know there are others who have shown their support in the days leading up to today. Another precious friend has been praying for me all week even while she is missing her mother so badly this time of year. I'm afraid of leaving someone out, but each gesture meant so much to me no matter how small it might have seemed to the giver.

I hadn't cried a single tear today until I was able to see how much people cared. I had to give in to a few tears, but they were the happy kind. I couldn't hold them in any longer!

Although I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about my own infertility and loss today, I did think about all of my special friends. I do know that Mother's Day is a hard day for a lot of people for many reasons. Many of you mourn your children or your mothers. Some of you grieve for the children you wish you could conceive. Some understand what it's like to wait for something you deeply desire (and what it's like to have a holiday that reminds you of it). And some simply care about the hurts of others around them and aren't afraid to reach out. Whether you are mothers or not, I'm grateful for the amazing women that you are!

If you thought of us or prayed for us today, I thank you. And I really didn't mind the tears.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May Memories

It occurred to me the other day that this month marks a couple of significant milestones for us.

May 1999: I can't quite believe that in just two weeks it will be 10 years since I graduated from college. It's strange how something can feel like such a long time ago and also like it was just yesterday. I have lots of happy memories of my college days, but I like to reminisce about them mostly because it's where I met my husband. Our entire dating experience was centered around Louisiana Tech University.

We met on campus my freshman year at the Christian organization that we both attended. We formed a friendship while chatting on the rickety computer on the first floor of my dorm. He picked me up for our first date at the dorm room that I shared with my sister during my freshman year. We ate countless meals together in the student center and enjoyed several fun dates at ball games, concerts, and theater events on campus. We got engaged at the beginning of my junior year, and we were married the summer between my junior and senior years.

As much as I enjoyed a lot of my time as a college student, after we got married I found it hard to continue. That last year seemed to drag on while I waited for graduation day to finally come! Getting my degree was important, but I was so eager to focus my time on being a wife. I was ecstatic when that day finally did arrive, and now, somehow, 10 years have gone by. I love to look back on it though, especially to remember the earliest years of getting to know my husband. College life can be pretty stressful, but when I compare it to the things we deal with today it seems like we were so carefree. I don't miss it enough to go back to school by any means! I just miss who I was and what life was like in a simpler time before miscarriage entered my life.

May 2001: It was the 5th of May, 2001 when we moved from Louisiana to Texas. Eight years have gone by since we moved from our home state for a new job opportunity in our neighboring state.

It was later that same year that we decided we wanted to start trying to have a baby. By May of 2002, I was able to surprise my mom with baby news in her Mother's Day card. Just two months later, however, we had our first miscarriage as we were preparing to move into our first home.

May 2008: Last year's May was a crazy month. On May 1st I finally took the plunge and had Lasik surgery. I can't believe a year has gone by since I last put contact lenses in my eyes! It has been pretty amazing. That same week, we had the dishwasher leak that caused us to spend the next 8 or 9 months making repairs and updates to the house (mainly the kitchen). At the end of the month, on the 27th, I started this little blog, which has opened up a new world of ministry, friendship, and support. What a blessing it has been!

May 2009: This month finds us still daily walking the long road of infertility. We have certainly changed a lot in the years I've mentioned here, in some ways good and in some ways bad. Finding hope that we will ever be on the other side of this is harder than ever before, but we make it our goal to find ways to rejoice in this trial.

In just a little over a week, we'll be leaving for a vacation with my family. My sister planned this trip a few months ago with her husband and kids, then decided to turn it into a family trip including the two of us, and my mom, step dad, and brother. We are very excited about spending a week away with family, enjoying the mountains in Tennessee! Something really amazing happened when we were planning the trip. We realized that we would be close enough to meet up with my dear blog friend Beth and her husband Kevin! I can't wait to write more about this in the weeks ahead, but we are so happy to finally meet these friends face to face.

Thankfully, we will be able to look back on this May with warm memories of family and friends.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Blue Friday

It's one of those days when I feel blue. My heart is heavy today as I think about all of those who live with infertility and loss.

I have been thinking about how people respond to the pain of others. What is it that drives us to reach out to someone who is hurting? Is it a shared experience that we may have had before, moving us to reach out and tell them that we've been there? What are some reasons why we don't reach out sometimes?

I think some reasons are:
1. Because we think we won't know what to say or how to help. We're scared to try, for fear that we might say the wrong thing. Maybe they are going through something we know nothing about or have never faced ourselves. We would rather stay silent than say the wrong thing.

2. Because we don't think we know them well enough to "intrude" on their grief. How well do I have to know someone to tell them I'm sorry for their pain? Can it be a friend of a friend, or a family friend's daughter? Will he or she think it's none of my business?

3. Because we're too busy as it is. We have enough problems to handle today. We may think, "How can I be there for someone else if I don't take care of myself? Besides, I'm sure she has friends and family who will be there for support. She probably doesn't need me."

4. Because we are too wrapped up in our daily lives to notice.

I hate to say it, but I have been guilty of all of these things at one time or another.

It is definitely true that going through infertility and recurrent miscarriage for many years has made me much more aware of and sensitive to the pain of others. This sensitivity carries over many times to those who are struggling with entirely different problems as well. Still there are times when I fear I will say the wrong thing, or I don't think I know the person well enough to reach out, or I'm too caught up in my own issues to even think about someone else. I know that we can't always be available, and this is not about feeling guilty about that. I simply want to do the best that I can.

When you are struggling, you need to know that someone cares and that someone is standing with you. Maybe that's why it is so hard to hear all of the questions, suggestions, and unwanted advice right then. You just want genuine support, love, and prayers. It doesn't take a lot of words or attempts to "fix it." Just care, plain and simple.

There's a girl that I kind of know in real life. I used to work with her mother. A few years ago she married a young man whose family are good friends with my in-laws. His mother played the Wedding March at my wedding. We are friends, even though I really don't know this young woman very well on a personal level. Last week she lost her baby. She was 6 months pregnant, and everything suddenly changed at a routine doctor visit. Some of the things that I listed above came into play in my mind: Should I reach out to her? Do I know her well enough? Will I say the right thing? I haven't been through the exact same experience. I know they have a very supportive family and church family. I don't want to intrude...

But then I remember that some of the sweetest blessings have come from people who have taken those risks with me. People whose lives have been touched by pregnancy loss have shared their own experiences. In some cases I've known them for years but never knew they'd lost a baby. Some sweet friends who have never experienced infertility have been kind enough to walk beside us even though it is hard, and even though it has been years and years. Some have been the parents of my friends, and some almost complete strangers to me (and thanks to this blog, so many "strangers" I now call dear friends).

I've been praying for this young couple, and I'm going to send a note to let them know that I care because I do, and I know how hearing that from a heart that is truly sincere can go a long way.