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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Always There

I don't know where the time has been going lately, but it's really flying. Summers always do seem that way I guess, but in the years we spent struggling through pregnancy loss, time always seemed to pass so slowly no matter what the season. The weeks and days (and especially the nights) would drag on, yet before I knew it I was facing another Christmas, New Year, and birthday with an empty womb and empty arms. Somehow the years piled up more quickly than I expected while we were slowly trudging through day by day.

Now, for the time being, I don't mind that time is marching on. One of my favorite things to do is turn the calendar to a new month and count the weeks until our due date in September. I'm so eager to have this baby here that I want the next few months to go quickly even though we're not "ready" in terms of having everything done.

But with all the joy and all the things we have to keep us steadily busy for the next 12 weeks, those years of infertility and loss are always there. They are in the past, hopefully once and for all, but they don't go away. The old familiar hurt is there when I hear of someone experiencing loss. I still feel funny (jealous?) when I hear a pregnancy announcement from someone very young, newly married, and totally oblivious that anything could possibly go wrong.

I still miss the babies I carried before Lily. They were here, they were loved, and they were celebrated before they were gone. And besides missing them, I don't think I could ever forget the huge, aching emptiness I felt inside. The future was so uncertain when it came to whether or not we'd ever get over this hurdle. Could I be okay if we never had children? Would I be destined to live with only the memory of six tiny babies that we never got to see or hold? Will we be able to adopt, and if so, where would the finances come from? How could we ever have a successful pregnancy after six failures? Would we ever beat the odds somehow?

So many questions. And while some of my questioning and wondering has been put to rest, the feelings of loss are always there. And yes, the fears are still around, too. I think they always are when you've had a history of loss. I still pray so hard for this child. I talk to her and tell her how much her Daddy and I love her, and how hard we tried to get her here. I tell her what a miracle she is already, and I pray God's protection over her life.

Because the reminders of what we've lost are everywhere. Lily will wear clothes and play with toys that were bought for her siblings years ago (although, trust me, she has plenty of brand new things that are just hers!). She will probably grow up wondering why we look at her with such awe, why we call her a miracle, and why we get choked up every time we thank God for her in our prayer time.

It's not that I need reminders to remember where we've been. I don't, but sometimes they come unexpectedly. I've been able to do a lot of reading in the past few weeks, and the last two books that I finished from my reading list (The Forgotten Garden and Sarah's Key) had some element of infertility or miscarriage in the plot. I had no idea when I added these works of fiction to my list at the beginning of the year that they had anything to do with that topic. One of the books was well over 500 pages long and the infertility element didn't appear until more than 400 pages in.

I don't necessarily mind when a book talks about infertility or miscarriage. Actually, I'm glad that people are beginning to see that it's a real and terrible issue that a lot of women face. I'm glad it's being talked about so much more than it used to, even if it is in a novel. But sometimes it catches me off guard. Sure, I use books as an escape from real life. I always have. That's what is so great about getting lost in a story! Sometimes it feels too familiar, though. Sometimes I'm not prepared. I wasn't expecting to have big, fat tears rolling down my cheeks because I can relate to the woman who feels like she's at the end of her rope because her body has betrayed her. She feels a familiar ache in her abdomen and fears the worst. She feels her hopes and dreams begin to crumble when she realizes that her pregnancy is over. She feels like a failure as a woman and a wife because she can't have a baby. She feels empty and desperate and alone.

I know those feelings because they are always there.

And I'm ready. Ready for my mourning to turn to dancing, and ready for my tears of grief to become tears of joy. But, rest assured, even when the time finally comes, I'll never forget.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FULL

It has been a very busy week around here and I have lots of updates to get to. I've been feeling very full lately, which is quite a change after so many years of feeling so empty. It's hard to believe that after six and a half months I still sometimes feel like this is not really happening, that I can't really have a baby growing inside. But somehow, against all odds, that's where we are and my heart is full.

Last weekend was our first baby shower. This one was scheduled first because it was in my husband's hometown (the town where we both went to college, got married, and lived for a few years before moving to Texas), which is a six-hour drive from our home. We know we won't be traveling that far again, so the time was right. It was such a sweet day. The shower was held in the home of a dear friend of mine who went through quite a few years of infertility way back when I had no idea about such things. She's not that much older than I am, but her years of infertility came before we had started trying to have children and it seems like so long ago to me now. She now has two daughters and a son after her years of waiting and battling severe endometriosis. Having the shower in her beautiful home was special to me because of that and because of what a great friend she is.

Three more dear friends of mine were also hostesses that day, and they did such a great job of decorating and preparing the wonderful food! I was delighted to have both of my sisters-in-law in town for the occasion as well. We had just over 30 people in attendance and I truly felt overwhelmed with joy at the love and generosity. A few of the people there were church friends who were around for our wedding shower 12 years ago. There were some friends there that day that we hadn't seen in many years and had been dearly missed. Above all, I felt surrounded by people who had spent years praying us through so much heartache before finally getting to this point of celebration. That made the day so special to me!

Oh, and yes, our car was absolutely FULL for the six-hour ride home because of their generosity! We were given plenty of wonderful things for Lily. Boy, do people like to buy clothes for baby girls! :) I loved it, though, and each and every gift I opened made my heart sing. I imagined her in those sweet little dresses. I imagined her in that car seat. I imagined her in her high chair for family meals. And I even imagined changing diapers, all with so much joy and gratitude for the opportunity to be in this position.

When I looked around the room I saw a few precious faces of women that I know have walked this road in some way. There were at least two who have faced infertility and at least four more who have babies in heaven. This was not lost on me for one second. I attempted to express my thanks to everyone there when it was over, but of course it came out as a jumbled, tearful mess. I hope that my message came through, though, and that everyone there knew what this means to me. Not just the gifts and not just their attendance that day, but the years and years of support and prayers that have gotten us here.

I don't have all of the pictures yet from that day (they are on a few different cameras) but I can share a couple. I may have more for next week, along with some from our second shower which is coming up on Friday of this week, hosted by my husband's co-workers.





Here is a pic of Lily's room (obviously still set up as a guest room) after we got home with all of her stuff. You can see why my heart is so very full!


Here is a closeup of that adorable wreath that was made by the shower host. I couldn't wait to get home and hang it on the door!


Also, last week I had a visit from a dear friend of mine who brought the most precious gifts, including this gorgeous canvas that she painted for Lily's room. We both cried when I opened it! Talk about my heart overflowing... I was so touched. I will treasure it and I can't wait to hang it in her room as a sweet reminder: "I prayed for this child and the Lord granted what I asked of Him." Thanks, GG!


One more update: I went to my OB appointment on Monday and everything is still looking good. My weight really jumped up there this time, as I'm sure you can tell from these recent pics, but the doc says she thinks I'm at a good weight for this stage. (Whew!) I will go again in 3 weeks because it will be time for my glucose screening, and after that it will be time to start going every 2 weeks! I can't believe it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Anniversary Getaway

Thanks for all of the sweet anniversary wishes! We had a fantastic weekend away and I can't wait to tell you all about it and share some pictures.

When we were discussing where to spend the weekend, we knew that we wanted it to be someplace fairly close, within a short drive from home. The very next weekend we will be traveling six hours away to my husband's hometown, so we didn't want two long trips back-to-back. Truthfully, we haven't done much traveling within the state of Texas since moving here nine years ago. We decided to go less than two hours away to Brenham, Texas for the weekend. It seemed like a good choice: it's close, there are a few things to do but it can still be a lazy weekend, and we found this adorable place to stay (Tara Farms).

It turned out to be perfect for what we wanted our anniversary weekend to be! We left on Friday afternoon just before lunch and were in Brenham by 1 PM. We started out by touring the Blue Bell factory, something we've talked about doing since moving here. (Have people outside of the southern United States heard of Blue Bell ice cream?) It was a special treat for sure. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and ended with free ice cream! Can't beat that. :)


From there we headed out of town and into the country to Tara Farms. Let me tell you, we were pretty sure from the website that we would love the little cottage, but when we got there it just felt perfect. How adorable is this place?



The cottage is right next to the main house, but the B&B owners let you have complete privacy. The keys were waiting for us and the cottage was stocked with everything we could possibly need for the weekend, including muffins for breakfast and fresh fruit, juice, milk, coffee, snacks and then some. We absolutely loved the decor inside the cottage. It was a great place for a nice, quiet retreat.


We enjoyed our breakfasts in this little nook.


Besides the cozy bedroom and sitting areas, the cottage had a lovely bathroom with a nice, big tub for relaxing baths. Outside was just as cozy with beautiful landscaping and acres and acres of land all around.



We enjoyed sitting out on the porch rocking chairs and on the swings beneath the trees, and were visited frequently by birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.





Of course, among the many beautiful flowers we particularly enjoyed the lilies, which reminded us of our precious little Lily who is growing more and more each day.



Each day we enjoyed heading back into Brenham for food, antiquing, and shopping, but every evening we were happy to return to such a beautiful and welcoming spot in the country. We thoroughly enjoyed the many shops in town, the wonderful southern-style home cooking we found in various restaurants, and the time spent outdoors enjoying nature and indoors napping or catching up on some reading. In the evenings we loved soaking in a nice bubble bath and then settling in under the covers to watch a movie.

Saturday was the day we set aside to celebrate our anniversary. We exchanged cards and gifts over breakfast at the cottage. I included the letter that I wrote to Chuck here on the blog in his card. I'd kept it secret from him and we were both a little teary-eyed as he read it. I was surprised and delighted to receive my gift from him. I'm happy to report that the ring finger on my left hand is no longer naked! (You may remember that I haven't been able to wear my wedding/engagement set for a few months now.) He gave me a beautiful three-stone anniversary ring, which I love. That night we got dressed up and enjoyed a nice dinner at a local Italian restaurant. It was truly a perfect day all around!

During our shopping on Saturday we visited a furniture store for the sole purpose of "window shopping" but we found a lovely little dining table with four chairs and a bench that we just loved! Our dilemma was that we live two hours away and had not brought a delivery truck with us. :) The price was excellent, though, and we just couldn't pass it up. We asked an employee about delivery and were happy to hear that they deliver to Houston and beyond "all the time," and even happier to hear that the delivery is FREE! It was music to our ears, so we purchased it and can't wait to get it here. I think the new table will serve as a nice memory of our trip as well!

The cottage provided a wonderful weekend getaway for us to go and relax and enjoy being with each other. We had much to celebrate this weekend, including 12 years of marriage, reaching six months in this pregnancy, and answered prayer from a loving and faithful Lord.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Letter to my Husband

(I'm writing this post on Thursday as Chuck and I are getting ready to head out of town Friday for the weekend. I'll schedule it to publish on Sunday, which is our 12th wedding anniversary. I'll write again next week and fill you all in on our weekend!)

To my dear husband,

How do I begin to say thank you for twelve wonderful years of marriage? Sometimes it feels as though we are still kids, just getting to know each other and loving every minute of it. Other times I think we are already a seasoned "old" couple who have been through so much together, know each other through and through, and still anticipate the years to come.

It hasn't always been smooth sailing since we said "I do." We had no way of knowing what was ahead, but I believed you that day when we held hands in front of God and family and friends and you spoke these words:

"I promise to forsake all others and cleave only to you. I promise to love, honor, comfort, and spiritually edify you. I take you from this day forth for better or for worse, in riches and in poverty, in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part. I promise to pray for you, to live with you in an understanding way, and to forgive you as God has forgiven me. I promise to give myself to you as Christ gave himself for us, to fulfill my duty to you and to be your spiritual leader. Therefore I receive you as God's lovely gift to me."

You didn't know it would mean nine years of infertility, six babies in heaven, dozens of doctor visits and surgeries, and countless sleepless, tearful nights, but I know you would have been by my side no matter what came our way.

Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for never, ever doubting God's ability to move in our situation. Thank you for always believing that we could one day fulfill our dream of bringing home a baby and raising children. I don't know how you did that, but you never wavered. I think if you had I may have lost every ounce of hope, resolve, and courage that has gotten us to this place. I knew that you would support me if at any time I had reached my breaking point and thought we should quit trying. You always made that clear. But every time I asked if you thought this would work one day, you answered with a resounding YES. You didn't know how, but you believed. I don't know if you'll ever truly understand how much that meant to me and how it kept me going for so many years.

Thank you for showing me that beautiful, godly men who truly loved and were faithful to their wives and families really do exist. I used to seriously doubt that, but you have restored my faith in love, in marriage, and in commitment.

Now we're on the verge of a whole new adventure and I'm ready to jump in with both feet, thankful that I have the chance to do this with you! You've always told me that "we make a good team," and I can't wait to see what a great father you will be. I already know what a gentle, humble, kind heart you have. I'm eager to see how well you will adapt to being the father of a little girl who will love and appreciate you as much as I do. And oh, I know that she will be the apple of your eye!

We have twelve great, memorable years behind us now and a whole lifetime ahead. I love you and the husband God made you to be more and more every day! Happy Anniversary.




Love,
Stacey

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blogging Future?

I love blogging. I really do. Blogging has reawakened my passion for writing. It has given me a place to share and explore some really tough feelings. The beauty of blogging as opposed to journaling is the feedback. It helped me find a community of people who understood and offered support. And it has even gone above and beyond that by helping me to heal from some hurts, and by bringing new friends into my life and helping me to communicate more openly with my existing friends who follow along. I really do believe that blogging has enriched my life for the past two years. For that I am very thankful.

Some people, I know, are of the opinion that one shouldn't continue to write a blog about infertility once they are pregnant or have had a baby. Maybe you think this too, and that's okay. This is just my opinion, as always. I don't know exactly which direction my blog will take in the months and years ahead. I would love to keep blogging and I'm pretty sure that I will do that in some way. But what I can't do is stop writing about infertility and miscarriage. It may not be the topic of every single post, but it will always be part of my life. It is a huge part of my story and my personal testimony. Like it or not, it has had a large role in forming who I am today (for better or worse).

You see, I don't look at having a baby as the end of my struggle. Oh, I can definitely see how in some ways it is. It is without a doubt what I've been working for and trying for, and I know that the day our daughter is born will feel like a completion, or a culmination, in a way.

But here is something that I think a lot of people don't quite grasp: Having a baby does not replace a baby or babies that you've lost. It doesn't magically wipe away years of grief and hurt over the loss of those lives. And I suppose that this is debatable, but I don't believe that having a baby makes a person no longer infertile. Maybe that seems like an oxymoron, but I was "fertile" for six years and pregnant six times, yet still didn't have a child to raise. Conquering pregnancy loss or infertility one time and bringing home a baby doesn't mean your reproductive problems are all "cured."

That's why I don't see my journey as over. This is not a resolution to this problem for me. For as long as I live and as long as I write, my history and my experience with infertility and loss is bound to come out. It's part of who I am. My daughter will know that it's part of her story, too. I don't by any means think that it defines who I am, but it is certainly part of me.

It's also true that my experience with infertility and miscarriage has changed the way I look at things. I think we all have our filters -- the things in our past that make us see things the way we do. It's unique to each and every one of us and that's kind of what makes the world go round. And frankly, that's what I find interesting about people and about blogs. No one has the exact same story and I love to hear different perspectives.

This blog hasn't been so much about my quest to get pregnant and bring home a baby. That's not why I started writing it in the first place. It was more about how it felt to live with recurrent pregnancy loss and how I personally tried to find my way through that valley. That's why I don't think that the topic will die when I have this baby. I'm still finding my way. I'm still trying to live with what I've been through. My wounds are still healing from this battle. I know that our miracle baby will add a lot of joy to this journey and I'm so happy about that! It is long past time for us to feel some joy after so many losses and it hasn't come a moment too soon. I welcome a new chapter to this story, but I won't erase the old chapters. Besides, if they weren't there my story would look entirely different. Just like so many times before, it doesn't all end with a positive pregnancy test.

So, I'm planning to continue blogging and to keep writing what's in my heart. I still think I have a story to tell. I hope that it will be one that, even though it started out with much sadness, hurt, and waiting, will continue to become a story of perseverance, hope, and second chances.