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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pictures

This is one of those posts that I wasn't sure would ever be.


I can remember back to the early days of this pregnancy, to the first trimester when we were so worried that this baby wouldn't make it. I remember how it took us a while to believe that this could be the one that survived and the one that we might bring home. I remember all of the kindness and the prayers as we learned to practice taking this pregnancy one day at a time and celebrating every single small victory. The third trimester seemed a lifetime away and I struggled to imagine what it would be like, look like, or feel like to be that close to welcoming a living, healthy baby.

A couple of weeks ago (at 34 weeks) we had a friend take some maternity pictures for us. These pictures capture some of those feelings for me. I hope they communicate at least a small portion of our joy and wonder over this little life. I hope you know that we haven't taken any moment or milestone for granted. We haven't forgotten the long and rocky path that brought us here and made us so very grateful to have arrived at this point.


For the photo shoot I wore a necklace that was given to me by a special blog friend. It is a heart-shaped locket with a clear window in the middle that displays three items: tiny blue baby feet, tiny pink baby feet, and a tiny pink heart that has the word "hope" on it. The sweet friend (Abby) who gave it to me has a set of precious twin boys in heaven. I wanted to wear it that day for her, for her boys, for my six little ones, and for all of you who have experienced loss and those who are still waiting with hope. When I look back on these pictures, I'll think of all of you.

Indeed, even our photographer friend (Crystal) who took these pictures for us has had her own infertility journey, so it also meant something to us that she would be the one to take them. She now has a beautiful little girl of her own, who I know is the apple of her eye!

This post includes just a few of my favorites from the day, but I know we will cherish every single one that was taken.
Thanks for walking along with us!







Just a couple of side notes:
If you'd like to see a lot more of our favorites from the photo shoot, you can follow this link: Maternity Pics. (FYI, the album does include a few real "belly" photos. Just wanted you to know before you click.)

And one last thing: I just noticed that my previous post was post number 200! :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Showers of Blessing

Since I last wrote a blog post we had our fourth and final baby shower, had some maternity pictures taken, and I'm now quickly approaching 35 weeks. Although the proof is all around us, I still find it completely amazing that I will soon be nine months pregnant.

Our baby girl has been growing quite a bit over these last couple of weeks. I've noticed a huge change in the size of my belly even though I gained only one pound in the two weeks between my last OB visits. At yesterday's appointment, the doctor said the baby is a good size and her heartbeat is still sounding great. My blood pressure remains in the normal range and I couldn't be more grateful that this pregnancy has gone so smoothly. I think even when I would let myself imagine what it would be like to finally carry a baby for this long, I never dreamed it would be possible for me to experience a largely stress-free (at least for the last two trimesters) pregnancy after all we'd been through up to this point. Thank you, Lord!

My next appointment will be in two weeks and from there I'll begin seeing the doctor every week. Believe it or not, that means only THREE more OB visits until baby time! Unbelievable.

I will share some of our favorites from the maternity pics in the next post, but today I have a few from the last baby shower. This one was our local shower with mostly church friends, a few family members, and a few Louisiana friends who now also live in Texas. My precious friend Meagan did a fantastic job putting all of it together! It was beautiful and it was another very special day of celebration for our little Lily girl that will be in my heart forever.
Here are some photos from the day, August 7. (I was 33 weeks.)

Sweet, sweet little birdie cake!

Food and decorations. (We got to keep all of the adorable outfits that were hanging all around the room!)

Me with shower hostess and wonderful friend, Meagan.

Chuck and me :)

With my dear friends/family from home. That's me in the middle and my sister next to me with the dark hair. The two friends on either end are two of my oldest and dearest friends all the way since grade school. The lovely lady in the multi-colored blouse is a teacher/friend from my high school. It was so sweet to have them all there!

Each and every baby shower we've had the honor of having has been so precious to me. I can hardly find the words to say how much they have all meant to us and were more than we could have hoped for. Thank you to our friends and family for celebrating this miracle with us and praying us through to this point. We love you!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Misconceptions

Some days it frustrates me to no end that the general population is still quite uneducated and uninformed about infertility and miscarriage. Now that most people I know have heard about my pregnancy and now that it's far more obvious when I go out in public, I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get.

Most of the time a stranger will simply ask when I'm due or whether it's a boy or a girl. No problem; those questions are easy enough to just give a simple reply and move on. And it's not that I mind sharing my story anymore, but I am not going to launch into it during a passing encounter with just anybody. On occasion, though, the time seems right or the question is one where it seems appropriate to go into a more detailed response.

Just this week I had to have some lab work done to check my thyroid, which I've done once a trimester. Unfortunately my doctor's office can't draw it so I have to have the blood work done at a separate lab nearby. There, in one of the private rooms, the lady asked me about my pregnancy. I answered that yes, I am pregnant (surprised that she wasn't sure at 8 months, but I understand people don't want to guess at these things), and she asked if I was excited about the baby coming. Oh yes, I said. We've been waiting a very long time for this. She inquired further about my history and I told her about the miscarriages and the struggles. So far, the conversation had gone as I expected. But then came the part that I always dread: "Well, I guess you finally quit 'trying' and your body figured out what to do. You know, a lot of women adopt a baby and then get pregnant."

I guess I'm not offended by these statements, but it still just frustrates me that this is where we end up. I don't know why it has to be about having a magic solution that fixed the problem. No, in fact we hadn't "given up" or "quit trying" and we were not on the verge of adopting a baby. People just don't seem satisfied with the fact that I can't pinpoint exactly what worked for us or fixed my messed up reproductive system. And really I guess it's just a minor annoyance; I just wish that more people understood. It's interesting how these are almost the very same things that used to bug me when I was trying to get pregnant. It's just another form of "just relax" and "why don't you adopt?"

Other times when I share my story, I will have someone say that everything we went through was all worth it to get to this point. I have mixed feelings about that. Was it worth all the years we spent waiting and wondering, seeing doctors and having surgeries, and spending money? I'd say a resounding YES. Not that all of that was easy by any means. And I know that many endure so much more of that than I ever did, and it absolutely can reach a point where it becomes too much to handle. I've certainly learned that not all paths of IF treatment are the same. For me, though, in my own personal experience and because our fertility treatment phase wasn't really very invasive or complex in the long run, what I went through was totally worth it to achieve a successful pregnancy.

The part that I have a problem with, however, is the part of my story where our babies died. I'll just never be comfortable with saying that was "worth it." Don't get me wrong -- I would give up life and limb for this baby I'm carrying. She is worth every tear that I've cried and every hope and dream that I thought had died. And I would walk this same road again if I could know that she was waiting for me at the finish line. I'm just not okay with the terminology that losing six babies could ever feel worth it. Those lives were incredibly precious to me as well. As hard as the waiting part was, the beauty is that there came a point where that part was over and done. Or, I guess more accurately, that point will come next month when this baby is born. I know that she will definitely have been worth the wait! It's not that I'll never have to wait for anything again, but finally that 9-year struggle with never knowing if or when or how will be over in an instant. While there has been healing in my heart from losing my babies, though, I don't think that part will ever really be gone. I don't doubt in any way that the Lord can continue to heal that hurt for me. I pray that He does! But my heart will never forget those babies that I carried and wished for and prayed for.

I hate the misconception that seems to be out there (outside of the IF community, of course) that miscarriage is not a big deal. Anyone who has experienced it or had someone close to them experience it knows otherwise. Anyone who has wished and prayed for a baby and then hoped with everything inside of them that their baby would survive knows otherwise. Even after I had been through it multiple times, I still had people in my life who were confused about why I was so upset. It still boggles my mind that sometimes even the most passionate pro-lifers can be so casual about the loss of a baby. People told me that it was so common. It happens to a lot of people. I needed to forget it and move on with my life. I was still young. I could always have another baby. But I knew in my mind and in my heart that there was no guarantee of that. The odds were definitely stacking up against me. Besides that, the events of the past several years had taken their toll on my body and I sure didn't feel very young anymore. I needed time to grieve, while people outside of my immediate circle didn't seem to understand.

On a related note, I got an e-mail the other day from an acquaintance of mine who had heard we were expecting a baby. I don't know this person very well at all, and it was a very simple, brief message that I'm sure meant well. It was only about three sentences long, including a quick hello, followed by "I heard you were pregnant and I'm excited for you," and then the part that got under my skin: "Things always have a way of working themselves out." I still haven't responded to the message because I don't know what to say. I suppose that a simple thank-you will have to do. I guess it's just a matter of opinion, but I don't personally believe that things always work out the way we want them to. If things really did "work themselves out," wouldn't my body have gotten on board a long time ago and before I lost so many unborn babies? I frankly don't consider what I've lived through for the past decade things working themselves out.

Who would think so? Who would have wished for this? Oh, I wished for a healthy pregnancy. I wished for that when I was a young, innocent bride of 21. I wished for it the first time I got that positive test at the age of 24. Of course I kept wishing for it during our years of loss, but I didn't just sit around the house wishing! It took a great deal of courage and facing our fears to keep going. We had to find the strength to pick ourselves up and try again. We had to seek out the right medical help. We had to grow up very quickly and realize that this wasn't going to be easy. We had to get through some hard times in our marriage, teeter on the edge of depression, and battle anxiety and worry and grief. If I were going to covet or be jealous of something, it would be the easy road! I would have wished for that first baby to have lived, followed by subsequent healthy pregnancies back when we were young and naive! I wouldn't have wished for or been envious of this road we've had to walk.
(Maybe you think I'm being too hard on the sender of that e-mail, but take my word for it. If you knew this person you'd know that it was his way of telling me that I did all that worrying and wondering for nothing. It's pretty frustrating to be made to feel like you were silly for ever feeling that way.)

As the saying goes, though, hindsight is 20/20. I have reached a point where I can be thankful for the difficult times. I can appreciate how that experience grew and changed us even though (and because) it was so hard. I'm simply saying that it would have been my natural tendency, of course, to hope for the easier and less painful way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I look back I don' think, "Wow, things really worked themselves out." No. Instead I think, "Thank the Lord that He brought us through." I know in my heart that there were times when I didn't think I would make it. That's when the lesson finally came through that His strength is perfect when mine is gone. I will always give God the glory for where we are now.

Remember those lessons in mercy that I wrote about last time? They are still being learned! I have to remind myself often to respond to people and comments with love and with mercy. And although most of the time, thankfully, it's not an issue, I'm learning to be prepared.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thankfulness and Mercy

I sure do find myself saying "thank you" a lot lately. I love that. Every day it seems there is someone to thank for something, whether it is a sweet gift for Lily, an encouraging word, or a reminder that someone is praying for us.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I always have the desire to thank YOU as well, those of you who still read these words that I write and who have shared in our joy as we prepare for this baby. I want you to know that I don't take this blogging community lightly. Once I've spent weeks, months, and years reading your blogs and praying my heart out for you in your specific situations and struggles, I no longer just think of you as acquaintances. Sure, it's different; there are some of you whose faces I've never even seen in pictures and whose real names I don't know. But I still feel a connection and a shared bond with many of you.

More than a year ago I started keeping a list. It's just a simple Word document on my computer that I began when the list of blogs that I follow kept growing. I've admitted to you before that I like lists. Okay, not only do I like them, but I'm a bit obsessed with them. They help me keep things in order, which is always a good thing! This list of names and blog titles served to help me remember who went with what blog and what the specific situation was. It also became a way of keeping up with my prayer requests for you. I was able to easily look it over and see who might be struggling with a loss, who was heartbroken over infertility, who was celebrating a pregnancy, who was waiting to adopt, and so on.

That list has grown to about 80 individual names and situations. I keep them updated with new information, or when a baby that I've been praying for is born or adopted, listing the baby's name (if given) and birth date in orange. I don't know why I picked orange, but that's what it is. Having the list brings me a lot of joy, partly because there is a lot more orange on it than there used to be! Each one is an answered prayer. Unfortunately, I know that not everyone's story will end with bringing home a baby. The purpose of the list is not to ultimately put down a baby's name by each one. Instead, it reminds me how many friends I've met along the way and how many different people's lives have in some way been connected with mine as we've shared our stories. I'm thankful for this list and each name that it represents. I'm thankful for the support and prayers we've received over the past couple of years from people who started out as strangers, as well as from my sweet real-life friends who follow along with my blog (I pray for you guys, too, of course!).

So, that's the long way of telling you how much I appreciate you for reading and responding to this little blog. It is sweet to be able to share some good experiences with you lately, after enduring what felt like a lifetime of disappointment and loss. I know that it's not always easy to follow someone when you are struggling. I'm always moved when I receive a comment from someone who I know is having a bad day (or year), and I'm very touched to get e-mails from new readers who are in the beginning or the middle of their own battles with infertility or recurrent miscarriage, who tell me that reading my story has given them hope. That alone is what keeps me writing about this experience I've been through. It wasn't easy, but with the Lord's help I've survived through multiple miscarriages and many years of heartbreak and despair. Thank you for finding hope in my story and encouraging me to keep sharing it!

There is a whole lot of thankfulness to go around! And now I've come to the part about mercy. I'm going to share with you very briefly but honestly that there have been some times that have stung in recent months. While I recognize the hurt and the struggle, it is still a sobering thought when you realize that your answered prayer, your miracle baby who finally survived in your womb, is the very thing that will cause some to stop following your story. That is the only thing I will say about it, and I don't plan on revisiting the subject in the future. I've felt some sadness over it and I've spent some time dwelling on it. Then I was at church this past Sunday and we had a guest speaker who talked about showing mercy, and the message went right to my core. I've made up my mind to let go of whatever hurt feelings I may have had and just continue to handle it with love and with mercy. I'll continue to follow and I'll continue to pray even if the sentiments are not returned.

I have for a long time resisted the tendency to lean towards an "us versus them" mentality, both when I was waiting to have a baby and especially now. A woman with a heart that aches over the sadness of infertility and the despair of pregnancy loss is not someone I used to be. It's someone I still am and will always be. A successful pregnancy hasn't caused me to "change sides." I'm the same woman... whose heart is also thankful to God for the grace and mercy that He has shown by giving us this child after we've entrusted six others to His eternal care. That wasn't a small sacrifice, but through it all we've learned to trust Him. This experience continues to teach me new things and grow me in ways that I never imagined. Sometimes the growing pains are not easy, but I'm grateful for the lessons learned.

Let me say again, thank you for walking with me and for sticking around for as long as you have, through the bad times and the good ones. It means so much to me!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nursery

We have been putting the final touches on the nursery for a few days and are finally to the point where we feel it is done! I'm sure we'll find some other things to organize and a few things may get moved around as more comes in, but we are very happy with the room's current state. Thanks for all of the interest you've shown in seeing pictures! I'm excited to share them with you today.

First I just want to take a minute to remember and to reflect on what having this room ready means to me. We were expecting our first baby when we bought this house over 8 years ago. The room was already set up as a nursery, but not even close to what I would choose as far as color and wallpaper borders go. We took down the border and painted that room and the guest room next door a nice shade of green that I loved, but we never had the chance to set it up as a nursery because I miscarried before we even finished moving in.

The room remained mostly empty for a while until we finally purchased a queen-sized bed and made it into a second guest room. And oh, how our guests have used that room! I'm thankful that we gave it another purpose over these past 8 years and that I didn't have the constant reminder of that empty room down the hall. The closet held some unused baby items for all those years, but the room ultimately brought us joy. It has been my mom's room and my in-laws' room for overnight stays, but mainly it was my nephews' room! They called it their room and we've watched them practically grow up in it. I think it was a slight shock to them when we started clearing it out to get ready for Lily. They rebounded quickly, though, on the promise that Uncle and I will always, always make room for them to come and visit, no matter what. :)

Needless to say, it does my heart good to see this room decorated and ready for our baby, with that same shade of green that I loved back then. I always knew it would go well with blue or pink, but all I could do was hope that one day we would actually see it come together. It has, and I'm so thankful. I can't tell you how often I go in there just to stand and take it all in. I love this room, and I can't wait for Lily Rae to come home to it.

Now, onto the pictures!


Crib and changing table dresser. I don't know if I ever mentioned the theme here on the blog, but we went with simple, sweet little birds. I absolutely love the bedding (although the crib doesn't display it very well) and especially the mobile! I believe you can click on the pictures to view them slightly larger.

Crib and dresser


The newborn outfit I plan to bring Lily home in. I've had this sweet outfit for many years.

Dresser and chair. By the way, if you are as in love with that precious name pillow as I am, check out my friend Mellanie's etsy shop! I have a link to it in the sidebar, or you can click here: Cat's Meow Boutique. She makes the most adorable things! You might see some more items she made for my Lily on the site (last time I checked it I saw the adorable wipe case she sent to me).

Decorations on and above dresser. The flash got in the way here, but that little pink framed decoration has an "L" on it. The 3 framed photos on the shelves are of Lily's 3 sweet cousins when they were babies.

Sweet little clothes in the dresser drawer

Changing area and window

Canvas hanging on the wall above the window

Small bookcase. Her closet has an entire shelf full of books as well. I love children's books and have been collecting them for quite some time. She will have lots of books to read for sure!

Decorations on bookcase. This little framed picture is of my mom and me when I was a baby. Oh, and besides scrapbooking I'm really not much of a crafter, but take note of the rick rack that we added to this old lamp shade last week. I think it turned out so cute, not to mention it cost us nothing (I already had the ribbon) and took about 15 minutes to complete! That made me pretty happy.

One of my favorite things about the room is that I can look on any wall in any direction and see things that were lovingly made for and given to this baby. There are so many sweet little treasures tucked into this space and each one holds a special meaning for us. We have been blessed tremendously by family and friends who share in our excitement in bringing Lily home! What a wonderful day it will be. Oh, I can't wait!


"I prayed for this child and the Lord granted what I asked of him." 1 Samuel 1:27
Some version of this verse appears 3 times in Lily's room. As far as I'm concerned, it could be there 100 times! I could never remember or repeat it enough.