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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is Eight Enough?

The following is a post that has been on my heart for a while. It's scary, sometimes, putting things "out there" that feel truly, deeply personal and private, knowing that one little negative comment could potentially cut you to the core. So this is me taking that chance and being brave, friends. I'm not asking for advice, but just a friendly, listening ear.

I'm nearing the end of my eighth pregnancy. I can count the remaining weeks on one hand as the date we've been anticipating since March now appears on our current calendar page. November 2012 is the month when we'll meet our second daughter on earth, the second child we got to keep.

As most of you probably know, my first six pregnancies ended in miscarriage. I know the story has been told and re-told on this blog, but I think perspective is important for this particular post. That was the most difficult time in my life, hands-down. And, not that it would have been any easier at all had they happened in a shorter time frame, my losses were spread out -- one a year for six years, between 2002 and 2007. The reason I'm pointing that out is that it felt like it took up so much of our lives. I'll even admit that looking at it written out doesn't seem like quite that long. Oh, but living it felt like an eternity. It felt like climbing the highest, rockiest mountain over and over again, only to find another one just as high and just as rocky on the other side.

I entered that time as a young, eager, (ahem -- much thinner), twenty-four year old with high hopes, and I exited as a battered and bruised, heartbroken, somewhat jaded thirty year old. We still had very few answers and (speaking for myself) not much hope that our situation would improve. Three more years went by while we waited. Those felt like silent years to me. I wondered if God had closed the door, stopped listening to me, and decided that my chances at motherhood had run out. I was thankful that those years did not include more loss -- I'm not sure if I could have handled more grief during that time. But the silence, too, was hard.

Everything changed in January 2010, when we were given another chance, a seventh pregnancy, and somehow it kept going. Our daughter was born that September and we were overjoyed. We'd grown and changed in many ways (some for the better, some not), but most of all we were tired and ready to rest in the joy of the moment.

The eighth pregnancy in March 2012 came faster and more unexpectedly than we could have imagined, but we were ready and hopeful, if not more than a little bit terrified. We knew that having had one successful pregnancy did not guarantee another, but as the weeks and months passed, the baby lived and grew. We began to let ourselves entertain thoughts of a family of four, and let me tell you, it was so far beyond where I was five years ago after our sixth positive pregnancy test resulted in another devastating loss. Sometimes I still can't believe it when I look around me. The rooms of our house are littered with toys and upstairs there are two bedrooms with cribs in them. More than that, though, my heart is so full.

And so, all of that brings me to this moment, right now. I haven't made any final decisions (or any of the permanent type), but I often wonder if this will be it. Will this eighth pregnancy be our last? If I had to answer as honestly as I can and exactly as I feel today, my answer would be yes. I guess "enough" isn't a great word here, because YES, it is certainly enough! The last thing in the world that I feel right now is unfulfilled or that our family is incomplete (with our six babies in heaven always in my mind and heart -- we know we'll see them again one day, and they are part of our family as well even though they are not here). Having Lily was all we'd hoped for, and now having Anna is all bonus and so much more than we'd imagined. We are fulfilled. We are happy.

If I were ten years younger and had never suffered through miscarriage or infertility, would we stop after two children? Probably not. And that's the part that is hard. I'll be 36 a couple of months after Anna is born. I don't bellyache about my increasing age on this blog because I know there are people older than I am who are fighting their own battles. But I mention it to say that I'm aware of it daily, and I'm more than aware that after eight pregnancies and multiple surgeries, etc., my body is weary. It has been a long and very difficult road to where we are. Not to mention that after six miscarriages, the fear of another loss is always with me. And even though I know it has nothing at all to do with "luck," I can't help but also think sometimes that after bringing home two babies I don't want to "push my luck." I guess that's the pessimist (or the realist) in me.

I do know that women who are older than I am have babies all the time. I think that's great and I like knowing that it may not be impossible for me as well if we pursued that. I think the point of getting all of these feelings out is that I don't feel like the average woman of childbearing age. It took us an entire decade and a lot of emotional and physical pain to have these two children, so I can't help but have lots of feelings on the subject. Sometimes I envy those who had/have no limitations whatsoever on their family size, those who knew from a young age that they wanted to grow up and have "x" amount of children and then faced no obstacles in doing just that. But I've accepted the fact that I'm not and never will be that person, and I know that what I went through to have my miracle babies is part of my story and what makes this family unique and special to me in its own amazing way. From my perspective, which is based on my own personal experience, the thought of closing the chapter of my life that has been consumed with fertility feels... quite freeing.

It's a difficult topic for me to mull over right now, even though I feel 90% sure (and generally okay with it) that Anna will be our caboose. I want to be content in what God has given us, yet I don't want to be the one who has slammed and locked the door if He has another child for us in the future (biological or otherwise).

I can't help but think about it in these final weeks of this pregnancy. I wonder if this will be the last time, while I'm still amazed that I've been given the chance (however hard-fought) to do this twice. Either way I want to rest in this moment and be content right where I am. And I think, whenever we're ready and after praying about it at length, it will one day feel great to say, "Okay. It's enough."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Fall Y'all

Hello dear bloggy friends! It has been, I think, the longest I've been away since starting this blog. Realizing that an update was long overdue, I thought I'd write a quick one today.

The number one reason I've been too swamped to blog is that early last month we moved into a new house. We spent most of June, July, and August wrapped up in the whole process. We put our house on the market and had 4 offers within the first week! That was great, but it made us feel like the race was really on to find a new house that we loved. We finally found the right one and moved in on Labor Day weekend. The day of the big move was the first day of my third trimester, so needless to say it has been challenging. We have finally settled in for the most part, and best of all, Lily has adjusted very well to the new house. We are really happy with the extra space, especially when our families come to visit and we can accommodate guests again.

All that being said, I never really knew or was fully prepared for how much I would miss our old house. 10 years of memories, 8 pregnancies, lots of loss and tears, immense joy in finally bringing a baby home... all wrapped up in that little house. Of course it was also hard to leave our lovely, big backyard with our special tree that we planted in memory of our babies, but we know that we carry their memories within us wherever we go. We were able to share the meaning of the tree with the new owners and they assured us that they would take great care of it, and even left an open invitation for us to come visit anytime. It was very nice of them but we're really doing okay. There is something to be said for starting over again and making new memories, too. The babies we lost are safe in heaven and will always be in our hearts. And there's nothing that says we can't plant a new tree in our new backyard to serve as a visual reminder!

Our little family is doing well. Lily turned 2 years old on September 21, just a few weeks after we moved in. We had her birthday party here, surrounded by family and friends. She had a great time and loved her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme! We just had her 2-year checkup and she was 28 lbs (75th percentile) and 36" tall (95th percentile). She's such a big girl all of a sudden and I can't believe she's almost a big sister.


Lily Rae is 2!

This weekend I'll be 34 weeks pregnant with baby sister, Anna. Besides the stress of the move, it has been a good and uneventful pregnancy so far. I do have borderline gestational diabetes this time around, which only means that I've been on a low carb diet for the past couple of weeks through the end of the pregnancy and am watching my weight. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, but most certainly not the hardest either. I'll be having another C-section after 39 weeks, so she will arrive (unless she surprises us) sometime the last week of November. We are scheduled for Wednesday, November 28 at the hospital, but only because Monday and Tuesday are completely booked. So, if by chance there is an opening, we may get in on Nov. 26 or 27.

No matter when she comes, we are excited to meet this new little one! She is so much more than what we imagined -- the icing on the cake and a truly wonderful gift. We chose the name Anna because we have loved it for many years, and because we love the story of Anna in the Bible (found in the second chapter of Luke). The name means "gracious, merciful," which the Lord has certainly been to us. Her middle name will be Evangeline, which means "messenger of good news." The middle name is also a nod to our beloved home state of Louisiana and Henry W. Longfellow's poem of the same name about the Acadian Exile. We absolutely love her name and cannot wait to see the face of our little Anna Evangeline in about five and a half weeks.

I hope this finds each and every one of you doing well. Even when I'm away from the blog world, you remain in my thoughts often and I always wish you the very best. I'll leave you with a few recent family pics that we had taken just a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to those of you who still read and follow this little old blog! I've appreciated your thoughts and prayers for my family over the years more than I can ever express.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Ten Years

Today is the tenth anniversary of my first miscarriage. Ten years. An entire decade.

I'm finding it difficult to summarize it all in a blog post. We have lots of anniversaries like these -- six different miscarriage dates and six different unfulfilled due dates to go along with them. But this day in particular always carries so much emotion for me. It was the beginning of everything, the beginning of things I couldn't even imagine were yet to come. It was the end of a lot of things, too. The end of a certain sense of security and innocence that I had back then, at the age of 25. I thought my life was settling down after a difficult childhood with divorced parents and an alcoholic father and having just enough to scrape by. Against all odds I'd finished college and found a wonderful man to marry. We'd moved to a different state to follow a great job opportunity for him, and we'd just bought our first house. Now, I thought, we'll have a baby. Start a family.

Recurrent pregnancy loss was nowhere on my radar. I'm sure it never is for anybody. I'd known a few people who'd had a miscarriage before (my mom, included). But I didn't know anyone personally who had been through it over and over and over again. Not yet, anyway. Or it could have been that I knew them but just never knew their struggle. And I think that's entirely possible because, for some reason, people don't really talk about miscarriage. I went through a time like that myself. It felt like such a personal and private struggle and I became almost reclusive. I stopped wanting to socialize with people because I didn't want to let anyone in for fear they would trivialize what I was going through. I thought they could never understand, so I quit trying. All I kept hearing were things like, "Oh, you're young. It will happen if you just stay positive." "Something must have been wrong with the baby." "At least you know you can get pregnant."

All of those things hurt so much more than they helped. How did anybody know that I would eventually have a healthy baby? Was there any guarantee, really? Was it my fault for not thinking positively enough? What comfort could there be in thinking something was so wrong with my baby? And finally, what good was it doing for me to keep getting pregnant if my babies kept dying? How was that any consolation?

There were so many questions and never seemed to be any answers. Doctors couldn't give me any, and even my prayers seemed to be falling on deaf ears sometimes. I trusted that God had a plan but I had no idea what it was or how long it would take. Years passed and my babies continued to stop growing during the first trimester. We were desperate for help. The next 7 years went by in a blur of doctors, tests, surgeries, waiting, wondering, and most of all, more loss. I thought about giving up; thought it had become more than I could handle. Hope would return, though, and I would think What if the next time is the one? And what if it's the last chance we'll ever get?

Fast forward to 2010. After a new doctor, new tests (although not many new answers), and three years of infertility, the chance finally came. I still don't know exactly what was "right" about that time and what had been so "wrong" about every other time before. All I know is that somehow, miraculously, we held our daughter in our arms for the first time that September. She grew inside my body and arrived healthy and whole. And here I am in 2012, halfway through another pregnancy that is going well, hoping to hold another beautiful, healthy girl in November.

We've come so far and yet the hurt is still there. I still don't know how to answer the question, "Is this your first pregnancy?" A nurse at my doctor's office asked that just last week. She wasn't making small talk; I was there for blood work, another screening test. She was noting something on my chart. I stumbled over my words as I tried to answer, "No, it's not. It's my second. Well, it's actually my eighth pregnancy. But I only have one baby..." She stopped writing and looked up at me. "Oh, bless your heart," she said. I appreciated her kindness, but I hadn't been looking for sympathy. I was just trying to describe it all succinctly.

Sometimes I think I don't know how I got here... but oh, I do know. Simplified in my mind the years look like this:
2002-2007: Loss (x6)
2007-2009: Waiting...
2010-2012: Joy (x2)

But we all know that it's not summarized so easily. Because, broken down, I remember all too clearly the tears, the pain, the sleepless nights, the entire painful journey that led us to here and now. And the joy, too. Thank God for the joy that finally came and will come again!

I look back on the decade with lots of different emotions swirling around. I know this day will always make me remember, because it was the beginning of so much. It was the beginning of a lot of heartache, but it was also the beginning of the miracle that was to come. When I look at it all together, in hindsight, I can see much more clearly just how far we've come, and, amazingly, I can be thankful.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brother or Sister?

I can't believe how the weeks (and months) have been flying by lately. July already? Wow!

The most exciting piece of news to share is that we had an ultrasound last week and found out that another sweet baby GIRL is on her way! Lily Rae is having a baby sister and we are truly ecstatic and can't wait to meet her. My sister and I have always been extremely close. I think it will be so sweet to watch these two girls grow up and share so many things together. My sis and I are 21 months apart; Lily and her baby sister will be 26 months apart -- if she arrives on schedule.

I'm 18 weeks today and things are going well (despite some back pain that started plaguing me recently). Our next OB appointment is next week, July 9, and we have another ultrasound scheduled for July 23. It's hard to believe that we've almost reached the halfway point of this pregnancy. We continue to be thankful every single day for how far we've come. Last week I also started feeling the baby moving for the first time, much earlier than with Lily. Feeling those flutters and kicks helps to calm my fears and reassures me that she's doing fine.

It has been a whole month since the melanoma surgery on my arm. A couple of weeks ago we heard great news -- that the pathology report came back all clear. All of the cancer is gone and I'll need no further treatment, thank the Lord! I had the stitches removed last week (finally!) and it's looking pretty good. I'll go back in 6 months for a checkup and, since the baby will be here, they'll go ahead and do the chest x-ray that we've been putting off because of the pregnancy. Since melanoma sometimes shows up in the lungs, they like to check that out to be certain even though they don't believe I'm at a high risk. In the meantime, it feels great to have this behind me and especially to know that the pathology report showed good news.

My big girl is growing like crazy and is surprising us daily with new words in her vocabulary. It has been really fun watching her grow and learn in these past couple of months. Her second birthday will be here in just a few short months. I feel pretty certain that the theme will be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, since it's her favorite thing in the entire world! :)

Just a quick update for now from our family to yours. Hope you are all doing well and enjoying summertime!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Trip, A Milestone, A Surgery, and An Anniversary

It has been nearly a month since my last update, and a very busy one at that. Here's the rundown and lots of updates with the help of some Instagram photos:

May 17 - We traveled to Houston very early in the morning for the first trimester screening ultrasound. We opted out of this test with our last pregnancy, so it was new for us this time. The baby still looked great, had a good heartbeat, and was moving around. It always lifts my spirits to see that! We got the results the following week that everything looked normal.

May 18-26 - We hit the road for a long drive to N Louisiana to attend my mother-in-law's retirement party. It was great to see lots of family and friends there and to celebrate a great achievement for her after 26 years of being an elementary school teacher and librarian.
After the party was over we loaded back up in the car to head southeast until we arrived at our vacation destination of Gulf Shores, Alabama. We met my sister and her family there and stayed all together in a beach house we'd reserved for the week. It was Lily's first vacation and first trip to the beach. She had a great time!


I think the pool was her favorite, but she did enjoy the beach after she got used to it a little. We learned that vacationing with a toddler is not exactly simple, and her sleep schedule got ALL messed up (we're still trying to get it back) but it was worth it to spend a week away with family and make lots of fun memories. Lily also picked up two new states on our road trip, bringing her total number of states visited to 5 (TX, LA, OK, MS, and AL). Not too bad for a 20 month old!

May 27 - Right after we returned home from the beach, we hit a big milestone with our current pregnancy: the second trimester. As you know if you read this blog regularly, this is only our second time to make it this far out of eight pregnancies. It was definitely a reason to celebrate and rejoice!

May 31/June 1 - We spent almost all day on May 31 at MD Anderson cancer hospital doing all of the pre-op stuff for my melanoma surgery. My mom had come the day before and stayed at home with Lily, which was a huge help for us. My surgery was early on the morning of June 1 and everything went well. I'm feeling extremely relieved to have that part behind me since the diagnosis in April. Everyone was great at MDA and took really good care of the baby and me. Someone came to check the baby's heartbeat before and after surgery (it took about 10 minutes to find the heartbeat with the Doppler after the surgery, which was the most terrifying moment of the whole day!) and I was back home and resting shortly after noon that day. My new scar is pretty big, but I'm thankful for it and the fact that we caught this thing so early. I hope it will remind others to keep an eye on anything unusual on their skin and to keep themselves well protected in the sun.


It has been a week since the surgery and the arm is doing well. It's still a bit sore but is healing up nicely. I'll go back to have the stitches removed in about 2 more weeks. The pathology report should be back within the next week or so, and we're hoping that all margins will be clear and that this whole thing will be over!

June 6 - We celebrated 14 years of marriage on the 6th of June. My mom had stayed until the day after the surgery and then my sister-in-law came to help out with Lily for the next 4 days. This was a tremendous help as I continued to recover, and it also meant that we had a babysitter for our anniversary on Wednesday! It's a rare treat for us to go out on a date these days. We enjoyed a nice dinner and trip to the bookstore while Lily played with her aunt. When we got home around 9 PM, she was all tucked into her bed and fast asleep. We were really proud of our big girl!

(The hubs and I on our date. Not the greatest pic of us, but oh well. :))
Quite a lot has happened and changed for us over the past 14 years. There have been lots of ups and downs and life has thrown us some curve balls, but I'm beyond thankful to have my amazing, supportive husband to walk beside me through it all. Truly, I have no idea what I would do without him!

That's what we've been up to for the past several weeks. Tomorrow I'll be 15 weeks and my first OB appointment (since graduating from the RE) will be Monday. Things seem to be settling down a bit and we're looking forward to a (hopefully) peaceful and uneventful summer!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Graduation

It's the time of year for graduations and for celebrations. Friends, we've graduated! Yesterday was our last ultrasound with Dr G and the end of our time with the fertility specialist for this pregnancy. We've been "promoted" to the regular OB, which is a big milestone for us to reach. I'll be scheduling my first visit with my same OB from last time, Dr R, in the next couple of weeks. It feels wonderful to have made it to this point. I'll be 11 weeks on Sunday and the second trimester is just around the corner. Praise God!

Out of seven previous pregnancies, only one of our babies ever survived for this long in the womb. She lives and breathes, walks and talks, and is currently sleeping in the bedroom down the hall. I'm still amazed by that. It makes me feel very hopeful and excited about pregnancy number eight as the days and weeks pass. With the skin cancer and the pregnancy happening all at once, there have been more doctor's appointments and trips to the big city in the past two months than we usually have in a year. Rather than complaining, though, I'm thankful in a way for all of the activity. That, in addition to taking care of a sweet toddler every day, has kept my mind occupied and my worries mostly under control simply because there has been so much to do. The first trimester has practically flown by, which has never happened to me before.

Our little one looked fantastic at yesterday's appointment. Ultrasounds will probably always make me nervous, but each time we have one with good news it's like a balm for our hearts that were hurt by so many bad ones. The first thing we noticed when the baby came into view was how much he or she had grown. That little body (still less than two inches long) almost filled up the screen, and we were thrilled to see a busy and active baby with legs kicking and arms waving! It was adorable, and all we could do was smile at each other during the exam. Baby is still growing right on track and looked normal for 10w4d. Heart rate was 170 bpm.

We have a bit of a crazy schedule over the next few weeks, so I expect that the rest of May will be gone in a flash. This weekend is full with family in town and birthday plans for my sister-in-law. Next Thursday we'll have one more ultrasound for the first trimester screening test. On Friday we'll head north to attend my mother-in-law's retirement party before heading back south to vacation with my sister's family at the beach for a week. After we get back, I'll have my pre-op appointment on May 31 and the melanoma surgery (finally!) on June 1.

I'll be welcoming a bit of a slower pace by then I'm sure, and I'm very much looking forward to settling into the second trimester with most of my worries put to rest. Thank you for all of your continued support, sweet comments, and precious prayers!

For those of you who are bracing yourselves for another tough Mother's Day weekend, please know that you're in my thoughts and prayers. I'll never, ever forget what that felt like and I'll always remember to pray for those who are hurting from infertility and loss, especially on that day. Much love to all of you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Amazed

Today was my appointment with the maternal fetal medicine doctor. This was the visit that the melanoma surgeon wanted me to do before we schedule the surgery, just to have the baby checked out and all of my questions answered before we move forward.

It was a great experience from beginning to end. I felt an immediate rapport with this doctor when I spoke with her on the phone last week, and she was just as kind and friendly in person. We had to drive about an hour to get there and we arrived about a half hour early but didn't have to wait long before we were called back to start the ultrasound. I'm still amazed hours later as I sit down to try and put the experience into words. I had a couple of 3D ultrasounds during my pregnancy with Lily and they are always pretty amazing, but I've never had the experience so early on in a pregnancy before. I think that's what was so awesome to us today, to see so much of the miracle of new life in such detail at a little over 9 weeks. It served as a wonderful display of a God who performs miracles and whose timing is always perfect! I've been in awe of Him all afternoon.

My eyes filled with tears as we saw that tiny, perfect baby on the screen. We saw his or her heart beating, and brand new little arm and leg buds. For the first time in this pregnancy we saw the baby moving around, too, which was the next big milestone we were hoping to see at next week's ultrasound. It was a very special moment, and at one point I exclaimed, "Wow!" and Lily echoed the word back in her sweet little voice. :)

After we got a good look at the baby and all of the appropriate measurements were taken (baby is growing "right on target," which is music to our ears), we sat down with the doctor for a while to talk about everything and ask any questions we had. I found out a few days ago that they will not have to test the lymph nodes around the melanoma site, which is great news. The doctor today cleared me to go ahead with the surgery whenever we can get it scheduled. I still have about three weeks to go until the second trimester, so it shouldn't be too much longer before we can get it all taken care of.

I have to honestly say that today is the first day during this pregnancy that I've begun to feel RELIEVED. We still have some relatively small hurdles coming up, but I'm starting to let myself believe that this is going to happen and that it will be okay -- that this baby will survive growing in my body and actually come home to live with us. I'm trusting, believing, and hoping. I saw this quote on a devotional site this week and loved it: "Trust (in God) chooses faith over fear, confidence over cowardice, and power over panic." That's exactly what I want to do!

**I never want anything I post here to cause any additional pain to anyone who is hurting from infertility or miscarriage, which is why I've always refrained from posting ultrasound images, pictures of pregnancy tests, or belly pics on my blog. I want to make a picture from today's appointment available for you to see if you want to, though, so I'll attach it through the following link. It's the image that left me feeling completely overwhelmed -- in a good way -- today: Ultrasound Picture

Friday, April 27, 2012

Still Good

It's a busy Friday here as we're getting ready to head out of town to celebrate my sister's birthday. I wanted to write a super quick post about the ultrasound yesterday so everything will be up to date.

We're so happy that it was good news again at yesterday's appointment. You know, with this being my eighth pregnancy and even after the last one was a success, I'm still a nervous wreck each and every time. I don't think anything can make a person forget the sad memories of hearing bad news in rooms exactly like that one. My heart is always in my throat as we wait to see that fuzzy image come into focus and especially as we wait to see that little fluttering heart.

Our little bean is growing normally and everything was looking right on track for 8w4d. Heart rate was 179. We were able to take deep breaths and are now focusing on the next appointment in two weeks, on May 10. Having lost a baby before at close to this stage in the game, 9 weeks, I'm very anxious for these next two weeks to pass by without incident and hopefully still see that growing little miracle the next time we go see the doctor.

Today I'm resting in the fact that it's good news! Praise God!

As a side note: We haven't been working very hard to get Lily to realize that there's a new baby coming just yet. During our prayer time every night before we put her to bed, though, we pray that God will protect the baby brother or sister in Mommy's tummy. At 19 months we weren't sure how much she might understand. Today I thought I'd see how much she might remember. I asked her, "Where's Mommy's baby?" To my sweet surprise, she patted my tummy. It brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with so much joy! My precious girl knows more than I realized.

Monday, April 23, 2012

All In A Weekend

It's the Monday after one of those weekends that seems to encompass just about everything: highs and lows, storms and sunshine, and joy and sorrow.

Friday afternoon I wasn't expecting a storm, but the skies darkened and suddenly we were under a severe thunderstorm with lots of lightning and rain. I'm sure I noticed it a bit more because it hit just as we were leaving the house to go have Lily's picture taken at a photo studio. The storm blew through fairly quickly, though, and left us with much cooler temperatures (a blessing where I live, even in April!) and a near perfect forecast for the rest of the weekend.

We came up with the idea of spending our gorgeous Saturday at the downtown zoo. It would be Lily's first trip ever, and it was a perfect way to celebrate that our girl was turning 19 months old that same day. We called her aunt (my sister-in-law), who lives in town, and she was excited to meet us there for a fun morning. We arrived around 9:30 and just in time to watch the elephants eating breakfast and getting their morning baths. We saw lions, giraffes, bears, monkeys, and all sorts of animals, and Lily had a fantastic time running and playing as we wound our way through the zoo until just after noon. We had snacks right next door to the giraffes as they had their lunch, and Lily tried (and loved!) cotton candy for the first time. It was a perfect day and one we'll remember as a family for years to come.

Lily was fast asleep before we even left the parking lot. She had played hard and was exhausted, so I was glad she'd have nearly an hour to nap in the car as we drove home. She was still out when we decided to stop and pick up food as we got closer to home. Chuck went inside to order while I waited in the car with Lily. I pulled out my phone to check messages and facebook and such, when I saw some devastating news. A precious couple we know from the town where we used to live were involved in a serious car accident just hours earlier. He was in critical condition; she did not survive. I sat there stunned in the car. My poor husband had no idea what was going on when he came back to the car and found me sobbing. We made some calls to friends and family to see if we could find out more, and bits and pieces of information came in about the wreck.

I'm so sad for this dear family. What a beautiful person she was, and I was blessed to call her my friend. Chuck and I had gone to see them when we were last in town, at Christmas. We had a great visit and were so happy to introduce Lily to them for the first time. I'm thankful for that last time I saw her smiling face this side of heaven. They are in their sixties and have two grown sons and several young grandchildren. My heart aches for them right now, as I pray continually for God to comfort them.

We spent the rest of our Saturday in a bit of a fog, wondering why things like this happen and praying for the healing of our friend's body and his heart. We carried on with the necessary tasks -- getting Lily fed and changed, and starting on plans for supper. A few hours later I was cooking while Chuck took Lily in the back yard to play. They came in, we ate, and started getting ready for bed. Before her bath, Chuck mentioned that a mosquito had bitten Lily on the side of her face, next to her eye. Mosquitoes are rampant here, and of course she's been bitten before despite our best efforts to keep them away. The last bite she had recently near her elbow, though, made her arm swell up quite a bit. I hoped she wouldn't have the same reaction this time... but by morning it was clear that she would. Her eye was extremely puffy, and by the end of the day it was swollen completely shut. We'd called her pediatrician's office and talked to the nurse, who told us the correct dosage of Benadryl to give her. After a few hours the swelling hadn't gone down so we took her to the weekend clinic near our house. The doctor there examined the eye itself and said it did not look red and she had no fever. We felt better about it and were given medicine to make sure it doesn't get infected. She's still getting Benadryl, too. I had hoped that it would look much better when I got her out of bed this morning but the eye was still swollen shut. I know she's fine, but it sure looks pitiful! Poor baby girl.

It was one of those weekends, full of the good, the bad, and the unimaginable. Losing a friend so suddenly certainly puts everything into perspective and shifts your focus to the things that really matter. I hugged my family a few extra times this weekend, thanking God for each minute that I have with them.

Brief pregnancy update: I'm 8w1d today, and as far as I know things are okay. Hoping for a good report at the next ultrasound on Thursday.
Thanks, friends, for the supportive comments on my last post. I'm glad you guys understand that, even after you have a baby, life is full of ups and downs. I'll keep writing about them here. And I'll always thank God and give Him the glory for the blessings in my life, and keep praising Him through the storms as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Consultation and Jumbled Thoughts

My mind is racing today and I'm finding it difficult to rest right now even though Lily is napping. I thought it would be best to just write it all out here and hopefully feel some relief.

Yesterday was my first trip to MD Anderson as a patient. I've been to the big, famous cancer hospital twice before with two different friends who were receiving treatment for breast cancer, but this was my first time to go for me. I can say from experience that, every time you go there, it's a memorable and a sobering experience.

I want to start by saying this: I know that I'm going to be okay. I don't wish to sound remotely melodramatic about this melanoma diagnosis. I know that, while it is a very serious and potentially fatal disease, I'm fortunate that mine was found early and can be treated successfully with surgery. I have friends and family members who have fought different types of cancer -- some who have survived and some who have not. Knowing that my chances of even undergoing any type of chemotherapy or radiation in this case are between slim and none, I would never compare this experience of mine to any of those life-threatening ones.

It is a scary thing, however, to face cancer of any kind growing in or on your body. And scarier still, for me, is the fact that I'm already in the riskier stages of pregnancy. I was reassured yesterday by no fewer than three doctors that they will take the utmost care of me and my baby, and I believe that they will do just that. I know that, even without the skin cancer diagnosis, I would be feeling just as nervous about simply being 7.5 weeks pregnant right now.

I didn't get as many questions answered yesterday as I'd hoped, because for some reason my pathology slides had not arrived. This was disappointing because the doctor wasn't able to review them and decide on exactly what my treatment will be and when. I do know that I'll be having surgery, and my doctor was pretty sure that he wants to wait until I'm in my second trimester to do it. He said that, especially considering my history with first trimester miscarriage, he wants to go the safest route. That means it will probably be at least 6 more weeks. I hate to have to wait, but obviously I trust his opinion (he is the best melanoma surgeon in the country, after all!) and I'm willing to do whatever is best for the health of the baby. So, at the least, I'll have the skin around the area of the mole removed to make sure they get all of the cancer. At the most, I'll have that surgery plus a procedure to test the lymph nodes around the site. We don't know if that part will be necessary until he can review the slides, so I'm waiting to hear back from them on that and to get the date scheduled. And I met with more than one doctor who reassured me that there will be someone from maternal fetal medicine who will monitor the baby before and after the surgery and make sure everything is okay.

I know that I'm in good hands and will receive excellent care. But I'm being perfectly honest with you when I tell you that I'm stressed. Really stressed. It's unnerving, to say the least, to spend the day talking to doctors about cancer and surgery and pregnancy all at once. It felt like an out-of-body experience when I signed a consent form to participate in a research study about cancer and pregnancy. It was one of those I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this kinds of feelings. All the while, though, I couldn't help but think of people (a few I know and so many that I don't) who have sat in rooms like those and heard much, much scarier things. Several years ago I had a dear friend who learned toward the end of her pregnancy with her third child that she was facing leukemia. I still think about her all the time, and how brave she was and what her struggle must have felt like as she fought for her life with three young children at home. That sweet friend is in heaven now but she is often in my thoughts.

I'm grateful that that isn't the road I'm on right now. And although it's so hard to imagine, I know that my God would see me through a trial such as that one just as He did my friend, who took the time to call and encourage me about recurrent miscarriage even as she fought leukemia. Actually, I feel very very weak when I think about people as strong as she was.

Even though it feels scary, I know that this is going to be okay. I'm not saying that I know for sure that everything will go exactly the way I want it to and be perfect. I don't know that. But I know that, whatever happens, the Lord will take care of me. Perhaps you don't believe the same way that I do, but I have complete faith and trust in my God. I've been through miscarriage before and I know that if it happens again He will see me through. I've been through surgery before, too, and I know I won't be alone when it happens again.

Although I feel uncertain and shaky right now, I'm keeping my eyes on Him because it's all I know to do. The words to this Bebo Norman song have been playing in my head and comforting me today. Thought I'd leave you with the chorus:

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Heartbeat

For two weeks I've been telling myself that, by tonight, we would be either very happy or very sad. At today's ultrasound we would hear either good news or bad.

Today, it's good!

We were able to see a very tiny baby with a healthy heartbeat of 123.

It was a huge relief for today! I have to take this one day at a time and enjoy each and every victory, so in that regard we are very happy and relieved. Because of my experiences having miscarried at 9 weeks and 10 weeks and 11 weeks, I know that I won't fully take a deep breath until we are well into the second trimester. That's not pessimism speaking, friends. It's my life and it's how I approach things now, but it doesn't mean that I don't have faith and hope that this baby will survive! I'm counting on that and praying with all my heart that we will keep getting more good news, two weeks at a time.

At my first appointment, I explained to my doctor that my cycles had been a bit long for the past few months. Already he suspected that I ovulated late, so with today's ultrasound and the one from two weeks ago, he adjusted the dates with that in mind and said that everything looked right on schedule. I do have to readjust the dates here, though, and I sure hate to have to back them up a little. Today I'm officially 6w4d, so that will be 7 weeks on Sunday. And my new due date is December 2.

I'll sleep well tonight knowing that this first big step is behind us. We're anticipating the next ultrasound on April 26. I have the consultation with the melanoma surgeon coming up on Tuesday, so I'm eager to get that done and find out when the surgery will take place.

Things are crawling along and I can't help but wish that I could fast forward through the rest of this month (and maybe the next one too?) to arrive at a place that is a little more stable and peaceful. But we're hanging in there... one day and one step at a time.

Today, there is life to celebrate. There is a tiny little heart beating away. And that makes my heart very happy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The "M" Word

Thank you for all of the sweet and supportive comments, friends. I'm doing well. So far so good, although I can't say I don't spend some time thinking about the "m" word -- miscarriage.

Right now I'm 6 weeks, 2 days. I know it's true for any pregnancy, but these next 5-6 weeks will be critical. I can't help but anticipate the next ultrasound appointment next Thursday. When I was pregnant with Lily, my second ultrasound was at 6w5d, and we saw and heard that wonderful little heartbeat that began to put our minds at ease. I'll be three days further along with this baby at the time of the ultrasound, so I'm hoping and praying that it will be good news. I'm desperate to see that heart beating. Thankfully my appointment is early that morning, so I won't have to wait all day to find out if it's good news or bad.

With a history like mine, I can't help but think about miscarriage sometimes. I am, however, feeling hopeful and find myself making plans and daydreaming about a family of four. At this point, though, all I can do is hope and pray. And wait.

In the meantime, I got some other news this week about another unpleasant "m" word.

Let's back up to two weeks ago, March 23, two days before I got the positive pregnancy test. I had my annual checkup with my dermatologist that day. It had been a little over a year since I'd seen her last because of being busier in general with a toddler. Last time I was in her office, I was 7 or 8 months pregnant. (Imagine trying to fit all of that into a paper gown!) My husband and I have been getting these checkups every year for the past 10 years because we are both fair-skinned and have several moles that we like to keep an eye on. Hubby has a family history of skin cancer, from both his mother and grandmother, and our routine visits paid off about 5 years ago when our doctor found an early melanoma on his back and was able to remove it. Since then we've been even more careful to keep our checkups up to date.

At my appointment two weeks ago, the doc decided to biopsy a mole on my arm that had grown quite a bit since my last visit a year and a half ago. In the past 10 years I have had three previous biopsies: from my arm, my back, and the top of my head. All have come back negative for skin cancer, until now. I got a call this week to come in and "discuss" my pathology report, and I had a sinking feeling that all was not fine. So, I heard that other "m" word, melanoma, on Wednesday.

The two good things about this are that we caught it early, and that I happen to live near a city with an excellent cancer hospital. I have an appointment for a consultation on April 17 with the melanoma surgeon there, and then we'll schedule a date to have this nasty thing removed. I'm ready to get it over with, just for peace of mind. There's never a good time to learn that you have cancer growing on your skin, but it's particularly unnerving for me to think about it at all while there's a baby growing -- hopefully -- in my body.

I know it's all going to be okay; it has just been a lot for me to deal with all at once. The early weeks of pregnancy generally provide just about all the stress I can handle! It's been a tough week for me, but I'm holding out hope that the next few weeks will hold signs of a healthy, growing baby and a quick resolution of this melanoma on my arm.

Again, thanks for your words of encouragement and thanks for your continued prayers for us and for baby.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Don't Know Why

Sometimes I find myself wondering about why things have gone the way they have on my fertility journey. Not that it's necessarily important for me to know all of the "whys" and such, but I can't help but wonder, you know?

I don't know why the years that I thought would be my young, child-bearing years (namely, my twenties) were fraught with so much difficulty. I never imagined that almost that entire decade of my life would be spent searching for answers and wondering why I couldn't carry a baby full-term. I don't know why, but my faith, my ability to hope, and my resolve were tested in ways that I'll never forget. I saw six positive pregnancy tests during those years but never gave birth to a living baby. I still have a lot of scars from that time in my life, both physical and emotional.

I don't know why, during that time, we had a few doctors who gave up on us. One fertility specialist shook her head in disbelief when an ultrasound revealed that our baby had died in the womb at 9 weeks. It was our fourth pregnancy and it had been going well. She said she didn't know how to help us anymore. Another doctor, my ob/gyn at the time, told me (over the phone, no less) that she didn't think I would ever have a biological child.

I was reading a novel recently where one of the characters was talking about an aunt and uncle who had never had children. She described them as having a closeness that only barren couples seem to have. I don't know why, but we were that couple. My husband became my best friend during those years, and the trial of recurrent pregnancy loss brought us together in a way that I don't think anything else could have. For all we knew, we were facing a future together, just the two of us, that may not ever include children. I think we both deeply felt that somehow, someday we would become parents, but there were many years of uncertainty. I do feel fortunate now, looking back, that we had 12 years of marriage together before our daughter arrived. During those years we grew and changed and matured in ways that I hope make us better parents than we might have been a decade ago.

After I turned 30, we faced three years of unexplained infertility. Sure, I was apprehensive about getting pregnant again after all that my twenties had held, but we had begun to hope again and were forced to wait. And I don't know why, after the waiting was over, our seventh pregnancy made it to the second trimester and then the third, and resulted in the birth of our precious daughter. The Lord changed my story in 2010, when I was 33 years old. I don't know why that was the right time, but I'm so thankful that it happened.

And now we are in the early stages of pregnancy number eight. I struggled with whether or not to write about it here before reminding myself that that's what this blog is for. It's really the only place I feel most comfortable sharing my deepest fears and my unbridled hopes. This is always, always a scary time for me. I'm asking you to walk with me again, if you're willing. Will you wait with me and pray for me? Will you pray with me that this baby will survive and hope with me that, instead of being our seventh in heaven, this will be our second baby on earth?

The details are that I got a positive pregnancy test on Sunday, March 25. I went in for blood work the following Tuesday, March 27. My beta level was 1384, so we had our first ultrasound scheduled for Thursday, March 29. We were able to see a gestational sac and it measured normally for 5 weeks, 1 day. My estimated due date is November 27, 2012. We will have another ultrasound in two weeks, on April 12. I'm hoping with all my heart that we will see a tiny baby with a healthy heartbeat.

We are a bit surprised, but very happy and very nervous. The fact that our most recent pregnancy was successful gives us a boost of confidence, but we know that each pregnancy is unique and different. We know there are no guarantees. We are not remotely ready to make any announcements, so please if you know me in real life or are my facebook friend, please keep this to yourself and don't share it with anyone else until we are comfortable enough to make it more public. Thanks for being understanding and for choosing to walk beside us again. I hope you know how much it means to us to have your support and prayers!

I don't know why we've been given another chance at this, but (deep breath)... here we are.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

18 Months

I know I've been off the radar lately when it comes to blogging. Sure, things have been busy as always, but I think I've been away mainly because I've been spending most of my free time reading books. Lots and lots of them! On top of that, we've had nice springtime weather and I have a little girl who has rediscovered how much fun it is to play outside. And so, I haven't found much time for writing or, sadly, reading blogs this month, but I'm going to try to ease back into it slowly but surely.

Since it's been a while, I thought I'd write a (relatively) quick update on Lily since she hit another milestone this month -- turning 18 months old on March 21. Life has been good lately, and I'm realizing what a fun stage we've moved into with our growing toddler. She loves to run and play, especially outdoors, and is such a sweet, joyful girl! It makes me very happy that my girl still loves books. Each and every day we read dozens and dozens of books. She never seems to get tired of it and of course I love holding her in my lap and reading stories. As much fun as we have together during the day, I'm pretty positive that the highlight of Lily's day is around 4:15 PM -- when her daddy gets home. My oh my, you have never seen a happier child in your life!

We just had Lily's 18-month checkup with her pediatrician yesterday, so here are her "stats:" She weighs almost 26 pounds (75th percentile) and is 33 inches tall (90th percentile). Lily recently cut her third molar, which was tooth #11, so her smiles now show a mouth full of pearly whites. She is a healthy, growing girl who loves to eat her fruit and veggies, which makes me so very proud. I was afraid that as Lily got older she might become more and more picky with food, but she is still a wonderful little eater.

Sleep had been a struggle for us for a terribly long time. It seems that we had a pretty good sleeper until she turned 7 or 8 months or so, and then we began to have trouble. Night time routines were generally pretty smooth but Lily would wake up at least two or three times a night and want to be rocked back to sleep or simply held. Nap times were a challenge, too, because she never wanted to be put down. We knew that we needed to make a change, so we began working with Lily a few weeks ago to try to get her to fall asleep (and stay asleep) in her bed. I never dreamed it would have been so hard for me to give up rocking my baby, but it was! I found it much harder than giving up nursing. I knew it was for the best, though, and I'm so happy with where we are now. It may have taken 18 months, but we now have a girl who walks to her room ready to get in her bed after bath, stories, prayers, and cuddles. We put her to bed around 8 PM and we don't hear a peep until around 8 AM. Finally, we have a much happier, well-rested household!

Lily has been trying to say lots of new words lately (at least making an attempt), but the ones we hear most often are: Mama, Dada, hi, uh-oh, oh wow!, oh yeah!, up, all done, all better, banana, night-night. She also knows several animal sounds, but her favorites are bow wow, meow, and moo. Lily still signs "more," "all done," "eat," and "please," and she shakes her finger when I tell her "no, no, no." She occasionally says a few extended family members' names, too, if we've been around them for a weekend or so. Sometimes I worry that there hasn't been a really big language explosion yet, but I know she's doing just fine and is steadily learning new words. It certainly amazes me how much she understands lately.

One of my favorite things to watch her do is hand motions -- to songs like the Itsy-Bitsy Spider or Zacchaeus, or some motions that we've made up to go along with a few of her books. It's too cute, and it's lots of fun to watch her learn.

That's life with our silly, chunky, sweet 18 month old. What a precious and fun age! I'm enjoying it immensely and I'm still so grateful to be her mommy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Treasures

I think it's pretty safe to say that when you're going through infertility it's hard to find the bright spots most days. Life still has its joys, of course, but I mean it's difficult sometimes to recognize any good that could possibly come out of a trial when you're still so deeply submerged in it. I know that, personally, I spent day after day and year after year trudging along with my shoulders hunched and head down, bracing myself for another disappointment and just trying to make it one day at a time. It was hard to keep picking myself up after another loss... and another... and another. It felt (and still feels) like a burden, a struggle, and an uphill climb.

Thankfully, in the midst of all that, my husband and I worked to make some happy memories. We wanted to someday look back on our waiting years and see that there was still joy to be found -- but it took a few years for us to get there and actually put it into practice. That doesn't mean there weren't still a lot of hard days. It just meant that we tried to make the best of it. We spent lots of time with our families, we spoiled our nephews, we tried to be more spontaneous and do more fun things together, and we traveled. We went to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, San Francisco, Florida, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Washington, D.C., and New York City. We saved our money for vacations and seized every opportunity to turn work trips into new adventures. We used money we'd been saving for baby furniture to buy a new camera and I documented our new memories in scrapbooks. And now, years later, while I don't view my battle with infertility as over and done (although I pray it is), I can look back on portions of that time fondly. Those memories are some of the treasures that have come out of that trial.

That's what this post is about. Treasures. And by far the most amazing treasures that I've found over the past decade have been people. Our family members and some of our oldest and dearest friends stuck by us during that time and prayed their hearts out for us. That's a treasure. It means more to me than I could ever express. Sometimes people I didn't even know that well sent a card or told me how they were touched by our situation and our faith. That always encouraged me to keep going, and it helped me to learn to be more open about sharing our struggle because I knew that others were hurting too.

Suddenly there were lots of new people in my life who had also been through miscarriage or infertility. There were others who understood all the devastation and disappointment, the guilt and the grief that we'd been going through. All at once I could use this blog to sort out my emotions and fears, and read about other people who were facing similar circumstances. And it all came at a time when I needed it the most. That was a treasure.

Soon I began to feel such a kinship with my blog friends. Over the years it has worked out (not coincidentally, I believe) for me to meet a few of them in person. It has been one of my favorite things about blogging and one of the biggest and best treasures to come from this trial. Even now that I don't blog as much as I used to, I've been able to keep up with several friends and get to know them a little bit better on pretty much a day-to-day basis through facebook and email. Oh, how I wish I could meet all of them in real life!

What really amazes me now is to be able to see all of our paths in hindsight. None of our experiences were exactly the same. Some were more similar than others, but all of them were about longing and loss in one way or another. I always felt an extra special bond with those who shared not only my fight but also my faith. It's just one of those common denominators that often makes an instant connection.

My first in-real-life blog friend experience was in February of 2009 when I met Tammy. (I originally wrote about it here.) I didn't really "know" Tammy that well when it worked out for us to meet, but we didn't want to pass up the opportunity and I'm so glad we didn't. Our friendship has blossomed ever since that day. Thinking back to where we both were in 2009 and all that has happened since is pretty incredible. Tammy and her husband are such a precious couple, and it was a joy to watch as they brought home their beautiful daughter, Hannah, at Christmas just a couple of months ago! I am still over-the-moon excited for them.

Just a few months later, in May 2009, I found myself on vacation with my whole family in a cozy and beautiful cabin in Tennessee. While we were planning the trip, I realized that we wouldn't be very far away from a dear blog friend in North Carolina, Beth. It was settled: we were going to set up a meeting! (Read more about our meeting here.) Beth and I had been communicating frequently through email ever since I'd first discovered her blog the previous year. I felt an instant connection with her and we'd formed a fast friendship. She and I shared so many griefs and fears together, and amazingly, we've celebrated with these dear friends as they've welcomed not one, not two, but THREE gorgeous boys into their family since then! It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Fast forward to just a little over a year later, in July 2010. I had discovered a while before that one of my sweet blog friends lived not too far from my hometown in Louisiana. I knew then that I was destined to meet Crystal during one of my trips back home, and I was so touched that our first meeting happened at my baby shower. (I wrote more about it here.) We were expecting Lily in September, and it was very sweet to share that time together as Crystal was also expecting her miracle baby boy that December. Our meeting is a very special memory of an amazing, almost ethereal time for me -- for us both, I'm sure, as we found ourselves in the middle of our long-awaited and much prayed for healthy pregnancies. It has been a special treat to be able to visit with Crystal and her adorable son twice more since then, at Christmas of 2010 when our babies were tiny and again last Christmas as they toddled around and played together. This friendship has been such a sweet gift!

That brings me to 2012, and the addition of a fourth friend to this special list of treasures. At the end of last month on our way back from visiting family in Oklahoma, we were able to stop by the home of my blog friend, Jessica. Our trip would take us within just a few miles of their house, not far from the interstate, and it was the perfect opportunity for our families to meet. Jessica and I had an amazing moment not long after she found my blog when we realized that we'd attended the same college. We never knew each other there, but before long we also made the connection that she and my husband had both grown up right there in that small college town and had -- brace yourselves -- graduated from high school together! Oh, I just love the way God works things out. We had a wonderful visit with Jessica and her husband, and we were thrilled to be able to meet their precious new miracle girl, just 7 weeks old. It was the kind of meeting where everything just clicked and it was as natural and easy as being with old friends. We are so thankful that we got to meet these friends face-to-face after sharing in the struggle, and it touched my heart to watch our daughter play in their daughter's room. What a blessing it was!


To each and every one of the special friends we've "met" along the way, I hope you know what a treasure YOU are.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Sweetest Thing in My Garden

My sister is a second grade teacher at a private Christian school. Last week she sent me the words to a poem that her class was studying in their readers. This little poem spoke to my heart and brought tears to my eyes (and my sister's, which left her students a bit bewildered!). I think you'll see why it was so special:

The Lily by W.T. Vlymen

The sweetest thing in my garden,
On bush or vine or tree,
Is the snow-white shining Lily
that God has sent to me.
How wise He must be to make it!
How good to put it here,
For me to watch and care for,
So very sweet and dear!
There's nothing more fair and spotless
In all the world I know;
It is fairer than the moonlight,
And whiter than the snow.
I love you, beautiful Lily,
made of the sun and dew,
I wish my heart could always be
spotless and pure, like you.



It almost leaves me speechless, just how perfect this sweet little poem is and how much it reflects this mother's heart.

I have a sixteen-month-old girl who walks (finally) and talks and just today wore her very first set of pigtails -- and oh be still my heart, it was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.


This little one keeps me busy, busy, busy, from morning until night, but I am forever grateful for the chance to be her Mama.

She absolutely is the "sweetest thing in my garden," my pure and spotless Lily Rae. Thank you, Lord, for letting her grow in my tummy and in my heart.

Friday, January 20, 2012

This Month

January is a month that is rife with meaning and emotion for me. This time of year holds some big memories in my life, some good and some bad.

Today is January 20. Two years ago on this day I saw two lines on a pregnancy test. I hadn't gotten a positive test in three years. It was my seventh time to see that result, yet the first six times had all resulted in devastating miscarriages. You already know the rest of the story -- that pregnancy test was the first sign to us that our baby was finally on its way (although we certainly didn't know how things would turn out on that day). It was a day of excitement and nerves, frantic-sounding phone calls and prayers, and a trip to the doctor's office for blood work. It was the beginning of nine long months of waiting for our healthy baby to arrive at last.

Tomorrow is January 21. When I found out I was pregnant for the first time in May of 2002, I was given the due date of January 21, 2003. I was pretty excited then, and extremely naive. My sister's second baby was due just one month before and I couldn't wait to raise our babies together. I never expected miscarriage to happen to me, but it did just two months later in July. And I certainly never imagined, after that traumatic experience and my first-ever trip to the ER, that I would have to endure that heartache five more times over the next five years. It was the beginning of eight long years of waiting for a baby.

January 22, 2007 was the date of my last miscarriage. I'd found out toward the end of the year in 2006 that I was pregnant for the sixth time. After several weeks of blood tests and many ultrasounds, it was declared to be a blighted ovum. Although we could see a yolk sac and my hcg and progesterone levels were good, we never could see a baby growing. I was having my sixth miscarriage, and I had a D&C scheduled for January 22. It was three days before my 30th birthday. It was the toughest birthday I've ever had, and it was the beginning of three long years of waiting for another pregnancy.

January 25 is my birthday. I'm turning 35 this year. Although I know there's nothing magical about waking up on that day that will change my fertility, it's a birthday I haven't exactly been excited about. Those of us who have gotten wrapped up in this infertility world against our wishes know what the statistics say about being over 35: increased risk of miscarriage, egg quantity and quality decrease, etc., etc.
Obviously I had a big problem with miscarriage when I was in my 20s. I had my first miscarriage at age 25. And of course I know lots of women over the age of 35 who have healthy pregnancies. I really don't put too much stock in statistics, but still in all it's a day I haven't exactly anticipated with lots of joy. When you're dealing with infertility, each birthday and each passing year gets harder and harder. You feel more pressure with the realization that time is not on your side. So, while I'm planning to enjoy my birthday this year with my husband and daughter, I know that all these things will be there in the back of my mind.

But... tomorrow is a new day. This is a new year, and tomorrow is the 21st, which means that my precious girl is turning 16 months old. I'm celebrating that miracle, as it's something I had seriously begun to doubt would ever come to be. The past 16 months have been remarkable and have helped me to heal, despite all the setbacks and all the days and years when my calendar was marked with heartbreak.

This month often reminds me of everything that I've lost. And I know I'll never forget those times, but I'm ready to make some new memories this January.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Last Year's Good Reads

One of the things I've enjoyed doing on this blog is posting my reading list at the beginning of the year. There are few things in life more satisfying to me than crossing things off of a list! I love searching for new (and old) great books to read and compiling a list of wonderful titles to keep me entertained throughout the year. I don't always get to every book on the list, but it keeps me motivated to just keep reading.

Last year I never got around to making that list. I still managed to read lots of books (during Lily's naps and after her bedtime), so I made a list of books after I finished them and now I'm sharing that list with you. I like to share it because I really enjoy talking about books with other readers and I love to know what you're reading too. So feel free to comment on any of these titles, and please let me know your favorite must-reads for the list I'm compiling for 2012!

As always, happy reading!

Books I Read in 2011:

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
  2. Spoken From the Heart – Laura Bush
  3. Possession – A.S. Byatt
  4. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  5. What the Night Knows – Dean Koontz
  6. The Distant Hours – Kate Morton
  7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  8. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
  9. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
  10. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  11. When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
  12. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way – Shauna Niequist
  13. The Heretic’s Daughter – Kathleen Kent
  14. The Traitor’s Wife – Kathleen Kent
  15. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott – Kelly O'Connor McNees
  16. Havah – Tosca Lee
  17. Loving the Little Years – Rachel Jankovic and Nancy Wilson
  18. On Agate Hill – Lee Smith
  19. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  20. The History of Love – Nicole Krauss
  21. Inheritance - Christopher Paolini

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012

Here we are, one week into another new year.

Before we had Lily, New Year's was always one of the most difficult times for me. Sure, I guess that somewhere deep down there was just a smidge of hope that it might be our year to have a baby. But honestly, as the years passed, that hope for me had begun to shrivel and shrink until it was almost completely unrecognizable. It had become a challenge to face another year that may contain yet another miscarriage and even more heartache and longing.

As this new year approached, about two weeks before Christmas I found myself in a familiar place -- my bathroom, waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test. (It was negative.) It wasn't the kind of situation where we'd been planning and trying and scheduling doctor visits, and now today was the day to test. Instead, it was more of a wait-a-minute-I'm-several-days-late kind of situation, one where I thought that maybe, just maybe, there could be a baby there without all the stress and worry and agony over what might happen if we tried again, and without all of the dates and schedules and medicines. I thought there could be a slim chance, so I did something I hadn't done in almost two years. In fact, I hadn't done it since January 20, 2010 -- the day we found out I was pregnant for the seventh time and the pregnancy that gave us our take-home baby.

So, I woke up that morning and opened a fresh box of pregnancy tests and waited to see if my world was about to change in one way or another. It didn't.

And I was disappointed. But instead of letting it overwhelm me, I scooped up my toddler and went to the kitchen to feed her some breakfast and tried to carry on with our daily routine. During the next week I waited for that confirmation to come but it didn't, so I took another test a week later just to be sure. Still negative. Just two days before the new year -- a new cycle. A fresh start, so to speak.

And so 2012 began for me in a way that was familiar but not necessarily welcomed. It would have been a wonderful, amazing surprise, but I'm not despairing. As for trying again, we're trying not to stress about it. For right now, it would be wonderful if it happened, but we're not letting it consume our thoughts. We're just living in a place where we want to be content with where we are, with our family of three, but we're still allowing ourselves to dream that the Lord may give us another child.

We're hoping. We're trusting. And we're following His plan for our family in 2012.