Infertility: Sissy’s Story

About a year ago, I did a series of posts on the topic of infertility. Strangely enough, this isn’t something I’ve personally battled, so if you are interested in reading more about why I began writing on this subject, you can find that here.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with even more women who have experienced infertility; demonstrating that this struggle is actually quite common. As such, I’ve asked five women to share their story this week. Infertility doesn’t have to be fought alone, it isn’t shameful, and even in the midst of the struggle there is life to be found.

Today’s story is written by my friend Sissy. I first got to know Sissy when we taught at a charter school together, and then our paths intersected again when she and I started serving on the same team at church. She has been a valuable resource to me as I’ve asked questions and sought to learn more about infertility. I am so grateful for her and her heart!

Infertility: Sissy’s Story

Sissy's Family

In the past seven years I’ve talked about and written about infertility A LOT.  It seems to come up in so many ways; with family, with friends, with co-workers and sometimes with strangers in waiting rooms.  The thing is, though, that I’ve never really written down how God changed me in the process of dealing with being barren.  That part, I’ve discovered, seems really personal.

When Amanda called me about sharing my infertility story, I thought about the blog I kept during that period and foolishly believed sharing this would be easy.  But see, those words were sent out into the void to be commented on by strangers; other women dealing with infertility and hoping to adopt like we were.  I think maybe two people I knew in real life were reading the blog, so there was this curtain of privacy around what I was writing.  I was pouring out all these private and personal details, but not having to deal with people confronting me with my own words and emotions.  I find that part makes me nervous.

When Charlie and I were dating I thought it would be a good idea to ask him about his feelings on possibly adopting children.  You see, I somehow knew that I would have trouble getting pregnant, and wanted a future spouse to be on board if that came to pass. I believe God placed that knowledge deep within me, and I know it helped me later.  My cycles were never regular; always very sporadic.  I knew that wasn’t a good sign for fertility, and while I never thought of myself as damaged goods or anything, I felt it was important to bring it up.

About three years after getting married, we started trying to get pregnant.  I talked with my OB-GYN and we discussed any factors that could hinder my fertility.  She did some tests and I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. I didn’t ovulate. This diagnosis confirmed what I’d felt from the beginning, that getting pregnant wouldn’t happen for me.  My mind and my heart were moving towards adoption.

However, when I talked it over with Charlie, he asked if we could try getting pregnant with Clomid. This was a pill my doctor mentioned had worked for others.  Having a natural child would be less complicated and less expensive than adoption.  We talked and prayed and came to the decision that yes, we would try, but I could determine when and if I was done with the treatments.  I decided that I would be happy to take any kind of pill, but would draw the line at shots.

We did four rounds of Clomid and I did not ovulate.  I was charting my temperature to track my ovulation and the doctor was doing blood tests. The school year ended and I agreed to add another medicine to boost the Clomid called Metformin.  My pharmacist warned me that Metformin can mess with your stomach, and I certainly found that to be true.  If I ate something, I needed to be at home.  It made me so sick.  I spent that summer being drained of energy, run down, and unhappy. Finally, in August, I ovulated!  It took seven rounds of Clomid for me to ovulate once.  Sadly, I did not get pregnant.

That was enough for me.  I had to go back to teaching for the new school year and I knew I could not take the Metformin and be at work.  It made me miserable and I immediately felt better once I stopped taking it.  I told Charlie that I was done, and he was okay with that. I grieved knowing I would not be able to carry a natural child, but the Lord’s preparation of my heart years before helped me work through this easier than if I had been blindsided by my diagnosis. He provided hope in that season.

At that point we began looking at adoption agencies. Our adoption story is a longer than I really have here to share.  From signing up with our agency to bringing Jackson home, was a total of three years, seven months and 22 days.  We had two placements that fell apart right as the babies were born; tearing me apart and leaving me broken.  The waiting was painful.  During this period I probably attended eight or nine baby showers; which ended up being an opportunity for God to show me His love.  It was hard to put on a brave face every time, but the Lord really showed me that not being able to celebrate for someone else would only harden my heart, and I didn’t want that. I vividly remember leaving one baby shower in tears, but I felt covered by His love in that moment.  I knew my time would come.

Eventually we brought home our baby boy, one designed just for us, and in our blessing God used us to bless someone else.  Jackson’s birth mother was a young woman who wanted her child to have more than she could provide; including a mother and a father. In our brief time with her at the hospital, I prayed that God give me my words, and that I would only speak what would give her peace. I knew that we might never see her again, so I wanted her to know just how much we loved her and her child.  Her parents were also there. I know this was difficult for them.  Thinking back, I know the Lord ordered our steps and he hovered over that moment, bringing so  much joy instead of hurt.  When I took Jackson in my arms, his birth mother leaned in and whispered, “You’re gonna be great.”  Those words have stayed with me, lived in me, filled me, and God brought it to fruition.  His plan, His perfect plan, brought together a couple dealing with infertility and a woman in a hard situation, and made something beautiful.

*Sissy and Charlie kept their adoption of Jackson a surprise from their family until they brought him home. This is a video of their moms learning that they were now grandmothers!*

When God Laughs

I have long believed that God has a sense of humor. Not the sarcastic type and definitely not the crude type. More of a… laughing along with us at the silliness of our days and taking great joy in seeing the unseen gifts when we don’t understand it all just yet…type.

I’d like to provide you with two examples from my own life.

Example #1:

When I was in college I had a crush on a boy. I was convinced without a doubt that this boy did not reciprocate said crush and I did all within my power to put my girly emotions to the side and concentrate on other things. This lasted say… 2 1/2 to 3 years.

At the 2 1/2 year mark, a friend and I got together for some quality time. All was good, all was happy, until she named the aforementioned boy. I had not confessed to her my feelings (I was ignoring them), when she shared, “[Aforementioned Boy] used to like you. But don’t worry, he doesn’t any more.”

Oh goodness did those feelings of mine go haywire. I pretended to be completely normal, but on the inside my heart was elated and crushed in the same moment. When I got home that afternoon, I wrote in my journal, “God, if you think this is funny, I’m not laughing!”

I absolutely believe that God felt every bit of that was a little humorous, because said boy confessed his true feelings that August and he is now my husband.

Okay, so I don’t actually think God was watching me from above going, “har-dee-har-har!” as He gleefully toyed with my emotions. Quite the contrary. I believe He was with me in that moment, grinning from ear-to-ear just thinking about how fun it would be to watch us exchange vows on our wedding day. In my moment of uncertainty, he was in the process of excitedly wrapping up one of the best gifts He could give me.

Example #2:

I have a beef with the woman of Proverbs 31. Girlfriend has some mad skills and can accomplish more in one day than I can in a month. Okay, a year. Maybe a lifetime. She is the definition of a hard worker and has joy to boot. I mostly ignore her existence so I feel less bad about my lack of measuring up.

But one day here recently, I decided it would be in my best interest to stop ignoring her and maybe follow her leadership. I prayed in my journal that day for God to make me productive. I wanted to be a wife of noble character.

Do you know how God answered me? This is where the laughing comes in. He turned off the electricity in my house for maybe 4 hours. Umm, Lord, don’t I need electricity to be productive???

I don’t believe He was snickering and saying, “let’s watch her be productive now!”, though he may have chuckled at the irony of it all. Nope, I think His laughter was such that He knew I would not expect that answer to that prayer. Again, He had something better in store for me.

The lack of electricity forced me to be productive in ways I hadn’t even considered. Sure, I managed to fold the mound of laundry on my couch, but He saw greater opportunities for me. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous, so the girls and I got to spend much of our morning outside running around the yard. We took advantage of the lack of power to meet my hubby/their daddy for lunch. Then we meandered around the outdoor portion of the science center on what could have quite possibly been the most perfect day of the year.

And He knew how much fun we would have. He knew how good it would be for our family to connect relationally instead of marking off our checklist. It brought Him delight to gift us extra bonding time that day.

He answered my prayer in a way that communicated I don’t have to be a clone of Proverbs 31 lady to fulfill His purpose for my life. He also whispered that maybe I should consider turning off the electronic devices sometimes so we don’t miss out on something greater.

When God laughs, I think it’s for the joy of knowing we will too.

“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

Parched

Parched

I’ve shared with you about my rollercoaster of emotions and a physical area I’ve been battling recently, but those two things have only opened my eyes to the bigger war at hand.

Everything seems to center around the birth of my second daughter, so let me tell you some things I did wrong in that season.

I didn’t exactly enjoy the lack of sleep with my first daughter so I prayed often that things would be dramatically different with my second. They were! Just, not in the way I had planned. Baby #2 had reflux and seemed to only sleep well in certain positions. Baby #1 started dropping her nap. Baby #2 would be awake for hours on end in the middle of the night. I couldn’t nap when Baby #2 napped because, well, Baby #1 needed supervision. But Baby #2 didn’t really nap because Baby #1 was always waking her up. I felt like my days were consumed with attempting to interact with my needy toddler through the cries and screams of my over-tired baby.

My spiritual life tanked. I never vocalized it, but I believe in my heart of hearts that I was slightly resentful that God answered my requests for a well-sleeping baby with giving me a child that never seemed to sleep. My efforts to maintain a regular quiet time always seemed to be answered with one of my children needing me. I was trying to create a positive home environment but I needed fuel and the next station was a mirage somewhere after the swamp through which I was mucking.

My most productive quiet times were those in which I read my One Year Bible on my phone while the baby nursed. I love that we have that sort of technology and it was really good for that time frame. Even if I was only able to read a few verses, at least I had something on which to meditate.

Unfortunately, I didn’t always take advantage of those moments. One down side to relying on technology, was that right next to my Bible app were apps for Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I guarantee you I found more time for those than I did for Jesus. I also got into the habit of turning on my phone instead of opening my Bible.

This wasn’t true of every day, but it was true of most. My prayer life was sparse. I’m pretty sure the enemy was working to convince me that my prayers were but a drop in the bucket and rather unnecessary.

Fast-forward to my time in counseling. You guys, I cannot describe enough how my counselor opened my eyes to some behind the scenes realities. She called me out on my prayer life, she encouraged me to journal more, and she suggested books to help me through the spiritual desert.

The book Fervent, by Priscilla Shire, has been monumental. I am so much more aware of the battle taking place over my heart and mind, over my family, and over the world around me. This awareness is changing me.

Ya’ll, my passion, fire, zeal for God is returning at an all new high. I bought a journaling Bible, and it has been a special place for my soul. There is something about seeing God’s Word on a page that cannot be compared to seeing it on a screen. His words are bringing life and truth to my spirit and I feel like He is saying something new to me all the time.

I’m devoting the first hour of my day to my quiet time (Baby #2 sleeps now!!) and I love every moment. Sometimes I worship, sometimes I journal, sometimes I color in my Bible while meditating on a specific verse, sometimes I read, and I’m always amazed at how quickly that hour passes. I find myself longing for more time with Him.

I often think people get the impression that because we are in the church business that my husband and I are super spiritual. That we get in on God’s good side and have special privileges. I’m here to say that I have to work just like everyone else at my relationship with God. I’m not in a super secret spiritual club with a special password to get in the door. I’m just like everyone else.

God is calling each of us to draw closer and closer to Him. Sometimes His calls are hard to hear because the enemy is making all the other things in our lives so loud. For me, it was a screaming baby and retreating to a virtual reality. But listen closely. Turn off the technology, open your Bible, and breathe in His goodness. He has something to say and He is inviting us to listen and live it out.

“I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.” Psalm 120:1

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.” Isaiah 55:1-3

Fringe of Healing

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“…She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.'” Matthew 9:20-21

*I’ll be talking a lot about female physical issues in this post, so if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, feel free to turn around before reading further. Consider yourself warned.*

For about two years, the story of the woman with the issue of blood has connected with me on a very personal level.

You can find her account in Mark 5:25-34. The Bible says she suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years and had spent all her money trying to find a solution from a doctor, and yet her bleeding only became worse. She believed that she would be healed if she could only touch the robe of Jesus. She made the touch happen; He took care of the healing. Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

My physical story began about two and a half years ago. My baby was four months old and, awesome, my period returned. I chalked it up to being a little unlucky.

Everything was normal at first, but a few months later things started getting weird. In January of 2015, I noticed extra spotting. No big deal as I knew my hormones were still out of whack. I was breastfeeding and expected a little weirdness.

It got weirder though. More spotting, more frequently. Sometimes more than just spotting. A pattern gradually developed and I seemed to be getting two periods every single month. Two weeks on and two weeks off. Sometimes it was every other week.

I still blamed the breastfeeding and decided that as soon as we were finished in that area, I’d make an appointment with my doctor and get back on the birth control pill. Hoping, really, that the situation would resolve itself in the weeks before my appointment.

The situation did not resolve itself and I so forward to the magical pills that had always regulated everything so nicely for me.

But, the pills didn’t work. In fact, my first month back on them, November of 2015, I bled every single day.

Every. Single. Day. Fear tried to wiggle it’s way in to whisper the possibilities.

While I didn’t bleed every day the next month, we had hoped for a more significant level of improvement. In January of 2016, an ultrasound was scheduled to make sure there were no other issues present. The ultrasound revealed that I have a “beautiful uterus”, at least, according to my doctor. Good, yet bad news, as now we would simply play a waiting game with pills.

Every few months I would try a different pill, hoping it would work. Every so often, I would have a normal month, just to have things start back up again the following month. I never knew what to expect. We tried timing pills differently, skipping weeks, and so forth. Still, the bleeding continued.

If you read my last post, Out of the Fog, you might have put together that this physical issue coincided with my loss of joy, and ultimately, the decision to attend counseling. I now believe my issues with postpartum depression and random bleeding were connected.

On a logical level, the irregular bleeding was a nuisance more than anything. On an emotional level, I felt defeated every time it reared it’s ugly head. I half-heartedly contemplated how freeing it might be to just remove my uterus and be rid of it all. But, that’s a significant surgery with significant side effects, so it never went beyond a thought.

Two years of inconvenience in my world. I cannot imagine twelve years of suffering in Biblical times without all our modern conveniences.

I ended up making the decision to stop taking birth control pills in hopes that my hormones might regulate naturally; thereby having a positive effect on both my emotions and my cycle. It didn’t happen in an instant, but where I am compared to a year ago feels like a dream.

I believe healing is a process. It is a reminder of our dependency on the Lord and that despite what we would love to believe about ourselves, we have some serious weaknesses that only He can strengthen. It strips away our pride and forces us to kneel at His feet, surrendering ourselves entirely.

When we come to Him broken, fully relying on what only He can do in our lives, we get that opportunity for Him to look us in the eye and say, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

So, I am letting go of the need to fix it and I’m taking it all to Him. I may not be able to physically touch his robe, but I am His daughter. And I have faith. He can make me well.

“O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health.” Psalm 30:2

“O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!” Jeremiah 17:14

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has a great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

Out of the Fog

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I share the following with you because we all go through stuff, and sometimes we need to see that other people go through stuff too. I believe God has called me to encourage others in the art of finding Him as our source in the midst of all the stuff; no matter what that may be at any given time in our lives.

One element of my stuff is the fog I’ve been in the past couple of years.

I blamed it on sleep for the most part. Goodness, if you look back on any of my earliest posts, you are bound to see a theme of longing for some seriously good sleep. But sleep came back, and my struggles didn’t disappear.

This fact made my emotions go haywire. In my mind, sleep was going to fix it. If only I got those precious moments of rest, my exhaustion with my children would get better. I’d stop getting so angry at so many little things. I wouldn’t be so frustrated with my husband for not reading my mind. I’d get my joy back.

Joy. I missed that. Sleeping more didn’t bring it back. In the past, I had been almost obnoxiously joyful, and now I felt I was just obnoxious in the lack thereof. I wasn’t exactly very fun to be around. You might not have seen it on a Sunday morning or in a small gathering of friends, but one-on-one, I complained. A lot. About anything. Because everything felt so… off.

My heart was reeling in desperation to find clarity and life once again. Something was wrong with me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. So in my search for answers, in my search for joy, I decided to begin seeing a counselor at Restoration Place.

Yes, you read that right, I’m a pastor’s wife and I go to counseling.

In my very first appointment, I filled out paperwork, took a few surveys, and tried to explain to my counselor why I was there. She gave me some homework and asked me to write out what I was hoping to find; my “miracle” so to speak. While I listed several things, at the forefront was the concept of joy. I wrote, “I long to wake up one morning, and find that my joy has come back. Where did it go? How did it get lost? It must still be there somewhere. I want to find it, grab it, and never let go of it.”

At the beginning of this journey of counseling, I cried an awful lot. I’d talk about a mistake I’d made with my children or how my marriage wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt like I was clouded in darkness and couldn’t see the light no matter how hard I tried.

I believe I needed to cry those tears. One thing I’ve learned through this time, is how important it is for me to process my thoughts through the art of writing and simply talking. I have often leaned on my husband for those sorts of conversations, but men are not geared like women and sometimes I need to process in a typical female sort of way. In counseling, I’m able to sort through my heart, and now my husband can reap the benefits.

I’ve also learned that I was experiencing a taste of postpartum depression. This knowledge has explained so much of where I have been, and has also given me hope for the future. I know what I’m dealing with, so I can attack it accordingly. I also know that this season will not last forever. The fog is lifting.

Life isn’t all magically better. Unfortunately, in the midst of my cloud I formed some poor emotional habits and I need to work through those sorts of things. But, it is getting better. It is easier for me to see that all is not lost. That I’m not a terrible wife and mother, and that good things are yet to come. If I feel myself sinking, I feel more powerful in my ability to find firm ground. Emotional healing is taking place.

I am forever thankful that God, in anticipation that our hearts and minds would need sorting through at times, provided a gift to certain individuals to become counselors. I am also thankful that through it all He has continued to probe and work on my heart. Never once did He abandon me or forget me. No, instead, He is continuously teaching me and growing me in this mess so that I can step into my ultimate purpose.

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3