When I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I find myself in a season that is a breeding ground for shame. Just being an adult is hard enough in this world of social media and high standards. Then when you add in parenting, marriage, family, friends, ministry, missions, and all of the other hundreds of little things that I’m supposed to do on a daily basis like feed the tiny humans and make sure everyone has clean clothes…well let’s just say I can never get it all done. I hate that I can never get it all done. I feel shame about the fact that I can’t get it all done. I am also ashamed that I have anxiety, crippling anxiety, about all of these things. I feel shame that I am not enough, and I feel shame in the way I deal with not being enough. That is where I began the year and my meditation time with this verse. 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

If this is true, then I cannot live in shame any longer. If the grace of Jesus is really enough for me, then I have to let go of how many mistakes I made today. If His grace is really sufficient, I have to quit beating myself up about letting my kids watch tv or eat hot dogs or go to daycare or whatever other mom guilt is thrown my way. I have to let go of the fact that I missed opportunities to fix or help or speak truth. I have to let go of the fact that I could have loved better, could have spoken better, could have acted better, could have been braver, or stronger, or wiser. I have to let go of the fact that I am not a perfect friend or mentor or daughter or sister. I have to let go of the fact that I could have said something different, had more patience, been a better mom. I have to let go of the fact that I cannot do it all. I have to let go of the fact that I still get anxious. I have to let go of the fact that I made mistakes, will keep making mistakes, and will probably hurt someone’s feelings or disappoint them. In shaming myself, I am saying that His grace is not enough for me. In covering myself with self-hatred thoughts and words, I am saying that I am above the grace of Jesus. By drowning myself in shame, I am saying, your death, it doesn’t cover me. It doesn’t count for me. Is that what I want? NO! 

So LET IT GO! Let the shame go. Let His grace be sufficient. 

“For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I admit and embrace that I am not enough…I mean really embrace and accept that I cannot, will not, and should not be perfect…When I let myself find freedom in the grace of Jesus and fully live knowing that I am imperfect…When I breathe in and out with the knowledge that I am broken in weakness…Then and only then, will the power of Christ be made perfect. As long as I keep trying to be strong all on my own, Christ’s power will have no room in me. There is no place for the Spirit to fill me if I keep pretending like I can do it all on my own. If I keep trying to be everything to everybody, then I will just keep ending the day in a ball on the floor full of anxiety and brokenness. BUT if I can embrace my imperfections and allow myself the freedom to be forgiven and accepted with all of my faults and weakness and shortcomings – not just sometimes but each moment – then the power really comes. Then the power of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, it is perfected in me.

The Bible is full of stories of God using a broken person, group, or place that the world defines as weak, in order to bring power into the world. That is not by accident. God has proven over and over that He is most powerful when us humans step back, accept that we are weak and allow Him to really show off. It is possible for God’s power to be shown in me no matter what, but it is only perfected when I admit and embrace that I can never be enough on my own. 

Now this does not give us license to sin or make excuses for immoral behavior. Christ was able to admit his weakness, let the power of God fill him, and still remain sinless. Sin and weakness are not synonyms. 

“Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

So, I must then take it a step further. Not only should I just be weak and accept it, I need to boast about it. I need to shout that I am a screw up. I make mistakes. I need to own it. I need to quit pretending that I have it all together or even that I should have it all together. I need to own this hot mess that I am. Instead of getting embarrassed by my inadequacies,  I need to let go of these crippling expectations and allow Christ to dwell in me. Again, this does not mean that I get a pass to sin but instead that I now can focus on progress over perfection. I have to admit, out loud, that I do not have it all together. Quit the pretending. For him to really fill me with the Spirit, I need to acknowledge without fear that I am struggling on my own and in need of help. This whole life, adulting, parenting thing…It’s all hard. Only when I embrace my weakness, embrace my anxiety, embrace my imperfection, then the power, the spirit of Christ will dwell in me. It will come in, grow roots and start living inside of me. When that power lives inside of me, it starts to seep out into everything I do. But I have to remain humble in knowing that I alone am weak, and that is ok.

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I don’t have to be happy that bad things are happening. I’m still allowed to have bad days. I’m allowed to get angry and be frustrated. I’m allowed to beg for another way, just like Jesus did in the garden before dying on the cross. This verse is not saying that God makes the bad things happen for you to be filled with power. It is saying that even though you will go through all kinds of hardships, you can be content knowing that Jesus is hurting with you. This world is broken. It is fallen. Jesus is not going to take away all the distress from your life. I truly believe that a good father shouldn’t and can’t move every difficulty out of the way for His children. But a good father does sit and listen and stroke our hair and cry with us in the insults and pain. He walks with us, gives us wisdom, gives us strength, and gives us POWER! He doesn’t need the bad things in order to give us power. He does however use the weakness, insults, distress, persecution, and difficulties to redeem the brokenness inside of us and bring forth power. He redeems it by filling us in those moments of weakness. He fills us with His spirit so that we are overflowing with the strength and power of Christ. He surrounds us with the church, the body, and our community to strengthen us and help us put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We can be content and at peace with our weaknesses because Christ is enough. We don’t have to be enough. Life is full of BOTH hardship and life-giving moments. It is full of both insults and encouragement. It is full of both distress and laughter. It is full of both people that tear you down and powerful community that can fill you up. It is full of both difficulties and wonder. I am both weak and strong at the same time. That is the way life is meant to be lived. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Again, I don’t have to rejoice in the fact that the bad is happening BUT you can rejoice that in that moment or season of darkness, in this roller coaster of life, God IS YOUR STRENGTH! Christ is POWER. 

Christ died to wash away our sin and guilt and shame, but he was also RISEN from the grave to show and fill us with POWER. Even in our darkest days, know that Sunday is coming. May we walk in that power today. 

Meditation and Imperfection

If you have not read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection then do everyone and yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now and order it. In fact, let me give you the link: click this!  I’m not kidding. Forget reading this post, go now. It has changed what I believe about myself and my lifelong battle with perfectionism and anxiety. Well, this book along with a very helpful therapist and learning about the Enneagram have helped me start to find the root of my anxiety and panic attacks. I hope you read that correctly that this is just the beginning. I still have a long way to go and will always probably struggle with both perfectionism and anxiety. But I have felt so much freedom in several things that I want to share. 

First of all, the highlight of this book and the main thing that I learned from my counselor was simple but huge – I need to love myself more. I need to be kind to myself. The root of my panic attacks is my anger. Anger at myself. It’s not the root of my anxiety. I’ll talk about that more later, but it is the difference between feeling overwhelmed and entering into a full blown panic attack. I just get so mad! I’m talking hysterical ANGER. I scream and want to hit things and just hate who I am in that moment. I cannot logically pull myself together. I feel like a burden and like I’m letting everyone down around me. I feel like I’m wasting time that could be spent sleeping or resting or pouring into all of these people that love me daily. I start to spiral into pure shame and guilt. Shame that I am not strong enough. Guilt that I again have failed. Brene is an expert in shame research. It’s amazing the way shame and perfectionism are tied together. I feel so ashamed that I can’t be the person that I want to be. Which causes me to be so angry. It’s also amazing how I think it’s ok to call myself an idiot (and much harsher words). I would be so upset if my kids ever spoke those words about themselves, or if they ever heard me speak those words out loud. In her book Brene says, “I don’t want my level of self-love to limit how much I can love my children or my husband…loving them and accepting their imperfections is much easier than turning that light of loving-kindness on myself…I know that I can talk to myself in ways that I would never consider talking to another person.” Why is it so much easier to beat myself up? 

In an effort to train my brain in self compassion and to lavish grace on myself and others, I have started meditating in the morning. I always thought that just sitting and breathing was weird and a waste of time. (I don’t know if you can tell, but I really hate wasting time.) I started though with an app that my counselor told me about called Meditation Studio. I have also tried the app Headpsace. Meditation studio uses mindfulness meditation which I like a little better. Both of these talk you through how to be gracious even in the quiet. It reminds me to not be angry when my mind inevitably drifts or when I spend 5/10 minutes daydreaming or nodding off.

The main focus of meditation is breathing and giving grace in those moments of quiet. Following along with an app when you first get started is so helpful. It’s like having a personal trainer when you are trying to get in shape for the first time. It helps keep me accountable and really instills the grace over myself that I desperately need. And most importantly it is teaching me how to breathe. I know that sounds weird, but breathing in meditation is an artform. I have always been an athlete. In sports, especially in running, I was taught different ways to breathe to best enhance my performance. Meditation breathing is similar. If you focus on how your body reacts to the breaths and on how your mouth and stomach and nose respond to each breath, it helps your muscles to slowly relax and your mind to focus. I have to be intentional about relaxing my legs and toes, my arms and shoulders and fingers, my jaw and head. With each breath, I release a little more guilt and pent up pressure and relax a little bit more. 

It was really hard at first for me to sit still and just breathe for 10 minutes. Now though, I can’t picture starting my day any other way.  That small amount of quiet breathing changes and shapes my mind the rest of the day. I often still get overwhelmed because I still have triplets and life is still messy, but I subconsciously start taking deep breaths and am more apt to give myself grace. The breaths bring me back to those 5-10 minutes of peace that morning. I am reminded of what calm looks like. I have a reference point of how to relax. I remind myself that it’s normal to get overwhelmed. Brene talks in her book about how to identify an issue or problem without over identifying it. I tend to do that a lot. I am really good at over identifying my weaknesses instead of just naming them, owning them, and moving forward. Meditation gives me the space to practice identifying a weakness and moving on. Even if that weakness is not being able to focus that morning. I simply say “wandering” and refocus without beating myself up. Learning to let go of most of that anger has been so freeing. 

To make this my own, I often combine meditation with breath prayer and lectio devina. I read a psalm and pick out one word or phrase that really sticks out to me. Then I set my timer to 5-10 minutes or I start my app, and I just sit. I sit up straight, keep the lights off, lay my hands out, close my eyes, and I breathe. I slowly breathe in and out (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out). And I focus on that word or phrase and focus on my breathing. If my mind wanders, I just gently say wandering, and gracefully move back into breathing in and out – in through my nose, out through my mouth. As I breathe in I picture that word or phrase. As I breathe out, I release everything else so that in time just that word remains. It remains on my heart and in my mind the rest of the day.

Sometimes, if I have a certain person pressing on my heart as I enter into my meditation time, I can spend that time focusing on breath prayer for them. It’s best to stick with just one person so you don’t spend the whole time jumping around. With each breath, I breathe in calm and breathe out a word that I want to pray over them. I breathe in peace or grace and breathe out strength or confidence to cover them for today.

I have also used meditation breaths at night if I can’t sleep. I have woken up several times in the middle of the night with my brain spinning about all the things that need to happen or a crazy dream. Once I start meditation breathing, my body is reminded to calm down, think logically, and to relax.

Other times I use my mantra or theme verse for this season in my life as I meditate. I spend the entire 10 minutes really placing the words on my heart and in my mind. I have it memorized, so I close my eyes and say one word with each deep breath. I slowly in the morning ingrain it in my mind, so that when I start to get overwhelmed in the day, I start breathing and that verse is on the tip of my tongue and in my head. It’s amazing what memorizing scripture and simply breathing will do.

My verse for the year that has spoken truth to me in so many ways is Exodus 14: 13-14. it says: 

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”

“Don’t be afraid” – In the moments of complete exhaustion and when that long list of overwhelming things that has to be done all at one time is almost too much to bear, smile. Remember the way that God has already delivered you. Remember who you are. Remember who HE is. Know that you are enough. Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid of what is to come. Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to say No. Don’t be afraid to say Yes. Smile.

“Stand firm” – Breathe. Be present. Stand in this current moment. Don’t drift into the past or let your mind wander into all of the things that you need to get done tomorrow. Don’t run or lay down. STAND. Stand FIRM. Be strong. You are strong. God is stronger. Be still. Breathe.

“And see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today” – You are not the savior. You are not a martyr. You can’t save everyone or anyone. It’s the LORD who does the saving. He is the savior. He is the deliverer. Take that pressure off. He will keep His promises. You are not alone. He is with you TODAY. He is doing great things today. 

“For the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” – The context of this verse comes right before the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites were escaping the Egyptians. The plagues had already happened. They had already placed the blood over their doorframe in Egypt as death fell on the firstborn son and animal of the Egyptians, but the Lord passed over the Israelites. They were protected, and then they were delivered. The LORD delivered them and led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. All too soon though the Israelites forgot. The Egyptians had changed their minds and began to chase them. They were right on their heals and the Red Sea was trapping them. They felt like there was no way out. Surely this was the end? Surely God can’t protect us this time? But here Moses is proclaiming that this fear is formed from lies. The truth is that these Egyptians – this huge, impossible, demon that is chasing you and trying to devour you – there will come a day when you will never see it again. God will win. The Lord will deliver you. He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is a God of redemption. He is a God of deliverance.

“The LORD will fight for you”  I have been doing a lot of fighting lately… 

Fighting for perfection.

Fighting to not be a burden.

Fighting to help everyone.

Fighting to be seen and known.

Fighting to be a good mom.

Fighting to be a good wife.

Fighting to be a good daughter, sister, friend.

Fighting to remember every detail.

Fighting to find myself.

Fighting myself.

Fighting for control.

Fighting to be worthy of love.

Fighting for forgiveness for my constant shortcomings.

Stop. The LORD will fight FOR you.

“and you must be quiet.” – It doesn’t say that you must fight with Him. It doesn’t say that you must complete a list of tasks before you are worthy of being fought for. It doesn’t say that you must look a certain way or act a certain way or be prepared. You don’t have to be perfect or have it all figured out. You just have to be quiet. 

So today – may you be filled with all the goodness and measure of the Lord’s promise. May you allow Him to fight for you. May you be still and see His deliverance in your life. You are worthy. You are loved.

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Feeding Triplets and Finding Rest

A lot of people ask me about breastfeeding and feeding in general with triplets. I’m sure you have noticed, but Derek and I are super open about our experience so those questions really don’t bother me. While I was pregnant I knew all along that the possibility of me breastfeeding very long was slim. I wanted to try, but bottom line was that I wanted to do what was best for the babies and was open to whatever feeding method that may be. Since they were born almost 8 weeks early, they did not know how to suck. I started pumping immediately after they were born. Pumping around the clock with your babies in intensive care far away from you is miserable, but it also gave me purpose and made me feel close to my babies at the same time. I tried breastfeeding during the first week and kept trying each time I was allowed to see the babies (once or twice a day) but it was really hard for them. Latching was just not a skill that they were capable of as preemies. Some moms of preemies are lucky and their babies figure out latching quickly but that wasn’t the case for me. I still kept pumping and my babies had my breastmilk the entire 5 weeks that they were in the NICU. Also, it took a few weeks for SLO to even learn how to take a bottle. I had always thought that to leave the NICU a baby had to be 5 pounds. Turns out that graduating from the NICU has nothing to do with size. The 4 things that a baby has to accomplish before leaving the hospital is breathing on their own without their heart rate dropping for 5 days straight, maintaining temperature, maintaining and consistently gaining weight, AND they had to be able to drink 16 bottles in a row (only bottles for 2 straight days). At the beginning, this seemed impossible. We would celebrate when one of them would drink 10ml out of  a bottle (30ml is 1oz). Since our goal was for them to be able to drink a bottle, it felt weird to encourage them to do anything but that.

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The biggest hurdle in breastfeeding though was this terrible thing called mastitis. I had to go through a lot of physical pain in carrying and birthing triplets, but seriously nothing compares to the pain of mastitis. It destroyed me. Because I was only pumping and making enough milk for 3 babies, my body just could not handle it. Mastitis is a really painful infection that causes shakes and fevers and aches. After week 3 of mastitis, I decided that my body was trying to tell me it had had enough. So, I started weaning myself off of pumping. It was the same time that the babies were coming home. Less time pumping, meant more time holding and snuggling babies. I have so much respect for mom’s of multiples that breastfeed, pump, or both!! Seriously, you guys are CHAMPS!! For me, the best decision was moving to formula. Each mom and family has to figure out what is best for them, and I seriously understand and respect moms that sacrifice their bodies and free time to breastfeed and the moms like me that decide to formula feed. Mom shaming and mom guilt is so real, but really we are all just doing our best to take care of our babies and ourselves and just keep doing you!

Derek and I loved getting to tag team with bottles. It was so much fun getting to fully share the feeding task. We had our system in the middle of the night where he would go make bottles and I would change diapers and we would each feed one of the boys and whoever finished first got Lucy. It was always a race. I also love that we got to invite family and friends to join in too. Our parents got to be feeding experts, and I got to watch all kinds of friends that I love feed my tiny babies. There was (and is) always a baby to share.

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It was a sad and wonderful day at the same time when the babies learned how to hold their own bottles. I genuinely loved feeding three babies. When I was on my own, I would feed both boys at the same time while calm Lucy played at my feet. Then I would feed Lucy while the boys rested. Feeding time was really calming and created sweet bonding time for me. Even the middle of the night feeds bring such sweet memories. I loved sitting with Derek (or my mom) in the dark holding babies. We had dreamed of that exact thing for so long, and I love that bottle feeding really allowed Derek and I to be equal partners. We had to be a true team. And together, we learned how to rest with our babies in the midst of the crazy. We would go from all 3 crying and the mad rush of changing 3 diapers and making bottles (side note: the Baby Breeza is the best invention maybe ever, yes ever) to silence while the babies ate. It was so peaceful. We still feed them a bottle before bed and hold all three in the dark to bottle feed. It is often the most peaceful time of my day. I love sitting there with all 5 of us quietly just resting.

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Every year I have a theme verse or verses that cover something that I want to embody or learn that year. This year, my verse is Exodus 33:14: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” I like to get the full context so I have started in Exodus 1 and have been re-reading about Moses and the journey of the Israelites out of slavery and into the wilderness. This is a weird time for the Israelites. They have been slaves for centuries and are now trying to figure out their new identity in freedom. They have not entered the Promised Land and aren’t technically even wandering aimlessly through the wilderness yet. They are just trying to heal and catch their breath after the plagues and the Red Sea. In that time of waiting, God begins to teach and shape the Israelites. He gives them the 10 commandments and really lays out laws and rules of living in harmony with one another. He teaches them about how to communicate with Him and how to obey and respect Him. He teaches them how to remember and celebrate, to dance and to mourn. He teaches them about art and how to build the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Lampstand, and the Tabernacle. He teaches some of them how to be priests and how to properly be in the presence of God. He teaches them about sacrifices and incense and altars and so much more. BUT as I have been reading, I am amazed that one of the very first things that God teaches the Israelites as they leave slavery in Egypt and begin a new life is to REST. First God provides water, manna, and quail. He takes care of their physical needs, and then He commands them to take a day off. Not just one time, but one day a week, every week! Exodus 16:23, “ This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.’” This is where the Sabbath begins. In order for them to truly love God and others, they need to learn how to take a break and just dwell with the Lord and one another.  If you find yourself in a season of wandering or waiting, let God teach you how to rest. Infertility did that for Derek and I. I wasn’t allowed to work out as much, and just really had to be still a lot. So I rested. Now, life with triplets is insane but for us, it is a Promised Land. It is a place that we had longed for and journeyed long and far and we arrived at the most beautiful promise fulfilled. But when we forget that essential piece of rest, we forget that this is the Promised Land. We forget that God is with us and that His presence will be with us through all of the new challenges. In the verses after Exodus 33:14, Moses asks God to let him see His Glory. God responds to Moses, “Stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” As we begin year 2 with SLO, my prayer is that God’s presence will go with us and that he will again give us rest. I pray that He covers us with His hand and that we learn more and more about the ever present glory of the Lord.

The IVF process (round 1)

Once we decided to try IVF, everything started happening fairly quickly. We went to a special pharmacy and picked up tons of needles, syringes, medicine, alcohol swabs, gauze, and even a sharp’s box. It’s very intimidating and kind of crazy that they just hand all of this medicine and all of these needles over to people that have no medical training. I feel like you have to be fairly intelligent to do IVF because you have to mix each shot to the correct mL and measure it out with saline and then you actually have to give/get all of these hundreds of shots and put them in the correct spot. Thankfully, my husband is brilliant and an amazing partner. He took complete charge of the meds. He mixed and organized and gave me every shot that I had to have. First though, I had to take birth control pills to regulate my cycle, and I had to start having blood work taken regularly to check on my levels of all kinds of things. I had to plan my blood work appointments around my classes and even had to miss some school. The office was 30 minutes away, and I had to drive down there every time too, which ended up being a lot of driving. By the end, my arms where so bruised it looked like I had been shooting up drugs from all the times I had blood drawn. Then, I had to have some tests run to check and make sure my uterus looked ok. The HSC and trial transfer were actually pretty painful. I drove myself to this procedure and did not know that it would be so difficult. They found a polyp, and I had to have a small surgery to remove it a few days later. It didn’t affect my cycle thankfully, but was one more thing we had to deal with.  I think I only missed one day of teaching through all of this too, so I was still teaching and pretending like everything was normal at school. When it finally came time to start the shots, both Derek and I were so nervous. Derek always talks about how weird of a feeling it is to stab your wife with an inch long needle in the stomach. I’m glad that didn’t come naturally for him. haha Anyway, I started out with shots of Gonal F and menapur in the belly. Then we added centrocide and monostat the day before the trigger shot. This whole first batch of shots was so that my body would start and stop ovulating in order to produce multiple eggs at one time. On the night of the trigger shot, you have to give it at midnight and it is very precise. Derek accidentally drew out the wrong amount of the trigger shot and some shot out the needle so it was a few mL short. We were freaking out! Derek was so upset, he had to walk outside for a few minutes to calm down. Then, it ended up being a little bit late and the trigger shot is supposed to be right at midnight. It was such a stressful night. Again, it’s crazy that non medical people do this every day. Thankfully, it ended up not being a big deal at all that the trigger was a little late. The trigger shot made my body ready to actually take out the eggs. Two days after the trigger shot, I had a minor surgery to remove the eggs. I had 18 eggs taken out of my ovaries in the retrieval. This process made my ovaries so sore, but the surgery itself didn’t hurt. Next, I took a pill to get my body ready for pregnancy while we waited a couple weeks. We were so excited to find out that 11 out of my 18 eggs were fertilized. I then started taking estrogen (pill form) and progesterone (big shot) to further prepare my body for pregnancy. When you get pregnant your body naturally makes progesterone, but since we bypassed a couple steps (or did them in a different way) I had to have progesterone shots until my body realized it was pregnant. The progesterone shots were not small. haha They had to go in my hip (kind of in my butt). They hurt!!! They had to go in such a specific part of my hip that we drew big circles on my hip with a sharpie marker so that we knew exactly where it needed to go. I wore a bathing suit once in this time period, and it was really funny that I had these big sharpie circles showing. Then, just 5 days after the retrieval, they picked one of the 11 fertilized eggs to transfer into my uterus. At that point, the fertilized egg is called a blastocyst. Derek got to go back into the operating room with me and watched on the screen as they placed the blastocyst in my uterus. It did not hurt at all and was a really special moment. Out of the 10 blastocysts left, only 2 survived to be frozen for later. The other ones just stopped growing and would never be able to grow into a baby. I was really thankful that 2 had made it. Sometimes you only end up with 1 viable embryo even after pulling out 18 eggs. I continued with the progesterone shots and waited to see if the blastocyst would attach to my uterine lining. You have to wait 10 days and it was the longest 10 days ever. Sadly, we found out that our first round failed. I know that the blastocyst was not yet an embryo and that it is even different than a miscarriage. But it was so incredibly painful and felt like we had lost another child. We had lost the opportunity for that little one and it was very emotional. I still remember that I was sitting on the steps at our house when the doctor called. Derek was at work, and I immediately called him and just sat on the steps crying till he came home.

Even now as I sit here holding one baby with 2 more asleep in their cribs, it still makes my heart ache thinking about how hard that moment and this whole process has been. I’m just now able to process that I fully believe that God disappointed me. I still feel angry at God and don’t understand how His timing works. I don’t think that He caused the bad things, but He let them happen. Sometimes He intervenes and sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He heals, and sometimes the person you are praying for still dies. Sometimes the baby you pray for never comes. Sometimes bad things still happen after lots and lots of prayer over them. It makes me question prayer and how God listens and answers. It makes me not want to trust God because I trusted Him and He let me down. ya ya I know, I have my babies and they are seriously a miracle and beautiful, BUT I didn’t do anything to deserve them. I just cant believe that my prayers or faithfulness are the reason that they are so healthy and happy and wonderful. I want to trust God again and then as soon as I make peace with Him and peace with not understanding WHY, something else tragic in my life or in the world happens again, and I’m thrown all over again.

I need a new framework because the one that I keep trying to fit God into just doesn’t fit. I need to redefine prayer. I need to redefine answering prayer. I need to redefine success. I need to redefine what it looks like for God to be with me and what it looks like for him to fulfill His promises. Maybe, just maybe, He never really did let me down. Maybe, just maybe, He never left. Maybe prayer isn’t about me at all. Maybe Jesus isn’t as concerned about me as much as He is concerned about the world and His Kingdom coming more fully here. Maybe Jesus is more concerned about the Kingdom coming on Earth and in my life than about the things I want. And maybe I need to quit being selfish and start looking up and around. That may seem harsh, and I know that God does care about the details of our life and sometimes He answers with a big fat YES that makes everyone jump for joy, but sometimes He says No. The NO doesn’t mean that I have less faith or that I did something wrong. It doesn’t mean that God let me down or isn’t good. Life is full of messy, painful things. I don’t follow God because He makes my life full of good things. I don’t trust Him because I think He will make my life successful by the world’s standards. I don’t love God because I think He will take away my pain. I am a believer in Jesus Christ because in the most painful times, He promises that I will have the strength and the peace to carry on. I don’t want to be afraid of darkness and brokenness. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, it may last a long time. Yes, I will probably doubt and be angry and be sad and ask questions. But that’s ok!! If Jesus can be angry through the pain and beg God to take it away, then so can I, and maybe He will. But the real struggle comes from believing that even if He doesn’t, He is still good. He is still a God to trust and love even in the moments when I wish He had said Yes. His goodness is shown in the truth that love always wins and that Sunday (the Resurrection) is always coming. The pain is never the ending place. This is so much easier said than done. But If I keep speaking it over myself, then it eventually becomes truth.

Ethical questions about IVF

This is Derek. I’m trying to write some too for the blog as we talk about our story. For this post, I’m going to discuss some of the ethical issues within IVF and infertility. I’ve put this into a question/answer format to answer questions that either people have asked us, we’ve asked ourselves, or our friends who have gone through IVF were asked by other people. I hope this makes it a little easier to see various objections to the process ethically, and kind of walks you through how we arrived at the decision we did.

IVF is incredibly expensive, so why don’t you just spend the money on adoption? Why don’t you just adopt?

I put this first because, honestly, we wrestled over this question more than any other. It hits close to home because Megan and I are passionate about adoption. We actively support and work with a special needs orphanage in China, and we think adoption is something Christians in the world should be more active in. IVF is also incredibly expensive and costs about the same amount as a new car. Is it justifiable for us to spend so much money on something unnecessary when there are plenty of other kids in the world that need parents? Should we spend money on something medically unnecessary when that money could be spent on adoption? First off, it’s absurd to think that only infertile couples should be asked this question. We rarely think about adoption before buying a car, or buying a new house, or getting the kitchen remodeled. Infertile couples do not solely carry the burden of adoption or the weight of financial decisions in lieu of adoption. “Why don’t you just adopt?” is a question that can be asked before any major purchase. Many object to the cost of IVF while failing to look at their own finances. It’s an easy way to pass the buck onto someone who we don’t understand. This is something we often do to the “other.” Any question that begins with “Why don’t you…” is often a failure to empathize or understand a person’s background. Secondly, I can’t explain how much infertility hurts, and how strong the desire for biological children is. We really wanted to explore all of our options, and after three years of trying, we needed to take this path to its end whether that was biological children or not. While we were working with the fertility clinic, we also were actively pursuing adoption through various programs in the Atlanta area. However, we decided we really wanted to explore our options for biological children until we ran out of them. We decided we would give one round of IVF, and then stop. But at least then we could have closure, and wouldn’t have to play the what if game.

Doesn’t IVF create a lot of embryos which in turn causes the death of many unborn babies?

I get this concern, however it’s primarily based out of a misunderstanding of biology. In “normal” pregnancies, women regularly miscarry around 20% of the time. On top of that, it is estimated that around 30 to 50% of the time eggs which are fertilized naturally miscarry before even implanting in the woman’s uterus. This is why even fertile couples don’t get pregnant the first time a woman ovulates and has sex. This is why no doctor will consider you infertile until a year of actively trying (which is incredibly). Sometimes (obviously not all the time) when a woman’s period is late it’s because an egg was fertilized but didn’t make it past the first couple of days. There’s a natural dying off of fertilized eggs because of natural factors at play. We see a lot of the same tendencies and percentages at play in fertilizing eggs during IVF. Also, I find it interesting that the same people that would like to decry IVF creating life through embryos dying do not hold funerals for miscarriages. We obviously see a difference between a baby and an embryo in the way we as a society treat losing each. Miscarriage is incredibly painful, losing a child more so. While all life is sacred (embryonic or not) and should be treated with incredible dignity and respect, there is also a difference in our treatment of these two and should be.

Is IVF playing God?

The rationale goes that we should accept what God gives us and that IVF is taking life into our own hands and trying to replace God. I would push back against this. We regularly do not accept the hand given to us. I reject the fact that I am near blind without corrective lenses, so I wear glasses. Oliver was sick last week, and we gave him antibiotics. We play God every time we treat a disease or have life saving surgery. We give prosthetics to people who were born without the legs or arms. Aren’t we playing God every time we heal a disease or correct a birth deformity? IVF is simply curing the disease of infertility. IVF brings life to this world and undoes the damage of inferility in people’s live. It’s a beautiful thing and participating in the work of God restoring creation.

What about the left over embryos?

Before you sign up for IVF there is a enormous packet to fill out with what to do with the embryos. You can destroy them, give them to research, or anonymously donate them to another couple. We chose to adopt them out to another couple if we didn’t use all of ours. I was actually really excited about the option of donating unwanted embryos to couples who were struggling with infertility. Part of me was excited to help other couples in need, but the other part of me was excited to imagine every little ginger I see from now on as possibly my kid. Sounds weirder as I type it than it is in my head. However, many object to IVF but don’t realize adoption is an option. There is no need to discard any viable embryos created during the IVF process.

Is implanting so many embryos dangerous and does it cause multiple pregnancies? Will the doctors need to abort one for the others to survive?

You can always implant one embryo and in fact our fertility doctor demanded it for our first attempt. For the second attempt our doctor did not want us to do two embryos, but he understood and eventually after signing a waiver allowed us to implant both of them. Implanting 3 – 4 embryos at a time is something that is highly discouraged today, and was something more common when the percentage of success was much lower. The rates are so much better now that doctors want most couples to do one and at max two. At no point did any fertility doctor suggest we should abort one. Our high risk OB did offer that as a possibility, but we declined and she seemed pleased about that. She wasn’t pushy, and it was definitely not expected or encouraged just simply offered as a medical option, and after that day it was never mentioned again.

There are numerous other issues surrounding infertility such as suffering and the why behind painful issues like it. There’s even more advanced issues such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Hopefully I can write on here about some of those in the future. I think Christians need to start having conversations about reproductive technologies and bioethics.  The world is changing and creating questions that the Church is ill-equipped to handle currently. I believe we as a Church must move past the stigma of infertility in order to be able to grapple with these bio-ethical dilemmas that both this generation and the next will be forced to answer.

Infertility hurts

The year after our ectopic pregnancy was spent mourning and healing and waiting only to find more pain. Honestly, the pain of infertility was just as deep as the pain of losing our baby. I watched more friends than I can count get pregnant. I went to so many baby showers and was genuinely happy for them and celebrated with real joy, but at the same time, it hurt. I would get in my car and cry after every baby shower. It’s a weird cycle, infertility. The start of the month is always a fresh start. I would think, this is it, this is the month it happens. Then comes the exhaustion that is figuring out ovulation day(s) and taking my temperature and sticking to a schedule. Then I would wait. At the end of each month, I would start dreaming about when the due date would be and what it would be like if it happens this month. And then, with each passing month, it got harder and harder to be positive. I don’t know how to explain it except that every month it felt like we were losing a baby or at least losing the dream of one. I know that I wasn’t losing a baby, and I know that the pain is no where near what someone experiences when losing a child, but that’s the best way I can explain it to someone that has never experienced infertility. Everyone around us was moving on in life and we were stuck in this merry-go-round of being let down and not being able to start our family. Not only was infertility physically and emotionally painful, but it really made us angry. We were mad at God for letting us be in pain. I was mad at my body for not doing what it’s supposed to do. I was exhausted trying to figure out what to do next and how to act like everything was normal when everyday I felt like I had this giant thing wrong and missing that couldn’t be fixed. It was also incredibly isolating. Infertility is not something that people can see on the outside so most people don’t know that something is wrong. It’s awkward when someone asks how you are doing and all you want to say is, “actually terrible because everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant without trying, and I am apparently infertile, but how are you today? The weather looks nice.” Church was probably the hardest place to be. We love our church and our community, but we sing a lot of happy songs at church which is great when you are happy. However, when you are sad or angry, happy songs are really really hard to sing. I would just sit and cry often in church. Looking back, I am glad that we kept going to church and kept trying to sing the songs. I still can’t sing the song Good Good Father without crying, but there is something to be said for letting others speak joy and hope into your life when you are incapable of speaking it over yourself (my wise husband told me this). Community is a beautiful thing. Our friends and family never stopped asking and listening and waiting with us. They understood that the pain was real and constant but gave us space when we needed that too. And let me tell you something…being married to your best friend and someone that loves you unconditionally and is a good listener, its the best. Derek would pray for me every night because for months, I just didn’t know how. For months, I just didn’t know what to say. I could pray for other people, and I could pray in a big group or with students, but not for myself. Because praying just opened myself up for more disappointment, and I couldn’t handle any more of that. I’ll write a post later about how Derek taught me how to pray again. Remind me if I forget – prayer beads, they were the key. Or better yet, maybe I’ll get Derek to write it. No matter what you are struggling with though, and if it is infertility, know that you are not alone. And also know that it does get better. Sometimes it takes a long while, but remember that God is a God of redemption and loves taking the broken pieces and making something beautiful. I truly believe that God didn’t make me infertile just so we could have triplets. I don’t even believe that He planned for us to go through infertility. Life is just broken and unfair and hard. I do however, fully believe that He took this terrible thing that we went through and is using it to shape us into better people and hopefully He is using it to help someone else see the love of Jesus. The pain is not the end.

ok, rant over. Back to infertility…We started testing at the end of that year. My OBGYN was great and so helpful in starting the process. I first tried 3 rounds of clomid which about destroyed me. Clomid made me C-R-A-Z-Y. I mean, I was a complete basket case (poor Derek). He was reading over this and said, “crazy doesn’t do justice to how illogical and emotional it made you”. haha I would take offense to that if I didn’t 100% know he was right. Plus, it didn’t work. Then we tried letrozole. It did not have near the side affects on me as clomid, but it still didn’t work. Then Derek had to get tested which is not fun to say the least. Every time we tried something new, Doctors would just say, “everything looks normal. We don’t know why you aren’t getting pregnant. Just stay calm and keep trying.” We got so sick and tired of having no answers. People told me all the time (literally at least once a month), “Oh just stop stressing. As soon as you quit trying, thats when it will happen. Just wait.” Please, for the love of all things chocolate, don’t ever say that to someone struggling with infertility. It made me feel like it was all my fault. I thought that my stress was keeping us from getting pregnant. Turns out, that’s not true. We learned so much in these years about how to mourn well with others and gained compassion for “the other” (That’s what we call people who are different from the norm). “The other” can be the person who looks different, has a different culture, or just seems to stand on the outside. Infertility is very isolating and makes a lot of people uncomfortable. People say a lot of wrong things, but also many many people loved us very well. Learning how to love “the other” well is a skill that all people and especially all Jesus loving people should learn how to do. We tend to be good at loving those like us but forget how important it was to Jesus that the sinners, tax collectors, lame, sick, Samaritans, Gentiles, etc. be well taken care of and loved. Next week I’ll post some lists that I wrote in the midst of infertility. First I wrote a list of things that you can do when you find yourself feeling angry at life and at God (both of these were true during infertility). And the second list is how you can help a loved one in this situation. So stay tuned and come back and read next week.