20 things I would say to my 19 year old self

TheSouthernLadyMamaLogoWhat would I say if I ran into my 19-year-old self back in 1996?

“You are totally rockin the Rachel haircut, but you may want to rethink the overalls and Birkenstocks”????

Probably, but I would like to think I have learned a few other things in the last 20 years that I could pass along…

  • Embrace your college years. It really is the time of your life.
  • I know you desperately want to move into an apartment and be grown up. You have the rest of your life to worry about paying bills. Enjoy the cafeteria and showers you don’t have to wash while you can.
  • Pay attention to the one class in college that teaches you about the internet aka “the world wide web.” It will kinda be a big deal.
  • Don’t be afraid to stray from the pack. Sometimes the pack takes the wrong path.
  • In a few years you will get your first cell phone. Several years after that, your iPhone will take the place of your watch, planner, calculator, camera, and Discman. Don’t let it take the place of real life. You never had all those things in your back pocket 24/7, so don’t feel like you have to now.
  • Pound the pizza now. Your metabolism sets sail at 38 with no return in sight.
  • You will never need to be ashamed of your NSync obsession. Get a poster of the curly headed one for over your bed, he too will kinda be a big deal.
  • Save your $$ and don’t buy those Rollerblades. Your mama will make you buy a ton of safety gear that will make you look like a dork. And you suck at skating.
  • Don’t just go for the nerd, be the nerd. Nerds rule the real world.
  • Go ahead and move to NYC after you graduate. If you don’t do it when you are young, you never will. Just know that you won’t have a big periwinkle colored apartment and drink coffee all day at Central Perk. And you can always move back home.
  • Listen to what your parents say. They actually have been there, done that and want to help you. And one day you will have kids and payback is a b!tch.
  • Embrace how God made you and quit trying to change it. (IE… no amount of squats will remove the junk from your trunk and put the flat iron in the drawer for good.)
  • Hold tight to your girlfriends. The same ones that stay up late watching “Fear” with you now, will be the ones that hold your hand and wipe your tears later. It will take a conscious effort to stay close as you age, but it is worth it.
  • You can’t change him. Love him the way he is or move on because one day you will have children with him and they will inherit all of his…quirks 😉
  • Enjoy whatever stage in life you are in…even if they last a little longer than you anticipated.
  • Learn to praise God in the hallway while you wait for the door to open. Look behind you. The door you expect to open isn’t always the one that does! Trust in God’s plan for your life.
  • Many things will go your way, but some won’t. It’s when they don’t that you will have the opportunity to become a better person.
  • Learn from your mistakes you made and forgive yourself immediately. God already has. You are no better than Him, right?
  • Be diligent about taking your quiet time with yourself and the Lord. These quiet moments are where you will find your true strength.
  • Never be afraid to reinvent yourself…even at 39.

9 Ways to Help Your Infertile Friend

9 ways to help your if friend

Whether you know it or not, someone you love is battling infertility. Although 1 in 8 couples are infertile, it is rarely talked about and often misunderstood.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, it reminds me of a time that this holiday brought a mixture of pain and dying hope to me. Would I ever be able to celebrate Mother’s Day like all my friends? Would I be given looks or pity or just ignored all together this year? What were the chances that I would be pregnant by next Mother’s Day? Any chance at all? Would I ever be a Mother?

After writing my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility… Twice,” I have been asked many times about how to best support someone dealing with Infertility. As with most people hurting, I think it is good to offer specific help instead of “Let me know if I can do anything” because let me tell you – – she won’t.

Here are 9 ways you can help your Infertile Friend:

  1. Acknowledge that her pain is REAL. Studies have shown that the level of anxiety and stress that an infertile woman goes through is equivalent to someone dealing with cancer. Her infertility is never far from her mind. It is ever-present.
  2. Listen to her. There are no magical answers. Sometimes she may just need to cry and get her frustrations out. A shoulder to cry on is a tremendous blessing.
  3. Although well intended, most advice offered to Infertile women is actually more harmful than helpful. Erase these things from your vocabulary:
    • “How are you?” unless a) you are really ready to listen and b) you aren’t in a big group and putting her on the spot.
    • Anything that starts with “at least”. That just belittles her feelings.
    • “Just relax! It is because you are stressing yourself out!” Have you ever stressed about trying not to be stressed? She has and it doesn’t help to be lectured about it.
    • “You should just adopt and then you will get pregnant!” No one “just” adopts.  That is a huge personal decision.
    • “You just need to lose weight!” or “You are just exercising too much!” They are getting the medical advice they need from their doctors.
    • Or the worst that I have heard countless times… “I wish I had that problem! My husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant!” Does that really need an explanation??
  4. Be thoughtful about pregnancy announcements. Although it is wonderful news, it is a reminder to her about what she doesn’t have. Don’t tell her in a big group where she will have to process it in the midst of a crowd while trying to keep control of her emotions. But make sure you tell her. My feelings were hurt terribly when I found out once that everyone knew about a friend’s pregnancy and no one wanted to tell me.
  5. Give her a free pass to miss baby showers or children’s birthday parties. They simply are just too painful. Offer to give a gift together and take care of the shopping and wrapping.
  6. Shower her with mementos that let her know that you are thinking of her and love her. Cards, flowers with encouraging scriptures are always appreciated. One of my favorite gifts I got when going through IVF was a nightgown from Soma that was in their Cool Night collections. Many drugs that infertile women take cause hot flashes making sleep elusive. The nightgown was such a thoughtful yet practical gift. If she travels for treatments, a gas card or restaurant card would be helpful. Fertility treatments are extremely expensive.
  7. Take her out for a night on the town. Go to a concert. Go to a Karaoke bar. Go dancing. Just enjoy a night with lots of silliness and giggles. Remind her that there is a lot more to her than not being a mother.
  8. If she is dealing with Secondary Infertility (someone who has had a child and is now dealing with Infertility), she could use help with childcare. There are gazillion doctor appointments for ultrasounds, blood work, and various other things. Most of these doctor offices will not even allow children to come.
  9. Pray for her. This is the single most important thing you can do for her. She needs to be bathed in prayer. Aside from the obvious prayer for her to get pregnant, you can also pray for:
    • Peace
    • Patience
    • Clarity as she faces so many decisions on her Infertility journey
    • Her husband and their marriage because Infertility is a huge strain on a marriage
    • Other friends and family members to be sensitive to her needs

Infertility can be a wedge driven between friends, and over time, it pushes them further and further apart. My prayer for you is that instead it is an opportunity to show love and draws you into a more deep and true friendship.

Stephanie Greer is the author of “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice.” To get your copy of her book, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1503370879

 

 

The Infertility Diaries

“Gosh I wish I kept a journal!” If I had a dollar for every time I thought that while I was writing Full Heart Empty Womb, I would at least have made more that I have from my book ;). Throughout my journey with infertility and then high-risk pregnancy, several people encouraged me to keep a journal. A couple even gave me a journal to help me get started.

Unfortunately, I never did write consistently about it. I didn’t want to dwell on my situation anymore than I already did… and that was A LOT. It really is divine the clarity I had about the emotions and events of my near ten-year battle with Infertility. Before I wrote, I always sat down in prayer and asked for God’s guidance. I also looked through old pictures to help jog my memory. My editor joked with me about how she could tell when I was sucked back in time because I started to write in present tense instead of past!

So imagine my surprise when I came across a couple of journal entries on my old laptop. I was moving documents from my big old white brick MacBook to my new sleek one. I found two documents from 2013 that were just titled with dates. One was October 21 (the date of my pregnancy test for my last IVF) and the other was October 27 (a week after the test). I don’t even remember writing these.

When I read the raw emotions I was feeling, I immediately stepped back in time and down right SOBBED. I decided to share these because I think it is a good insight into the complex emotions that a woman goes through during IVF… and the aftermath.

October 21

I have been waiting for 12 long days since my embryo transfer.  The wait has seemed like an eternity. Time is literally crawling for me.

The good thing about going to bed at 8:30 last night is that October 21st came sooner. The bad part is that the day started at 4 a.m. for me. Two hours to do nothing but lay in bed. I held my hands on my stomach and talked to my sweet babies (aka my “totsicles”) in my head. I hummed a little tune to them. Still trying to convince them to stay with me. I would be a great mommy. I would love them like no other. I would hug and kiss them all day long. I would read to them. I would teach them all about God and His awesome love. I prayed. I begged for my babies until I cried. When my silent tears turned into sobs, Eric woke up and held me.

At 6 a.m., I dried my eyes, quickly got myself ready, and rushed to get breakfast on the table for the kids before I left. Eric came in to check on me right after I put my mascara on. I gave him the look and told him that we could NOT have a heartfelt talk right after I just put my make-up on!

 My good friend, Devon, had given me the verse Ecclesiastes 11:5 to me while we prayed togetherIMG_1361 the day before my embryo transfer. I had written it on a napkin and had held it close to me since that day. I carefully folded it and put it in my jeans pocket to take to my last pregnancy test. 

I was on autopilot as I drove to Nashville Fertility Center. My chest got tighter and tighter with every yard I drove. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I was sobbing. At first it was desperate pleas for my babies. Then when I parked, it was for the Lord to please give me strength to quiet the tears so I could just get out of the car. When I finally did, I saw a magnet of one of UT’s rivals that we had beaten 2 days before. I laughed and thought God had a sense of humor and was obviously a Vols fan. Silly as it sounds, that gave me the courage to keep moving. It lightened my mood as I snapped a picture and sent it to Eric. It helped me not feel so alone. I imagine he felt the same too. At that moment, he was sitting in drop off line with the kids worrying about me.

And then a week later . . .

October 27

This time last week I was so full of cautious hope. I really believed down to my bones that I was pregnant. I formulated the email I would send to my prayer partners and then chastened myself for being too confident. Then I dreamed about being able to joyfully announce to the world that I am pregnant on Christmas card. It would have pictures of Ethan, Ella and Matthew on it of course. And I was sure I would find something just precious on Pinterest to help me announce our new addition (or additions!!) to the family.

When we got the kids to bed, Eric and I talked for a little bit then tried to decide on a TV show to watch. Finally, I told him that I just wanted to go to bed and wake up tomorrow. At 8:30, I went to bed dreaming about how good I would feel at noon tomorrow when I finally got the voicemail that I was pregnant. 

Today…almost a week later… I skipped church. Eric hardly ever travels, but he is this week. I couldn’t stand to go to church and face the same sweet prayer partners I have walked this painful journey with. I had 2 choices: continue to paint on the happy face and assure everyone that I am ok or cry and let it all out. I was too tired to do either of those things without Eric’s hand on my shoulder. I know that my friends want me to feel comfortable to share all my feelings with them, but it is hard. Hard because no amount of talking can help them understand the depths of my grief because we are in such a unique situation. And hard because of my pride. I don’t want to look as broken down as I am. It is confusing. I want people to see me as strong and reasonable like Phillipians 4: 4&5. However, I am afraid that by being that way, it diminishes what we went through in their eyes. That shouldn’t matter to me, but it does.

I agreed a month ago to go to a child dedication of my dear friend, Devon, for their child they adopted from China. They are a sweet, Christian family that we have grown so close to. I was so honored when they asked us to be a part of it. It was a service that had several dedications and most of them were babies. I don’t know why, but I was caught off guard by the wave of grief I felt sitting in the service. I looked at those sweet babies and realized that I would never have one of them again. The pastor spoke at the beginning and talked about how the parents’ responsibility was to teach about God’s love, teach them the Word, talk all the time about God. I do that!! I have proven I am a good, Christian mother. Why can’t I have another? No. Not just another baby. The babies I had. The ones I had inside me but didn’t stay.

IMG_1274It became evident to me tonight that I HAVE to write this book. I have to. I went through all of this pain the last couple of years. There has to be a purpose. I will not accept that. If it isn’t because I get a chance to love my babies and raise them to love the Lord, then I have to make good of this pain. The only way I can do that is to try to help someone not feel alone. To know that when they walk this walk of infertility they have to do it hand in hand with God. 

It is quite emotional to read these gut wrenching words that I wrote 18 months ago and vividly remember that pain. I am still grieving for the babies that I thought were in God’s plans for our family. In fact, Ella has been asking me lately for a baby sister. Oh how it pains me. Oh sweet girl. Mommy tried so so hard to give you a baby sister!

But it is also so encouraging to me. October 2013 I was at the lowest point of my life. I have never felt so alone or misunderstood. Yes, today I still get sad, but I am healed. You can be at your lowest point today, but things will get better. “Cast all your worries on Him because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.

If you want to learn more about my journey, how I coped, and what I learned through Infertility, please check out my book: “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice.” To get your copy today, go to: www.amazon.com/dp/1503370879

How Conservatives Screwed the Pooch w/ this Bathroom Brouhaha

Southern Lady-7Am I missing something? Was there a rash of issues in public restrooms in North Carolina and Georgia that made Conservatives believe that a law was necessary?

As a mother of 3, I am an expert at public restrooms. It doesn’t matter if I demand that every kid hits the potty before we leave the house, inevitably someone will have to pee again. They love to go one at a time at restaurants. As soon as we sit down, Ethan will need to go. As soon as the queso is put in front of me, Ella will need to go. As I finally get to dig into my dinner, Matthew will decide that even though he didn’t need to go when I took Ethan that he is indeed about to burst. So I throw my napkin on my seat and take my 3rd child to the public restroom in the span of 15 minutes. For the love!! I just want to be able to sit through one meal where I don’t have to get up every 5 minutes!!!

Call me overprotective, but I accompany my 9 and 7 year olds to the restroom every time. In all of my public restroom patronage, I have never had any encounters with transgendered individuals. No I take that back…I probably have many times, and I never even knew it because it wasn’t an issue. I peed. They peed. We washed hands and left.

I am not a theologian, but I am a girl who loves Jesus. You know the question… “What would Jesus do?” Well, I don’t believe he would make a law to purposefully alienate anyone. And that is what this law is …”Us” vs “Them.”

I have no worries about going to a public restroom with stalls with a transgendered individual. In fact, I would rather Caitlyn pee in a stall next to me than in a men’s room with my sons.

SO HERE IS MY BEEF….

Thank you, Conservatives, for making a mountain out of a molehill. Now you have given a green light to sexual predators to take advantage of this situation. I guarantee it. It is not if they will, it is when they will. I am not talking about transgender individuals. I am talking about the people who already prey on women and children. Now they just don’t even have to be as stealth about it. They can just walk right on in.

I consider myself a Conservative, but this whole business of proposing laws just to create more division has got to stop. It has and will continue to backfire. This latest effort to alienate transgendered people has not only failed, but it has opened the bathroom door and rolled out the welcome mat to the sickos of the world.

Full Heart Empty Womb for FREE and Update :)

Happy Sunday! A couple of exciting things from my little world….

  1. For a limited time, my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility…Twice,” is available for FREE through Kindle Unlimited! Also if you already have a Kindle copy, you can lend it to a friend. I am really excited about this opportunity. I wrote the book to help people who are dealing with Infertility and this will help me reach so many more. If you have a loved one who is dealing with or has dealt with Infertility, I would be honored if you would share this with them.
  2. I am finally going to start writing my second book! My plan was to start it when my kids went back to school last fall… and now I am 5 weeks away from them getting out for the summer. Eeeks!!!  So much for plans!

After my dad’s devastating cancer diagnosis, I went to a weird place. Not a bad place, not a particularly good place, just a funky place where I just didn’t know how to deal with all of the emotions that were crashing down on me. My original plan was to write a devotional for people dealing with Infertility. I will still do that because there is so much unique pain that I can identify with and offer comfort. However, I want to write a devotional for people who are struggling with coping during any hard time in their life. God healed me through writing about my battle with infertility, I am sure that writing through this will help me too.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey. I will share portions of it as I go along!

The Day I Realized a “Phase” Was My New Normal With My Autistic Child

I thought it was just another pretty day to play in my backyard with my four sons. Little did I know that it was a day that would rock my reality to its very core….

God had blessed us with a break from the rain with sunshine. My 4.5 year-old twins and I were soaking it up in our backyard.   I am always on high alert. I don’t want them to leave the safety of our backyard and wander to explore the front yard (and beyond) by themselves.

One of my twins has Autism, so I am especially vigilant when it comes to him because he is very unpredictable. That day it started off as his usual game where he starts to run off toward “no man’s land.” I shout his name and tell him to stop. Most of the time he runs in place as he turns to look at me. After a moment, he runs back to me, giggling the whole way. Every once in a while he continues to run on, but now in a playful “chase me” sort of fashion. However, this particular time was different, he started running and he didn’t stop. He didn’t respond to my shouts. He didn’t stop. He didn’t hesitate. He just kept running.

IMG_7946When he reached the street, he was in my sights but not close enough for me to grab him. I shouted louder and in a very stern manner. I meant business. He ignored my plea and ran straight across the street without even looking. Then he started running up a very steep slope that is a common area in our neighborhood. He has NEVER gone that far before! I was getting very scared, and I tried to push my body climb up that hill as fast as I could. At the top of the summit is a backyard with an iron fence and a pool. I know this, but my son doesn’t. I start to feel a little better thinking that fence would slow him down and allow me to catch up to him.

About half way up the slope, my heart sank as I saw him open that gate. Suddenly I was screaming his name, praying to God, and willing myself to overcome my exhaustion to get to him as fast as I could. What was I going to find? Was he going to be submerged in water? He cannot swim. Is the pool empty and he falls in and has a head injury or worse?

Eventually I managed to get to the fence. I was out of breath, overwhelmed with my fears coming to fruition, I see my little boy standing next to a pool full of water, staring at the warm steam coming off the surface. I calmly said his name; I didn’t want to startle him. He turned and looked at me for the first time since this ordeal began. I felt a huge relief come over me as he walked toward me. He willingly took my hand and walked with me without argument.

We started walking around the neighbor’s house to their front yard. No telling what the neighbor thought when he came out of his house. He heard me yelling at the top of my lungs in his yard. And then when he sees me, I am out of breath, exhausted, tears streaming down my face, and blood trickling from my temple from a branch that scratched me in my pursuit.

What did my neighbor think of the little boy that was calm and compliantly holding his mother’s hand as I tried to explain the situation between sobs. Did he know what almost happened? Did he understand when I said “he has autism,” that I wasn’t an irresponsible mom who wasn’t paying attention to her child?

Does anyone know what this means for me and my family? This is a game changer.

As I’ve traveled…stumbled down the path of parenthood with my boys, every challenging phase I’ve come across has been just that, a phase. From baby proofing the home, to toddler meltdowns. Time and development have pushed past that barrier and off we go to the next phase!! Until now, I have counted on these temporary lifestyle changes to be just that, temporary. However, a brush with a potentially tragic outcome with my Autistic son, made me realize that with ASD, some phases will never be over.

For the two years that my 4.5 year old son has been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, I have done countless hours of reading and research about the issues I might face with my son. Since he is still technically a toddler, I haven’t really been able to apply these potential behaviors to my son. Meltdowns in public? Similar to “toddler tantrums” to the outside observer. Nonverbal? Many young children shy away from talking to strangers. Not listening and responding to people? Have you ever tried to talk to a young child who is deeply enthralled with their favorite TV show? Wandering off without regard for personal safety? Absolutely a concern for all young children. However, consider these behaviors on an older child and everything changes.

For most children, an improvement in speech and communication helps a child to eventually express their frustrations and feelings in more productive ways than through tantrums. Children that learn social cues eventually will effectively communicate with other people and, hopefully, not be misinterpreted as rudeness, disrespect, or worse; aggression. With the exception of my older boys and their video games, they do learn to respond to questions and requests from others. With maturity and training, children begin to understand what is unsafe and how to act accordingly.

According to the CDC and the National Autism Association, 49% of children with autism will “wander” or bolt in this case. Accidental drownings account for close to 90% of lethal outcomes, second is being hit by a vehicle.

Strides are being made in communities to minimize tragic outcomes. Prevention is key, but it is not completely effective. The back-up plans include involving the neighborhood in search efforts (like an amber alert), and preemptively giving information to local EMS about an individual. If 911 is called, they have pertinent information ahead of time, so miscommunication can be minimized.

We are called to love our neighbors. I am counting on my neighbors to love my son.

 

 I appreciate my friend, Beth Moore, for sharing her story. Beth is an autism advocate in Tennesse. What can you do to help? Pay attention when you hear about these needs in your state by going to Autism Speaks and sign up to receive emails. You can also inform others about the need and have them sign up as well. If you are in my state of Tennessee, feel free to contact Beth to get more involved in making this change. The truth is, everyone will be touched by someone on the Autism Spectrum. Your children will be in class with them, your coworker may be taking care of a family member on the spectrum, you will be among them in everyday society. You will be fortunate to know these remarkable people, so let’s help them and their families get them the treatment they need.

IMG_6527

 

When You Don’t Even Know How to Pray

Since my Dad’s Cancer diagnosis in December, my mind has been warring between optimistic and realistic thoughts.

I recall sitting in the oncologist office in early January and staring at his PET Scan. The doctor explained to us that everything that was white was Cancer. There was so much white. More white than black in some places.

Both the optimist and realist in me know without a shadow of a doubt that with God ALL things are possible. I love a big and mighty God that can erase every last bit of this so-called incurable, inoperable cancer. That is my constant prayer.

I admit though, that the battle between the optimist and realist in me has brought some conflict in not only my thoughts but in my prayer life. While I know that prayers are answered every day, I know that many are not. If everyone’s prayers were answered, no one’s mama, daddy, or child would have Cancer. We don’t understand why some prayers are answered and some are not. I know that God has a plan though and He is in control.

So how do I pray expectantly as I am told to do in the Psalms, when the realist in me knows that my prayer for complete and total healing may not be answered?

Danged if I know.

Ha! You thought I had the answer?? Not quite 😉

I haven’t figured that out yet, but I have found a way to have peace in a turbulent time. Hebrews 4:16 encourages, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” I do not know if God will heal my dad, but I know that He will provide my family with the mercy and grace to heal our aching hearts during our time of need.

Hebrews 416

Of course we always want the ultimate prayer of healing to be answered. However, we can be so grateful for the many prayers that have been answered along the way. Dad has had minimal to no side effects in his 8 weeks of chemotherapy. We had a CT Scan of his head, neck and chest today, and it showed that his very aggressive cancer is stable. It hasn’t grown at all since he started treatment. (The doctor thinks that there is a chance that it has even shrunk a bit!) That is a HUGE answered prayer. We don’t have to hope and wait for a clinical trial. Considering that this is a very rare cancer and there is no known protocol for treating it, this is truly a blessing. We found a drug that is effective on our first try!

And then there are the blessings that God gave to us without us even knowing. The doctors believe that the origination of Dad’s cancer is from a radiation treatment he got when he was a child. What if the cancer hit him 30 years earlier? Mama would have been a single mom to two girls who would have grown up without the most amazing dad. It totally sucks that we are dealing with this now, but it would have been so much worse any sooner in our lives. (I know that isn’t very eloquent, but that is just how I feel)

I don’t know how many of you may be dealing with a crisis and your optimistic and realistic selves are battling it out in your head. How do I pray about this situation just right?? Lucky for us that God doesn’t require us to say the perfect prayer to follow His perfect plan. He just wants us to come to Him. I encourage you to pray with all your heart and soul. Be honest with Him even when it is tough and sometimes messy. He knows what is in your heart anyway.

Ask Him to fill you with His grace and mercy during your time of need.  And He will.