Beauty from Ashes Interview

I wanted to share my interview with fellow Christian author, Ginny Priz, about my battle with Infertility.  It is filled with a message of HOPE in a very desperate time.  Please share with someone who has a similar struggle or maybe just loves someone that is dealing with Infertility.

Stephanie Greer – Beauty From Ashes interview

For more information, you can read my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility…Twice.”

Full Heart Empty Womb

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

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!

My Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day PIc“Watch out for that first step it is a doozy!!”  – Ned Reyerson.

That is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies when I was little. Why don’t they make movies like that anymore? Bill Murray plays Phil, who must relive the same day over and over. There are several times in my life where I felt like I was smack dab in the middle of “Groundhog Day.” In fact, when I was reading back through my book, Full Heart Empty Womb, I had to take that analogy out because I used it more than once!

My most meaningful Groundhog Day experience was when I was in the hospital on bed rest pregnant with my twins. I had been through a rough couple of years prior trying to conceive. When I finally was able to conceive through IVF, I had a high-risk pregnancy. I went into pre-term labor that landed me in the hospital on bed rest at only 22 weeks.

For 11 weeks, I felt like I was relieving the same day. I would wake up. Order my breakfast from the cafeteria (blueberry muffin, cheerios, sweet acidophilis milk – which we affectionately called my sweet ass milk ;). Pee. Lay and wait for my breakfast while I watched The Today Show. Pray. Sit Up. HOORAY!! Eat. Lay back down. Wait for my morning nurse to give meds. Drink water. Pee. Nurse comes gives me meds in my IV. Shift to my other side. Drink water. Pee. Finally the doctor comes to round on me. Tells me the same thing as the day before. “Every day we keep them in you, is four days less in the NICU!!” Pray. Then the best 10 minutes of my day – SHOWER!!! Lay. Drink Water. Watch Talk of the Town. Order lunch. Pee. Drink. Shift positions. Sit Up. Hooray!!! Eat. Lay back down. Crap. Gotta pee again. Get hooked up for my daily monitoring. Shift and try to get comfortable with all the cords. Stare at the contraction monitor and wonder why I can’t feel a single contraction. Pray. Shift. Count the flowers on the wallpaper. Drift off to sleep. Wake up when the nurse comes to turn off the monitor. Pee. Drink Water. Pray. Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” in Spanish because I am that desperate for entertainment. Drink water. Shift. Stare at the clock. Eric is here with supper!!!! Pee. Sit up!! Eat yummy take-out. Lay down. Pee. Choke down chalky Mylanta for heartburn.  Watch TV with Eric. Shift. Pray. Watch Eric make his fold out bed next to me like he does every night. Drink water. Pray.  Take my Ambien. Pee. And fall into a peaceful sleep.

Southern Lady-7

It was a treat when Eric would bring our dog, Majors, to visit me in the hospital!

Thankfully I was blessed to be able to do that for 11 weeks….or 77 days….or 1,848 hours…or 110,880 minutes. And because I was able to relive that same day over and over and over, my babies not only survived, they thrived.

Count your blessing on your Groundhog Days.

How to Go from Party Rock Star to Party Pariah in 2 Seconds Flat

Saturday night my family went to a Christmas party at our good friend’s Party Rock Star pichouse. I love me a good Christmas party. Get dressed up. Talk to adults. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

When we got there, the kids rushed to the basement to play with the other kids. Eric and I mingled between the eclectic group of his, hers and their friends at the party. I found myself standing at the kitchen island talking to a guy having the standard get to know you chit-chat.

Where are you from?

Do you have kids?

What do you do?

I am finally able to say “Writer” with a straight face. Instantly, I was the most interesting woman in the world. We had a good conversation about blogging and the publishing process. Then came the question. “So what is your book about? Is it a novel? Mystery? Thriller?”

“No. Actually, I wrote a book about infertility. It is about my battle with it, how I overcame it and what I learned along the way.”

His eyes instantly started darting around the room searching for his wife, his buddy, anyone that he could rush to talk to instead of me.

As Matthew would say, Seriously??

Grow. A. Pair. My Infertility isn’t catching. Your swimmers will keep on swimming in spite of your proximity to an infertile person. That’s not how it works. And remember the first part of our conversation? I have three kids. Obviously I overcame infertility and am not going to turn into a babbling pile of hormonal tears on you.

As Eric likes to say, “We kicked infertility’s a$$.”

I remember when I was younger and in the trenches with infertility, I felt the same way. I only told a hand full of people because it is such a private struggle. Some were supportive but some avoided me like the plague.

If someone is brave enough to share their struggle with you, then reciprocate that bravery. Be there for them. Don’t avoid them. You can’t catch Infertility.

Nothing you can say will magically make things better. You aren’t expected to fix things.  We, of all people, know that there are no easy fixes.  And as hard as it is for you, it is a million times harder for them.  A hug, an “I love you,” and “I’m praying for you” go a long way.

Then don’t just say you will pray. Do it. Pray for peace for them. Pray for the strength of their marriage. Pray for them to be surrounded by supportive people. And pray for God to give you comforting words for them when they need them.

This is totally written tongue and cheek. Had we not gone through the experience with our own battle, we could have had the same reaction. Alas, that is why I write – to help raise what I like to call your C.Q. – Compassion Quotient.

And because we could all use a laugh….check out these  “Most Interesting Man in the World” quotes.  Hysterical. Oh gosh.  It is toss up which one is my favorite.  The Weeping Willow, the Holy Grail and Russian all had me in tears.

Happy Monday.  Just eleven days till Christmas!

 

That Time God Spoke to Me Through FB…

I absolutely love the “On this Day” feature on Facebook. I can’t help it. I am hopelessly nostalgic and love to see where I was last year and the year before and so on. I mean look at yesterday’s memory. Who wouldn’t want to re-live that?? When I shared the picture, it made so many people laugh at the “Greerswalds.” Nothing makes me happier than to put a smile on other people’s faces.

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Who knew that God would use this little feature to give me the encouragement I so desperately needed today…

You see I started this blog in May with a primary goal – to increase my online presence (aka my platform), so that I could publish my book with a major publishing house. That is what everyone says you have to do. Seriously. I have attended seminars, read articles, watched YouTube videos. They all say it.

I am happy with what God has help me accomplished through self-publishing my book “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility…Twice,” but if God has a wider audience for me out there then I have to at least try.

But no one told me that trying would be so hard. This morning I was so discouraged. I realized that it has been well over four months since my book proposal was taken by a publisher to be reviewed. I was told that it was a long process, so I hadn’t even let myself think about it until recently. As my calendar drifts towards the fifth month of waiting, my fiery passion I felt months ago has simmered down to a flicker.

And the doubting voices in my head have gotten louder and louder. Your book proposal that you worked so hard on is just a coaster for someone’s coffee mug. That is if isn’t sitting in the REJECTION file, and they just haven’t gotten around to contacting you. What is the point of this whole “platform” thing anyway? Who cares what a 30-something-stay-at-home mom has to say? Your own kids don’t really listen to what you say. You really are just wasting your time. 

So with tears in my eyes and a defeated heart, I sat down to pray. I have been so busy that I am ashamed to say that I haven’t taken the time to have a true quiet time in a while. (And I wonder why I was so defeated? 😉 I am not talking about nightly prayers with the kids, prayers for needs of loved ones, or even Hallelujah prayers for life’s little blessings. I am talking the sitting down with God and letting it all hang out. All the fears. All the questions. The pleading for something…anything to keep me going in the right direction.

After I dried my tears, I went to my mission control – the kitchen island. I started assembling breakfasts, lunches, and unloading the dishwasher all while listening to my Christmas playlist. As I waited for my Eggo to pop out of the toaster, I clicked on Facebook and immediately saw this memory:

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Tears immediately filled my eyes. I knew this was encouragement from God. December 2, 2014 was one of the best days of my life. It was the day that I got my proof copy of my book. It was my rainbow at the end of a storm. I finally got to see that by sharing my pain, I would help countless others find healing. And it healed me.

I don’t know if I will ever see my book on the shelves of Lifeway or Barnes & Noble (However, you can find it here 😉 But I do know that with God’s help, I have made a difference. I have a file of letters I have received from women who have been touched by my journey. If sharing my story with those women is the extent of His plan is for me, then I feel blessed to be a part of it.

And this blog? I never in a million years would have thought I had anything “worth” writing. If I hadn’t written my book, I would never have started the SLM blog. Seems as though I can write about a lot more than Infertility and people enjoy it.

Whether I am helping people who are struggling with Infertility, encouraging Mamas, or just making someone laugh, I feel so blessed that God has brought me on this journey.

The only thing I am going to try to do is stay on God’s path for me.  And as long as I stay close to Him, He will keep me between the lines.