Beauty from the Ashes

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Want some inspiration and HOPE over the next 10 days?

My friend and fellow Christian author, Ginny Priz, is hosting an interview series called “Beauty from Ashes” on her website.  She is interviewing 10 amazing women about how God helped them find HOPE in spite of their bad circumstances.  And guess what??  I am one of them!  I will be sharing about how God helped strengthen me through my battle with Infertility on Thursday, August 25th.

Please take a few and hop on over to Ginny’s website, sign up for the series, and be inspired!

 

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

Who Said Miracles Don’t Happen Anymore?

Life can be a series of highs and lows. My life has certainly been a testament to that. Met and married my wonderful husband Eric – High. Tried to conceive for a couple of years, failed fertility treatments, surgery – Low. Successfully got pregnant through IVF – HUGE High! High risk Pregnancy that left me on bed rest for what felt like most of my pregnancy – Low. Delivering premature but healthy twins – High/Low. Six weeks being separated from them in the NICU – Low.

I could go on and on. Today I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite Highs. He is my little Miracle High. Eric and I were told that there is absolutely no way that we could conceive. That is why we went through IVF to conceive Ethan and Ella. I have no doubt that it was indeed a fact. As I said this is a Miracle High.

Here is an excerpt from my family blog in 2008:

Ah I woke up just like the day before. I had no idea that this morning would change all our lives so much! Eric was getting ready for work and I was in bed watching Sports Center (his choice not mine). I remembered that I needed to call in a prescription that day. Before I could get it, I had to take a pregnancy test. My cycle was running way too long and I needed to get on progesterone to get me back on track. I always thought this was a funny thing for me of all people to have to do. I mean we know I can’t get pregnant. On top of that, I went back on birth control after I had Ethan and Ella. I simply was taking it for convenience sake. Eric and I often laughed about all the money we wasted on all those birth control pills early in our marriage. So off I went to pee on my little stick. Unloaded the dishwasher, sat down and watched TV for a minute. Should I get the kids up? Oh no wait….better go check the test and get that out of the way.

I walked into the guest bath and looked at the test on the sink. Double take…..was that TWO lines? Huh? I must be seeing things. I heard Eric say something, so I threw the hand towel over the test and jumped back in bed. Eric said, “Why do you look so weird?” I was still in shock so I said, “just tired.” He went back to the closet to finish getting dressed and I ran back to the bathroom for a second look. Yes. Definitely 2 lines. How did this happen??? I mean I know how it happens for most, but not us! We were told that we couldn’t get pregnant on our own. Holy cow. Eric’s birthday was the next day. Boy could I have fun with this!!! I ran upstairs to get the babies up and whispered my secret in their tiny ears. I am pretty sure they smiled.

Thankfully Eric left shortly after that. (I was told later that I was in MAJOR trouble for letting him go to work because he would have called in sick. Whoops 🙂 I quickly called my mom, my sister, and Kristen. Kristen, my personal OB nurse, reassured me that the home tests were pretty accurate. Even so I had my mom come over so I could get an official blood test at the doctor’s office. I still didn’t believe it. I went and looked at the home test again. Still 2 lines! When I called the doctor’s office to get the test they acted like I was crazy. “Mrs. Greer, we usually don’t do blood tests if you have a positive home test.” I replied, “I know, but I don’t believe it. When can I come in?” I went in immediately, got my blood drawn, and paid to have the results to me stat.

All day I was avoiding calls from Eric and his sister, Amy. How in the world could I play this one off? I couldn’t even sit down I was so excited! I finally got the “official positive” test results from the doctor. Hallelujah! Praise God!! I checked the home test one more time and finally threw it in the trash.

Now how in the world would I give Eric the total shock of his lifetime??? The way we found out we were pregnant with Ethan and Ella was so impersonal. We called into a voicemail box and listened to a stranger tell us the good news. Not that we minded one bit. We were finally pregnant!!

I decided I would get the kids Big Brother and Big Sister T shirts, take their pictures in it, frame it, and give it to Eric for his birthday. Well I am not sure how many of you have tried to get a 16-month old kid to stand still so you can get a good picture of them. Now throw in a second child. It isn’t possible. Just take it from me. So I decided the next best thing was to just wrap up the shirts and let Eric open those.

erics bday

We waited on pins and needles until Eric got home. Of course since we were anxiously awaiting him, he didn’t get home until after 7. After the kids bath, Eric read them a story and they just had to give their Daddy an early birthday present. He didn’t know it, but I was recording the whole thing : )

I turned the camera off right after I told him so we could all snuggle. There were lots of happy tears all around. I was told later that Eric was thinking “Why in the world did she give me some shirts for the kids for my birthday?” Apparently what I thought was pretty plain isn’t plain to a man.

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.

John’s Legacy – Guest Post by Clair

John's Legacy

If you missed Clair’s first post, get caught up here.

October 2015

It’s been over a year since we lost our sweet John in the last moments of his delivery. I was told early on that he probably couldn’t survive without being fully reliant on me.  That scenario proved to be exactly what happened. We will always cherish the hours we got to spend with him after he was born, and the pictures provided to us by a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer.

God truly blessed our family, and we were able to keep moving and looking ahead. On August 10th of this year, our sweet Lucy Cate was born, an 8 lb. 11 oz. healthy baby girl. As I write this blog, she is snuggled up against me sleeping.

So where am I these days with the loss of our sweet boy? What has God shown me? FAITH

The first time I went to see my grandmother after we received John’s diagnosis and prognosis, she gave me some advice that changed my way of thinking. You see, my sweet grandmother had a healthy baby girl. Later she experienced two miscarriages and the loss of her daughter who was born prematurely due to a fall. I can’t imagine what a difficult time that was in her life. Yet until this point, I had never even thought about her grief. She ended up with four healthy children, twelve grandchildren, and to date, eighteen great grandchildren. What a lucky woman, right? What a charmed life. But when she was not so far from my own age, she was relying on faith to get her through a difficult time.

So back to the advice. My sweet grandmother looked at me and said, “Sometimes we think things are going to go a certain way, and they don’t, and it’s hard. But it’s just like it is.” What some might consider harsh words changed the rest of my pregnancy. It was hard, but it was part of my story. My faith would get me through just like hers did.

I began to look at the many women in my life who had weathered hard times in different ways.  Their faith was something they all had in common. They never stopped believing; they just kept moving. I think we so often want to dwell on what’s happening right now and say, “Woe is me.  My life is so hard!” But have faith. God truly has a plan for you. Look at your parents, your grandparents, and you will see where faith played a role. When you feel stuck in a difficult time, look at the difficult times that others have pushed through and the blessings they found on the other side.

I will look back at this time in my life, and hopefully, be able to bless others with the fact that I had faith. I kept going. When my other children are old enough to truly understand John’s story, I want them to see that their parents trusted in God. I want to pass down this legacy of faith. God has a plan for me. God has my sweet John with him. God is good.

Clair and her husband Rob’s faith through such a heartbreaking time has been such an inspiration to me and everyone surrounding them.  Their faith gave them God’s peace and strength in the midst of a tumultuous situation.  Clair’s grandmother was very wise.  We are not guaranteed a smooth road on our journey; however, through our faith, God can help us not only keep going, but find His peace.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

Baby John, Guest Post by Clair

Baby JohnAside from my wonderful family, I thank God daily for the amazing girlfriends He has blessed me with in my life. In particular, I have a group of ladies that I have a book club with from church. Even though we have only read 1 – 2 books in the last four years, I know that God smiles down on our time together. You see we didn’t realize it when we started meeting in my playroom every other week, but God had handpicked this core group of 8 women. Over the years we would all share the bond of infertility, miscarriage or loss. He knew that we could support, love, and pray for each other like no other could.

My friend, Clair, went through a devastating and heartbreaking time last year when she was pregnant with her son, John. The strength and wisdom that she displayed was simply inspiring to everyone around her. I am so honored that she is sharing her story of how God sustained her through such a difficult time. The below is what she shared on her personal blog last year. On Thursday this week, she will share her insights she has gained in the last year.

Monday August 4, 2014

I have been considering returning to the blog for a while now, obviously I took an extra long break because I’m just not the best about blogging. A few weeks became a few months and then it just seemed too long. But, as many of you already know, we are expecting baby number three in just a few short days. While I’ve been pretty private about things for the last few months, lately I’ve been feeling like I should share my thoughts on the impending arrival of John.

John is due on August 24th, but we are expecting him to arrive this week. We found out in March that this sweet boy has Trisomy 18. At the time, they couldn’t tell us anything about how long we might have him with us. The timeline was anywhere from losing him sometime during the pregnancy to him living for years, but we always knew that most likely we were looking at a very short time with him. Now, it seems that the time to meet John has arrived. As of now, he’s still hanging on, but with some pretty serious issues that they found a few weeks ago. From what we understand, they do not expect him to live long at this point.  We are just hoping to say hello before we have to say goodbye.

After months of processing this information I know this…if there is one job I have as a mother to my boys, it’s to teach them about Jesus. It’s to help guide them so that one day they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It’s to help them grow into strong Christian men. It’s to help get them to Heaven. And now, with John, I’ll skip a lot of those steps, but I know he’s going to be in Heaven.

Do I want him to be here with me? Absolutely! Am I going to be so sad to lose a child, a person that I’ve loved and felt and carried since I found out about him in December? Of course. We pictured our lives with three boys under 4. We were preparing for the madness of a new baby along with two toddlers. I can still imagine these three boys growing up together, and I know it’s not going to happen. But something even better is waiting for John. He gets to skip all of the growing pains and mistakes of life. I get to see him again. I have years of hard work ahead to help mold my boys and hopefully to help lead them to make the decision for Christ. John is already going to be with Jesus. I can’t possibly ask for anything greater for my child.

Obviously, I don’t know exactly how Heaven works, and I won’t know until I’m there. But I like to think that John is going to meet my grandfather, who he’s named after and who I’ve always wanted to meet. I like to think that Celia, my aunt, who I’ve missed for the last three years, will be there waiting for him. She absolutely loved babies, and she loved me. Now she can love my sweet boy when I can’t be there. Not that he will even need anyone else there at all because John will finally be whole in the arms of Jesus, and that is the best love of all. I wish I could keep him here with me, but I’m excited for him to be with Jesus.

I know that the next few months are going to bring a wave of emotions. I know that I will have happy times and sad times. Good days and bad days. I know that I need prayers more than I ever have. But on the days when things are really tough, I can remind myself that he is in a better place than I can even imagine.

Two Hospitals in Three Hours – EEEKKS!!

Today we visited two hospitals in less than three hours.  EEEKKS!!

One visit was planned.  The other was…not.  Lemme explain.

Last weekend we had a combined birthday party for our three children.  They are all October babies, so we thought having a costume party would be a blast.  We decided that instead of asking for presents, we would ask for donations.  We asked the children to bring donations for the Centennial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  We did this for several reasons:

1.  The Centennial NICU has a very special place in our hearts.  My twins were preemies and spent their first 5 weeks and 1 day of their life there.

2.  We thought it was important to teach our children the importance of charitable giving.

3.  We didn’t want any of the guests to feel like they needed to buy a present for all three of my kids.

4. We spoil them enough; my kids don’t need one more thing in their room!!

Today we loaded up 48 receiving blankets,12 bibs,12 onesies, 2, sleepers, 6 of the tiniest most precious pants, and over $100 in donations for the Centennial NICU.  The nurses were over the moon excited about the donations.  We even saw a nurse that was in the unit when Ethan and Ella was there, and she remembered them!

Southern Lady Mama - nicu donations

We had such a good conversation on the way home about how God wants us to show His love and help take care of His people.  They also had a lot of questions about my time in the hospital.  Ella asked me if I was scared.  I answered, “I was but God blessed me with such a peace that just isn’t possible without Him.  We had hundreds of people praying for me and you!”  It is amazing to me that God used this situation to not only strengthen my faith, but also as a way to teach my children about His love and faithfulness. They have a very real example about how your faith can give you peace in the worst of times.

We were home from the hospital for about ten minutes when my youngest, Matthew, hit his chin with his handlebars on his Razor scooter.  Hospital #2.  3 stitches.  It was a rather uneventful visit with the inevitable long doctor wait for the stitches.  After he had enough of the waiting, he started counting (quite loudly) “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi,” then sighed loudly and exclaimed, “Oh for Pete’s Sake!  This is ridiculous!!  1 Texas, 2 Texas, 3 Texas….”all the way up to 100 Texas 🙂

I feel so blessed that God gave me these three babies to raise to love Him, care for His people, and for Pete’s Sake – laugh.  Like A lot.