life goes on

We’re going through one of those situations where life just stops for a while.

We were bumping along, a sunny, beautiful day (metaphorically of course- c’mon, it’s still bloody winter in IL), and then something horribly unexpected diverted us from our normal trajectory.

And unfortunately all that comes to mind are cliched sayings.

I wish something profound or amazing came to mind.

But now: just cliches.

This too shall pass.

Everything happens for a reason.

And maybe these cliches come to mind because they are true, or because they are comforting, or because they are both.

I was talking to my dad this morning and he was explaining to me a little bit about how he is grieving.  He said, “Emily, you remember that scene in Back to the Future* where the family members start to disappear from the picture because things weren’t changed in the past?”  “Yeah?” “That’s what it felt like to find out that you lost this baby.  Like someone who was supposed to be in our family suddenly was not. They were just erased from the picture.”

One week ago, our sweet baby stopped growing, but I had no idea.  I was still dreaming of what she would look like and what a hot summer pregnancy would be like and what it would be like to be in the delivery room with Frank holding our baby for the first time.

And now, just one week later, that whole reality has been altered.  In September none of that will happen.

It was all just so quickly erased and replaced with a new reality.

And we will be ok.  Slowly but surely, everything is coming back into focus and we are realizing that for this baby, this was the plan all along.

But man, I wish I had something profound to say about it.

*My dad raised us on sci-fi and time travel.  The first chapter book he read to me was The Time Machine by HG Wells.  It’s not surprising at all that Back to the Future came up as part of his analogy. 🙂

loss

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear

On January 22nd, 2010, Frank and I were blessed more abundantly than we could even fathom.  For the first time, we had a BFP: big freaking positive.

We couldn’t believe it.  We were in between fertility treatments.  This pregnancy was truly unexpected.

We had three ultrasounds, two that showed the perfect heartbeat of a sweet baby that we lovingly referred to as “Bean.”

Last night, after hours of unexplained cramping, an ultrasound technician was unable to locate the heartbeat of our sweet baby.

We are both crushed.

And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

As I sat in the ER with my dear friend Meghan, I kept wondering:  “Is this really happening?”

Frank was in Atlanta and caught the first flight he could catch home, arriving in the ER at 12:30 a.m.

We held eachother for a long time.

And I wondered where God was.

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

And even though Jesus couldn’t physically come sit with us, He was there.  He was there in the form of friends who dropped everything to sit with me for 5 1/2 hours in the Emergency Room.  A sweet friend who sat with me during the ultrasound.  He graciously helped Frank make it home last night, on the last flight out.

During church earlier yesterday morning, the worship team played the song whose lyrics are interspersed in this post.  It was a song that carried me during our fertility struggles.  And God lodged that song in my head and my heart yesterday, a lyrical security blanket that I fell asleep singing and woke up singing and can’t get out of my head.

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare

Of course I wonder why this happens.  But this morning, while I was curled around Frank, wondering why 16 year olds who have no idea what they are doing have perfectly healthy babies, it occurred to me that this was all the life that this sweet baby was supposed to have.  God knew the number of days for this sweet baby before I even knew that I was carrying her (I’ve just always thought this baby was a girl).  This sweet baby only had a few weeks to live and I see it as a heartbreaking honor to have been able to be her Mom, even for just a short 9 1/2 weeks.  Of all the people who could have been chosen to give her a home and a soft place to live on this Earth, God chose Frank and me.

I took excellent care of us during these past 9 1/2 weeks.  I took all my vitamins and medication.  I didn’t drink my favorite beverage (Diet Coke) because I didn’t want the caffeine to negatively impact her. I gave this baby the best life I could possibly give her.

She wasn’t meant to be born.  I know that in my head, but my heart is still trying to make sense of it.  Something was probably wrong with her that would have made surviving outside of the uterus impossible.  But while she was here on this Earth, she was loved.  We talked to her, we dreamed of her, and we loved her, sight unseen.  She had a whole family that loved her and cared for her, even though they had never seen her.

And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

I don’t know why these things happen.

But maybe it doesn’t matter why.

These things just do happen.

Frank and I were meant to be her parents, even though it was just for a short time.  And even though this breaks our hearts more than anything ever has, we know that she is with our Savior in Heaven and that we can one day hope to meet her face-to-face.

soundtracks

I married a music-phile.

Ask Frank about nearly any song from most genres (he’s a little shaky on the country music scene…) and he can likely give you the name of the album and the year it was released and when it hit its peak.

It’s pretty much amazing.

He plays a game at bars with friends where they all put a dollar in the center of the table and when the next song plays, the first person to correctly name the artist and song, slaps their hands on the pile of singles and wins it.

I would never play this game with him because I know better.

When Frank is home, music is playing in all of the rooms of the house.

He loves Dispatch and OAR and U2 and Smashing Pumpkins and Owl City.

He loves music that he can listen to sitting on a patio at a bar or restaurant, leaning back in his chair and enjoying a beer.

Because of Frank, music has become the soundtrack of our lives.

When we started dating in 2002, John Mayer songs bring me back to that post-college summer that we enjoyed together.

It was the summer that Frank worked 12-14 hour days and sent me sweet texts between shifts flying traffic observation.

It was the summer that we went for walks, saw Mike & Joe at several venues, and I burned a few dinners trying to impress him.

And there are songs that bring me back to the summer of our engagement in 2003 – a summer that alternately went by so quickly and so slowly.  If you look back at the summer of 2003, most of my posts were just marking time until our wedding.  I couldn’t wait to be married to Frank!   I think of OAR’s “Crazy Game of Poker” and Zwan’s “Honestly” when I think of that summer.

This past summer was a challenge for us, but was so sweet at the same time.

Frank was flying, I was at a job by the end of the summer that I loved, and we were both working on our running.  We would sit in the screened-in porch, eating dinner and watching the sun set over the field behind our house.  It was so blissful for us.

Frank introduced me to a song over the summer that makes me think of peaceful summer nights and God’s abundant grace.  I’ve been thinking about this song a lot lately – partly because I miss the summer and mostly because I have been reminded so much of all of the ways that God has blessed us – both big and small.

The song is by Dispatch and it’s called “The General.”

there was a decorated general with
a heart of gold, that likened him to
all the stories he told
of past battles, won and lost, and
legends of old a seasoned veteran in
his own time

on the battlefield, he gained
respectful fame with many medals
of bravery and stripes to his name
he grew a beard as soon as he could
to cover the scars on his face
and always urged his men on

but on the eve of a great battle
with the infantry in dream
the old general tossed in his sleep
And wrestled with its meaning
he awoke from the night
to tell what he had seen
and walked slowly out of his tent

all the men held tall with their
chests in the air, with the courage in
their blood and a fire in their stare
it was a gray morning and they all
wondered how they would fare
till the old general told them to go home

[CHORUS:]
He said:
I have seen the others
and I have discovered
that this fight is not worth fighting
I have seen their mothers
and I will no other
to follow me where I’m going

So,take a shower, shine your shoes
you got no time to lose
you are young men you must be living

Take a shower, shine your shoes
you got no time to lose
you are young men you must be living
go now you are forgiven

2009 review

This year was dominated by a few themes:

Old Made New Again

This theme happened in several ways.  We moved back to Illinois in 2008, not sure what it would really be like.  What has happened is that many of our friendships that were old have become new again.  There are so many examples of this regeneration, but specifically I think of one of my longest friendships with Miss Allison Claire.  When we were little, we played together nearly every day.  There was a rule established that we couldn’t call or go over to each other’s homes before 9 a.m. – and this was established to save our mothers from losing their minds!  As we got older, we went separate ways and our friendship was basically on life support because we rarely saw each other.  Since we’ve moved back, Allison and I see each other nearly every week!  She is truly a joy to spend time with and one of the most positive people I know.  I experienced similar rebirths with other friends – and it is awesome!  I feel surrounded by wonderful women that I love.  It is awesome!

But this theme didn’t just end with friendships, it also carried on to one of the most important relationships in my life – my marriage.  Frank and I celebrated our 6th year of marriage.  At a time when many marriages start feeling stale, our marriage is still fresh and interesting.  One of the pastors at church said the other week, “Presumed familiarity breeds unfamiliarity” – so true!  Even though Frank and I know each other so well, we keep learning new things about each other – and with each other.  Sure, it hasn’t all been rosy this year, but that’s ok.

Being Humbled

This year has also been the year of being humbled.  Yeah, I’ve had to swallow my pride on a few fronts.  Medically speaking, I’ve been exposed in just about every way possible.  Blood draws, invasive ultra-sounds and interesting procedures involving catheters.  That’s pretty humbling.

It’s also been humbling because we’ve come face to face with some of our biggest fears and had to ask for help along the way.  We’ve had to acknowledge that many of the things we experienced were outside of our control – like Frank’s work schedule and our infertility issues.  While we’ve known logically for quite some time that God is bigger than us, these situations have caused us to come face-to-face with our own limitations and humanity.  Or something like that.  The point is, we continue to be reminded that while there are a great many things we can do, we are ultimately not the ones in control.  We are small while God is great.

Ha ha ha

We’ve also been blessed with lots of joy in the midst of crazy times.  Tonight as I finished writing this, Frank was sitting next to me and every time I took a sip of the Diet Pomegranate 7-Up, Frank made slurping sounds trying to get me to spit out my drink.  The result was that he made himself laugh so much he couldn’t even drink.  Special times, for sure.  And if we can laugh in the midst of all the stuff we’re going through, that is truly a blessing.

With almost 24 hours left in 2009, it is impossible not to recognize the amazing blessings we’ve had this year: jobs, shelter, family, and friends.  I’m excited to move forward into 2010 and to see all of the new things God has in store for us.  I wish you all a very safe and happy new year!

See you on the flip side…

when to say when

Knowing when to say “when” is not my strong suit.  Ask my husband.

I am the queen of bad timing and timing misjudgments.

My timing issues tend to center around my inability to leave the office, but have also seeped into other areas, including when to leave a party, when to leave church, when to leave dinner, when to go to bed… etc, etc.

And when to let go in an argument.

I have to say I’m getting better at the last one.

Ask my younger sister Cait, she’ll tell you that I used to always try to get the last word in ALWAYS.  I’ve been like that since she’s known me.  Her first day home from the hospital as an infant and she was like, “darn, girlfriend, have a bottle and CHILL!”

When should I let go of the fertility biz?  When is enough truly enough?  How many shots, scans, opinions, tests and screenings can I handle?

This isn’t to say that I think we are at the end of our time in fertility treatment world.  I’m not ready to give up yet.  I know Frank isn’t ready to give up either.

But I know there is  a chance that a time might come where I might have to recognize that we fought the good fight and there is no more we can do or pray for, at least regarding having a biological child.

At the end of the day when I am beyond tired, that is usually when I decide to bake cookies, wrap Christmas gifts and wash the floor.  When I should rest, I find that I am too tired to sit still.

That is why I worry that God will give me all the cues that we cannot go any farther, and I will miss the cues because I am too tired to see them – too focused on searching for the solution, the next option and the next treatment to realize that the game is over and the crowd went home.

After reading a few blogs about women at varying stages of this process, with several of them undergoing treatment for three to five years, I just can’t even fathom what that is like to go through that emotional and physical marathon.

I am amazed by God’s tremendous grace and blessing.  God gave me a husband who is an expert at knowing when to say “when.”  Frank puts 100% into everything he does, but he knows when a situation is done.  He knows when the party is winding down, when the game is over and when it’s time to turn the lights out and go to bed.

So we’ll keep chugging along and I’m hopeful that if I miss God’s cues, Frank will see them.

God's odds

I believe, as a Christian, that God is everywhere.  That God is in everything that is true and good.

And I also believe that something doesn’t have to be labeled “Christian” to be true or good.  If there is something true and/or good, then I believe that it is from God.  And not all things labeled “Christian” are guaranteed to be true or good.

So about five years ago I started reading this book called Fabric of the Cosmos – and I’m still reading this darned book! It’s basically quantum physics/mechanics explained.  The author does a wonderful job explaining why time moves in the direction it does and sparks great curiosity in me to understand why the world works the way it does.

I loved reading this book because  in the plainest possible English (which is still quite difficult to understand), this author explains (to the best of the scientific community’s knowledge) how the intricate fabric of our universe works, including space and time, and it left me in awe of the Lord who created everything.

One of the things the author talks about is possibility and probability, specifically when he was talking about why time moves in one direction only.  As a girl raised on science fiction novels about time travel (the first novel I read with my dad was The Time Machine by HG Wells), I was disappointed that the author of Fabric of the Cosmos hadn’t cracked the code for time travel – but I digress.

In Emily-speak, basically the author describes an egg falling off a counter and breaking when it hits the floor.  There is before, and there is after.  There is dispersion.  Now, according to quantum (as best as I understand it) physics, it is entirely possible that the egg will fall off the counter, hit the floor and NOT break.  There is a possibility that it will maintain its shape and continue on without  a problem.

It’s just that the probability of that happening is so slim, I don’t have enough time or energy to calculate that out.

Same thing when you open a can of soda.  The “Woosh” sound (mmm, I love that sound) is the sound of gas escaping from the can and dispersing into the air around the can.  There is a possibility that this gas could disperse into the exact shape of a can of soda.  Again, the probability of that happening is a small number.

All things are possible, but when you graph it on a probability curve, certain things are more probable than others.

That is a beautiful thing to me.

Why?

If all things are possible, although statistically some things are less probable, then nothing is impossible.

It’s like God saying, through science, anything can happen.

We’ve been riding this fertility roller coaster for almost a year now.  The odds of pregnancy are getting slimmer and slimmer.  If this IUI cycle doesn’t work, my current fertility doc is referring us to a whole different clinic because in her experience, the odds are better over there.  But really, anything is possible.  I’ve had friends who were told that the PROBABILITY of pregnancy was slim to none – and they have healthy children.  I know a woman with 1/8th of ONE ovary and she has 5 kids.

I know our probabilities are shrinking, but I also know that with God, anything is possible.

The other thing that I believe is that sometimes the thing we think we need is not the thing we actually need.

Take Jesus for example: the Jews thought they needed a political savior.  They believed Jesus was going to rescue them from their political oppressors.  Jesus, ever the big thinker, was actually meant to reconcile the world to God – to bring the world back into harmony with its creator.

I take comfort in that because it encourages me to think big.

Anything is possible.

Think big.

Got it.

back in the saddle

So, after a month of testing, talking to doctors, praying and wondering what God has in store for us, it appears we have at least another 4 rounds of IUI in front of us.

The second opinion Doc looked at my results and didn’t have the same high-drama reaction my fertility specialist had.  The second opinion Doc thinks that with some adjustments to hormone medications, IUI might be able to work.  Good news for a Friday the 13th, hey?  And a pretty good birthday present, too.

I would think with news like that, I would be more enthusiastic.  But instead, I feel more… even.  Neither excited nor sad.  I am okay.  I am grateful that we still have a chance, but working very hard to stay even and level.  Extreme excitement or dread/sadness about possible failure are not helpful emotional swings for me or for Frank.

So yeah, I’m breathing in and breathing out – and praying with each breath.
That’s all I can do.

Oh, and for those of you who missed the hormone drug-induced crazies – hold on to your hats!  It’s back with a vengeance!!  yee haw!

choices

If I were to identify a theme for this year, it would be choices.

Not just the actual choices, but the process that goes into making choices and the choices that are available to us.

There are some choices where God is very specific in our lives and speaks clearly.

And there are some choices where God is silent.

We have been faced a lot of choices regarding our fertility treatments.  But we also had equally important choices to make regarding where to live, where to work  and, in a few instances, where NOT to work.  Last fall we went on a church finding mission and there were SO many great choices!  In some ways it was difficult to come to a final conclusion.

But I think what is even more important are the daily choices we’re been faced with, like

approaching God… or not

loving each other… or not

staying positive… or not.

It became so crystal clear to me this year that love is a choice, not an emotion.  Sure, I feel warm and fuzzy frequently, but as we’ve been going through some difficult challenges, the choice of loving is a daily decision.   It is a decision backed by action.

Frank brought me beautiful red roses today.  And I loved it.  But I didn’t love it because of the flowers, but rather I loved it because of the sentiment.  He drove out of his way to bring me the flowers and spend a few minutes with me.  Aside from being an incredibly sweet thing to do, it was such a demonstration of his decision to love me.

It is hard sometimes for me to choose to be happy.  My cycle is almost over for the month.  Since I haven’t been on medication this month, it is likely that the cycle will drag out about an extra week.  In the past, this was an incredible source of false hope.  And even right now, I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe it will be a miracle!”

At the same time that I am teeter-tottering at the end of my month and trying to prayerfully keep myself in check, I am fighting to stay neutral.  It is incredibly difficult because more and more people are pregnant around me.  Of course, I am very happy for them, but I am sad for me.  I want to be a part of this exciting time in their lives, but at the same time I find myself choosing to stay neutral and calm because too much involvement (read: giddiness and excitement) will only cause me to crash emotionally.  I’ve learned at least that much about myself.

Tonight, while I was working on a few things, I was trying to determine where I am on an emotional spectrum or how I would define my current emotional state.  Would numb be appropriate? Sad? Blah? A 5 on a scale of 1 to 10? Disappointed? Hopeless? Angry?

Most of the time, I choose to just be happy.  This is particularly easy for me at work.  I love my job, I enjoy the people I work with. Managing my emotions is more challenging for me in social areas.  I find that my reserves are depleted rather quickly and I don’t have a lot of space for individuals requiring extra grace or my own emotional availability.  I check out of parties sooner than I used to.  Does that make me depressed or just realistic in managing my emotional well-being?  I think aloud, but some of the people I usually rely on for wisdom and “out loud thinking time” are at a loss with our situation.  Those that know us especially well seem to be overwhelmed by their own emotions and burdened by the idea that they have to say SOMETHING – ANYTHING.

And I get that.  You can’t be all things to all people at all times.  I get that with my head.

But my little heart is as frustrated as our friends and family are: what are the magic words that will help me feel better? What is the bandaid that will fix this?

And as trite as this sounds, I know that Frank will say that I need to take it to God.

Nothing frustrates me more than that solution.  I know that sounds counter-intuitive considering that I am a Christian, but I don’t like that line of advice.  I want a solution now, darn it!  I want a remedy, a fix, a bandaid, a splint NOW.  If I take it to God, my very human heart worries that He might not give me an answer, He might be late with an answer or He will not comfort me.  “And then what?” I ask.  Now, in my opinion, I’ve wasted precious time and I’m still hurting.

But what if taking it to God is crazy enough to work?  My mother-in-law gave me this daily devotional called Streams in the Desert.  She gave it to me a few years ago and I accepted it, but promptly shelved it.  I’m not good with the daily stuff – let’s just be real here.  Anyway, I finally cracked that bad boy open.

I was immediately comforted by the scripture and reflections in the book.  Day after day I have been reading this devotional, experiencing comfort and peace when I open it.  One of the stories basically said (and I am SUPER paraphrasing here): Did you know that a brick of steel used to sell for $5?  But if you pounded it into a few horse shoes, it would sell for $10.  If you pounded it even further into sewing needles, it would sell for something like $500.  The more refining and shaping and molding that the brick of steel experienced, the more it was worth. So I guess Frank and I are getting a little bit pounded.

Being the quick study that I am, I found myself marveling out loud to Frank about how appropriate every day was for the struggles that we are going through – and then it occurred to me – this book is ALL about difficult times.  DUH!!!  Of course that’s why it is comforting.   ::slapping forehead:: The book is called Streams in the Desert , Emily, for a reason!

That ridiculous revelation aside, the same thing happens when I pray and receive comfort.  I am resistent to doing it, but once I do, I am amazed at the peace that God gives me.  A peace that surpasses all human understanding.  A peace that propels me forward or keeps me still.

I have no idea what our next steps are, if any.  Every day, I think about the fact that we are simply standing at a fork in the road.  My mind rolls this problem around, like a puzzle, trying to see a solution.

Have I ever admitted that I am terrible at riddles?  My brain so easily focuses in on the conflict of the riddle and completely misses the peripheral solution.  Most riddles are “here is a situation, here are all of the key players.”  The thing is, there is usually one subtle, but important aberration in the key players or the set up of the scene.  I sense the inconsistency, but the more I stare at the riddle, the more my brain tries to “normalize” the situation.  My brain will automatically try to explain why something is there instead of questioning its existence.

In the case of our fertility, I find myself trying to explain this situation instead of taking a step back and understanding why it exists in the first place.

Classic riddle that stumped me in 8th grade: two girls who are sisters that share the same birthday in the same year and parents, but are not twins.  How is this possible?

So I would answer that one was adopted.

But the answer is that the sisters are part of a set of triplets.

Just a simple exercise of stepping back and looking at the bigger situation.

Frank did a great job of doing that the other day.  He was reading through scripture and he came across a letter from Paul where he talked about a physical affliction that he had.  Frank read up more on the affliction and found out that it was what God used to humble Paul so that Paul wouldn’t start taking credit for all of the awesome things God was doing through him.

So if I step back from our situation, what is the bigger picture of what God is trying to accomplish in us and/or through us?

I know that I need to choose to take that step backward so that I can see the bigger picture.  I have to choose to do that every day, or this whole situation will drive me nuts.  I will roll it around and around in my brain, looking so closely for a solution, that I miss it.

And that’s all I got right now.

writer's block

It seems, after last week’s several days of intense emotions (primarily just wanting to cry ALL THE TIME), that I am entering the numb phase.  I’ve got nothing.

I went to church this morning and the talk was on prayer.  But right now, I just can’t even put down on “paper” what I learned.  And it was powerful and amazing.

Frank and I had a good conversation about our fertility issues today – he really had some great wisdom to share.  And I wish I wanted to write it down, but I can’t.

And it is bothering me.

I think it is bothering me because the writer’s block is not the result of nothing going on.  A lot is going on, but it’s all backed up and it won’t come out of me in an orderly manner.

Blah.

It’s bed time.  Maybe I’ll have organized words tomorrow?

that's what she said…

I was reading the blog of one of my dearest friends, Vicky, and I realized that what she said was right on.  Basically, she didn’t believe that God would give her a safe pregnancy or that she would have a friend that she could be pregnant with.  She didn’t believe that something that GOOD could happen to her.

I know that God gives me good things all the time.  Heck, the things from God are usually GREAT!  This job that I have now, I firmly believe came from God.  My husband – totally a gift from God (but don’t let that go to your head Frank! 😉 ).  Family and friends that I love – awesome.  Lots of good, amazing things.

But in this one area, after years of watching my friends having children, I’ve started to think that God just wouldn’t let me have that.  This thought isn’t based in experiences I’ve had in other areas of my life – my life is abundant with God’s blessings, even in the disappointments I’ve had.  And maybe because I’ve wanted children for so long and had to wait, and then when we started trying, it has been a trail of problems, I’ve started to think that God can’t touch this area of our lives.  I’ve started to think that while God can do great things, He just can’t do them in this area.

And that’s just not true.  He can do something about this.