The Waiting Game Part 1

The Waiting Game: Part 1

In July 2009, my husband and I decided that we were ready to have kids. We had been together for four years, and married for almost 3. The first few months of trying to get pregnant were exciting! I looked forward to the day when I would see the two lines on the pregnancy test telling me it was positive. What an amazing day that would be! I thought about how I would tell my husband in a fun and special way. I thought about how we would tell my parents and how we would tell his mom. I thought about how we would announce it to our friends and how we would share it on Facebook and social media. Well… Spoiler alert… I never saw those two lines. Ever.

The first few months, we weren’t really “trying” to get pregnant, but we weren’t trying not to either. After 6 months, my doctor suggested we try Chlomid- because of my history of irregular periods, he thought I might not be ovulating every month. The Chlomid would make me ovulate, and we would get pregnant. Yay! We were also given a chart for which days of the month we were supposed to have sex and how I was supposed to lie in bed as long as possible afterwards. After we had a good chuckle about that, we followed it to the letter. So much of your intimate, private life becomes public through infertility- that’s part of what makes it so awful and so unfair. Sometimes, you just have to laugh about it so you don’t explode. Well, the Chlomid did make me ovulate, every month. I had never been so regular in my life, and it was so fun to see the little smiley face appear on the home ovulation tests! But, after ovulating regularly and following our “sex chart” for another 6 months, there was still no pregnancy.

To say those 12 months were painful would be an understatement. Each month when discovered I wasn’t pregnant was a huge loss. The beginning of my cycle was the beginning of the grieving process. Because it was a loss- it was the loss of the baby I had been longing for for so long. And each month it felt like I had lost a baby again. I had lost the opportunity to become a mother once again. I had lost the dream of my husband and I becoming a family one more time. I would go through the stages of grief each month once more. There was denial- maybe that was implantation bleeding and not my period. There was anger- why would God allow teenagers and drug addicts to get pregnant and not me? There was bargaining- I made so many deals with God if he would only give me this one desire. And wasn’t it a good desire? A God-given desire? It was biological for me to want to become pregnant! And there was depression. Deep, deep depression. The curled-up-in-a-ball-on-the-bathroom-floor kind of depression. The life-could-not-go-on-like-this-anymore kind of depression. The grief was real. So very real.

One year. It felt like doomsday. I was told that no fertility doctor would see me until we had been trying at least a year. Well that day came, and I made an appointment for us to see a fertility specialist as soon as I could. I guess there was a glimmer of hope in the reaching the year mark. At least we could be seen by a fertility specialist. At least we could figure out what was going on and find a solution. I think part of me wanted to find out what was wrong with me so we could fix it, and another part of me wanted to find out that it wasn’t me. Maybe there was something wrong with my husband and that was the problem all along. Either way, I was certain the fertility doctors would figure it out, and this would be the answer we had been looking for! If you’re reading this and you’ve been through fertility testing, you know it’s pretty brutal. It’s intrusive. And painful. And time-consuming. And expensive. There are a lot of appointments and procedures and co-pays (thankfully, our testing was covered by insurance at the time, but it isn’t always). It’s physically and emotionally draining. But it was going to be so worth it!!!

I was actually a little bit excited when my husband and I went in to meet with the doctor to go over all of the results. I know it sounds weird, but it felt like the start of something! The whole appointment I kept waiting for the problem, the answer, the reason we were unable to conceive. Two things happened during this appointment, and neither of them was that. Firstly, we were given the diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” Which means nothing. It means that there is obviously a reason you aren’t getting pregnant, but that the doctors in all of their infinite wisdom (and after all you’ve been put through) don’t know what it is. Secondly, we were told that we would be great candidates for IVF. In Vitro Fertilization. Which happens to be the most expensive (like tens of thousands of dollars expensive) and exhaustive fertility treatment option there is. Needless to say, this was not the answer I had been hoping for.

Meanwhile it seemed as though everyone we knew was getting pregnant or having babies.  But not us.  Over the next few months, I began to realize that something had to change. I realized that I had to start praying differently. It was a sad realization at first, but, even though I didn’t feel it in my heart, I knew in my head that I trusted God and that He was faithful. I believed that He had given me this desire to become pregnant and to be a mother. I couldn’t understand why He was not fulfilling this desire. So, I knew the prayer I needed to pray… “God, take this desire away from me.” It was like a knife in my heart, but I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I had to trust that, if God had not given me this desire, that He would take it away so that I could be at peace.

I knew that prayer was the beginning of my healing and of our obedience to God’s calling on our life. You see, infertility brings us to a place of desperation. If you’ve been through it, you know. Dictionary.com defines desperation as “a state of despair, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior.” Webster’s defines it as “a loss of hope or surrender to despair, a state of hopelessness.” Infertility IS desperation, and God does want us to be desperate. But not desperate for anything this world can offer us, not even motherhood, not even the love of a child. At some point in life, each of us has been desperate for something, and if you haven’t been yet, you will be. God allows these circumstances in our lives because He wants us to be desperate for Him, to depend on Him, to surrender to Him. He wants to provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves.

After many months, God did a miracle and answered my prayer- He took away my desire to become pregnant. I can’t explain it any other way. I believe this was the first in a series of miracles because this happening was supernatural. This desire was so deep and this longing had been a part of me for so very long, that I almost couldn’t imagine what life was like without it. This desire was biological- so many women know what it feels like when their “biological clock starts ticking!” But God is not bound by our desires, no matter how deep, and God is not limited by our biology. And God took away the desire I had to become pregnant; He completely removed it. BUT… He did not remove the desire I had to become a mother. THIS was the God-given desire, the longing God had put on my heart. And I knew that God would fulfill that promise. In His way and in His timing, not mine.

My husband and I sure had a lot to think about, to talk about, and to pray about. When we sat down to talk together after some time thinking and praying on our own, we had both come to the same conclusion. We had each decided that if we were going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to grow our family that it should be on an adoption and not on IVF. What??? Wow. That was a “God thing” for sure… We had always talked about adoption and knew we wanted to adopt a child or children at some point, but we always thought we would have “our own” children first and then adopt later. Now it seemed that maybe God had a different plan for us. On our own, we had each decided to be open to that plan. How amazing, right????

Only we were not on the same timeline whatsoever here. My husband had really decided he wanted a baby in the last 6-12 months or so, and I had had this deep longing for 3 years! I was ready to jump right in, and he was not ready for that at all. It was like I was hitting the gas and he was hitting the brakes. And so a new waiting game began for me. And that, friends, is another story for another day… Stay tuned for “The Waiting Game: Part 2” coming soon!

What not to say to someone trying to conceive

Do you know someone who may be trying to conceive? Maybe you’re wondering if they are trying, or maybe you know they have been trying. I know you’re curious, but I also know you want to be a good friend, so you may want to read this before you talk to them about it.

Disclaimer: I’m going to be brutally honest, so, if you get your feelings hurt or your feathers ruffled easily, you may want to skip this post. You will probably be offended, but, for the sake of your friend, and if you think you can take it, read on…

Here are 5 things never to say to someone who is trying to conceive:

1- So when are you guys going to have kids?
This is none of your business. Also, if the person you are asking has been trying unsuccessfully, this question is super painful. So don’t ask. If you’re wondering, ask, “how are you?” and mean it. If the person you’re asking wants to share this information with you, he/she will.

2- As soon as you stop worrying about it, you’ll get pregnant.
No. This is BS and you should never say it. This implies that the reason this couple is not able to conceive is because one of them is too “worried” about it- this person is in enough pain. Don’t make it worse.

3- Have you tried ____________?
This refers to ANYTHING you might suggest to a person or couple trying to conceive. ANYTHING. Supplements, medications, treatments, prayers, counseling, timing, sex positions, ANYTHING. You know why? Because first of all, they have already tried it. Second of all, they have not asked for your advice. So stop.

4- You do know how it works, right?
Excuse me? Yes, when we were trying to conceive, multiple people asked if we knew how sex and/or conception worked. I am serious. Don’t ask this question in any form, even if you are trying to lighten the mood or be funny. It’s not funny. And if you’re serious, just know that anyone who has had trouble conceiving knows darn well better than you do how it works thankyouverymuch.

5- Everything happens for a reason AND/OR God has a plan.
Clichés like these are often said to those who are in waiting or those who have suffered a loss. I know you mean well by saying these things, but they are not true and not comforting to someone who is in real pain. The truth is that we live in a broken world where everything does not happen for a reason. And yes, God has a plan, but God’s will is not always being done here on earth as it is in heaven. So, please avoid using these clichés. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all. God CAN use any situation, including waiting and loss, for our good, so pray this for your friend/s and just be there for them. Thanks for listening!

As Queen Elsa sang it… Sometimes you have to just Let It Go

“I’m so glad it’s Saturday,” said no church worker ever. Saturday is like Monday to those of us in church work. But today I am glad it’s Saturday because it means this week is over, and I survived. This has not been a stellar week for me as a parent. Or as a wife. Or as a person.

My daughter, who is two, has been sick since Monday, and it has been awful. She has been just miserable. She has felt miserable, and there’s not much we could do to help her feel better. That’s one of the worst feelings as a parent- helplessness. To not be able to help your child feel better feels terrible. On top of that, she has been grouchy, super grouchy. She doesn’t know why she feels so bad- she just knows she doesn’t like it. And, boy, she has been letting us know.

My son, who is three, has been neglected since Monday, and that stinks. Because my daughter has required so much of our attention, my husband and I have not been able to parent my son the way he needs. He needs a lot of connection, special time and roughhousing. He hasn’t gotten it this week, and we’ve seen the results. He has been a little wild man at home and at school. I live and die by the smiley-face on his daily report from preschool- sometimes I wish he did too.

But in reality I wish I didn’t- it’s amazing to me how deeply affected I am by how my children are doing, health-wise or behavior-wise. Their physical and emotional health does affect me. Sometimes I allow those things to define me as a mom. As a wife. As a person. I wish I had been kinder, more patient, more flexible, more helpful, more thoughtful to my husband this week. I hate that. Can I do better? Of course. Could I have done better this week? I’m not sure.

So it hasn’t been a stellar week for me. Have you ever had one of those weeks? Maybe you’re in a week, or a month, or a season like that right now, where it doesn’t feel like you can do anything right. Will you hold onto it and allow it to define you? That used to be what I’d do, but I’m learning a different way. A better way. My family is teaching me (well, God is teaching me through them) to let go of an awful week and not to let it define me. I loved my family this week, and sometimes that’s just enough.

Confessions of a working toddler mommy

Being a mommy is a tough gig. I do not have it together. I’m not even sure what “it” is. I have succumbed to the fact that I will never be on time for anything anywhere ever again. I cannot have nice things. Let’s face it, if it’s not from Target or Ikea, we’re not buying it. Also, if you have ever seen the inside of my garage, please pretend you haven’t. Here are my top 10 confessions…
1. “Watch out for poop” is something I say on a daily basis, and I am not always referring to the dogs.
2. Oftentimes there are more snacks on the floor of my car than there are in my pantry. Sometimes my kids find said snacks days or weeks later and want to eat them. I do not stop them.
3. Sometimes I feed my kids. With a spoon. As if they were babies. Sometimes this is because I want to prevent a giant mess and sometimes it’s just because I want them to eat for goodness’ sake.
4. There is dog hair everywhere in my house. On everything. All of the time. I find it in the refrigerator and in my 2-year-old’s diaper. I’m not sure how this is possible.
5. I love sleep. I love sleep more than working out. Sometimes I love it more than a shower… Which brings me to #6…
6. Dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is a gift from God. I could not survive without dry shampoo. It saves my butt a few times a week.
7. Sometimes my kids eat frozen mini pancakes for dinner. On the couch. In front of the television. Don’t judge me- I defrost them first.
8. I’ve become a master at “hiding the trash,” which means my closets and drawers consist of bags of things to be given away and piles of things that need to be filed. Bags and piles. These are my only organizational skills.
9. Sometimes my dinner consists of half eaten chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese that my children have deemed unworthy for their sophisticated palates. Meanwhile…I watched my 3-year-old pick his nose this morning and eat it.
10. I have been known to rinse the dishes in my sink so they can stay there for a couple more days without becoming too disgusting because I am too lazy to empty the dishwasher that is full of clean dishes.
Bonus confession: I schedule sex with my husband. On the calendar. Because, let’s be honest, there are seasons when it just would not happen otherwise. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Obedience

In November of 2010, a teenage girl became pregnant with a son, and my husband and I had just begun praying for the children God would allow us to adopt someday and had received our first adoption information packet. We had been trying to conceive a child for some time and decided not to pursue fertility treatment, but to adopt children instead. Over the next 2 years, we went on to explore several different agencies, but none of them worked out, none seemed right. We kept praying for our children. It was so hard to wait, and we couldn’t understand why God was making us wait. We wanted to follow God’s plan for growing our family, but it seemed to be taking such a long time.

Finally, in January of 2013, we got a phone call from a coworker who had received a phone call from Mary at Casa de Esperanza. Mary told us about her agency and encouraged us to apply to become foster parents. We were so scared. We never thought God would ask us to foster children, to love them as our own for months or years, all the while knowing they could be taken away from us at any time. It seemed like it would be an emotional roller coaster ride, and we didn’t think we could do it. God kept asking us to trust him each step of the way. “Just fill out the application,” God said. So we did. All 43 pages of it. We got background checked, fingerprinted, tested for TB. We asked family and friends for letters of recommendation. We labored over drawing a floor plan of our home for the fire marshal’s inspection. We bought first aid kits and a fire extinguisher and covers for every outlet. Then, we waited.

“No one has ever completed this application so quickly,” Mary said when she called to tell us we had been approved to start training to become foster parents. The classes were supposed to start that very week. Again, we didn’t think we could do it. Hours and hours of training classes, evenings and weekends, a binder of information 6 inches thick, books, videos, homework, and CPR dummies. How would we have time for this? “Just complete the training,” God said, “go to the classes and complete the training.” So we did. Then, the next step- the home study. 6 hours of interviews and another intrusive inspection of our home.

How could we tell these people from the agency, these strangers here to judge us worthy or unworthy of becoming parents everything that was in our hearts? “Just finish the home study,” God said, “do the interviews and the inspection. Trust me.” So we did. We told these people everything that was in our hearts. We told them that God had given us the desire to become parents. We told them God had led us to pursue adoption. We told them God had opened us up to the idea of fostering, even though we were terrified. We told them we were open to loving whatever children God would choose for us. We told them that we wanted to foster and adopt siblings. Our final interview was February 27th, 2013, the day after our son and daughter came into care at Casa de Esperanza.

When our interviews were complete, it was time to wait some more. Three weeks we waited for the agency to write the home study report. We were excited and anxious. What would we do when or if they called us about a child? Would we say yes? Then, we received a text message with the most beautiful picture we had ever seen. It was our daughter’s face. I immediately called the agency and asked, “is this our baby?” “It’s one of them,” the woman replied. And then we saw the other most beautiful picture we had ever seen. It was our son’s face. I almost fell down as she told me their story, their birthmother’s story, and told us that we could meet them that day. I called my husband with tears streaming down my face and could hear him crying on the other end of the phone. When I got home, we sat and held each other, shaking and sobbing. We already loved them. Just seeing their perfect, precious faces over a text message, we already loved them. We didn’t think we could do this.

How could we take them home, love them and take care of them as our own knowing we could lose them? It was such a huge risk. It was a leap of faith we didn’t know if we could take. We called a friend of ours and his wife who had fostered to adopt their daughter. We knew that they understood exactly how we were feeling in that moment. They said they remembered it well. He told us how 7 years earlier they had called their parents and how they had minutes to make a decision. He told us what his mother had told them- “Children are never really ours, they are just entrusted to us for a time by God. No parents know how long they will get to have their children, but God knows.” We heard God’s voice once again telling us to trust him. So, we said a prayer, got in the car, and drove to Casa de Esperanza, knowing our lives would never be the same again.

From the moment our son and daughter came into our lives, everything did change. And everything finally made sense. All of the waiting. The infertility. The other agencies not working out. All of the time and the money invested in the training classes and in preparing our home. All of the emotional roller coaster ride of the past few years and months made perfect sense. It was all about them. It had always been about them. We had to be ready for them when they needed us. God had it all planned out. His timing was perfect. They needed us, and we were ready.

Or so we thought… How do you ready yourself for parenting a son and daughter who may never become adoptable? How do you ready yourself for the physical and emotional toll of becoming a parent overnight? How do you ready yourself for the mountains of paperwork? How do you ready yourself for the visits- the home visits, the doctor visits, the developmental evaluation visits, the birth family visits, the caseworker visits? How do you ready yourself for parenting in a fishbowl? How do you ready yourself for your marriage to be shaken? How do you ready yourself for your faith to be rocked to the core? How do you ready yourself for the uncertainty of each day as a foster mom? How you ready yourself to love someone with all your heart knowing they could be taken from you at any moment? Truth is, you don’t.

And, to be honest, if we had known ahead of time that all of that was coming, we may not have been obedient to what God was calling us to do. Perhaps that’s why God usually only shows us the next right step. “Finish the application; complete the training; do the home study; say “yes” to these babies not knowing what the outcome will be. Just be their mommy.” That’s how I heard God’s voice- you know, that still small voice in the back of your mind and in the depths of your heart? I heard it saying over and over, “just be their mommy.” God didn’t say “just be their mommy for now,” “just be their mommy for this year,” or “just be their mommy forever.” He didn’t tell me how long I would get to be their mommy- He was just calling me to be obedient to what He had asked me to do. To be their mommy. And to trust Him with the details, the timing, the outcome.

Prayer took on a new meaning for us over the course of the next 14 months. It became our whole life. I felt like I lived on my knees as I prayed over our children, their birthparents, my marriage, my husband’s health, and my relationship with God. I was in constant communication with Him, which is exactly what God wanted from me. Mark Batterson says in his book The Circle Maker, “I felt underqualified and overwhelmed, but that is when God has you right where He wants you. That is how you learn to live in raw dependence- and raw dependence is the raw material out of which God performs His greatest miracles.” I was living in raw dependence on God all right. There was no way we would be able to adopt our son and daughter without divine intervention. God would have to work a miracle.

When you come face to face with the fact that you are relying on a miracle is when you have to become fully dependent on God, to completely surrender to His will. You have to because there is no other option. There is no Plan B. All you have is God. And if you are able to fully surrender to Him, He will use your situation for your good, and He will be glorified through your story. For your good and for His glory. That’s a tough prayer to pray and a tough place to be. I know because I have prayed that prayer and I have lived in that place. That place where you don’t know if God will come through and answer your prayer, but you know that God will still be God and that He will still be good.

I believe we watched God work several miracles over the course of those 14 months. The first miracle happened the day a caseworker decided our children were to be returned to their birthmother- another caseworker discovered she was living in a motel room and not in the home of a family member who had pledged to help her care for the children. The second miracle happened when the birthmother called her caseworker asking about open adoption- after 9 months of working to have the children returned to her, she made the difficult and loving decision that she wanted us to adopt them. The third miracle happened when our daughter’s birthfather, who had been missing for almost a year, turned up weeks after the birthmother had relinquished her parental rights to relinquish his as well. The fourth miracle happened in my marriage- God softened our hearts to each other and helped us to choose to fight for our relationship and seek counsel. The fifth miracle happened when we sat face to face with our son’s birthfather, watching him cry for the loss of the relationship he wanted to have with his son, and seeing him transform from wanting to take us to court to making the decision for us to adopt him.

Today, we have adopted both our son and daughter, and I am so thankful to be done with that phase of our lives. But I am also so thankful for every painful moment, every tear I cried, every sleepless night. Because God showed up in those moments, in those tears, in those nights. God brought me into constant communication with Him by allowing me to live in raw dependence on Him. God answered our obedience with one miracle after another. Where is God calling you to be obedient to Him today? Where is He calling you to take the next right step, remembering that He may not show you what the outcome will be? Where is God asking you to trust Him, knowing that He may not answer your prayer the way you hope Him to or when you want Him to? Where does He want to teach you to live in raw dependence on Him? Where does He want you to surrender to His will for your good and His glory? Where is He leading you that you will have no Plan B? Where does God want to show you that He is still God and He is still good? Maybe He has a miracle in mind for you. Don’t miss it.

Here goes…

Nothing prepares you for being a mom.  I have my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Development.  I have been working in the field for 18 years.  I was picking up babies as soon as I could walk.  I was changing diapers and feeding bottles as soon as anyone would let me.  I have been a babysitter, classroom assistant, one-to-one aide, reading tutor, nanny, caregiver, preschool teacher, trainer, team leader, mentor, and conference presenter.  I work full time as the Early Childhood Director of our church and part time as an Early Literacy Specialist with an outreach program at Rice University.  Let me say again…  Nothing prepares you for being a mom.

Every step on this journey of parenthood has been part of an adventure for me!  From the moment my husband and I decided to have kids, it has been a roller coaster ride, and I never want to get off!  Becoming a mom has been just that- a process of becoming.  I am a work in progress as a mom, as a wife, and as a woman.  You will find no judgement here, only grateful.  And real.  Really real.  I’m excited to tell you about it.  I’m excited to be able to share my story with you.  I’m excited to write about the beauty, the messy, the miracles, the pain, and the crazy.  So here goes…