A Year of Waiting, a Month of Awareness

It’s been a little over a year since we became an approved waiting family with our adoption agency. Many people have asked how it’s going since we announced our pursuit of adoption back in the spring of 2018, and we’ve done our best to share what we can in those moments, but sometimes there’s nothing going on, or something going on that we can’t share, or we’re just not sure what to say. So I figured I would write a summary of the past year-ish, because I know there are so many of you who care about us and hold us in your thoughts and prayers. THANK YOU for loving and supporting us!!! We can feel it.

There have been highs and lows on our journey, to be sure. We’ve had times of feeling excited and hopeful, imagining the future with joy. Other times we have felt discouraged over the long wait, or not being chosen for a particular situation, or over the deeper feelings that can come up for us related to infertility, the loss of our two babies, or what God is doing in the midst of this when we don’t see it yet.

We’ve gone through phases of preparation in our home— researching and buying a carseat and stroller, clearing furniture out of our spare room, painting and decorating to turn that room into a nursery, assembling the crib, etc. But there have also been times when there’s nothing baby-related going on; nothing to do in the nursery, no word from the agency.

A corner of our nursery

A refresher on how the domestic infant adoption process works: expectant mothers (sometimes with the expectant fathers) come to our agency to explore adoption as an option for them and their baby. Part of that exploration process is to view “profiles” of hopeful adoptive families. (The profile is a photo book the family puts together to show what their life and home are like and why they want to adopt.) Once the expectant parents are ready to look at family profiles, a message is sent to the agency’s waiting families with some basic details about the expectant parents and baby (due date, brief medical history, level of openness desired), and we decide if we’d like our profile to be shown to them. Once they have viewed profiles and taken some time, we are notified if we have been chosen or not, and what the expectant parent is planning to do next. Sometimes they choose to parent, sometimes they choose a family right away from the books they look at, and other times they get it narrowed down to a couple of families they’d like to meet with before making a decision.

Our profile book

(I also want to say this, although it’s a bit of a digression… when the expectant parent/couple selects a family, it doesn’t mean they are officially placing their baby for adoption with that family. They are intending to make that choice, but the choice is not official until the baby is born, the state-mandated waiting period is cleared— usually between 48 to 72 hours— and papers are signed to terminate parental rights. They could still choose to parent their baby, and the baby only has one set of parents until the legal process takes place. When a hopeful adoptive family is selected, they are essentially invited into the expectant mother/couple/family’s space, with the expectant mama in the driver’s seat. I just feel like this is an important explanation to provide.)

In our wait so far, we have seen 19 profile opportunities, and asked for our profile to be shown to 13 of those. Some of the opportunities we passed on were because of high legal risk, medical needs we felt were too much for us to handle, or because the expectant parents wanted a very closed adoption. But each one of them tugged at our heartstrings, for sure.

Something I didn’t foresee was how strongly I would be drawn to pray over these women and how deeply my heart would be touched just by reading a few short lines about their current situations. It really is an honor and privilege to know about and pray for these mothers (and fathers) and babies. For some of them, we may be the only people who know about the pregnancy, or the only people who know they are considering adoption. The pull toward prayer has been very strong; whenever we’re waiting to hear back about a situation I feel the pull at night as I’m falling asleep, first thing when I wake up, and as I go through my daily tasks and wonder what this other woman is doing and feeling as she considers the possibility of adoption. Our prayers are always that the mama/parents can get to a place of peace with their decision, that they will find support for whatever they choose, and of course that everyone will be healthy and safe. I also pray that God will prevail over any toxic outside influences. I imagine it’s hard enough to be expecting a baby and not have a plan; if haters start hating it can only steal peace, and to that I say NO. Often we’re led to pray in other ways based on the details we’re given, but that’s it in a nutshell. We would welcome your joining us in prayer over the women who seek help from our agency. They are supported through whatever choice they make— not only if they choose adoption. I’ve got a longer prayer list at the end of this post, too.

Anyway… as you can guess, we’ve gotten a big fat string of “no” responses so far. (Don’t worry, our social workers use much gentler wording than that!) One time this summer we were in a short stack of 3 profile books that a mama took home to consider, and this fall we were one of two families being considered by an expectant mom, and had the honor of meeting with her so she could see us and ask some follow-up questions. Both of those mothers chose other families, but still, it was an honor to be a tiny little part of that decision for someone, and to pray for her as she walked through a heavy, complex, emotional process.

As I’ve shared about this waiting process with people, most think the “rejection” of not being chosen must be painful. I thought it would be, too, but there’s been a lot more peace than I expected. It’s still hard to hear when we aren’t chosen, but it doesn’t feel personal, or even like rejection. The biggest reason for this is all the education we’ve sought out, specifically stories from birth mothers’ perspectives. It’s hard to feel personally rejected when you know more about the other side, where a mama who has chosen life is trying to decide if she should parent her child or entrust her child to another family for a lifetime. That is in NO way about me. If part of my wait includes waiting for someone to make the choice to place her baby in someone else’s arms, I can find the patience to endure my side of the story until our paths meet. Another surprise for us on this journey to adoption has been how much our hearts have opened toward the expectant parents. For us the purpose of our adopting a baby has expanded to include loving and connecting with Baby’s first family.

With all of that said, there are ways in which this wait IS about me. Even though I’m coming from a position of privilege and am content to wait, God still cares about the desire and condition of my heart. The hardest part of not being chosen is that we have to keep waiting. Every opportunity that comes up brings the possibility to get off this seemingly never-ending ride, and the tunnel seems dark and long when we hear another “no.” It doesn’t feel personal in terms of an expectant mother not liking me or anything like that, but it can feel personal in terms of my relationship with and beliefs about God. This is where the real wrestling comes in and I have to confront false ideas I didn’t even realize I held. The gifts God has brought out of discouragement, loss, and waiting have been rich: hope, faith, humility, truth, patience, and so much more.

Another gift I’ve received from the time spent waiting has been all the education I can take in. Some of it has been in the form of books, conferences or webinars, and some of it has been from our agency or other organizations, but the richest education has come from listening to voices from the adoption community: adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who are walking ahead of me on the path and are sharing their stories with courage and generosity.

From adoptees I learn to listen and validate, and to hold space for any pain or confusion our future child(ren) might feel related to their adoption while still celebrating who they are and their place in our family. From birth parents I learn the importance of keeping promises and being an open and generous “host” as an adoptive parent someday. From adoptive parents I get a glimpse into what it looks like to honor first families, to hold grief with joy, to shepherd a little person into who they were made to be, and of course the practical things like how to answer or deflect nosy grocery store questions. Adoptive parents also encourage me to keep waiting for the little one who will become mine, because while we can’t know the “why” of everything in this world, it seems pretty universal that a lot of things make sense once you meet your child.  I am SO thankful that God led me to all of these voices. Through my listening God is growing my heart in compassion, understanding, patience, grace, humility and hope.

Today actually marks the start of National Adoption Awareness month, and I’d love for you to learn along with me as I prepare myself to someday become an adoptive parent. Last year was the first time I followed along with #naam, and in a word it was overwhelming. It was my first time hearing some of these different perspectives on adoption, and I was thrown for a loop. I leaned in to listen, even when it was uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel like I had much to say since I was still pretty new to the space, and my mind sometimes reeled from all the processing.

This year I have more understanding, more perspective, and a little more to say, although I’m still not sure how valuable it is— there are definitely other voices worth listening to that have WAY more experience and authority.

So: if you don’t know much about what adoption looks like these days, or how adopted people or birth families view adoption, please consider checking out Instagram this month. It’s where the conversations and change are really happening. I’ll be there listening and occasionally speaking up, and will share some of the voices I think are important to listen to. You can find me as @deep_delightful_life, or search for #naam19. I hope I can shine a light on adoption issues and provide some encouragement for anyone who’s in the shoes I wore last year— new to the adoption conversation and Overwhelmed. Please reach out if you’d like to talk.

How to pray: As I said at the start, we have so many amazing people supporting us on this journey, and we are forever thankful. If you’re holding us in your hearts, here is how you can join us in hope and prayer…

-For us we ask for patience, peace, hope, and strength for the wait ahead of us, however long it might be. It can be a heavy thing to hold at times, and we aren’t always able to share what we’re going through since it involves confidential details about someone else’s life.

-We are asking God to prepare us to parent the unique baby who ends up joining our family, and asking for a healthy and trusting relationship between our child and family and at least some members of their biological family

-Our families and community: may God prepare everyone who will be part of our child’s life to support them as they grow

-For the expectant mother and father who will eventually choose to place with us, and for their families, we pray for peace, wisdom, and support for the decisions they will face and the road they will walk before and after placement

-For Baby we pray for healthy development, peace, safety, and for loving and informed adults to help them through birth, adoption, and growing up

-We pray for our agency’s social workers as they strive to operate ethically and with compassion for expectant/birth families and waiting/adoptive families. This is a tall order!!!

-For the process of being selected, meeting expectant mom/family, waiting for birth, meeting Baby, etc. we pray for grace on all sides as we walk through that delicate process in agency offices and hospital rooms

-Thinking past birth and placement to the newborn days, we pray for ALL involved. There will be joy, but there will be grief— baby separated from mama, mama without her baby, and two new clueless parents holding an infinitely precious and undeserved gift.

I’d better stop before I cry. Yes, adoption is beautiful, but it’s so very complex.

This is not a complete list… I could think and pray forever and not come up with all the hopes, desires, and requests that populate my prayers… but this should get you started!

THANK YOU for reading. If you’re also in the adoption wait, considering adoption, or would like to connect for any reason, please reach out here or on Instagram. 

Recipe Round-up

I apologize if you thought you might be getting an adoption-related post today. 😉 I have at least one of those brewing, I promise. In the meantime, you get my light and easy re-entry into the blogisphere so I don’t let a whole YEAR go by between posts. Not that 11 months is that much better… oops.

Anyway, I have yummy foods to share! I always feel the need to freshen up my recipe rotation this time of year when school is out, the garden has been planted, and the produce section becomes more varied and enticing. If you do the same I hope you’ll be inspired.

I’m including links to some of the allergy-friendly ingredients I use, but I feel obligated to say that there is NO benefit to me if you purchase from these links. I do think Vitacost is a good source for healthy foods, and the prices are good, but I’ve also gotten this stuff at WalMart and Azure Standard for great prices, so… do what you like!

With disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the FOOD…


Addictive Asian Cabbage Salad from Michelle at Sunkissed Kitchen: it’s easy, light, colorful, and allergy-friendly. If you needed to serve the almonds on the side, or use a different sweetener than honey for strict vegans, you could easily do it. This one seems like it would be kid-friendly, too, but I haven’t tested my theory yet.

(from Sunkissed Kitchen)

Vegan Italian Chopped Salad from Well Vegan : we’re not a vegan household, but because I need to avoid eggs I use it as a keyword when I’m searching for recipes, and then things magically show up on Pinterest, and… you know how it goes. This salad became our new favorite when we tried it a couple weeks ago. I made it once for dinner, then again the following week for a potluck lunch. It’s delicious! The only allergy swap I needed to make was to use gluten free pasta, so instead of ditalini I used my favorite rice “elbows”  which are always in my pantry. If you don’t need to be vegan, it would be fun to throw in some pepperoni slices.

(from Well Vegan)

Watermelon Salad from Erin Gleeson via Design*Sponge: such a fun summer appetizer! I avoid dairy for the most part, but fresh mozzarella is hard to resist and doesn’t bother me too much, so I go for it with this recipe. I think you could use goat cheese if you needed to. We like to add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to spice it up a bit.

(from Design*Sponge)

Main dishes:

15-Minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup from The Woks of Life: this is one of those recipes that actually comes together as quickly as it promises to, so you don’t generate a lot of heat which is probably the last thing you want in the middle of summer. You can make it spicy-hot as you want, though! Some might not want to eat hot soup as a summer meal, but for us we don’t mind when it’s light and fresh like this one. Plus, it’s very allergy-friendly.

(from The Woks of Life)

Grilled Chicken Shawarma from Edyta at Eating European: this chicken is capital-F Flavorful. We love it. My husband isn’t a fan of bone-in meat, so we use boneless chicken thighs, and usually end up cooking them in the oven. This gluten-free flatbread would be a perfect complement, and I think this pea and lentil salad would be a nice side dish.

(from Eating European)


The Best Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies from Holly at Keeping Life Sane: not a summer-specific dessert, but when is it not the right time for chocolate chip cookies??? This is my new favorite cookie recipe because it tastes as close to “the real thing” as I’ve been able to get! The only allergen accounted for is egg, but I’ve still had success using my favorite gluten-free flour blend and allergy-free chocolate chips. When I’ve made these, I have just used regular butter, but considering the rate at which I consume them, I should really switch to a dairy-free substitute. I don’t have a favorite butter substitute, but I’m guessing Earth Balance or whatever you can get your hands on would work. You may need to adjust the flour, water, or oil to get the right consistency. But in my experience, if a recipe can go gluten-free and still turn out good, it can handle other substitutions.

(from Keeping Life Sane)

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you’ll find something here that you like, and feel free to share a favorite recipe in the comments! Happy Summer!

Sadness and Joy

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I’ll make this as coherent as I can. I feel a need to share, but I’m not sure how well-formed my ideas are. It’s been a weird summer. It’s been filled with bittersweet first anniversaries from my second pregnancy that ended a year ago on this day. Memorial Day commemorated the weekend we found out I was pregnant after yet another grueling Clomid cycle. All of June I kept thinking about how just a year ago I had been pregnant and had no reason to think anything was wrong. As July grew closer, my mind started going back to the day we learned our baby’s heart had stopped beating, and the days that followed. On the 4th of July I was in a really weird space, because even though we were celebrating with good friends and having a fun time, I couldn’t help thinking back to who I was a year ago– someone three days away from her worst fears becoming reality.

The first days of living in that new reality were the worst, and the few weeks after were not much better. I wasn’t able to leave the house for more than a couple of errands before the tears would start up again. I had brand-new experiences of anxiety and shortness of breath. It took a few months before I was able to cook a full week of meals. Grief took up residence in my body, and I’m still working on how we can live more comfortably together. I still can’t breathe properly, I have new aches and pains, and sometimes my very thoughts feel different. It’s taking a team of practitioners– family doctor, functional medicine doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, counselor– to help me figure out what’s going on and how I can get back to myself, or I guess to a healthy new self.

A year is a long time, and it’s also not. The sadness feels long, but there has been joy, and that has made the time fly. When I think that not even six months after my miscarriage I was hearing God’s voice encouraging me to stop fertility treatments and consider adoption, and just a few months after that we researched and chose an adoption agency, and not long after that announced our plans, I just think, “Wow.”

Once I stopped treatments, I gradually felt less and less of a desire to be pregnant. I actually found myself feeling grateful at different points as time went on. When it got closer to our baby’s original due date, I truly felt relieved that I wasn’t living through the uncomfortable third trimester. After the due date had passed I would occasionally feel blessed and happy to not be recovering from childbirth or in the throes of breastfeeding. These are experiences that I know I might still have, and would be grateful for, but during the past year I think the Holy Spirit has worked in my mind and heart to give me a gift in the form of relief. Yes, there’s plenty to be sad about, but at the same time it feels like a weight lifted to no longer be trying to conceive, to no longer wish to be pregnant. That’s not just amazing, it’s supernatural.

Speaking of supernatural, some of my closest moments with God have taken place during these saddest times. The one I most want to share with you is something I now feel very strongly about, and want every person to consider. As I poured out my heart to God over losing my baby I heard him tell me that I’m his baby. And I had to practice it a little, but I let myself be that baby. Let myself be comforted, soothed, rocked by the God who created me and cares so deeply about what I’m going through and how I feel. I accepted being truly helpless to have controlled anything about the situation I was in, and let myself be the child who cries out “Abba, Father.” It didn’t change what happened, or necessarily make it hurt less, but it changed my heart in a way I struggle to explain but feel deeply. We are all God’s children, uniquely created and uniquely, purely loved.

This comforting image of Father God is consistent with what we read in Scripture (especially the Psalms but it’s definitely found elsewhere), and I’m so thankful to everyone who ever taught me the Word, every person who ever encouraged me to read it on my own, every nudging from the Holy Spirit to open my Bible and sit with God’s words. Because all of those little moments are investments into our souls; those words get tucked away, waiting for the moment when they are brought back up for use. And in my moments of grief, God’s Word came back up to teach me about the depth of his grace and love. It came back to remind me that God is sad with me, will comfort me, and is ready for whatever comes next for me. The Word came back in new ways to show me that as I take my wobbly steps into the future, God is there with me. I want everyone to know that no matter who you are or where you’re at with God, you’re his baby and he loves you SO much.

(As I write this there’s SO much more I want to say, because obviously we can’t always just be a baby. We need to obey and do what’s right, we need to mature, do the good works we were created to do, and there are things in life that we are responsible for, etc. etc. BUT I do firmly believe that one facet of how God views us will always be as his babies, and if we can learn this it will help a great deal with how we view God, ourselves, and others.)

While I have learned and grown a lot, can let go of a lot of things, and can “move on” in a lot of ways, I still carry the grief and the pain of loss… and probably always will. And there are plenty of triggers out there in the world for someone who has experienced miscarriage(s), especially for someone who doesn’t have children yet and may never have biological children. Mother’s Day, casual conversations about surprise pregnancies, assumptions everywhere that families are only biological, movies and TV shows that either get infertility/loss/grief/adoption completely wrong OR get it so right that it hits you in the feels… there’s a tenderness that is part of me now as I move through my life.

It seems to me that loss is like a thinning of the protective barrier between the individual and the world. In many ways it can be good– I’ve certainly found that being more vulnerable is good for my personal growth and for my relationships. But, of course, it hurts. I know the two babies I’ve carried and lost can’t be here, and I’m at peace with that fact, but it was painful to lose them and the dreams we had of knowing them here on earth. That kind of pain sticks with a person.

I could continue to write paragraphs going back and forth on this forever– how sadness hangs out with my peace and hope and joy. Where I’m at right now is that I simultaneously carry multiple things: the pain of infertility and recurrent miscarriage, and also the joy and hope of pursuing adoption. But even in the pain of infertility, there has been joy. And in the joy and hope of adoption, there will be sadness and pain. I wouldn’t change any of this, because I can tell I’m on the right path, and God is doing amazing things.

A year ago today I was beginning to walk through one of the darkest, saddest times of my life. But it was also one of the deepest and kind of best times for my relationship with God and others. To let my guard down, to really feel my feelings, to be served and ministered to in new ways, to wrestle with my thoughts… it all helped make me the person I am now, a year later. I trust that it will make me the person I need to be a year, five years, twenty years from now, too. I trust in a God who, through my pain, is growing me more and more into who I was truly created to be.

For anyone else who carries sadness along with their joy, I see you. As we move through the world with this extra tenderness, let’s also use the gifts our loss has given us. For me it’s compassion for others, remembrance in prayer for those who grieve, grace, and vulnerability– just to name a few. I hope I’ll get better at using these gifts and discover more as time goes on.

I’m coming to see that everyone I encounter has either experienced loss already, or will experience it at some point in their lives. This might not be a super-profound realization, but it’s new to me and I’m trying to let it color my thinking and actions. I’m aware that if you’re reading this, it’s very likely that you carry a grief of your own. So if you like, leave a comment about the ways loss has shaped you. We need each other!

Inside Out. Cue the tears, am I right?

Our Path to Parenthood: Change of Course

Oh, hello, blog. It’s been a crazy bunch of months since I last shared about our personal life. First, I want to share my most recent Facebook post.

The latest from the Henrys…

We’re adopting! (Or starting to/hoping to!)

We don’t have a ton of details to share yet, but might be able to answer some FAQs. Check out the link for more!

In a nutshell, we are pursuing domestic infant adoption. We are working with an agency and are just beginning the home study phase. As far as what we need, please PRAY for us- for wisdom, strength, peace of mind and heart, and for financial provision. (On that note, we will be sharing details in the near future on how to partner with us IF you feel led. No pressure, but we’ve had people asking about this already and are starting to make plans.)

Please pray for the baby who will (hopefully) join our family, and for their first parents and family members. We pray that they will also be blessed with peace, wisdom, and strength for their own journey.

We invite you to read more on Kristen’s blog, deepdelightfullife.com

…And here you are! Welcome to Mike and Kristen’s adoption announcement FAQ!

Why are you adopting? Most of you know about our history of infertility and miscarriage over the past few years. After my last medicated cycle at the end of November 2017, we didn’t feel like doing any more for the time being. It is such an arduous process that takes a physical and emotional toll, and to be honest… we didn’t like our odds as we continued to roll the dice. It felt like time to stop pursuing the biological route, but at the same time we still felt strongly called to parenthood, so adoption seemed like the next step for us. There’s already been a HUGE sense of relief to be off the “TTC” (trying to conceive) train. We don’t feel like biological children can never happen, but we will not be trying for that for the time being. Ultimately, we just want to be parents, and I feel reassured that we can do this because for both of us, our life’s work has been devoted to loving other people’s children. We know we have the love and care to give to someone who needs it.

How are you adopting? We are working with an agency on a domestic infant adoption. In this type of adoption, the baby is typically placed with the adoptive parents shortly after birth (a number of days determined by state law). We feel that this is the best option for us– we definitely considered them all!– and we look forward to knowing a child from almost the very beginning of their life. We are open to locations other than our home state of Iowa; we live in a tri-state area with Nebraska and South Dakota, so it’s possible baby could be born in one of those states, and we are open to other states as well.

How much does it cost? This is a common question. We are looking at a grand total of around $30,000 for all of the agency and legal fees, and possibly more for travel and legal if baby is born in a different state.

Where are you in the process? We are currently beginning the home study phase with our agency social worker. This is essentially a series of interviews, references, and background checks to make sure we’re safe, trustworthy, and capable to be parents. We are also required to go through some education about adoption during this time, which we’ve begun already by attending a conference and listening to some audio courses. It can take several months to complete this phase, so we hope to have it all wrapped up by Fall.

What happens next? After the home study is complete, our family profile will be shown to expectant mothers who are considering adoption (and fathers if they’re involved), and we will wait to be “matched” with an expectant mom or couple. We’re told the wait can be anywhere from a few months to two years. A lot of that time frame depends on how open we are to different factors of the parent/baby profiles (which is pretty open). Once we’re matched, it may be someone who has a few months left until her due date, or just a number of weeks or days. Sometimes the match occurs after the baby is born. We might share publicly once we’re matched– depending on how quickly things happen and what the situation is– but we’ll have to hold off on sharing details until things are official and baby is in our care. After baby is placed with us, it will be a while longer before the adoption is finalized by a judge (but we’ll be able to share pictures and info before that, don’t worry!).

Are you going to have an open adoption? Yes, we anticipate that there will be at least some openness between our family and the birth family. Openness looks different for every family, and depends on many different personal factors. We are very open to communication and visits– essentially a relationship with the birth family– but openness is determined by the birth and adoptive families together, so we won’t know until we meet them and discuss it. We do plan to be open with our child from the start about their adoption and their first family, too. A lot of the education we’re going through covers to these topics, so we feel like we’ll be as ready as we can be to handle them as they come up.

What do you need from your friends and family as you start this process? The very first things we ask for are prayer and understanding! We feel absolutely called to go through this process, but there are so many unknowns that it can feel reallllly overwhelming, so we need peace of mind and heart. We also need patience since we’ll be waiting for indeterminate amounts of time as we go along. Then, there are a lot of decisions to be made, many of which feel pretty heavy and important (probably because they are!), so we’re in need of wisdom. Pray that we will grow closer together as a couple and that God would use this experience to make us better parents, better partners….. just people who are more like Jesus and who lean on the fullness of God’s character.

Please also pray for our future child and their first family. Pray for the expectant mother, as she is the one who will be making most of the decisions– the decision of life for her child, the decision to make an adoption plan, and all the decisions in between. I can only imagine what it feels like to go through that process, and I am praying for her for grace, peace, wisdom, health, safety, clarity, hands to hold, and ears to listen to her. But it’s more than the mother. Baby will have a father, of course, and grandparents and extended family. We want to cover them all in prayer as they will have to go through their own journey before and after adoption is chosen. Please pray for these requests when you think of us!

As far as understanding, we ask that you bear with us when we don’t have any news to share, or are frazzled from decision overload, are going nuts from waiting, or whatever! When we get to the point of meeting expectant parents we may need emotional support when we have not been chosen yet. And, while we hope it won’t happen to us, sometimes a match falls through and the baby you think is “yours” …does not become yours. Just like our fertility journey, this new road is bound to have highs and lows. We hope you will rejoice with us, too, as we check off each part of the process that brings us closer to parenthood!

We would also ask that you join us in learning how to speak respectfully about adoption. There have been changes to how people in the adoption community are speaking about the different roles and parts of the process, and while the changes may seem small, they reflect a greater understanding of what each party in the adoption triad is going through. We’re still learning, too, and will probably make adjustments as we get farther along in the process. Still being new at this, I am hoping and praying I haven’t been offensive at any point in this post! Anyway, check out this short article about what to say.

Another way we will need help is for some to consider giving financially. It’s humbling to ask for, but we know we will need it. We have trimmed our budget and continue to find ways to do so, and have opened a line of credit with our local bank to cover some of the upcoming expenses. Once our home study is complete we can start applying for grants, but we’re pretty sure we will still need help. We want to keep our debt as low as possible as we look toward becoming a family of three, because that third little person will bring expenses of their own into the picture! The pre-existing budget is sufficient for adding children, but we’d like to avoid paying for adoption for years to come.

We will be sharing fundraising details once we have made those plans. Please hear our heart here: we hope that no one will feel obligated to give– just know we’re sharing for those who feel led, not because we’re trying to track down every last person and guilt them into it. 😉 So far, everything we’ve read and everyone we’ve talked to says that the money comes in, even when it looks impossible. Well, other people seem to be a BIG part of the money coming in! Please know that when we share about fundraising it is from a place of vulnerability and not of entitlement or expectation. We are not going to keep track of who’s NOT giving!

I think that sums up the FAQ. We would welcome your reaching out with questions, encouragement, etc. Because of the intense emotions and overwhelming nature of the adoption process (much like the fertility treatment process!), we need YOU, but it can be hard for US to reach out because of all we are carrying. So if you are feeling led, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You will not bother us. If it’s not a great time we will get back to you when we can. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, the church lobby is usually not the place for the in-depth check-in! 😉 That’s where the simple “praying for you” or meaningful hug is welcomed, and speaks volumes. BUT….. I want to express just how much I have appreciated the emails/messages/texts/notes from people checking up on us and showing support in the past… we may both appear strong, but our hearts could always use a little more encouragement.

Dear friends and family, we love and appreciate you! Thank you for being part of our lives, and for reading this update!

To any readers who I don’t know: if you found this post because you’re thinking about adoption after infertility, or are planning to announce your adoption plans…. welcome! You are not alone! I’m planning to write more on the topic here because getting to this point has been very emotional, and I can’t be the only one, so I’d love to connect with you. In the meantime, I have written about infertility, hope, and encouragement from God’s Word if you’d like to read some of those posts.

If you’re reading this and are farther down the road in your adoption journey…. I’d welcome your ideas and encouragement!

My Favorite Granola!

I’ve been making granola for a while, but haven’t shared the recipe because it’s taken time to get it just right. I started out using this recipe, which is awesome, but I was making changes right away. I used honey instead of agave, added some other ingredients, and spread it out on a baking sheet for a more even golden color (and to avoid burning). I had to adjust the baking time quite a bit. I also found I needed to consistently double the recipe to make it worth the time and effort. It isn’t hard to make granola, but it’s kind of… a process. Lots of ingredients and measuring cups taking up counter space. Many dishes to be done, although it’s not like they’re super dirty, there’s just a lot.

When I first started with granola 5ish years ago, I wasn’t even making it for myself, but for my husband who loooooooves cereal for breakfast. We had just started eating clean, and I wanted to say goodbye to his boxed cereal, but he had to have something in a bowl with milk on it, so I started making granola for him on an almost-weekly basis. He initially said it was “better than Honey Bunches of Oats,” which he later admitted was maybe more of a nice thing to say to one’s wife, rather than an actual opinion one holds. (He is always and forever a peacemaker!)

Fast forward to the trenches of my life on a gluten-free/egg-free/etc-free diet (and my husband’s life being reunited with his honey-bunches). I had been eating oatmeal every morning for years, and it didn’t bother me at all… until I couldn’t have anything else, and then it super did bother me! I remembered the granola recipe and came back to it, and have been working on it ever since. Lately I’m eating it every morning, only going back to good old cooked oats when I run out of granola and haven’t yet convinced myself to make more.

This recipe is great because it can handle approximate amounts of all the dry ingredients, and you can use pretty much whatever you like! I typically use the ingredients listed in the recipe, but I’ve also thrown quinoa or cashews into the dry mix, and have added nut butter to the warm honey for a creamier consistency. I only just realized while writing this post that chocolate chips would be a fun addition– why haven’t I tried it yet??? If you find it too runny or sticky, add some more oats. Too dry? More honey. But I haven’t had to make too many adjustments, even when I make bigger changes. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

My Hope Is You

This isn’t a story I’ve told before, but I really should, for a number of reasons. First of all, I remember the things I write about, and I want to remember more. Second, we encourage one another when we share about our own experiences. Also when we tell our stories, we might jog another’s memory back to a time they had forgotten, to an experience of their own that they can share. In fact, I only thought to post this story because of what another friend shared, “just in case” someone needed to hear it. So you never know!

Here it goes; I haven’t spent a lot of time on this so there might be gaps or incoherence… dear God, please make sense of this!

When I was a junior or senior in high school, I was blessed to travel with my youth group to a New Year’s Eve event in Gatlinburg, TN. This was a huge event with hundreds of students and leaders gathering to hear speakers and bands, and I’ve since met others who have attended… but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Maybe someone can help me out. I do remember that David Nasser was a speaker- so funny and encouraging. I’m also pretty sure that NewSong played “Faithfully” as part of one of the guys proposing to his girlfriend. That was cute. Anyway, I clearly remember that Third Day was one of the musical acts. I’ve always appreciated Mac Powell’s voice and approach to “performance;” every time I saw Third Day (which was quite a few times growing up in the Nashville area) it was more about worshipping God than about the band. So even though I was having fun with my friends, giggling over all of our inside jokes and discussing the minutia of our high school lives, Third Day’s music focused my attention on the Father.

It was during “My Hope Is You” that God really grabbed me, and the moment felt important, even as a young person who frequently found herself wrapped up in the little distractions of teenage life. I had a pretty deep inner life, too, but the pulls of pride and friends and comparison were strong! With a transition to college looming on my horizon, and not having life planned out to the degree I thought my friends had, I felt in my heart, assured by God’s Spirit, that I could say the words from the song to my heavenly Father: “My hope is you, show me your ways, guide me in truth, in all my days.” I prayed it in my heart, and I meant it, even though I couldn’t know then the true weight of it. And somehow I grasped that, too… “I don’t know what this will mean, but I know what it means to say it now.” As much as I could at the time, I was willing to put my life in God’s hands and accept whatever he had for me.

At different points in my life, the Spirit has snapped me back to that moment, in the dark, surrounded by youth group friends plus hundreds of strangers. Because of how God’s Spirit can move our hearts and communicate with us directly, I felt for a moment that it was just me and God, his listening to me and my telling a feeble promise to him.

Flash forward… the latest example of God upholding the promise I made to him (sounds backwards but it’s true) was near the end of another medicated cycle. I found myself in the middle of another “two-week-wait“– that time when everything I could control had been done– feeling defeated. My post-ovulation blood work had not been good and we weren’t sure we had gotten our timing right, so I figured this cycle would be another bust. But I’ve been through this experience enough times to know that, inevitably, for “whatever reason” (hint: there’s a reason), I would find myself hoping against hope for a positive pregnancy test as the wait neared its end. It had happened without fail every time before: I would find any shred of positivity I could and think that maybe, just maybe, we would finally have a success. I really felt like I couldn’t bear feeling that way again only to be disappointed. So I prayed that God would protect my heart by keeping me from hoping for a positive. “Please, don’t let me get my hopes up just to be brought down again. Let this end quietly, on a down note, so I can just move on to the next round.”

But this is what I heard back from him, from his Spirit to my heart: “That hope you feel when you reach the end of every wait… it’s not yours, it’s mine, and it canNOT be taken away. You asked for my hope all those years ago, and I’ve given it to you. I want you to feel it regardless of what happens, because I am here for you in every disappointment.”

I didn’t get that positive, as I guessed, but I was so humbled and thankful that God would remember. That he would give hope, and then sustain it in his strength and faithfulness. That he gives me what I need so I don’t have to be afraid. That his presence is constant, even though I sometimes think I’m alone. That he can bear my disappointment because we both know I’m not strong enough.

This is just one example of God helping me keep my promises and reminding me of who he is when I ask him to show me. He is always moving and working, even when I forget the things I’ve asked for.

It’s because of moments like these, and many since, that I often find myself praying for God to “bless and multiply my efforts” in this life of following him. I’ve seen him do it many times. It is exactly because of what he has done in faithfully showing his hope to me that I can keep going and keep doing this life, even and especially through the dark times. He’s taking the growth he brings about in my heart, mind, and deeds and graciously using it for his glory in so many big and small ways.

If you are a follower of Christ I’m sure you have examples of these gracious, “only-God” things, too. Ask him to show you what you might have missed… and then tell someone! We need to remind each other of his goodness.

Here’s a little image to remind us of God’s hope…

…and the song that God used to speak to me all those years ago.

Life in Status Updates

I know it’s been a while. I’m humbled to see that my fertility posts are still getting new readers. I shared my story so others could find encouragement, and I’m encouraged right back that I might be able to help someone just a little bit.

At the end of this last Clomid cycle (which was #6) we went through a rollercoaster of emotions. That sounds cliché, but it’s totally true. I’ve been wanting to share about it here, but at first I didn’t have the energy, and then with an end-of-summer vacation and the start of preschool approaching, I didn’t have the time. And then I realized I had written about it: briefly, in pieces, on Facebook, as we went through it all. So I’m going to share my last few status updates and give you a little peek behind the curtain in case you’re in the same position or are wanting to understand this experience a little more.

July 1, 2017:

We are delighted to announce something that, on many days over a number of years, we were not sure would happen… but Baby H is on the way! 9+ weeks along, 31-ish to go! This new arrival is expected early in February 2018.
We want to thank you, our friends and family, for your love, prayers, and support, and ask you to keep it coming. Things are going great, and most of the time we feel hopeful and excited… but because of the path we’ve walked to get here, fears still surface, and it’s already become clear that our pregnancy journey will feel a little different than what we expected. We’re sharing this news “early” because a) it’s hard to keep such exciting news under wraps, and b) we need your support no matter what happens. Through everything, God has proven himself good. We are so thankful for this miraculous new life that has come about after a LOT of prayer… and a dash of science. 😉

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July 8, 2017:

Mike and I are having a very hard weekend as yesterday we learned that we lost our baby. We are thankful for all the people around us who celebrated with us, and now we ask for your continued prayer and support as we grieve and figure out how to move forward. Yesterday was such a hard day but we saw the light shine through many times. We know we are being held up by a loving God and loving friends and family.

P.s. I am doing fine- was sent home with meds to speed the process along, and while it’s unpleasant, everything seems to be happening normally. I would still appreciate prayers for full recovery.

P.p.s we will probably not be very active here on fb right now, but we do want to get the word out and the prayers going. This news is okay to share.

God brought this verse to mind on our way home from the doctor’s office yesterday and I have been feeling its truth so I thought I’d share. He is good.

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July 21, 2017:

How am I doing? I’ve been asked this question quite a bit recently, and I don’t mind at all, I’m just not always sure how to answer.

I’m okay, but I’m not great. I’m mostly able to function, but sometimes normal functioning is overwhelming to take on. I can get out and about, but I might cry on the way there or back. I’m usually tired when I get home from simple errands or outings. I haven’t straightened my hair in two weeks and have put on mascara maybe three times- to some of you that will speak volumes! 😉

I am so thankful for the visits, texts/messages, cards, flowers, and gifts from friends and family. They say grief comes in waves, and it’s true. Thankfully, support from others is helping to buoy me along, always coming right when I need it. Thank you, Lord; thank you, friends. Please keep praying.

You all are great, but I am MOST thankful for my sweet husband Mike. I was so happy to get him home after his week in Chicago (although I made it through the week at home with help from friends)! We are trying our best to hold each other up and are being blessed by the love God has grown in us over the years.

I can see plenty of silver linings, but I’m still under a cloud. My joy is a little out of focus- taking a back seat to God’s quiet peace that tells me I will be alright even though it’s not all right, right now.

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July 31, 2017:

Yesterday marked our 12th anniversary. Over the years, in a variety of situations, we often ask each other, “is this what you thought being married would be like?” Super funny in the middle of some ridiculous repair, or cleaning up a surprising mess, or doing something really basic/boring. But we also use this line for comic relief in more serious times– disagreements, disappointments… heartbreaks.

When we make our little joke, Mike usually says, “It’s better.” (Awwwwww) And it’s true.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of heartbreak over our miscarriage, our rumpled bed caught my eye. I took a picture so I could remember the bittersweet time we spent sitting there together, sharing the sorrow. It was NOT what I thought being married would be like. I didn’t envision that much sadness or that many tears coming our way. But even when life brings heartbreak, sharing it with Mike is still better than I ever could have imagined– and I imagined it would be pretty great! I’m thankful that we have so many good people around us for encouragement and support, and for God’s exponential grace and faithfulness to us. Cheers to the next several dozen years!

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p.s. here’s a happy bonus picture from last weekend when we had a great idea to take our picture on top of a parking garage with a nice city view behind us… and found that the top level was closed off for construction. Womp-womp.

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See? Rollercoaster.

So what actually happened, to fill in the gaps of those posts, was that I had a missed miscarriage. The baby’s development had stopped but my body didn’t know it yet. It was discovered during my first ultrasound at almost 10 weeks along. One of the most painful moments I’ve ever lived through was being told there was no heartbeat. We were then given the options: have a D & C, wait for my body to catch up and miscarry naturally, or take medicine to start the miscarriage process right away. This was a Friday morning, and Mike had to leave town on Sunday morning, so I chose the medicine in order to have my husband with me while I miscarried. The medicine (cytotec) worked as described, and while obviously it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was very similar to my first miscarriage, which was a little earlier (6 weeks along) and totally spontaneous. I was happy to have my husband with me for support and for us to grieve together. It was a sweet time, although obviously bitter, too.

Once Mike left I had to really push myself out of my introverted comfort zone and allow people to visit and help me. It was the best thing to do, and not actually that hard once I started. During those six days I was so blessed by friends bringing meals/snacks/coffee/gifts, or just their company. One of my sweet friends went with me to my follow-up ultrasound appointment. There were also many messages lighting up my phone, which I enjoyed reading as I was able, and ignored when it felt like too much (I actually turned off Facebook notifications for a while so I wouldn’t feel nagged by the little red numbers). Managing my busy social schedule and keeping the house tidy for guests was a good way to keep myself busy when I needed to be. Part of managing my schedule, though, also included time for grieving however I needed to. Maybe it was reading Scripture or something relevant to my situation, or prayer in whatever form it took (often tears), or watching TV or taking a nap. It ended up being… I hesitate to say a “good” week… but it was a healthy week that brought many blessings, even in the middle of a lot of sadness.

When Mike came home I thought things would be easier, but my emotions came out in different ways with my safest/favorite person by my side again. We grieved together and it was difficult but okay. Things have gotten a little easier, but we are still working on how to carry this grief as we move forward. I have had some physical symptoms that seem to be related to stress or anxiety, so I’m getting help for those things.

As painful as it is sometimes to look back at our excited announcement, I’m ultimately glad we did it. I’m glad we celebrated that little life as much as we could, and that we made a public announcement “early.” Yes, it meant our hearts were out there. We were nervous. But we got so much more support because we shared, and we’ve needed it all.

Speaking of moving forward… we are. We’ve seen a specialist (a reproductive endocrinologist, or RE) who had a pretty hopeful interpretation of my/our history, and the plan is to begin letrozole/Femara cycles as soon as possible. This drug is similar to Clomid in that it encourages ovulation, although it does so in a different way, but the timing of the cycles should look similar to when I took Clomid. The main difference will be the addition of ultrasound monitoring to measure follicle growth, and a “trigger shot” to release an egg at the right time. I hope to share about my letrozole experience here for anyone looking for that information, so stay tuned.

If you have had to go through anything similar to our experience, I am so, so sorry for your loss and for the pain you’re feeling. It’s not right or fair, and it’s a heavy thing to carry. I would encourage you to consider sharing with others in a way that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s with a counselor, or a few close friends, or trusted family members. Maybe it’s on social media or a blog. After I opened up on my blog and shared the post with my broader circle of friends and even acquaintances, I was surprised by how free I felt to post on social media– almost like a “normal” person again. So I would encourage anyone to share with safe people, because you will need their support. Also, it seems that sharing can knock down walls you may have put up in other places that you didn’t even realize, and you may feel more free in your everyday life in those areas after you share. But of course, do you. 🙂

I’m saying a prayer now for anyone who will read this post and is in the same boat I’ve been in for the past few months. I pray you will find the peace, healing, and strength you need to keep going. I pray you will find the people who can care for you. I pray you will find the balance of grieving what was lost and hoping for what is to come. I pray that you will receive your miracle. That’s what I pray for myself, too. ❤



My Fertility Journey: Clomid Cycles

image created by me using the Rhonna Designs app

I first want to say that I’m glad you’re here! I only just recently started sharing about my fertility journey, and you can read my first post about it here. I also had some words on how to relax, if that’s something you’d like to read about. Today I want to share details of my Clomid cycles, because stories like these were exactly what I couldn’t find when I went looking for them.

The thought of medicated cycles was scary to me when it was initially recommended by my doctor. First of all, it was something I never thought I would have to do, so there was the shock of realizing I was on a different path than I thought I’d take… but I’m also kind of a “crunchy” or natural person and just don’t have much experience with medications in general. The last time I regularly used a prescribed medication was the birth control pill, and I didn’t respond well to it. That was over eleven years ago.

So I hit Google hard to find out what Clomid is, how it works, and what it’s like to take it. Here are a couple of links that sum it up nicely: WebMd, VeryWell

If you love torturing yourself go ahead and scour the TTC forums for people’s personal experiences… but please try not to get sucked into the black hole. 🙂 Believe me when I say that forums can make you crazy. I’ll have more to say on that below.

Before describing my experience, I feel like I should just “disclaim” that I am NOT a doctor or any kind of medical professional. Every person is different, every doctor uses different protocols… there are a lot of variables involved in this kind of treatment. Please don’t take my word over your doctor’s; I only want to share my experience in the hope of helping others. I also don’t have any referral links… not popular enough for that.

I have done 5 rounds of Clomid. My medicated cycles have “worked” in terms of ovulation, but haven’t “worked” in terms of conception (yet!). My side effects are not on the serious end of the spectrum, but range from “annoying” to “difficult.” I know some women have a terrible time on Clomid, but everything I’ve read says that most will be able to tolerate it. And tolerating it just means that the pros outweigh the cons; it can still be a pretty unpleasant time. While taking the pills, I get more emotional (crying, irritable), which can be managed but makes you feel out of control and not like yourself. I also found that it caused constipation for me, which is never fun. Once I had hot flashes for the first few days. During the first three cycles I also experienced “dryness;” I won’t get into that too much but I will say it made life difficult during the timed intercourse phase of the cycle. It was pretty tough, and negatively affected our chances of success. The first three cycles were at the lowest dose of Clomid, 50mg. After that we tried a Clomid challenge, during which the dose is 100mg, and I felt so much better. I haven’t heard or read about anyone else having that experience; if anything, the symptoms seem to get worse as the dose increases. So I guess I’m abnormal! Anyway, after that I continued at 100mg and had no more dryness (although still constipation and emotional changes, which I was prepared for). Even after the dose change, I found myself thrown off by the surprising things my body was doing, which changed from cycle to cycle. I had no idea what to expect in the first place, and still haven’t quite pinned it down, other than… expect the unexpected! 

Here’s what life has looked like for me during Clomid cycles:

Days 1-4: This is your very brief time to grieve the start of a new cycle if you need to. Then you have to decide if you want to take Clomid, call the doctor’s office, get meds ordered, tests scheduled, etc. My cycles have mostly been unmonitored (I am working with an OB, not a specialist). During my Clomid challenge cycle I had a lab and a sonogram to check for cysts on day 3, an HSG on day 7 (that one doesn’t have to be on a specific day but within a range of days), labs on day 10, a follicle scan on day 12, and a lab on day 21. That was a busy month! Once I know what Day 1 is, I take a good look at my calendar to see what I absolutely have to do for the next 30ish days. I also want to get an idea of when we will be “trying” and when my two-week-wait is. Once I know which weeks are which, I can plan accordingly. I also might start shopping for healthy treats, or at least make a shopping list.

Days 5-9 (or 3-7, depending on dr.’s orders): This is when you actually take the pills. I recommend watching your body very closely and keeping track of symptoms or anything that feels different. I have been using the Free Menstrual Calendar app for years to track cycle length, so I use this to track my BBT, CM, OPK, BD, meds, symptoms, test results, and appointments. I also use its companion app, Fertility Friend, for the actual BBT chart. You can use Fertility Friend for everything, but I started out with FMC and want to keep my data there for consistency’s sake. At this point I stick to my usual life schedule, but start to be mindful of my stress levels. I also try to tidy up at home so there is less clutter around, but I don’t go into a full cleaning frenzy.

I also continue to make sure I have healthy alternatives ready if I start craving any foods. My biggest cravings are sugar and dairy, which I try hard to avoid as ovulation gets closer. I wish it weren’t the case, but during the beginning of a cycle I’m usually binging on all the things I’m not supposed to eat so they will be gone during the next phase of my cycle. Why I don’t just throw that junk away, I don’t know. The reality is, it’s like Mardi Gras for me. 😉 Sugar-binging aside, I cut my coffee down to 1 cup per day (I would normally have 2 small cups), and no caffeine after 3:00pm so I can sleep at night. I make sure my husband and I are both taking our vitamins. A word on that: I initially wanted to take herbs to help with this process, but after reading up and asking a couple of experts, it seemed that herbs wouldn’t help enough to be worth it, and in the worst case scenario they might interfere with the Clomid. So I’m not messing with fertility herbs right now. I do take a prenatal multivitamin, fish oil, calcium/magnesium/zinc, B6, B12, and vitamin D. My prenatal multivitamin is pretty good, but after years of reading up on natural support for fertility I have decided I wanted a little more of some things. I did research safe dosing (and not only on “natural” sites) to make sure I’m not OD-ing on these supplements. During this phase I add fiber or magnesium as needed based on how my digestion is affected by the Clomid. I also start scheduling appointments for massage and acupuncture. Typically I’ll do 2 or 3 massages in a cycle. It’s nice to have one during each week that you’re trying, and one during the wait. For acupuncture I will do 2 visits a week, maybe 3. From what I’ve read and what my practitioners have said, you can start acupuncture as soon as bleeding from your period has stopped and continue until ovulation has been confirmed. But defer to your practitioners.

Days 10-22: This is when you try, try, and try again– the timed intercourse phase. Sounds so romantic, right? I like to keep the house tidy, laundry done, etc. so we both feel calm at home. We try to BE at home, too, so additional commitments are limited. I plan ahead for the things I might not feel like doing- especially cooking and exercising. Sometimes I do better at this than other times. When I’m doing well, I’ll look through my recipes to choose some comforting, healthy favorites that I enjoy cooking or are quick and easy. I’ll start thinking about exercise and plan to get up a little earlier so I can at least do something a few days out of the week.

This phase is when I start indulging in my healthy treats. Maybe I’ll make a dessert, or buy allergy-friendly cookies, chips, and other treats. I like to have a nice bar of chocolate around, or dairy-free ice cream. I also have special drinks ready (my favorites are kombucha or Perrier) for when I miss my occasional glass of wine that I ALWAYS want when I’m not supposed to have it. I think for me this falls under the umbrella of SUGAR cravings. Ugh. I will also add that, although I talk a big game about my “healthy treats,” sometimes I need to eat a bag of tater tots from Sonic. Just do your best!

This phase is when you’ll use your OPKs (ovulation predictor kit) if you’re using those. I use ClearBlue Digital tests, although I kind of wish I had gone for the old-fashioned test strips and learned how to use them, because they’re cheaper. When we first decided to do Clomid I didn’t have time to get the strips ordered and shipped, and my doctor recommended ClearBlue digital, so I just went to the store and got it. When you hope each cycle using OPKs will be your last for a while, it’s easy to keep spending $30-40 on the test kit each time. I’ve come to terms with the cost and enjoy the ease of use. I actually think the old-fashioned strips would have led to a whole new level of over-analysis for me, so maybe we dodged a bullet there. Follow the instructions for your specific test as far as what day to start and what time of day to use it. I’ve read online that testing midday is best, but ClearBlue says to test after your longest sleep, so that means FMU (first morning urine, lovely) and that’s what I do. When I think ovulation is approaching I will test twice a day. In addition to the tests, I keep track of CM (yep, cervical mucus) according to my Creighton Model method for another indicator of when ovulation will occur. I also track my BBT (basal body temperature), but this can only confirm ovulation after the fact, so it’s good to track all of these signs simultaneously.

This “trying” phase will vary based on when you ovulate, doctor’s instructions, whether you get a trigger shot to induce ovulation, etc. etc. My doctor’s instructions say days 10-22, but based on my own cycle it looks a little different, maybe 12-24.

Still, you don’t want to miss ovulation day, so it’s best to cover your bases and get as busy as you can! Which is toughhhhhhhhhhhhhh, and exhausting. Seriously. I knew this phase would be difficult for me, because of all the emotions and hormones and everything, but the pressure affected my husband, too. We were not always able to get our timing right, which was disappointing and frustrating. This is why we both started putting more and more effort into preparing ourselves, our home, and our schedules for each cycle. I recommend preparing to show extra grace and gentleness to yourselves and each other during this time. And don’t take yourselves too seriously…

Lol… yep

You will probably have your progesterone level checked near the end of this phase of the cycle. This confirms whether you ovulated or not. I’ve had results ranging from 17 up to 55. All of those times I ovulated but was not pregnant, even when I had that really high result and thought it meant for sure I was. So listen to your nurses when they say it ONLY indicates whether you ovulated, and does NOT indicate pregnancy. DO NOT Google your progesterone level! Just, no.

Days 23-end of cycle: The two-week-wait. This is the time between ovulation and when you find out if you’re pregnant or not. And it suuuuucks. Because of the Clomid, you will probably feel different than you normally would at this time in your cycle. I have had a LOT of different symptoms during this time: twinges, cramps, tender breasts, hunger & cravings, thirst, fatigue, constipation, heartburn/indigestion, low back pain, vivid dreams, and more. I’ve found this is a good time to schedule MORE meetings, coffee with friends, a game night, seeing a movie, volunteering, etc. ANYthing to get my mind off of analyzing my symptoms. I haven’t done the best with scheduling, especially since sometimes ovulation is hard to pin down and I’m not sure when the “trying” will end and the wait begins. So by the time I’m in the wait, it’s too short notice to make plans. Even in those cases, you can try to get out for an ice cream date or a walk. I did make a list of things I could do if I was starting to go crazy: laundry, read a book or magazine, take a walk, learn something new, round up items to donate… I’ll admit that I didn’t do many things on my list, but even just writing it helped. Maybe that’s because it forced me to acknowledge that it is, indeed, not good to spin my wheels over mystery symptoms.

The first few cycles I was on TTC forums WAY too much during my wait, and while it seemed like a good idea at the time, it was overload. Still, I hesitate to say “stay away from forums all the time!” because it was reading forums that taught me a lot about how different everyone’s experience is. One symptom in one person could result in pregnancy, but the same symptom may be followed by a period for someone else. So if you feel like reading forums is okay for you right now, you should just do it. But I would encourage you to limit your time there, take breaks, and be aware of your emotional state as you go. If you’re already feeling down, maybe don’t go online and accidentally read about how someone with the same symptoms as you got their period or had a miscarriage. Also, going online and reading about people with your symptoms who ended up pregnant might get your hopes up too high. In a nutshell, proceed with caution.

Clomid has been a good thing for me, even though we don’t have our BFP (Big Fat Positive) yet. I’ve learned so much about the menstrual cycle, what’s supposed to happen, how different hormones work and how they make you feel, etc. My body wasn’t having normal cycles on its own before, so it was eye-opening to see what it should be like. It was also relatively low-cost, at least for unmonitored cycles. For a monitored cycle, you might want to look into how much it will cost for all the imaging and labs for your specific insurance plan. Some of the labs and imaging can be expensive. We are still paying for mine, although it’s pretty manageable and we don’t regret having the testing done.

I hope this will be helpful to other women who are just starting to take Clomid, or are in the process of deciding whether to try it. I would say “go for it,” but be aware that it can really take you for a ride. Get ready to feel weird. Keep your expectations realistic. Be gentle with yourself and your partner. Bring questions to your doctor or nurse. Do what you need to do to stay calm. If it’s possible, save up for the little extras that will make you feel good about life and yourself. I also recommend having a network of trusted friends who you can share with throughout your cycle. I tend to keep in contact with my friends during the first 3 weeks or so of a cycle, and then it’s understood that I’ll duck under the radar until I have news for them.

Clomid works for many women, although not for all. It hasn’t gotten me pregnant yet, but it has been a great way to wade into the waters of fertility treatments. I hope I don’t have to go too much deeper, but if I do, I think I have developed a set of tools to help deal with all the stress and emotions that come along with this process. And I hope you might benefit from looking into my toolbox!

If you are a Clomid newbie, or fellow veteran, please say hello. I would love to answer any questions you might have, and encourage you and wish you the very best as you walk this path! I’m saying a prayer right now for anyone reading this whose heart is hurting, that you will feel some comfort and know you are not alone. ❤

My Fertility Journey: When You Should Relax, but You Can’t

With this week being National Infertility Awareness Week I was hoping I could write some posts on the subject and get back into blogging a little more frequently. Thankfully it’s working out so far. In my first post I brought up briefly how people tell you to “just relax,” which of course is NOT what one should say to an infertile person. BUT, the tricky thing is that relaxing is actually an important part of trying to conceive. Important, and incredibly difficult to do.

I wish it weren’t the case, but my fertility journey has been fraught with stress. Part of this is my personality, but part of it is that THIS PROCESS IS STRESSFUL. You’re so out of control, there is so much uncertainty, so many emotions… even the most happy-go-lucky person is bound to get stressed out.

For most of my medicated cycles, I was a bundle of nerves and anxiety. It came out in different ways: controlling my diet, constant Googling…. actually those are the two biggest ones. Oh, also crying.

Every visit to my acupuncturist, she would feel my pulse and tell me I was stressed, and needed to “rest.” Even if I had literally just woken up from a nice long sleep, or had had the least stressful day ever- “You’re stressed,” she would say, matter-of-factly. 😦  And it always sounded like chiding, which annoyed me and initiated big-time internal eyerolls. I knew she was right, that my body was probably stressed even though I felt fine, but I felt like I was already doing everything in my power to reduce stress. For goodness’ sake, I only work like 10 hours a week (doing only things I love), I scale back my commitments strategically based on my cycle, I stretch and do gentle exercise, get massages, pray every day, connect with friends and my church community, try to get quality sleep, eat well, etc. etc. etc. “WHAT MORE COULD I POSSIBLY DO???” I thought. And I even thought it in all caps.

And that was the problem.

I brought up the subject of stress with my chiropractor, asking her what I might be missing, and experienced a true case of right place/right time. In that moment she really helped me put it all together. Stress undoubtedly has effects on the body, which we all know, and while there are physical things we can do to help ourselves curb these effects, another problem is thought patterns. I had heard this before, but for whatever reason (I believe it was the Spirit working in my mind), it clicked that day. She explained that when you get worked up in your mind about “what if this?!?” or “what if that?!?” your brain takes action to protect you. It’s fight or flight. Think of yourself as a zebra, going, “what if I’m about to be chased by a lion?!?” Your zebra brain starts preparing you to RUN, right? Well, my dear doc explained to me that my brain works similar to the zebra’s. If I’m in a constant mental panic about what could happen or what something means, my brain gets ready to RUN, and when I remain in that state it is hazardous to my health.

Before that day, truly relaxing seemed so conceptual, and so impossible. I know I had heard all of the information before, but at that time I understood it on a more personal level and was ready to make some changes. For me that meant no more obsessive/compulsive Googling, no more poring over forums, no more freaking out over symptoms. Just do what I can do, and be done. At a certain point, all will be done that can be, and inventing more to do is not helpful, as much as it may feel like it would be.

So, what did I do instead? Well, I deal in “replacement behaviors” in my professional behavior analytic life, and have seen the benefits, which means I also apply the principle to my personal life. I don’t remove without replacing– try to stop a behavior without putting a new one in its place, and you’re setting yourself up for failure. So I repeated to myself the reasoning that got me to clarity in the first place (a panicked brain leads to a panicked body). I worked to recognize when I was spinning my wheels mentally and reminded myself that what I was doing might actually be harmful to me– and this was not in a self-guilt way, but just a gentle reminder of, “Hey, you’re doing it, time to change course.” I would take a deep breath and think a more hopeful thought.

I replaced ttc forums with Christian infertility blogs, which was much better for my soul. In forums, it’s desperate wonderings and questions of people you know nothing about. Most of them have likely had their babies by now and moved on, but you only see the one day when they were freaking out about something. There usually aren’t any solid answers because those forums are essentially rooms of people wondering the same things. You also get a lot of misinformation and superstition. But with blogs, you can get to know someone’s story. There is more context and background, more honesty, more of a complete picture. And of course there’s the faith element, which brings the Holy Spirit into the process to give more encouragement and peace.

When something came up that I just couldn’t stop thinking about, I would look it up but made a point of looking for articles from reputable sources like a fertility clinic, doctor, experts in natural family planning (great for help with bbt questions), etc. instead of forums full of people just like me– if I don’t have an answer, they probably don’t, either!

I decided to avoid browsing for natural remedies or aids for fertility, too, so no Googling “Clomid + [insert herb here]” or reading articles about the supposed benefits of different natural things. This meant scrolling past posts on Pinterest or Facebook from natural health sites I already follow. Quick aside: I’m not saying that these natural remedies don’t work– I believe that sometimes, for some people, they can– but I have committed to try meds for now, so I’m going to stick to the food and supplement choices I have already made and call it good. A medicated cycle is not the time to start researching all kinds of other things to add to the equation that could either do nothing OR possibly interfere with the medication. This leads to wheel-spinning and what-if thinking.

I listened to less news and more music. I created a specific playlist filled with calming or uplifting songs and made a point to listen to it a few times a day. I put it on my phone, too, so I could listen in the car. I like listening to the radio, especially in the car, but personally I’m sometimes bothered by the jarring sounds of commercials (sometimes without realizing it). So, no commercials yelling about cars or satellite tv or stupid morning shows. Just the calming, familiar sounds of some of my favorite musical friends.

I also wrote some “affirmations” on my prayer sheet that I look at every day, and asked God to help me remember that I am safe, I am doing my best, I am not accepted based solely on what I do, I am guided by the Spirit, I am being equipped for whatever comes my way, etc.

I made these changes at the end of one cycle/beginning of another, and I noticed the positive change right away. I went into the next 30+ days with a more balanced perspective. It felt like I didn’t get my hopes up as much, although I was still sad when that cycle ended. When I got to the parts of my cycle or felt symptoms that would initially power up the Google machine, I was ready to tell myself “no” and make a better choice (hmmm, also exactly what I tell preschoolers when I’m at work…). I spent some time reading heartfelt stories of others who have been through or are still going through infertility and who share their hope through the ups and downs. My eyes were open and ready to identify and avoid my stressors. I’m so thankful to God for the mental clarity and self-control to make the changes, and thankful for practitioners who prompted me to think more deeply about how or why I needed to make changes.

So, if you’re ready, hear this: you can relax. You don’t need to shame or punish yourself into it. Search your heart prayerfully for what you need, and look at how you can make small changes to address those needs. This journey is undeniably stressful, and you will continue to encounter stress even if you do alllll the relaxing things and think alllll the relaxing thoughts, but you don’t have to live in constant panic or worry.

For the Christian, peace is not something we have to strive and strive for, or conjure up on our own. God is a God of peace, Jesus promised peace, and the Spirit brings peace to the heart. I’ve had many times where I just didn’t feel the peace, but I’ve found that in those times I can cry out to God for it. He is helping me understand what his peace looks like and how to live in it, although I’m certainly not perfect at this. Sometimes I believe the lie that grabbing my anxieties back from God and getting my hands dirty in them will help. As you may know… it does not. But I keep seeking, I keep crying out, I keep sharing with trusted people so they can speak peace into my life. I would encourage you to do the same!

Here are some verses that have helped me:

1 Peter 5:7–  “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7– “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Galatians 5:22– “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Isaiah 26:3-4– “You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16– “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

What are some verses that have helped you when peace feels out of reach? How do you relax when it seems impossible?

Thank You

Thank you, friends, for reading my last post about my experience with infertility. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I shared. I mostly just knew that, after a long time of feeling like I hadn’t heard much from God, he was gently leading me to speak up, and I had to obey. I want to praise my faithful God for never giving up on me, and for helping me use the gifts he has given me!

I hoped I would feel some relief; words had been welling up in my heart for a long time. I hoped I would feel a little sense of accomplishment by actually sitting down, letting the words come out, and arranging them for an audience. I hoped I might help someone else feel less alone, or like they felt better equipped to help someone close to them.

And I do a feel a little relieved, a little accomplished, and a little like maybe I have made a difference. So thank you for encouraging me with your clicks, likes, comments, prayers, and the heartfelt “me too” stories some of you shared with me. I am buoyed.

This is the biggest response I’ve ever had to a blog post, and I’m not sure what to do with it. I am working on some more content for next week when National Infertility Awareness Week begins, although my posting content kind of depends on how I’m doing with life at that time, so we’ll see.

But I wanted to be sure to follow up now, while I can. I do feel like I have opened the floodgates and acknowledged the elephant in the room, which paves the way for me to share about life’s more trivial delights without feeling like I’m hiding something.

So here are my breakfast potatoes. I may be dealing with fertility challenges, but I ate a small heap of potatoes on this chill Saturday morning, like a normal person (normal people eat potatoes in heaps, right?), and I don’t feel like it’s a lie to share about it. That’s worth celebrating.

And there’s even more. I bought a house plant that I hope I don’t kill. I’ve tried some awesome allergy-friendly recipes. And I have some bones to pick with Bible verses I see posted all over Pinterest. I hope I can tell you about all of those things (or things like them) now that I’ve addressed the elephant. But for now, THANK YOU for “listening up,” and happy Saturday!