Five days into 2019 and I find myself accompanied by a familiar friend, grief.
Let me backup to October. This past autumn, as we sat chatting with some of our oldest and dearest friends late into the evening, something happened. A dream I hadn’t allowed myself to dream came forward. There were many logical reasons why I had tried to convince myself I didn’t truly want this dream, yet there it was, staring me in the face, speaking it’s truth to me. I hadn’t allowed myself to dream this particular dream because of one thing, fear. When the truth of that hit me, it stopped me in my tracks. That was not how I wanted to live my life, based on fear.
So on that dark, lovely, cool autumn night, I spoke the dream out loud. Loud enough for myself, my husband, and our friends to hear. I wanted to try for a third baby. There, I had said it, it was real.
For the next month we began dreaming, started appointments, and contact with our fertility clinic in Idaho. The ball was slowly rolling. At that time we allowed ourselves to dream of what our little family could look like with a new member and we took these sweet pics in hope that they may be used in a special way.
I am a dreamer at heart. I am usually optimistic and full of hope so it’s not really strange that I would want to begin preparing for the possibility of a new arrival this way. As November approached we were working with my body and what it was doing. We were making plans to have a natural frozen embryo transfer (FET) which meant my body had to cooperate with the clinics availability. On the 8th of November, the boys and I got in our little Subaru and we made the eight hour drive to Idaho to stay at my Mom’s while we waited for the timeline of November to unfold.
As my period had started and the dates rolled by we realized that even though my body was doing what it was supposed to, it wasn’t in a workable timeline due to the Thanksgiving holiday at the clinic. Once the November window closed, we decided it was best for the boys and I to stay put in Idaho and hope that the December window would work. Once again my body did what it needed to do but this time the window worked.
At this point I need to add that the clinic was not super excited about a natural FET cycle. They preferred having the most control of all the variables but we had decided that a natural cycle was the way we wanted to proceed. I had done enough injections and been through enough hormone craziness over the years that if my body could do it naturally we felt that would be better. They also didn’t see bodies cooperate that often so when my body did, you could actually sense their surprise.
Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for December. After blood draws, ultrasounds, and ovulating, things were looking positive. My body was moving forward in the ways it needed too, the dates were working for the clinic, and best of all Bryan would be in Idaho by that time for his Christmas break from work. Everything seemed to be coming together for what we thought would most likely be the beginning of our family growing.
On the 14th of December I got the go ahead to give myself the Trigger Shot to help prepare my body for an embryo transfer the following week. I did the shot in the bathroom of a Cracker Barrel with Christmas carols blaring in the background and one of my sons running around the bathroom as I stood behind the stall door on the other side, needle in hand. By the 21st of December Bryan had arrived and it was time for the transfer. We left Kidran and Cohen in my mom’s care while we drove to Boise. On our way there, we received a call from our doctor. The first embryo they thawed was not looking good, only a 20% chance of a pregnancy. We opted to thaw the next embryo. As we continued the drive we chatted about that reality not being something we had considered. Strange to think in a matter of minutes you go from having potentially eleven little lives to ten, just like that.
We arrived, had my bloods drawn again and then I took my valium. As we sat there and the valium took effect, I began rambling about embryos and wondering what percentage of an embryo I was and what Bryan was? It’s crazy to think that each of us starts as an embryo with potentially slim chances of survival and yet here we are.
About twenty minutes after arriving the doctor and embryologist came in. They brought in our embryo, our 45% chance embryo, our potential little girl or little boy. Then we watched them insert the embryo into my uterus, marked by two tiny air bubbles.
There it was, our little embryo. Wrapped up in hopes and dreams, unseen by the naked eye, but seen clearly by the soul. My heart skipped a beat. My dream was taking shape, our dream was happening. The dream that I had been afraid to speak of. Yet speaking this dream out had powerfully led us to this place, taking baby steps each day to make the dream turn into our reality.
Flashback to the transfer we had in 2014 that turned into our two beautiful sons. I wore the same necklace that is now tattooed on my wrist. A gift from a friend and a reminder of God’s promise that we would have a family someday. A promise kept. Yet did the promise extend to one more child? We would have to wait to find out.
Thank goodness the days following the transfer went by rather fast. With Christmas, Boxing Day, time up at my brothers cabin, and New Year’s Eve all between the transfer and the blood draw to test for a pregnancy, we occupied our days and made some very sweet memories. Still if you have ever walked this road yourself, you know how even though you are living your life day to day, the fact that you are waiting for your future is always in the back of your mind. Each day you are measuring what your body is doing. Do I feel crampy? Are my boobs sore? Do I feel more tired than normal? The questions go on and on. The waiting is always the hardest part once you have actually had the transfer.
2019 arrived, we had a lovely evening celebrating with my brother and sister-in-law. It was quiet and I was filled with hopeful anticipation. We drove back to Nampa on the 1st and unpacked. That night I struggled to sleep. I couldn’t relax into rest. I was too anxious for the awaited outcome the next morning. Morning came, my mom and I got ready and headed to Boise for the blood draw. Bryan kindly agreed to stay home and watch the boys so my mom and I could have a day together.
The blood draw was quick and over by 9 a.m. We then spent the day eating and shopping. It was a lovely, sweet day. Around 2:30 p.m, as I was standing in the Macy’s maternity section picking out maternity jeans that my mom was going to buy me as a gift, I got the call. My blood draw had shown that I was pregnant, but my levels were low. This meant that they thought I was having a chemical pregnancy which after I looked it up basically meant an early miscarriage. My vision went a little blurry and I felt hot. I knelt down next to the rack of clothes I was standing by and asked my mom to stop asking any questions, I needed a minute to focus. Everything went into tunnel vision. I was technically pregnant but it wasn’t looking promising.
I told the clinic I would call them back after I spoke to Bryan. As I called him, my hands shook with the news. His silent pause on the other end was enough to undo me. Neither of us had been prepared for this result. We were expecting a yes or no. Not a yes, but wait. We decided to keep our plans to return home the same and that I would get my bloods done on the 7th if my period still hadn’t started.
We celebrated my mom’s birthday the next evening at a fun sushi restaurant with some of the family on the 3rd. Then on the 4th we packed up our car with all the thoughtful and fun gifts we had received for Christmas along with skis and supplies. We hugged my mom tight one last time, said our goodbyes and drove away. The drive home was uneventful and we made it in good time. We arrived home at 7:30 p.m, the boys thrilled to be home and play with their toys. We unpacked our bags and settled some of our belongings back into their familiar homes.
Then at 9:45 p.m, I went to the bathroom and there it was, the marker that told me my body had finally given up the pregnancy. My period had started. In almost an act of denial I still inserted my progesterone suppository in a feeble attempt to reverse what my body was already moving towards…a miscarriage.
I came out and told Bryan. Then I came unglued. Uncontrollable sobs escaped my mouth, and the tears streamed down my cheeks as I wept on his shoulder. Our journey of infertility marked once again by grief and heartbreak. My husband has consoled me so many times in our married life and I am beyond thankful for his presence, calmness, vulnerability in these moments. This was our dream together, now over.
Bryan, being the incredible husband and father he is, took our two miracle sons skiing with him today so that I could have a whole day to be alone and process the past few months. I am so grateful for a spouse who knows me, understands my needs, and graciously loves me in the ways I need when I need them. He is one of my biggest treasures in life. As I drank my coffee slowly, staring out our window at the mountains, the sobs continued.
A whole new kind of grief washed over me. in all our years of infertility we had never experienced a miscarriage until now. It feels so different. We had given that baby a name, for a boy and for a girl depending on the gender. We had made space in our hearts. We had seen our boys as big brothers. We had seen one more grandchild in the arms of their Grandma and Amma. We had seen sleepless nights with a newborn. We had allowed the dream to take root. I also had felt pregnant. I was experiencing many symptoms similar to those of what I felt like when we got pregnant with the boys. I had been so sure that everything lining up so perfectly most likely meant that this dream would become our new reality. Yet it hasn’t. We have miscarried. My period has started and my stomach is cramping while my body is exhausted.
My heart feels crushed. This feels like a very abrupt ending of a chapter in a book. I will never have a pregnant bump again. I will never feel the flutter of movement in my belly again. I will never nurse another newborn. I will never hold the little hands of my toddler as they take their first steps. So many things that will never happen again. And just like that grief floods into my core, and I am rocked. In the last fifteen years of my life I feel like grief has become something I am familiar with. So many moments now that are filled with flowing tears and a breaking heart.
This is real. This is me in grief.
Nothing pretty about it. Tears, anguish, it’s all right there. Yet I won’t hide it. I can’t. I will continue sharing it because I have to find some purpose in it or else it feels like a waste.
I will never regret trying for our third baby. I will never regret dreaming, and giving our baby names. Yet I am not sure my heart will ever totally heal either. That’s what happens with infertility, it leaves a mark that changes you forever.
Tonight I will go to bed heavy with emotion. Knowing that tomorrow is a new day. My husbands warm body will lie next to me and provide a shoulder to cry on again. My beautiful boys will wake me up. The morning will come as it always does and I will once again make coffee. I will drink it like nothing has changed yet so much has. This is what grief, that old familiar friend does. It punctuates the absurdity of normal life while all the time you feel you are being pummeled by the pain and emotion of your new reality.
Then I will stop long enough to once again survey my life. Full with love and family. A husband I love and two unique sons to mother and nurture and my heart will swell. Grief will not have the last word, for life is still worth living.
For anyone else who has walked this path or is walking this path, my heart goes out to you. I hope you have time to heal and people to love and support you through it. May peace eventually come.
Here is a poem I wrote about this painful experience. Writing helps me process and again, if I can help even one more person through sharing then there can be some kind of purpose found in the pain.
With a single drop of blood,
the dream shatters,
into a million little pieces.
Face pale, eyes red.
In exhaustion it begins.
Nature takes it’s course,
My body cooperates
but not my soul.
I stare at the watery grave.
Clumps, red swirls, matter.
Gravity pulls you away.
With each flush, you disappear.
So crude an exit
for such a heavenly dream.
Dreams are beautiful. They can lure you forward, towards a destination or a trip. They can be fuel to your fire to pursue something that you’ve envisioned but didn’t think was possible. They can also be the closing of a full circle.
My recent book tour back to our other home, Northern Ireland, was all of these things. Since arriving home, I have been trying to recount the adventure in my journal. I am still savoring, soaking, and processing all that happened in this brief whimsical window of time.
Over the next few weeks or maybe even longer, I will try to unpack my mental and emotional suitcase and share it with you, my lovely readers. As I unpack the journey, I invite you to come along. I want to help you feel the warmth of this place I love. To sense the spirit of exploring both inward and outward that took place not only for me but for my two incredible friends who joined me.
So come, reflect with me, walk down the winding lanes with me, enter the chapels and coffee shops.
Live this precious pilgrimage with me.
For now, I am happy and thankful to be home. Happy to be reunited with my Hot Hubby Chud, Kiki Bear, and Coco Bean. They survived just fine without me by the way, that’s the beauty of a marriage partnership!
Now back to the other parts of my dreamy life, like laundry and cooking. Which I am also utterly thankful for because it means I have a husband I love and sons that I longed to care for and nurture. I am so very rich and it’s not lost on me. Maybe you need to be reminded of that today too as you stare at your mountain of clean clothes or think of tidying up the house one, more, time.
One of the boys favourite little games we play right now is fee-fi-fo-fum. They run down the hall, jump into our bed and ‘hide-hide-hide’ under the covers until I stomp down the hall pretending to be a giant shouting for them. Recently I have been invited into the game in a new role. They take turns playing the giant and want me to hide under the covers with them. Some days I don’t want to play these little games that feel like ground hog day and there’s a pile of laundry flooding out of the next room. But then there are these moments. The kind that cause me to stop breathing. The kind that make me realize how short life is. How short this time with the boys being little is. The moments that I am pretty sure are going to replay in my mind when I watch them ride a bike for the first time, drive for the first time, graduate, get married, etc.
When we are playing this sweet game and we are hiding under the covers, they come in close. Each of them. They whisper to me to be quiet, that we are hiding. I get to have their faces inches from mine. I get to study their different and distinctly blue eyes, their mouths with ruby lips, their wild blonde curls. I get to smell their hot little boy breath that doesn’t stink yet but smells warm and sweet. Sometimes they will grab my hand or snuggle in close for only a second. One. Little. Second.
These seconds are precious and so tiny I almost miss them some days. Because as the other little man stomps down the hall, the anticipation builds. The door bursts open with a squeal of delight and we are all joining in! The noise is astounding as is the untamed excitement. We all end up on the bed laughing and wrestling as that’s what most things turn into when you are a mom of little boys.
This little glimpse is teaching me a lot about my own life. I struggle to live in the present on a daily basis. I am a future kind of girl. Always thinking, dreaming and planning for the next step. That is useful and helpful at times but also can steal joy in the present, very real and beautiful moments of my day to day life. I am working on being more mindful. Breathing more deeply. Not pushing myself to run on fumes. To learn what real rest looks like for me and be okay with taking that rest when I need it. Thankfully I am married to an incredible man who sees me so clearly and knows what I need often before I do.
This ‘living in the present’ struggle also runs into many other areas of my life. But now more than ever I see the desperate need to live in the here and now. To look people in the eye and tell them I love them. To truly listen when someone shares what they are going through. To find connection in even the briefest of moments because I am really seeing the person I am with, not moving on to the next time we get together.
So what I am hoping for is a few more seconds…
Lately I have been feeling extra tired. This is from lack of self-care with one of my biggest needs…sleep. I am not one of those people who can run on six hours of sleep for weeks on end. That is a recipe for emotional and physical breakdown for me. Yet somehow it often happens. The boys sleep great through the night most of the time but they have been pushing their bedtime back farther and farther each day and consistently waking up around 6am. You do the math and it makes sense that I am probably not getting the recommended amount of sleep needed per night nor is Bryan. We know it’s a season and it will pass but it still means we are tired a lot of the time.
Recently I was at a Moms group and we were talking about Self-Care. It was a great reminder that not only does my mind, heart and spirit need tending but my body as well. Grace and kindness applied to myself in lavish doses is what is required. Is this what you need to? Do you find yourself tired, functioning in a not so ‘present’ way with your spouse and children? Can you make time for more sleep/rest in the days and weeks to come? If so, do it!!! You will not regret it!!
Yet I also want to thank lack of sleep for a sweet moment I had with both my boys this morning. Cohen ended up coming and sleeping in bed with me at 4am (which never happens as I sleep even less with little bodies next to me) and by 5:30am both Cohen and Kidran were in bed with me, wide awake. Cohen was sitting up in our bed, jabbering/talking away poking at my eyes, nose and teeth while Kidran lay on the other side of me softly stroking my arm. I know there will come a day when they are grown up that I would give anything to capture one of these moments again and hold onto it for just a little bit longer which is why I am writing about it today. I will look back and long for my little boys to be 2 1/2, in bed with me in all their cuteness, snuggling, no boundaries, no concerns, just being present with their Momma whom they show generous love to daily. Yes, I will remember this morning in the coming years.
Last Sunday night I went to St. Mark’s on Capital Hill with a friend to listen to the Monks chant. This is something that I used to do on my own as well as with Bryan during university. Since moving back I have wanted to go again and experience the peace and calmness that this environment produces. In this massive church you have bodies sitting upright in pews, other sprinkled in the exterior benches and some laying down on the floor on the blanket they brought for the occasion. It is holy and unconventional. Reverent in it’s irreverence. People from all walks of life come, in silence, contemplation and respect of each other. God is clearly sang about and praised yet I imagine not everyone who attends proclaims to be a follower of Jesus. Yet when they enter this space they, in what some may consider irreverence, join in the reverence and stand, sit and lay in awe. They pause and marvel. Both those who are convinced and those still searching. It’s a beautiful illustration of the inclusiveness of Christ. He was not offended by those who did not profess him to be the Christ nor should we be offended.
This evening as I played with the boys and gave them their bath I began to think of all the areas of irreverent reverence my life encompasses, especially when it comes to my boys. So much of motherhood is finding the sacred in the ordinary. It’s finding the reverence and worship in changing the poopy nappy or wiping a dirty little face clean of food. It’s tidying up the messes that these little people create everywhere they go with a patient attitude considering it all as acts of worship. My life is full of activities that are irreverent or could be considered so, except I don’t. I choose to worship with play, with dirt, with slides and dirty hands. I worship with a tired and exhausted body that falls into bed muttering a prayer asking for a full night of uninterrupted sleep. (yes, I still pray that prayer.)
I love the pictures I have shared in this post. The bath scene is one of my favourites. My boys, initiated by Kidran, exit the bath and run into my arms. They dry off the front of their wet bodies with my clothes and I let them. They nestle in close and I hum in their ears. These are holy moments. Yes Lord, they are. When we wrestle or get ready in the morning we are together. Sometimes they pound down the door until I open it when I am doing my hair and makeup. They just want to be where I am. That is where I am moving towards with my Father. I just want to be where He is. I am asking Him to help me see the reverence in all the irreverent areas of my life. Would you consider doing the same? I would love to hear how you approach this new way of thinking and living. How do you do it? How does it change your view of your precious life? I look forward to hearing from you!
Have you ever given someone a really tight hug? The kind where your chest is pressed against their chest? The type of hug where something special takes place that you can’t always explain? That’s the kind of hug I have shared recently with the three main men in my life.
The first took place early one morning after breakfast. The boys had been up, fed and Cohen was outside crashing around as he often does. Kidran however had wandered back into the kitchen, raised his arms to me to be lifted and then proceeded to snuggle in for the sweetest, cheek to cheek, heart to heart hug. He is getting more cuddly by the day and I love it!!! What Momma wouldn’t?
Cohen’s hug came the night we got back from a short trip to Portugal to celebrate our 14 year wedding anniversary. (This only happened because of some incredible friends who took turns rotating in shifts to mind our boys!!! Laura, Lila, Lee and Louise…THANK YOU!!!!!) I was getting ready to put the boys down for bed when Cohen crawled up onto my lap. He threw his arms around my neck and squeezed me so tight with the most precious little boy hug! Cohen loves life passionately and doesn’t do things halfway!
Today Bryan and I shared one of these hugs. I am currently working on a project that I will reveal soon here on the blog. Bryan had been reviewing the project for me and afterwards, we ended up in one of those embraces. The kind that says so much without using words. The kind that says I know this body, these arms, this heart. I know this man and his life. I know him and he knows me. We shared heartbeats.
Over the years Bryan and my heart have beat for the same things, but one of the strongest heartbeats we have shared was our desire for our family. We both knew that we wanted to have children and be parents but as time went on, we weren’t exactly sure how or when that would happen. A new friend and her husband are in the same process as we were in not all that long ago. The Wheelers are a super sweet couple who have already been through several rounds of transfer and are still waiting for their miracle. They are bravely walking this journey through YouTube and you can follow them if you are interested. If you think of them, say a prayer! I am hoping and praying for their miracle! Standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes the other day I found myself sending my thoughts and prayers their direction.
Hugging my two sons is a constant reminder that I am living my miracle. Actually two of them! Bryan and I always knew we would continue to share heartbeats, we knew we would make it regardless of the outcome of our infertility treatment. Yet our hearts sharing beats with our two sons, that is beyond what I could have imagined!!!
I wish you some shared heartbeats today!!!
(These pics are from a day trip we took to the North Coast for Bryan’s birthday. Our good friend Marieke was visiting from Holland and joined us for the day. We will never tire of the Irish coastline!!!)
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We have had our 20 week scan and are delighted to announce that we will be having two boys!!! They were very proud and showed off quite a bit for us. My good friend Lynne Archer came with me to the appointment since Bryan was in Austria. It was lovely to be able to share in that moment with Lynne as she is one of the many friends who has carried our burden with us over the years so thank you Lynne! The scan was so much fun! The woman performing it was great and explained everything as she went and she was very happy with everything she saw. The boys are growing well and developing at the right rate so praise God for two beautiful, healthy boys!! The first picture above is two of our scan photos. As you can see they look quite different already which is wonderful and as soon as I saw their profiles I just fell in love!!! I cannot wait to kiss their lips and faces and just cuddle them! Bryan was so excited too and I know it was difficult for him to not be here for such a memorable moment but we have made the best out of this time and are feeling thankful for God’s continued provision and for this blessing we are experiencing.
The next two pics give you an idea of how much I am growing! I feel huge at times and have put on probably around 25lbs. I am taking it all in stride though as I am amazed at what the human body can do. The fact that I can grow and sustain the lives of these two little ones never ceases to amaze me! Thankfully I am now experiencing more pregnancy symptoms than anything else. There are still times where I can feel the scar tissue trying to stretch as the babies are growing but overall it’s not too bad. One of my favourite pregnancy symptoms is the movement of the babies! I love feeling each kick and punch. Feels like assurance that all is okay and that they are healthy, just very special.
This week is a pretty big one for us as Bryan arrives home Wednesday evening!!!! The boys and I are so excited to have their Daddy back and start working on the nursery and getting everything ready for the babies arrival. (The last pic shows a bit of what we have collected for them so far, much of it is thanks to my amazing family who threw us a baby shower before we left the states!) Bryan completed his course and passed with flying colours and I am so proud of all that he accomplished while he was away!! He truly amazes me with his ability to learn and absorb so much information in such a short time as well as his heart for people. I know he is going to be an incredible father as he already is a great husband! I also start back to work this week so I am looking forward to seeing everyone again and having a bit of routine back in my life.
Overall my heart feels full. We are in such a precious season of life and are surrounded by incredible people who have blessed us in more ways then we can count (ie. Sunday lunches at the McCammon’s, Cheryl Roberts coming and hoovering for me to keep the house nice and tidy-to name a few). Our church has truly been the church to us through this whole time. The generosity of so many has made me want to be more generous. I think knowing that we will be bringing two little lives into this world to shape and mould has made me look at our lives and ponder them. I want our boys to know how to be kind, how to be giving, how to be fun and spontaneous, adventurous and how to be intentional. More than anything though I want them to know Jesus. That has become very clear to me since becoming pregnant. Jesus is the central figure in Bryan and my life and that is the greatest legacy we can leave to our children. Not religion, not rules and regulation but a genuine and real relationship with the Creator of the universe.
My prayer is this: Abba, our children are yours. We give them back to you and thank you for entrusting them to us. Thank you!!!!!!