We are grateful our family is complete. We will never forget our experience and continue to pray for those suffering against the uncertainty and pain of infertility. However a new stage in life has led to a new blog. I would be honored if you would follow me there as I share my year long effort at bringing greater glory to God.
After coming out as a Trump supporter I experienced days of extreme anxiety. In part due to a small number of personal attacks, difficult conversations with close friends, and the more frequent connection to social media it caused.
Plus the resentment machine in my head was hard at work imagining all the thoughts people had that they did NOT share on social media. I assumed every moderate or progressive friend I had ever had now hated me.
But after prayer and reflection I realized it was more than that.
I was in sin.
In today’s culture of acceptance many people consider the mere idea of sin oppressive. But for me I recognize that God wants me free from sin because it almost always causes me harm. Discipleship and the journey toward removing sin in my life have given me peace and freedom.
When the anxiety stretched into a second week I realized something was wrong.
When I am close to Christ and following His will I just don’t experience persistent anxiety. I might have a sleepless night or two, but not the kind of life altering stress I experienced in the days that followed the post.
But what was my sin? That I voted for Trump despite knowing his past and his character?
No (although I know many of you disagree).
My sin was that as a disciple of Christ I stepped out of the messy middle.
I made being a conservative my identity over being a daughter of Christ.
I made social media my mission field and invested countless hours into it instead of studying my bible and engaging with my husband, children and friends.
I began to approach the world with a new selective bias and look for ways to support my position versus seeking His truth.
And at times when I was attacked I got angry. Like really angry.
I was tempted to go back into hiding with my political beliefs and let others with much less to lose do the fighting for me. But that is not what God is calling me to do. God is calling me into the messy middle. That’s where He wants me and that is where I live for about 3 and a half years until an election comes along that forces me to pick a side.
In my last post I shared some of the reasons I more often identify as a conservative. To oversimplify it, I believe our God endowed us with certain unalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
God could have breathed life into us without giving us an opportunity to choose Him or to choose sin. But in His omnipotence, He recognized that kind of “happy zombie” existence would be no kind of life at all. I believe the free will He gave us serves as a model for how our government should be structured as well.
Often I think the Republican party gets this part right which is why I tend to vote that way (but not always!). Unfortunately though when a party gets it wrong it usually gets it very wrong.
I will share just one example of many that will likely upset a shrinking number of my more conservative friends.
Marriage. If I am to put my free will money where my mouth is, then I believe you can legally marry whoever you want because to do otherwise would mean imposing my particular flavor of religious belief and practice on you. I also like to think that Jesus would have wise counsel that might be very different than culture of the day but He would still allow the practice. My particular belief surrounding God’s design for marriage is wholly irrelevant to the conversation. I am free to enjoy my marriage in the way I understand it and it is not made less sacred by someone else’s practice of it.
I could also talk about climate change, racial equality, globalization and many other areas where my beliefs are smack dab in that messy middle. And believe me in future posts I will! However my point here today is that I don’t want to blindly tow any political party line without questioning, learning, and praying for God’s will for me, my family, community and our country.
As Christians it is very difficult at times to discern our role in the political landscape because the battlefield is one that the devil delights in using to divide us and it is covered with land mines. However, I do feel we belong in the fray.
At times we may be called to be lions.
At times we may be called to be lambs.
But at ALL times we should put His Kingdom over everything, even what we feel is right for our country.
I am a sinner but thankfully I serve a God from whom grace flows freely. You have my commitment to work to be more like Him in all things while also using my voice and challenging ideas. I am very concerned about the direction of our country and the lack of thoughtful and grace-filled discourse on both sides. In stepping out of my echo chamber and sharing these ideas I will probably make even more people in this binary world unhappy.
I am praying for God’s strength in helping me be ok with that because intellectually and spiritually His is the approval I ultimately seek.
Thank you to those willing to extend that grace to me as well as I continue to learn and grow in faith.
*inspired by Andy Stanley’s “This Human Race”
After 22 months and five days it comes to an end. We are ready. You are easily distracted and often forget me. I am content and I am tired. It is time.
But I will miss…
Watching you hold hands and play with one another while you eat
Feeling your sweet smelling breath on my cheeks as you sleep on my chest completely satisfied by my nourishing milk
Starting my day snuggling with you while you play, then nurse, then play, then nurse
Ending my day with you gazing sleepily up at me as you fill your bellies and prepare to drift off for the night
But I will not miss…
Packing my pump bag the night before a business trip, knowing we are soon to part
Forgetting things like power cords and storage bags and paying to have them shipped overnight to my hotel
Pumping in the middle of the night to keep my supply up while everyone in the house, including the two of you, peacefully sleep the night away
But I will miss…
My beautiful toddlers pointing at my chest and jointly exclaiming “Bo bo! Bo bo!? in a way that is both a declaration of unparalled excitement and a desperate request
Soothing you by holding you close and letting you suckle your pain, fear and unhappiness away
Traveling light when we traveled together because we never had to pack a bottle or formula to leave the house
But I will not miss…
Having to watch the clock and be on schedule to nurse or pump every day with no vacations or even a break
Lugging my pump through TSA never knowing if I am going to need an extra 20 minutes so they can painfully take apart my pump bag and scan every single bag of milk
Pumping in public places and restrooms because there is either no nursing Mother’s room or its being used by another working mama
Desperately deploying various home remedies to cure various maladies like sore nipples, mastitis, and clogged ducts
But I will miss…
Knowing that what you get from me is the best that you can possibly get
Connecting with you in a way that is only possible in that moment
Looking down at you when the world is quiet and dreamily soaking it in knowing that though I am tired I am a mother and there is nothing I would rather do than what I am doing right now
Being the only one and only thing in the world you need
The last time we nursed I suspected it would be our last. It was the morning after Thanksgiving. I had to remind you it was time. The two of you appeased me but wanted to move quickly on to reading books and playing with toys. It was memorable but not as special as the night before. The night before you were both so tired from the day’s events that for the first time in a long time you nursed like you did when you were newborns. Fully intent on me and the work at hand with Wesleigh on my left side and Max on my right. You reached for each other like old times and held hands but your eyes remained locked with mine until it was done. It was almost as if you knew. But how could you have? I didn’t.
However after watching you that next morning as you played and barely knew I was there it struck me that it was time.
You have done so well with the change and don’t seem to miss it. We will make new connections in new ways. Soon you will forget altogether as you continue to grow and become more independent.
These memories are like many others that will fade for you until they are gone. For me these memories will last a lifetime and beyond.
Our shower was way back in October but this is the first opportunity I have found to upload photos. This is ironic, because at this very moment I am typing with one twin on my chest and one next to me in the crib. More detail to come on that in a later post!
My sisters and Mom put the small event together very early in my pregnancy (21 weeks!) because I had a complicated pregnancy with my daughter Evie and I was sure it would be the same with twins. After all it was a high risk pregnancy and I am almost 40. From day one I mentally prepared for preemies and an uphill battle.
But once again, God had his arms around us and we were able to make it to 38 weeks. I am still amazed that I was able to deliver perfect twin babies with no NICU time necessary.
This is simply more proof that these babies were “Heaven Sent” which was the theme of the shower. My sister Cassie, better known as “Momma Cas the Pinterest Queen,” designed nearly everything and corralled the help of sister Kelly and Mom Bonnie to pull it all together into an event that I think represents her best work yet. As you can see they put love and care into every beautiful detail.
Thanks ladies. It was perfect!
The story behind the Brice and Brianna cross is not solely about me and my faith journey, but it is the result of it. Hopefully this testimony will meet you where you are in your own faith journey and will inspire you. I pray hearing the story and how these two young people helped me come back to Christ will increase the faith you have in Him.
I felt drawn to God at a young age, and was encouraged to attend Severn’s Valley Baptist Church by my Uncle David’s girlfriend Melody. After several years of attending off and on, I fell in love with Christ and accepted Him as my Savior when I was thirteen years old. Upon learning of my decision, my family began attending church more regularly as well. I felt very blessed and a little inappropriately prideful that my faith decision had brought our family back into the church.
I waited until my 16th birthday to celebrate my new love and passion publicly through baptism. I will never forget how I felt that day. I remember thinking that the connection I had with Christ was so strong that it could never be severed and the feeling of joy was so profound that it could be nothing less than divine. I am so thankful this foundation was established in those early teenage years, because I needed it desperately very soon, though I did not know how much I would lean on it at the time.
In my late teens I began to stray from my faith and gave into temptation as headstrong teenagers often do. I sought the approval of the cool kids and experimented with all the things cool kids do. Slowly the peace and joy I found started to wane as my behavior and choices caused me to move farther and farther away from God.
Still I prayed every day and knew in my heart there was more to life. Deep down I believed He was there with me. I still wanted a relationship with Him but didn’t do anything to cultivate one. My relationship with God was further challenged when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer right before I graduated from high school.
Always a Daddy’s girl, I struggled mightily when we lost him a short 8 months later. At the time, I leaned on my Dad for direction on all major life decisions, and he was more than happy to give me all the guidance I desired, and then some! We still laugh about Dad’s long lectures. But all joking aside, I really needed him to help guide me in my life. Looking back now I recognized that he was my true north. When I lost him I was lost as well.
Of course this loss came at a crucial time in my life. I was away at college and my faith was being challenged in fresh new ways every day. Everywhere I turned some professor was trying to tell me why my faith did not make sense, and why God was not real. Regardless of the subject; science, literature, or philosophy, it seemed all this alleged “logic” was threatening my belief. Being an analytical type, it was hard for my heart to win the battle against my brain. In addition, I was meeting interesting and intelligent non-believers for the first time and explored other faiths as well. I was confused and I was also angry at God for taking my father too soon. The divide between me and my Savior grew even more vast.
I remember being at Dad’s funeral and seeing all the flowers and gifts. One very common inclusion in these gifts and cards was the poem Footprints in the Sand. I distinctly recall scoffing at the poem and not feeling like God was with me at all.I felt like He had left me completely and I no longer felt His spirit in me in the way I had only a few short years earlier.
At this time in my life I didn’t understand how Satan was at work in all of this. I didn’t understand that the moment I gave my life to Christ he was coming after me full force in a battle for my soul. He was the source of all that temptation and the desire to be like the cool kids. Satan was the one who gave me distractions that took me away from nurturing the love I had in Christ and allowed the distance to develop. And he definitely had his evil influence in the people and things I learned and was exposed to in college. No doubt he delighted in my anger at the death of my father and used it to drive a wedge between me and God.
Still, as angry as I was I never felt comfortable self-identifying as anything other than a Christian. And I still prayed almost every single night even if the prayers where empty, repetitive, self-centered, and ritualistic. Even though I came very close to letting Him go, I was unable to completely sever the relationship.
I fell into depression my sophomore year in college and eventually dropped out, despite having made the Dean’s list my freshman year. I then met a very handsome but also extremely troubled man who I married in Vegas after only knowing him four months. I was adrift, and I think I would have married just about anyone to have a sense of family again. I rushed into the relationship because I wanted my life to have meaning. I wanted to have a home. I needed purpose. I thought marriage was the solution. Unfortunately, very shortly after we were married I learned he had a serious drug problem and he began using again. Along with the drug use came physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. I stayed in the marriage for a little over a year.
After that experience I decided that I would never depend on anyone again. The good people in my life, like my Dad, weren’t guaranteed to be with me when I needed them most. Other people in my life, like my ex-husband, didn’t have the capacity to give me the care and support I so longed to have. I became hell bent on returning to college and making something of myself so I would never need anyone’s help, charity, or love again.
I never truly leaned on Christ or invested in my relationship with Him in any way during this time. But still, I prayed and even attended church from time to time. I tried, but I was still too hurt and angry and besides that I wasn’t giving up control to anyone ever again. I was done. I was convinced that I was the only person I could really depend on and that I came into the world the way I would leave it, alone.
I worked hard and I achieved what I set out to do. I established a successful career, earned a few degrees, and married a great guy that I knew I could trust. Once I married Bill we began attending church again, and at times I would feel that connection to Christ begin to grow but I wasn’t doing the work I needed to do to really nurture a close relationship with Him. So not surprisingly, I found no real peace there. I was just going through the motions.
Then our long and ongoing battle with infertility began which gave me another reason to be angry with God. Satan again used anger to work on my heart, to attack my marriage and to try to destroy my faith. I had taken control of my financial and physical life. I was earning a good living, receiving a lot of recognition at work, and was in the best physical shape of my life. But my heart was empty and angry, seeking something more, something that I thought I would find in the child that I long desired but couldn’t have.
Satan didn’t make any of my bad decisions for me, but he certainly took advantage of every opportunity I gave him and set the stage for a number of choices that separated me from God throughout my life. But the way he worked on me the most was allowing me to believe I was in control. He helped me believe that it is was me who owned my destiny.
Still, no matter what I did I couldn’t control infertility. Believe me, I tried. I read all the books. I ate all kinds of organic and gluten free diets, took supplements, gained weight, lost weight, meditated, tried different fertility clinics, different treatment protocols, and spent disgusting amounts of money. No matter how much money I spent or what I did, this was something I couldn’t control. I was angry and further separated from God. I continued to try to be close to Him. I tried to have faith. I continued to pray but without heart and without giving Him control.
After multiple IVF treatments, God blessed us with our daughter “Evie”. You would think that would be enough for me to come back to the faith, but it wasn’t too long after she was born that we started trying for number two and faced even greater challenges that we still battle today. The anger continued despite the tremendous love I felt for my daughter. In fact I know now that the love I felt for my daughter also got in the way of my relationship with God.
After having Evie, I felt like I had finally found what I was looking for, that I once again knew this great love I had been seeking for so long. The only problem was that my love was also fraught with fear. After all, my daughter was no more invincible than my Dad and I could lose her at anytime. This was in part what drove my strong desire for a second child. I wanted to double down on this amazing love I found and ensure that I would always have it.
It was in the midst of this battle for our second child that God finally got my attention, and it was indirectly through my Uncle David once again. Sadly, however, this time it wasn’t his girlfriend trying to get me to go to church. This time it was my Uncle David and Aunt Tonya personally experiencing the one thing I feared the most that brought me back to the faith. It was their loss of their children, Brice (20) and Brianna (17), that finally woke me up.
God finally reached me at my cousin Brianna’s funeral. She was hit by a killed by a drunk driver in June of 2014. When I attended her funeral I was amazed at her parent’s and brother’s strength. I was moved that the funeral was more of a worship service than the sad event I expected. I was struck by the pastor’s message and by the sheer number of people in attendance honoring her life. But most of all, it was looking at her in the photos that had been strung together in a powerpoint presentation that touched me so deeply that day. She was so full of life. So full of love. In her softball photos she was a fierce and unfettered competitor. In her prom photos she was a beautiful and innocent princess. In photos holding her family or riding piggyback on her brother’s back she was a sweet and loving child. I knew in an instant that this amazing young woman could not possibly just cease to exist. And I knew based on her faith in Christ exactly where she was.
When the pastor called for anyone who wanted to accept Christ or rededicate his life to Him I was tempted to go up front, but truthfully, I didn’t need to do that. I had already accepted Christ and I now could see that He was with me all along. I quietly and privately rededicated my life to Him. It was one small thing I could do to make sure that this amazing young woman did not die in vein, to make sure there was some purpose in this. But of course that couldn’t be all of it, it was more personal than that. I felt like my old great love was calling me home. I knew in this moment that it was time to finally give up control and to let his unmeasurable love wash over me and give me the strength, peace, support, and love I had been searching for all along.
When Brianna’s brother Brice was in a fluke ATV accident a week later and passed shortly after that, you would think that might shake my newly reinvigorated faith. And as hard as it was to believe that this event was even possible, that his young life could be cut short so soon after the loss of his sister, I didn’t waiver.
Brice too was an amazing soul, such an inherently good young person who loved his sister so much and was going to be his parent’s saving grace after they lost Brianna. Of all the things that have caused me to be angry at God in my life this should have been at the top of my list. Two young people, barely out of childhood, my aunt and uncle’s only two children, swept away from us far too soon and so violently through no fault of their own. I should have been spitting nails and one of those nails should have been the last one driven into the coffin of my faith.
But that is not what happened. Satan had his time and had gone too far. This time was God’s time. God was fighting for me, he was reaching for me all this time through the pain, anger, “logic”, and fear. Just like the Footprints poem I had scorned at my Dad’s funeral, He was there all along but it was only when I was on my knees, when all control had finally been relinquished, that I was ready to feel his loving arms around me and respond the way I should have years before.
There is so much more to this story, and like it is for a lot of people it wasn’t one moment or one thing, my redemption and rededication happened over several weeks and is still in progress today. There were some pretty profound moments along the way though, and one of them was when we released floating lanterns in honor of Brice and Brianna at midnight between their back to back July birthdays. When those lanterns lined up in the shape of a perfect cross and floated toward the only two visible stars in the sky, it was as if God was telling us that He had them. Not just Brice and Brianna, but my Dad and all the others that passed before and since that believed in Him.
When I saw that cross I vowed that I would never lose faith again. I knew immediately that I would spend the rest of my earthly life getting to know Christ better and nurturing this renewed relationship. Christ had won and there was nothing that Satan could do to pull me away from Him again. That next day, the day of Brianna’s birthday and the day after Brice’s, their mother Tonya got a tattoo of a cross on her arm that was comprised of their names just like this cross I share with you now.
It was then that the idea of this cross was born. As a newly rejuvenated follower of Christ I longed to have a symbol of his sacrifice to wear and tell the world that I believed. Unfortunately I had lost my first cross necklace long ago. This cross was an image that I had in my mind and wanted to see come to fruition the moment I saw that tattoo on Tonya’s arm. It is made of solid silver and crafted by a talented Northern Michigan artist who patiently worked with me to make it everything I imagined from the beginning. While it was being created I would often reach to the part of my neck where it now dangles and close my eyes, imagining it there. It turned out just the way I hoped, even better, and I want to share it with you.
There have been times when I have wondered if making this cross was the right thing to do. I certainly do not want to put Brice and Brianna up on the cross in the place of Christ. Nor do I pretend that they were so pure and good that they should be worshiped like the one perfect person who died upon that cross for our sins. That is not what this is about. This cross is recognition that Brice and Brianna were instrumental in leading me back to Him. It acknowledges that their deaths, like His, were not in vein. And finally, it represents their belief in Christ and the assurance that they are with Him for eternity. It is for this reason that this cross is the most valued piece of jewelry I own, almost like my wedding ring in my remarriage to Christ.
Finally, I have included the words to two meaningful pieces of art to close this testimony. The first is the lyrics to The Old Rugged Cross, a hymn that was loved by my earthly father and was played at his funeral. While I miss him greatly and think of him daily, I rejoice in knowing he has eternal life with Christ. I am also overwhelmed by the fact that in the last several months I have gained a new father I can rely on and trust for guidance again. I am so full of peace and gratefulness every day for Him and His grace.
The other piece of art, of course, is the poem Footprints in the Sand. If you are hurting and like me have a hard time believing He is with you, I can promise you that the poem is nothing to scoff at. He is there with you and if you welcome and rest in Him this will become more and more apparent to you as you open your heart and mind to all he has to offer in His relationship with you. He longs to be with you, but even if you don’t let Him in, he will keep working at you and He won’t give up. Listen closely, you will hear Him calling for you.
God bless you in your faith journey, wherever you are.
***If you know anyone who would like a Brice and Brianna cross or would like to learn more about how Christ can change your life, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.***
***Learn more about Brice and Brianna by visiting their memorial Facebook page: Forever in Our Hearts: a Tribute to Brice and Brianna Taylor***
The Old Rugged Cross
by George Bennard
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Refrain: So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross,
stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
Footprints in the Sand
by Mary Stevenson
One night I had a dream.
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it:
”Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I need you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied: ”My precious child, I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
A great coach will always call a time out if they have one prior to the last big play of a game.
That’s where we are, the last play of the game and we are ready to inbound the ball and throw it to our best shooter for our hail Mary pass. But before we do we are taking a little time for our family and focusing on our priorities, priorities that have been out of whack over the last few years while dealing with infertility.
If you have experienced infertility treatment, you know its easy to let your biological calendar run your life. When you add in the fact that my job requires travel and extensive planning, making time for family can feel impossible.
Since the day Spork was born, we have yet to make time to go on a real family vacation. All our travel has been for treatment, work, reunions or funerals.
My daughter has more frequent flier miles than most adults, but sadly not a single one of those trips has been for us to spend time away from work and home to really connect as a family. If you have followed our journey, you know that we make the most of our fertility trips. We have seen Broadway shows, toured museums, and visited numerous zoos between monitoring appointments. We have shopped till we dropped in New York City. Bill and I even thrashed some gnarly pow pow out in Vail and Breckinridge when we were seeing the famous doctor at that Denver clinic.
But its not the same as taking a trip that is just for us.
That’s what we are finally doing in two weeks. Sure its only four days, but it will be four days at none other than Disney World!!! This will be the very first time either my husband or daughter has been to the Magic Kingdom. I know it will be amazing and well worth putting treatment on hold.
Added bonus? I won’t have to inject anything. I won’t have to be up at 5 AM to drive to a clinic for daily ultrasound and blood work. We will not be worrying about whether surgery will fall on the day that we selected to buy tickets.
In short, we can’t wait. All three of us are excited beyond belief.
And it gets even better.
When we return from Disney, Bill and I will be going to a couples retreat for a long weekend as well. Originally I shot this idea down because I wanted to be able to dive right back into treatment after returning from Disney, but Bill and I agreed that it was time to put God at the center of our lives and put infertility on the back burner. The Lord is doing such amazing work in our marriage and we feel this time will be well invested, especially since we hope to be dealing with raising a child while pregnant soon.
When we return from the retreat we will start our very last fresh IVF cycle. I know I haven’t reported the results on the second cycle yet. I simply haven’t had the time. It went well at first, but of 10 of the embryos we created only one lived long enough to be genetically tested. Miraculously though it was chromosomaly NORMAL!!! Praise God!!! So we now have two normal male embryos.
When we decided to try embryo banking we signed up for three cycles. When we start again at the end of this month we know that whatever happens this will be the last one. This will be the last time I take the hormone injections and the last surgery. Its hard to believe it will be the eighth full cycle. Its almost impossible to imagine what life without treatment will be like.
I am almost ready to hang it up, though. In the beginning I was fighting so hard to have another baby, and fighting to control something that was beyond control. Now I have peace that these last steps are what God wants for our family. I don’t know if there will be another baby at the end of it, but I feel a sense of serentiy and purpose in it all.
I will spend more time writing about faith and fertility soon and will likely change the focus and design of the blog to be more centered on the intersection of those two things. As you can imagine, there are many conflicting emotions among infertile Christians about how to tackle infertility as people of faith, and many churches have opinions as well. It should make for some lively discussion which I will pray will help others as they navigate difficult questions about God’s will for our lives, medical intervention, and even deep concepts regarding life at conception. These are all areas that have challenged us in the last few months as we returned to our faith and began to question our treatment decisions.
But that is for another time. Right now its time for the Winslow’s to huddle up with our arms around each other before we break and wait to see what comes of our breathtaking last shot.
Until then, prayers for God’s will to be done in us are appreciated. We will be praying for all of our brothers and sisters in infertility as well.
We are back. Back in treatment. Back in Michigan after our first trip to the clinic. Back to the blog.
Well, not really back to the blog. Not in a meaningful way, anyway. With the new job, a preschooler, treatment, and my reinvigorated faith I don’t have the time to devote to the blog that I once did. In the downtime I have these days I am attending church or bible study, reading daily devotions, or just generally fueling this great renewed love. It has given me tremendous peace during this cycle, so I haven’t needed the blog as an outlet.
However I do want to document and share the process with others. So here it goes.
I went to New Jersey for the first of three embryo banking cycles on October 25th. As usual, I was on a high dose of stimulation medication, but this time we also added daily low dose HCG. The cycle started out pretty rocky with follicle sizes all over the map. I had one large follicle take a strong lead which meant that it was unlikely for many of the very small follicles to catch up and develop into mature eggs. After much debate, we decided to let the large follicle grow larger than normal, knowing that it meant that egg would likely disintegrate. In a fresh cycle, a doctor may not do this because it runs the risk of creating a situation where the lining is out of synch with the timing of embryo development. This worked well for us though because we were freezing and not transferring the embryos.
Normally I take stimulation meds for 11 days prior to being ready for retrieval. This time I responded much faster. So much faster that we had to pay a king’s ransom to change Bill and Evelyn’s flight to have them come join me in time for the procedure. Their arrival was a nail biter with one cancelled flight and a delay. I finally picked them up at La Guardia at nearly midnight instead of Newark as planned. But they made it. A mere 7 hours prior to a procedure that would have been a bust without Bill there to do his part.
The procedure was a raging success and nothing short of a miracle. The day prior to the retrieval the doctor was predicting 6 to 8 mature eggs total given the timing difference in follicle development. It was disheartening news given that in the last several treatments I had many, many more. Still, I prayed that God help us realize our desire to have a child in any way He saw fit, Whether it be from one egg or 20, I just prayed that our miracle was on the way.
After retrieval I was still loopy when the nurse showed me the number of eggs we retrieved circled on a piece of paper. Fourteen! It was far more than expected, but didn’t mean much until we knew how many were mature. We received the call the next day and learned that 12 eggs were mature and 9 fertilized successfully. I was overwhelmed with joy and knew immediately God had His healing hands on this process. These results meant that we obtained a mature egg from every follicle I had, except for two and one of those was likely that very large lead follicle we let go. This was amazing since just the day prior many of these follicles were 3 millimeters or more smaller than the targeted 14mm prior to retrieval and likely to contain immature eggs.
I feel the Lord’s hand in this cycle in such a profound way and I know whatever happens, it is exactly as it should be. We have turned this over completely to God. Still, we are not afraid to ask for help. We are not afraid to ask for healing. We are not afraid to ask for our heart’s desire to be delivered to us. And above all we are not afraid to ask for prayers. We believe in the power of prayer and hope that anyone who prays and is reading this adds us and our embryos to their prayer list.
In fact, my belief in the power of prayer grew even stronger after I allowed three amazing strangers pray with me last Sunday at Gateway Church in New Jersey. It was a very special church and I feel God led me there to be prayed on that day when I and my body needed it most. If you ever have a chance to visit, I encourage you to check it out. It’s the kind of church where the members feel like family, children dance in the isles, and the music is so good you feel like you are at a concert.
We will learn how many make it to the blastocyst stage to be biopsied and tested on Tuesday. I remember this waiting period well and was beside myself with worry the last time. This time is different. This time I know that whatever the result is, its not in our control and I believe that God will lead us to our next child.
Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I just haven’t had the words.
That phrase explains so much in my life right now, and its definitely an perfect explanation of why I haven’t been blogging for many, many weeks.
At first, I disappeared simply to take a little time away from all things related to infertility. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened. I was considering a new job and wanted to lay low during the interview process, plus I was thoroughly enjoying summer and pretending that I wasn’t infertile.
I fully intended to return to the blog as soon as our first of three embryo banking cycles began in July. But that plan and the excitement of those cycles seem like a distant memory after all that has happened over the last several weeks.
It started with a phone call from my sister on June 23rd at 2:30 in the morning. There are very few phone calls at that hour that bring good news. I could tell from the tone of Kelly’s voice that this was going to be bad.
Then she told me to “brace myself.”
Dear God, I thought. No! What is it? Who is it? Images of everyone I loved passed through my mind in the few seconds it took for Kelly to tell me what had happened. Was it my Mom? My brother, sister, or— God help us—one of my three precious nieces?
It wasn’t them. But it was bad. Real bad.
“Brianna’s dead, Alisa. She is dead. She was in a car accident and she is dead.”
Brianna is my 17 year old cousin, one of two children of my late father’s youngest brother.
She was driving home with a friend from a fishing trip at 10:30 that Sunday night. A man (allegedly) operating under the influence with 6 previous DUIs ran a stop sign and crashed into her causing internal bleeding that could not be stopped, leaving her friend in a coma and facing months and possibly years of rehabilitation.
In an instant my cousin was gone and her friend’s life and the life of everyone she knew was forever changed.
Two days later we loaded up the car and went to Kentucky to spend time with the family and attend the services.
It was hands down the most moving, difficult, and spiritual service I have attended. My Aunt Tonya, Uncle David, and Cousin Brice were inspiring. They were so strong as they stood for hours greeting people, hugging them, and offering comfort at a visitation that went nearly three hours longer than scheduled due to long lines for a girl who had clearly made an impression on so many.
Such an impression, in fact, that four people accepted the pastor’s invitation to come forward during the service to learn more about accepting Christ. That’s not something you see every day and helps paint a picture of Brianna. It says volumes about the kind of life she lived.
Her memorial service also greatly affected me on a very personal and spiritual level. I privately decided to rededicate my life to Christ. I know others in the family did the same but none of us felt a funeral for one of our own was the time or place to go up front to declare this decision to the world.
We spent the next few days in Kentucky, sad to be together for such a terrible reason, but finding comfort and peace in being with our extensive family there. Our last night in town we sat outside late into the night talking to Brice, Tonya, David and the whole Taylor clan. We told funny old stories and lit Chinese lanterns in Bri’s memory. It was somber, but I left Kentucky feeling like even though the family would never be the same, we were going to be ok.
We travelled to Kentucky in a caravan of Michiganders with 4 children under the age of five. It was a 10 hour drive which easily became 12 with bathroom breaks and food stops. The kids had been troopers all week so we decided to take them to Holiday World in Indiana on the way home. We learned from what happened with Bri that we should embrace time with family while we have it. We aren’t promised tomorrow. The kids had a great time and we arrived home Sunday afternoon physically and emotionally exhausted.
I went to bed that night thinking that while we had many years of pain and healing ahead, the worst was behind us.
I was wrong.
Early the next morning I awoke to another phone call from my sister Kelly. Again the unusual hour and shaking in her voice told me that I was about to hear bad news. When she told me what happened, I thought she was joking. But this kind of prank would be far too cruel for anyone to play.
Late that Sunday night, almost exactly one week from the moment of Bri’s accident, her brother Brice was in an ATV accident. He was driving home from a small memorial service at a friend’s when a deer ran through the parking lot of the church where services for Brianna were held just a few days before.
His parents were right behind him on a side by side and saw Brice hit the deer. He wasn’t driving fast or irresponsibly, nor was he wearing a helmet. Brice sustained serious head injuries but it took doctors several days to understand the extent of the damage. We were told the first 72 hours were critical.
The waiting was excruciating. We were still in a stupor from the loss of Brianna and emotionally and physically depleted from our two day trip home. We didn’t know if we should head back to Kentucky immediately in case it was our only opportunity to say goodbye, or to wait to hear the prognosis knowing that these types of accidents can require years of recovery time.
We chose to wait.
I will never forget being on our sun porch on July 3rd when we received that call, breaking down and hyperventilating when my brother told me that Brice wasn’t going to make it. I don’t think my two year old daughter will forget it either. She was so worried about her Mommy and why she was crying so hard in Daddy’s arms.
Brice officially passed on July 5th.
We headed back to Kentucky again for Brice’s services on July 9th. This time wasn’t as inspiring, there was too much heartache and earthly worry for that. Plus there was media. The service was held in a much larger church to hold the anticipated crowds and was televised live on the local news station. As different as it was, it was still too much like Brianna’s funeral, but instead of smiling and showing us hilarious selfie videos of Brianna, Brice was being laid to rest.
It was surreal and I was already starting to question my newly reinvigorated faith.
We stayed in Kentucky a few days after the service to be with family and to celebrate the birthdays of both Brice and Bri. Brice would have turned 21 on July 10th the day after his funeral, and Brianna would have been 18 on July 11th.
We once again released Chinese lanterns at an informal family potluck between their two birthdays. As we lit the lanterns we listened to the songs that were created for each of them and played at their funerals. We watched in awe as the lanterns flew into the night sky toward a pair of stars, the only two visible stars that night. As we listened to their music, the lanterns lined up in the distance to form a perfect cross and headed straight toward those two stars.
I knew at that moment Brice and Brianna were with both my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. My faith would never be shaken again.
We haven’t been the same since then and we won’t ever be the same as a family. My faith is strong and my heart is full of peace and love, but there is still great pain. In fact I think the whole thing was so unbelievable that we haven’t even begun to fully experience the pain. The distance from my family in Kentucky makes that hard too.
We have postponed our next IVF cycle until October. But even now I can’t imagine pouring my energy into trying to get pregnant again. I will pray on it and put it in God’s hands the same way I do everything else now. At least there is that. I now fully trust God and know that I can handle anything life throws at me.
I believe in a greater purpose and have turned over control.
Up to this point I never believed that “everything happens for a reason.” Its a topic my middle sister and I have long been at odds over and I still contend that its just not true, but for a far different reason than she might expect. This experience has taught me beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything most certainly does not happen for a reason, everything happens for a million reasons.
Brice and Bri’s accidents each would have been very different if the timing had been off by mere seconds. They might still be here if the man that hit Brianna’s had bothered to brake or the deer that ran into Brice had been spooked just a moment later. But in those moments that lives were lost, lives were changed. We won’t know all of the million reasons why while we are here on this earth, but I know just a few:
- Two siblings were called to be together in heaven, surrounded by a love greater than any they could know in this life.
- At their funerals, four souls were publicly led to the love of Christ at along with countless others silently moved to believe anew.
- Many people were given new hope and perhaps even a chance to know God when they received Brice’s organs.
- And of course, a 38 year old woman was given new peace about infertility, a new appreciation for her family, and a renewed faith in God.
I am not naive. I know that while much good has and will come from these terrible tragedies, much pain has come too. I just pray that God continues to surround those in pain here on earth with love and the assurance that someday we will be reunited with them and His purpose will be clear.
In weaker moments I feel guilty for the way my life has changed for the better. Sometimes I fear this happened for just for me. I fear that it took something so terrible to get my attention and cause me to cultivate and nurture my faith in ways I haven’t in years. But then I remember that I am not the only reason. That there are a million of them and the beauty and purpose of all this will become clear to us someday.
Until then, we will pray every night for those who are hurting.
And we pray every spare moment for my aunt and uncle. May God give them peace today, and joy again someday.
That’s all I can muster for now. There is so much more to their stories, but its hard for me to tell. This doesn’t mark a return to the blog for me, I am still not ready for that. But its a start and hopefully a step toward healing and understanding too.
Links to their memorial songs:
It has been a whirlwind week with consultations with two different doctors and all the paperwork and prep that goes along with it. We also celebrated Bill’s 39th birthday on Thursday (better him than me in the fertility game!). Add in a hectic work schedule and it should be clear why I haven’t posted an update on our plans and consultation.
Today’s post is short and sweet as well. I bought Bill cooking classes for his birthday and we are headed there momentarily. However I wanted to let my dear friends and supporters know what we were up to as it relates to next steps in our pursuit of Spork’s sibling.
Dr. Superman was everything we expected him to be. The consultation went well and we have decided to give the new clinic a try. We will be cycling in July but are banking the embryos from three cycles and genetic testing them all. This means we won’t actually transfer until early next year which is a little disappointing but we are both excited about the fact that this is our best shot at another baby. We also like that we won’t have the ups and downs that go along with transferring after each of three stimulation cycles. So instead your average every day fertility roller coaster with a number of peaks and valleys it will be more like The Top Thrill Dragster, one enormous, anxiety provoking, and exhilarating ride when we get to transfer next year.
The road will still be a tough one. We will have only one month off between each stimulation cycle assuming the cysts that have plagued me are kept at bay. I know it will be physically demanding and of course outrageously pricey.
Still, I am sure it will be worth it. God, I pray it will all be worth it.