Paper Thin

  
A piece of printer paper is between 0.05 and 0.10 millimeters thick. 

We fill out forms. We print them. We sign them. We scan them. We upload them onto an online program. We send them to the agency.

This paper pregnancy feels so thin. I thought we would hear back from the adoption agency within the week, but it turns out they have an entire month to review our paperwork and decide to either accept or reject us. 

I thought I would be excited, but all I feel is afraid. 

Fear is like a tiny paper cut: so small yet it alerts the whole body of its existence.

I’m afraid they will find a flaw in us.  I’m afraid we don’t make enough money. I’m afraid we didn’t answer the questions wisely enough. I’m afraid of our responses to medical and money and race decisions. 

Deeper still, I’m afraid I’ve run out of the energy and patience and even the desire to be a mama. 

There have been so many times in the past that I’ve waited for something that ends with devastating results. My heart is having a very hard time believing that this will be any different. 

In some ways, this process may be the most difficult wait of all. There are so many things that can’t be measured, like the time it takes it wait. 

We’ve already stacked paper upon paper and filled up a whole folder and we’ve only just completed the preliminary application.

I’ve been thinking about it though and if our story were written on paper, whether hand written or typed double-spaced, it would be miles thick.

This story that God has been writing for us, for our child(ren), and for the bigger picture is one that only He sees and it is for such a time as this. 

It is time for me to remember the stories. Stories of faith, of protection, of provision. Stories of miracles, of healing, of redemption. Stories of the deepest of pain turning into new mornings filled with joy. 

God has a good plan for me and my family. Yes, my story has been filled with trials and sorrow that I never could have imagined, but through this I have also been blessed with more then I could ever have asked or imagined. 

When you buy a pack of printer paper, it is so thick that not even the strongest person on earth could rip through it. 

When my life book is bound together, nothing can rip through it either. Not even my own fear. I see now that my strength will rise as I wait upon the Lord. 

It only took the writing of this blog post to add to the stack for me to see it for myself and find peace in the midst of my fears. 

“Your Time Will Come”

“Your time will come.”

I heard my mom say these wise words a few times growing up. For me, it was when I was in junior high and really wanted to do the cool things my brother got to do in high school, like youth group events or getting a driver’s license. 

I know my little sister heard those words more then I did. She even tried to convince me to wear makeup and get my ears pierced so that she would be closer to her time to be able to do those things too. 

I have wanted it to be “my time” to announce that we are going to have a baby for many, many years. 

I dreamed up many ways to tell our parents that we are making them grandparents.  It hasn’t gone exactly as planned. 

We have worked through the concept of adoption with Peter’s parents for years and my parents are grandparents six times over with three on the way. 

See what I did there? I actually forgot to include us in that number. It’s four on the way. The difference is that we don’t have a due date and for some reason that feels so very different. 

I had so many big ideas of how to announce a pregnancy which mainly involved driving 17-19 hours across the country and arriving at our family’s doorsteps.  Or a special Christmas gift.  Or just blurting it out. Whatever. 

The big plan was mainly to not say, “We have an announcement to make”, mainly because when people do that I always feel the need to shout at them, “You’re pregnant!” before they can say it because they basically just gave themselves away. 

Anyways, our adoption announcing has been drawn out for months and months really. We thought it would be over a year ago to be perfectly honest. We got beautiful announcement pictures taken which I absolutely cannot wait to share, by the way. 

We started to talk to our families about the concept. We told my siblings when everyone was together for Christmas last year and were humbled by their tears of joy for us. 

But. It just didn’t feel right. It felt a little to desperate. A little to rushed. (What?! After all these years? I know, right?!) A little too not-the-right-time. 

This was very difficult for me. I had had so much lose and grief. I didn’t want to lose this too. However, it was the life of a child we were talking about and if it wasn’t the right time then we just had to wait some more. 

A number of things have happened in the last few months that have led us to believe this is the time. (A really good story to save for later.)

It is so hard to know anything for sure and nothing is certain.  We do not have a due date, but our paper pregnancy has most certainly begun. 

We didn’t know when to announce our adoption. When the agency accepts us? When we pass the home study? When we finish the paperwork? When the payments are made? When we find our birth mom? When she chooses us? When we have an actual due date? When it is legally finalized? 

The 11:11 thing is a fun family tradition so when I realized it was the date and that we had been married 11 years and essentially waited 11 years, I knew it had to be today: at the beginning of our journey and yet somewhere in the middle without knowing the end date. 

We can’t do this alone. We want our friends, family, and faith community to join us on our journey. 

Here’s to an impromptu announcement because after all the hundreds of announcements I’ve seen and heard over the years, I really wanted my time to have (finally) come.

Thanks mom. You were right. 

What I Remember

  

I wrote this exactly 365 days ago which means it is the 3rd year anniversary of this memory.  I am amazed by the grieving and healing process I have been on since then. I guess it is time to share. 

Two years ago, in September of 2013, I walked into Any Lab Test Now.  Yes, it’s really a place.  After spending the past two months in another country receiving fertility treatments, it was time to find out if I was pregnant or not.  I came back to a country that no longer made sense, without health insurance.  And my body was so full of hormones that had been shot into my rear end that a pee stick would be inaccurate.  This was the only way.

Even thought the facility was new and clean, I still felt uncomfortable there.  People came in here to find out who their baby daddy was or if they were HIV positive.  It was the place to go if you had something to hide.

I filled out the paperwork, and they took my blood.  I don’t remember if it hurt.  I had been stuck dozens of times in the past eight weeks.  I think that they said they would have results in an hour.  I dropped Peter off at school for his classes and we decided that we would go back together when he was done for the day.

Instead, I started to dream for the very last time.  I went to the store and picked out a congratulations daddy card for him, but I didn’t buy it yet just to be sure.  What if I found out my results by myself and surprised him?  I had dreamed of how I would tell him that I was pregnant for so may years.

I went back alone to find out the terrible truth.  The lab tech was smiling when she told me my test was negative.  That was good news, right?  I held it together as she happily gave me the paperwork with all the numbers on it.  I’m guessing that most women who choose to be tested there do not want to be pregnant.  I wanted it more than life itself.

I went numb as I sat in the car, pouring over the numbers for any ounce of hope that my dearly loved twins were still alive.  But the truth hit me hard when I realized what I had already known-my womb had become their grave.  I don’t remember if I cried or not.

I don’t remember anything after that.  I shut down so deeply inside of myself that it would take over a year for anyone to be able to reach me.

I don’t remember picking up Peter.  I don’t remember telling him.  We were still renting space in our dear friends’ basement, and all that I remember is staying on their couch in horrific physical pain for days as my body shed what was left of my babies, what was left of me.

Nothing had ever hurt this badly.  The pain felt so thick, it was hard to breathe.  And for the next few months, it felt like it would never end.

I remember moving into the 113 year old cottage without central heat.  The pellet stove would clink three times, grind away, and a warm fire would fill the tiny rooms.  We were too cheap to run it at night so I remember dragging myself out of our heated bed each morning into 45 degree air, touching the frozen tile floor with my toes, wishing the sun were awake too and wondering if I could make it through another day.

I remember going back to my nanny job, and holding their new baby who I was afraid I could never love.  I remember holding her as she screamed for an hour each time I tried to feed her a bottle.  I would rhythmically caress her cheek and squirt milk into her mouth until she would finally latch on and be soothed.

I remember never being more than 20 feet from my husband in this small house, yet not knowing how to reach out and touch him or share my grief with him.

I remember sitting on the adorable front porch, trying to write the book I felt I was called to write, but somehow never getting past the details and into my heart.  A friend told me that I had come back pregnant with my book and another that I was going to birth a book, but it just wasn’t time.

I remember sleeping next to my Bible, but never reading it.  I don’t remember praying.

I remember closing the blinds and avoiding our landlord and his family who lived in our backyard.

And I remember not knowing how to live, but mostly wanting to die.  I only told Peter that I wanted to die because I didn’t want to be misunderstood.  It had nothing to do with harming myself, and everything to do with longing for heaven.  Heaven was where my babies were and it made more sense than earth.

That’s it.  That’s all that I remember, until one day five months later, I got sick.  Still without health insurance, I tried to let my body fight whatever was happening.  I developed hives and swelling that moved to every area of my body.  I felt too sick to even fathom going to the ER.  Whenever I felt good enough to go, I thought that I was getting better.  This spread for a week, until I couldn’t walk because the bottom of my feet were so swollen.  I stopped eating and overdosed on Benadryl.  Finally, I sat on the cold tile in the bathroom, without the strength to move and thought, “I’m going to die here and nobody is going to know.”

That changed me.  Death was not what I expected it to be, if I had any expectations at all.  I realized that I wanted to live.  I knew that someday there would be new reasons to live, that God had a plan for me that was good whether I believed it or not.

Our friends came every other week as we led a study on marriage.  We fit snuggly into our tiny living room and admitted that we were struggling.  One couple was pregnant with a baby due just after ours would have been.  I watched her belly grow and it hurt less as time went on.  Her baby is a bittersweet reminder of where ours would have been.

I don’t remember large chunks of time or holidays or my birthday from that year.  Much is gone with my grief, except for what I’ve shared.

I go to nanny now and an adorable two year old happily greets me from her crib each morning.  She cries when I leave and gives “kisses”, open-mouthed, long and slobbery.  I love her dearly.

Our couple friends are still some of the most important people in our lives.

After “the year in the cottage”, we moved back into our house that we had rented out for three years.  It felt like a mansion.  The closets could have been bedrooms.  When I found our bedroom closet to have a heating vent in it, I felt like the richest girl in the world.

The night we moved  back in, I fell asleep in the same bed, in the same room, in the same house I had lived in for years, and when I woke up that first morning with the sun shining through those same windows, I wondered if the last two years had happened at all.

Today, in 2016 after moving once again, I am visiting with wonderful friends who have seen me through it all, got to reunite with a now three year old that I still love dearly and I am beginning to live the good life that I had to convince myself existed in my future. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

 
Today is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. 

I was made more aware of how many have lost babies earlier this month when I was asked to share “whatever God puts on your heart” before our Thursday night Bible study began.  Of course, with those vague instructions, I knew I would pour my heart out. 

I came across this verse: “He knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

It reminded me of a lesson my mom teaches her Awana girls. It is so simple, yet something I will never forget. 

She talked about knitting and how she knit something when she was a girl. 

“Do you want to see it?” She asks the girls. 

“Yes!” They reply. Then she pulls out a teeny, tiny Barbie scarf. 

Everyone oohhs and aahhs. 

Then she tells how she made it and how every single piece of the yarn went through her hands. 

It’s the same with God. When he knit us together in our mother’s wombs, every cell of us went right through His hands. 

When I retold this simple lesson, I asked if anyone in the room knitted. I was surprised when the room filled with silent, no, head shakes until one woman timidly half-raised her hand and said that she did. 

After sharing this knitting story, the sweetness of this visual filled the room and I wanted more than anything to smile and sit down. But that was not all that God had laid on my heart. 

And I had not reached my full potential of vulnerability like I tend to whenever I speak in front of an audience. 

I took a breath and continued to share.  

That verse is hard for me. I sat down with it one day and honestly talked to God about how confusing it is to me. 

“Oh God, when you knit me together, was it then that I was created broken? Did you make a mistake on me? Surely, You don’t make mistakes so that isn’t it. So when you got to my womb, did you think about the future? Did You say, ‘Oh, child, I’m so sorry, but this is going to hurt?’  Did you created my womb to be nothing but a tomb? Was I broken from the start or did the endometriosis form later, after I was in this broken world? Or was I created just exactly the way You intended? And if so, why oh why? And what do I do with that kind of an explanation?”

I don’t have any answers, except that I have to trust Him. He knit together every cell and they were exactly how He wanted them to be. 

I oftentimes don’t have good conclusions when I speak, mostly because I’m still in the midst of whatever it is I’m talking about. 

But when I had finished, the leader said that she too had lost a baby. And when she said that there were probably others there who had lost as well, memories filled faces and heads nodded all around the room. 

Because they are saying now that 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage or infant loss.  And based on the statistics that night, that is more of us than know how to knit. 

Holding My Breath

 

I remember the day that I bent down to pull on my shoe and I kept on breathing. I’m guessing that is a normal thing, but for me when I exhaled all the way and inhaled a new breath, I realized that wasn’t the way it normally worked for me.

I was shocked to discover that I held my breath when I put my shoes on because I didn’t have enough oxygen in my lungs to keep on breathing when I was bent over.

What made that day different was the visit to the doctor that morning when a breathing test showed that my lungs were only working at 75% capacity.

I had received a nebulizer test that made me feel so good, it showed me how not so good I had been doing.

I walked across the parking lot to my car and didn’t get winded. I picked up a 30 pound child and carried her up two flights of steps without taking a break to catch my breath. I read her a story without having to pause mid-sentence to inhale new air. And I bent down to tie my shoes and continued to breathe normally.

I had no idea how bad things had gotten because over time I had slowly acclimated to my undiagnosed asthma.

It’s not the only thing I’ve let go undiagnosed in my life.  I have gone to the bad place of emotional lockdown.  I can trace it back at least eleven years.  I’ve always been a deep thinker, usually holding my thoughts to myself, but this is different.

When I was in a bad relationship, I didn’t say anything to protect my manipulator.  I shut out my own needs.

I got married to a wonderful man, but it was hard and I struggled to be a “good wife”.  I shut us in.

When Hubbins got sick, I thought I had to be the strong one-so I was.  I shut out the help of others and survived.

When my infertility treatments started, it felt too personal to share.  I shut down my heart.

After years, when the pain was daily and just wouldn’t go away, I wondered what was wrong with me.  But I stayed strong because I was making it.  I blocked out my pain.

Then came the day when I drove away from my friends who didn’t really know me, and there in the car, I panicked.  I gasped for breath, but none came.  I managed to scream out, “I can’t function.  I can’t breathe.”

I had slowly become so shut down that I couldn’t function.  I couldn’t breathe.

So when the worst happened, when the seemingly last hope of my dreams of having a baby ended on a bed of grief, I did what I always do.  I shut down.  Completely.  Fully.  The pain eventually became cold, like the winter tile floor of our heater-free cottage. (another story for another day)

Then I was led to an amazing counselor.  She encouraged me to start doodling. I felt silly, but one early morning, I started drawing.  And in that very first picture, padlocks began to show up.  I learned three things about myself.  I locked up my heart.  I locked out people.  And I locked out God.  This become the foundation of my testimony which I was able to share this past winter.

Healing begins in our stories.  See, I can’t hold my breath anymore.  And it feels like too much sometimes when I bare my soul at Honeycomb Hope, but my counselor assured me that this is what it’s like to be a person.

“Oh, that’s what it feels like to be a person.”  I’m new at this whole “person” thing.  Thanks for listening.  And feel free to share your stories with me. I’d love to hear them.

A Father’s Day to Remember

  
It has been a month now since Dad called to tell me he’s dying.

The cancer is having its way. He gets to decide how to balance maintaining the illness versus his quality of life. He doesn’t get to choose his healing.

What struck me most about our conversation is the peace in dad’s voice.  My head told me that I should cry, but my heart was filled with the peace that he had.  He told me that he wasn’t afraid to die and that as he continues to travel, he is able to witness to everyone he meets.

I remember as a teenager asking dad to tell me his testimony.  It was filled with witnessing to all those around him and bringing many to believe in Jesus.  His new life started and is now ending in the word of his testimony.  What a beautiful thing.  He truly lives though he is dying.

Something I have feared and grieved is the fact that my dad may never know our children.  I have always known that he would make a great grandpa, and he has certainly proved that by the relationship he has with his grandchildren.

Today is Father’s Day.  A year ago would have been the due date of our twins.  Although the concept is still difficult to understand, I believe that dad will get to be the first to meet them.  They will have an amazing grandpa in heaven.

So here’s to my dad, an amazing father, husband, and grandpa who has shown me what truly matters, in life and in death.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Survival Hats

It looked like junk mail, but we opened it anyway.  It turned out to be a VIP pass to a Sky Sox game which is Colorado’s minor league team.  It was from Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers-an invitation specifically for cancer survivors.  We attended the game last week.

There was a special line to stand in to get our tickets.  Everyone else in those lines had had cancer too.  Nobody had chosen to be in that group of people.  Each survivor received a red hat.

I was surprised by my emotions.  I fought to hold back the tears that threatened to fill my eyes.  The memories of our own experience and the suffering behind the red hats was overwhelming to me. Aside from bald or fuzzy heads, you normally can’t tell a cancer survivor by just looking at them.

We got our food and sat at a VIP table with other survivors to watch the game.  What do you say? “So, you had cancer?”

Peter started the conversation well, “I guess we’re all survivors.”

“Yes,” said the woman sitting next to us, “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August.”

It had to be breast cancer. I knew better than to try to relate as I know all too well the seriousness of the disease.  Instead, I listened.  She told of her suffering, her family history, that the doctor said it was gone.

Peter briefly shared his story, ending with the good news that he is now five years cancer-free and considered cured.

The woman at the table next to ours listened in.  Some people are curious because of how young we look, yet as Peter observed, “Cancer doesn’t discriminate.”