A Letter To My Son

Bradley,

As I put the final touches on your nursery, I can’t help but think of the days when I daydreamed of what life might be like with you in it. I can’t help but reminisce about the room that was always meant to be yours.

When we first moved into this house, I instantly pegged the room to the left of the stairs as the future nursery. Whenever I would give guests a tour, I’d make a comment about how that room would “hopefully be a nursery one day.”

Your room is situated in such a way that, when I get out of bed in the mornings, it is straight in front of me as I walk toward the stairs. Some days I’d pass the stairs and lean in the doorway and imagine how different that room would look with a crib, changing table, and rocking chair. How different it would look with you.

But some days were really tough. As much as I battled myself to stay hopeful, there were mornings that I wished I didn’t have to see that room to the left of the stairs. Sometimes, while your dad was at work, I’d go in there and sit on the twin bed and cry, wondering if I’d ever get to replace it with a crib. Others, I just wanted to close my eyes and not see it at all, because my heart ached with defeat.

I fought every day to keep the smallest ray of hope as our chances of being parents seemed to become dimmer and dimmer–because your dad and I wanted you that much. Two years of infertility wasn’t going to make us give up. And I’m so glad we didn’t. Ever since we found out you’d be making us a family of three, I’ve been making plans for that room to the left of the stairs.

Then came the day we found out that I’d be outnumbered; the day we learned that we’d have a son. You proved nearly every old wives’ tale to be wrong! And guess what? That room to the left of the stairs? It was already painted blue. Not just any blue, but the most perfect shade. It was destined to be yours.

And now, here we are, about a month and a half away from your arrival. As I pause for a moment and think back on this room to the left of the stairs, my heart is full of joy. I know we still have a few weeks before we can wrap you up in these handmade blankets, read bedtime stories to you in that glider, or smother you with kisses right after your bath. But until then, I will enjoy the time I still get to carry you in the womb. When you’ve finished growing in there, we’ll be ready for you.

We love you so much, Bradley. You’ve made our life feel complete, and we can’t wait for all of our family adventures together. See you soon.

Mama

 

Even Miracles Take a Little Time

The story behind our little sprout will, without a doubt, bring tears to my eyes for the rest of my life. I share this story with a humble heart, knowing that there are so many women out there still waiting, still hurting, still wishing. I will never forget that side of the fence, nor the emotions that come with it. My prayers are with each of you.

On April 27th I had an appointment to discuss my medical history with my PCM (primary care manager, for my civilian friends). We talked at length about the nearly 2 year long battle with infertility I had been facing, and lined up numerous tests. The first tests ordered were two labs to check my hormone levels. I went in that Friday, the 1st of May for the first set of labs, and was to return again around May 11th (depending on my cycle). My PCM also encouraged me to ask Jake to request a semen analysis.

The first blood draw was completed, and Jake had his test done.

He went back to the doctor on May 6th and he found out that his count was very low. The average count is 39 million; his was at 5 million.

My heart sank.

Jake felt guilty and as if he was a disappointment to me, and my heart knows that feeling all too well–for I felt the same emotions after I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and we didn’t get pregnant like the doctors assured us we would. And somehow, this sweet man of mine stayed strong for me as I began to crumble. I reiterated that I didn’t blame him. He knew I didn’t want him to feel sorry. I just didn’t think there was a chance we would conceive naturally anymore. In fact, I had lost so much hope that I truthfully believed that IUI would be our next step. New roadblocks kept being laid down before we found a way around the first one. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t understand.

I sobbed for a while, then I’d get angry, and most of the time I just couldn’t speak, let alone crack a smile. To add salt to an open wound, Mother’s Day was right around the corner. Sunday morning I woke up angry. My period was 2 days late and I just knew it was because of the stress. Mother Nature was certainly playing a really cruel joke on me.

Jake and I had plans to meet a friend of mine that I had been in touch with for months, as her and her husband had finally arrived in Spain. We grabbed coffee on base and chatted like old friends, and for those two hours I was pleasantly distracted. But, eventually we came home and the mental and emotional preparations for church had me sick to my stomach.

Jake came upstairs after I finished getting ready and he just held me, knowing that I was a nervous wreck. He began to sway side to side, slowly dancing with me and singing a song. That’s his gentle way of breaking up the routine of every day life, making me smile when he can’t find the words, and reminding me how much he loves me in all seasons. I stashed a pack of tissues in my purse and prayed that I would make it through the service.

Our new friends met us for church and sat with us in the back pew, knowing our struggles and understanding that I might need to cut out early. Within 10 minutes of service starting, the chaplain asked for all the moms to stand up to be prayed for. I instantly tucked my chin into my chest and began to weep. Through closed, tear-drenched eyes, I tried to keep praying for these women, all of which I am sure are fantastic mothers. I just felt unworthy, and after the prayer ended, my sweet new friend hugged me and said “It was so brave of you to come.” Jake and I walked out of church, and I knew the night was only going to get more difficult.

My PCM was expecting me to drop by the lab the next morning for cycle day 3 lab work. But, I was late. I knew the next step would be to test and to save face from her asking if I had, Jake and I had already discussed picking up pregnancy tests on our way home from church. We pulled into the parking lot of the mini mart, he kissed my cheek–still covered in tears–and went in to get the tests while I waited in the car, trying to pull myself together.

We got home and I took a couple swigs of water and nonchalantly took the test, fully expecting a negative. At least I knew I’d be at home and wouldn’t have to leave again. I could go straight to bed and cry until there was nothing left. Within less than 30 seconds, I was screaming for Jake to come upstairs.

It was POSITIVE.

Not a faint positive. There was no doubt. Two solid pink lines, and my tears of sadness had become sobs of joy.

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What I thought was a Mother’s Day curse had just become the biggest blessing and most wonderful miracle. Not only was it Mother’s Day, it was also 4 years to the day since Jake had asked me to be his forever. I couldn’t have written a more perfect story. Those two years of struggling were so worth it, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Right when science tried to tell us it might be impossible without fertility treatments, God stepped in and said, “Through me, ALL things are possible.” And I give Him all the glory.

To everyone that has held us in prayer, encouraged us, and/or offered an ear throughout this journey: we love you and appreciate your support more than we could ever truly express. Baby Erwin will surely know how many incredible people stood with us in hopes of this little miracle being created.

We can’t wait to meet you, sweet little one. Thank you for making us parents. May the long weeks of morning sickness, roller coaster of hormones, and sleepless nights remind us both to be appreciative, because they mean that you exist. We prayed for you for two years and we can’t wait to teach you about the God that answered in the most marvelous way. We love you so much already.

Pain Free

About a month ago I started a new diet to help with the symptoms related to Endometriosis. Today I am so grateful to God that I can announce that for the very first time in 2 years, I am not bedridden due to a period. I am not bloated by 8-10 pounds. In fact, I only gained a pound and a half due to bloating. I am actually virtually pain-free this cycle. No narcotics, no tears of agony. Just me, fully functioning and able. I have a few very sharp twinges that take my breath away on and off. But, I am on my feet! That is a HUGE victory for me. All the praise goes to God.

I can enjoy this weekend with my husband, fully alert, and fitting into my clothes better than I have in about a year and a half because I’ve also lost 15 lbs since I started this lifestyle change. I can cuddle with him on the couch because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to. I have that choice. And for those of you that suffer from chronic pain, you know what an incredible feeling that is.

This diet hasn’t been easy, but I can officially say it is worth it. I can now start to adjust my diet and allow myself to live a little while still ensuring that I am limiting foods that I shouldn’t keep in our normal rotation of meals. I just might have a hard cider (naturally g-free) tonight to celebrate! God is so good. Next victory will be a baby; I just know it! I am healthier, I feel better medically, and am ready to face surgery number 2. I am confident that this diet will make recovery easier as well. Bring it on!

Gospel of John

I’ve embarked on my mission to read the Bible in it’s entirety. I started this 3 days ago, and I do not regret a single second I’ve spent immersed in my Bible, journaling, and praying. It’s amazing how we can read verses in the Bible during one season of our life and yet again during another and those same verses will touch us in different ways each time, based on what is on our hearts and minds. Because of this, simply reading through the Bible just one time is not enough. I am focused on consistently studying, reading, and learning from the Word.

I’ve started by reading the Gospel of John. I’ve been studying the ways in which Jesus provided signs that He is the Son of God. Yesterday, I read through the story of Lazarus. Jesus was informed that Lazarus was sick, but rather than returning to heal him, He waited. God’s plan was not for Lazarus to simply be healed. It was for Jesus to raise him from the dead, and He did just that. This story teaches us that all things are for the glory of God. His timing is perfect; His plan is divine.

Going through the ropes of all of my medical issues, in particular the struggle with infertility, I know I need to wait on Him. In the simplest form, we humans want what we want and if we focus on the plans we have for ourselves, it’s easy to begin to think that life is unfair. Nothing is impossible through God. He doesn’t fit in a box. His powers and capabilities are much too grand to confine. All the struggles we face here on Earth can be used to glorify the one who brings us to eternal life, free of pain and heartbreak. Wait on Him. Trust in Him. Faith doesn’t come in a finite quantity. The more we talk the talk and act it out, the more our faith grows. God has plans to use me, to use my struggles, for something greater than I know. I will wait patiently and trust in the one who knows everything.

Prayer Request

Without going into too much detail, I am starting the road to my second laparoscopy in the near future. I have a bit of build up before the actual surgery. Several doctors appointments to be made, hopefully a very desired referral to a specialist, and some lab work. I am thinking it will probably be at least a month or so before I have the procedure done.

This surgery will likely entail a little bit more than the last one did, per my request. Taking into consideration how awful of an experience I had with the last surgery, I am kindly requesting any prayers and well wishes you might have to offer. I am very nervous and scared based on what I dealt with at the hospital in Bahrain. But, I keep trying to encourage myself that the chances of having a worse experience than my first one are pretty slim. I’m also fearful of the results this second lap may bring. We are praying hard: for well-educated doctors, necessary referrals to specialists, a much smoother procedure, and the best possible results of the operation itself.

God knows the road I’ve been on for the last 2 years has been long. But He knows I keep pressing forward and recognizes that I have come leaps and bounds in my ability to lay my burdens with Him and trust His plan. We will continue to take things one step at a time.

Awareness Month

As we hit mid-week in the first week of March, I wanted to share some myths and some facts about Endometriosis in light of this being the month of awareness for this chronic disease. The purpose of this is to further educate those I know about Endometriosis so that one day there may be a cure, so that people learn to take it seriously, and so that people recognize that while it is labeled an “invisible illness,” the pain associated with it is very real.

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Myth Busting

1) I’ve had several people ask me if I’m feeling better now that we are in a less stressful environment. Many genuinely think that stress contributes to my pain and medical issues stemming from Endo. The answer to this is no. Chronic diseases do not discriminate, they don’t lessen just because I’m living in a beautiful part of the world and my husband is home every night.

2) Endometriosis is just a fancy word for bad cramps. This one drives me bonkers, as nothing could be farther from the truth. Please, do not compare your cramps to the excruciating pain felt by someone who suffers from Endometriosis. The two are very different. I often feel like I am dying when my period comes, and I mean that with all sincerity.

3) Hysterectomies are commonly believed to be some sort of cure. This is absolutely false. Hysterectomies do not prevent the body from producing hormones, and in many cases, Endometriosis spreads beyond the reproductive organs. There is no cure for this debilitating disease.

4) The stage of Endometriosis correlates to the chances of conceiving. Wrong. Some women are diagnosed with stage IV Endo, told they probably will not be able to conceive, and do so without problems. Others, like myself, are diagnosed with stage III (or lower) and are reassured that fertility will not be an issue. Nearly 2 years of trying have passed, and the story has now changed for me. I’ll likely need fertility treatments for my best chances of starting a family.

Factual Information

1) 1 in every 10 women have Endometriosis. In essence, nearly 5 million women in the U.S. alone have this disease.

2) Roughly 40-50% of Endometriosis patients experience infertility.

3) Marilyn Monroe suffered from this disease, and struggled with fertility problems that stemmed from it. Other female celebrities battling Endo are: Julianne Hough, Susan Sarandon, Jillian Michaels, and Whoopi Goldberg, just to name a few.

4) Every case is unique in pain level, symptoms, response to surgeries, fertility chances, etc. Some women don’t even know they have Endometriosis until they try to get pregnant.

5) Symptoms include: chronic fatigue, debilitating periods, heavy bleeding, painful intercourse, painful ovulation, severe bloating, daily pelvic pain, and infertility.

6) Medical issues linked to Endometriosis include (but are not limited to): migraines, hypothyroidism, infertility, allergies, autoimmune diseases, ovarian cancer, and depression.

7) Patients with Endometriosis also have a higher risk of miscarriage and a lower chance of conceiving via IVF. The rate of conceiving through IVF is about 25% for women with Endo.

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Many women (like myself) may not always look sick, but that doesn’t mean we are physically capable of participating in social activities as frequently as our healthy counterparts are. For further information, please visit the Endometriosis Foundation of America online at http://www.endofound.org. If you’ve stopped by, read this, and learned something from it, then I have done my job. Please pass the torch on and educate someone you know.

Three Week Update

Rota has been so welcoming for us. We absolutely adore this small beach town that we are blessed to call “home” for the next three years. The past three weeks have been full of exploring, finding our house, getting acclimated to the local culture and daily life, and just enjoying being “together” full-time (in a physical sense) for the first time ever.

Walking path through "los pinos," or "the pines."

It’s pretty common knowledge that I despised our last duty station with a passion. A girl raised on land surrounded by trees with a love of the outdoors just doesn’t fit in in Bahrain. Shopping isn’t my first pick of things to do. Hanging out at the mall to escape the humid, extreme summer temps in an effort to get out of the house isn’t my idea of a good time. I like to cool off by jumping in a river and drinking a beer. Thunderstorms and rainy days are my favorite. Needless to say, Bahrain was way out of my league, without even mentioning the dress code policy–and I’m a pretty conservative person..

Spain is full of beautiful landscapes, long stretches of well-cared for beaches, amazing architecture, a vast culture, and various weather patterns. It’s kind of paradise for me.

Rota is a laid back, friendly walking town. I could go on a walk every day and not get sick of it, and I fully intend on doing just that. This is our first experience with this small, almost village-like, feel. I’m used to having to drive everywhere, which I don’t mind one bit. But having everything so close, and yet still managing to get that small-town vibe is really neat. We found the perfect medium of convenience and quiet in our new townhouse.

It’s a 10 minute walk to the neat nightlife and downtown area. It’s a 5 minute brisk walk or 7 minute stroll to the beach. Mercadona (one of the local grocery stores), fruit stands, a churrería (churro stand), and a couple of café shops are only one street away. And yet somehow, the street our townhouse is on is so quiet and peaceful. We get the neighborhood feel and the convenience all wrapped into one!

I have to say, it feels so nice to love our new home (both the physical “home” and the town we live in). It’s amazing how much happier I am. Most importantly, home is where the heart is; home is wherever I am with my husband. And for a (very welcomed) change, he’s home on a full-time basis! I love having our time together like a normal couple. This is a first for us, but we know it will only last for 3 years so we are absolutely enjoying it to the fullest extent. Here’s to new beginnings, new blessings, new friends, and countless memories!

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