Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Beginning

Ever since Grace died, I’ve had a horrible aching in my soul, a nagging feeling, urging me to write what I’ve gone through. From the very beginning, I have not wanted to. Sometime during the first week when I came home from the hospital empty-handed, someone wrote to me in a sympathy card that I should write down everything that was happening to me in a journal to later use as my story about God’s love, but I was very stubborn about NOT writing. I felt blank, numb, and later, angry and negative. Why would I ever want to look back on these days? Why would anyone else? Couldn’t we just erase this whole time completely? I wanted to go into a coma for a year, and wake up not remembering this whole thing.

But God allowed Grace to die for a reason. I do not believe death is of God – it is of sin, of Satan – but God did not intervene when the life of my innocent child was taken. He instead chose to redeem the situation. He’s making an ugly thing beautiful. He’s transforming my broken life right now. And that’s why His spirit is leading me to write. Everyone needs to know that our God is a loving God. And after everything I’ve been through, even now as I am currently miscarrying a baby that I’ve carried for eight weeks, I can still say that I trust Him.

Emotionally right now, I am low. But spiritually, I’m nuzzling in close to our God. My faith in Him is increasing. My joy in Him is increasing. He is present and at work. It’s exciting!

Many of you have written me, asking how I’m doing or how you can pray for me, and most of those emails go unanswered. So, I’m going to write my story here. There are so many pieces to this, from the events that occurred, to the emotions that I’ve experienced, to the things I’ve questioned. For now, I’ll just share the beginning of the story.

To tell the story of my baby Grace, I have to start in 2007, long before she was conceived.

Or maybe even further back… to childhood. You see, I’ve always felt an undeniably strong desire to be a mother – I’ve always felt like that was my purpose on earth, like that’s THE reason God made me. And I know that can sound cliché. But I feel like other women have big dreams – become president of the US, or they want to fight some major injustice in this cruel world, or start a successful business, or live a life full of thrills and excitement, or some other noble goal. All I’ve ever wanted to do is bring little souls into this world and love them like crazy. All my life, I could think of nothing that would be more fulfilling than bringing forth life, of your own flesh and blood, creating something brand new with the person you love, watching that absolute miracle grow, pouring every ounce of yourself into this child, teaching them, sacrificing of yourself for their good. I would willingly get stretch marks and gain weight for a baby, I’d willingly do bed rest if necessary; anything for the thrill of new life!

I lived my life to adulthood with that as my priority, my big plan. And everyone knew me as “the one who wanted to be a mommy.” On our wedding day, the shaving cream decorations on our getaway car read “9 months!”

I even chose my career because I could do it from home as a mom – writing and graphic design. And in the summer of 2007, after two years of marriage, I quit my full-time ad agency job to start my own design company. I quickly found clients and eased right into the work-from-home lifestyle. In September, Jeff and I agreed that it was time we started a family. Everything was falling right into place!

We began the journey to parenthood by asking God to bless it. Holding hands and praying aloud, tears of joy streamed down our faces. We had waited so long for this! As someone with a severe case of Type A personality, I went into baby planning with the same gusto as I went into wedding planning. I researched every bit of fertility info I could get my hands on. And every morning at 6 a.m., the alarm would go off and Jeff would stick a thermometer in my mouth so I could chart my temperature that day. (To this day, basal thermometers are my life.)

That month, we tried for the first time to conceive, and it didn’t work out. I cried despairingly for hours and hours after we got a negative pregnancy test, because I had a deep sinking feeling that we really had an infertility problem. That same day, Jeff mentioned to me that a doctor had told him years ago that he had a physical issue stemming from a surgery he had as a child that could potentially cause infertility. Immediately, I set us up for a meeting with a specialist.

He was tested, and the results were dismal. The doctors said his issue was so severe that he would need surgery or we’d have to undergo fertility treatments to get pregnant, that our odds of conceiving on our own were incredibly low. We were devastated. We feared trying for long periods of time with no hope, we feared IUIs, we feared IVF (which sounded impossible because it costs as much as a new car, and our insurance wouldn’t pay for fertility treatments), we feared the label “infertile,” we feared failure.

I actually wrote in my journal that I felt like my closest friend had died. The one thing I wanted more in life than anything else seemed unreachable. I was so depressed that my mom was worried about me being home alone, and made me come down and spend time with her, and we just drove around in the car, talking.

But after a week of prayer and a strong sense of God’s presence, Jeff and I decided to ask Him for a miracle. We wouldn’t move forward with treatments of any kind. It was the first time in my life I actually felt completely under God’s control, that I was fully allowing Him to do with me what He wanted. We would certainly do our part – living healthily, avoiding strenuous exercise since it’s bad for fertility, doing everything we knew of to enhance fertility: avoiding caffeine and alcohol, me drinking gallons of grapefruit juice/green tea/pomegranate juice and eating loads of fresh pineapple, eating plenty of wild salmon, Jeff taking fertility vitamins, taking cod liver oil, and more – and the creation of a baby was up to God.

In December, our fourth month of trying, I opened up the Old Testament to Deuteronomy, a section of the Bible I usually avoided for fear of boredom, and landed on this:

“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young.”

In my journal that day, I wrote, “I have complete faith that God is going to bless us with children.” With His power, I had a peace I’d never known before.

And in February 2008, He blessed us with our first pregnancy. Nine short days after ovulation I took a test, which was negative. I had never tested that early before -- maybe I had an intuition? (I was addicted to taking cheap pregnancy tests that you could buy online for like 85 cents per piece, and because they were so cheap, I didn’t mind taking tons of them. And of course, every month, I’d spend hours analyzing each one under different lights hoping to see a line.) Only ten days after ovulation, I knew with almost perfect assurance that I was pregnant, and sure enough, I saw a faintest-of-faint pink line on my pregnancy test - and I was sure it was a line, for I had seen so many stark white negative tests in the last six months. Jeff wasn’t convinced. Calmly, he said he was only “about 80% sure” he saw a line, but didn’t want to jump to conclusions. (Meanwhile, I was about to internally combust.) So, I took a digital. In less than a minute, that glorious word popped up with as much confidence and drama a little digital contraption can muster. PREGNANT.

I screamed! Jumping up and down and skipping and squealing, I showed Jeff the test. We BOTH started bawling our eyes out, just hugging as tight as we could. How could this have happened?! What about the infertility?! Praise God above, praise Him, praise His Name! It was absolutely unreal. It was a miracle.

Jeff took me by the hand and led me to the living room. We knelt by the ottoman, and Jeff thanked God aloud and prayed for our little baby’s future. I continued to sob the happiest tears of my life. We had begun this journey almost six months before with a prayer, and we found ourselves praying once again as God came through.

Next, I began hearing songs playing, each with the word “baby” in it -- Jeff had created a “procreation” soundtrack. Haha! Mariah Carey’s “You’ll Always Be My Baby” came on first. :)

Not wanting the elation and surprise to simmer the tiniest bit before we shared the news, we began calling our parents right away. My mom was first. When I blurted out that I’d gotten a positive PG test, she sobbed and shrieked and used up every calorie of energy left in that body of hers (she’d been on a 40-day juice fast for lent). I *loved* hearing my mom cry (she never cries, not even at my wedding). She began praising God, saying she had never had one doubt that He would give us a child. She knew all along that that was the life He had planned for me. I used to think that the reaction of the parents in “Father of the Bride Part 2” seemed heavenly, but that was nothing compared to my mother’s uncontainable gladness.

But on Valentine’s Day, a week or so after, I began to miscarry.

To someone who has never experienced the excitement that is a positive pregnancy test, it’s hard to explain how overwhelming and depressing it is to miscarry only a short period later. How can you love a baby you didn’t know? How can you miss someone who never breathed a breath? I always used to wonder (or, sadly, scoff at) women who said they “knew” they were pregnant from the moment of conception. Now I understood. I’d felt unusually positive and confident in God’s power that entire cycle. I had known I was pregnant before I ever took a test. I believe that those feelings were me sensing the presence of the baby’s soul. From then on, I believed a baby’s soul is present from the moment of conception.

In our desperation to get pregnant again, we decided to go ahead with the surgery that doctors had long suggested for Jeff. (Although, I’m really not sure why we did it, since we now knew we could get pregnant on our own.) Doctors warned us, though, not to expect to see positive results (a.k.a. pregnancy) from the surgery for several months, because it takes at least three months for sperm to generate and thus respond to the surgery.

But, only three weeks later… we were pregnant. And this time, it stuck for the long haul.

(Yes, you are allowed to laugh, because we were back to trying only four days after Jeffrey’s surgery. We didn’t want to miss one single cycle, regardless of his physical pain—especially because we’d heard you’re extra fertile after a miscarriage!)

I ovulated on March 3, 2008, and just seven days later, I could sense the baby’s presence. Ignoring it, though, because the previous month’s loss had left me heartbroken and fearful, I tried to live as normally as possible. We rented movies to watch in the evenings, and one night, as we watched “Dan in Real Life,” I felt sure that I was pregnant. No real symptoms to speak of, just the feeling that another person was in the room with us. The next morning, I got that beautiful little line on a pregnancy test. The line was evidence of our little Grace in progress!

Our happiness and excitement were slightly restrained by what had just happened to us only weeks before. Our early pregnancy innocence had been stolen from us because of the miscarriage. But my wise mom told me to have faith, that this was real, and that I needed to put my pregnancy worries in God’s hands. Growing new life was God’s business, and it was up to Him now.

Deep down, I knew this pregnancy was meant to be. Worries of miscarriage quickly left my mind as faith took over. Almost right away, we started sharing the news that a baby was coming!

25 comments:

Tara said...

Heather,

I am at a loss of words. Your faith in God is inspiring. I will continue to pray for you and your husband. Good things are to come!

bcschjenk said...

Thank you for sharing with the world your story. Many people have experienced similar heartache and it's a blessing to them to see someone be strong enough to put themselves out there. Many people have not experienced this and it is also a blessing to give them a close look into it so they can learn how best to love someone they may know who is going through similar things. We continue to lift you up in prayer.

Kevin & Beth said...

Heather, I continue to think about you and Jeff daily. Please continue to write as your words are beautiful and I can't wait to read more. Hugs and blessings.

Beth

ashlee proffitt said...

Heather,
Thank you for making yourself vulnerable and allowing God to speak through you. He will use your words to bring people closer to Him, especially during the times that try us the most.

I pray for you constantly.

ashlee

ashlee proffitt said...

Heather,
Thank you for writing... for you making yourself vulnerable and allowing God to use you in a very powerful way. He will use your words to bring His children closer to Him.

I pray for you always.

Summer Safrit said...

Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I think about you and Jeffrey often and pray for you two and your families.

Melissa L said...

Heather your writing is so beautiful and your story so moving. You faith in God is a true inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing your story.

rosa727 said...

Heather-

You are a beautiful writer and an amazing person. You are so strong and inspirational. I just know you will be blessed with another baby and get to be the mother you have dreamed of being. I am praying for you.

Cote de Texas said...

Oh my. I didn't expect this when I happily clicked on to a new blog. I am just so sorry for your loss,I can't even begin to say. Well, I do know just a tiny bit of what you are going through - we were infertile and after a few years of nothingness, I finally consented to ivf, which I was lucky with and today I have an 18y.o. daughter. She is our only child, we tried it again and again and it never worked again. So, I just always say, God intended for me to have just one child. Don't give up. One day, you will have your baby, again. I am so sorry for the pain you must endure. Don't give up. Just keep at it and at it. Nothing worth something is easy.

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is truly encouraging to keep the faith in all we do. You and Jeff are in my prayers.

Laurie said...

Now I know why I have visited your shop before! I remember when you introduced yourself to the etsy greetings team. I was touched and saddened by your story then and am even more so today.

I am amazed by your faith and know that God will make you a mother someday and somehow. I am sorry for what you have been through and know He has a plan and this is part of it. Why? I don't know...but He does and you will someday too.

I have not been through what you have so I can not understand. I can relate to the disappointment of negative pregnancy tests as I have been on that small part of your journey. 12 months of it and I understand the sorrow that goes along with it and the enhanced awareness of everyone but you getting pregnant. That is all I know though. I do not know the sorrow of losing babies. I admire you so much and I do not know you. God had a plan for me and he has one for you too. Your faith will get you through. I will be praying for you.

It is an honor to be associated with you through etsy greetings. Your work is so great and you are too.

Gods blessings to you.

Laurie Mitchell
Jemily

Happy Elephant Designs said...

Thank you for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and your family. Your story stuck a chord in me, for I have struggled with infertility for 10 years...had 2 miscarriages...underwent many failed treatments...was told I had a less than 1% chance of conceiving a child.

Thank the Lord that after 10 years, our little miracle Molly Isabella was born. No explanation for how I was able to get pregnant and stay pregnant, but it happened :)

I saw alot of myself in your blog (taking test after test...searching for that line...when it was postitive, trying to convince my hubby that the line was there!)

God Bless you.

anneg said...

I am smiling here remembering your excitement over carrying Grace as well as your planning/focus with TTC. Such bittersweet memories. Beautifully shared!

WildIrishRose33 said...

There really isn't a whole lot I can say that hasn't already been said. But you're in my prayers Heather. ((hugs))

Tracie/Token said...

Thank you for being so open and sharing Grace's story. Your words are beautiful and so inspiring.

Thoughts and prayers,
Tracie

Cara said...

Heather, I am so sorry for your loss. Your faith is an inspiration. Hugs.

Pamela said...

Heather, I can't say I've been through the losses that you have, but I can say that this: "The one thing I wanted more in life than anything else seemed unreachable." describes my struggle perfectly. I, like you, have wanted nothing more than to be a mother, so it is heart wrenching, to say the least, to suffer with infertility. I pray the God blesses you with a child soon.

Renee Swope said...

Oh sweet Heather, it just breaks my heart that you have not YET had your dream come true. A woman like you who so deeply cherishes life and longs to bring a sweet soul into this world to love like crazy is what this world needs. It's what a child needs and I am praying fervently for your prayers and desires to be fulfilled. We are all praying for you at P31 and we love you.

You are such a beautiful writer. I am so thankful you have found the courage and desire to share this story so vulnerably. I know it will touch so many hearts who long to know that God is loving and can be trusted with the broken parts of our lives and dreams.

Praying you'll make it to She Speaks if it's His will.

Hugs and blessings,
Renee

Susanne Scheppmann said...

My goodnees you write well! Please come to She Speaks! so I can meet you. It would be a privilige to be your roomie.

Hugs,
Susanne

Karen Ehman said...

Heather--
Your mom keeps me up to date on what is happening with you. It is an honor to pray for you from afar even though we've never met. You are an inspiration and will offer hope to so many. I hope to meet you someday. Cyber hugs!
Karen Ehman (one of your mom's fellow P31 speakers)

Wendy Pope said...

Heather
I am member of the P31 speaker team with your mother. She is precious and so are you. Your great faith and hope in our great God are so inspiring.

I am prayed for you. I look forward to one day seeing a precious baby in your arms.

Telling your story will bring healing to you and hope to others.

Jeremy and Mindy said...

Heather, I've thought about for 9 months now (even before that when we were both pg, but more so now!). I feel that you are a part of me and Macy Grace. I'm praying for you. Please continue to write. I tell Macy Grace that she has a special friend, an angel, her name is Grace, and she loves you. When I see her laughing or staring off into the heavens, I can't help but think it's because of her angels dancing. I get tears in my eyes Heather because I know, without a doubt, that you love Grace, just as much as I love my Macy. I hug Macy and tell her I love her for you. I understand if it is too difficult to read my blog or the others that are on the November team, but just know that you are always welcome. You are an amazing woman.

I believe God has an ultimate plan for you, a plan to bless you. Hugs, Mindy

Shari Braendel said...

Hi Heather, thank you so much for being so vulnerable and open to sharing with us. I feel like I know you now. I didn't know you were planning on coming to She Speaks but I sooo hope you do. I LOVE your mom, and you look just like her. Hope to get to meet you..will continue praying for you.

Jen said...

I stumbled upon your blog via a fellow military wife's blog list.

Your faith is amazing and humbling. I will say a prayer today for your beautiful baby girl.

Kaitlin Riceputo said...

Heather- I do not even know you but somehow I managed to click on your blog after looking at Jordan Potters facebook page..
I could not even stop the tears rolling down my face!
I am so unbelievably touched by your story, and heartbroken with you.
There are no words I could say to bring any source of comfort, but that you have really inspired me with your story of faith.
You will be in my prayers for a safe and healthy delivery.