Perspective: A Year Later

This morning, on the eve of my birthday, I was holding my sweet Reagan for her 9 AM feeding as she greeted the day and stared intently at me. I took a quick look at my Timehop app and saw that a year ago today we were enjoying one extra day in London due to a flight delay coming home. While I didn’t mind staying longer at the time (and I was even able to watch the first episode of Downton Abbey in London), I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You see, Tyler and I were in the throws of fertility treatments and had been for several months. The trip was going to fall pretty perfectly to still allow me to get home in time to begin the next month’s treatment. We were in one of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals when it hit me and I knew right away I was starting my period. This was always a bittersweet day, the death of a dream colliding with hope for a new dream and another chance. Tyler and I ducked into a local pub and I made an international call to my fertility doctor to make my appointment to begin treatment the day after we were to arrive home.

September 2014 UK & Amsterdam 804The beautiful Salisbury Cathedral

We continued on our day of sight seeing and I processed the loss quietly. I was determined to enjoy the rest of this magical vacation and face reality only once we arrived home. That was until we found out our flight home had been cancelled. I tried desperately to think of any other way we would be able to get home in time, to no avail. This meant I was able to enjoy more time in London on my birthday, but I had a feeling our treatment window was narrowing.

Sure enough, we arrived home after an amazing vacation only to be faced with the gut-wrenching news from my doctor: we were too late to begin treatment for the month. I was devastated, sobbing in the car with Tyler and my parents. Skipping a month of treatment meant putting off our dream of becoming parents another month. I felt helpless and discouraged.

I faced infertility with relentless persistence, never wanting to lose any time and always looking to the next more aggressive option. Though each next step often meant more medicine and more injections, I was on a mission and hoped God would bless me with my desires. I refused to give up or give in. I never doubted that my perceived courage and strength was coming directly from God – that this indeed was His plan.

And this was just the beginning.

With a month’s time to sit in my emptiness and anxiety, we felt it was time to try IVF, to give it our very best shot. With absolutely no diagnosable issue for either me or Tyler, we just knew this would be the answer to all of our hopes and prayers. The process began in October and consisted of many shots a day, for more than 60 injections in a month’s time. Tyler was always right by my side and he gave me just about every single one of the injections. I knew it hurt him more than it hurt me – a daily and physical reminder that we couldn’t naturally succeed at starting our family when it came so easily to everyone else.

And once more, this was just the beginning.

We were approaching Thanksgiving and the point in time during treatment to trigger my eggs. That’s when I discovered a lump in my neck, just below my right earlobe. I wondered if maybe I had had some sort of allergic reaction from one of the medications or if there was some swelling as a result of a recent dentist appointment. I quietly told myself I’d give it a week and if it was still there, I’d get it checked out. I couldn’t bear the thought of having made it this far through IVF only to be derailed by some mysterious lump.

On Friday morning, much to my dismay, I noticed the lump was still there. I left work a little early to go quickly to an Urgent Doc center, hoping they could just give me a quick diagnosis and some allergy medicine. The PA in the clinic quickly told me she didn’t like the way it looked or felt. My heart sank.

I ran by to grab Tyler at his office and we headed off to have an ultrasound. At the end of the day, we were told it was a solid mass in my parotid gland and that we wouldn’t be able to do any additional tests over the weekend. My mind immediately went to lymphoma. Why would this mass have just appeared out of nowhere. That weekend was by far the hardest Tyler and I have ever experienced. Here we had my body which housed several precious eggs and our shot at parenthood, and also a terrifying lump in my throat.

By the grace of God, we were able to get in to see one of Methodist’s top ENTs first thing Monday morning and after a day of CT scans and a biopsy, we were told the mass was benign. We all had such a huge sigh of relief but still knew there was a bumpy road ahead. I needed to have it removed and likely couldn’t wait to have surgery in the event I got pregnant. So the surgery was scheduled about a week later and the fertility treatments continued.

The surgery was a success, removing a golf ball size benign mass from my neck. I stayed one night in the hospital, even receiving one of my fertility shots while I was in the hospital bed. That Thanksgiving was certainly a humbling one. I no longer had feeling in the right side of my cheek and ear lobe and I was not able to smile just yet, but I was truly grateful for the diagnosis, my health and being able to celebrate with my family.

IMG_0101Just before the surgery.
IMG_0056
My scar.
IMG_0044Feeling very thankful at Thanksgiving.
(the surgery left me unable to smile fully for 3 months)

With this major obstacle behind us, I just knew God had worked out all of the details and logistics to increase our faith and trust Him through this process. Two procedures for IVF later, we were anxiously awaiting the big day we would find out if we were pregnant – Christmas eve.

On our way to Tyler’s parents house for Christmas, we got the call. On Christmas eve, we found out we were not expecting.

Devastation. Anger. Hopelessness. I could not process why this was happening. I was beaten down mentally, physically and emotionally and felt like God was trying to break me, to break us. And I just about thought it might work.

I had a quiet Christmas, processing the tremendous loss. I had to deliver the news to some anxiously waiting friends and family, at Christmas. I was so sad and didn’t understand why we deserved this heartbreaking reality.

A few weeks later, Tyler and I talked about whether or not we would try it again. I was torn, which wasn’t like me after having gone from step to step with such determination. What I had previously thought was God so seamlessly pulling together timing and logistics in the face of some really bizarre circumstances now made me begin to question. Was this really right for our family?

We finally came to the conclusion that we had to give it one last shot before feeling peaceful about moving on from IVF. We had to give it our best shot, without an emergency surgery in the equation. And so we did. Four injections a day, many medications and feeling more of a sense of peace about this go, I felt hopeful. But, this only led to our next devastation. Once again, with no detectable issues whatsoever, we were not pregnant.

Our IVF doctor, one of the best in the city, was truly perplexed. He let us know that what makes IVF so successful I do not respond to. How can that be? And where did that leave us?

And yet, the very day I found out we were not expecting was the day I experienced an unexplainable peace that could have only come from God. God had quietly tugged on my heart even after our first failed IVF to consider adoption, to consider trusting Him, and this time I knew what He was asking of me.

Tyler and I could barely pull ourselves together that day but I will never forget. We were sitting in a drive through line to pick up some lunch when the song Oceans came on the radio. And these lyrics made me sob.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

And finally, I understood what I had perceived as God’s silence for over a year. I knew I had to go through the stormy waters to bring me to this place of complete and utter surrender. God had prepared my faith in a big way. Though I was so weak, God had never been stronger. I knew in that very moment we were called to adopt. I finally understood why there were no earthly answers to our heart’s deepest longing. God had the answer all along and was sitting there waiting until our hearts could fully surrender to His plan.

Little did I know, my precious daughter was likely conceived between my surgery and the devastating news after our first IVF. She was conceived during my IVF through means I couldn’t fathom at the time.

So today, as I look back the most difficult year of my life thus far, I understand. I am forever changed and I am forever grateful that God is so much bigger than my earthly understanding. He hears our hearts and He is the giver of gifts we don’t deserve. 28 was devastating and yet 28 was also the year I became a mommy. He knew then and I know now. GOD IS GOOD and deserves all glory.

Now as I look at my precious daughter’s sweet face, I am always reminded of the lyrics I listened to repeatedly in the hospital during our first days with her.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

reagan

A Casual Tuesday Afternoon Phone Call

Anxiety. I was feeling it unlike I’ve ever experienced before. I was more accustomed to the measurable waiting periods infertility brings-waiting the dreaded 2 weeks every month to come face to face with yet another pregnancy test, waiting 2 weeks after implantation with IVF, waiting 3 hours after blood work to get “the call” while trying to focus at my desk.

This time I was finding myself in uncharted waters-expectant and optimistic waiting with no scheduled benchmarks to think towards. It was becoming difficult to distract myself with the daily routine but I knew and was told every step along the way to “be patient” and to try my best to “stay busy.”

To put things in perspective, we had been waiting for exactly 2 weeks and I started to realize how ridiculous I was being to assume this might happen so quickly for us. Our counselor Kathie had told us all along (after I shared multiple times that impatience is my weakness) that she advises her clients the wait can be 12 to 18 months, and to try to stay very busy and prayerful. I kept hearing it, though I must admit I never believed it for us. I felt deep in my heart that God was going to move quickly now that we had gotten out of our own way, that He was going to take care of my anxious heart in the way only He could.

One small step helped ease my mind a tiny bit as we were told our online profile went live. This is essentially a page on Legacy’s web site with our Dear Birthmother letter broken out into various categories with photos of us as well. It felt reassuring to see us there, to know that there might be a chance our birthmother might see us too.

Two days later, the wait without any updates felt unbearable and so I sent an email to Kathie wondering if we should also apply with one additional agency to broaden our exposure and maybe ease my anxiety a bit. She sent a heartfelt response letting us know she felt we were in very good hands, and that only God can create these matches. Neither she or I are in control and I needed to do my best to stay busy in the meantime. It was exactly what I needed to hear, knowing that with her 20+ years of experience, she said we were exactly where we needed to be. We had been told the next baby that was a possible match for us was due November/December so I decided I would take a step back for a few months, try to live my life and trust the process.

That was a week ago.

On Tuesday, my mom and I went to lunch which we do often. It was like any other lunch except that we didn’t have any exciting updates to talk about. We are both extremely proactive and enjoy having tasks to keep us busy all of the time, but now we were both faced with the daunting wait, and that alone.

That afternoon, I walked over to the coffee shop next to my office for my daily afternoon caffeine boost. I had just picked up my latte when my phone started ringing. I looked down to see Legacy on the caller ID. My heart definitely skipped a beat but I also knew our photo albums were due to arrive that day. I was hoping with everything I had that Tina wasn’t simply calling to tell me they had arrived.

I will never forget the moment. Tina said, “Hi Courtney, I am calling you about a birthmother who is interested in you guys. She is due September 9.” I stepped outside and had to sit down. She went on to say she had been working with this birthmom since early June and that she had gone online, seen our profile, and wanted us. WHAT?! I felt frozen in time. She went on to tell me a little bit more about her and let me know she was meeting with her again the following morning. The initial downside (to us who had now come to expect a somewhat open adoption) was that the birthmother was not interested in meeting. I was also told they were pretty sure it was a girl! (be still my heart) She wanted to know if we would like to be presented to her (which simply means showing her our photo album which in turn expresses our interest in her) and said she would need to know by 8 PM that evening. We hung up and I immediately called Tyler in complete disbelief. Tyler is the absolute calm to my  crazy, but I definitely heard some cautious excitement in his voice.

I rushed back to my desk anxiously awaiting an email from Tina with all of the background information on the birthmother. I started reading and just knew right away-this was our birthmom, and that sweet baby was baby Ray. That afternoon was a complete blur as I was in and out of meetings at work, in and out of conversations with Tyler, Kathie and my family.

That evening Tyler and I rushed home as we knew we needed to talk and make this incredibly huge decision in a matter of hours. If I am honest, the only way I know how to describe that feeling and conversation is that it is weird. We were making the decision as to whether this was our future child based on what would never feel like enough information, all in just a few hours. All factors and unknowns aside, we knew we had to trust our guts with this one as we anxiously emailed Tina back that yes, we wanted to be presented! We also asked if the birthmom might reconsider meeting or at least a facilitated phone call, to be able to provide our potential future child with as much information as possible.

We called our families and couldn’t adequately describe our shock and excitement. One of the most touching conversations I had was with my sweet sister-in-law (we always say we can just drop the “in-law”). I called and said, “I have some exciting adoption news, about a baby!” She responded by asking so genuinely if it was “our baby?” I don’t even know where it came from, but this hit me hard and brought big tears to my eyes. Yes, this was our baby, the one we had tried for and prayed for, and committed ourselves to month after month for more than 2 years!

IMG_1462Here we are, that evening in a state of complete shock.

The next day I had a full morning with meetings, and with the meeting with the birthmother scheduled for 11, I was sure to be at my desk with my phone ready around noon. Noon went by, and then 1 o’clock. I was starting to really get nervous when my phone rang around 1:15 PM.

It was Tina again and she said “Congratulations, she wants you guys!” The only stipulation is that she was still not interested in meeting, though perhaps for a minute or 2 at the hospital. I quickly told her that was not a deal-breaker and that we were so excited. She explained the next steps would be some paperwork and then continuing to monitor the pregnancy through doctor and counselor appointments. She then told me she had a sonogram she could send me, and that hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt real-this was a baby, and this was our baby!!

I called Tyler immediately and heard complete excitement in his voice without any restraint. That was so powerful-I think we had almost forgotten what it felt like, just to be free and HAPPY! I sent a quick mass text to our families and felt a huge sense of excitement and celebration in every response. That afternoon I described to a few people feeling like I was in lala land. I just felt up in the clouds, not even able to comprehend what had transpired.

It is absolutely impossible to describe the way Tyler and I felt that night. I’m not sure it felt real, but it felt like the answer to our deepest thoughts and prayers for years. God had heard and God had been knitting this life in her mommy’s womb just for us. All those days and nights when God was silent, He was busy creating the answer to our dreams. It’s amazing how so many hopes and prayers can be wound up in one tiny life. We felt free, we felt ecstatic, and we felt deeply loved.

IMG_1464Here we are, the night we became parents.

What a difference a phone call can make.

Congratulations: A Powerful Word

My mom and I are cut from the same mold and upon hearing that we are fully eligible to adopt, we set out to get a few of the basics checked off the list. We found ourselves at Baby’s 1st Furniture in Sugar Land where she had already done some browsing. Knowing that nursery furniture can take several months to arrive, we started here, thinking that having the big stuff already in place would help in the event of short notice. Tyler and I were in agreement that it would be cruel to completely set up the nursery now only to be constantly reminded of the void in our hearts, but I felt safe and free to dream given the long lead time on the furniture.

And so we walked in.

I was anxious from my last experience at a baby store and tried my best to be on guard for whatever questions I might have to face. Thankfully we were approached by Barb, the sweetest sales associate and were simply told to ask if we needed any help (thank you, Barb! This is all that is ever necessary in the first encounter with a potential buyer).

We took a look around at all of the options and I immediately felt drawn toward a vintage grey finish for the nursery furniture, knowing that it would be gender neutral and versatile. Within a few minutes I focused in on a precious collection that was simple, elegant and traditional. The crib has sweet little curves and the dresser is so neat in that it has a built in section for a changing pad on the top, and yet the entire dresser can be flipped to create a standard top when the time is right. We also purchased a sweet rocking chair where I envision we will spend many late nights.

And here she is!

IMG_1400Purchasing these two pieces meant so much. It meant that one day, someday, there will be a sweet little baby in that crib. And that crib and that baby will be in our home, and it will change our lives forever. It meant that I could finally start to see ahead to what is sure to be the answer to many years of prayers, and the start of our family.

Approaching the check out counter was a very surreal feeling, this being the first physical expression that we are “expecting.” I explained to Barb that we are adopting and didn’t quite know the timing of everything. I think it was almost my way of justifying why we were there when we have no concrete information at this point. And then something happened that I had never imagined. Barb cut through all of my insecurities with one word – “congratulations.” With this word, offered so genuinely, came a sense of no longer feeling invisible, no longer feeling as though God has forgotten, no longer feeling as though the whole world is rushing past us without looking back.

For more than 2 years I have held it perfectly together, all of my emotions wound up in a smile for others to see, always. This was different. I had been recognized by someone who was previously a complete stranger. I was congratulated for being an expectant mom and it was profound. It brought tears to my eyes and right there at that check out counter, I cried. My mom and I shared a big hug and she reminded me that everything I was feeling was ok, and how I have waited so long for what to some could be such a simple outing, a normal next step.

My mom knows me too well and we drove nearby for a celebratory latte :). It’s a day and a feeling I will never forget.

Nesting

Late this week, we checked off the last detail on our end – being fingerprinted. Now, we are completely eligible to adopt! Now it’s time to get out of the way and watch as God’s plan unfolds. Our lives could be turned upside down with very little notice, and we couldn’t be more excited.

With the completion of all of our requirements comes a tremendous sense of relief and freedom. I am for the first time in over 2 years allowed to “nest”, though I still do so cautiously, always trying my best to protect my anxious heart.

My mom and I have looked forward to sharing these experiences together for so long, and she has had the most loving and gentle approach as I begin to allow myself to think more concretely about being a mom, about having a nursery in our own home. For the first time, I am able to start thinking of these things for me, for my baby, for my family. There is so much freedom in that.

My parents returned from Paris recently and my mom and I set up time to grab dinner and look through a few stores for nursery furniture, knowing that we will somewhat need to prepare our home to have a moment’s notice about our sweet baby. We walked into Pottery Barn Kids in Highland Village, and I must admit I had no idea what to expect from the whole experience. Previously I could have never entered such a store – they are emotional battlegrounds for those struggling with infertility. Even when purchasing baby shower gifts in the past, I almost always did so at a local clothing and home decor boutique, knowing that I wouldn’t have to explain my reasons for being there.

We walked in and within 5 minutes I was asked if I was pregnant and if I’d like to register. I think of myself as being strong and quick on my feet after more than 2 years of facing the world with my private struggle, but this did feel like a sucker punch. I politely though assertively responded and let her know my husband and I were adopting and that we were browsing. After a few minutes, I was able to brush off the comment and enjoy the reason we were there – to browse, to make plans, to dream. We gathered some ideas and also walked through (and drooled) at Restoration Hardware across the street.

After our little shopping excursion, my mom and I celebrated over dinner and margaritas. She then presented me with two precious gift bags from Jacadi Paris, one containing a sweet little girl’s outfit with matching shoes, and one with a boy’s. How special that one of our baby’s first little outfits is from halfway across the world where my mom anxiously heard about our progress through that busy week.

IMG_1342Me and the Madre

Though none of this is the way I ever imagined it, there is something pretty magical about the gradual unfolding of this plan. There are many new moments that have been extremely intentional, moments of celebrating a heart slowly softening, a hope beginning to grow. Healing. New beginnings.  And that’s just it, how special that this is just the beginning.

Progress

It’s hard to believe so much has happened since my last update. And though it hasn’t resulted in meeting our baby just yet, I have to find the grace to remind myself that each step in this process is an important one in what will be a beautiful journey.

First of all, Tyler and I have submitted our application – all 5o or so total pages! That was the most incredible and exciting feeling thus far in this process, knowing that we had completed the application to become parents. Tyler and I discussed later how it’s the first time we’ve fully been able to embrace our hopes and dreams for parenthood. Those feelings are no longer dictated by a monthly pregnancy test. We are no longer having to daily walk that line between doubt and disappointment and what seemed like a very distant sense of hope.

Our application was received and the processing began. Our next step was to schedule our home study with Kathie, our adoption consultant here in town. We had installed the smoke detectors, the new screen for the hot water heater, a new gun safe (which resulted in a major spring cleaning and purging project), and yet I still didn’t know how I’d feel ready enough to have someone in our home to evaluate if we and our home were fit for a child.

The home study certainly brings up a lot of interesting feelings – insecurity about any unfinished projects around the house, anxiety about being prepared to answer personal questions both individually and as a couple, and once more, that unfair feeling of why this is a necessary step for us to become parents.

Regardless, we prepared our hearts and our home and greeted Kathie on Friday afternoon. We gave her a tour of the entire house, opening closet doors and sharing with her all of the improvements we’ve made. We walked through the backyard and I prayed incessantly that our sweet Annie would not jump on and knock her over. Kathie interviewed me first individually, asking about my family, my childhood, my values and my hopes for being a mom. Tyler took his turn next and I must admit it was very special sitting in the other room (and picking up only every other word), but as Tyler was sharing his entire story, I was overcome with a tremendous sense of love for Tyler, for the man he is and the incredible father he already is. His interview was followed by a discussion with us as a couple, about our marriage, how we resolve conflict, our spirituality and how we plan to raise children with strong values and character.

At the end of the home study, Kathie let us know we passed and did a great job. We closed the door with a huge sense of relief and excitement! One more step down.

We headed off for a weekend of fun in what felt like forever, having reserved several weekends for projects to prepare our house for the home study. We met up with some of our dearest friends in Austin who put together the most beautiful dinner party in celebration, complete with wine, delicious steaks, great conversations and late-night games. I felt extremely blessed and loved, remembering that though it seems hard and unfair, God is taking care of and loving us well each step along the way. He is allowing us to lean on and be loved on by others. He is giving us exactly what we need and He is fulfilling His promises.

IMG_1354The beautiful spread for dinner.

IMG_1367A weekend with some of our dearest friends in Austin and Fredericksburg.

Happy Going to be a Father’s Day

Today I’d like to wish a Happy “going to be a” Father’s Day to my sweet husband. Though today is another stinging reminder for those of us going through the infertility struggle, I can’t help but feel hopeful this Father’s Day. We have been so busy these last few weeks with preparing our hearts and our home for adoption that sometimes the reality of the process gets lost on me. But in reality, Tyler is going to be a dad, and God is allowing us to believe it will be soon!

Tyler has the most incredible father’s heart in the way he loves and serves his family always, and especially as we prepare to be parents. Though the work hasn’t all been fun, he has brought a positive attitude and approach knowing that one of his lifelong dreams is coming true.

Anyone who knows Tyler knows that he is a big kid at heart. It’s incredible to watch him with kids, and more importantly, to watch kids light up with him. He has a big imagination and is able to easily get on their level to play creatively and share in conversations. He has been the most hands-on uncle to our sweet niece and nephew, always treating them like they’re our own, and it’s never an inconvenience for him to step away from “adult time” to be with the kids.

I am so blessed to go on this journey to parenthood with him. I know he will lead and guide our family with love and lots of quality time. He has been so extremely patient for the blessing of being a dad, and I just know he will be such a gift to our future children. I can’t wait to witness it by his side.

dads day tylerOn Friday, Tyler came home to a collection of Father’s Day goodies (all of the beer variety), and he quickly got changed to head out for a special outing. I was excited for what I had planned and we started on what would be about a 30 minute drive to some of the area’s most delicious BBQ. We pulled up to see not a single car in the parking lot and my heart immediately sank – Killen’s was closed. This special outing I had planned for Tyler had gone south pretty quickly, and I definitely cried in the parking lot (cue the pity laughs). We headed back toward town and decided we were in the mood for some good old fashioned Goode Company Seafood. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and had a few good laughs about my so-called plan, ultimately a wife fail.

But all this is to say, I wanted Tyler to feel honored today, knowing that his father’s heart does not go unnoticed even though he hasn’t met our future baby just yet. There is so much anticipation and hope, and we trust God blessed him with this incredible heart to share it with children of our very own. It’s been a blessing sharing it with others in our family and through children’s ministry, but we trust Tyler’s time is coming very soon.

So, a very Happy “going to be a” Father’s Day to Tyler! Our family is so thankful for him!

A Father’s Day Tribute

dads dayI’d like to wish a Happiest of Father’s Days to my sweet dad. Aside from having his kiddos with him, I can’t imagine a place he’d rather celebrate the day – exploring abroad in France. Today, I am so incredibly thankful for the person he is. He truly is loved by so many, including his family, all of his students and colleagues, and he leaves people with a smile everywhere he goes.

This year I am especially thankful for his constant support. I’d imagine it can be very difficult to watch your daughter go through challenges that you can’t help or control in any way, but he has always been there to lean in and offer his love and encouraging words. Even at times when it seems the details of the struggle are extremely personal, this has never stopped my dad from reaching out and reminding me that he and my mom endured the same struggle for 6 years. They know the pain and yet he is always quick to remind me I was the result of the 6 year struggle. He always brings comfort, hope and perspective.

I love my dad’s outlook on life and in a lot of ways think I gained my “everything will work out for good” attitude from him. He is filled with joy and it’s infectious. He has always had a thirst for knowledge and experiences which he certainly passed on to me. He gave me my love for travel, celebrating life and family, and coffee, of course. Today I am thankful for many things, but I am most thankful for the incredible example of a father and husband he has provided as Tyler and I embark on this journey to parenthood.

Love you Pops!