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.
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.
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.