what it’s like: to be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child.

I am incredibly thankful to have my friend Carissa sharing her story on today’s What It’s Like feature. Carissa is incredible and has taken an unexpected diagnosis and turned it into something that celebrates God’s greatest gift to us – children!  She is moving mountains and God has used her so much in her calling to help parents receiving a Trisomy 21 diagnosis for their child to celebrate the precious gift they have been given. We have known each other nearly as long as I have lived in Minnesota and now I get to enjoy attending MOPS with her. Thank you Carissa for sharing your story with us today! 

1926029_10100411886598389_610291295_o

flashback to 2014 

Here’s what it’s like to be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child. 


My husband was waiting for me to recover after the birth of our second son. He was sitting alone in the room when the Nurse Practitoner walked in.  

She asked, “Are you aware of Trisomy 21?” He looked confused.  “Down syndrome. Your baby is showing signs of Down syndrome,” she bluntly explained.   She then listed off characteristics that Jack was showing and said, “Well, just enjoy your baby.”  And left the room.

Within the hour, I was brought back to the room where he was waiting, and that’s when he told me that they thought our new baby boy had Down syndrome.  I cried out. There were many tears at the beginning. Feelings of confusion, shock, and fear of the future.

And that is how we were given the diagnosis of Down syndrome for our baby.

So, our journey began.

DSC_0400fixedCBhaze

What would our lives look like with a child with a developmental delay?  How would this change our plans? Would he live with us forever? Be able to talk? Would he look like his family? How would this affect his older brother? Would he be accepted by the world?

I remember thinking that someone was going to call us from the hospital and tell me that the results came back from his blood test, and they were wrong…that he didn’t have Trisomy 21.

But that phone call didn’t come.

And as I looked down at this little baby that surprised us with his extra chromosome, he opened those precious almond shaped eyes, and my mama heart felt him say, “Just love me.”

IMG_0847

A nurse walked into our room and looked over at Jack and she said, “Look at your precious baby.”  And she reminded us, this is our precious baby, whom we prayed for from the moment we found out we were pregnant.  She encouraged us to grieve the baby we thought, and love the one we were given.

Slowly, feeding by feeding, sweet moment by moment, milestone by milestone.   I started to see the beauty on this journey. The unexpected joy. I could feel myself falling more and more in love with this precious little gift.

And we grew in a way that I can’t even articulate in words.  You see, the Down syndrome diagnosis that my husband and I were given didn’t define Jack. We don’t look at him and think about Down syndrome. We see our son.  We think about how much we love him and the joy he has brought to our lives. How he has changed us all for the better. He’s loved by so many, whom call him brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, student, classmate, and teammate.  He loves cars and trucks, going to the park, hockey, Lightening McQueen, and his all-time hobby of of listening to music. The biggest influence on his life has not been the extra chromosome, but more so, the loving environment that he has grown up in.  He goes to school with his typical developing peers and follows the expectations of the classroom. We believe in him.

Many of those fears in the beginning have not come to fruition. Jack is a loving, caring, kind person that respects others and contributes to society.  He will (and has) found friends and interests he enjoys and someday will attend college (thanks, Bethel University). He will continue to inspire others to work hard and do their best.  Research shows that 99% of people with Down syndrome love their lives. I know a lot of people that aren’t rocking the extra chromosome that don’t love their lives. I’m thinking we need more people in the world with Down syndrome.  Unfortunately, the sad statistic is that the population of people with Down syndrome is decreasing by 30% as a result of prenatal screening. 

Our lives don’t look much different, although we have been changed. So much of my thoughts at the beginning were around how much he would need us, and really it’s us that needs him.  Fear does a crazy thing to us, distracting us from what we know and believe to be true.

We’ve been given one of the most unexpected gifts in who he uniquely is.  He helps us to slow down and appreciate the little things. He works hard at things we take for granted and when he achieves his goals, we celebrate big time.  In a world that focuses so much on the outcome, we get a chance to enjoy the process. Where the growth happens. We’ve been changed in the most beautiful way. He has been our best teacher.

Yes, there are challenges, but we’ve also come to realize in raising Jack’s siblings (each with one less chromosome than him), parenting is hard. And from what I have observed thus far in life, all of us will receive some sort of unexpected news in a variety of ways over our lifespan.  We just happened to have received this unexpected news at Jack’s birth. And can say we are thankful for the ways that diagnosis has changed us.

IMG_0073

The part on this journey that has been the most difficult is not what many would assume.  We wouldn’t change anything about Jack. We would change the way the world perceives and values people uniquely created like him.  We don’t let perceptions or stereotypes influence our belief in others. Knowing each person is God’s masterpiece, created in His image to do great things.  We believe that EVERY life has purpose and unfortunately society has put a value on someone’s life based solely on the number of chromosomes they have.

Now our family gets the wonderful opportunity to welcome, celebrate, and congratulate new families on this journey.  We provide gift baskets (Jack’s Basket) with baby items, along with free resources, programs, and opportunities to connect with other families.  A chance to come along side those that will experience the same unexpected news we did, to encourage them and support them as they travel the road that only ‘the lucky few’ get to travel.  

DSC_0499CB

My life has been changed for the better because of the unexpected Down syndrome diagnosis we were given.  I wouldn’t change him for the world, but I will change the world for him.

IMG_6159

Jack recently turned 5 years old and I wrote a letter to him. Here is an excerpt of the ‘Dear Jack’ blog post. “In the past 5 years, I’ve learned a few things about Down syndrome, but I’ve learned a lot about YOU. You’ve reminded me to trust.  To surrender.  To see others.  To love and to be kind.  To stay humble.  To grow.  To slow down.  To appreciate the process and not focus on the outcome. To dance. To breathe.  To not take the little things for granted.  To care less about the opinions of others.  To work hard.  To ask for help.  To be patient.  To believe.  To believe in others. To be in community.  To celebrate.”


DSC_0886fixCB

Carissa has a Bachelor of Arts in health and physical education from Bethel University, and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology with an emphasis in developmental adaptive physical education from the University of Minnesota.  Carissa felt led to start Jack’s Basket when her own son, Jack, was born with Down syndrome. After an abrupt and assumptive diagnosis experience, she wanted to make a change for future parents, ensuring that they felt their child was a reason to celebrate. Carissa spends her days speaking to medical professionals about how to deliver the diagnosis without bias, working with the Jack’s Basket board to further the mission, connecting with volunteers who deliver local baskets, blogging, and meeting with potential donors. You can connect with Carissa on her blog, Facebook, Instagram and her website, Jack’s Basket.     


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility, be a stay at home mom, and be an entertainer.  Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to be an entertainer.

Aren’t you thankful for friends you’ve known forever? Today’s What Its Like feature is written by my long-time friend Andrew Arrington. Andrew and I went to high school together, hung out in the same group, and I am pretty sure we even went as friends to a homecoming dance. Andrew is creative, funny, and incredibly talented and I am thrilled he’s sharing a little bit about his life as a Broadway entertainer today!

Side note – his voice is like butter. I am waiting for him to make an album of these dreamy covers, but while we wait, you have to check out his gorgeous rendition of Smile and Sunday Kind of Love. 

Okay, now without further ado, here’s what it’s like to be an entertainer.


aa

Imagine for a minute your favorite coffee shop. Feel the worn leather chair that envelops your booty like a good pair of jeans. See the cappuccino made with such expertise & care, that you’ve come to literally love it. Picture the atmosphere: a perfect balance of work flow and creative energy that eases all stress and starts your day with mix vibrancy, focus, and love. This reliable coffee shop has become an oasis. You look forward to this experience everyday. Now imagine this coffee shop vanishes, literally isn’t there anymore.  All that is left is the memory of this gem. You must find a new coffee shop. Well, when you tour with a Broadway show,  that is exactly what you have to do.

My journey as a performer perpetually teaches me. One lesson that remains constant is the notion of change. This universal truth manifests itself in my life in super direct way. Over the past 8 years I have moved to 65 different cities, had roughly 3000 performances, allowing me to share my gift with 6,000,000 people.

IMG_1616
Acting is change. My particular role in Lion King is called a swing. I cover nine roles. It’s a high pressure job in which I have to be prepared to go on at a moments notice. Its basically like playing Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, & the episodes’ 2 guest stars at the same time. It’s taken years to get to a place where I feel at ease in my position. It was infuriating to me at first knowing that my performance would always be compared to the person who actually gets to live in the role everyday. My job is to make the role my own in a super short amount of time. It has taught me the beauty in non judgment. The power in embracing change. I have seen Jesus in that change. I must give myself over to the higher power every time I step on that stage. He must fill in my gaps, so that the beautiful message of the show shines through. Ultimately, this unique job allows me to have diversity which makes it way more fun & more fulfilling.

IMG_8139
Why Change? I often wonder why God has called me to a career filled with so much uncertainty and change, given my first inclination is to fear change. I don’t freakin’ know why. One definite I do know is that travel has completely transformed how I view the world. Moving from Montreal, to Wichita, to Portland, to Honolulu has given me vastly different views of the world. People say variety is spice of life, but for me it’s the meat of life. My ever shifting 9 year living arrangement has profoundly shaped me for the better. It has made me extremely open. I have created lasting relationships with people from all from all walks of life. From my South African cast mates, to my Madison Wisconsin housewife sister, to my transgender Hawaiian friend, & my Dutch lawyer buddy. We relate, accept, and learn from each other. Experiencing that exchange is beautiful. My capacity to love is greater, my ability to accept deeper, and the gratitude I have for diversity profound. My faith deepens with every new experience & this gives me joy. Most importantly God continues to uniquely reveal who He is through this journey. He is love. This loves inhabits my work as an artist more and more.

I hope this quick post will help you to see the changes happening in your own life and encourage you to embrace them with a bit more love and excitement. That isn’t always a feat, but as we continue to evolve into the creatures that God intended for us to be, change is necessary. Change makes progress possible. Change makes our service to the world more fulfilling. Change allows love to occur in a rich way. Rich, fulfilling, and necessary, just like the perfect cappuccino.


unnamed (10)

Andrew Arrington is a self-proclaimed man-child artist who is all about love vibes. Art in all its forms is a unique way to tap into deeper levels of connection. He’s been a professional actor for over 15 years and is currently blessed to be combining his love of travel & art, performing in the touring company of Lion KingYou can check him out on Instagram at @andrew_arrington.


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience,take a natural route with infertility, be on a reality show, go through the adoption process,have male factor infertility, and be a stay at home mom.  Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

suicide isn’t the answer.

adult alone autumn brick

This has been a week where mental illness has stolen the lives of some well-known names, and my heart breaks for their families, as it does for any time a life is lost, particularly by someone’s own hands. Media uses these stories as a flash to remind people to call a suicide prevention number if they are struggling. And while that’s wonderful and needed, it’s so easy for Monday to come around again and life to keep moving forward. And guess what, you still feel alone. Unimportant. Not heard. Overwhelmed. Trying to escape the burdens you feel.

If that’s you today, can I tell you that nothing you are facing will swallow you whole and if you were not here, you would be missed. Your absence would affect others. You are loved more than you can imagine and even when it seems like the world is too big and you can’t fight it anymore, you are seen and you can fight this. Not alone though. Loneliness, worthlessness, and depression fester in darkness. When they aren’t talked about, they feed off each other and it grows bigger and bigger.

Mental Illness is real and like any other illness, it has to be dealt with. Anytime there is a suicide, it reminds me of how cruel mental illness is. While cancer might infect your bones or liver, mental illness infects your brain and the way you think and handle life. The good news is that with the help of modern day medicine, psychiatrists, and therapists, help is available and the use of medication can assist with the balance of the chemicals in your brain. Mental illness IS possible to treat. The sad thing is that there is such a stigma around it which prevents many people from ever getting help. But know that you are not alone in your struggle. If you are ever battling depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please tell someone, even if the thought of that seems exhausting. While spirituality is a component in healing, it is not the only component. God is our Healer and He has given us amazing medical resources to help with healing, including medications. Please don’t ever feel like you are a bad Christian because of your struggle or ignore your battle hoping to pray it away. Mental illness is not your identity. It can be overcome. Healing can happen. The world needs you in it. It may be something you struggle with but it does not define who you are. Seek help because life doesn’t have to end by your hands. You are too loved to let that happen.

To everyone reading who doesn’t struggle with this – please, be kind and loving to those you encounter. This week is a reminder that happy faces can be worn, pretty pictures can be posted, and yet people are still fighting these demons despite the image they project. Money, fame, and status do not equal happiness.  Hardships are real and we are in no place to judge or make assumptions about why someone is the way they are. We need to not only take the time to lift others up, be kind and encouraging, and give undeserved grace, but also to invest in community and people so that conversations are able to happen. That means you may need to answer your phone instead of sending it to voicemail, or ask someone for coffee, or follow up on a vague social media status.

I know it’s often really hard to pray when you are in a dark place. Personally I have learned that writing or journaling my prayers or thoughts has been helpful.

I found this prayer on Cross Walk and wanted to share it here in case you need to tab and save it, pray it now or in the future, when you can’t find the words, or if you want to rewrite it to bring peace to a dark place.

Father God,

The darkness has taken hold me and I can’t find my way back to the light. In this moment, ending it all seems like the best option, the only option, the only way to escape. Yet, there is something in me that wants your light to snuff out the darkness. So I ask, Lord, that you would do just that. You are the only light that can shine in the darkness.

I know when I’m consumed with thoughts of death I’m believing lies from the enemy. I ask Lord that you would remind me of these truths: when I feel alone, you are with me; when I feel invisible, you see me; when I feel worthless, my value is knowing you and being known by you.

Lord, help me to understand that you are enough, because you are everything I need and more.

Remind me that when I feel hopeless, you have hope in me and for me. Remind me that when I don’t have the words to cry out to you, your son Jesus is praying for me, and your Spirit intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. Let this remind me that I am seen, heard and deeply loved.

I often feel out of place in this world. I don’t fit in and I’m not sure I want to. Remind me that this world is not my home and while, as your child, I will never fit in here, my time here isn’t over. Not yet. Please, give me the desire to live.

When I feel like I don’t matter, remind me that I was created with purpose. When I don’t know or understand why I feel the way I feel – remind me that you know the depth of pain in my heart, in my body and in my being. You know me better than I know myself… and yet you still love me.

When I feel like my death would go unnoticed because my life seems to go by uncelebrated, remind me that you celebrate me and that you hurt for me when I’m in this dark place. Remind me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am worth more than I know.

Remind me that this life is not mine to take.

Remind me that suicide is not the only option.

Remind me to love you and to love myself.

As I say these words I know in my heart that you love me and I feel incredible guilt for wanting to take the life you gave me. I feel embarrassed to admit these thoughts to you. I feel overwhelmed that you know these thoughts without my even saying them, and yet you still love me.

Remind me that Jesus did not come to earth and die for me so that I could live a defeated life. Help me to desire life and to live fully in you.

In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Resources:

Here’s some great tips to help someone else who may be struggling.

Here’s some help if you yourself are struggling with suicidal thoughts + depression.

what it’s like: to be a stay at home mom.

I am obsessed with my friend Lindsay and so thrilled to be sharing her story with you today! I relate to so much of it as a new Stay at Home mom myself and love all the tips she gives at the end. I’m grateful she’s sharing with us what her world is like and don’t panic, someone else will be sharing what it’s like to be a working mom later this summer so stay tuned!

Lindsay is as sweet as pie and as gorgeous as flower, and most importantly, I adore that she’s a fellow sister-in-Christ and lives just a few towns away. Lindsay, thank you for sharing with us today!

Here’s what it’s like to be a stay at home mom! 


Hi everyone! I am so honored to be featured on Chelsea’s blog today to share my own personal experience as a stay at home mom (SAHM).

7583927840_IMG_8315

I’m Lindsay and my husband and I live in a Minneapolis suburb with our son Parker (“P”), who is 16 months old. He is our sweet miracle after struggling with infertility and loss and has changed our lives in so many ways. We also have another baby on the way this fall, praise be to the Lord!

Growing up, I nannied for SAHM and her three little girls. I looked up to their family so much, and they literally became like family to me over the 7 years I was with them.  I grew up in a very different environment. My parents were divorced when I was young and worked full time, and I spent a lot of time at our neighbors house that was a bit more stable. I had hoped that one day I could be a SAHM and be there to watch my children grow up.  As much as I yearned to create a home like theirs one day, where I could be home and very active with our children, I was also just finishing up college and needed to start my career and supporting myself. I began working and quickly got sucked into my career for the years before I met my husband. I took work really seriously and worked a lot (or was always thinking about work), and eventually it became a really important piece of my identity. Right when I met my husband, I was also starting an MBA program that I did in the evenings after work. Between school and work, my life was pretty much 100% fully committed.

When we finally became pregnant with our son Parker, I had just finished up my MBA and switched jobs and was in one that I wasn’t  quite as passionate about. After lots of discussion together, my husband and I decided that I would stay at home with Parker. I was so excited and grateful for this amazing opportunity. But the transition was a little bit tougher for me, as my identity was changing and was completely new and unfamiliar.

IMG_9899

Parker arrived on January 24, and we came home from the hospital five days later, and got adjusted to having our sweet boy finally at home with us. I signed up for an Amma Mamma New Mama class (best thing I did!) and met a wonderful group of women who had littles right around the same age as P and we bonded over all being new moms and trying to figure it all out together. Time flew by and before I knew it, they were all returning to work. And to be honest, I was a bit envious, but also sad. I was hoping there were other SAHM’s in my group that I could’ve hung out with during the day, so this phase was tough for me.

The early days were hard for me as I was trying to figure out how to take care of this sweet new baby and at the same time take care of the house, my husband, meals, oh and myself….all while I was a having a bit of an identity crisis trying to figure out my new role as a mom and balance everything, and trying not to feel like a failure on top of it.  In my head I had thought that being a SAHM was such an easy, wonderful “job”, and my experience was proving to be much different than I had thought.  This was an amazing and wonderful role for me, but it was also one of the toughest things I’ve done. I give so much praise and credit to mamas who stay at home with their little ones, it’s a lot of work!  I remember one day very vividly though around 3 months when Parker rolled over for the first time and I got to see it. At that moment I thought to myself, I am so so grateful I get to be home with Parker to experience all of his firsts with him. I won’t have to find out about all of his firsts from others.

Staying at home has been an incredible experience for me, and I’m so grateful that we were able to make this work for us. However, this new role didn’t come without some challenges, too. During P’s first year, we experienced colic/silent reflux from months 4-5, which was so difficult because you feel kind of helpless. There would be days where he would cry, and I would cry, and it was really tough.  I called my sister-in-law, whose little one also had colic, and would just cry and ask her how she got through this. I also remember going to Mommy & Me yoga class at Blooma, and P cried for 30 minutes in the class and despite all of my efforts to calm and comfort him he wouldn’t stop. You know it’s bad when you are in a class with new mamas and they’re even looking at you. I walked out of the class sobbing, thinking to myself why can’t I comfort my baby? I just wanted my baby to be happy so badly, and I felt like I was failing at that.  After that, I made some major diet changes to see if he had any allergies that were causing his discomfort, but that didn’t help much either. Luckily, it was just a phase and he grew out of it around 6 months, but it was definitely a trying time for me as a new mama. P also got croup and seemed to catch every bug that came his way from about  6-10 months, and although there were some tough days in there because poor P just wasn’t himself because he wasn’t feeling well, I am so happy that I was the one that got to love on him and take care of him while he was sick.

I breastfed Parker (via exclusive pumping) for over a year and I feel like there’s no way I would’ve been able to do that if I had to return to work. I know there are mama’s that do do it, and that is so amazing! I just feel like I spent so much time hooked up to my pump that I don’t think I would’ve been able to dedicate as much time to pumping if I had been back at the office.  I spent almost an hour in the mornings emptying myself, and then pumped 3-4 additional times throughout the day. I think being in close proximity to Parker throughout the day helped me maintain my supply, and the fact that I was able to get my long pumping sessions in several times a day did, too. I never had any expectations for breastfeeding P, but am so very happy I was able to do so for so long and could donate the excess supply I had built up to a premie in need.  This was such a wonderful, and unexpected benefit of staying at home with him.

7518830688_IMG_6533

I do think that staying at home, especially with your first when they are little and can’t converse yet, can be lonely and isolating at times. I love playing with my son and seeing him smile and giggle, but at times the lack of adult conversation & interaction was challenging for me.  I had to push myself to meet other stay at home moms and really put myself out there so I felt connected with others and could introduce Parker to social situations. What’s worked really well for me was to create a schedule to break up the monotony of the day-to-day that can come with staying at home. Just playing in our home all day gets hard, especially during the winter months where we were cooped up for so long. Here are a few of the activities that we’ve signed up for that Parker really seems to enjoy, so you can check them out if you’re interested.

  • ECFE – Early Childhood Family Education Classes: We do this one day a week, it’s like early preschool, and it’s been so great for Parker. The moms go into a different room for part of the time and talk about relevant parenting topics while the kids play, read books, eat snacks and do other educational activities. This has helped me meet other moms too.
  • Music Class – Music Together: Ever since Parker was about 6 months old we have been doing music class and he loves it! When I play the CD in our car he gets so happy. It’s been fun to see him learn and grow through music class.
  • Mom’s Morning at Church: I actually co-lead a small group at Mom’s Morning this year, a two hour morning every two weeks spent with 7 other moms that have little ones right around the same age as P. We all supported one another in our motherhood journeys and studied the Word of the Lord together. I’m so blessed to have this in my life.  I had a really tough parenting day the other day and asked these mamas to pray for me and they showed up in so many unexpected ways and blessed me during that difficult time.
  • BSF – Bible Study Fellowship: I joined BSF this year as well and it truly transformed my life. From the in depth study of God’s word, to the people I have met, this has been truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve received since staying at home. I feel so rejuvenated and refreshed when I leave BSF each week and I feel it’s made me a better mother, wife and person.  Plus, they have an AMAZING children’s program that teaches even the littlest of babies about Jesus.

Other places we like to go: Brookview Backyard, Edinborough, Toddler Tuesday at MOA, and  we go on lots of walks and park playdates. I’m sure we’ll go to splash pads and the pool too this summer.

6174665856_IMG_4711 (1)

It has been really nice for me to have scheduled activities each day of the week with Parker so we get out of the house, I can have some time to socialize with other mom’s and P gets to play with other children while learning, too.  I have also liked channeling my creative side and doing my blogging & interior design part time so that I have something that excites me and gives me satisfaction outside of my role as a mother, too. I’m grateful for everyone who has supported me and my blog – thank you! It’s been such a wonderful outlet for me.

I feel so lucky to have this incredible experience with my son. He is such a sweet boy and I absolutely love seeing him giggle and learn each and every day. I love watching him do all of his firsts and getting to know his fun and busy personality that seems to grow bigger by the day. There are tough days, but that is motherhood, and I know that in those moments I need to turn to Jesus and pray.  I am so lucky to have the privilege of staying at home with P and soon his little sibling, too. We are all figuring this out together and I think we have a great routine in place that works well for us!

Here are a few things I try to remind myself….

It’s okay to ask for help, and lots of it. You don’t need to do it all alone.

It’s okay if the house isn’t clean. There’s always tomorrow (or another day) for that.

It’s okay if you stayed in your PJ’s all day, or wore yoga clothes and didn’t shower. Your kiddo doesn’t care, promise!

It’s okay if you order pizza or eat leftovers for dinner.  Everyone is getting fed just fine!

And most importantly, give yourself grace and lots of it. God gives us so much grace, we need to remember to give ourselves that grace, too.

Your child loves you, Jesus loves you and you are doing great!


IMG_9788

Lindsay is a lifestyle blogger based in the Minneapolis suburbs with her husband Todd, their son Parker and a baby on the way this fall. She’s a stay at home mom, part-time blogger and has a passion for Jesus and interior design. You can check out her blog at midwestblonde.com and follow her on Instagram @LindsayAnneJohnson.

PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience,take a natural route with infertility, be a vlogger, go through the adoption process, and have male factor infertility. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to have male factor infertility.

E is so brave to share her What’s It Like story today, and that’s what it’s like to experience male factor infertility. Out of respect for her privacy, her post will be anonymous, however, I know these words will open many eyes and also, cause others not to feel so alone if they are struggling with this as well.

Thank you E for sharing! 


I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. My mom had six kids between the ages of 33 and 42 so I thought it would be a piece of cake. My husband and I had been married just under a year when we decided to start officially trying. I had done my research, knew all about charting and OPKs and we were ready to go! After month three of careful charting and timing sex I began to suspect something was wrong. It was a gut instinct and I am glad I followed it. I made an appointment with an OB and while she laughed at how long we had been trying to get pregnant she finally agreed to get my husband a semen analysis just for my peace of mind. We were not at all prepared for the results.

She called me that same day and I could tell just by the sound of her voice that something was wrong. “Honey, his count is really low and he had 0% normal sperm. I’m so sorry. I am referring you to a reproductive endocrinologist so that they can help you from here…” A reproductive what? 0% normal? What did all of that mean?! I will never forget the moment I had to break the news to my husband that we were going to need help to have a family. His face when I explained the results is forever etched in my mind. He was a perfectly healthy 27-year-old that never had any major health problems, never smoked, and rarely drank alcohol. We were so confused.

Our first RE appointment consisted of them telling us that we would likely need IVF with ICSI (injecting the sperm directly into the egg) to get pregnant. We immediately read everything we could on improving sperm count and morphology and started him on every vitamin cocktail available. The second analysis yielded slightly better results, and the third was almost normal parameters with count and slightly better morphology. However, with subsequent SAs his numbers have been consistently low so we believe that the vitamins were not doing much. Our urologist never bought into the supplement “mumbo jumbo” but said it couldn’t hurt.

We were not willing to go straight into such drastic measures as IVF at first so we opted for medicated cycles. Round two of letrozole we fell pregnant, but that ended in a miscarriage at 6.5 weeks. We got pregnant again on the first round of Clomid which resulted in a chemical pregnancy ending at 5 weeks. Doctors say that morphology has nothing to do with the genetic material inside and that an abnormal sperm probably can’t penetrate the egg, but if it does it can result in a normal pregnancy. After our losses, we aren’t so sure we buy into that. We feel that much more research needs to be done on sperm morphology and DNA. We did our first ICF/ICSI cycle this March which resulted in two beautiful embryos and are very hopeful that these will be our first two children.

When I asked my husband what it’s like to deal with male factor infertility his answer was this, “It sucks.” He has brought up many feelings of inadequacy and shame that have gone along with this type of diagnosis. He feels responsible for us having to pay so much money and go through so much heartache in order to have children. He feels isolated and alone. A few of his childhood friends have gone on to have kids and when they talk about it in their group message he can’t participate. It’s been a big struggle for him to cope with and he has been so amazingly strong for the both of us.

If you ask me how I feel about dealing with MFI, I would agree with all of the above. It feels very isolating as much of the online support communities are people who don’t have MFI. I find that often I am the only one of my friends who doesn’t have PCOS or Endometriosis and is unable to get pregnant. MFI is one of the only diagnoses that is very difficult to overcome, specifically abnormal morphology. We never anticipated having to go through IVF and it was a very difficult time for us. However, I will also say this. Dealing with MFI and infertility has made our relationship stronger than I ever thought possible. We have gone through the lowest lows and the highest highs; side by side and hand in hand. My husband constantly makes me laugh when we are dealing with shitty news. Recently, he compared his sperm to a tennis team, “Because there aren’t very many of them and most of them are weird as hell” (he was a tennis player throughout high school). I could not ask for a better partner to weather this storm. Infertility does not define us and we constantly hold onto hope that one day we will be parents.

art artistic black and white blank

Photo by Lynnelle Richardson on Pexels.com


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience,take a natural route with infertility, be a vlogger, and go through the adoption process. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to have a paralyzed husband.

I am so thankful for Lauren’s willingness to share with us today on this What It’s Like Series. As I read through her words, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful for both her perspective and her encouragement and I think you will feel the same. Today Lauren is sharing with us what it’s like to have a spouse who is paralyzed and I hope you walk away with a new perspective on how to handle difficult situations that life throws your way.

Lauren, thank you for sharing! 


How would you describe your spouse? Would you talk about their looks, their personality, maybe what they do for a living? Let me tell you about my husband. His name is Ryan. He sells crop insurance and also farms corn and soybeans. He is handsome, has an epic beard, great sense of humor, a heart of gold and is in a wheelchair. Wait, what? A wheelchair? Yes you heard me right, my husband is in a Wheelchair. You are probably wondering why he is in a wheelchair and what life is like for us, so here’s our story.

buck1

All it took was one phone call to forever change my life and the path that I was on, the path that we had planned. I was 22 years old. I was in college studying to be a dental hygienist, engaged to Ryan who was 26 and we had planned to be married September 2008. Little did we both know that the path that we had planned was far different then the path that God had planned for us. On February 23, 2008 both of our lives forever changed. I answered the phone to have my brother tell me that Ryan had been airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester and that it wasn’t good. He knew he had a broken leg but he said it’s worse than that. Ryan and my brother had set out on their snowmobiles and were about five miles down the trail when Ryan overcorrected his sled around a curve and was thrown off and struck three trees. One with his leg, head and the last with his back. His injuries were a burst T5 which caused T4 and T6 to pinch his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the mid chest down. He also cracked C2, tore all the ligaments in his neck, broken femur on his left leg, collapsed lung and a closed head injury. The following days Ryan had surgery to repair his spinal cord, his leg and was put on a ventilator. The doctors said he shouldn’t have survived his accident, let alone the surgery but he did. The following months were spent in the hospital getting out of ICU and into rehab for therapy to learn how to live life again being paralyzed.

buck2

At 22 and 26 years old we had to grow up fast. I knew life would be different, I knew life would be harder, but I never once thought that I didn’t want to marry Ryan because of his paralysis. You don’t love someone because they can walk, you love them for who they are as a person. Life has challenges but it’s how you handle them and overcome them that matter. Six months after Ryan’s accident I was in a head on collision that left me out of work for 6 months with some extensive damage done to my knee. 2008 was one heck of a year. Our wedding was postponed until July 7, 2010. We had a beautiful day and we thought that life could only go up from here. Just when we thought life could only get better, we started on the journey to start our family which lead to a three year on and off battle with infertility and IVF cycles, resulting in 3 failed transfers, 2 surgeries to remove uterine polyps and no children. Our marriage started to crumble after that.

We were both unhappy, both being selfish and both losing sight of what really mattered in life and that was God. On the verge of divorce we changed our priorities and gave our relationship to God. We placed Him back at the center of our relationship and everything changed for the better! On our wedding day we used two Bible verses that really have impacted us more than we expected in our life.

buck3

James 1:2-4, 12 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Fast forward to current life: We are still happily married with our five month old son Silas. You are probably wondering what life is like with a husband who is in a wheelchair. Well it’s probably not that different than yours. I believe that everyone has their version of what is “normal” in their life. After Ryan got hurt, we had to find our new “normal”. Ryan is fortunate to have full use of his arms and hands so he is fully capable of taking care of himself and certain things around the house. He works full time selling insurance and drives tractor when we are planting and harvesting our fields. If there is something that Ryan can’t do then he usually asks me. For instance Ryan can’t change light bulbs so that’s my job. If it is a job that I can’t do then I usually ask a family member or a friend to help us out. Ryan is pretty stubborn so if there is something he can’t do he usually will figure out a way to do it. When it comes to taking care of our son Silas more of the responsibilities fall on me but Ryan has still managed to figure out how to pick him up from certain areas in the house. We have done a lot of trial and error when it comes to figuring out what Ryan can and can’t do. We’ve learned to plan ahead when it comes to travel and even just day to day activities. When we travel, we have to research for ADA hotel rooms, plan differently for flights, and take time planning before venturing to new towns, shops or restaurants,  needing to make sure to find ramps to get in and out of places, and handicapped parking.

IMG_3029

It is more of the little things that are harder having a spouse that is paralyzed. Not being able to hold hands when we go for a walk at night, or not being able to slow dance at a wedding. I still sit on his lap and we slow dance that way. But I miss the feeling of having my 6 foot husband standing over me and wrapping his arms around me that way. Not being able to go for a hike or do certain activities outdoors. We still live a pretty active lifestyle, we workout, we hunt and we try to stay active as much as possible. In the scheme of things those little things don’t really matter because I’m so thankful to have Ryan here. We have a very full and happy life together and the adventures are just beginning with our son Silas! We’ve learned to deal with the looks when we go places or when we park in a handicapped spot and people judge us before we even get out of a vehicle. We’ve learned to deal with the fact that many places we have traveled to are not ADA compliant or don’t have a wheelchair accessible bathroom.  We’ve learned to deal with the constant handshakes and thanks for serving our country when we go to bigger events, as everyone seems to think Ryan is a wounded veteran. We’ve learned to let things that make us angry roll off our back and we have learned to laugh about life. Ryan jokes so much about being in a wheelchair and the fact he can’t feel his legs. He has a good zest for life so that helps so much. We also fully believe that what happened to Ryan is a part of God’s plan. We’ve learned to trust Him and keep our faith strong. We also cling to the promise that when God calls Ryan home that he will walk again someday and that, my friends, is something to hold onto. God is so good and even through all the hardships we have been through, looking back now it was all a part of God’s plan for us. I laugh now thinking about how I used to plan out my life. I thought I would be married by 23 and be done having kids by the time I was 30. I’m going to be 32 in a month and I just had my first child and you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way. God’s plan for me, for us, is so much more than I could ever imagine. We have a beautiful family and a beautiful life and we have our faith in the good Lord above. Put your trust in Him and He will get you through anything! Let Him lead your life, give Him the reigns, you won’t regret it!

buck4


Born and raised a farm girl in southeast Minnesota, Lauren always dreamt of being like her grandmother and marrying a farmer and being a farm wife. She met Ryan in 2005 and married July 2010. She’s a dental hygienist by trade, full time mama to their sweet five month old son Silas.  She’s blessed to be married to her farmer and be working on their dream of farming full time. She’s the author to the blog adventureswithheelsandwheels.com, where she hopes to be able to teach others about what life is like being in a wheelchair and connects and helps others who are paralyzed or are going through IVF. She loves her mornings with God, crossfit, all things outdoors, bow hunting, cooking and Red Wing boots! You can connect with Lauren on Instagram @adventureswithheelsandwheels. 


 

PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility, be a vlogger and go through the adoption process. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to go through the adoption process.

I am giddy to share with you my friend Kelly Briscoe’s story about adoption today for so many reasons. One, I know so many people that God has called them to adopt and this helps me understand how to support them better, as well as empathize better about their journey. Secondly, her story encourages me in my faith, and I know it will yours too. Kelly, thank you for sharing and being open about the calling God gave you. Here’s What It’s Like to go through the adoption process. 


I am so truly honored to share with you what it’s like to go through the adoption process. There are so many amazing mamas and mamas to be through adoption and I pray that I can do them all justice.

Adoption.

There’s so much depth in the word adoption.

I knew from a very young age that adoption was going to be part of my story. I’ve felt crushed for it for a long, long time. The Lord has always had it on my heart and now I know why.

When I was dating my husband, Britt, I told him that adoption was something I knew was in my future and he knew it would be something we would do, we just weren’t sure when. He and I both knew the expenses would be more than we could handle when we first got married. We decided about 2 years after being married that we wanted to try to have bio children. Turns out, the reason the Lord had always crushed my heart for adoption was because that was the way He wanted us to grow each little one that would come into our family. I love that so much. He had prepared my heart for adoption in more ways that I can count and that makes me giddy.

Photo 1

Britt and I decided in April of 2017 to begin the adoption process. We knew going in it would be a few things: expensive, long, trying. We had no idea what it would bring and it still surprises me each day, even after bringing our girl home. I thought I knew, and actually I’m glad with how much I’ve learned.

After a lot of Googling, researching, and calling, we decided a consulting agency (that many had recommended) was the direction we felt lead to take. We felt like that was a huge hurdle to jump.

The homestudy was next. The ball was kind of in our court for this and I feel like it took the longest. The paper work. Do I have all of the right documents (yes, you do)? Are they going to approve us (yes, they will)? Is my house in the best shape of all time (yes, you’ll be just fine). We felt such a huge relief mailing our finally homestudy off. Getting the homestudy approval means you’re officially a waiting family!

Photo 2

When we got approved – it was such an amazing feeling. We made and completed our profile book that was going to be shown to potential birth families. That was such an emotional process. 16 pages of us. I truly loved putting it together. We included a letter to our potential birth mama and we prayed over each beautiful woman who would hold our book. We wanted her to know what was loved and chosen by the one and only.

So profile book done, paperwork done – it was time to start presenting to potential birth mamas. After talking with our agency, we were anticipating waiting for a good while before hearing “yes, they chose you.” We were sure it would be a while, so we prepared and fundraised (I could talk about this all day because GOD SHOWED UP). We got our first case the day after we went active. Seeing the e-mail come through lead to a rush of emotions!! We praised God because it felt like we would never get there, but here we were, stalking our e-mails, praying like crazy, and soaking it all in. People ask me all the time how I knew when it was time to say yes to a case. I actually don’t know. I just felt this feeling. So we said yes. We got a call at 8:30pm from our consultant on a Wednesday night. “Mama C picked you!!!” And then tears and tears and more tears. Freaking out. Then more tears. Our baby girl, Eleanor Faye was reality.

Photo 4

Let me tell you one thing to NEVER take for granted in the adoption process. The amazing birth mama, our Mama C. Think about the gift (no really, sit and think) and tell me they’re not completely amazing. This beautiful woman read our book and decided we would be the ones to raise the baby that she would birth. Not only that – she would allow this family to be in the room when this tiny babe came into the world. She would let this family cut the cord from her to her baby. Lord Almighty can only write that story. We’re so crazy in love with our birth mama. God gave us each other. We’re so thankful He did.

Photo 3

Adoption is truly something else. Something that’s hard to describe but so amazing. There’s only one who could knit such a stunning story and process. One Heavenly Father that would bring two families together. One God that would know this is what our hearts need. Not just a daughter to hold, but a birthmother to love, a community to cherish, and a God to thank and praise each day. It brought us so much further in our faith and I am so in awe of that.

Photo 5

So here’s what I suggest if you’re thinking about the adoption process:

  • Take the time and really listen to what the Lord is saying.
  • Pray like you’ve never prayed before.
  • Find your people. Trust me when I say that you need people that understand what you’re going through. Even if it’s just one person. Find them. Don’t let them go.
  • If you hear Him say yes, don’t ignore it. Be kinda scared, but listen like it’s your job. Don’t turn Him down. He’ll make it happen – you just need to say yes.
  • Be the light of the Lord in all that you do during the process.

Starting or being in the adoption process can be intimidating, scary, amazing. If you have questions or just need to chat, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be so honored kellyhallbriscoe (at) gmail.com.

Photo 6


Bio Photo.JPG

Born and raised in the great state of Georgia, Kelly grew up loving sun scorching summers and star filled skies. By the grace of God, she married my soul mate and best friend in 2011 and life has been non-stop since. She and her husband recently adopted their long-awaited baby girl, Eleanor Faye in November 2017.  She loves the Lord, donuts, crow’s feet wrinkles, and talking about all things adoption.


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience,take a natural route with infertility, and be a vlogger. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!