what it’s like: to experience a late pregnancy stillbirth.

Sometimes these introductions are easy, and other times, there aren’t proper words to introduce a piece. This is the latter. Today we’re inviting you into a sacred place and I am humbled and grateful for my friend Anna’s willingness to let us into this part of her story. She shares with such grace and beauty in the brokenness that I know you will walk away not only with tears in your eyes, but also, deeply moved by her faith in the heartbreak. Anna, thank you for sharing about Lillian with us.

Here’s what it’s like to experience a late pregnancy stillbirth.

*Trigger warning for anyone who has lost a child. Check your heart today and skip if needed.*


“I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.” These six words irrevocably changed my life. At 35 weeks pregnant, they were the last thing I expected to hear. I naïvely thought my daughter was safe, since we’d made it past all the viability milestones. On July 16th, 2016, at 7:52 a.m., Lillian Ruth was born. I’ll always remember how the sun was peeking over the trees as I gave a final push to deliver her. It was followed by a piercing silence. No newborn crying, no rush of activity, no wishes of “congratulations.” She was petite, at 4 pounds, 2 ounces, but as beautiful as can be.  Time stood still during the hours we spent with her, but when we left the hospital with empty arms, we realized it had gone by all too quickly. Life veered off course, as I was thrown into an ocean of grief, its vastness is unknown to those who haven’t experienced it. The last 23 months have been a crash-course in navigating its waves — a process that I’ve found will last a lifetime. It’s messy, painful, scary, and lonely, but filled with more beauty than I’ve ever known.

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If you came to my house, you’d see the candle we light in her memory, and the vase of flowers with her name painted on it. In our bedroom, you’d see pictures of her (the only ones we’ll ever have), and the shelf where we keep her urn. I would unlock the fireproof safe that holds a lock of her hair, her footprints, the only dress she ever wore, and even more pictures. I could tell you what happened the day she was born, and how all the fear I had during labor melted away the first time I held her. I’d share what it was like trying to fit a lifetime of “I love yous” into a few hours. I’d tell you how people came together and surrounded us with love, bringing us meals, or watching our son while we made arrangements at the funeral home. But with time, people fell away. They stopped asking about her, and grew silent anytime I would bring her up. Nowadays, I often feel alone in my grief; isolated from those who have never experienced loss. I’d explain how different my motherhood feels from that of others, and how exhausted I am parenting my sons on Earth while trying my hardest to honor my daughter in Heaven. Her absence is felt everywhere.

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Despite the isolation, fear, and heartache, I see so much of God’s beauty, more than I could’ve imagined possible in fact. I see it in the juxtapositions of pain and joy; hope and hopelessness. I know He hasn’t forsaken us, because the pain hasn’t taken away my ability to feel joy. I used to think happy was happy and sad was sad; that one could only exist without the other. The mixture of the two is extraordinarily profound. Right now, I am both the happiest and saddest I’ve ever been, and I don’t know how that can be, without God having created us with such a great depth of emotion. Yes, my sense of joy now looks so very different than it did before, because there’s pain in it, and I’m realizing there probably always will be, but I am undeniably joyful. It seems impossible that a broken heart could feel full, yet mine is overflowing with hope, love, and gratitude.

I feel the deepest sense of gratitude, for each day we spent with her, all 246 of them. Watching my belly grow and feeling her kick was magical. While the pain is deep, and will forever exist in some capacity, I would go back and experience all of this again in an instant. It’s worth it just to have known her, and to have held her for those few short hours. In some ways, I’m grateful for the pain, too. My grandmother used to say, “It would be a shame if it didn’t hurt so bad, because that would mean you didn’t have such a loving heart.” How true I’ve found that to be… the grief I feel, no matter how painful it is, is born from the love I have for her. How beautiful it is to know a love that grand.

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I’ve written and rewritten these words countless times, trying to figure out how I can articulate what stillbirth is like. It’s pain, heartache, isolation, fear, hope, joy, love, and so many other things. Trying to describe something so multifaceted, that occupies every corner of my life is challenging. Human life is complex, and so too is the loss of life. There are so many parts of this I could write about (grief, friendships, pregnancy after loss, parenting after loss, etc.), and these paragraphs hardly scratch the surface.

People sometimes ask me what they can do for a friend or family member who has lost a baby. My answer is simple: talk about his or her baby. Not just at the beginning, when grief is fresh, but in the months and years that follow. It isn’t painful to remember her, it’s quite the opposite. What’s painful is thinking that people have forgotten her. The small circle of friends and family members who remember Lillian, and speak her name without inhibition, are more precious than gold.

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My life is unfolding in many unexpected ways, and looks entirely different than I thought it would before her death. On days when the grief is especially heavy, she feels far away. I wonder if she ever existed, and the pictures seem like a window into someone else’s life. The weight of her absence reminds me that she was present. In her life, she knew nothing but love. The tears, suffering, and my broken heart are proof that she lived. As is the love that binds us together until we meet again in Heaven. Experiencing this kind of love is one of the greatest joys in my life, and the joy of loving her will forever outweigh the the pain of losing her.


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Anna is a Navy wife, and has been married to husband, Mark, for almost 7 years. Together they’re raising sons, John and Lawrence, on earth and loving daughter, Lillian, in Heaven. True to her Minnesotan roots, she loves fishing, skiing, and cold winter days (spent either outside or wrapped up in a blanket with a good book). She’s passionate about connecting with other parents who’ve lost a child, at any age or gestation, and passing along words of hope and encouragement. You can follow her on Instagram, on her blog, and visit her Etsy shop.


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’!

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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 on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriagesand have a surrogate.  Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

june crushes.

 

Happy June! This has been such a full summer so far! I don’t get to share updates often, so here’s a few summer highlights followed by our June faves and crushes!

  • I traveled with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to Washington DC for our annual girls trip! Josh and his dad crushed the twin parenting game back home, and I so enjoyed the time away to refuel and adult! Trip highlights: seeing Waitress, yummy food I didn’t have to cook, lots of laughing, time to connect with family, and sightseeing!

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  • We made our first trip to the library to get library cards! They had a ball seeing all the books and other little people!
  • We started a Keto lifestyle in efforts to lose weight, gain more energy, and help with PCOS. I have been using this book for recipes and tipsand have found it INCREDIBLY helpful. Nearly 3 weeks in and it’s been going great!

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  • Kirsten and Logan got their first real bad bug which landed Kirsten in the ER and doctor’s office within a week span. I got it too, but good news is we are all better now!
  • Cali had her last day of school, hehe! (We LOVE our new letterboard from Rustic Rooster Home Goods … grab one on Amazon while the price is discounted and in the process, support a small business owned by our good friends Andrea and Ricky!)

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  • We celebrated Father’s Day, grateful that K & L have the best dad in all the land.

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  • My cousin Brittany and her husband Brad, and their 2 year old son Hudson came up to stay with us for a few days! The kids LOVED the time together. SO. MUCH. FUN.

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  • My sister entered her 3rd trimester and we are getting closer and closer to welcoming our NEPHEW into the family!

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This post includes affiliate links which means if you choose to use a link below to purchase something, our family will receive a small commission. In no way does this affect my opinions or crushes! I thank you in advance because twins ain’t cheap! :) 


Now time, for some June favorites! Click the bolded title to check out the links!

1) LifeDinnerPDF: My friend Maria from @RiaRambles shared this amazing tool (LifeDinnerPDF) her and her husband created and use for date nights and I LOVE IT. One thing Josh and I have learned quickly, is that if we aren’t intentional to keep up with our marriage, parenting together gets a whole lot harder. We love to invest in date nights and these PDF’s outline an awesome way to do that, whether it’s monthly or quarterly. Send it to your significant other and get a reservation on the calendar and CONNECT!

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date night in june!

2) Day Designer Monthly Planner: For those who use academic planners, I love this Target collab from Day Designer and Blue Sky Planners. The monthly is perfect for our family to keep out and share and it’s only $6.99. Hard to find in stores because it goes fast, but in stock online. This is my third year using it as a simply monthly planner in addition to my normal bulky daily one.

3) Soft summer feet: My friend Jana told me about this foot cream and these loose heel socks for sleeping and it has done WONDERS for my heels, especially in the summer when we are wearing flip flops and going barefoot more often. A little goes a long way and it has softened some ugly cracks and dry spots overnight!

4)My Soul Sings Out album: My church Eagle Brooke released a worship cd and me and the kids love singing along and praising Jesus! One of our favorites is “No Not Once.”

5) Starbucks at home – Keto style: My friend introduced me to this drink and I am in love! I make a big pot of Tazo Passion Iced Tea (grab the bags here for cheap!),and then add alittle lemonade Mio drops (find them here)and then I love to add some La Croix for a little fizz! (Berry is delish, but Tangerine is fun too! I don’t discriminate, they are all great!). OR to make it a Keto pink drink, sub the La Croix for a little heavy whipping cream! You may want a touch of Stevia to sweetened … or not! But it’s SO yummy!

6) Native Deodorant: Okay, months ago I reached out and asked for suggestions for a natural, well-working deodorant because mine was NOT cutting it. And you guys gave me soooo many suggestions, a repetitive one being Native! Well, months later, I’m here to say thank you! I have been using it for months now and it reallllly works. Paraben free, cruelty free, aluminum free, free shipping, and they even offer mini sizes perfect for your perfect or diaper bag … I have been so impressed. If you want to grab some to try – free returns if it doesn’t float your boat.

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Now onto the kiddos recent favorites!

1) Stack and Tumble Elephant: My kiddos got this toy for their birthday from family friends and it’s a daily staple! We have so much fun putting the rings on and taking them off (repeat x 1000) and making them fall off, and twisting the ears, and kissing it’s nose … they LOVE him!

2) Little Tikes 4 in 1:The kiddos have been loving their bikes this summer! Bonus for us – there’s an adjustable handle and cup holder so we can strap them in and push them. Since they can’t reach the peddles yet, there’s a foot rest that comes off when they can. It will adapt itself all the way into a little trike for them as they grow. An investment but so well worth it!

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3) Matching shirts: Because is anything cuter than matching kids? Girls tank here and boys tee shirt here. We got to match our cousin Hudson too! So fun!

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4) Just a Handful of Olives:My kids love olives and I love throwing these Trader Joe’s packs in my purse to feed on the go (cut in half so they don’t choke.) .99 cents a bag and delish!

5) Declan Roe: We just found out about this adorable boutique that sells children’s clothes and also, donates 15% of profits  to IVF and adoption families. Check out these PRECIOUS outfits my kiddos wore this weekend from them!

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BONUS: Hanna Andersson jammies … because we just love the quality and well, matching. Lemon jammies are a must! Here’s a coupon for 20% off your order. Don’t forget to use your Ebatesto save even more (and if you’re a first time user, get a free $10 cash with this link!)

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Whoa, that’s long. If you’ve stuck around, thanks for reading!!!! I appreciate you! Sometimes I just need to brain dump!

Upcoming posts this summer in addition to the What It’s Like series:

– surviving exclusively pumping – tips, tricks, and how to manage.

– traveling guide for Washington DC

– tips for teething toddlers: what we’ve learned

– favorite books + resources for quiet time as a busy mom. What does it look like?

– marriage tips + transitioning into parenthood … as we celebrate 13 years of marriage next month!

Thanks for staying along for the ride!

what it’s like: to have a surrogate.

Erin is a joy to know and someone who is in the dictionary next to the word “warrior”. Her story is honest and vulnerable and I am so thankful for what she does for the infertility community. I am so thankful for her willingness to share her story as today’s What It’s Like feature and am proud to call her my friend. Here’s what it’s like to have a surrogate. 


When my husband and I got married in October 2012, I never could have been prepared nor envisioned all we would go through over the next almost six years of marriage.

Having wanting to start a family right away, we did what most “normal” spouses do. I did my research, started tracking my cycles, my basal body temperature, and testing ovulation. I downloaded every fertility app you could think of to track the best days to have sex.

After a year of never seeing those two lines we so prayed for, I saw my OB & I was diagnosed with PCOS. At this time, it was also discovered that my left Fallopian tube needed to be removed. It was removed via laparoscopy surgery in 2013. After a recovering from surgery, we began Clomid to induce ovulation. With no luck after three months, we made the decision to go to a fertility clinic.

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From June 2014 through October 2017 my husband and I would go on to try three IUI’s and nine IVF embryo transfers (with fifteen embryos). Over four years, we would spend our days at the clinic in the morning for monitoring and pumping myself full of hormone injections by night. Five egg retrievals in total. We would get pregnant six times, only to lose all of them.

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Around our fourth loss, I began thinking of other alternatives to fulfilling our lifelong dream of becoming parents. How much more could my body handle? How much more heartbreak could we endure? How many more embryos would we have to “waste” to get our miracle baby?

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Around the same time, one of my best friends had so generously offered to be our surrogate, if we ever wanted to take that route. While I knew deep down, ultimately, it would most likely be where we would end up, I just wasn’t quite ready to give up on my body just yet. After all, isn’t that the most beautiful thing about a woman’s body? That we can carry our own children and create life?

For our fifth and sixth transfer, we made the decision to consult a reproductive immunologist, Dr. Kwak Kim. Desperately searching for answers as to why my body was rejecting our babies. Through extensive testing, she discovered I had MTHFR and high NK cells. Essentially, my body thought the fetus was foreign and wanted to get rid of it. Crazy, right?! For those next several months, we made quite a few different trips to several different clinics weekly. It got hard juggling all of it with our work schedules and life, but we always made it work. My husband and I were the living definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But, we knew it would all be worth it.

We tried a few different protocols (steroids, blood thinners, intralipids, etc) with Dr. Kwak Kim and just when we got pregnant and thought things were looking up, they would come crashing down on us in all too familiar fashion. We went on to have our fifth and sixth final loss in June 2017.

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We were emotionally and physically exhausted. We had literally continued to do back-to-back cycles for almost four solid years. After every loss we went through, I would somehow find the courage, strength, and hope to get back up again. I always had that glimmer of hope from within me, but not this time. It was time to take our journey to three on a different path.

I often get asked how we found our surrogate and while I wish I could say I had the courage to ask her, it was her that approached us. Can you imagine just how hard and scary that must have been for her? Offering to your best friend, the gift of life, but not wanting to hurt my feelings by taking away the joy of pregnancy? It did help that she knew we had been toying with the idea, so the next steps on our journey were fairly easy and painless. I should also note that Rachel lives in our hometown in Wisconsin and we are living in Illinois, so there would be a lot of traveling, but all worth it of course.

In August 2017, we would begin the surrogacy process. And boy, there was (and probably still is) so much that I did not know. It wouldn’t be as simple as just putting our embryos into our surrogate. There would be health history, medical checks and tests, psychological exams, lawyers, court dates, etc. Woah. For starters, our fertility clinic would only work with us if we went through a surrogacy agency, per FDA requirements, and they recommended us to Pink & Blue Surrogacy out of Waterloo, WI. I am super grateful that we are using an agency – it has made this journey so much easier!!!! Jesse, the founder and owner, has worked with us since day one and we couldn’t have gotten more lucky.

My husband & I had no embryos left so we went through our fifth (and hopefully final) egg retrieval in October 2017. The cool part, is that I get to share with our future child(ren) that they were conceived a day before our five year wedding anniversary! On our fifth egg retrieval, seven embryos made it to day 5 or 6 and were biopsied for genetic testing. Of those, we were blessed with four coming back PGS “normal” and two of those were mosaic.

Prior to our retrieval, our surrogate Rachel, had to see her OB for a physical exam and all of her medical history was sent to our surrogacy agency. Our surrogacy agency then sends all of her paperwork to our fertility clinic where they “cleared” Rachel to be our surrogate! I was never worried that Rachel wouldn’t be cleared. She has three children of her own, all healthy pregnancies with zero complications! One hurdle done!

After we knew we had embryos, the legal portion could start. Our surrogacy agency contacted a legal team and set us up with our prospective lawyers/attorneys. Each of our lawyers spoke to us and went over what we wanted/didn’t want out of the agreement, which took about a two hour phone call for both parties. After that agreement was drawn up, and we both had very little changes to make, we both signed and we would be cleared to prep Rachel and her body for our transfer! Yay!

Legally, I can’t talk much about what is in the contract, but it’s truly a lot of general items such as no alcohol/drugs for the surrogate (duh, lol), stipends for some things for the surrogate, the intended parents (us) cover all legal/medical fees – which is all very typical. Quite honestly, the legal portion was extremely painless and went pretty quick.

Our legal was completed on December 8th, 2017 and we scheduled transfer for January 12th, 2018. We were all equally excited and couldn’t wait for transfer to get here! Rachel would begin her meds (and injections) right after legal was done and she would make several trips down to us and our fertility clinic for monitoring appointments. She came down for her baseline appointment, lining check, and then transfer.

Rachel & her husband came down the evening before transfer because we needed to be at the clinic early the next day. I was a ball of nerves. I’d stepped foot into this clinic, probably more times than I can count, but transfer day was different. I went in with more hope than I had ever had. We transferred two PGS embryos into Rachel. Later we would find out it was a boy and girl embryo! Here are some pictures from that magical day, thanks to our photographer Jessica Weinstock.

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Rachel’s blood beta pregnancy test was on January 21st – we already knew she was pregnant from her taking home pregnancy tests, but now it was confirmed. Our clinic had her do a repeat beta two or three more times and then we waited for ultrasound. On February 7th, we had our first ultrasound and it was confirmed that one embryo had implanted and Rachel was indeed carrying our rainbow baby! We got to see the flicker of the heartbeat, just beating away. It’s a moment I will never forget.

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We had agreed with our legal team that within 90 days of a confirmed heartbeat we would provide life insurance for Rachel and also have an estate plan drawn up for her family – which we were more than happy to do. There’s so much more that goes into surrogacy that I never expected!

We were released from my fertility clinic at our 9 week 3 day appointment and have now been seeing Rachel’s midwifes at her clinic. She will also give birth at the hospital that she has delivered all her children at as well.

At twenty weeks, we will be contacted by our surrogacy agency and we will begin the process of going to court for a “parentage” agreement with our legal team. I don’t know too much about this yet, I just know that we will all have to go to court and it should take about thirty minutes in the court room. Once that is complete, I’m 99% sure everything will be taken care of and we just wait for our daughter to arrive this September!

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In all, our surrogacy journey will have cost us $30K+, but we have been extremely blessed and lucky to enough to host a lot of fundraisers that have really help offset the cost. You can’t put a cost on happiness and I know when our daughter is here, nothing else will matter and our hearts will be exploding with love.

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Throughout our surrogacy journey, I have to be honest and share that at times it has been hard for me to cope with not being the one to carry our child. While I know, without a doubt, this is the path we needed to take to reach our dream of becoming parents, it still stings a bit that I am not the one carrying her. What Rachel is doing for us, is the greatest gift anyone could give us and is extremely priceless, we are forever grateful for her. We text every day and she always keeps us in the loop too, which is wonderful.

I have a difficult time going into baby sections and/or baby stores because when I tell people we are due in September they immediately take a glance at my stomach and notice no bump. I feel like I don’t belong most of the time. People have told me to be thankful that I am not carrying our child because someone in their family had a rough pregnancy. I have been told during our surrogate’s first trimester that whenever she got sick from the baby, I should force myself to be sick too. Sometimes, people just need to bite their tongue. It can be very discouraging going through this process, and please don’t for one second ever think I wouldn’t give ANYTHING to have carried our child.

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I will never discredit the strength it takes to carry a child, let alone carry a child for someone else. Rachel has shown us so much love, strength, grace and she’s a true warrior. Not once has she complained about the morning sickness (or all day sickness), the injections she took, or the meds she had to take. Her strength has helped me keep calm. She’s giving us our miracle.

I continue to hear how we have “beat” infertility and I’m here to say, no we didn’t. Infertility took a lot from me. Years of pain, loss, time at clinics, etc – but I’m still not the one carrying my child. So no, we did NOT beat infertility, we simply went around it. But, I will tell you that our daughter was worth it. Worth all the pain, all the years, and worth every single penny.

There were days I didn’t think I could keep pushing, but it took those days to show myself the unbelievable strength I had to continue our journey. This journey isn’t always easy, it will test you in every way possible and you will feel every emotion known to man, but I promise you, you have the strength within you to keep pushing. All of us are warriors.

Thank you to Chelsea, for inviting me to share what our journey with surrogacy is like and for helping to raise awareness and bring attention to all our different journeys. I truly appreciate it!


 

ID Pic.jpgErin Boelhower is 33 years old and resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and two dogs. They are currently expecting a daughter, Scottie, later this year. You can follow along Erin’s journey on Instagram @journeytothree_ivf, on her blog, or on Facebook.


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’!

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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 on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child and experience multiple miscarriages.  Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

Grace.

img_2193I see you friend. Some days are harder than others. You’re looking ahead at the week and you’re barely keeping it together. You feel like you’re failing your tasks and falling short of all the expectations you put on yourself. Another week. More spit-up or bills coming in or bosses who are furious or health issues unfolding. You’re more than tired, you’re exhausted.

Breathe. God’s grace has you covered. Free gift, all yours, just reach out. I find it hard to accept this gift in my daily life sometimes. It’s a choice, especially on the hard days, to remember that I can never be enough on my own so I have to intentionally tap into the one who is perfect.

Here’s a couple quick ways to put His grace into action this week. (By the way I’m preaching to myself here!)

1. Let’s pray for an easier time to accept our imperfections and lack of ability to do everything 110% and rely on a perfect God. Perfection isn’t realistic and pride gets in the way so often. Let’s acknowledge how much we need Him and run to the one who helps us since we WILL fall short.

2. We gotta let “it” go. We’ll fail as women and moms every day, there’s no doubt about it. Don’t believe Satan’s lies that mistakes, falling short, failing, and hard times can’t be redeemed. God will use it all for His glory so take it off your shoulders. Accept the freedom that it’s not about you.

3. It’s time to stop comparing. JUST STOP! We are letting it steal our joy, rob us from accepting and giving grace, and inducing pity parties the size of a royal wedding. It isn’t going to get us anywhere. Everyone struggles. Simply focus on doing the best you can with what God has given you in your story today. It may be comparing yourself to others OR comparing yourself to your own expectations of perfection.

So here’s to a grace filled week that we can tackle no matter what’s ahead. Lean into His strength and know while we will never be enough, He always will be.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

what it’s like: to experience multiple miscarriages.

Today’s What It’s Like piece touched me deeply and moved me to tears. I am so grateful for Kristin Juarez’s willingness to open up to us and share what it’s like to experience multiple miscarriages. Having gone through 3 early miscarriages myself, I still struggle to find the words to tell the story, and Kristin does is so beautifully here. I appreciate her willingness to ask and share the questions that have no answers and the journey that your faith goes through along the way. Kristin, truly, thank you for sharing your story with us today and for being vulnerable in an area that is not often talked about. Your words will make someone else feel not so alone. Thank you.


After having my daughter unexpectedly at age 20, I knew I wanted more children. She was the joy of my life, and I wanted to have five more just like her! It was just the two of us for over 16 years, until I met and married my husband Jay in 2014. I assumed, like many do, that it would be a breeze to have another baby. We knew we wanted to start a family within the year, and SURPRISE we got pregnant almost right away! I was overjoyed with the idea of having a baby with the man I love.

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Just a few weeks after a positive pregnancy test, I started to spot. I didn’t think too much of it, as I had spotted a few times during my first pregnancy and I’m generally not a worrier. But it escalated quickly, and an ultrasound showed the baby was already gone. To say we were devastated was an understatement. We were assured by my sweet OBGYN that this was probably a one-time occurrence, and a subsequent pregnancy would likely be carried to term. I went through several months of shock, depression, and intense grief. I was angry with God for taking my baby away while other women abuse and neglect their children. God and I had a lot of hard conversations.

We waited a while to make sure we were healed emotionally and tried again, and once again we got pregnant right away. I was very anxious leading up to the week we lost our first baby, but we made it through and even got to see the heartbeat! It was a beautiful sight. We were so grateful to God for blessing us with this child after all we had been through.

A few months later, I had some spotting, but again wasn’t worried since my doctor had said that was normal and everything looked great. I went to her office, just in case, and once again during an ultrasound found out the baby had stopped developing a few weeks before. I was alone, and hysterical. I couldn’t get in touch with Jay, so the nurses put me in a patient room, gave me snacks, and checked on me frequently. Thank you, Jesus, for sweet nurses!

This time, we opted for surgery, so we could test our baby for any abnormalities. Testing indicated a normal female karyotype, meaning I had been carrying a healthy girl. That made it all the more confusing…not having an answer to why we were losing our babies. It just made it seem so much more senseless. Was I doing something wrong? Was that concert we went to too loud? Did I drink coffee before I knew I was pregnant? Did those extra 20 pounds smother her to death? Was it the conventionally raised apple I had eaten? ACTUAL QUESTIONS I ASKED MYSELF! We were hoping to find a reason we were losing our babies, and unfortunately had none. Again, God and I had a lot of discussions. I tried so hard to trust, but also wondered what his plan was and why it included losing our babies. The pain is so deep, so wide, so thick. Did we have more children in our future? Is God really good?

We went to a reproductive endocrinologist and began a battery of tests, both hormonal and anatomical. All my testing came back normal, as did Jay’s. This was first time, but not the last, we heard a doctor suggest that we keep trying, as eventually one of our babies will be born. This was so hard for us to hear. All our children’s lives hold significance; it’s not a science experiment for us.

Around this time, my daughter graduated high school and went away to college (Go Rebels!), and Jay and I moved from my beloved hometown St. Louis to Dallas, TX for Jay’s job. It was a particularly dark time, and I wondered where God was taking me. I fell into a pit of isolation, loneliness, and depression. I held my body responsible for losing my babies, and I punished it as if that were true. I ate anything that would bring me joy, stopped any and all healthy movement, and sat in front of the television any spare moment I had. I worked more than was healthy and shut out God, and a lot of my friends and family. Our marriage suffered tremendously.

We went on to try a 3rd, 4th, and 5th time. We lost each of them, and I fell further and further into the pit. We had agreed before our 5th baby that would be our last attempt, so that loss was particularly painful because it meant the death of both our baby and dreams I had held onto my entire adult life. That was six months ago, and it’s been a painful journey. I have felt both carried by and abandoned by God… cared for by others and also extremely misunderstood and alone. I have bargained, begged, screamed, cried, and prayed. I have slowly begun to forgive my broken body, and my anger with God is softening.

As I have always assumed more children would be in our future, it has been hard to be hopeful. We have discussed adoption, foster care, and Safe Families, but we need to be further in our healing before we consider those options seriously. Nowhere in the bible does God promise us the number of children we desire, but I try to hold on to God’s promises that he loves us, has a good plan for us, and will be faithful.

Just a few months ago, we bought a house with 4 bedrooms, kind of by accident! I keep asking God, “What do you have planned for all those bedrooms?” I have times of certainty that God’s plan includes children in some way, and other times I see it being just Jay and me. I am learning to see the beauty in both paths, and maybe that is what God had planned all along.

PS – ***I am not sure how to fit this in, but if I could get people to understand one thing about recurrent miscarriage, it would be that it is a death. So many have asked, just days after, if I’m doing better, as if it were a common cold. It’s a death, and very emotional with long-term effects.***


Kristin & Jay

Kristin is a Midwest transplant living in DFW, TX with her husband, Jay, her “fuzzy prince”, Loki, and various foster dogs (…that need homes! Adopt them!). Her daughter is finishing her second year in college, and Kristin loves when she comes for long visits! Hope can be renewed every morning, and she chooses to live that way. You can find her on Instagram at @kristinmjuarez and/or @juarezwolfpack. 


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’!

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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, be an entertainer, and be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child.  Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

 

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! 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.”


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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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!