normal.

Well, we have made it through all of the calendar landmines for 2014. We just cleared Frostie’s due date (our last frozen embryo we transferred last fall) and I feel relieved to be past all 4 of the “I should be in labor right now …” days. I know that I will always carry those due dates on my heart. There will always be days in January, April, June, and September that are carved into my soul with love for my babies that should have been. As I reflect back on so many emotions of the last 5+ years, I realize that infertility is incredibly complex, making me have days and moments where I feel like there are 18 different Chelsea’s crammed into one body.

I am here to let you know that if there are moments you feel like your world is caving in and you just don’t know if you can keep going, you are normal.

If you have moments where you feel like the sun is shining extraordinary bright and your heart has nothing but hope in it, you are normal.

If you have moments where you burst into tears for no reason at all, you are normal.

If you have moments where your heart aches with a physical pain and you are concerned that you actually may be having a heart attack because it hurts that bad, you are normal.

If you have moments where you are so grateful for your spouse and what you have that you can’t wipe the smile off your face, you are normal.

If you have moments where you pat your hormone induced belly bloat and talk to a fake baby bump, you are normal. (Also normal, pushing out your stomach and taking selfies to see what you will look like when you actually are pregnant.)

If you have moments where you contemplate knocking over a smoking pregnant woman and screaming at her about how stupid she is, you are normal.

If you have moments where you find yourself wandering the baby aisles at Target, softly petting the ‘I love Mommy’ onsies, wondering if you will ever be able to buy it for yourself, you are normal.

If you have moments where you enjoy your freedom to go out to a movie on a whim with your husband and are secretly grateful for that flexibility, you are normal.

If you have moments where you go on a ‘you are pregnant, therefore hidden’ binge on Facebook and erase the physical reminders that all 319 friends of yours are pregnant, you are normal.

If you have moments where you cry with happiness because a friend shares with you that she is expecting, you are normal. (Also normal, crying in the bathroom later because you guys were supposed to be pregnant together.)

If you have moments where you feel completely content with your trial and embrace each day with strength and joy, you are normal.

If you have moments where you hear phantom crying in the middle of the night for the infant you wish was beside the bed, you are normal.

If you cringe when a pregnant woman complains about how fat she is getting, you are normal.

If you roll your eyes every time you have to buy ANOTHER bottle of prenatal vitamins, you are normal.

If you get excited about ovulation tests, raised body temps and cervical mucus, you are normal.

If you hate everything about ovulation tests, body temping and analyzing your cervical mucus, you are normal.

If you get anxiety when your angel baby’s “birthday” comes around, you are normal.

If you want to quit this journey and start traveling and living life, you are normal.

If you can’t stop thinking about the “what if’s” all day, you are normal.

If you don’t think about infertility for a clump of time, you are normal.

If you hate that your sex occasionally has to be timed and that you need to lay with your legs in the air for 15 minutes after, you are normal.

If you find yourself getting excited about a new vitamin, supplement, cream, herb, or technique, you are normal.

If you feel like you just can’t turn off your brain, you are normal.

If you are suddenly and overwhelmingly comforted by God’s peace in your darkest moments, you are normal.

If there are days where God seems so far away and you have no idea if He hears your prayers, you are normal.

If you wonder WHY WHY WHY WHY on a regular basis, you are normal.

If you get excited when you think about the opportunity to make this misery into a ministry, you are normal.

If you cling to the reminder that God won’t waste a hurt, you are normal.

If you feel like no one understands you, you are normal.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to feel when you are struggling with infertility. Every day is a new day, new emotions surging through you and new triggers that stand in your way. I am doing my best each day to keep things in perspective, reminding myself that it could be worse and be thankful for the opportunity to strength my faith, grow as a woman and with Josh as a couple, and feed on the faithfulness of God. But I also have my moments where I want to pick up the towel and throw it in, declaring myself officially barren and binging on spa trips and new clothes.

So, where does that leave us? Well, our western medicine interventions are still on hold. I have been going back to acupuncture weekly and getting sessions, along with cupping for my back pain. My back pain is thankfully more mild than severe and the sessions seem to be helping, and for that I am grateful. I haven’t been back to the naturopathic doctor in a while and feel peace about that decision. I learned a lot from him though and still regularly take my daily vitamins and supplements. (For those who are interested, I take a prenatal vitamin, Vitamin D3 and C, Magnesium Glycinate, Vitex Fruit, Maca Root, Vessel Care, COQ10 and a baby aspirin daily). My cycles since my April surgery haven’t been awesome. I had a 49 day cycle the month of my laparoscopy, which I know can be normal. This last cycle I didn’t ovulate and I induced a period using natural progesterone cream, resulting in a 45 day cycle. We are adding in herbs this cycle, mixing in 5 teaspoons of this unique mixture into hot water and chugging it twice a day and I am hoping that this brings positive change.

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I have been doing castor oil packs on my back and will now start doing abdominal ones leading up to ovulation. I have heard good things about that and have tried it in the past and found it relaxing. I would really like to be more consistent with it though. I aim to improve my health this summer, hoping losing some weight and getting back on track with my low carb/sugar diet. I have no clue what the future holds and just continue to pray that God would make a new path incredibility obvious for us. All in all, I know that this rests in hands much larger than mine. I will be hopping back into the working world soon, covering a maternity leave at the hospital I used to work at and am excited for that change in routine (and am grateful its only 12 weeks). One day at a time right? I will do my best to continue to keep you updated. I have a blog on infertility; I should share my own story more often, right?

Thanks for continuing to coat our journey in your prayers and cares. It means so much to us. As time goes on, I know this trial can start to feel so routine, yet it’s a real hurt on our hearts every day. It never gets easier on our hearts. We learn to cope better, adjusting our perspective or embracing how we are being stretched, but the pain is still raw and real. At the end of the day, we KNOW that God will continue to use this for good and that because of Jesus, there is no worst case scenario for us.

See you Friday for Friday Favorites! :)

field trips, jokes and fresh air.

I just sat down at the coffee shop. Okay, by “just” I mean about 3 and a half hours ago, but I am finally getting to writing a post. It’s an easily distractible world! There is the constant commotion at the counter, visitors stopping by (Hi Mom!), the chairs getting moved around, eavesdropping on others conversations … I find myself being so grateful to be out of the house for a change that I am finding a whole new appreciation for the sounds of the milk steamer and clanking of change as people throw in a few cents as a tip.

The cutest old man walked up to me and asked me if he could sit at the chair across from me. He carried over a muffin and a cup of coffee and despite the open chairs all around, apparently just wanted some company. So across from me he sat at our little 2 person table with my laptop in between us. He asked what I was doing and saw my Bible sitting next to me from a study I was working on. “Oh. I used to read that when I was 16.”  He has told me a few jokes, but not without first asking for permission. “Do you have time for another joke?”  He made a few cute comments about winter and when I told him to be safe on the roads, told me that I was taking all of the adventure out of his day by giving him orders like that. I heard a story about his friends Tom, Dick, and Harry (yes, it did end up being another joke, but not the kind that you’re imagining, the punch line was about a pet bird being eaten.) And then he said goodbye, got another muffin to go and is back out on the roads. It was refreshing to see someone pursue interaction like that and he left by letting me know that he would be celebrating Easter. So cute.

Anyways, it’s me, Chelsea. I realize I haven’t posted in 2 weeks (yikes) and wanted to apologize for that. I just opened my laptop today for the first time since my last post. And can I be honest? I am so OVER my last two weeks that I don’t want to talk about it at all. For those of you who aren’t friends with me through another social media avenue, I need to let you know that surgery went very well and that the doctor found no endometriosis, that my tubes are open and that there was no visible organ issues. The only thing she found was a polyp on my uterus that she removed and will test, but said that she wasn’t concerned whatsoever. So that is good news – it eliminated many concerns and we are thankful for that. Unfortunately it didn’t answer any of the questions about the pains I have been having, but I will process all that another day. I meet with my doctor on Friday now to go over the pictures and hear from her exactly what she saw.

The last 2 weeks have included the surgery, many naps, the death of a wonderful family friend who’s absence is incredibly felt, a lot of love received in the form of texts, cards, emails, flowers, gift cards, ice cream, coffee and meals, time at our urgency center finding out I have a nasty intestinal infection that may or may not be related to the surgery, IV bags of fluids, pills, pills and more pills, tears, gaining 7 pounds of bloat and then losing 15 pounds of bloat (and hydration), a desperate call to my bestie (who thankfully was having a slow day at work), several word vomit texts, finding out sad news on a few different levels, and finally – finally! – rounding a bend just yesterday.

I am tired of talking about myself. I am tired of not feeling well. And contrary to my last post, am tired of being asked how I am doing, because then I have to answer and feel frustrated that I am not feeling “fine”. I kept trying to keep everything in perspective – it would pass, the sickness and soreness was not permanent, and in perspective of what others were dealing with, was so small. But my brain was (is) so tired. I just want to be past everything. I don’t like complaining. I don’t like that a week ago those stupid pains came back, the ones that the surgery would hopefully fix. I hate that after all this, we are still no closer to our family than we were before – in fact, all the physical fighting done in the last 12 days didn’t even have anything to do with that (which maybe is why it felt so overwhelming?). I don’t know. I am just so glad it’s over. Can I say that? I am praying each day is better than the day before and NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS.

So today was my field trip day. Despite attending a wake last week and dragging myself through church on Sunday (thankfully without passing out), I’ve been painfully secluded due to feeling so icky. (Granted, I had some family visitors and when I am not feeling well, would rather be alone, so friends, please don’t feel bad for not visiting.) But all in all, today has been a great day. So seriously, thank you Lord for bringing healing!

My old man visitor today made me smile. The fresh air, despite it being cold and blizzardy, has been refreshing. My hot tea has tasted delicious and my latest book has brought a smile to my face. Today is beautiful. And as I sit and listen to my music, I feel His presence sitting on my heart, reminding me that I am not alone. That none of this is in vain. That He has uniquely designed me to need Him above all else. And so, yes, I wish I had handled my attitude the last 2 weeks a little differently. I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to feel so mentally drained and I wish that I would have turned to His Word more than I had turned to the TV, but we learn right?

“You calm the storms and you give me rest. You hold me in your hands, You won’t let me fall. You steal my heart and you take my breath away.” (Lifehouse – Everything)

do something.

I just don’t want to say the wrong thing.”

This is something I frequently hear and I can be honest, yes, sometimes people say the “wrong thing”. At times, it’s intentional, someone suffering “worse” than you and wanting to cut into your heart so it makes them feel better. (I will never understand this.) But other times, it’s simply someone saying something with good intentions but with naivety to your emotions and it catches you off guard, causing you pain as you reflect on the conversation.

Both offenses are forgivable with the right heart. The intentional persons words being dismissed and often causing me more sadness to know that someone is struggling so much and without any joy. The naïve friend’s words let go because I know their hearts are in the right place, even if the words stung.

But what I am learning is that it’s the people who say nothing that hurt the most.

It’s the people who know you had a tough week and avoid eye contact and walk the other way. It’s the friends who don’t respond to your text messages when you need them the most. It’s the awkward land when you know they know what’s going on and yet you never hear from them.

I am constantly touched by the people who reach out, the ones who send emails, texts, Facebook messages, cards. I can’t tell you how much it fills my heart to get a message from someone I haven’t talked to in 10 years letting me know I am in their prayers. When people share that they have cried with us, it moves me in a way that is difficult to put into words.  It means something. It’s not awkward, in fact, if you have been following along quietly on someone’s story – anyone’s! – I strongly encourage you to reach out. It’s the supporters that come along side us that mean so much, it keeps us going.

You may not know what to say. You know what’s perfectly acceptable? Admitting “I don’t know what to say, I just want you to know I am thinking about you.” You don’t know what to do? Send a card. You don’t have their address? Send a Facebook message or ask a mutual friend. This doesn’t just go for someone dealing with infertility, this applies to anyone struggling with something painful. The loss of a family member. Being let go from a job. Struggling with financial payments. Hearing news that a spouse wants to separate. Surviving a miscarriage. Watching a wayward child make painful decisions. Hearing of an illness. Dealing with post partum depression. Just feeling a little lost.

Do something.

I have dropped the ball many times. I hear about a friend who has gone through something difficult and mean to pick up the phone, and then too much time passes and I never do. I see a Facebook status about a tough time and have the best intentions to connect, but forget. I have many cards and emails that go unwritten and phone calls that don’t get placed.

So often we don’t want to say the wrong thing, which is why I am a firm believer in simple words like “praying for you” (only if you really are) or “thinking about you”. The power of a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop or a bouquet of flowers dropped off at their door goes a long way. It doesn’t need to be something huge; it just needs to be something that says I care. It doesn’t need to be financial, many aren’t in the place to do that, it just needs to be something.

When you are at a low point, when the circumstances around you seem suffocating, it can often be painful to face the day. I remember after one of my miscarriages wondering around Cub Foods in a daze, somewhat shocked that people were smiling and laughing and talking about the weather. But it’s in those moments,  when someone comes up besides me and just reminds me that I’m not alone, well, it means the world to me.

Shauna Niequist writes “When you are in that place, it’s a gift to be asked how you’re doing, and most of the time the answer comes tumbling out, like water over a broken dam, because someone finally asked, finally offered to carry what feels like an unbearable load with you.”

The simplest questions go a long way. What can I do? How are you feeling? Do you want to talk about it? Please be respectful of the location in which you ask these questions. If you are whizzing past someone in the church lobby, gently touch their arm and say “Hey, I saw what’s been going on with _____ . I just want you to know you are in my thoughts. I’m really sorry you have to deal with this.” The church lobby (or any very busy place) is NOT the place to say “Hey, I heard you miscarried last week. Tell me how you are feeling. How are you dealing with this?”

Don’t feel like you have to say something profound. It’s not about you having the magic words as it is about the person you are talking to simply knowing you care. If you have the resources, send a gift card for a dinner (Chipotle or Buffalo Wild Wings can brighten anyone’s day, right?) or make a meal. A note or text goes a long way. Just remember that your words, your care, might be exactly what the person needs to survive another day. Life is hard, we need to be there for one another.

And please, when you ask someone how they are, give them the option to say “I don’t want to talk about it right now.” Some days it hurts too much and you are too vulnerable to want to discuss it. That’s when simply knowing someone cares enough to ask means so much.

I apologize to anyone who I have let down by not being there. I am amazed at how my heart aches when I feel let down by a friend who doesn’t seem to care and I know that I likely am the cause of such heartache too. It can be a tough cycle to break outside of yourself and your own difficult season to show you care. But it’s worth it. We live in a world of vague Facebook posts hinting at something difficult and yet, many of us are too afraid to send the message to say “What’s up? Are you okay? I’m not sure what you are going through but I notice.”

So do me a favor today, do something for someone. (No, this isn’t about me. Do something for someone else. I am incredibly blessed.) Maybe it’s a comment on their Facebook wall or Instagram picture. Perhaps it’s grabbing a card at Target or sending an electronic gift card. It may be time for you to pick up the phone and send a text or make a call. Even something as simple as “liking” a Facebook post or blog post simply acknowledges that you know and care. Chances are as you are reading this, you are thinking about who that person is that you should reach out to. Do it. It may mean much more than you know.

In other news, my surgery has been scheduled and will be taking place THIS Friday, the 4th at 9:00 am. I met with the doctor earlier this week and feel very confident going into it. We will know what was done, removed, and briefly seen that same day and then I will meet with her on the 18th to review all the pictures taken and talk about what was seen in more detail.  Thank you in advance for all your prayers as we go into this. Specific prayer requests would include:

  • Surgery itself: for the hands of the doctors and nurses working with me, for the anesthesia, for the pain management afterwards and for whatever needs to be done in the operating room to go smoothly.
  • Minimal discoveries: we are praying hard that no body part needs to be removed (ie: fallopian tubes, ovaries, etc.) and that if there is anything found, that it can be treated easily while they are in there, avoiding a second surgery.
  • Recovery – The surgery itself is done by filling the abdomen with gas and recovery afterwards can be painful since not all the gas can always be removed. The incisions (typically 3-4 plus your belly button) can get itchy and we are praying against infection.
A brief look at how they do the surgery - simplified! For mine they will navigate all the way up to the liver then back down.

A brief look at how they do the surgery – simplified! For mine they will navigate all the way up to the liver then back down.

  • Answers: at the end of the day, we pray that God will provide us with some answers and wisdom as to what is going on.

Thank you again for your prayers. We are heading into this surgery after having a nice relaxing vacation with Josh’s family in Mexico last week and so I leave you with a few pictures of what our last week held. Gorgeous isn’t it? I’ll update as soon as I am able post-op. Thanks again for your prayers!

Thanks to my father-in-law and hubby, we snagged a front palapa every morning and had this gorgeous view!

Thanks to my father-in-law and hubby, we snagged a front palapa every morning and had this gorgeous view!

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I spent many hours floating in the pool with my book and an arnie palmer. Perfection!

My floating pool view.

The “quiet” pool.

We had an amazing dinner on the beach one night - what a view!

We had an amazing dinner on the beach one night – what a view!

We made a few visits to the spa - relaxation at its finest!

We made a few visits to the spa – relaxation at its finest!

On the plane on our way down!

On the plane on our way down!

Getting ready for dinner one night.

Getting ready for dinner one night.

No vacation is every fun without a fish face selfie!

No vacation is every fun without a fish face selfie!

what’s next ….

So what’s going on with you?! Any updates?”

That seems to be the question directed at me lately and I am so thankful for the people in my life who care about me enough to ask. I’m sorry to say that I have passively replied to it with a “Things are going good! Looking forward to spring.” answer and changed the subject. The truth is I haven’t really felt like talking about infertility, TTC, and Me lately.  Life-After-IVF is such a different pace with less updates and sometimes the updates that I do have feel so personal. (I know that sounds funny coming from the girl who has a blog.) When we were in an IVF cycle, I knew exactly what was going on, what was next, what we could tentatively expect and how you could specifically pray. Now that I am not going into the doctor every 2 days, I don’t know what the next week will hold. Pushing me for more answers just makes me shrug because I don’t know what to say. Do you want me to start talking to you about my cervical mucus and how often we are baby-dancing? I didn’t think so.

But I do have a little update. No, I am not pregnant. We have just hit another little road bump, but one that will hopefully bring us some answers.

I blogged back at the beginning of February that I was working with my OB on some weird symptoms and pains that I was experiencing. We went through some preliminary testing without many, if any, clear answers. Unfortunately the pain I have been experiencing has increased to the point where we are a little concerned which has resulted in scheduling a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy surgery. We are praying that with it, we will be able to find out some answers about what’s going on with these pains I am dealing with. (For those in the IF world, these are not pains consistent with endometriosis, which I have never been diagnosed with, but also don’t have any other symptoms in line with. But its certainly not off the table.)

So what’s a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy? Well, under general anesthesia at a surgery center, my doctor is going to go into my body through my belly button, cervix and a few other belly incisions, to get a live look at most of my organs. The ultrasounds we have done in the past can only show us so much in black and white. The laparoscopy will be able to use cameras to see everything as is. Because of the pain and the unknowns, we will be doing a broader organ assessment than necessarily typical of someone struggling with infertility. My doctor will be able to go all the way up to the gall bladder duct (I had my gall bladder removed in 2008), then follow down and check on my liver, bowels, intestines, appendix, pancreas, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. She will be able to biopsy anything that looks suspicious (God-willing that is nothing), as well as flush out both tubes to ensure there is no blockages since we last checked in 2010. (Hey, a lot has happened since 2010! Anything is possible.) She will also be able to remove some cysts that lurk thanks to PCOS and if there is anything else visible and fixable (like adhesions, polyps, fibroids or infections) take care of it at that time (typically done with a laser). Thanks to doing the hysteroscopy at the same time, we will be able to get a good look at both the inside and outside of the uterus.

There truly could be such a wide variety of issues going on that I have tried to remove myself from Google until we know more. I hope and pray that it is nothing serious. The surgery date is being firmed up in the next few days and it looks like it will be scheduled for the first week of April.

What’s ahead? I wish I had more answers for you. While this surgery will be able to look at my reproductive organs, the primary reason we are going through it is to diagnosis if there is anything more serious going on. It’s difficult to figure out what’s “normal” given all that my body has gone through the last few years. At times, pain can be evidence that something in your body is changing. It may be a good thing! Both Josh and I, as well as our doctor, feels that it’s better for everyone’s peace of mind to just know if it’s anything serious and be as proactive as possible to get on top of whatever the issue may be.

So, the answer to your kindly asked questions is still somewhat unknown, but thankfully I will know more in a few weeks. I promise that if there are any updates, changes in plans, news, or progress made in the infertility department, I will certainly let you know. In the meantime, try not to press me for details about “what’s next” for us because truly, I am not sure. If I’m being honest, that question (Now what are you doing to try to have a baby?) can make me feel like we need to be doing something else other than waiting on God’s timing, as we both feel that He has us holding off on another IVF cycle at this time. Our biggest hurdle right now is getting through this surgery, possible running a few biopsies and checking out my organs, cleaning a few things up and continuing to trust that God is in control of all of this.

I will let you all know the exact surgery date soon so you can be praying for us during it. I feel like most of my hurdles in the last few years have been primarily mental – I mean, granted, there have been other surgeries, but the mental part of the game has been so predominant that the physical side effects have been easier to embrace. I feel like the physical part of this surgery is a little heavier than the others so ask for prayers for a quick recovery (a week or two to get back on my feet, possibly a little longer to feel 100% depending on what they do while they are in there), as well as all of the pieces that go along with surgery  (anesthesia, multiple incisions, internal healing) to go smoothly.

Am I anxious about it? Honestly yes, at times. But it’s at the point where I just want some answers. Will it help my fertility? Possibly. But this isn’t an optional surgery to increase my fertility, it’s a diagnostic surgery to try to figure out what’s going on with my insides. And whenever I start to get a little nervous about these unknowns, I always manage to come across some words that instantly calm me down. One line that has been echoing in my heart lately is a quote from Samuel Rutherford – “Trust God’s Word and His power more than you trust your own feelings or experiences.” This whole time in my life has been an opportunity to walk by faith, not by sight, and so we trust and hand it over to Him.

Truly, thanks for asking how we are doing. Consider this a mass update and if we are close, I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to share this with you in a more personal way. But I genuinely appreciate your care and kindness and value your support more than you know!

Oh and PS – let’s celebrate another shorter cycle! We have gone from 63 days, to 41 days, to …. 37 days. Making progress! :) Praise God!

I’ll be taking off blogging for about a week as we enjoy some time with family so keep your eye out for a post at the beginning of April with more info on the surgery date. With that, I’ll leave you with a picture from St. Patty’s Day. Enjoy! :)

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Me and my little leprechaun, who is obviously thrilled with her hat.