Q & A part 2

First of all, is anyone watching the Bachelor? After 5 hours of Chris Soules + ladies this week, I feel like I need a major girl-chat to process everything that went on. Comment below if you watch and what you think! No spoilers please!

In other news, this week is part 2 of the Q&A Series! Thanks again to everyone who has sent in questions. Today we are featuring another giveaway, this time from Fertile Gems, (see more below), and then next week we will wrap this series up with part 3 and onet final giveaway. How fun has February been!? Love it!

OK, let’s dive into some more questions!

Q: Have you ever questioned blogging or had concerns with sharing private things with your work, friends, family, and church home?

A: Great question! Blogging scares me regularly. Every time I press “post”, I kind of feel like I have stripped down and am running naked through the neighborhood. I would rather strangers read my posts than people I know. It’s such a vulnerable thing, writing, and there are times I hold back thoughts or situations to protect the emotions of those closest to me as well. So yes, there are times I question blogging, but not in a way that makes me stop. It puts a good reminder in my heart and mind to be cautious not to hurt anyone with my words and also, to share in a way that’s helpful to others but (hopefully) won’t damage my reputation either, like in a working situation. I always try to write with the mindset that anyone I know may read this, including the person I may be giving a story about. It helps direct my words and mentality, while still remaining authentic and vulnerable. It’s a tango!

Regarding actual privacy, I try my best to keep identities protected and actual locations hidden if people don’t want that shared. If children are being posted on or about, I run it past Mom or Dad. I also try to make sure that when I am telling stories, I am telling my stories, not someone else’s story. Those stories are for them to share and I don’t want to encroach into their story. It can be hard to untangle experiences and emotions at times, but I want to protect the people in my life too. If I am telling a story about Josh, I run it past him first to make sure he is okay with it. I don’t ever want my blogging to cause others to concern their privacy either.

Q: What are your thoughts about acupuncture?

Ha! Remember the first time I went to acupuncture? Rethinking this experience is making me giggle. Acupuncture is something that I have been doing on and off for almost 2 years now and have to say, am still totally neutral on my opinion. I know some people LOVE IT and others HATE IT. I tend to be pretty undecided. That being said, I found cupping to be an extremely valuable part of my healing process when I had significant hormone-related back pain. I also found acupuncture to help my headaches while on Lupron and stimming during IVF cycles. When I was not on medicated cycles however, I didn’t find it to be hugely successful in helping me ovulate/cycle.

However, one thing that I am hugely passionate about is having pre and post transfer acupuncture sessions in the doctor’s office if they allow it. My acupuncturist came into the clinic and I had the most relaxing sessions right before and immediately after our embryo(s) were transferred. It allows time to pray/meditate, breath, and relax. Plus, you are on valium so it’s like you are floating with glee in a magical PUPO cloud.

Otherwise though, do what you are comfortable with and find relaxing. If it relaxes you, great. If you find yourself unable to relax and over thinking whether its working or not, then maybe it’s not for you. I always suggest everyone gives it a try to decide for yourself.

Q: What are the last 5 movies you’ve seen that have rocked your world?

I wish I watched more movies that rocked my world! I actually tend to be a pretty shallow movie watcher. I feel like the “good”, award winner movies tend to be a little violent/profane/sorrow-filled for me. For example, I would love to see American Sniper if I felt my heart could take it, but sometimes emotions overwhelm me a bit and so I protect me heart and just skip it all together.

So I watch movies on the Hallmark Channel or drag my husband to see Night at the Museum 3 (I laughed … and cried) or Hunger Games or the Divergent series. I love me a good Harry Potter film and PG-13 chic flick too! I wish I had a better deeper answer for you!

Q: How do you feel embryos should be handled ethically?

A: We believe deeply that all embryos created have life. We value the fact that life starts at conception and so it’s been very important to us to ensure that all embryos created that develop and process through the viable stages are used. When Josh and I first started our IVF journey, we knew that it could open a door for our family to be larger than we anticipated, knowing that if we had extra embryos to freeze, that we would continue frozen cycles to give them all a chance at implanting and sustaining life.

Doctors offices will give you the choice to “dispose” of extra embryos, donate your embryos to another couple who can’t biologically create a child or have the desire to adopt an embryo, donate the embryo(s) to science, or freeze them for your own family, continuing to make annual payments to the frozen daycare center. We have always chosen and will continue to choose to freeze them regardless of their quality.

When we were embarking into our 4th cycle, we had 1 little Frostie left. You may remember from this post where our doctors suggested us skipping transferring Frostie because of his/her low quality and instead doing a new fresh cycle. It was important to Josh and I that Frostie got a chance, and so we moved forward with that frozen cycle and our little snowbaby. While that cycle wasn’t successful, I am SO glad that we transferred Frostie and I know that God provided us a lot of peace with our decision to do that, even though it didn’t result in a pregnancy.

If you have a similar mindset as we do and are concerned about the abundance of embryos that could be created in a cycle, please know that there are many options to work with your doctor to minimize the amount of embryos created. It may start with stimulating egg production at a slower rate and removing less eggs, therefore creating less embryos, but it is possible. There is always a chance that when that type of cycle occurs and less embryos are created, that you may have to do multiple cycles, but it is worth pursuing and discussing with your doctor as well. If you ever have more specific questions on this for me, feel free to email me.

All of this being said, these are our opinions that we reserve the right to have so if you view things differently or would make different decisions, I simply ask for mutual respect as these are personal and spiritual decisions each couple makes.

Q: Where do you suggest finding support? How have you been able to develop a good system of support on this journey?

A: This journey can feel really lonely when you are fighting it alone, when no one around you understands, and when you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to. One of the benefits about social media is that it gives you the chance to connect with people who are struggling in a similar way as you, while not necessarily having to live close to you. Instagram has been the number one way for me to connect with other women who are struggling. Did you know that you can also create an annoyomous instagram account, not linked to your Facebook, so that you can have a true TTC outlet? You can start simple, by searching for a hashtag! Phrases like #ivf, #iui, #infertiliy, #ttc, #pcos, #endo, #clomid will all give you a SLEW of women who are ready to share and connect. You would be so surprised at how many beautiful true friendships have formed out of a single hashtag!

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don't talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my "person"! Love you K.

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don’t talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my “person”! Love you K.

I also run TTC package exchanges every few months that several hundred women on this journey participate in and I have witnessed SO many awesome friendships form simply by being randomly paired up. You can search for things like #ttcexchanges on Instagram too if you want to get connected right away! There are Facebook groups as well. My own personal experience is that forums can be really aggressive and mean-spirited so I try to stay away from them. Some churches have small groups that form with women who are struggling, so checking with your local church is a great option too. Otherwise, use websites like RESOLVE to find other methods of support.

Oh and guess what, our next TTC Exchange, similar to the Mug Exchange, will be kicking off at the end of the month! Stay tuned!

Now it’s giveaway time!

My friend Crystal over at Fertile Gems sent me the most beautiful fertility necklace and we just HAVE to share one with a lucky winner! Fertile Gems creates handcrafted fertility jewelry that is meant to put a smile on your face, remind you to calm down, relax and HOPE. They also include the choice of a gemstone and each gemstone has different meanings.

The necklace we are giving away is similar to this one below – except yours will be in sterling silver and you will be able to pick your own gemstone. (The wishbone is known as a good luck symbol of life and fertility.) If you are interested in purchasing one, I know you won’t be disappointed. Check out her Etsy store today!

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This giveaway will last until Friday morning, and then the winner will be announced on Friday Favorites. Everyone ears 5 free entries just for fun! Just include your name / email so I can connect with you if you win. Good luck!

Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for sending in some great questions! Next week we wrap this up by talking about the ever-so-big questions about adoption, gluten-free diets, maintaining faith and hope and more!

5 things you want to tell your fertile friend.

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Ever been there? That place, that moment, when you look around the room and realize you are the only person without kids? The conversation drifts in and out as you refresh your thinking “was up all night with johnny .. so tired .. love when they snuggle all morning … watched too much tv yesterday with them … need a night out … love them more than I knew was possible … love the boppy, although I would recommend … ” You catch snippets of conversation, knowing that you have nothing to offer and for just a moment, you want to weigh in and let your friends know these 5 things …

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Thanks for clicking to continue reading and supporting my writing at Fertility Authority! Please feel free to share this post as much as you can within the next month – your views matter! And I’d love to have you weigh in and share what you wish you could tell your friends with kids – comment there or here!

Also, it’s not too late to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of  Where Have All the Storks Gone? A His and Hers Guide to Infertility by Michelle and Chris Miller or a fertility pack with a TTC Boost Bundle for Her and a BFP Test Strip Little Bundle. Read the previous post to enter or Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

See you Friday to announce the giveaway winners and share some Friday Favorites!

Q & A part 1

I am so excited to launch this Question and Answers series this month, which will be combined with questions you have sent in and featuring some fun giveaways too! (2 packages today, more to come!) Thanks to everyone who submitted a question – if you don’t see your question answered in this post, know that there will be 3 parts so yours will make its way to being answered. Also, if you didn’t get a chance to send in your question, it’s not too late! Check out the Contact page for the best way to connect or leave a question in the comments below.

Here we go!

Q: Do you have any fiction book recommendations that you enjoyed that touch on infertility in some way?

A: I know many of you went out and read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and have shared that you loved it! I’m so glad! I have three other books that stand out as a good read with infertility story lines. The first is The Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty. It is written by a British author and I found it to be hilarious. There are 2 follow up books to this book character and I liked all of them. But this first one is especially relatable to many and I found myself laughing out loud and feeling incredibly understood at the same time. The other book is Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand. While the infertility story line isn’t the predominate feature, it does touch on the emotions and uses language many of us would be familiar with. The third and last one is The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah. I loved this one too. All three of these are non-Christian books so there are mild/moderate adult language and elements, but nothing I wouldn’t allow my Grandma Jones to read. (Hi Grandma Jones!)

Q: What about non-fiction books? Anything that touches on infertility that’s great?

A: YES! So many I love. The first is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. If you have read my blog for any period of time and haven’t gotten this yet, please do! Her personal essays touch on miscarriage and struggles to conceive in a Godly way (however is not the focus of the book) and this is one of my favorite books of encouragement, relate-ability and hope. (UPDATE: And today only, the e-book is 0.99 on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles!)

The second is a book I recently read called Where Have All the Storks Gone? A His and Hers Guide to Infertility by Michelle and Chris Miller. This book is a funny, touching read, written from both her perspective and his. Her point of view talks a lot about the first steps you take when you learn you are fertility challenged, a great list of questions to bring to your OB/RE, some great advice on how to ignore the comments you wish people didn’t say and what you can expect with medicated cycles and IVF. Michelle does a GREAT job with this! And then the “his” perspective – Chris talks openly and candidly about things like preparing for the changes to the “just having sex” lifestyle, learning how to read semen analysis results, the lessons he has learned as a husband throughout the journey and touching on how he keeps his sanity and stays married through it all. I am SO glad I got to read this book – it was a lot of “you too!?”. It’s funny and touching and I will go ahead and let you know, has a great ending. In fact, I like this book so much that the publisher and I are hosting a GIVEAWAY for you to win a chance to get this book for free! Yeah! Enter below – the contest will end this Friday and the winner will be announced with Friday Favorites. Be sure to enter! (If you don’t win, I would still highly suggest grabbing this book. You can find all the ordering details on their website – www.wherehaveallthestorksgone.com) (This too is written from a secular perspective but is very tasteful!)

The third book is Every Drunken Cheerleader – Why Not Me? By Kristine Ireland Waits. This book is HILARIOUS. It’s written by a Christian author and I am so encouraged and touched by this challenging book. It’s written so that you can relate to it if you are struggling with infertility but also is an amazing resource for those who are supporting someone who is struggling with infertility. There’s an entire chapter (or two) that answers the questions they have like How can I help? What should I do? What shouldn’t I do? When and what should I ask about? How can I best support my friend during this? If I could give a copy to everyone I know, I would. This book is fabulous.

I have many other book suggestions listed under my Reading Resources page so check those out too!

Q: What helps you get though the 2 week wait? Are there any fun activities that help you get your mind off of things?

A: Let me just start by saying 2 week waits (2WW) suck. Never in my life have I known 14 days to take so painfully long. That being said, somehow they do pass. During this time I like to pretend like it’s not happening, while also recording every detail of every day. Makes sense right? I briefly write in my journal each day and this actually has helped keep me sane when reflecting back and reading other 2WW entries. I realize I am crazy EVERY 2WW which somehow brings comfort that this wait isn’t extra special. But anyways, to pass the days, I love to pack my days full of distractions. Coffees with friends (decaf of course!), trips to local and free museums or zoo’s, movie nights, girls days, mall walking (but no buying anything! Never clothes shop under the effects of progesterone.), painting my nails, and doing some gentle yoga (or swimming if you have that option). Things I DON’T suggest you do – Google. STAY OFF OF FORUMS, CHAT ROOMS, AND 2WW symptom websites. I repeat, DO. NOT. DO. THIS. You will drive yourself batty and set yourself up for waves of pointless emotions because you can’t truly count yourself out of this cycle at 3dpo (3 days past ovulation) simply because your left boob doesn’t hurt as much as your right. And don’t start taking tests at 5dpo. They will never show up as positive and you will waste pointless tears. My friend Lisa once told me “I would rather be hopeful and positive and convinced I am pregnant for 13 days and utterly devastated on day 14 if I am not, then spend 14 days in nervous, scared anticipation of failure.” I love that and live by that each 2WW now. Embrace the time you have, even if it doesn’t end the way you have hoped.

But my best advice is to stay busy. I have goals to make a 2WW bucket list for my next wait – it will keep me busy and distracted! What about you? What do you like to do to keep yourself busy during the 2WW?

Q: Are there any pills or supplements you have tried that have worked well or that you would recommend?

A: This is a loaded question! I know SO many people have differing opinions on this so I will keep this brief and allow you to do your own research as well, but here’s what I would loosely recommend*: CoQ10 for egg quality (stop taking this once you get your BFP), Vitamin D (studies showing it increases your fertility), Folic Acid/Prenatal vitamin, and Melatonin (said to play a role in hormone secretion and improve egg quality). Now there are always other supplements that others use and try that are still scientifically unknown if it helps increase fertility, but certainly have positive outcomes and stories! Fairhaven Health is an online source for many of these products and I am excited to try some of the products they sent me recently, like their brand of CoQ10, FertilAid (used to enhance fertility and support overall reproductive health) and FertiliTea. I have heard so much about this tea for preconception and am excited to give it a try! I will keep you all up to date with my thoughts but so far, I am impressed!

That being said, it isn’t fair for me to get stuff and not you! So I am teaming up with Fairhaven Health to offer one lucky winner a GIVEAWAY package of two if their most popular products – valued at nearly $100! The TTC Boost Bundle for Her includes FertilAid for Women, OvaBoost, and FertileCM to encourage hormonal balance, cycle regularity, and to promote fertile-quality cervical mucus and the BFP Test Strip Little Bundle is designed to provide you with the ovulation and pregnancy tests, consisting of 15 BFP Ovulation Test Strips and 5 early detection BFP Pregnancy Test Strips. I can’t wait for someone to give this all a try! Thank you to Fairhaven Health for your generous donations – ladies, check them out and enter for this giveaway below! This giveaway will end on Friday as well and the winner will be announced with the Friday Favorites.


Well that’s it! I have managed to tackle 4 questions and I am excited for the next post in this series, hitting questions like How do you ethically handle embryo creation during IVF? and Where do you suggest finding support on this journey? Can’t wait to answer!

Okay without further ado, here’s how you can enter to win the book and the awesome Fertility package! You will enter using Rafflecopter and it’s super easy – just provide an email so that I can contact you if you win for a mailing address. You can earn more points if you follow me on Instagram, share this giveaway using social media, subscribe to my blog, or leave a comment but regardless, everyone still earns 5 free entries! Can’t wait to share these products with you!

Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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* The opinions shared on my blog are based on my own thoughts, experience and knowledge gained throughout this journey. I am not a doctor or health professional so please consult your own doctor before making any changes to your health or TTC plan. It’s important for you to advocate for yourself and make your own decisions based on your health care providers plan. 

send ’em over.

I frequently get emails with some awesome questions from readers – everything from “what books to do you recommend?” to “what words do you have for someone going through a miscarriage?” The questions are all SO good and I love interacting with each of you as you pepper me with some thoughtful questions. They cause me to pause and think and that’s a good thing!

My inbox has been especially filled lately (I LOVE IT!) and it has inspired me with an idea for a series of posts – a Question and Answer series! That’s right, all those questions you have been emailing me over the last few years, send them my way via comment or email and I will work my way through them. Don’t make them all serious – send me over some fun, random ones too! :) I can’t wait to address some of the most common questions to specifics about our journey. Faith, treatment, personal life – nothing is off limits!

My email is listed here, you can write it below, or comment on an Instagram post. If you would like your blog tagged back and your name identified, just leave it in the comments (From NAME at XXXX) and I will credit your question to you. However, if you want to be anonymous, that is completely fine as well, just let me know. (First names only will be used.) The question window is open till the end of the month so send them over. I’m really looking forward to this!

Oh and due to a crazy week, Friday Favorites may not be posted until Saturday … just pretend like it’s Friday when you read them. Hehe!

I’ll leave you today with a great message I read a few weeks ago that has been stewing in my brain: “The mention of a journey implies an arrival. If God guides us, however we may dislike it, it means there is a goal to our journey. Because it is God’s will for us to reach that goal, we can be certain we will reach it. We start and stop and change our minds. People disappoint us; we disappoint ourselves and may give up. Not God! He always finishes what He begins.” Rest in the fact that regardless of our outcome, there is an end to this journey and a destination. Chances are it may be nothing like we imagine or plan it to be, but it’s there and it’s going to be glorious. Have a great rest of the week friends!

fertility authority.

Happy Wednesday! I am SO excited to share with you my first post over at FertilityAuthority which goes live today. YAY! I am thrilled about this opportunity to write for this website, which for those who don’t know, is an online source for fertility information. They offer some great tools and resources for those being diagnosed and going through treatment and one of the ways they offer support is through a handful of bloggers. Yes, yours truly is one of them starting today!

So here’s what you can do – simply click here and read! Without further ado … here you go!

http://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/chelsea-ritchie/2014/12/02/i-have-infertility-i-am-just-you

I love being able to write and share my heart with a new group of readers, however know that this commitment won’t interfere with my writing here in any way. It’s simply another opportunity to connect with me (and me with you!)

And can I beg? Even if you aren’t in need of this website, I would GREATLY appreciate your click and support. I would love to come out of the gates with my community strongly behind me (and yes, I do have a minimum requirement of hits that I need to get) so your click does mean a lot! Thank you in advance for the read, shares and comments! :)

Secondly, we heard back about my blood work results last week and while we weren’t really sure what we were hoping for, we did get some answers. My results came back showing a severe Factor V Leiden mutation which essentially is a rare (less than 3%) mutation where my blood develops abnormal blood clots and is known to cause reoccurring pregnancy loss and late pregnancy miscarriages. The good news is we finally have an answer which is a gigantic answer to prayer. While this mutation can’t be “fixed”, it can be treated with twice daily injections to thin the blood, therefore lessening the chances of blood clots, particularly to the uterus while pregnant.

I was a little overwhelmed when the clinic first called with these results but was quickly reminded by my amazing support team that this answer is a blessing and the success stories once diagnosed are impressive. Even more so, I was reminded that God eats odds for breakfast and that who we serve has abilities far greater than this mutation. In fact, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and this diagnosis doesn’t come as a surprise to Him! So with that, we are stepping forward with faith that this answer is the key to unlocking a miracle.

My last day on active birth control pills was LAST NIGHT (arghhhh!) which means we will likely be starting our IUI cycle in the next few days. CRAZY! Can’t wait to keep you all posted on the exciting happenings as we walk with God back into this treatment pool and await His perfect timing. Join us in prayer, will you? Pray then click the link above. :)

Thanks my friends, for your faithfulness to our journey. We adore you guys and are so thankful for all the ways you partner with us.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

friendship.

You know what is beautiful? Friendship. Community. People. More and more each day I become keenly aware of the gift I have been given of those that surround me. There is something special about being able to pick up the phone and call a friend, just to chat about the day or pass along a funny story. There is something beautiful about sitting over a cup of coffee in a living room or coffee shop and laughing (or crying) as you share what’s on your heart. Friendship takes time. It takes real investment, open hearts and the willingness to let others in.

Friendship takes vulnerability. It requires raw conversation with the ability to “go there” without doing permanent damage, which requires a deep trust. That trust is built over time, each trial and opportunity building another level to the foundation of friendship.

True friendship is sinking down into the depths of who we really are. Have you ever seen that quote that says “You, too? I thought I was the only one.” True friendship is giving someone something in which they can say that back to you. It’s opening up and being vulnerable, a word that is so hard to whisper these days since we aren’t sure what the response will be.

Shauna Niequist writes “We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk.”

The thing about friendships though is that they aren’t one way. Many of us have been stung by someone we thought was a friend, that we shared with or supported in their own time of need, but left us abandoned and alone when we needed them. Or perhaps we put ourselves out there, shared that emotional vulnerable story, only to be met with silence, a little awkwardness and a significant absence of phone calls and texts returned. It burns. But it doesn’t mean we give up. Sure, when a “friend” begins to let you down routinely and consistently, with no remorse or causes you pain and makes you feel inferior, there is a time to leave that friendship alone and stop the pursuit. That is necessary because we need to have heart boundaries. However keep in mind that there are seasons where one will give more than they receive and vice versa. I call it the teeter tauter of friendship. We give support, we watch one rise, we cheer them on and help them when they are in need, and when the roles change and the weight of life shifts, the other gets to step up and lend a hand, provide more listening than talking, and stepping up as you did for them. It’s not about receiving all you give, but it’s about balance.

Community is a precious thing, one never to be taken for granted. Know who your people are. Invest in them, both ways, in the good times and in the bad. We can’t do it all and be it all to everyone, this lesson I am painfully learning. But with true friends, the walls fall down, the shyness fades, the conversation about REAL life happens and we talk through the hidden places.

Give it time. Take the risk. Give up the control of being perceived as perfectly as you have crafted. Make it a priority to let your people know how much they mean to you. “The closer you get to someone, the more that friendship gives you and the more force and power it has to make your life bigger and richer.” (Shauna Niequest)

I want my life to be rich. I want others to know how much I care about them in a tangible, heart-warming, comforting way.

My community around me has blessed me so significantly more than I can communicate. Between dropping off meals while I have been on bed-rest after treatments or surgeries, to covering my volunteer shifts at church, to placing an order through the fundraiser – to THROWING the fundraiser, to sending more cards and packages than my little heart can handle, to dropping off a coffee, making a phone call, liking a status … It’s helped me continue to open up, be vulnerable, and give me the strength to help reach others and remind them that God is there. Because of the support of my people, my friends, my world, I can keep pushing forward each day.

Are you in a place where your world feels empty and such community feels foreign to you? I invite you to begin the simple prayer of praying that the Lord brings someone into your life to fill that hole. I am a strong advocate of getting connected in a small group or Bible study as a first step! But I know personally how hard it can be to go through seasons of life without anyone there. I can remember times in my life when I was just praying for someone to connect with, who got me, who I could be ME with. And boy, has God answered those prayers through time and vulnerability. Perhaps you can begin praying over friendships that have slipped away due to negligence or pride. I know that God doesn’t want you to be alone and wants to offer you the richness that comes with friendship. If I can join you in praying for this, I would love to. Please comment below or send in a private email and I promise to be lifting you up in prayer this week.

Lastly, can I share a beautiful act of kindness that was bestowed to me a few weeks ago? I was meeting over coffee with Julie, a sweet friend of mine who I met through a high school friend (and connected with on Instagram – love that). She leaned over and handed me a small box. I carefully began opening its tender corners as she excitedly explained this gift and why she was passing it on to me. (I have to admit I was so touched and overwhelmed that I forgot to listen to it and had to have her email me details again, haha!).

She shared that a few years back, a dental patient of hers had found out that Julie and her husband were struggling with infertility and were trying to have a baby through surrogacy.  4 months later, this patient returned with the box that was now in my hands. The patient, L, told Julie she went back to China to visit her family and brought her back this baby gift, for the baby she was going to have eventually. L gifted Julie with these Chinese fertility statues which were made to help keep “the house full”. She had taken them from her Grandmother’s home while visiting, and that Grandmother had them for over 50 years. L passed these onto Julie, who a short 4 months later found out her surrogate was expecting their little son, Ethan, who is now 1, and Julie tucked them away in Ethan’s room, grateful for the kind gesture of L.

Julie handed these dolls over to me, sharing that while neither of us believes in the superstition behind the fertility dolls, the gesture and the thoughtfulness that rests in passing these down from woman to woman who struggles, is one of the sweetest things. These little statutes now sit out and remind me of the value of friends, hope, and prayers that one day, “our house will be full.” I love them.

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And as Josh Garrels so beautifully sings “Weave your heart into mine, my friend.”

XOXO!

Chelsea

the aftermath.

My heart is so full. This last week in Chicago was so wonderful. The time spent with friends and family was so special and the Storyline Conference gave me an opportunity to explore what’s inside of me. I never would have labeled myself a creative person but after sitting in a room with some amazing people, I realized how much I have inside me that I want to get out and share. Sometimes I have these ideas, thoughts, stories, and emotions trapped inside my chest, churning to get out and trying to find the right words to express what I am feeling. Sometimes they escape and other times they remain bottled up inside, waiting for the right time to spring forth.

I don’t know where to start or if I will ever all get it all out. Truthfully, I battle with wondering if anyone even cares – not in a pessimistic “wah, no one cares about me” way because I feel quite the opposite – super loved and cared for. No, I mean it more in a “why would people want to read the random babblings of my brain?” And questioning, am I too out there? Are people just being nosey or do they actually care about what I am learning or this journey we are on?

Writing is one of the most vulnerable things I have ever done. Or as Shauna Niequist eloquently puts it, “Writing for me feels like getting naked in public.” It rips me open and often times I press “pubish” and have immediate regret. Do they understand what I was trying to say? Did I share too much? Did I offend someone? Will people look at me differently? Are people going to understand …. me?

What do I want? I don’t know truthfully. I have so many dreams flying around my head and this conference has only made it more real to me that I have a story that needs to be told – that I want to tell. The story isn’t important because of what we have gone through with infertility, the story is important because stories are what connects us to one another. The highs and lows that we share as a community are beautiful things and I pray that in the end, my story brings Him immense glory. Sharing our stories with one another, as muddled and beautiful as they are, is what creates a presence in one another’s lives. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Goodness, it would be far too painful and lonely.

There is something sacred when vulnerable words are shared but there is a fear as well. When I share my story with you, I try to be as authentic and unedited as possible. But then there are these tiny things that sneak up and whisper to me that it’s not enough. That this post isn’t good. That my stories don’t make sense. That people are whispering behind my back. How do I cope with that reality? I think the only way to do that is to keep writing. To keep stretching myself and to keep putting my heart out on this page. My blog isn’t fancy. It doesn’t have a web designer and there aren’t fancy visuals to click on. There are no sponsors, but it has you – my readers. People who jump in and share their hearts with me. Who read my writing and somehow, in the strings of words I have to offer, understand me.

This conference is helping me flush out what I want. “What do you want to do with your story?” And as I process this, and again it’s still very new, the thing that rests so heavily on my heart is the word encouragement. And I don’t quite know what to do with that yet. I know that I personally love to encourage others and am deeply touched by words of encouragement. Words have a richness that can fill you up. After sitting down with many wonderful friends this past week and sharing real life, encouraging talks, I’m walking around feeling full to my brim.  My heart feels like it’s literally pushing against the skin of my chest and my fingertips feel tight and heavy and beautiful. Words, friendships, encouragement, questions, messiness, resolutions to be made, forgiveness that needs to be accomplished and the grace needed to keep pushing forward is beautiful.

So where does that leave me? What do I do with this word encouragement that’s on my heart? Part of me wants to run around and encourage everyone to embrace where they are at right now. To help others find the beauty that’s in the present moment. I want to help others sift through the tears, the sorrow, the frustration, the anger, the bitterness, and to somehow find the goodness, richness and beauty that is in the now. We can’t live a life trying to get from here to there, because when you get there, you are just simply in your new here. I truly don’t believe that any one thing in life will ever truly fulfill us because I don’t know that our humanness is capable of contentment outside of Him. Nothing we obtain will change your heart to value how special being here is.

We have a special gift where we can turn our sorrow and pain into pieces of our puzzle that come together to make something full, complete and rich with detail.  I believe that somehow my story, my messiness, my longing for a family, the children we have lost, the endurance I have had to put forth, is all molding me and crafting me to be a better person here in this moment right now.

I am so grateful that we have woken up this morning and are given a chance to even try to make a difference. That we are able to be in our here. I don’t know what my life will look like in 2, 3, 5, 10 years. But what I do know is that I want to be a person who didn’t waste these days of waiting. I wholeheartedly ache to comfort every reader with His love. I wish so badly that you all could take a piece of my fullness right now. I am thankful for the friends I got to visit with while in Chicago, grateful for the words that God used from their mouths to touch my heart and fill me. The value of community and friendships should never go unrecognized.

Thank you all for your prayers as I attended this conference. Now I get to wrestle with what’s next. I think beautiful things are ahead, even if they are smudged with dirt and ashes and have broken edges at times. I pray that God’s richness falls over our lives, a richness that doesn’t come with answered prayers or things, but that comes with His presence in our lives, His peace, His comfort and the ability to rest in that.

(And of course, we can’t end without a few photo’s from the week!)

Yes, I got to meet, talk to, cry with/on and hug Shauna Niequist who you all know is an author I so greatly admire!

Yes, I got to meet, talk to, cry with/on and hug Shauna Niequist who you all know is an author I so greatly admire!

Lauren <3

Lauren <3

My cousin Brittany and my Nana ... Grandpa Tedd and Brad, I know you are sad you missed out on the photo shoot. :) Love my family!

My cousin Brittany and my Nana … Grandpa Tedd and Brad, I know you are sad you missed out on the photo shoot. :) Love my family!

Candice <3

Candice <3

Carolyn and her two littles. I'm certain they adored being dressed like reindeers for our amusement. :)

Carolyn and her two littles. I’m certain they adored being dressed like reindeers for our amusement. :)

My Uncle Chuckie who's heart, kindness and outlook on life is so special.  <3

My Uncle Chuckie whose heart, kindness and outlook on life is so special. <3

Julie, Jenny and their kiddos. <3

Julie, Jenny and their kiddos. <3

(Katie — how did we not get a picture together? Apparently closing down a restaurant omits photo time. Boo! Auntie Pammy, Uncle Jimmy, James and Nick, thanks for opening up your home to me. I love spending time with you all and love you guys so much more than words can say! And thanks for sharing your neighborhood squirrel with me too.)

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PS – Did you miss my previous post on the lessons to be learned from beanie babies? Click here to check it out!

PPS – Coming on Sunday …. an update to our infertility story including a new plan of action and exciting way for you to get involved!

friday favorites – october 24.

Happy Friday! I know, it’s almost Saturday, but better late than never right? For all my new followers, hello!!!! Thanks for stopping in and reading. You guys are the best! A brief recap about Friday’s – Friday’s are the day I step away from “traditional” blog posts and post my favorites from the last week. Anything goes! So without further ado, here we go!

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(Oh yea, and I like Harry Potter)

Favorite Moment: Jason Mraz. State Theater. Him singing, me grinning. Thanks to all the excitement in getting tickets to see his first show in San Diego, Josh and I completely missed the boat to purchase tickets for his Minneapolis show. No worries, we would just buy some off Craigslist. But what happens when NO ONE is selling tickets on Craigslist, Ebay or StubHub? Panic sets in. We had a set budget for the tickets thanks to birthday money that I set aside and knew nothing about scalping tickets, but that’s what we would have to do.

Let’s just say the nerves set in when we were standing outside the theater for 45 minutes and not one scalper had even one ticket, much less two. We were eyeing up the other couples who were pacing like us. Josh went into beast mode, talking with everyone he could and getting to know the scalpers like they were long lost relatives. Me? Well, the stress of it all made me fall into the role of photographer. Yes, that’s right. I just walked around looking for people who were trying to take selfies of themselves in front of the theater and offered to take it for them. (Oh yes, and I fully committed. I was in the street, trying to get their best angles, being careful with the lighting. One group shot even had me pulling out 7 phones from my pocket to get one for each of them. Jason Mraz concerts are no joking matter.)

Well, the great news is 13 minutes before the show started, Josh swooped in on the one scalper who was purchasing a pair of tickets and bam, we were in. My adrenaline at that point was HIGH. Josh came through! The guy always does. :)

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Best moment of the concert? Jason Mraz singing Eurythmics song Sweet Dreams. This happens to be one of my favorite songs ever (for no particular reason) and as soon as he hit that first acoustic note, well, let’s just say my jaw was on the floor and I was teary and giggling and having the best night ever. SO FUN.

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Favorite Quote: We need to stop the ‘when and then’ mentality.” –Christine Caine

Have you ever (like me) said something like this? When I have a child, then I will be content. When I make more money, then I will be able to be more generous. When I get a new job, then I will finally feel appreciated. You can fill it in with whatever you want. However, the point is simple – we are in the now, not the when. We control our attitudes and contentment, not our circumstances.

Favorite Picture: Our sweet nieces came over for a movie night and goodness, did we have fun! Homemade pizza’s were made (FYI Aldi’s has a great gluten free pizza crust baking mix!), pajama’s were slipped in to, giggles were shared and, well, silly faces were made. Seriously, so cute right?

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Favorite Flashback: Trolls. Who remembers them!? The antique store we strolled through last weekend was full of them and they brought back so many childhood memories!

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Favorite Pinterest Pin: I spotted this sweater on Pinterest earlier this week and have to find something like it! How cute is it!? Of course it was posted a few years ago and so I will never find this exact one, but if you ever find anything similar, let me know.

Favorite Package: Guess whose TTC Mug Exchange package arrived!?!? MINE! Jessah sent me this special package, complete with the most adorable mug ever. I adore its size and have already broken it in with some tea. This was such a fun exchange and I absolutely love this part when everyone starts getting their package. (I just sent mine out today!) Did you miss out on it? Don’t worry, we will do another exchange after the holidays. :)

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Favorite Funnies: Ah, now my favorite part. Here’s a few things that made me laugh this week. Hope they make you giggle too!

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Friday Favorites may or may not happen next week due to my trip but we will see if I can break from all the fun and get them out. Have a great weekend friends!

friday favorites – october 17.

Fall is in full swing here in Minnesota and the colors that the leaves are turning make me giddy. I am tempted daily to pull over on the shoulder of the road to snap pictures of the kaleidoscope of nature. I feel like the tree in front of our house is getting redder and redder each day and I always smile as I pass by the front windows.

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Okay, enough blabbing. Let’s talk about Friday Favorites! Much of this last week was lived in Savannah, Georgia while on vacation with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and boy, did we have fun!! Doesn’t this picture say it all?

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Take a peek into our very fun week with the favorites below.

Favorite Way to See the City: By trolley! I absolutely love the Old Town Trolley line and have seen several cities sitting on one of their benches. The windows are open, the tour is narrated, you can hop-on and hop-off all day and you get a cool map. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a good map? Ding ding! We learned so much about Savannah this way.

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Favorite Photo: The trees in Savannah are just gorgeous. Big and drape-y and rich with history. I can’t help but wonder what these trees have seen.

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Favorite Meet-Up: While in Savannah, I got to meet TWO gorgeous friends of mine that I met through social media. Karen drove up from Jacksonsville, a whopping 140+ miles to meet for coffee and I am incredibly grateful she made that long drive. Karen has been a true gift to me over the last several months and our friendship and connection is such a blessing. Not a day passes where I don’t talk to this sweet girl and getting to meet in person over salads, mimosas, and coffee was so much fun!!!! Love you Karen!

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And then last minute, I got to meet with up with another friend, Erica and her husband Pat. Erica is such a sweetheart, has been a beautiful source of encouragement to me and her growing baby bump is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. I am so thankful for the unique friendships that can form and loved spending time with this sweet lady too!

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Favorite Coffee Shop: If you are ever in the Savannah area, go to Gallery Espresso! What a fantastic little coffee shop – super eclectic and inviting with fantastic drinks. I may have drank a few too many cups of espresso here but when you find something this delicious, drink on.

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Favorite Breakfast: This trip was all about splurging. We found a great little café, Goosefeathers Café, that offered gluten free bagels (praises!). Team that up with deliciousness like lox, tomatoes, cucumbers, bean sprouts, capers and a hot americano, and you have one very happy Chelsea.

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Favorite Lunch: Gryphon Tea Room. Hands down. This adorable tea room is decorated with tons of old books and laced in traditional features like piano music and scones but also offered contemporary options like iced thai coffee (delicious!) and chai pot de crème. I loved the salmon salad I got but everything we tried was delicious. A win!

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Favorite Dinner: 45 Bistro. I could purr just thinking about it right now. We shared 3 unique and delicious salads – caprese, a modern greek salad, and a beet salad. And then the main course came – espresso rubbed ribeyes. We decided to share 2 of them between the 3 of us and boy, are we glad we did. They were HUGE and delicious and topped with a mushroom medley, asparagus and served over a whipped mashed potato. One of the best steaks I have ever had. My mouth is watering as I type this!

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Favorite Square: Savannah is made up around 22 squares – little parks essentially, most in honor of a person or historical event and many contain a monument or statues or tribute. They are all unique and so beautiful! We loved all we saw, but this one, Chippewa Square, is the one where the Forrest Gump bus stop scene was filmed. Life is like a box of chocolates …

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Favorite Must-See: Our trolley driver recommended we stop at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and while we are not Catholic, there is something so beautiful and historical about grand cathedrals like this one. The inside was beautifully constructed, the stain glass was colorful and the beautiful stories of the Bible the carvings told were powerful.

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There was a place in the front where you could light a votive candle in prayer and it was overwhelming to imagine all of the prayers that were prayed in there. Once lit, the candles continue to burn carrying on the prayers that were said. I am so thankful for a God who hears each and every one of our prayers and cares so deeply about us.

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Favorite Haunted Adventure: Apparently Savannah is the most haunted city in America and while I don’t believe there are thousands of angry spirits strolling the city streets, I do love a good dramatic spooky tale. I somewhat forcibly talked the fam into hopping on a Ghosts and the Graveyard trolley to hear the stories about Savannah and enjoyed laughing at the alleged tales. I am certain everyone enjoyed it as much as me.

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Favorite Fur-Sighting: While walking through a park, we saw this woman walking all her dogs and their new 8 week old puppies. They were adorable little balls of fur and I was so happy sitting and petting them! Too bad I couldn’t have snuck one home for Cali. (Actually, I don’t think she would have liked that very much.)

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So that was Savannah in a nutshell! It was a blast and now I am home, unwinding from the whirlwind of traveling. A few favorites since I have been back:

Favorite Gas Price: Oh how it feels so good to be under $3.00/gallon.

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Semi-Favorite New Do: Cali desperately needed a new haircut but I am afraid she lost a little too much. HA! Poor thing looks robbed of her locks. This mama keeps reminding myself that it will grow back.

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Favorite Thoughtful Gestures: All the texts and pictures we received of your candles burning on Wednesday night. I could post a million of these pictures, but truly, thank you for everyone who thought of us and our babies and all of the loved ones others have lost. What a beautiful night.

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Favorite Funnies: Last but not least!

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Have a great weekend! All of the Mug Exchange emails have been sent out so if you haven’t received your package assignment, please email me ASAP! Happy shopping!

pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

There’s a Lumpy Rug day, a No Socks day, even a Talk Like a Pirate Day. The silly and humorous days that fall on the calendars bring laughter and create conversation. Then there are other days that we hear about that bring awareness, like today, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Let me preface this post by saying this day is not a day where we (generally speaking of those who have suffered a loss) are looking for pity. Today is not about getting sad looks or making you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what to say. Today is about connecting together a community – those who are grieving and those who are simply supporting those who grieve – it’s about remembering the too-short lives of lost babies and infants and spreading love.

So often we comfort widows, cancer victims, and orphans – all who are beautifully deserving of love and care. But more often than not, there is a group of people who suffer without anyone around them even knowing, ashamed to speak of the sadness that they feel, stripped of the public title of parents or saddened to have other children who will never know they had another sibling. The New York Times last year said “Unless you wear a T-shirt emblazoned with your children’s names or tattoo them on your wrist, you rarely speak their names aloud no matter how much you need or want to tell others. And for women who have struggled with pregnancy loss, there seems even less place to mention the love they feel for babies they will never have.”

One of my favorite parts about today, other than the comfort that it offers and the community it builds, is that there is a way for each one of you to offer support. Tonight from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, in all time zones across the world, you can light a candle to remember the babies who have been lost from miscarriages, ectopic and molar pregnancies, born stillborn or lost to infant death. The lighting of these candles creates a “wave of light” across the world and is a beautiful, touching, moving tribute to the families who have suffered. It’s not an image that will likely ever be seen, but if you are home tonight, even if it’s not at 7 pm, light a candle for those who have lost their precious babies.

Each family’s pain is unique. Each life, no matter how short, was meaningful and special. To our own babies lost, I love and remember you often. I often wonder what milestone you would be hitting, what color your eyes would have been, how your laugh would have sounded. We have treasured every embryo created, prayed for every embryo transferred, and fell head over heels in love with each pregnancy we have experienced. I can’t wait for the day our family can be reunited in heaven.

Light a candle tonight, even and especially if you have not lost a baby. The support and opportunity to spread love and care means more than you will ever know. I’d love to see any pictures you take of your candle burning – feel free to email them to me at trialsbringjoy (at) gmail (dot) com.

Today is a beautiful day of remembrance. I am so thankful this day exists.

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