Two years ago next month, just a couple of weeks after our miscarriage, our fertility specialist told us that Mr. E. and I had a 5% chance of pregnancy *with* fertility treatment. After four years of trying, hoping, and praying for a baby; more than a year of testing, and ten months of treatments and procedures, we were devastated. We felt defeated and deflated. What little hope we had left was delicate and fragile.
But our God is not a god of chances. He is not a god of statistics.
We serve a God who’s plans far exceed even the best of what modern medicine has to offer.We serve a God who isn’t bound by closed doors, barren wombs, or closed up tombs. We serve a God who isn’t limited by our incomplete knowledge, who’s faithfulness to us is not dependent on our faithfulness to Him, and who’s time table is impeccably perfect.
This weekend we celebrated His life that conquered death. Wee celebrated our lives – made new and holy because of His perfect sacrifice. And we also celebrate a brand new life I carry in my once barren womb – another miracle baby that God has graciously given when we least expected it!
Our Easter Pregnancy Announcement
We announced our pregnancy this weekend with these sweet photos that my mom took last week. We returned to the church garden where I took my bridal portraits ten years ago, and my maternity photos one year ago. How incredibly special it is to get to venture back with my growing little family.
My husband had the idea to ask Ezra if he wanted a brother or sister by choosing between a pink and blue peep. Sweet little love went straight for the pink peep! Is there a little lady in our future? We hope to find out some time in late June!
I am eight weeks pregnant and due in mid-November. My guess date is actually Mr. E.’s birthday! Wouldn’t that be quite a birthday present for him? Ezra and the new baby will be almost nineteen months apart.
We are so excited to welcome a new “peep” into our family in November. This weekend my mom remembered with me the years that I wondered if I’d ever be able to have children. And now, against all odds, and in God’s impeccably perfect timing, another little one is joining our family. Praise Him!
“Pregnancy agrees with you, you’re absolutely glowing!” a sweet lady at my church smiled up at me and reached to put her arms around my ever growing middle in an enthusiastic, albeit awkward embrace.
Little ol’ church ladies know just what to say to make you feel amazing, don’t they?
I smiled back at her, and because we’ve known each other a good long time, I responded, “I think that glow is actually sweat beads from trying not to throw up in the car on the way here.” She gave me that knowing look and just patted my back. “Well you look beautiful, sweetie,” she said, with a twinkle, and all the honesty of a civil-war era president.
I needed to hear those sweet words, because the truth was I didn’t feel beautiful. My body was undergoing physical changes at an impressive rate. Changes which, by the way, were not limited to curvier curves and pat-inducing baby bumps. I had acne that put sixteen year old Amanda’s acne to shame, and I hadn’t seen that many skin tags on one person since my Grandma passed away when I was eighteen.
My pregnancy was hard. And not just the “all things worth having are worth working for” kind of hard. It was more of a “maybe God didn’t let me get pregnant for so long for a reason” kind of hard.
It’s painful to type that. For most of my pregnancy I felt so much guilt about not enjoying the very earliest days of my long-awaited motherhood. After our long and tumultuous journey to conceiving, I felt obligated and so desired to soak up every blissful moment of being with child. But those blissful moments were elusive, and often I had to consciously choose joy and excitement.
Can you even imagine that? Four years of trying to conceive, thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, the stress and extreme discomfort of needles and procedures and recurring tests, and then the heartbreak of shattered dreams when we miscarried. Pregnancy after infertility is supposed to be this overwhelmingly exciting and joyous time! Even now it seems impossible to me that I had to strive so intentionally to choose joy and excitement over my pregnancy with Ezra.
Oh, there were definitely times of joyous excitement. When we found out with our family that the babe I carried was a little boy – my heart overflowed with anticipation and gladness. When we were showered with love and prayers and precious baby things to get us started as new parents, I was overcome with gratitude for the generosity bestowed to us. When my husband read story books to my belly and we could feel Ezra responding to his daddy’s voice my heart very nearly burst with excitement for the new little person joining our family. Watching my bear tummy move in waves as he moved and thump, thump, thump when he had the hiccups brought inexpressible joy.
Those moments are the ones that got me through my pregnancy. They seemed few and far between, but that kind of inexpressible joy has a way of overshadowing days and weeks of being miserable.
And there were many days that I felt so miserable that it seemed very nearly impossible to even anticipate the exhilarating adventure of parenthood that awaited us.
Morning sickness for me was all-day sickness that lasted almost until my third trimester. For months my husband balanced work, housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and caring for me as if he’d prepared his whole life for this pregnancy. He sat beside me, rubbed my back, and held my hair while I threw up, whispered softly in my ear how much he loved me, then cleaned up my disgusting mess as though it were his most sincere honor. God bless that man for serving me so well during my pregnancy. He truly epitomized what it means to be a servant leader.
A few weeks before I entered my third trimester I finally began to experience relief from the nausea and vomiting. I remember the relief I felt when I realized I’d gone almost two days without throwing up. I felt invigorated, as though I could conquer anything! It was refreshing to be able to function somewhat normally. I felt good. I was pregnant, I was happy, and I was ready to resume some semblance of normalcy. I began to embrace pregnancy and I learned I actually appreciated people asking about how I was feeling. I was feeling great!
At twenty-six weeks my hips and pelvis began to prepare for birthing time, spreading quite a bit earlier than normal. This resulted in almost three months of severe pain in my pelvis, hips, and pubic area. My ligaments were so loose that I could literally feel bone scraping on bone when I rolled over in bed. My body ached and it was hard for me
Because of the pelvic and hip pain I never really had a chance to “nest.” I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy in bed, on the couch, or in epsom salt baths seeking relief for my aching joints. Not only was Ezra’s nursery not finished when he was born, but it was barely started! And all that cleaning I was itching to do? It just didn’t happen.
After years of anticipation and countless prayers and tears, it was heartbreaking for me not to enjoy my pregnancy. I felt so much guilt.
Guilt over my lack of enthusiasm and excitement.
Guilt over how very little I accomplished around the house, and on my blog.
Guilt over being irritated by well-meaning expressions like “soak up every moment of pregnancy” and “just relax and enjoy your pregnancy!” because I didn’t feel like I really could.
Guilt over wondering how in the world I could actually do this again if God allows me to be pregnant again. Especially since I’ll have a precious child to care for.
Guilt over wanting to be left alone all the time, because I knew so many people were so happy and wanted to rejoice with me.
Mama guilt starts early. And It’s an arrow from the enemy sent to prick your heart just enough to distract you from what’s important.
Yes, my pregnancy was hard, it was so hard that I really didn’t enjoy it. And that’s okay. I endured. I held tightly to His promise to be strong when I am weak. But it was worth every unlovely moment and painful part of pregnancy to be able to become Ezra’s mama.
Man plans his plans, but his steps are ordered by the Lord.
I could rewrite this proverb this way: “Women write their birth plans, but God writes their birth stories.”
My birth story is beautiful. Three and a half months later I look back on Ezra’s birthday with nothing but joy and thankfulness. But it did not go as I had planned.
My hope and dream for bringing a baby into this world was to do so naturally and with as little intervention as possible. We chose to deliver with a midwife who’s quiet and gentle personality drew us in the moment we met her. Throughout my pregnancy we developed a level of trust in the team of midwives at our birth center, and while I was full of anticipation and excitement, I had absolutely no anxiety about labor and delivery.
I think that was a sweet gift from the Father, because if I had known how our birth story would end up, I’d have worried and fretted for months.
Looking back, I wish I had taken time to learn a little bit more about c-sections. Our birthing class covered c-sections, but I was sick that week, and never took the time to read that section of our training material. Yes, that’s right. For all the preparation, list-making, dreaming, and planning that I did leading up to my son’s birthday, I didn’t even read the two pages that covered what to expect if you have a c-section.
It took weeks for Mr. E. and me to process the whirlwind that was Ezra’s entrance into the world. There were details that I did not remember, or maybe never even knew until weeks later. My husband and doula had to fill me in on some of the details of Ezra’s birth.
I have, at times, been tempted to feel cheated, or less than because I didn’t get the delivery I wanted. I hear the silent whispers of the enemy saying “You weren’t strong enough” or “You’re not a real woman because you didn’t deliver a baby the way God intended.”
Except I did.
God brought Ezra into this world exactly as He intended. He orchestrated a beautiful moment, a moment for which I was unconscious and of which I will never have a memory. He ordained Ezra’s birth perfectly and without mistake or accident. And I rejoice in that and glorify HIM.
That God wrote Ezra’s birth story is a constant comfort to me.
I have lamented the fact that I will never remember the moment Ezra was born. I have grieved that first hour of Ezra’s life for which I was not present. I was frustrated during Ezra’s first few weeks because my body was weak and broken and in indescribable pain. Not only did I not have the birth I envisioned, I didn’t have the post-partum I envisioned either. And that is a loss – the loss of a dream. And I grieved.
But just as quickly as I am tempted to self pity, I am reminded that He wrote Ezra’s birth story, and all His ways are perfect. (Psalm 18:30) Ezra’s birth was perfect.
My body is healing. There is a long purple-gray scar low on my belly where my son came out of my body. It is a testimony of God’s perfect will, the place where He marked my life with His glorious grace.
And while I regret that first hour of Ezra’s life that I missed, I have a lifetime of loving him ahead of me.
Looking in the mirror I barely recognize the woman looking back at me. She looks tired. She looks big. She looks insanely happy.
The changes my body has made over the past nine months are nothing short of extraordinary. That the human body can change and adjust to provide a safe haven for another growing human is simply beautiful.
The woman looking back at me in the mirror – her belly swells with the growing life of a precious child. Her back bows to compensate for the extra weight she carries in her middle. And her smile is one that testifies to anticipation, exhaustion, and sheer exhilaration.
And I see the imperfections, the “less than beautiful” changes: the swelling, the stretch marks, the lines and curves and acne. Society tells me these flaws are “less than beautiful.” And some courageous mamas proudly own their imperfections and claim them as battle scars and beauty marks that signify their rite of passage into motherhood.
But when I look in the mirror, I see something different.
I look in the mirror and see stretch marks that remind me of the countless ways the Lord stretched and scarred me as we hoped and prayed and waited for this little miracle baby.
I look in the mirror and see swollen ankles and fingers that remind me how my heart swells with thankfulness and awe when I think that we are just a few short weeks away from meeting our little man.
I look in the mirror and see new lines and curves that once were absent, and they remind me that whether through infertility, pregnancy, or motherhood, Christ is constantly reshaping me to become more like Him. And yes, sometimes it is uncomfortable.
I look in the mirror and see acne – blemishes – and not just on my face. And I am reminded that I constantly stand in need of God’s unrelenting grace to erase every blemish and stain of sin.
But mostly, when I look in the mirror at the woman staring back at me…
When I look in the mirror I see answered prayers.
I see every flaw and each imperfection as an exquisite testimony of answered prayer.
And though society and culture may identify those imperfections as “ugly,” when I look in the mirror I see beauty. The beauty of answered prayer.
You are all seriousness with a heaping dose of want-to-be helpful. You share the hard things, the questions and anxiety and heartache.
You are a legion of mamas who kind heartedly offer advice and experience to this soon-to-be mama. And truly I am thankful. For your honesty, for your desire to help. I am thankful.
But in a way your stories dishearten me. You share about how hard labor is. You share your horror stories of bringing life into this world. You told me to register for formula because I will have difficulty breast feeding. You told me about your frustrating weeks of bed rest. You told me I will feel like I can’t make it, that my body will hurt, and that I’ll probably cry myself to sleep some nights because of sheer exhaustion. And you offer a knowing smile and tell me not to stress and to remember that no matter what I’m not a bad mama.
But you never told me how every moment of fear and frustration was worth it. You didn’t mention that you’d cry those tears of exhaustion all over again for just a moment of the joy your little one brings you. You forgot to mention that you’ve never, not once regretted all those late nights and early mornings with a sick baby, or that your heart swells with pride and joy and excitement when that innocent-babe-turned-strong-willed-child makes good choices and heeds your advice and instructions.
Why not? Why do you share the negative while not even acknowledging the positive? Why do you offer to be there for me when the going gets tough, but you don’t offer to celebrate with me in the little victories that are to come? I can’t help but wonder why advice is freely offered about the hard things, without a knowing smile of “you can’t begin to imagine the glorious joy you’re about to experience?”
I know it will be hard. All of it, from finishing this pregnancy with grace and some shred of dignity, to changing blow out diapers that would knock a train off its tracks, to begging for wisdom when my son disappoints us through his words and actions. It’s all hard.
But I also know there will be joys beyond measure. I know that sometimes my eyes will fill with tears because I am overwhelmed by the extraordinary gift that God has given me. I know that I will take pride in pictures and projects that he proudly hands me, even when I have no idea what I’m looking at. I know that my heart will very nearly burst with joy when he snuggles up next to me.
So can we tell those stories? Those happy ones? Can you share the joy and peace and glory of motherhood, and share quietly that you personally struggled with fill-in-the-blank, and that if I ever need to talk about that you’ll gladly lend an ear and walk beside me?
I’m not approaching motherhood with rose colored glasses. I’m in that funny place in life where I know that I don’t know what I’m in for. But that’s not limited to the hard things. I want you to tell me that I have no idea what I’m in for: the joys and blessings and downright thrill of bringing another human being into the world. Could you tell me about that?
And in those moments when I feel overwhelmed, remembering that you said it was absolutely worth every painful, sleepless moment will be as helpful to me as remembering that you’ve been there too, and that you’re there for me if I need you.
Because I’m quite certain the joys of motherhood outweigh the heartache of motherhood. So shouldn’t we talk about those joys more than the difficulties?
Disclaimer: this post is not directed at any of my friends or family members specifically. After a lengthy conversation with a sweet friend of mine last week, we both realized that mamas are often quick to share all about the hard things of pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, and life with a newborn. And for that I am grateful. I love it when women get real and honest with each other about those things with which they’ve struggled. I love it when they offer to hold each other up and walk beside one another in the hard times. But not at the expense of exulting and reveling in the wonder and joys of new motherhood. So please hear my heart on this and know that I offer these thoughts not as an accusation, but with the tender heart of a soon-to-be-mama who sometimes gets overwhelmed with advice, opinions, and stories that leave me wondering how in the world I’m going to make it through the next several months.
His breathing is peaceful and even, evidence of the sweet sleep he enjoys. It is too dark to watch him sleep, but I listen to his breaths, I feel his warmth, and I take comfort in him being close by. I love this man so much. And here beside him – this is where my heart is most happy. This is where I feel the most safe and secure.
It is the earliest hours of the morning when our little part of earth is quiet and still and peacefully anticipating a fresh day. And I have not yet enjoyed restful sleep. My mind is foggy like the thick steam that rises from hot asphalt after a cool rain, and my body aches for sleep, but it will not come.
Inside me my little boy bumps against me. And I wonder if that was his arm or his knee or his foot that I feel against my insides. Like his mama, he is awake in the wee hours of the night, and I laugh to myself as I realize he likely has much more energy than I do at this hour.
I ponder at how much I know about this little treasure of a soul who will join our family in a few short weeks. I know he was a surprise gift from God – a reminder of His perfect timing, a testimony of His perfect will.
I know that he loves the sound of his daddy’s voice. He responds with vigor every time his daddy talks to him.
From several weeks ago – Mr. E. fell asleep with his hand resting on my belly.
I know that he is starting to run out of space inside me. When I lay on my side he moves to the opposite side of my uterus, sometimes sending off waves of muscle spasms as he bumps against me.
I know that he is loved more than he will ever know. By me, by his daddy, by his grandparents, by his aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and acquaintances. And by God. He is loved so indescribably much by God.
I know that his life has a unique purpose. I don’t know what it is, or how in the world we will help him discover it. But his life is valuable, and he will do and be and experience things as only he can.
So many things I know about the babe I carry inside. And so many more things I can’t wait to learn about him!
I lay in bed during another sleepless night. I blame my aching hips because I can’t get comfortable enough to drift off. But I know in my heart, I feel it in the depths of my soul: I can’t sleep because I’m too excited.
For the second time in my life I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. I had taken so many tests over the past few years, and had seen so many negatives that I didn’t quite believe my eyes. Thank goodness I’d asked my husband to pick up the digital tests that literally read “pregnant” and “not pregnant.” I’m not sure I would have believed the little blue lines. That I would be experiencing pregnancy after infertility – especially so soon after a miscarriage – was not even a thought in mind!
Back in April, when I became pregnant with our first baby, we’d just completed an IUI cycle and I was being monitored by my fertility specialist and OBGYN. Routine (for fertility treatment) blood work revealed I was pregnant. That blood work was repeated several times, and it didn’t enter my mind to take a home pregnancy test until it was well-established that I was pregnant. I only took the home pregnancy test for the photo op.
But this time it was different. This time I didn’t know I was pregnant. I thought my period was late because my hormone cycle was still out of balance as the result of fertility treatment and the subsequent miscarriage. I took the home pregnancy test because I knew it was time to call my doctor, and I knew he would ask if I’d taken a pregnancy test. It never occurred to me that the test would be positive.
But it was.
And the very first emotion I felt was fear.
And then guilt.
My husband and I sat on the edge of our bed for about an hour, and the only thing I remember thinking was “I can’t go through that again. Not this soon.” My heart was still wounded, still healing, from the loss of our glory baby just twelve weeks earlier.
There was so much fear.
I wish my story was different. I wish it was a little more like in the movies where the happy little wife finds out she’s pregnant and she joyfully surprises her unsuspecting husband with the good news. While I was surprised, I wasn’t joyful, or happy, or exuberant. I was scared. I was so scared that my body would reject another baby. I was scared that a dream come true would turn into another nightmare.
And I felt so much guilt because of all that fear.
As the weeks went on and my body responded well to the pregnancy, that guilty feeling weighed heavily on my heart.
There was a deep sense of guilt and grief over the knowledge that this precious baby would not be here if I had not lost our sweet baby last May. And somewhere deep inside I wrestled with being excited, because it felt like being excited about this baby meant that I was somehow okay with, or even happy to have lost our first baby. A battle waged within me of celebrating a new life that could never have existed if we had not grieved that first life. And I wasn’t ready to stop grieving that first precious life.
This inward battle was most definitely driven by pregnancy hormones, and I know to some it is completely irrational. But I wrestled so, so much. As we started talking about names, looking at baby items, and sharing our secret, this new baby’s life seemed so much more real, so much more valued than our first baby. In April we didn’t talk about names, we didn’t look at baby items, and we shared our secret with a blessed few members of our immediate family.
Everything about this pregnancy was different, and better. And I wrestled with wondering if this baby was more loved than our first baby, even though I know with my mind, that of course is not true. But my heart wrestled.
But there was another reason I felt guilty.
I felt guilty that our journey through infertility was, at least for a time, over, yet so many more are still muddling through that awful, lonely journey. I felt guilty that I could finally rejoice for myself, while others still grieve and groan under the weight of waiting. I felt guilty that our journey was only for four years, while others wait so much longer.
Oh but you see how the Enemy can use those crazy pregnancy hormones to get a girl off track, can’t you?
It took many weeks, and love-spoken truth from my husband and a dear friend, for me to realize that all those guilty feelings were a lie and a distraction from the Enemy.
And it took the realization that all of those details – the miscarriage, a surprise pregnancy, infertility, those who are still waiting – all of it is outside my control.
The successful IUI…
Our unexpected pregnancy twelve weeks later…
A healthy, low-risk pregnancy…
My sweet friends who are still waiting and wondering…
…all of it is so far outside of my control that there is absolutely no place for guilt.
And I am reminded of Romans 8:1:
(right click + save as if you’d like to print an 8X10 – feel free!)
Oh I know this verse isn’t talking about crazy guilty feelings related to pregnancy after infertility or miscarriage. In this passage the Apostle Paul explains that through the work of Jesus Christ, those who trust in Him, are no longer condemned by the Law (in the Old Testament). But this particular verse has been a healing balm to my spirit, and I know it will encourage many of you as well.
This is a verse I need to carry with me for a while, so I created a background for my cell phone. I’d like to share those with you, if you like: just right click + save (on a mobile device click and save to photo albums) and enjoy this reminder from God’s Word.
(iPhone 5, iOS 7 background)
(iPhone 4 background)
Do you wrestle with feelings of guilt? Even completely irrational feelings of guilt? This time of year seems ripe for guilty feelings – resolutions and goals from last year that went unmet definitely leave me with a sense of guilt. Thank you Jesus for grace upon grace upon grace!