Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stretcher Bearers

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,“Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”  Mark 2:1-12
In his book "Becoming a Stretcher Bearer," Michael Slater "encourages people to put 'feet' to their prayers through active encouragement.  Pastor Slater was launching a ministry based on the apostle Mark's dramatic account about the compassionate and inventive band of friends who came to the rescue of a paralyzed man by carrying him on a stretcher so he could get to Jesus for healing."  [When I Lay My Issac Down by Carol Kent]  In the midst of her personal Issac situation, Carol Kent says "I was hurting badly, but I was being loved deeply."  I second that sentiment.
My stretcher bearers have been such a gift.  So many friends and family who have called or texted or just prayed for me when I couldn't pray for myself.  Friends who continue to send text messages of love and encouragement, even when I haven't had it in me to respond to their messages.  I didn't realize how powerful and emotional and meaningful it would be for people to refer to our lost babies as "your girls"- to acknowledge that their lives, however short, were real.  The gift of a bracelet with two hearts to remember our sweet girls.  A gift card in the mail so Michael and I can escape to a movie and enjoy a night out.  A care package sent from across country.  So many people who have empathized with our pain, allowed me to not be okay and volunteered to stand in the gap for me and pray on my behalf.  Words cannot express how much these "stretcher bearers" have meant to me.  People who have carried me when I couldn't carry myself.  People who have gone out of their way to be an encouragement.
There are some "stretcher bearer" moments that stick out to me the most, that will likely be a part of my heart until I am able to hold my babies on the other side of heaven.  One sweet friend, who is also walking through infertility and IVF herself, asked about our baby's names.  We had already decided on names, and it was such a sweet opportunity for me to be able to share those with her.  The details of the heartache of the situation wasn't lost on this friend.   Another friend, who has suffered devastating miscarriages, texted me this:
Lauren, I am so so so sorry.  My heart hurts inside me and I know that as grief.  Your daughters awoke in Glory and await you.  But I know that brings very very little earthly reprise from the wretched ache.  I can only go before the throne on your behalf.  And I will.
I cry every time I read that message, knowing the truth in her words but continuing to feel the ache of loss.  I don't know how to properly show my gratitude for the love and encouragement and prayers of my "stretcher bearers".  But I thank God for that provision.  I have been hurting badly but have been loved so deeply.

Monday, December 28, 2015


We lost our pregnancy 3 weeks ago, and I've hardly prayed since then.  I've caught myself praying without realizing it for little things and stopped myself mid-sentence.  I've been so angry with God and so heartbroken that I couldn't bring myself to talk to Him.  I've debated with myself over writing about the spiritual struggle that has accompanied our infertility.  I don't want my struggles and doubts to make anyone else stumble.  I only want to be an encouragement to others in their faith.  But it feels dishonest if I pretend I haven't struggled in my faith.

The hardest part for me in this whole thing has been the day we found out we were pregnant.  For a small moment in time, we were happy.  We had the babies we had dreamed of for so long, only to have the dream ripped away days later.  It felt cruel.  We trusted God, and it felt as though he were teasing us only to break out hearts again.

I've struggled so much with the "why."  Why did God allow this to happen?  If we weren't going to be pregnant, fine.  We would be devastated, but it would have been so much easier to have received a negative pregnancy test from the beginning.  It just felt mean.  And outside of "Your plan for our lives sucks", I haven't had much to say to God.  We've had many well-intentioned friends quote scripture to us, but in the midst of our heartbreak it feels like they've been quoting scripting at us.  Hearing that God is working things for our good and that Jesus wept and that God is close to the brokenhearted feels so trite in the middle of our heartbreak.  He could have saved us from being brokenhearted, but He didn't.  He's hoarding my babies in heaven, and I don't like it!  I used to take comfort in knowing that God formed me in my mother's womb and that our infertility wasn't a surprise to Him.  In my grief, though, it just made me angry.  The Lord formed me.  Like this.  Knowing full well that we would be here in this moment, heartbroken.  He could have stopped this.  He could have made me differently.  He could have allowed my babies to continue to grow inside of me.

On top of the heartache of losing our pregnancy, I am struggling with the financial burden this means for our family.  No matter our course of action for the future, whether it be adoption or continued IVF, we are going to be tens upon tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  A debt that will cripple us for years to come.

I am confident I am not alone in this season of struggle and of pain, regardless the source.  I've started seeing a Christian counselor because I don't know how to get unstuck on my own.  The first time I met with him, I told him that as heartbroken as I am, I know there are worse circumstances and worse pain out there.  My pain cannot compare to so many others.  Others who have birthed babies who weren't alive.  Others whose children have died from terrible diseases.  My pain and my experience are nothing compared to so many others.  But, as he reminded me, my pain is real.  My heartache is real.  And, to be completely transparent and honest, it's made me question my relationship with God, which is something I wasn't prepared for.

I've been at a crossroads in my faith for the past three weeks: a) move forward, following a God I don't understand and right now a God I don't even like or b) walk away from my faith altogether.  I can't walk away.  I can't turn my back on everything I've ever believed and known and followed.  But I haven't been ready for option a.  I'm at a crossroads and not ready to make a choice. And for right now, I'm going to be okay with that.  For now, I'm just going to stand here at the crossroads and wait.

I've been reading a book called "When I Lay My Issac Down."  The author of the book, Carol Kent, asked the same question my heart has been screaming, "Why didn't God DO something?"  She referred to James 1:2.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials...

Honestly, this verse was irritating to me initially.  If somebody walked up to me and quoted this verse at me, they may have to count it all joy the trial of me punching them in the throat.  I have no joy in this struggle.  Let me skip over the "joy" in this trial and whatever "good" things God has planned for me down the road and just give me back my babies.  But Carol Kent's point here is this:  
  1. Trials are inevitable.  The verse says when you fall into trials, not if.
  2. Trials are for a purpose:  Suffering was part of the process for Jesus, so it will also be a part of the process for those who love and follow Him.
I'm going to be honest.  I hate this process.  But as much as it infuriates me, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.  So I've begun praying again, slowly.  Hoping that baby steps will eventually lead me down the right path.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Not Okay

We got pregnant right before Thanksgiving.  We had two little girls who, for at least a little while, were growing in my womb.  This is the only picture I'll ever have of my sweet baby girls.

With our families walking this road of infertility alongside us and us being as public as we are with our IVF journey, we just don't get to have any of the fun surprises that "normal" couples get to have.  So when we scheduled our transfer and snuck away to Colorado, only a handful of people knew.  

We transferred the only two embryos we had and prayed that we would get to hold those babies in our arms.

On December 2 we heard the words from my IVF nurse that we had waited so so long to hear.  You're pregnant.  Definitively.

My HCG needed to be around 50, and mine was at 77.  Thank you, Jesus.  We are pregnant!  I literally stood in the middle of my living room and repeated those words over and over and over again.

Thank you, Jesus.

Two days later I went in for a routine blood draw just to make sure my HCG was increasing at the necessary rate.  I looked around the waiting room that morning at the women waiting there, remembering the battle it had been to get to this point.  To finally have life growing inside of my womb.  To finally be pregnant.  I don't know how to put that feeling into words.

My nurse was off that day, and it was unusually late in the day for me to not have heard from my doctor.  I finally got a hold of a nurse there.  She was somber.  My HCG had increased, but not as much as it should have.  We'd run the blood work again in two days.  

Two days later I found myself once again sitting in the waiting room for my HCG blood draw.  This time, though, I was scared.  Could this really all be taken away from me?  After the joy and the tears and the struggle?  The sweet nurse there didn't make me wait for my doctor's office to call.  She called me into an office and told me that my HCG was now at 39.  My babies were gone.

The last couple of weeks have been difficult to say the least.  My heart is broken, and I'm trying to understand why and how.  I've turned into this sad, cynical person I don't recognize.  Spiritually, it's a battle, and for now I'm just trying to be okay with not being okay.