A Surprising Pain – Infertility the Second Time Around

I desperately never wanted to be here again – ONE YEAR of unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy. The one year – at the end of which – the medical world pronounces you infertile. It’s a sentencing no one ever expects to hear, a label that morphs into a stigma. A proclamation that tears hope right out of your gut. A diagnosis that rocks you to your core.

We’ve been here before. Thirty-two months of infertility. What I always thought of as natural became very unnatural with the increase in doctors visits, lab testing, medication, and procedures followed by negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. Inquiries started pouring in about the state of my uterus. People informed me that it’s time for children. I offered a composed response but inside I was falling apart. Mother’s Day became a bold reminder of an unfulfilled dream. Every social media pregnancy announcement stung. I had no idea if my lifelong dream of becoming a mother would ever come true.

Then, out of nowhere, those two, bold blue lines showed up. Shock, disbelief, joy, trembling, and tears. Miracle of miracles – I was pregnant! There was sickness I could have done without. Cravings and aversions galore. That rounded belly I’d always imagined. The wakeful nights and countless trips to the bathroom. I cherished every piece of that pregnancy. I’d waited too long, faced too much disappointment, and been on too many emotional roller coasters to make a complaint about the exhaustion, lack of appetite, or weight gain. I was the happiest I’d ever been. Until the day our daughter made her entrance into our world. And then happiness didn’t even begin to describe it.

Now here we are again – desiring to grow our family but faced with the reality that it may be just as hard the second time around. We have been assured by doctors that fertility increases after giving birth and I’ve clung to that hope, believing it would be true for me. I’m very aware of the time that is passing by as I watch my little girl turn into a big girl. The pain of this unmet desire is surprisingly different. The one-year mark is hitting me like a sucker punch just like last time, but in a whole new way.

This new version of pain is leaving me a bit baffled. The emotional lostness isn’t present yet. I feel a sense of hope for my body because a healthy and successful pregnancy is on my record. There is the promise of possibility. I’m turning 30 this summer and feel rushed to know the answer of how our story will continue to unfold. While friends continue to conceive baby after baby with seeming ease I wonder if I’ll ever get another chance.

Watching my daughter move away from the baby years is both thrilling and depressing. My heart aches for a chance to do it all again. I want to feel those baby kicks and punches on the inside wall of my basketball-of-a-belly. I want to repeat the exhilarating joy of birth after grueling labor. I want to hold a sweet-smelling newborn in my arms. I want to nurse again. I want to watch a tiny baby grow. I want to reiterate the sweet stages of that first year. I want another little human to love. And I want the chance to cherish each moment just a little bit better the second time around. If there ever is a second time around. While I don’t yet feel that all-too-familiar dread of negative pregnancy tests, and I’m not yet facing the month-by-month roller coasters of emotion, I do sense a stark emptiness in our family. There is an extra room in our new home beckoning for a new, tiny inhabitant. There is a big sister who prays for her mommy to have another baby in her tummy. I know we’re not complete.

While we wait again for those two blue lines, another life to add to ours, I cling to truths that were eroded in my heart through the waves of prior grief and disappointment. Truths that were my lifeline through years of confusion. God’s grace is turning up for me daily. The gift of life I enjoy every day in my daughter still makes my heart sing. Her twinkling eyes and bright smile light up my world. But hope-deferred is not a place I wanted to revisit. But I’m here. We’re here. We feel an emptiness but have no power to fill it. So we wait, but not in vain. We wait expectantly, knowing that in our waiting we find strengthened faith, deepened love, and great joy in God’s present gifts. And we look forward to the day when our hope-deferred is no longer deferred.

Two Cute Cousins in Their Easter Best

I’ve been dying to share this session with you all! When Kya and I were in Greenville late March/early April my brother’s wife and son from NYC overlapped with us for a couple of days! It sure was a treat to see them since it doesn’t happen often!

We spent some late afternoon time in downtown Greenville at Falls Park taking some Easter photos of the kids! My sister-in-law was super organized and had my nephew’s detailed outfit all ready when she arrived from NYC. I left for the trip a bit frazzled having moved into our new home 10 days prior and having been dealing with major plumbing issues up until the night before I left. I ended up finding Kya’s Easter dress at the Gap outlet in Charlotte a few days prior to this shoot. Nothing like last minute!

Chasing two dressed-up toddlers around a busy downtown was challenging but fun! Here are some of my favorite images from our time! I know we’ll cherish these for years to come.

Spring House Update

Our bodies are tired and our heads are spinning from quite the last few months. We closed on our new home in Salt Lake City on January 23, but didn’t start the real work on it until the end of February. My husband’s brother and sister came from out of state to help us and they did soooooo much work! We are incredibly grateful for their sacrifice of time and effort (and sanity) to get us through the beginning stage of our first big renovation project.

The biggest job so far was installing 17 new windows. We ordered our windows from Milgard (through Home Depot). The house was built in 1960 and has many custom-sized, large windows. We loooove the sizes and shapes! We obviously included the required egress windows where needed, but wherever we could we chose picture windows. They really make a statement! We spent an extra $1,300 to upgrade to black windows. It’s something we’ve wanted for years and with the style and coloring of the house they’re perfect. Because many of the windows were installed into brick,  a lot of extra time was spent framing the surround of the window to get them just right. It was intense, backbreaking work for my husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law! I just got to watch and laugh at their goofy antics. We could have easily had snow but instead, the weekend of the window install in early March was gorgeous – in the mid 60s and sunny. Along with the actual windows, all of the trim (both inside and outside) had to be replaced. My husband is a talented carpenter so he trimmed most of the windows himself. The outside trim still needs to be painted white. We can’t wait to see what the white trim will look like around those black windows! We also plan to paint our front door, garage door, and shutters black!

Another big project we completed was building a wall in the basement. Initially, our basement was one giant room. Instead of leaving the large, nondescript room, we broke it into two spaces by putting up a wall. Now we have a large fourth bedroom/guest room (that already had a large closet) and a good-sized office! We only spent $1,000 to build the wall and redirect HVAC and electrical but adding a fourth bedroom and office will pay huge dividends when we eventually sell the house! We haven’t had a dedicated office for five years. We mostly work at the kitchen table or on the couch. We’re really looking forward to the office serving as our household hub, library, and office for my photography business! My vision for the office is a clean, well-organized and functional space with styled bookshelves, a desk (or two), comfortable chairs, warm lamp lighting, and some plants.

The basement is currently a mess but we are starting the process of going through the mounds of stuff. I foresee a large Goodwill donation run in the near future! Most of the mess is in the guest room. We bought a new guest bed a couple months ago and it’s sitting there begging to be put together! There are quite a few purchases that need to be made for the guest room – sheets, bedding, side tables, lamps, and decor. I’m excited to have a purposeful and dedicated guest space!

The guest bath/laundry room in the basement is tiiiiiny. It’s the most tricky room in the house for me. The stand up shower is functioning, but not beautiful. There is a itty bitty sink with no counter space and the washer and dryer are squished along the left wall. There is little room to move around and basically no storage. I’m brainstorming about how all of my laundry and cleaning supplies will fit into that space. Open shelving is probably the way to go. I’m also thinking I need to be a bit more minimalist about my supplies and stop frequenting those back aisles at Costco!

Our main living space is functional and organized enough for now. We purchased new furniture and sold our old set and I’m looooving the change! I’m starting to map out where I want decor hung. I want to hang ceiling height curtains on our big front windows for sure. I would also love to find a console or buffet to go to the right of the door along the big, blank wall. It would serve as extra storage and warm up that side of the room.

The biggest project we want to save for is a complete kitchen renovation. The cabinets are original to the house and look decent because they’ve been painted white. But trust me, they’re not in good shape. The people who sold us the house had installed new countertops and backsplash and they’re fine, but not our preferred style. We plan to change out the cabinets, countertops, and backsplash whenever we can save up enough to do so! Thankfully, my husband is a cabinet designer/engineer/builder so we can tackle that part ourselves.

I love the style and layout of the main floor, but the biggest eye sore is the slate flooring and fireplace surround. I never knew how much I hated slate until living here! It’s dark, uneven, falling apart in places, and never feels clean no matter how much I scrub it by hand! But it’s something we’ll have to live with until we can afford to renovate the kitchen. The slate starts at the front door and continues through the dining area and kitchen. We want to install cohesive wood flooring in our entire main floor when we redo the kitchen. It will likely be 3-5 years before we can tackle that project.

The upstairs rooms are partially done, but definitely not complete. Kya’s room is the most put together in the house. All that’s left is to put up her mirror and hang some curtains. The room across from hers is an extra bedroom that is serving as her play room right now. It still has piles of boxes in the corner that need to be unpacked and is a pretty plain room. I’d love to make it a more colorful space that could be easily changed over to a bedroom when it comes time to have another child. One of those play tepees would be a fun addition!

Our master bedroom totally has the wow factor going on! The wall behind the bed is Sherwin Williams’ Anchors Aweigh (a deep, deep navy blue). We both can’t stop talking about how much we love it! For the first time in our marriage, we feel like we’re going to have a truly beautiful master bedroom when it’s all said and done. We have yet to add decor and we need a dresser and some plants, but I am loving the process of dreaming about how this space will turn out! We especially love the 80-inch wide window over our bed. Stunning! A master bathroom is attached to the bedroom. It was “upgraded” before we moved in but we’re realizing how cheaply it was done. A week into living here, the bathtub started to peel. We found out that the flipper used a quick fix to cover up the poor condition of the tub, so our tub will need reglazing or replacing. Though it’s on the bottom of our list, I would love to eventually re-do the master bath. The layout is nice and even though it’s not huge, it’s very functional and spacious enough for us. I imagine a walk-in shower, new flooring, a custom cabinet, a unique sink, a beautiful countertop, more taste specific hardware, a gorgeous mirror, and a new light fixture. That’s all in the waaaay down the road category! The hall bath is a full bathroom that functions as Kya’s bathroom and a bathroom for guests. It doesn’t have any windows because it’s in the center of the house, so it feels a bit drab to me. It will eventually need an upgrade but it functions for now.

The outside of the house needs a lot of TLC. This past weekend we got rid of a dump trailer full of renovation garbage, limbs, bushes, etc. It’s looking more cleaned up but far from how we want it to look. We’ll see what finances allow for this summer. We may only be able to weed, get the grass looking nice, and mulch for now then wait on building raised garden beds and planting veggies, bushes, and flowers. I personally love yard work and can’t wait to spruce things up better once we’re completely past the possibility of snow!

We have really enjoyed meeting many of our neighbors. Our street is quite multicultural and we love it! We have been told our neighborhood families gather for summer picnics, Fourth of July celebrations, etc.! Neighborliness is super important to me, especially because I come from the south and that’s just the norm down there. There are a lot of kids in our area too! I can’t wait to get outside and mingle with our neighbors more as the weather continues to warm up. One neighbor family brought us Tillamook ice cream this week after seeing our Oregon license plates (which still need to be changed). We can tell we’re going to like it here!

The last few months have taken a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and definitely financially. Our home here in Salt Lake is 50 years older and only 500 square feet larger than what we had in Oregon and it was nearly DOUBLE the cost. We’ve already put in nearly $20,000 in renovations into it since purchasing and are pinching pennies to get back on track. We went a little over budget because of unforeseen problems (we should have learned that lesson from all those HGTV shows). We’re so thankful for how God has provided for every single element of our move here and now for the opportunity to be homeowners again. We honestly don’t know how it’s possible to be where we’re at and in no debt (except our mortgage)! We’re focusing on free projects over the next few months to get our bank account built back up. It took us longer than we anticipated and cost us more than we expected but we’re here and loving putting our blood, sweat, and tears into this little piece of the valley. Remembering why we moved here and how God has provided gives us motivation to keep going!

Jenny Coobs – The Hopeful Reality of Infertility

I’m so thrilled to have my new friend Jenny Coobs sharing her heart here today. We found each other in Instagram and have been conversing back and forth recently! We quickly discovered that we have both walked the road of infertility and are passionate about opening up that topic of conversation with more women! Jenny is facing the unique challenge of secondary infertility. I know you’ll be encouraged and strengthened by her story. You can find Jenny and more of her beautiful writing at These Sweet Days. You’ll also definitely want to follow her on Instagram @jennycoobs. She’s a gem!

“We thought, we hoped, that last month might be it, the month that we would find out a baby was on the way. But it wasn’t, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. The ache was so intense and the tears were always close. I told J that I didn’t think I could handle anymore months of this. I felt numb and he did, too. The wondering, defeated, hurting thoughts were crowding up our mind. It was the hardest place we had been since we started down this road 2 years ago…….”

This was the beginning of a post I wrote on my blog over a year and a half ago. The months since then have looked rather similar, running together to some extent as the answer of “not this time” has continued to be the theme. The ache is still very present, daily present really, though the intensity of it shifts with every passing day. Countless tears have fallen, thousands of prayers prayed, many wonderings floated across our mind. We are still in this battle and the pain of it is very real.

Infertility: a noun: the inability to conceive children or young. Those are the words, the founding definition of the battlefield we are standing in the middle of right now. It’s a clear, rather simple definition, but it packs out a hard-hitting meaning, one that sits like a boulder in the pit of your stomach. It’s a painful definition, a lonely definition, and it is a definition that is easy to keep close to the chest, telling the smallest handful of people, or none at all.

It’s painful in a unique way because it’s a good thing you’re desiring, a good thing that you’re hoping and praying for. Like others who are longing to be married, longing to be healed, longing to have their own heart cry answered, you are walking a road that is filled with the struggle of asking “why?” It’s painful because it’s so hard to understand why something that’s called a blessing is not being given to you.

It’s lonely because you begin to feel surrounded by babies. It feels like everywhere you turn you’re seeing strollers and baby wraps, you’re pulling another baby shower invitation out of your mailbox, you’re reading another “we’re pregnant” announcement on social media, and you are longing for that to be you. You want to be in the mommy club with your friends, swapping birth stories or sleeping woes or happy baby “firsts.” You want to be able to join in the conversations about multiple kids and post pictures of your oldest cuddling your new baby on the hospital bed. You want to stroke those tiny fingers and inhale that perfect newborn smell and know that you don’t have to hand that baby back, because baby is yours.

And it’s so easy to keep it close, almost hidden. It’s such a hard thing to say out loud. It almost seems that voicing it, putting words to the struggle, will make it more real and thus, more painful. Or you don’t want to share it because you feel ashamed that somehow this is your fault and you aren’t able to do something that “all other women” seem to be able to do. It’s easy to keep hidden and you even may desire to because you’re afraid that no one will be able to relate and you’ll only hear an occasional “I’m so sorry,” but then everyone will go on with their days and forget about what you’re going through.

There have been many moments of begging the Lord to take this from us, of asking Him why this is the way He’s chosen to teach us. There have been times where I want to be rid of all social media because seeing one more picture of a newborn baby feels unbearable. There have been times where I don’t want to talk about it at all because hearing another person say, “Well, at least you haven’t had a miscarriage” or “Oh, it will happen, you just have to be patient” would surely be the tipping point. These emotions, these struggles, these real moments that we could walk into on any given day are the raw pieces of infertility. These pieces are our hard.

And while the ache is still as deep and longing still so strong, while there are still tears and moments of not understanding, there’s the loveliest thread of goodness that runs through our pain because of our God. He has comforted us in the pain, He has held us close in the loneliness, and He has reminded us that His ears are the closest ones to voice these hard words to. Every new valley we’ve fallen into He has shown us His shepherding ways. In our doubt, in our wonderings, He has met us with truth, truth about Himself, truth about our circumstances, truth about who we are to Him. And though I wouldn’t have raised my hand if He had let me choose whether I wanted this path for us or not, He has brought beauty from ashes in ways that only exist because of Him.

There’a a John Newton quote that says, “Nothing is needful that He withholds, everything is needful that He sends.” I will never understand the full depth of the “why” this is our struggle, but truly, it’s not mine to know. But I can gain comfort in the hard knowing that it IS needful for me, for us, for the crevices of our hearts that we don’t even know need this very trial to make us more like Jesus.

And the sweetest part of what this trial, what this pain, has brought about is how much more I know my Savior, my good good Father. He has become dearer to me, more present to me, more of that faithful friend that He is than I imagined He could be. That may sound cliche, but it is the truest thing I can say. His Word is living and active, the best words of comfort, the sweetest words of hope. He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. When He is at our right hand we shall not be shaken. In His presence there is fullness of joy. All these words that my eyes have run across in the past 3.5 years have become my daily songs, the better theme that I remind myself is the lasting theme. Even if this pain, this longing, doesn’t see an end this side of heaven, it will be well, because He alone fully satisfies my soul. My dad has passed this quote down to all of us kids: “He is better than it all.” And I can wholeheartedly say that I know that to be true.

Dear heart, I know your soul is weary and that the days of “not right now” and the worry of “will it ever be” do feel like the definition of your life. But it is not, my friend. The definition of your life, the truest thing about you, is that He has a good and wise plan for you; a plan that He has laid out since the very beginning of the thought of you, a plan that He has made and is unfolding in the most loving way for you. His love is hard sometimes, but it the deepest love you will ever know, and if you choose to fight to rest in Him, to hear the steadfast heartbeat of truth above that kettle drum that is infertility, you will come to find joy in the hard and beauty nestled amongst the ugly. And He will use you as a means of the loveliest grace, as a banner for His glory, as a testimony of His love to so many others who need that above all other things.

I’m ending with something I shared in another blogpost about a year and a half ago…

“My heart, J’s and my heart, for this season of our living is summed up so well in this excerpt of a letter written by a woman, Judy Squier, to a family whose son had just been born with no arms or legs. This is from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Keep a Quiet Heart.”

“You as a family have been chosen in a special way to display His unique Masterwork. I pray that your roots of faith will grow deep down into the faithfulness of God’s Loving Plan, that you will exchange your inadequacy for the Adequacy of Jesus’ resurrection power, and that you will be awed as you witness the fruits of the Spirit manifested in your family.””