Our love story is like that straight out of a sappy, lovey dovey Hallmark movie if I do say so myself. While living in Florida during my younger years, I met my future husband in the fifth grade and immediately thought he was dorky. He waved his hands to classical music after lunch, wore turtlenecks almost every day, and kept his hair swooped to the side. But by the sixth-grade, cupid hit me with his arrow and his solid colored turtlenecks and dorky personality made him the boy of my dreams. We never had the chance to become high school sweethearts because after my eighth-grade year, my Dad and Mom moved me and older my brother to Illinois in order to be closer to family. However, despite the miles between us, we still kept in touch occasionally by chatting on Yahoo Messenger (old school) or sending the occasional letter (seriously old school). As years passed, I always thought he was cute, I always thought he was sweet, and I always knew he would make an amazing husband to a very lucky lady; I just never thought that lucky lady would be me.
On August 17th, 2006, after only six short months of long distance dating in college, my sixth-grade boyfriend and I said our “I do’s” on the beautiful sandy beaches of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Money was tight but we made our first home in a cramped 475 square foot apartment. We were packed in like sardines and there was little room to be adding babies, but my free six-month supply of birth control had run out and I decided to take my chances. But instead of a pregnancy, or even the scare of a pregnancy, I received irregular menstrual cycles, 15 extra pounds, profuse sweating, excessive hair growth on my face (and well, all over), and crazy hormonal mood swings! Did I mention this all happened within three short months? I felt like a one-woman freak show at the circus! I realize looking back that I should have visited a doctor or at the very least Dr. Google, but I didn’t. And I told no one. Instead, I made every excuse–too many helpings of Hamburger Helper..too much stress…just getting older…yada, yada, yada…
However, three years later, in the spring of 2010, while sitting on the couch, I watched an episode of Oprah featuring Dr. Oz (I miss her shows!) and he was discussing the symptoms of a disease called Polyscysitc Ovarian Syndrome ,and as I sat there on the couch, I realized that I had every. single. one.
I realized at that point that I couldn’t shove my symptoms underneath the rug any longer, especially since the dream of having babies was now on my brain and birthed in my heart.
I remember the moment I sat in my ob/gyn’s office. I was scared. I remember my palms sweating and my voice shaking as I described to her my symptoms. She was so sweet and listened to every concern before immediately ordering an ultrasound (which I later found out was not going to be jelly on the belly…awkward) and blood work in order to see if PCOS was indeed the culprit for my star performance at the circus. Unfortunately, the tests revealed that not only did I have PCOS, but it was severe. I will never forget sitting in her cozy office with the calmness of the dim lighting and beautiful decor all around me. And I will never forget going in out of a daze as I heard her count the number of cysts on each ovary….1…2….4….8….12…
I have never felt so alone as tears streamed down my face. And I never felt so hopeless as she put her hand over mine and talked about the very real possibility that I may never conceive naturally. Or that there was the likelihood I might need to have my ovaries removed in the near future. I can still feel the heartache of that day like it was yesterday. I remember driving home from her office thinking about how I had always dreamed of having a family, and how that dream? Well, it might always be just that…a dream.
As I got home with red eyes and a puffy face, I threw the fertility specialist pamphlets she had kindly given me in a dresser drawer and decided I would give myself five months before pursuing that route. Hoping to not need the number on the beautifully printed pamphlet, I did everything I could in order to create a ‘mini me’ on my own. I ate healthy, peed on expensive ovulation predication sticks, shoved pillows underneath my tush and kicked my legs up after ‘whoopie’. But as May, June, July, August and September whizzed by and all I had to show for it was a tear-soaked pillow, I decided it was time to call the number on the pamphlet I had secretly kept hidden in a drawer.
In October of 2011, after meeting with the doctor whom I was convinced would give me my miracle, my husband was also tested. I hated it for him. I was scared of what might be. Could we both have a problem? Could it not just be me, but also him? But according to the nurse, all was well as he had a “very strong army of soldiers.” I remember getting off the phone with her that afternoon and while thinking I should be relieved and thankful everything with him looked great, I wasn’t. Instead, I found myself depressed as I realized all of the problems were a result of me. And all of the weight of those problems? They rested firmly on my shoulders. To me, it was completely my fault as to why we couldn’t say “three” while waiting for a table at a restaurant. It was my fault as to why we still had empty bedrooms. It was my fault that he had no one to call him “Daddy.” It was my fault…
And so, what does anyone do when they have faults? They try to fix them, which is what I did in the form of fertility treatments. The ones that included thousands of dollars worth of daily shots, blood work several times a week, and vaginal ultrasounds that made me feel shameful and embarrassed. However, despite all of my valiant efforts, I was not pregnant after our first treatment cycle of using “timed intercourse”; nor was I lucky on our second, and so forth. I had never been more frustrated because I thought the medicine I had been injecting each afternoon into my stomach had “fixed” the issue. Thousands of dollars had been wasted and time was ticking louder than ever as my doctor suggested it was time for the big guns. It was time for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). I wasn’t ready for the big guns. At least not yet. But while sitting at his consultation table, he was able to sell it to me like a good used car salesman. He had me convinced the only way I would conceive a child was through this expensive and emotionally costly procedure.
When I prayed, I would ask God to bless me with a child, but my confidence rested in the doctor’s ability, not God’s ability.
Within a couple of weeks of buying into his sales pitch, I found myself acting like a drug addict as I injected myself with five different shots a day in order to create as many mature follicles as possible; and May 3rd, 2012, my pain and suffering of infertility only increased as I went into surgery. I had 24 eggs removed, which is a great number! But because of the high number of eggs that matured, I developed the dreaded and all-fearing Ovarian Hyper-stimulation (OHSS). Let me say, it was awful! I literally gained over nine pounds of fluid in less than 48 hours. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t roll over. I couldn’t eat. And can we just be real for a sec? I
couldn’t didn’t want to poop.Or pee. I.Was.Miserable.
As a result, the doctors put me on a strict liquid only diet that consisted of nasty V8 juice, Gatorade, and chicken broth. The idea was to get as much sodium as possible into my system in order to flush out the fluid leaking from my ovaries. It was the worst experience of my life, and to this day, I cannot even look at a can of V8 juice or swallow even a tablespoon of Gatorade without gagging.
But on Thursday May 17th, all of the pain and suffering was a distant memory as I sat in the parking lot of a local restaurant as a nurse told me over the phone, “Congratulations! You’re a Mom!”. I will never forget that moment. I will never forget the first tear that fell from my face and hit my legs. Or the second I instinctively rubbed my belly. I will also never forget her voice calling me “mom.” Or when I whispered to my lil duckling(s) that I loved them more than they would ever know; promising that I would do everything and anything in my power to protect them as they journeyed through life?
And how could I forget dashing to Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and Micheals because the surprise pregnancy announcement I had pinned on Pinterest just months earlier was finally being executed. And the “Daddy Doody Kit” I thought was adorable? I now needed to make. I will never forget rushing from store to store. And then rushing home; watching my hands shake as I frantically put together his gift. I was so anxious and excited to surprise him with the news that I was finally expecting…we were finally going to be parents.
The moments leading up to him pulling in the driveway were some of the worst! The anticipation almost sent me into a hard attack, and the excitement I had almost gave it away. But after a few deep breaths, I calmly met him in the front yard with an oven rack in my hand. He looked puzzled and asked what I broke. I giggled before telling him that I had been cleaning and unfortunately couldn’t get the rack back in the oven…(I know, cheesy! But it’s all I could think of…so let’s move on…) Feeling like superman, he took the rack from my hands, walked inside like a boss, opened the oven door…
Do you see that smile? Just look at those eyes! Goodness, what I wouldn’t give to go back to that moment. We hugged for what seemed like forever, and later that evening we discussed nursery ideas. Before bed we talked about due dates and names, as we rubbed my belly and made bets on whether there were one or two. I can’t even type this story without tears streaming down my face because it truly was one of the happiest days of my life. And a day I never want to forget.
But the day I do want to forget? The one I can’t seem to erase no matter how hard I try? It’s the one that occurred days later. Because just three hours after having my second beta drawn, I received the phone call that would change my life forever. It would be the one that afterwards, would have me stuck in bed for days; rendered hopeless. Have you ever had one of those? The kind that you can still hear ring in your head? You can still hear the voice on the other end? Or the exact place you were when you answered? I can.
We were crossing the Wabash Bridge when it rang and I heard the nurse say, “I’m sorry, but your numbers have actually dropped.” I was looking over into the waters when I responded with, “Oh, they have…?” I don’t remember much else of our conversation, but I do remember that in my heartache, I came home, threw away the “Daddy Doody Kit,“ tossed the positive pregnancy tests in the trash, quit talking about nursery ideas, and crawled into bed and wept. My spirit and soul were crushed as I was unable to keep my promise to always protect.
The following day I managed to get up, get dressed and go to church; but I cried all the way there, all the way through worship, and all the way home. I remember while on the car ride home, having my head turned and looking out of the window, I began praying; asking for direction. In all honesty, I call it praying but it was more like spinning my wheels trying to plan how we could conceive again. For the sake of sounding holy, we will call it praying. Regardless, in that moment I had a thought to stop treatments. I knew immediately it wasn’t of my own because that wasn’t something I was willing to do. Therefore, as fear gripped me, another thought came flooding in. It was this tender whisper to my heart that said I would have a son…and then the name Josiah popped into my head. Before anyone thinks I am crazy, I want you to know that I thought I was crazy too. Because during that time I didn’t have a relationship with God like I do now. Sure, I was born and raised in church, but my quiet time was few and far between. I only did my Jesus Calling devotional if Good Morning America was boring; basically, I worked my devotional time around my schedule…not my schedule around my devotional time. So, who is God to speak to me? Who am I that I could hear His voice? And what kind of name was Josiah anyway? No offense to anyone who has a child by that name or a husband or uncle, it just wasn’t on my list of top 100 baby names…I had names picked out for my first kiddos…Josiah wasn’t it.
Therefore, I did want anyone who overuses the search engine Google would do (and if you suffer with infertility then you have probably overused it a time or two… insert smirk) and I immediately looked up the meaning of the name Josiah. I had decided that if it meant anything insignificant such as “keeper of the home” or “bigfoot,” then I would chalk up this whisper spoken to my heart as nothing more than my crazy-hormontional-self talking. But as I anxiously awaited, the results began appearing, and I learned the name Josiah means ‘Jehovah healed.’ Not keeper of the home. Or bigfoot.
Immediately, I began weeping because I realized in that moment that God didn’t just want to give me baby; He wanted more for me; His best. And His best included healing. I believe His best for you also includes healing. No matter what you are going through or how bleak the present may seem, God wants to restore you. That is his heart. That is his nature. And it was on that Sunday afternoon I started to believe it. I had a fire of faith burning so deep within me it couldn’t be put out. I also had a hope that couldn’t be stolen. But how many of you know that anytime your hope is renewed the enemy will always try to steal it. He doesn’t want you to get your hopes up because miracles follow hope! This happened with me. Just days after the whisper to my heart, another whisper came to my ear. This one came from my doctor informing me that our chances of conception, even with medical treatments were not favorable. In fact, he said my eggs were the quality of an elderly woman and if by some 3% chance one of them did hop into a wheel chair and wheel itself down the fallopian tube, the odds are even less it would result in a viable pregnancy. (Those weren’t his exact words, but my interpretation.) Yet despite what he said it was, and what it seemed to be, I still held onto my hope. Because after he finished giving his stats and sympathy eyes, I stood up, shook His hand, thanked him for his time, then walked out of there like a boss. I knew I would bebop back in there within three short months waving an ultrasound picture in the air.
But 3 months go by…6 months go by…12 months go by…and no ultrasound picture to bebop back into his office with. That’s when the “nevers” and the “cant’s” and the “wont’s” started to ease into my thoughts and ooze out of my vocabulary. I’m never going to be healed. I’m never going to ovulate. I’m never going to be a mother. Or, I can’t get pregnant. I won’t get pregnant. I can’t and I won’t…and I’ll never…And it’s normal. It’s human nature. Even great faith has weak moments. Because it’s easy to have hope against all hope in the beginning, but when the promise doesn’t come in the time frame you had envisioned…when your dreams are always shattered…your plans constantly thwarted… it’s hard to keep hoping…it’s almost impossible to keep believing…and sometimes, you just need a little help to keep the faith.
My SOS flare went up in 2013 shortly after one year from hearing the promise; still with an empty womb and my faith wavering, I cried out to God for something more. Something new. It was a Friday night and while on my way to an all-women’s conference I begged him for reassurance, but I didn’t want a scripture. I also told him that I didn’t want a song to come on the radio at just the right time. Those had worked in the past; but it wouldn’t work this time. Instead I needed a burning bush…something obvious and if it wasn’t too much to ask, perhaps even a billboard sign that read: “Elisha! You will have a son and you are to name him Josiah!”
Long shot, right? I thought so too. But God knows what you need. He knows when your faith is gasping for air, and perhaps that is why you are here today. Your faith is gasping and you need your own billboard sign. You need your own reason to hope again. I pray you find it. Because that night I found my fresh wind. It all began as I stood on the front row of the sanctuary. The message was over and as I stood there waiting for our dismissal with the heaviness of disappointment in my heart, I held out my hands in “pretend worship.” I say pretend because at that point in the evening I just wanted to go home, put on my jammies and watch the rest of 20/20. I had hoped the speaker would have said something that would breathe life into my dying dreams but she didn’t. And so there, while standing near the front row as others came forward for ministry time, it happened. A woman whom I had never met before came and put her hands on my stomach and began praying. Immediately my eyes flew open: “Who is touching me?!” But as she began praying, I closed my eyes and thought, “I’ll go with it.” But it was when she began to pray for God to fulfill my heart’s desire and take away my burdens that tears slowly began to fall. But as she was just getting started and speaking so forcibly, she stopped. My eyes flew open and I almost said, “Don’t stop! You are doing good” when she looked at me and said with such confidence, “You will have a son!” Immediately her eyes grew the size of silver dollars as she covered her mouth before apologizing. She began to studder and explain that she didn’t know where those words came from, and if she misspoke, she was very sorry. She went on to say that she wasn’t even sure if I wanted children…but before she uttered another word I fell to the ground and, “It’s okay. You were my burning bush.”
She didn’t know I was going through infertility. There was no blog, therefore she didn’t know about the secret promise between me and God. Only my mom, husband and cat knew about it.
It’s been 7 years since my burning bush moment and 8 since the promise was first spoken, and there still hasn’t been an ultrasound picture. If anything, my hormones have gotten worse and my ol’ lady eggs have gotten older. Most people in my situation would have given up by now. But despite what it is, and what it seems to be, I still have hope. And it’s because of Ol’ Ab from the book of Genesis. You see, there are seven couples in the bible who were unable to conceive, but by the grace of God all 7 overcame. However, Ab’s story is my favorite.
Most people would assume it is because he had a promise of a child and I have a promise, therefore we can relate. But that’s not it at all. With or without the promise I would still be able to see the word ‘possible’ tucked away within the ‘impossible’, and it’s because he taught me how. A person can’t help but read his story in Genesis and Romans and not see that he was a man who could look at the reality of a situation and say, “It is what it is, but it’s not what it seems.”
It is impossible, yet it’s not impossible.
It is too late, yet it’s not too late.
The conditions of my body aren’t perfect,yet they are.
But the question is how. I believe the answer lies in Romans 4:20; it says that he was strengthened in his faith during that 25-year-long waiting period by giving Glory to God. For years, I would read this and assume that Abraham walked around his old tent wearing his old clothes while singing the old hymn, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah…Glory, Glory Hallelujah!” And you know? He might have. He was father Abraham. But if you dig deeper into this scripture passage, you will find that the word Glory is translated to the Hebrew word KABOD, which means weight. Abraham gave weight to God. In his wait, he gave weight to God. This means he didn’t focus on his weakness or the difficulty of the situation. If he had, then he would have given up in despair. Instead, He focused on the faithfulness and power of God to change His circumstances.
Real talk? Many of us, including myself at times, have given too much weight to the wrong things. We’ve given too much weight to the facts. Too much weight to our past failures and disappointments.Too much weight to our feelings. And because we have, we have weighed ourselves down and lost our hope. And maybe that is you. If so, it’s time to shift your weight by shifting your focus; asking yourself, is the way I see it the way it really is?”
Because His body was as good as dead, but was it dead?
Your situation seems impossible, but is it impossible?
It appears it’s too late, but is it too late?
I want to make an important distinction because this isn’t about denying our reality and living in a state of delusion. According to scripture, Abraham never denied that his body was worthless, in fact he did the opposite. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that he often looked around at his situation and said, “it is what it is” … he might have even looked across the tent at his wife, Sarah, and said, “it was what it was” … But while Abraham faced the facts, he also kept the faith. In other words, he stood in the middle. He wasn’t delusional… yet he also didn’t fall into the pit of despair. Instead he stood firmly in the gap…the gap between what it is and what it seems. Faith is what bridges that gap. It shows you the hope within a barren womb. The word possible inside every impossibility. The power of God in the face of a problem.
Whatever you are facing today, it’s not the end. I hope that as you read my stories within this tiny ol’ space of mine that you are filled with hope, inspiration, and even moments of laughter. Because it is here that I believe you will not only find the roses, but also the thorns as I try to be transparent in sharing not just the happy and hopeful moments, but also the ones filled with despair. I understand that not everyone’s journey towards parenthood will look the same, but this is my story of a tale of two love birds trusting in God while waiting for their baby bird.
UPDATE: Since the start of this blog, we have adopted a little girl through foster care. You can read all about our Tales of Fostering here.
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