Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Faith to Grow When You've Been Planted

I've been participating in the #novembergratitudechallenge this month, taking time daily to share something I'm grateful for. In the beginning of the month I shared a quote that I had found that inspired a daily gratitude post, 
Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but you've actually been planted. -- Christine Caine
I have been "buried" many times throughout my life by so many different trials. When I found this quote I really thought about all those times. It occurred to me that whether we are buried or planted is up to us. Sometimes I am buried. I let the problems shovel darkness over me, and I am consumed by it. I stay there in that darkness, unchanging. Other times, I let it nourish me, teach me, and help me grow. Whatever happened, whatever the trail; it was up to me what came of it.

Infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, whatever my problem, or your problem may be, it can bury you or you can choose to let it cultivate you

Every month that passed. Every negative ovulation test and every negative pregnancy test. Every pregnancy announcement I cynically wished I could "dislike" on Facebook. Every year that passed that made our dreams seem further than closer. Each one felt like a heaping, shovel-full of dirt dumped over our heads, burying us alive. Barely alive. The pit was filling up around us. The dirt rising steadily to our heads. 

You know that's what it feels like; slowly being buried alive in adversity. 

So, many times I sat still in that pit of despair and heartache. I let myself be buried in my misery. I let the darkness take me. I refused comfort. I refused growth. Oh, how I wish I could go back to those times and tell myself to fight. 

But other times I did try. I sought nourishment for my soil and I would begin, in small ways, to grow. 

On November 17, 2015, I peaked out from my pit and grew into the warmth of the sun. Max was born, and no matter the trials we endured through his short life, I felt peace. I felt joy.

But from the last breath he took until late this summer, it felt like a slow motion fall back to the deepest, darkest part of my hole in the earth. And when we lost our 3rd pregnancy in July, it felt like a bulldozer just moved a mountain of mud over me, and that was it. Pure, complete darkness. No light. No way out. I was buried.

I felt hopeless, and I stayed hopeless. I refused to water my soil or till my dirt, and I refused to let anyone help. And I was consumed there. I was buried so deep. My heart, my very soul, had been broken seemingly beyond repair. I was already buried, so why not just die? It seemed like the only answer then. It seemed to be the only way to get out, to get free. 

Being buried in our own negativity, is a choice. Despite grief, mental illness, heartache and failure, we can still choose to grow, even if sometimes that doesn't feel true. Sometimes it feels like we don't have a choice, but we do. And when we fail to be the gardener in our own lives. When we fail to cultivate ourselves, there is One who will always be there to do what we cannot. We only have to reach for Him.

The Savior is our gardener. And while He does not bury us, he will come to water us and give us sun and til our soil. If we just turn to Him in faith we can grow after we've been buried. 

I was planted. I was buried. And I grew.

Eventually, slowly, the light returned. I became firmly planted, instead of buried. I could have joy. I can have joy! I am made new. I have grown through being buried, and I am grateful for it.

Friends, do not get lost in the deep darkness. Do not lose hope when life buries you. Have faith to grow. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the gardener we can rely on when life's trials bury us deeper than we can grow from on our own.


Friday, October 21, 2016

There Should NEVER be Shame with Infant Loss: My Opinion on "Late-Term Abortion"

This may very well be the hardest, but one of the more important posts I write. 

I feel the need to share my feelings surrounding the "late-term abortion" (a term I hate) controversy. 

Let me start first with stating that I do not believe in abortion as a means of birth control. If you consciously choose to have sex, you should know that pregnancy is always a possible outcome (hello, did you have a high school Health class? Sex=babies) and you should be prepared to deal with that consequence. That being said, I also believe that it isn't necessarily my place to tell other people how to live their life.  However, as someone considering adoption as a way to have a family, if you did choose to have sex and an unwanted pregnancy resulted I would hope that you would find a family to give your child to. Now, in cases of rape, where sex was not a young woman's choice, and she becomes pregnant, I firmly believe she should not have to extend the pain of her experience by continuing a pregnancy.  Now, that covers my beliefs on abortion. Moving on to the actual subject at hand.

Over a year ago, our 20 week target ultrasound revealed our son Max had several birth defects and that his central nervous system was poorly developed due to hydrocephalus and a meningocele at the base of his cerebellum. We were asked to research, meet with doctors, and have extensive tests to determine the likelihood of his compatibility with life. Through counseling with each other, physicians, and the Lord we felt confident that Max could survive to delivery and, with intensive care and surgeries, possibly live for a time after birth. We were lucky enough, that he was able to survive 5 incredible weeks. We were lucky enough to decide when and how his life ended. We were blessed. Not all parents have that opportunity.

I was not offended when our doctor explained to us that we could discontinue the pregnancy if we needed to. I understood what that meant. If we were told that Max was not compatible with life, if we knew he could not survive until delivery, then we deserved to be able to make the choice ourselves on when and how we got to meet our son. I'm grateful every day that we did not have to make that decision during pregnancy. I cannot imagine the heartbreaking pain that parents who endure that must feel. It hurts me more to think of the shame they are forced to face and endure from people who do not understand what it is like to lose a child. 

These parents who endure "late-term abortion" are not having it done because they waited until they were nearing the 3rd trimester to decide they actually didn't want a baby. These parents are doing the best they can to get through the pain of losing their son or daughter. Either the baby's life or the mother's, or both, are at risk and a decision has to be made. That decision is not made lightly or easily, and it shouldn't involve anyone but them, their physicians, and their God.

I am grateful every day that my sweet son did survive to delivery, was successfully resuscitated after the umbilical cord was cut, and miraculously lived for the following 5 weeks. Our greatest fear was that he would die before he was born, or that after birth he would die in some traumatizing way or in our absence. I would call the NICU throughout the night, always holding my breath before the nurse could tell me how he was doing. In all of our conferences on his care, our number one priority was, that when it came to Max's death, we wanted it to be peaceful and on our terms. I wish SO much that all parents of struggling infants were allowed that mercy. 

When Max's shunt failed and a central nervous system infection became apparent, the doctors gave us some options for trying to still extend his life. Those options did not offer us a guarantee that he would survive, or that we could control how he died. We could not continue taking these life-saving measures. We could not let his suffering continue any longer. So, we chose to let him die in the best way we could manage for him and for us. 

That was the hardest decision we have ever made- to decide to let our son die.

We were given comfort, support and time to gather our families. We were allowed to decide when to turn off the machines that kept him alive. We were allowed to hold him and love him, and let him die peacefully in our arms. We were blessed to make that decision for ourselves, and no one condemned us for it. Yet, there are parents who have to make that difficult decision to end the life of their suffering child before birth and then they are villainized. And I can't sit back and not say anything about it anymore, because it hurts me so much. 

No one has the right to make grieving parents feel bad for letting their sick and suffering child die peacefully. To call it a "late-term abortion" is degrading and makes it sound so horrible. These babies are delivered, not "ripped out" like some would describe. It is unfair and wrong for anyone to make these parents feel guilty while they grieve the loss of their child. 

I would hope and pray that they could be offered the same love and support as parents who lose their infants after delivery. There should NEVER be shame involved with infant loss.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


For once I fell asleep before midnight. Usually, I'm still trying to fall asleep by the early morning hours, but today I am rested and up before the sun. It feels so good! I'm sitting here in the quiet, pondering. I had a rough start to my week, but the Lord granted me some tender mercies to pull me back up. It is just so easy to get caught up in fears and worries, so easy to forget faith and trust, so easy to slip and loose ground. This was just one of those weeks where I was depressingly caught up in wanting God to reveal His plans to me. Like, "I'm so special that you should just tell me my future, so I can chill out. I know you've never done that for anyone else, but, come on God, it's me."

Ugh. Sometimes I can't even believe myself. *big eye roll*

Faith is not being told the plan so we can "chill." Faith is believing and trusting and going forward with hope. I had to be reminded of that this week. I was just feeling so desperate and dismayed like, "How will things ever work out? When will it all work out?" Well, in answer to that, I came across this scripture:

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things, according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore let us be faithful to him.
And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain [promise]; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled...
1 Nephi 7:12-13
"How is it that ye have forgotten?" Those words jumped up at me. How easily we do forget the most basic principles. The Lord is able to do all things, according to His will; His will. Not mine. Even our most righteous desires can take time to be fulfilled, but our prayers never go unanswered without purpose. Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, knows what we need and when we need it. Someday, if we endure faithfully, His promises will be fulfilled. 

So no, things don't always go according to our plans. Or how about ever? Raise your hand if your life is perfectly on track with your plans. Yeah, that's what I thought. I mean come on, we make a lot of plans in life, especially when we are young. And those plans typically change day to day, or even by the hour! From the time they can talk we start asking little ones, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" When I was little, I used to tell my parents, "I want to be an ambulance!" Obviously, I didn't want to grow up to be an emergency vehicle, and my parents had to correct me that what I wanted to be was an EMT. It didn't take too long for my sensitive little self to realize that the medical field was no place for me, my emotions, or my weak stomach. Then, after many Monday nights trying to steal my dad's attention from football, I decided I wanted to be a cheerleader. My lack of balance soon helped end that dream. For a long time growing up I thought I wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher. By high school, I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer or a buyer. So, in college, I went in to sales and ended up in marketing, which is a far cry from being a "ambulance." 

However, aside from my lengthy and changing list of dream jobs, one plan never changed. I had one, rigidly unchanging plan. I wanted to grow up, graduate from college, work in a career, get married and then be a stay-at-home mom. That was all I wanted. Growing up in a small family, I dreamed of having 5 or 6 kids and living a simple life to accommodate being home to raise them. Above everything else I had ever imagined, that was truly what I wanted. But plans change. And we have to roll with it. I got married before I graduated college, my husband is still in college, and our children are in heaven. Plans change. 

So, why bother making plans if nothing works out? That's not what I mean, you pessimist. What I mean is, let's not set ourselves rigidly unchanging plans. Let's make achievable goals, and realistic hopes and dreams. Life is messy and complicated and unpredictable. If we base our happiness on plans, we'll never be happy. We have to base our happiness on our blessings, gratitude and achievements. Yes, there are plenty of disappointments, but there are plenty of blessings.

I guess then, what I'm trying to say, is I'm not making any plans right now. I'm setting goals, but not making plans. I don't know what the future holds. I don't know what the Lord has in store for us. I know that He has made us promises and I KNOW that we will obtain those promises someday. I have faith in Him and in His plans that if I live righteously and endure, those plans will eventually be revealed. But I can and I will be happy with this life right now, because THIS IS STILL A GOOD LIFE. Life didn't happen the way I planned it, but it will happen the way God plans it.

Stop making plans, Stay faithful.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Your Body is the Cause of Infertility & Miscarriage

Our genetic counselor called with the results from my last blood test. And I'm the carrier of the balanced translocation.

The same chromosomal balanced translocation that they discovered in Max was found in tissue from the last pregnancy we lost, and in my own genes. 

There is relief in knowing, at last, what caused the loss of our little babies during the first trimester and had some part in Max's problems, but there is also an ache in my heart, knowing that my own genetic makeup is at fault. 

Over the last 5 years, it was hard accepting that my own stupid ovaries weren't doing their job and, therefore, keeping us from conceiving. And now, finding out that my own genetic makeup is actually the cause of losing our children... That's a lot to feel responsible for. 

Before we agreed to test further to find out who was the gene abnormality carrier, Tyler was quite adamant about one thing. He held my face in his hands and looked deeply into my eyes, "Promise me, no matter the results of the test, that you will not blame yourself. Otherwise, I don't want us to get tested at all." So, I'm really trying hard not to feel the blame. Now, I know what you're going to say, "It's not your fault." And, logically, I do know that. However, logic hardly ever rules my emotions, and it certainly has difficulty ruling on this. 

So, what if/when you come to discover that the cause of your infertility, miscarriages and even the loss of your infant son can all be traced back to your very own genes? How do you cope with finding out that you are probably genetically incapable of creating healthy, life-compatible children? How do you find peace within a body that's own genetic flaw is preventing all your dreams from coming true?


These questions and more have plagued my mind the last 10 days while I waited for the results of my blood test and for the last 7 hours since I received those results.
Here are some of the answers I've come up with:

You cannot blame yourself.
Trust me. I know! Easier said than done. It is in our human nature to place blame with something or someone when things go wrong. We feel like if we can find the fault then it will make it easier to cope with the misfortune. But that is not what this is about. Our bodies are imperfect; from asymmetrical faces to balanced chromosome translocation. No good can come from blaming unfulfilled "perfect" expectations on our own imperfections. Blaming yourself, will only lead to hating yourself. And hate is powerful, and destructive. YOU did not cause this to happen. YOU cannot control the imperfections of your body. YOU can only choose to accept this and move forward.

You have to believe your partner loves you.
Worse than the pain of losing my babies, is knowing that my husband lost his babies. Tyler is my world. He my definition of happiness. Anything that causes him heartache breaks my heart even more. Fighting not to blame myself, and fighting to believe that he could still love me despite the faults of my body is difficult. I have often wondered how he could still love me, even though I cannot give him the children he so deserves. And after confirming that my own genetic abnormalities are causing miscarriages, I wondered how he could still love me or my body. But, ya know what? He does. He loves me. He loves me and he loves this broken body. He loves me when I'm hyperventilating during a panic attack. He loves me when I'm too depressed to get out of bed. He loves me when I wake him up in the night sobbing that I miss Max. He loves me when I feel unlovable. He loves the scar on my belly from which Max was born. He loves all the stretch marks left by 7 months of pregnancy. I cannot deny what I feel when he looks at me and when he says those words to me, so I have to believe it is true. I have to believe he loves me and that he won't stop loving me just because my body is causing our infertility. You have to believe it, too. Marriage is hard enough as it is, adding the pain of infertility and miscarriage can add terrible strain to that. If you refuse to believe your partner loves you, despite the problems, then it will make it harder for them to love you.

You have to have Faith.
Are you sick of me preaching about faith, yet? Too bad, cause I'll never stop pounding the pulpit on that principle. By definition, faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Complete trust. Not a little trust. Not sort of trust. Complete trust. You have to trust God's divine, great plan of happiness. I'm confident that the Lord's plans are greater than my own, and that in His infinite wisdom He has designed a unique path for my life that will bring me unspeakable joy. I have faith that I will learn and grow through experience, and be lead to the right opportunities. I have faith in miracles. I have been blessed with so many, yet I have faith that there are many more to come. If I didn't have my faith, if you don't have some faith, then it all becomes hopeless. You have to have faith.

You have to understand the power of the Atonement.
The Atonement of Christ was so much more than suffering for our sins. The healing power of the Atonement reaches far beyond repentance. In the Garden of Gethsemane the Savior bore all of our burdens, all our grief, all of our pains. That means He felt the sting of every negative pregnancy test, the heart-shattering ache each time the ultrasound revealed a still and silent fetus, and the indescribable anguish at the graveside. He felt mine. He felt yours. He bore those griefs, with all their miserable weight just so we wouldn't have to hold on to them. See, because of His Atonement, we don't have to hold on to them. We can release ourselves from the chains of sorrow. We are relieved of carrying those burdens. You have to understand that, because then you'll be free.

So, that's what I've come up with. And, I think, it's all I really need right now. 

I don't know how or when Tyler and I will be able to have more children. But I don't need to know that right now. I have Tyler, we have our families and we have God. This life of ours is an adventure in faith. This is still a good life! The miracles haven't stopped and they won't stop, if we just keep believing. 


Friday, September 30, 2016

Stepping into Growth

"In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety."
Abraham Maslow

I came across this quote the other day, and I've thought about it a lot. 
At this point, there isn't much hope for us ever naturally achieving a healthy pregnancy. Testing after this last miscarriage revealed the same chromosomal balanced translocation that was discovered in Max's genes. So, we're just trying to figure out which one of us it is coming from. There are expensive IVF options for trying to conceive a genetically sound baby, but we're not really interested in those options. So, that leaves us with two options: We can keep trying in hopes that eventually we'd get a healthy baby, knowing that more miscarriages or birth defects would come, OR we can look into adoption. The first option is, obviously terrifying. The thought going through any more miscarriages or burying another child is unimaginable. Adoption sounds wonderful, but unless we find a healthy, nonsmoker knocked up girl who just wants to hand us her child, adoption is a lengthy and expensive process that also doesn't always have secure guarantees. 

At points, I've felt ready to give up all hope; to just stay put where we are and accept life as a family of two, afraid to endure anymore failure. Part of me, the scared part of me, thinks it would be better and safer to not try anymore. At least there'd be no more failure. I just don't know how much more loss our hearts can take! But then, the other part of me can't imagine never trying again. That part of me isn't ready to give up on becoming a mother. That part of me isn't ready to think about never getting pregnant again or never finding our children. 

And Maslow's right. In life, we can accept the hard things and move forward, ready to learn and grow through our experiences, or we can shy away in fear and never learn a damn thing. No matter how hard the last 5 years have been, I cannot deny how blessed I've felt and I cannot say I'm not grateful. Even with the losses, I am so grateful for my three pregnancies, for my sweet angel boy and the 5 incredible weeks we had with him. 

We don't get to choose our hard things. We don't get to decide the trials we face. But we do get to choose how we face them and decide what attitude we will have while we endure.

Staying put might feel safe, but it's not worth it. We have to take the leap, step up and make the hard choices and try, even if we fail.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Power of Faith

“The power of faith in our lives can be profound...
The purpose of Faith is not to change God's will, but to empower us to act on God's will... Faith is trust: trust that God sees what we cannot, that he knows what we do not. Sometimes trusting our own vision is not enough… Faith means we trust not only in his wisdom, but that we trust also in his love. It means trusting that God loves us perfectly. That everything He does, every blessing he gives, and every blessing He, for a time, withholds is for our eternal happiness. With this kind of faith, though we may not understand why certain things happen or why some prayers go unanswered, we can know that in the end everything will make sense." || Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I know I've been writing about Faith a lot lately, but it's been a subject that has been heavy on my mind for, really, the last year, but especially the last few months.

In the wake of this last miscarriage, I felt overwhelmed with misunderstanding and, even, anger. I wrote to you all about how hopeless I felt in my blog post about that pregnancy loss. After everything I'd remained faithful through, that miscarriage felt like a slap in the face. My faith suffered. For the first time in my entire life I felt ready to give it all up. A voice inside me that I had never heard, shouted at me, "If this is what we get for being faithful, then why are we even bothering?" I felt completely lost. 

Some may wonder how I got to be nearly 30, and through some of life's greatest trials without ever having wavered in faith. For me, faith has always felt like a spiritual gift to me. Faith was as natural as breathing. Trusting the Lord always made sense. And this definitely helped me greatly in my life, but it also hindered my ability to empathize with others who struggled to understand faith. But in that ultrasound room on July 28th, I understood what it felt like to grasp for faith and not find a strong hold. It suddenly felt like I could never understand God's plan or ever trust in Him. I wrestled with my thoughts as I began to tick off a list of all the reasons I did not deserve to keep enduring this pain of loss, "I try to live righteously. I pray. I read my scriptures. I go to the temple. I serve at my church. I share my testimony with others. I did not lose faith through infertility. I did not abandon my faith when we lost our first pregnancy. I did not give up faith during my pregnancy with Max. And I stood faithful and praised God while I gave the eulogy at his funeral. I did it all right. So, why this? Why now? Why more pain? Why bother? Why keep trusting?" 

Great faith requires a lot of trust- trust in God's divine plan for us, trust in His eternal love for us, trust in the Savior's infinite atonement for us. While for some faith comes a little more easily, that kind of trusting faith is not built within us or maintained by us easily. It takes daily prayer and pleading with the Lord to help us see. It requires diligently studying the words of the scriptures to help us understand. Faith takes work and action. Without it, everything, every trial and hardship, would feel impossible to overcome. But with it, it all be comes a little easier to endure. 

Faith does not make the hard struggles of life go away, but, I realized, neither does giving up your faith. If  I gave it all up, if I stopped trusting in the Lord because things got hard, things would not stop being hard. The trials of life, the struggles of mortality would remain, but my ability to navigate them peacefully and wisely would be lost. That is what faith does. "The power of faith in our lives can be profound," it can give us strength to endure that could never posses with out it. That trusting faith in the Lord offers us guidance through the difficult times and the peace we need to keep going. And that is why I cannot and will not give up my faith.

Do not give up your faith. If you already have, pray to the Lord to help you regain its power. It will take time and energy, but you will be able to hold strong to it once again.

Do not be deceived into thinking that trials are punishments, or that God does not wish to bless you. that could not be further from the truth. God is not punishing you or ignoring you. Life is just full of testing and of trying our faith. God wishes for nothing more than to bless you, and when the power of faith is alive in you the blessings become so much more evident.

 Stay true. Keep trusting. Hold tightly to your faith. Sooner than you think, it will all make sense.