I began this blog when I was 23 years old and my husband, Jesse was only 21. That was in December of 2007 when we decided that we wanted to bring a baby into our family. We had no idea all that decision entailed. Back then I had a false assumption that I was super-fertile and would get pregnant even while on birth control. Well, I was off of birth control for over a year, went through all of the fertility testing, and then was diagnosed with "unexplained infertility".

This past year has been one of the most difficult I have ever been through. I ran the emotional gauntlet on this issue, ranging from intense sadness and heartache to anger towards God to total peace about what He is doing. God began to show me how He was using my infertility as a ministry. It is my hope to share my testimony with others so that they may either be encouraged as they face their own infertility or educated as they learn what infertility entails. More than that, though, I hope that the things I share point others to God regardless of what they are going through.

When I first began this blog, the entries were kept private. But I have decided to open everything up in order to let people see the raw truth of the struggle. I strive to find the fine line between sharing the truth and sharing too much information. However, it is my desire to share my heart, regardless. And I have learned that there is never "too much information" in the world of infertility.

After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility on November 17, 2008, I was put on a round of 50mg of Clomid to strengthen the quality and quantity of my eggs. I suppose it was how God chose to work because I became pregnant that very cycle.

In order to be sensitive to those who are still going through infertility, I have opened up a new blog about my pregnancy. I am maintaining this one, though, hoping that it serves as a testimony to anyone who may be going through infertility at the time they come across my site. If you want to follow my life's journey, check out my other blogs. And if you would like, please don't hesitate to email me:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday, Overwhelmed

Yesterday, my mind was a whirling mess of countless thoughts. This, in itself, is not all that unusual. For those that know me well enough, know that I am usually a very organized and put-together person. For those that know me even better know that in order to produce that put-together exterior, there must be an extensive process of analyzing every detail of the endless ideas to death before presenting a well-formulated notion. These people, the ones that know me the best, know this because they get to hear every detail analyzed aloud as my thoughts overflow into a barrage of chatter. However, while the spinning thoughts are not so new to me, the heaviness on my heart because of them was not so common, and was difficult to deal with in the midst of the hustle and bustle of work.

As my shift came to an end, I changed and boarded the treadmill in the gym for my regular workout. The book that I had brought to read, though, seemed overwhelming to pick up, for I knew that it proposed new ways of thinking and profound concepts to revive our ideas of faith. Right now, though, I couldn’t take on any more new ideas. I needed to deal with the ones I already had. So, I took the time to zone out somewhere between the closed caption dialogue of Oprah on TV, the oldies playing on the radio, and the old guys running faster than me on their treadmills. It was in this mechanical state that God began to reveal Himself to me as the missing link between all of the thoughts. Here’s how it all comes together:

Thought #1:
I’ve recently begun reading an online blog of a lady I’ve never met before. I just came across her site in a google search, but was intrigued by her amazing story-telling skills. I was now curious about the name and purpose of the blog titled “Bring the Rain: The Story of Audrey Caroline”. So I browsed through the previous blogs until I found the very first one she had written, in January of this year. It was here that I learned that she was married to Todd Smith, singer in the Christian group Selah. For those of you not in the know, Selah sings “God Blessed the Broken Road” which has become mine and Jesse’s song. It was played at our wedding and its lyrics are painted on our bedroom wall. So, to discover that this lady, Angie, was married to this famous singer who sings one of my favorite songs of all time, piqued my interest even more. It was also in this blog, though, that I learned the reason for her site: the discovery that their daughter had something severely wrong with her during Angie’s 20th week of pregnancy. They believed the baby, Audrey Caroline, had an enlarged heart, malfunctioning kidneys and lungs, a lack of amniotic fluid, and was breech, among other things. Some of these conditions weren’t realized until later, but all of them together meant the baby had little chance of ever surviving. In these web pages, chronicling the months that followed, I not only discovered the heart-breaking story of coping with the death of a child who’s not even born yet, but the gut-wrenching faith Angie displayed during this time. To give you a glimpse into the strength God gave her throughout this ordeal, here is how she responded after the initial diagnosis: "I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked into this room." This isn’t to say that she didn’t cry. She probably cried everyday. And she does relay some of her most trying days- days when she couldn’t crawl out of bed- days when she sought any chance to live a normal life with a healthy baby. She prayed repeatedly and believed that God could heal her baby, but had to reconcile that with the reality that this was most likely not the path God had for her.

During the past week, I read every entry written during January, February, and March of this year. I was sitting at work yesterday as I approached the April entries, and read of the birth of this baby, and her short little life- how she was born (6 months ago today) and lived for about 2 hours before passing away.

As another side note: for those who know me well, know that I am an extremely emotional person. Not everyone may know where this stems from, though. I think that God has given me an extremely sympathetic spirit- I feel things DEEPLY! When hearing another person’s story, I don’t just listen to it as “their” story and cognitively think of how it must make them feel. Instead, I really feel it as if it were myself going through the same ordeal. And when I feel anything, I feel it all over. When I get really mad, I get tense all over my body and even shake. When I am really happy, I can feel it all of the way down to my toes and it’s hard to sit still because everything within me wants to jump or dance or something. And when I feel sad, I feel it physically in my heart and my stomach, and it weighs so heavily on me that the only way I know to express it is in tears. And, if I’ve been crying a lot or trying not to, I often get headaches or feel nauseous because of the strenuous toll it takes on my body.

So, in reading through this story, I often cried knowing how deeply I yearn for a baby and imagining going through such a harrowing experience myself. But more than how much my heart broke for the loss of the baby, it yearned to experience the fervent faith in God that Angie had and it grieved for my shortcomings in this area. Probably a defining moment in Angie’s blogs was during a vacation in Ireland, she observed how green the land was and inquired of a guy who lived there as to why. He laughed and replied that it was simply because it rained so much. God revealed to Angie through this that we have to have the rain in order to produce beauty and growth. She quotes a song that MercyMe sings called “Bring the Rain” in which it says:

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me painBut if that's what it takes to praise You Jesus, bring the rain

“If that’s what it takes to praise You Jesus, bring the rain…” I don’t know if I’m ready to summon the rain in my life. I can boldly profess that I will praise God in the storm, but I’m not sure that I can honestly encourage Him to bring the rain.

This idea got me thinking about rain…

Thought #2:
I have a much different understanding of rain now that I live in Oregon rather than in Texas. In Texas, it was cool when it rained. It poured all at once, for as much as up to 3 days, and then it was done. And the rain didn’t come by itself. It was accompanied by dark, booming thunderclouds and brilliant streaks of lightning that filled the sky in a beautiful way. Despite living in Tornado Alley, I was never directly hit by a tornado. We never experienced any major damage from the wind. And I never had any friends who were affected by one. So, I think my appreciation of a storm has been different from someone who suffered great loss during one. In Oregon, on the other hand, the rain falls at a steady drizzling pace for 9 months out of the year. It’s dark and cloudy and wet most of the year. I hate it! The bottom 6 inches of my pants are always wet. My feet are always cold. And I can’t wear my hair down, blow-dried, or straightened for the majority of the year. I was actually astounded to discover, though, that my Texas hometown of Palestine actually gets only .3 inches less of annual rainfall than Eugene, Oregon does. The difference is in how sporadically it appears and how intensely it falls. I then thought of the climate and landscape difference between Texas and Oregon. As much as I absolutely love Texas, and I’ll always be a Texas girl at heart, I live in one of the most beautiful states in the USA now. I can drive an hour in any direction and find beaches, mountains, lakes or rivers, snow, desert, and trees and flowers of every kind. And one of the biggest reasons for this beauty that Texas does not have is the rain… the rain that I so much despise. And then I began to think about the effect that rain has on the land. Places where there is constant water hitting it, like at a waterfall or ocean shore, the rocks are worn smooth or eroded by the water. Whole canyons are created by floodwaters and streams. Tsunamis wipe out entire lands. And each of these begins with a single drop of water, small enough to fit on our fingertips.

(Texas Storm)

(Oregon Rain)

Thought #3:
In addition, more and more I’m seeing how big God really is. I was reading “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, in which he relays the impossibility of describing God. He starts by telling how important questions are to our faith. He says that all questions are rooted in humility.

“A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know. Questions bring freedom. Freedom that I don’t have to be God and I don’t have to pretend that I have it all figured out. I can let God be God… The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It I about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something that God is not…True mystery, the kind of mystery rooted in the infinite nature of God, gives us answers that actually plunge us into even more questions… Truth always leads to more truth. Because truth is insight into God and God is infinite and God has no boundaries or edges… It’s like a pool that you dive into, and you start swimming toward the bottom, and soon you discover that no matter how hard and fast you swim downward, the pool keeps getting deeper. The bottom will always be out of reach… If you study the Bible and it doesn’t lead you to wonder and awe, then you haven’t studies the Bible.”

Thought #4: (Final Thought)
Furthermore, I was reading a daily devotional the other day, which was discussing Mary, the mother of Jesus. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was confused and disturbed. When he told her that she was going to give birth to a son, she didn’t understand how that could possibly be because she was still a virgin. But when the angel said that God had given her favor and chosen her to bear the son of God, she said “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” To truly recognize how big of a thing this was, it helps to understand the culture that Mary lived in. First of all, in any culture, how crazy would a person look to claim that they got pregnant by God?! For her to declare that she had never had sex but was somehow pregnant?! We’d all agree to put her in a psychiatric ward. In this culture, though, it was more than just crazy; it could ruin her life. First of all, her husband could’ve chosen to divorce her, believing that she had cheated on him. And, in that, she would become an outcast from society. Furthermore, if he wanted to, he could’ve gotten the whole town together and chosen to stone her. She would be publicly murdered for her sin. So, for Mary to know all of these implications of her answer, and to still say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true,” is an amazing confession of faith.

God sometimes uses the most difficult situations we can imagine to draw us near to Him. It’s hard enough to sometimes say that you would praise Him in the midst of such a situation. But then to say, “Bring it on,” is a different story. To summon whatever may come to know God a little deeper, to be a little closer to Him, has such intense repercussions to it, and it is something that stirs up dissention within me because it goes against our very human nature to desire peace and calm and health. Maybe we can recognize the prosperity that rain brings, but is it crucial to us enough to ask for the drizzle and dark days? However, if we truly understood how big God really is- how much He truly loves us- and the reality of how amazing it is to be in His presence- then we would know that no storm is so big that it’s not worth it to be near to God. That the things in this life are so temporal compared to the spiritual implications that they produce. And, if we truly recognize this as truth, then we can declare, no matter what the consequences, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

As I poured out all of this to Jesse, with tears streaming down my face, I applied it to the infertility we are now facing. I told him how scary it is for me to imagine going through the things that Angie & Todd Smith have gone through with their daughter’s death. The thing I didn’t tell you yet about their story, though, is how many people it has reached and the impact of this little baby’s life. On my blog, I’ve had about 23 views and maybe 2 comments in the year that I’ve been keeping it. Angie has had 41,520 views in the 10 months she’s been writing hers and had 765 comments on her first entry after her daughter’s death. She has had hits from every one of the 50 states and from 90 other countries! Their difficult situation has impacted the world as a testimony for God. Jesse and I have felt for a while and are in agreement that this journey in trying to conceive is not going to be easy for us. It already hasn’t worked out like we planned, but we can see how much God has taught us in this journey and how much closer we are to Him and to each other for going through it. And if the journey ended this month, I think it can be a testimony, as it is, for God to work in people’s lives. But both of us feel very strongly that things are only going to get harder before they get easier. In truth, I don’t really think there is anything wrong with us. In fact, I would actually be shocked to discover that there is something physically wrong with him or me as we go about our fertility testing, but I still think that we may have to go through invasive tests, extensive treatments, or even miscarriages before ever having the baby we dream for. I hope with everything within me that we are wrong. I would be overjoyed if I discovered 2 weeks from now that I am pregnant, and that God pulled through in the 11th hour, but I just don’t think that it’s really going to happen that way. And, if God is purposing such a difficult situation for us, then He must also be doing something REALLY big! And if it’s going to be that amazing, then together we can tearfully and vulnerably say, “Whatever you want, Lord. Bring on the rain.” As I shared my heart with Jesse last night, we both were in complete agreement on the whole situation, both in what God has been speaking to me and in where we stand making this declaration in our lives. And with tears in both of our eyes, we mutually agreed that we were glad we were in it together.

So, hesitantly (but knowing it’s ultimately for my good), I say, “Bring the rain…”


shelley said...

You are very strong Mandy, even if you don't feel like you are. I am constantly amazed at how even though you and Jesse are going through this you are growing closer to God and closer to each other all the time. It's not always so with couples going through infertility. I keep you two in my prayers and thank you for letting me go through this journey with you because even though the cost may be high, with God, the destination will be sweet.

Melanie said...

Mandy... Wow girlie we have alot in common... You used to live in Texas?? What part?? I am from Killeen, TX!