Broody Mama

March 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

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One of the first things that BJ and I did after deciding that I would serve another couple as a gestational carrier was explain the process to our children.  At the time, we were having a blast breeding rare chickens.  Our kids were very familiar with all things chicken-from feeding and care to life stages and even death.  We found that the easiest way to explain our upcoming surrogate adventure to them was to use the analogy of me being a warm and toasty “incubator” for another couple’s baby.  Since we had a professional grade incubator happily humming away right here in the house and the kids had helped me take the fertile eggs from the mother hens, incubate them for a time period, candle them to watch the baby chicks develop, grow, and move inside, and watched them hatch out adorable new babies, this concept was just as normal and natural to them as any other!

As we moved forward in our surrogate journey, we were required to meet with a licensed Psychotherapist.  Our counselor shared how important it would be for our couple’s other children to know who exactly I was, what my role in their family would be, and that sort of stuff.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to write a book for the child or children of the couple that I would be working with.  A few days later, the Lord birthed “Broody Mama” in my heart!  Creating the book was more fun than I could have imagined!  I had the opportunity to work with a professional illustrator and got to tell her exactly what I wanted for each image-color scheme and all!  Below are images of the copy we had printed for Erin and Jesse’s little boy, Michael.  He’s still really too small to understand surrogacy, or even remember me for that matter, but I pray that one day he’ll realize just how special he and his family are to me.

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This was our “Chicken Little.”  She was our best broody mama.  She hatched out several different breeds of chicks for us.

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Here in the right hand corner is “Yoshi Keiko,” a little Japanese bantam that hatched for us and also adopted any babies that were “mother-less.”

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When hens go broody, there is usually no breaking them of it.  Here, three of our Black Copper Marans hens all fought to hatch the eggs.  They ended up breaking most of them!  They were molting at the time, so pardon their nakedness!

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My beautiful rainbow of colored eggs!

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Finishing Strong

March 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

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A letter to the little miracle I carried.

Baby Boy (Last name,)

I’m not sure whether or not you’ll ever even get to read this, but I feel compelled to write it in the event that one day you do.  My name is Julie Higgins.  I am the woman that God chose to use to help your parents bring you into this world.  I’m just about as average and ordinary as one gets.  I’m a wife and mother of four precious kiddos.  I love the simple life-raising animals and growing fruits and vegetables and just being outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature.  I love being with my family and I love to laugh!  I love photographs and videos and the joy of being able to capture precious moments in time.  Most importantly, I love the Lord and I believe that He crossed my path with that of your parents -not by chance, but for a very special reason.  Why would He choose ME?  Why did He give ME the honor of bringing you into this world?  He certainly could have chosen someone else-even your own amazing mother-but He didn’t.  I believe that He specifically chose me because He knew in advance what an incredible plan and purpose He has for your life.  He knew in advance just how special you’d be and He knew that many specific prayers would be necessary to mold you into the amazing man you are going to be one day.  I don’t have much to give you by “worldly” standards, but I DO have the one and only thing that truly matters in life.  I know the Creator personally.  Intimately.  I have an unbreakable covenant relationship with Him.  He’s my Heavenly Father and I’m His daughter.  And that means that this “Daddy’s girl” has His ear.  So precious Baby Boy (Last name,)  know that every single day that the God of the Universe was expertly crafting you inside of my body, He was also answering prayer after prayer for YOU!  He was protecting and blessing and gifting and performing miracles.  He was preparing and equipping you and arranging your future, your destiny, your personal encounters.  Outside of time as you and I know it, He was in your present, but also in your future, AND in your past!  Mind-blowing, isn’t it?!?  As you grow up in this world, you’ll probably encounter all sorts of “empty” religions and individuals claiming to be “the way” to God.  I pray that you’ll never get mixed up in anything that is only religion without a relationship.  Let me assure you, there is only one true and living God.  He’s the one who breathed life into you and He hasn’t left your side since.  He’s holy.  And all of mankind is sinful.  Even in our very best efforts, we “miss the mark” and fall short of that holiness.  (Yes¸even you precious one!)  Our sin creates a barrier-separating us from Him.  Not only does it separate us from Holy God, it comes with a price.  That price is death-eternal separation from the one true and living God.  But God loved you too much Baby Boy (Last name)!  He made a way to redeem you from sin and death.  A way for you to spend all of eternity with Him.  He sent His one and only perfect son, Jesus, to die YOUR death.  Jesus never sinned, so He was the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for all of us.  He took my place on that cross and He took your place on that cross, giving us His place as a righteous child of God.  Because He was sinless, death and the grave couldn’t hold Him.  They had no right to.  So he rose from the dead.  You won’t find a religion or another person on this earth that has ever done or will ever be able to do what He did for you.  The best part is, He did it because of His great love for you.  All you have to do is turn away from your sinful ways, reach out, and accept His gift of salvation.  The only cost is living each day for Him.  It won’t always be easy, but it absolutely will be worth it.

Though my days here on earth with you were numbered from the very beginning, I am convinced that they were sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes in your life.  The greatest gift I could ever give you-even more than physical life-is spiritual life.  Just as your short time living and growing inside my womb prepared you for a much longer life outside my womb, so your life on the earth will be short compared to the eternal life you will live when your days on the earth are complete.  l pray that you will whole-heartedly pursue the God that I know-the one who masterfully created you right before my eyes.  May you come to know him early, as a small boy, and lead everyone you know to Him.  Like it or not little one, you were chosen and set apart for His purposes!  Not by your parents.  Not by me.  But by the God of the Universe.  Know that His greatest enemy has waged war on you from the very beginning-even before you were born-and he’s not going to stop anytime soon.  Don’t worry though-when God is for you, what can possibly come against you…and stand?  Nothing!   God will guide you and lead you into truth if you will give your life to Him.  Seek Him out with everything that you are.  Talk to Him.  Read the Bible.  You will never encounter anything in life that His word can’t help you through.  Trust Him-cling to Him with everything that you are and you’ll go places you never dreamed you could go.  He will never let you down.  I promise!

I pray blessings and favor over you for the rest of your days.  You will ALWAYS be in my heart and in my prayers.

All my love,

Julie

When you’re visibly pregnant, people inevitably ask about the baby.  “How far along are you?”  “Do you know what you’re having?”  “Is this your first baby?”  When they find out that you are carrying for someone else, surprise always flashes through their eyes followed by a flicker of deep concern.  And it never fails that their next question is “HOW are you going to give that baby up after carrying it and feeling it grow inside of you for nine months?”  As many of you already know, our response has always been that the baby is not ours to keep.  He is 100% the creation of God, his mother, and his father.  He’s a little package in need of delivery and I am simply the delivery person given the job of getting him to his destination safely and on time! 

I’ve spent this past year preparing my body to take on this task and the last nine months preparing my mind for the sacred moment in time in which the baby’s parents’ dream would become a reality.  My family and I have prayed for this child from the day that he was “thawed out” from a microscopic 5-day-old blastocyst embryo, to the day he entered the world as a 7 lb. 0 oz. perfectly formed masterpiece of a baby boy!  Throughout our surrogate journey, our hearts have always been more than content to remain a family of six.  Because I promised to be as transparent as possible throughout this process, I will share that in the last few weeks on various occasions my head and heart have felt one thing while my emotions expressed another.  And though I absolutely had no desire whatsoever to have another baby, to raise another child, to expand our family in any way, I did begin to worry that I might be sad that my relationship with Erin and Jesse would end upon the delivery of their child.  I worried that my emotions might not submit to my heart and mind and that if I cried at the delivery Erin and Jesse might think I wanted their baby or that I was sad that I couldn’t keep him for myself.  I worried that if they whisked the baby out of the room immediately after he was born, and I didn’t get to see those first moments-their first glimpse of him-that everything I had worked so hard for would not feel like it was worth it.  But God in His goodness gave me those few sacred moments.  I was able to see Erin and Jesse’s delight and awe as they gazed at baby Matthew for the very first time.  I got to see the joy in their faces and it was exactly how I imagined it would be.  It made the entire process, and every complication along the way, worth it!  I was in complete control of my emotions and I felt satisfied. 

As incredible as it is to feel a child move inside of you-as amazing as it is to feel him hiccup and dance to music and joyfully react to chocolate cake and other sweets you share with him, I can honestly say that handing him over to his parents was the easiest and most natural thing to do.  It was an honor and a joy to be used in such an unusual way to bless someone.  Erin and Jesse brought the baby in this afternoon so that our kids would be able to see him with his parents and get some closure from the situation.  They thanked our children for letting them “borrow” their mom.  BJ and I were able to see baby Matthew and even hold him, which we were not expecting to be able to do.  As amazing and beautiful as he truly is, holding him did not stir any desires in either of us.  It was no different from holding a friend or family member’s precious child.  Maybe that’s normal.  Maybe it isn’t and was just God’s protection over our hearts.  Whatever the case, my heart is fulfilled.  I’ve completed my job.  I delivered my little package in perfect condition and even a little early!  I finished strong.  And I can’t wait to get home and re-focus my attention back to my own four precious miracles!

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My mother was able to capture a couple of amazing pictures of Erin and Jesse seeing Matthew for the first time but out of respect for their privacy, I do not want to post them publicly.  Should they give permission, I will add them later.

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Six a.m. Surprise!

March 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

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I can’t believe I’m actually writing this blog post of my surrogate journey!  It’s hard to imagine that our adventure with Erin and Jesse began LAST March.  On one hand, it seems like we have been waiting for this day FOREVER and on the other, it feels as if time has literally flown by!  Tomorrow would have been 39 weeks for me, the day my doctor was going to induce the baby.  While an induction was really more convenient for everyone, I couldn’t help but secretly wish for a spontaneous delivery so that BJ and I would get to make that long-awaited phone call to Erin and Jesse saying, “It’s time!”  Yesterday, Baby Matthew granted that wish, and decided that he would surprise us all!  The morning was quite chaotic trying to get the kids up, dressed, and dropped off at mom’s, knowing that my deliveries are very, very short and our time to make it to the hospital would be very limited.  Within minutes of waking up, my contractions started coming regularly and were only six minutes apart.  Needless to say, we weren’t going to waste any time getting to the hospital!  After arguing a little over our speed, BJ began to pray that the Lord would open up the traffic like He parted the Red Sea.  All of a sudden, we saw a motorcycle cop up ahead.  The other cars cleared out away from him and we couldn’t help but to think that he might just be a nice little escort to help us make it to the hospital faster.  But, out of nowhere, a state trooper pulled out after us.  He approached the vehicle on my side.  We explained that I was IN LABOR, that I have speedy deliveries, that we were driving safely but quickly or we would be delivering the baby on the side of the road.  He took BJ’s license and CHL and looked at them, noted that our flashers were on, and handed them back.  He fussed at us.  (Quite rudely I might add!)  Asked for the licenses again.  Asked if I  was actually having contractions and if I needed an ambulance.  Wrote down our info.  Fussed some more, told us that he wouldn’t keep us any longer but that we would be receiving a citation in the mail, and let us go.  We didn’t care about the ticket.  We were just relieved to be moving again!  Shortly after, we hit bumper to bumper traffic!  Everything was at a complete standstill!  Cars were to my left, right, behind me, and ahead of me as far as I could see.  BJ had become quite frustrated and I was just trying as hard as I could not to panic and to breathe.  It never once occurred to me that we might hit traffic and not get to the hospital in time for an epidural!  I began to imagine how terrible it would be for BJ to have to deliver the baby himself in the car and couldn’t help but to laugh!  As the minutes passed, BJ inched us out of the lines of cars and we finally got off onto a feeder road and turned onto a smaller road with still more traffic!  He debated whether or not to just drive down the center lane.  I begged him not to.  And then to.  And then not to.  He decided to risk it and we drove until the center lane ran out.  After another close call with a cop, we finally got to an area where the cars were moving again and we made it to the hospital.  My nurse was absolutely amazing and wasted no time getting me an IV and an epidural because I was already between 6 and 7 cm dilated.  Erin and Jesse and my mother all arrived, and everything fell into place after that.  My main concerns about having another couple in the delivery room with us were my modesty and that I would not be in pain.  Our sweet nurse went to great lengths to make sure that I didn’t feel a bit of pain and that nobody could see anything inappropriate.  Both were answers to many, many prayers I’ve prayed over the past nine months!  I know without a doubt that God hand chose her to be my nurse so that I could relax and enjoy the whole experience.  The day progressed with a little more drama than we expected, with both the baby’s and my heart rate dropping here and there, a little oxygen for me after “fading away,”  a saline infusion to put more water around him to prevent distress, and a mild temperature for us both, but he finally made his glorious entrance into this world- safe and sound- after 4 “pushes” and my longest delivery ever!  After my doctor and most of the nurses left and the chaos subsided, I rested in tingly epidural bliss.  My mom looked up and noticed that a rainbow was running across my pillow.  What an incredible reminder of God, my covenant partner who never leaves my side and is always faithful to answer my prayers no matter how trivial they might be.  He didn’t overlook one detail that was important to me, but provided exactly what I needed in each moment, and He gave me the strength I needed to accomplish His purpose for my life in this very unique situation.  For that I am truly grateful!  Today, as I continue to recover, with much less pain than I remember having with my own deliveries, I can’t help but to praise Him for being so good and for truly making this delivery an incredible experience that I’ll never forget!

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Dropping the kiddos off at mom’s to head to the hospital

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A little oxygen to help out

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Rainbow on my pillow-a beautiful reminder of my Covenant-keeping God who is always faithful to the end!

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Better Late Than Never…

February 1, 2013 at 12:40 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

Thought I’d start this blog post out with a little fun!  This image is from the maternity section of an online t-shirt company and for some reason it strikes me as funny.  I never minded all of the belly-touching that went on when I was pregnant with my own kiddos, but this time around…this shirt expresses my feelings perfectly!  Better watch out!  Ha! Ha!

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 I’ve loved this one from the beginning…

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Another fun one!

butt shirtThought this was a clever one…

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It’s true…I WASN’T using it…  🙂

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And last, one that makes me feel just a little better about all of the weight gain…

human excuse shirtYIKES!   My last blog post was over four months ago!  So many things have changed since I last wrote that I can’t even remember them all.  When I was finally released from bed rest, I started living again and haven’t stopped since!  My days literally fly by and often I feel as if they are over before they even begin.  So, writing hasn’t exactly been priority…

To quickly update those of you who have been following my journey, the bleed in my uterus slowly but surely healed.  A small portion of it still remains now, but nothing big enough to worry the doctor.  About the same time we received the good news that I could go back to “normal” life outside of laying in bed all day, the radiologists discovered that the baby’s kidneys were holding a little more fluid than normal and they began to keep a watch on that.  Which basically just meant…more God-given opportunities for us to watch this incredible little masterpiece in the making.  (If I’m not forgetting any, we’ve had a total of TEN ultrasounds throughout this pregnancy!)  Last week, a radiologist came in to share great news that the kidneys are now registering “normal” amounts of fluid.  At 33 weeks, we are now officially for the first time in this pregnancy…“in the clear!”  All is well and hopefully there will be no more “surprises” before this little one makes a grand entrance into the world.  WOW!  What a fight there has been for this little life!

If you haven’t seen me lately, just imagine the Pillsbury dough boy in a too tight shirt, too tight jeans, and very loosely tied Converse tennis shoes.  That pretty much sums it up.  Depending on how you look at it, I’ve gained 30 pounds  (from weight at embryo transplant to 34 weeks pregnant) or 38 pounds if you include the 8 pounds I lost early-on when I was so, so sick from the medications necessary to sustain the pregnancy.  Of course, the excessive weight gain wasn’t part of MY “plan” going into this.  (I had planned to continue my daily exercises throughout the pregnancy in its entirety, only gain the weight of the placenta and the baby, and look fantastic!  Ha! Ha!)  When my doctor finally released me to exercise a few weeks ago, it was only a couple of days before one of my legs began to swell pretty badly and I began to have contractions and had to go in for a cervix check.  So that quickly ended that!  I try to sneak in a gentle workout now and then-as it is about the only thing that makes me feel “normal” right now, but my main goal at this point is just to hand over a healthy baby.  After that, I’ll l hit the gym full force again.

I had hoped to blog about the baby’s gender awhile back, but never had the chance.  We’ve actually known since BEFORE we officially agreed to carry this little one that he was going to be a boy.  Because his parents had so many failed attempts at IVF, their case qualified for genetic testing that most do not.  In the course of that testing, it was determined that their four strongest embryos were all male.  The strongest embryos obviously have the best chance of surviving the transfer, so Erin and Jesse opted to use two of their highest rated “little boys” for our transfer.  Because BJ and I have always chosen not to know the gender of our own children in advance, it has been different and also quite enjoyable to know the sex of the baby from the very beginning.  Incredibly, the ultrasound tech correctly “guessed” the sex of the baby at only 12-13 weeks and they confirmed it for sure by 15 weeks.  Technology never ceases to amaze me!  Unfortunately, the baby’s parents for whatever reasons of their own have chosen not to reveal his name until the birth.  Going into this process, I had expected to be able to and was looking very forward to praying for the child that I carried for someone else by name-something we could never do with our own, not knowing their gender.  So that has been a little disappointing on this end, but I still pray for him every single day and have recorded those prayers so that one day he will be able to read them himself and see the works that God has done in his life.  I know that the Lord knows who he is and will hear and answer each and every prayer lifted on his behalf.

Tomorrow I will be 34 weeks.  The baby is right at 5 pounds now and I feel MASSIVE!  Apparently I forgot how big a pregnant woman gets in the final weeks!  I feel great, but I do wear out quickly now (I have a hard time staying awake if I get still for even a few minutes!)  and my breath is short most of the time regardless of what I’m doing.  (which BJ finds quite amusing!)  Socks cut off the circulation in my ankles and just bending my leg will make it go numb!  In fact, I don’t even have to bend it anymore.  It just goes numb on its own!  The couch has become my new bed-as it is the most comfortable way for me to sleep these days.  At my appointment last week, my doctor commented that unless he comes early, this little guy will not be small like my own children were.  I won’t lie.  I’m pretty anxious about this.  Since I’ve had two spontaneous deliveries and two induced ones, I know that there is a HUGE difference in the amount of pain I can expect.  Forced contractions are much more severe than naturally onset ones.  So, I’d LOVE for my water to break spontaneously!  I’d love to call Erin up randomly and tell her to grab her bag and meet me at the hospital.  On the other hand, I also know that my body had trouble delivering both of my babies that were over 7 lbs.  So, an early induction is looking more and more appealing as the weeks pass!  And of course, it would be much more convenient to plan for, since so many people are involved this time around.

If I happen to come across your mind in the next few weeks, please say a prayer for God’s perfect timing on this birth,  that everything from this point on will go as smoothly as possible for both my family and Erin and Jesse’s, and that my body will suffer as little permanent damage as possible from the delivery.  And if you would, please throw in an extra special little request that I’d get my epidural in plenty of time for it to take effect.  My doc once told me that she wanted me to “feel” some hard contractions before I could have my epidural.  I’m thinking that since I won’t be bringing home anything but 30-40 extra pounds and a new set of stretch marks, I should have to “feel” AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!   Perhaps I should make myself a special  “Say Yes to Drugs” shirt to wear to the hospital on delivery day to get my point across.  What do y’all think?

Much love to all who have been following our journey and lifting us and this precious baby boy up in prayer!  Next time, I hope to discuss some of the emotional battles of serving as a surrogate.

~Julie

 

Check out the pictures and videos below from the past few months of our surrogate journey.

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Click the link below to view our 10-24-2012 ultrasound.  The baby was so uncooperative that they surprised us and did a 3D/4D ultrasound to try and get a better view!

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Glory and Grace praying over the baby.

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Click the link below to hear Glory singing to the baby.  This is a song we used to sing to her and our other children when they were little.  It’s still one of her favorites!

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Thanksgiving Day 2012

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Christmas Day 2012

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Too big for comfort!  1-11-2013

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Click the link below to view our final (we think!) ultrasound at 33 weeks.

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Masterpiece in the Making

September 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

The past few weeks have been pretty rough as we’ve continued our surrogate journey on mandatory bed rest.  It’s no easy task to coordinate the schedules and needs of six people around one working husband!  Thank God for grandmas!  Once we were released to my own obstetrician, she did another scan and “sentenced” me to two more weeks of bed rest before a more extensive ultrasound at Texas Women’s Hospital.  BJ and I were so excited!  We knew that the technology there is much more advanced than the little ultrasound machines in the doctors’ offices and we couldn’t wait to see the baby!  Our technician was awesome.  She was very thorough, and I could tell that she truly enjoys her job.  We got 26 minutes of fun video footage of the baby before the battery on my camera went dead.  If we would have had any idea how long the scan was actually going to be, we would have brought a real video camera to capture it ALL!  The tech measured and measured and measured!  At first, we were caught up in the “awe” of it all and were fascinated just watching the baby.  It seemed exceptionally long to me, but I thought she was just going out of her way to make it special since it was unusual circumstances, being a surrogate pregnancy and all.

BJ and I didn’t initially see the bleed and BJ commented several times that it must be gone.  We were really excited and the baby just seemed to be doing fantastic!  But the tech wouldn’t confirm anything and told us that she was not allowed to discuss anything with us at all.  She just kept taking pictures and measurements of what seemed like every inch of me.  To make a REALLY long story as short as possible, we spent the day at the hospital.  The technician ended up doing a total of five scans on me!  There was a bathroom joining our ultrasound room to another one and after about an hour or so I realized that the other tech had moved 3-4 people through that restroom during my one ultrasound.  I began to worry that something might be wrong but the technician was completely calm and just acted like it was normal for them to need lots of measurements.  She finally said we were through but to stay put while she ran everything by the radiologist.  We waited, and waited, and waited!  Again, I worried because we have had one ultrasound at Texas Women’s with each of our own kids and they have always returned immediately to clear us to go.  Finally, she came back in and said that the radiologist needed more measurements.  So she did another scan (the 4th at this point) and took more measurements and pictures.  The baby looked fantastic from what we could tell, and she did tell me that it was measuring 13 weeks 2 days, so I knew that THE BABY wasn’t the problem and I was trying to figure out what she was doing.  She kept looking and labeling the placenta and areas of my uterus and kept saying she was just getting them in case the radiologist needed the measurements.  Two hours had passed and I was still on the table and had emptied my bladder twice!  She left again, saying it wouldn’t be near as long of a wait.  But it was.

At that point BJ, too, was beginning to get uncomfortable.  We knew something wasn’t right.  The tech returned to the room and said the radiologist needed more measurements to be able to properly inform our doctor and also wanted clarification on “some things you already know about” (we took that to mean the bleed) She did another scan, this time barely moving the ultrasound wand across my abdomen and snapping photos constantly.  Nothing seemed to be on the screen and I wasn’t sure what she was looking at.  At one point, the screen lit up orange like fire.  The orange spots were kind of flickering.  I had seen some very small spots of orange earlier when she was looking at the baby only (not the bleed) so I asked her what it was.  She told us that it was blood flow and we knew immediately that what they were looking at was in fact the bleed because it was orange everywhere on the screen!  She finally finished and said that we were good to go.

When we first read the radiologist’s report, we were disappointed to find that the bleed we already knew about (that was on the mend) had not gotten smaller, but had grown again, and that there are actually two significant bleeds now instead of one.  One was classified as a large anterior bleed measuring 60x29x20 mm and the other a large posterior bleed measuring 69x9x27mm.We continued to read and were kind of freaking out (in our limited knowledge) when we saw a note about potential placenta previa.  We were totally expecting to be released from everything that day (bed rest, pelvic rest, progesterone medication, and all the other restrictions) and things were not looking like that was going to happen.  After talking with my OB, we felt much better.  She was very calm and did not seem overly concerned about the bleed being larger.  She said that it appears that the initial bleed has now organized into two clots that are very close together.  Often these clots reabsorb or drain on their own, but some women have to deal with them throughout the entire pregnancy.  She said she did not expect us to see much change for the next 2-4 weeks and couldn’t tell yet where our situation would fall so we will just have to wait it out.  When we asked what the potential placenta previa meant, she said that it is common for the placenta to be near the cervix this early in a pregnancy and that she was not at all worried about the placenta previa and would not be unless things don’t change when we are further along.  That part was VERY relieving!  She changed my bed rest with limited activity to strict bed rest, and told us that I was to do NOTHING but use the restroom, and shower as necessary.  We asked if there is anything we are not doing that we should be doing or anything we can do to prevent things from getting worse and she said that IVF pregnancies are always more difficult than natural ones.  She said that even if it were BJ and my own embryo, it’s just riskier and there is nothing we can do or not do other than the bed rest but wait and see.  The drama didn’t end with the ultrasound appointment though.  A bad reaction to a medication and  more nausea, vomiting, and crying my eyes out (because I can’t get off of the progesterone drugs that make me so very sick) followed!

To be completely honest, I’ve really been struggling with my emotions and my attitude about the less than ideal way things have been going with the surrogacy.  Thankfully, God has placed a couple of very special people in my life that have stood  beside me, encouraged me, and endured my chronic complaining for the past 6 weeks so that the rest of  you haven’t had to!  (Because I’ve had some really low lows!)

So….where does this leave me now?  Well, it leaves me in bed continually asking the Lord what in the world He is up to!  I’ve been reading about Moses, Pharaoh, and the plagues in Exodus the past few days.  We usually tend to focus on the miracles and wonders that God did when we read this story to the kids, but something very interesting stood out to me this time as I read it alone.  Multiple times in the scripture, God says that HE is the one that made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn.  I guess I always just thought that Pharaoh was a jerk and wouldn’t let them go all on his own!  I never realized that God was involved in his constant refusal to let the people go.  In the scripture God plainly explains His purpose in hardening the pharaoh’s heart-to multiply His signs, wonders, and miracles, that the people would recognize and know that there is none like Him in all the earth.

With all the truly unexpected complications we’ve had so far in our surrogate journey, I can’t help but sometimes feel like God has unleashed a few plagues on us, too!  Oh, I KNOW that He has a purpose for this pregnancy, for this baby He has created that is growing inside of me, and even for this precious family that we are working with.  But I thought it’d be a nice wonderful plan that would be smooth and perfect and lovely!  Not hard, miserable at times, and crazy overwhelming!

In Exodus 9: 15-16 the Lord tells Moses to speak the following words to Pharaoh, “For by now I could have put forth My hand and have struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.  16 But for this very purpose have I let you live, that I might show you My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

When I read these words the Lord quickened my heart and said, “Julie, you could have already miscarried.  But you haven’t.  I could have taken the baby by now if I wanted to.  But I haven’t.  There’s a reason.  But for this purpose have I let this child live, that I might show you my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

Perhaps God has been allowing all of the complications, irritations, and frustrations simply to reveal more of Himself to us, that WE will know and recognize that there is none like Him in all the earth.  If for nothing else, this bleed has given us all the opportunity to see God’s amazing creative hand at work, week by week!  Not many people get to say they have watched a child come into existence!  We’ve literally seen it all-every step of the way so far!  We’ve watched this baby go from a microscopic blastocyst of cells to an actual dot on a screen, to a form, to a “more formed” form, to a little “shrimp,” to a somewhat human looking shape, to a perfectly formed miniature person!  At this last ultrasound, I was not quite 13 weeks pregnant which means the baby was actually only about 11 weeks into existence.  We saw everything from the two lobes of its brain to the 4 chambers of its heart (in action!) to its little stomach, eye sockets, nose, lips, even a smile!  The baby even did a “High Five” for the camera (the tech said that particular positioning and shot doesn’t happen much) and waved at us and kept spreading its little fingers out wide for us to see and count them all -almost like it was wanting us to see what an awesome creation it is and how perfectly formed it is even though it is the size of a pinky finger and weighs only 2oz!  We saw the incredibly intricate spine and even the baby’s little caboose!  Who gets to see stuff like this?!?!  We certainly didn’t with our perfect pregnancies!  Despite all the heartache and drama, pain, sickness and tears that I’ve hidden from many, it has been so incredible to watch the Master knit a true masterpiece together right before our eyes!

May every detail of this little one’s creation in the womb and life on this earth testify to God’s goodness and power!

notes:

Exodus 7:3 And I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn and hard, and multiply My signs, My wonders, and miracles in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 9:12 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, making it strong and obstinate, and he did not listen to them or heed them, just as the Lord had told Moses.

Exodus 9:14 For this time I will send all My plagues upon your heart and upon your servants and your people, that you may recognize and know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

Exodus 10: 1-2  The Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart hard, and his servants’ hearts, that I might show these My signs [of divine power] before him, 2 And that you may recount in the ears of your son and of your grandson what I have done in derision of the Egyptians and what things I have [repeatedly] done there—My signs [of divine power] done among them—that you may recognize and know that I am the Lord.

Exodus 10:20 But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart more strong and obstinate, and he would not let the Israelites go.

Exodus 10:27 But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stronger and more stubborn, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 11:9-10 Then the Lord said to Moses, Pharaoh will not listen to you, that My wonders and miracles may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.  Moses and Aaron did all these wonders and miracles before Pharaoh; and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s stubborn heart, and he did not let the Israelites go out of his land.

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God is SO GOOD!

August 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

 

The only words I can possibly begin this post with are, “God is sooooo GOOD!”  We returned to Houston IVF yesterday for yet another ultrasound to check on the bleed in my uterus.  If you read my last blog post, you know that I was expecting to see a major breakthrough and some healing in my body at this ultrasound.  BJ woke me at 6, and within minutes, the nausea set in.  It was as if the enemy was taunting that the day would be no different than any other.  I had also struggled with a dream all night that the bleed was again much worse.  But something was…different!  For the first time in almost three and a half weeks, I woke up HUNGRY!  I excitedly made myself breakfast, ate it, and went straight back to sleep sitting up.  I woke again about an hour later.  No sign of nausea!  It was going to be a good day!

At Houston IVF we learned that some changes had taken place in my body!  In just two short weeks, Erin and Jesse’s baby had transformed from a blinking circle on the screen, to…well, a baby!  Last week, the baby was beginning to take on some form but this week, WOW!  We saw a head and a profile, a brain, arms and legs!  The baby had the hiccups and even grabbed at its feet!  The baby was THRIVING and the doctor told us that despite my really rough week of illness and weight loss, the baby had a good week and was even growing ahead of schedule! 

But the baby was not the only thing that changed this past week!  My bleed had also undergone a big transformation!  The doctor recognized that the blood had coagulated and as he described it, “organized” which is the first step in it being reabsorbed back into my body!  It had thickened, (like gravy does when it sits) and we can fully expect it to reabsorb on its own!  I don’t know about you, but when I pray for a flow of blood to stop and God shows up and causes that flow of blood to STOP, I get EXCITED!  I think we all left the office a little giddy and a lot RELIEVED!  I was released from Houston IVF into the care of my own obstetrician and will continue on with her for the rest of my surrogate journey.   

Having grown up in the church, I’ve always known what the Bible says about life in the womb but since my own pregnancies had no complications, we never got to see our own babies develop.  Watching the hand of God perfectly craft this precious child from week to week has been the most amazing experience ever! 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  ~ Psalm 139: 13-16

  If you’d like to watch another step in the incredible formation of Erin and Jesse’s baby, click here to watch this week’s ultrasound

(I don’t think the video will play on phones.  I think you have to be on a computer.)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;” ~ Jeremiah 1:5

 My good day didn’t end in the exam room.  When we walked out of the building, I smelled food cooking at a nearby restaurant and it smelled GOOD!  For the first time in three and a half weeks, I ate breakfast, lunch, AND dinner and was not sick.  For the first time in three and a half weeks I snuggled my five year old and didn’t get nauseous from her wiggling!  For the first time in three and a half weeks I felt normal, like the old (NOT SICK 24/7) me!  And so far, today has gone well too so I’m still on this high of feeling GOOD!  Last night as I lay in bed, I literally could not stop thanking the Lord for His goodness.  For hearing my prayers and answering them.  For letting me eat and function normally!  For caring so much about Erin and Jesse!

Yes, the doctor did extend my bed rest and put me on very light activity for another week.  And I can’t get off of the progesterone hormones just yet.  But that’s okay!  I absolutely cannot complain when I’m feeling so much better.

I’ve learned a couple of practical things these past few weeks that I’d like to share with you because I truly believe that anyone can benefit from them.

 Lesson #1 Never underestimate your power as a friend or family member.  Three times this last week when I was so ill and so deeply discouraged, just being with someone truly lifted my spirits.  All three times, I felt the sickness and heaviness lift for a short while.  If you know someone going through a tough time of any sort, give them a call.  Show up with a small treat.  Let them cry on your shoulder.  Tell them something funny.  Don’t disappear from their life because you don’t know what to do or say.  Don’t be too busy for them.  People NEED people!  God uses us to minister to each other and it just takes a few minutes to make a huge difference in someone’s day.

Lesson #2 It hurts to lie around all day.  I’m serious.  It is literally painful to stay in bed all day, every day.  Muscle groups get sore after a very short while and before long, NO position is comfortable.  It can be very overwhelming.  If you know someone confined to their home or a nursing home, make a point to visit regularly.  Lying in a bed all day is no fun, no matter how old you are.  If they can get up, even for a few moments, help them!  I cannot describe how thankful I was to get to stand for even a few moments to get back and forth to the restroom my first week of bed rest.  And last week, getting to sit outside was literally the highlight of my week!

Lesson #3  Hunger can be devastating.  I’ve never been in a position in life where I haven’t been able to eat for several days in a row.  I cannot even begin to describe how it feels to desperately WANT to eat, but not be able to.  I lost 8 pounds in these couple of weeks, (which I could definitely stand to lose!) but I gained a new sense of compassion for the less fortunate.  The homeless.  Those with financial needs. Those down on their luck.  If you have the means to feed a hungry soul, (regardless of how they came to be that way) DO IT!  I guarantee you; it will bless them in such a way that they will never forget it or you!  Be a blessing!

My experience in these areas is soooo limited and could have been so much worse!  (Thank God that He never gives us more than we can handle!)  I’m thankful that the Lord wanted to “open my eyes” to these things, but boy did I want to learn those lessons as fast as humanly possible and move on to better days!  And it looks like I’m finally doing just that!  So, I’ll end this post the very same way I started it:

GOD IS SOOOOO GOOD!

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Riding Out Rough Seas

July 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

Things have changed quite a bit since my last post as we’ve hit some “rough seas” in my smooth-sailing pregnancy.  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

At exactly 6 weeks and 1 day everything changed.  The moment my feet hit the floor upon waking, my perfect pregnancy world was shattered.  I was SICK.  I could not MOVE without experiencing extreme nausea.  Since I never experienced morning sickness with any of my own pregnancies, I thought it would be just that.  MORNING sickness.  I’d eat some breakfast, the nausea would subside, and I’d go on living normal life.  NOT!  I was quite surprised to find that the intense nausea stayed with me throughout the entire day and into the night.  Day in, day out, I could not eat.  I could not drink.  I could not move without getting sick.  I hate to say it, but I was pretty miserable.

In addition to the nausea, I somehow developed a supersonic sense of smell.  When the kids or BJ would approach me for a hug or a kiss, I would panic inside, desperately needing precious fresh air!  All smells became overwhelming!  Good ones.  Bad ones.  Ones that never even seemed to exist before I was pregnant.  Just one whiff and the nausea would set back in!  (If it had faded any)  It got so bad that I began to sleep as much as possible to minimize the hours in the day that I had to deal with it.  And when I was awake, I’d lay as still as possible, hoping that I could somehow trick the sickness into passing over me for the day.  Most of you guys know that I hate to show weakness.  I didn’t want to complain… after all, I did CHOOSE to do this.  And I didn’t want Erin and Jesse to think I wasn’t excited about the baby or anything like that.  (Because I still totally am!)  But I finally set down my pride and gathered up enough nerve to ask the fertility nurse if it’s normal to be this sick in a surrogacy.  The nurse shared that my issues were probably due to a mixture of the meds and hormones in my body and the fact that the pregnancy tissue is not my own.

7 more days passed, each as difficult as the one before.  I lived off of apples, bananas, crackers, carrots, and sips of decaf tea.  The next day was Sunday.  Church day.  A day I could not sleep away.  I got up, showered, and went to church like normal.  Attempted lunch.  Not too successful.  While sitting at the table visiting with my family, I felt some aching in my lower abdomen.  None of my jeans will easily button these days, but I HAD to button them for church, so I figured that my tight jeans might be causing the problem.  I unbuttoned them under the table where no one would notice and whispered to BJ, “Something is happening that has never happened before.”  He said, “What’s wrong?”  And I responded, “I don’t know but I think I might have just started bleeding.”  We both looked down and there was already blood leaking through my jeans.  It had just been a minute, possibly two minutes, since the cramping had started.  Something was VERY wrong.  We immediately paged the nurse on call at Houston IVF.  She responded to the page a while later and by that time, the bleeding had slowed down considerably.  She said they would see me in the morning for an ultrasound and to stay in bed for the meantime.

About an hour later, the heavy bleeding started again.  Very scary!  There was just so much of it that I couldn’t imagine how things could possibly be okay.  We called the doctor’s nurse again but she said the only thing we could do was go to an emergency room and have them confirm/or not confirm a miscarriage.  I was terrified.  Erin and Jesse were out of state (celebrating the pregnancy of all things) and didn’t have a clue that it could possibly be ending.  The weight of disappointing them was so very tremendous that I felt like it might crush me.

Never in a million years would I have expected to have complications during this pregnancy.  Once we found out that it was only one baby, I knew from past experience that we were home free.  I was expecting smooth sailing from here on out until delivery day.  But our all-knowing God knew different.  He knew exactly what I was about to experience and He took the time to prepare me in advance.  I just hadn’t realized it yet!

The fate of Erin and Jesse’s precious baby was actually depending on a lot more than me being off of my feet that night.  It rested in a choice that I would have to make.  In order for me to explain, we need to have a quick History lesson.

We’re obviously in the month of July on the Western calendar, but on the Biblical calendar, we’re actually in the month of Av.  (Av corresponds with part of our July and part of our August)  In the Bible, the month of Av was intended to be the month that God’s people entered the Promised Land that was overflowing with blessings.  God’s plan was that every year Av would be a month in which His goodness would be remembered and celebrated.  If you recall from the Bible story, the Israelites were in the desert.  They had recently experienced the miraculous Exodus from Egypt, and were in position to enter the Promised Land of Canaan.  But first, they dispatched a “reconnaissance mission” to check out the new land God had given them.  Overwhelmed with the large fortified cities and strong and courageous men that possessed the land, their spies returned on the eighth day of Av, and reported that the land was unconquerable.  Along with the many fearful reports of “giants in the land” came the faith-filled words of Caleb.  Numbers 13:30 states that Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; we are WELL ABLE to conquer it.  Later, when the people continued to despair, he said in Numbers 14:7-9, “The land through which we passed as scouts is an exceedingly good land.  8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey.  9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us.  Their defense and the shadow [of protection] is removed from over them, but the Lord is with us.  Fear them not.”

That night, the 9th of Av, the people chose NOT to agree with Caleb in faith.  God’s people wept and insisted that they’d rather go back to Egypt than to be slaughtered by the Canaanites.  They chose to believe the voices of FEAR and UNBELIEF rather than the voice of FAITH.

God was highly displeased by their distrust in His power and abilities, especially after all the miracles He had already done for them.  Consequently, that generation of God’s people was never allowed to enter the Promised Land.

But the story doesn’t end there.  If you study the history of God’s people, the 9th of Av has continued to be a disastrous day for them.  Every year a window of destruction opens over them because of the lack of faith they displayed so many years before.  Note the tragic events that have occurred over the years.

Av 9 – 587 BC – The armies of Babylon destroyed Solomon’s Temple

Av 9 – AD 70 – The Romans destroyed the 2nd temple

Av 9 – AD 135 – The final defeat of Jews by Rome

Av 9 – AD 1095 – The 1st Crusade was launched, which killed thousands of Jews

Av 9 – AD 1290 – The Jews were expelled from England

Av 9 – AD 1492 – The Jews were expelled from Spain

Av 9 – AD 1942 – The Jews were deported from the Warsaw ghetto to the death camps

Av 9 – AD 2005 – The expulsion of the Jews from Gaza began

Why does this “cycle” of destruction continue to happen?  In the words of my pastor, “On the 9th of Av Israel chose to listen to the voice of UNBELIEF!  Instead of believing God, the people agreed with unbelief and gave a negative confession.  They said:  “The enemy is too strong for us.  We will all die!”  They tasted the FRUIT of the land but refused to enter.  They held back in unbelief and by doing that, they put themselves under a curse.  So every year on the 9th of Av, Israel finds that their enemies are too strong for them and they die.  As Hebrews 4:1-2 paraphrased says, “They refused to mix the promise with faith.”  At the end of 40 years when all of the adults who made that decision died, God in His grace gave a second chance – He is the God of Second Chances!  They never truly repented of the sin, however, so every year the cycle comes back around, and the window of destruction opens again.  When you don’t repent of the sins of the past, Satan is free to bring the curse of that sin back around on you, and the door of destruction remains open.  You know you have truly repented when you don’t repeat the sin again.  Israel repeated it when Jesus came:  they tasted the good fruit of the age to come:  they heard His words and saw His miracles, but they turned back in unbelief and refused to enter the promise of their Messiah.  But the Bible assures us that one day Israel will turn and believe in Jesus as Messiah.  Then the curse of Av 9th for them will be finally broken.  We should learn the lessons – repent and believe!  God still wants Av to be a month of blessing and celebration of His goodness.  Av is a month that presents us with a choice.  We can choose to receive a curse.  We can choose to break a curse.  We can choose to believe God’s promises.  We can choose to enter God’s blessing.”

WOW!

And here I was, one of God’s people, ON THE 9TH DAY OF AV, having received a promise from the Lord but also staring a big, scary “giant” right in the face!  Just 2-3 hours earlier, I was comfortably sitting in church, oblivious to what my future would soon hold.  My pastor was gracious enough to give me his power point notes to share with you all the exact words God used to prepare me to face my giant.  So I’ll just list them here.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Lord is faithful to give us great promises of His blessings

Our receiving the blessings involves acting in faith.  We don’t earn or deserve them.  BUT we do have to receive them.

His promises always come with a test

We can choose to focus on the difficulties and obstacles fearing to act on His word to secure the promise. 

This is what the Israelites did.  See the consequences:  Numbers 14:36-37

We can choose to believe the Lord in spite of the difficulties and obstacles and act on His word to secure the promise.

See what happened to those who followed this path:

Joshua – Joshua 1:1-6

Caleb – Numbers 14:24-38, Josh 14:6-8

Fear or faith?  What is your choice?

You will be given a choice this week.  You CAN have God’s promised blessing – you may have to fight a giant to receive it though.  What will you do?????

Some of you are struggling with issues too difficult for you

Some of you are struggling with temptations/sins you cannot seem to overcome

Some of you see mountains in your future you cannot climb

Some of you see giants in your future you cannot defeat

Some of you see a past you cannot overcome

Some of you are weary from the struggle and you are ready to “throw in the towel”

Some of you are about to give up on your dream/your calling/ your destiny and settle for the devil’s lies and counterfeits

Before you do, I have a word for you! 

NOTHING IS TOO DIFFICULT for the Lord!

Genesis 18:14 Is anything too hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

Jeremiah 32:17-18 There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You

Jeremiah 32:26-27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said, [You say to Me], If You can do anything?  [Why,] all things are possible to him who believes!

Mark 10:27 Jesus glanced around at them and said, With men [it is] impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.

Mark 14:36 And He was saying, Abba, [which means] Father, everything is possible for You.

Never underestimate the power or the love of the Lord 

  1. Never leave the Lord out of your evaluations.  What He can or will do!
  2. We tend to work, figure, plan, plot, strategize, et al and forget about the LORD.  We do not count Him as a resource.

Never give up unless or until the Lord tells you to do so and gives you other instructions

Matthew 24:7-13, Hebrews 6:11-12, James 1:2-4

So many times we give up or give in right before victory is about to arrive.  The LORD often tests our faith, courage, stick-to-it-ability!  That is why He tells us to persevere

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

James 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

James 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Well, my “test” arrived shortly after the pastor’s lesson.  I knew that my response to the “giant” that suddenly showed up in my life would either bring about a blessing or a curse.  I knew that I could choose not to trust God and let go of the promise of the baby’s life, or I could choose to trust that He was still in control no matter WHAT I was seeing.  No matter how much blood kept flowing.  No matter how much cramping and pain I was experiencing.  Not matter how bad things were looking from my limited human perspective.  And I won’t lie.  It wasn’t easy.  I was so terrified that I was literally trembling.  I would get control of my emotions and then “lose it” again and again.  But all the while, I was surrounded with family and friends who had heard this same message that morning and who were encouraging me to stand up and believe God’s voice of truth.  A dear friend of mine felt the Lord prodding her to call and encourage me.  That call, along with emails from others and the prayers of many, gave me the added strength I needed to declare this prayer. (copied from the baby’s prayer journal)

July 29, 2012

Tonight I pray for LIFE.  I pray for the mighty breath of the living God to flow through this baby.  I choose not to fear the “giant” that we are facing but to trust in the faithfulness of the God I serve.  I choose faith instead of fear and I declare that I (and Erin and Jesse) will walk in the promise God has already given us and the hope He has already stirred in all of our hearts.  I boldly resist giving in to the fear that circumstances have provoked and I trust that God is greater than ANY thing we could EVER encounter in this pregnancy.  I refuse to take on any curse brought about by failing to trust God.  I choose to pass this test of faith and reap blessings beyond measure (for Erin and Jesse) because of that choice.

And immediately I was at peace that everything was going to be okay.  The heavy bleeding began to taper off and had completely stopped by morning.

The baby is doing GREAT!  Its little heartbeat is stronger and faster than ever!  The cause of the bleeding is a subchorionic bleed in my uterus.  If it continues, it will claim the life of the baby, so I was put on full bed rest for the time being.  It’s fairly common with IVF and most women recover just fine and go on to have completely normal pregnancies.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord moved on our behalf on the 9th of Av 2012.  And from 2012 forward, our family will celebrate this day the way God originally intended it –a day in which His goodness, His faithfulness, and His blessings will always be remembered!

If it hasn’t already struck a chord in your own heart, hang on to my pastor’s message above.  If God hasn’t already put someone in your life that needs it, you WILL encounter someone who needs to know that NOTHING is too big for God!  And their choice to or not to believe that…will make all the difference in the world!

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Window to the Womb: The First Ultrasound

July 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

Because I’ve already had four ‘first ultrasounds’ of my own and pretty much know the drill by heart, the absolute last thing I expected to feel on this special day was…nervous!  Excited?  Yes.  But nervous?  No.  What could I possibly be nervous about?  After all, I had given the entire situation up to the Lord.  I knew He was in complete control no matter what the outcome of the transfer might be.  I was ready to take on whatever challenge He sent my way.  So why was my heart about to leap out of my chest?

Well, it was just that small little chance of twins…and that even smaller rare but possible chance of both embryos implanting and then one splitting to create triplets!  When BJ and I started this whole process, multiples never even crossed our minds.  The first couple we worked with tragically lost both of their twins in the hospital after birth and were adamant that only one embryo be transferred at a time.  So when we found out that Erin and Jesse (along with most of the other couples going through this process) were hoping to transfer two embryos-I had to do a lot of thinking.  A lot of soul-searching.  A lot of weighing what I was willing to sacrifice.  Carrying multiples would no doubt  increase the risk of complications in the pregnancy.  The chances of me being put on bed rest and not being available to my own family would also increase.  A premature delivery would almost be guaranteed, and a c-section would become a very real possibility as well.  Even my height was a factor that had to be considered in carrying multiples.  And, as much as I hate to say it, (but since I promised to be as transparent as possible) I wasn’t too excited about what a multiple pregnancy would do to my waistline.  Obviously, after giving birth to four kids, there’s not much worth salvaging, but I have spent the past 5 years trying really hard anyway.  I knew that a multiple pregnancy meant that I could kiss those 5 years and the next 5 goodbye.

BJ was all in.  He was excited about the possibility of twins.  Years ago, we heard a speaker share that a man should never compare his wife’s body to any woman’s who had not paid the price to bear his children.  What a wise piece of advice!  I wondered if it would still be valid when bearing others’ children.  While BJ has always been accepting of all of my “battle scars” from carrying our own children, I knew he had NO IDEA what a belly looks like AFTER multiples are born.  So I spent a night googling post-labor twin and triplet bellies and “prepared” him!

But worse than the waistline, was the worry of complications that would require termination of one of the babies.  When you choose to become a gestational carrier, you enter into a legal and binding agreement with your intended parents.  And in that contract you have to somehow figure out how to merge the moral standards and personal belief systems of two sets of individuals.  In our case, the issue we struggled most with was the clause regarding termination and selective reduction.  For us, both were absolute no brainers.  They simply weren’t an option.  Not for genetic diseases.  Not for birth defects.   Not to prevent a multiple pregnancy from being burdensome.  But then came the dreaded question of would we reduce one twin if it was causing the other twin harm- if you’ve got two living babies and one is essentially holding the other one back and could possibly even kill it.  WOW!  TALK ABOUT A HARD CHOICE to make!  If the doctors just thought one MIGHT keep the other from growing properly, then no way.  I couldn’t do it.  But…if they were absolutely CERTAIN that one WOULD cause the other’s and maybe even BOTH of their deaths.  Hmmmmm….maybe I could make that call.  Especially if the parents, who desperately wanted at least ONE healthy child, wanted me to do it.  Maybe I could live with myself….

I have to admit, I might have wavered.

Never in my life had I experienced the degree of inner turmoil that I did in those next couple of days.  I was literally sick inside.  A decision had to be made.  Probably one of, if not the, hardest of my life.  As I struggled with the decision,  I could hear the words of  a mentor ringing in my head,  “Anxiety is the result of your will and God’s will not lining up.” 

I knew what I had to do and the nurse confirmed it when she explained that the process of selective reduction involves injecting a toxic solution into the heart of a LIVING fetus with the purpose of ending its life.  No way. No how. Uh-uh.  Not a chance.  That is not something BJ and I would consider doing at all-regardless of the circumstances.  We could never live with ourselves.  Why?  Simply because it is not our right to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t -no matter the reason.  That is for God and God alone to decide.

We decided in advance that if that ultrasound revealed 2 or even 3 babies, then God wanted it that way and HE could cause one to pass if He so chose. Otherwise, we would trust that there was a reason for any complications that might arise.

How could we so boldly leave it in the Lord’s hands, a situation where all odds and  the advice of the experts would be against us?  Well, because we know that we serve a God of miracles!  No situation is too big for Him!  For example, our precious friend Tara suffered a stroke and delivered her baby girl MONTHS early at 1 lb. 12 oz.  Despite everything that the doctors told her, Myla Faith was in PERFECT HEALTH, still is, and has never even had one single complication, surgery, procedure, etc. Every tiny organ was perfect! Tara suffered major complications as well, yet she can speak again!  She can walk again!   Myla Faith is a miracle. Tara is a miracle.  So, that’s  where our faith comes from. We have seen God prove the doctors wrong time and time again through both of their lives and we know He can do the same in our lives if need be.

As God would have it, Erin and Jesse didn’t ask us to terminate or selectively reduce after all.  After discussing it with them, they, too, believe that life and death is not man’s decision to make.  They were willing to trust God with the outcome and were happy to allow us to re-word the contract accordingly.  (Another confirmation to me that God hand-chose them especially for us!)  Being able to stand side-by-side with Erin and Jesse as we face the unknown has been amazing.  We trust them and the decisions they will make in this pregnancy and they trust us and the decisions we will make.  It sounds cheesy, but we’re a team working together for one really awesome goal.

So, back to the ultrasound.  I had very mixed feelings on the possibility of twins UNTIL the actual transfer.  Once both embryos were INSIDE of me, everything changed!  All of a sudden, I couldn’t help but to WANT it to be twins!  Crazy, right?  It was just impossible not to want them both to THRIVE!  We began praying for BOTH embryos the day they were transferred, and didn’t plan on stopping for the rest of their lives!  Each prayer made them seem more real to me and I honestly got used to the idea of carrying two babies.  But, the other night as I was praying for the babies’ relationship with their older brother, Michael, (Erin and Jesse’s 2.5 -year-old son)  and thinking about HOW MUCH Erin and Jesse want Michael to have a sibling to bond with, (the reason they are going to great lengths to have another baby) I realized that twins always share their own special bond.  While I’m sure Michael would be close to them, the two of them would always share a special closeness that he’d never be a part of.  And for the first time since the transfer, a little piece of me decided it would be okay if it was just one.  Perhaps even better.

If you’d like to find out how many babies Erin and Jesse are having, click here to watch their first ultrasound video.  

I must admit, I was surprised with what the ultrasound revealed.  Deep down, I think I was probably expecting the opposite.  (And strangely I think I still kinda am!  I guess it will take awhile and multiple ultrasounds before it sinks in fully.)  But God knows what is absolutely best for their family.  He has a plan and a purpose for each of them.  He knows the number of hairs on each of their heads at any given time, and He has an AWESOME journey in store for us all!  BJ and I were thrilled to see what we saw on the scan, and I know that Erin and Jesse were as well!

Today my son, Josiah, looked at the ultrasound photo and expressed that he, too, had thought it was the opposite.  I told him that while it’s still possible, it’s very, very rare.

He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, you are one in a million mom.  Well…one is 6 billion.  Well…I’m not sure it’s exactly six billion, but close.”

Gotta love him!

**edited to add** 

Well, I didn’t realize that those of you viewing this on your phones and e-readers wouldn’t be able to watch the video.  Sorry about that!  Guess I’ll just have to ruin the surprise and say….It’s ONE strong little “over-achiever” according to the fertility doctor!  The baby’s heart was beating loud and clear and it was measuring 2 days ahead of schedule.  Thank you God for this awesome gift of LIFE!

Anxiously awaiting the first ultrasound

Here Glory had stuffed 3 animals up her shirt to make a baby bump of her own. She announced to everyone that she had “twin triples” in her tummy!

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Our Big Day: Embryo Transfer 2012

July 20, 2012 at 12:08 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

Well…here they are!  The babies’ first photos!

These shots were taken the morning of our embryo transfer-just five DAYS after fertilization!  Well, technically a couple of years after fertilization!  Crazy, huh?  Not many people get first photos like these.  Erin and Jesse’s embryos were frozen at 5 days of age and for the past couple of years, time stood still for them.  The morning of our transfer, they were thawed and the clock began to tick again.  Their growth and development resumed as normal-as if nothing had ever happened.  Is that fascinating, or what?!?!

The moment each egg was fertilized,  23 chromosomes from Erin and 23 chromosomes from Jesse united to create the blueprints for a unique masterpiece of God.  Shortly afterwards, each fertilized egg, a single cell, began to rapidly divide.  Doubling in size about every 12 hours, each little ball of cells (called a morula) transformed into a layer of hundreds of cells clustered around a fluid-filled cavity, called a blastocyst.

What you are looking at here in the photo are two blastocysts.  Notice that the blastocyst on the right looks a bit different than the one on the left.  The one on the right had already began to “hatch” before the transfer took place.  Hatching is the process that every blastocyst must undergo in order to be able to implant into the uterine lining.  So this was a good sign that the embryo was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing!

The actual transfer only took a few minutes.  Click here to watch our video! 

After it was all said and done there was nothing left to do but rest, pray that one or both embryos implanted,…and WAIT!

Eight L-O-N-G days later, my blood work confirmed that at least one embryo successfully implanted!  BJ and I were absolutely ELATED for Erin and Jesse!  While they were hoping for the best, they were also secretly expecting the worst, so it was the most amazing news ever to get to share with them!  I honestly think they are still in shock!  Today I am officially 6 weeks pregnant and will be having my first ultrasound to hopefully determine whether one or both embryos implanted.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for this amazing couple!  Either way, one or two, it’s going to be AWESOME!

Relaxed from the Valium and ready to get the party started!

The embryologist prepares the embryos for the transfer. BJ got into trouble for snapping this photo for me! Due to the extremely delicate nature of the embryos, no flashes are allowed! Oops!

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Prescription Junkie: The Nitty Gritty on my Meds

July 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

Those of you who know me well know that I don’t take medication lightly.  Truth be told, I usually don’t take it at all.  I’d rather suffer the pain of an excruciating headache than pop a couple of Motrin.  I’m not really sure why.  I’ve just always been that way!  So, when I began to consider becoming a gestational carrier, I was very concerned about the meds.  My surrogate friend had a terrible reaction to the progesterone injections and I was terrified that the same thing might happen to me.  I went back and forth trying to decide if I was up for the challenge of daily intramuscular injections of progesterone in oil for WEEKS!  One day as I was stressing over it, BJ firmly stated that we would only do it if the clinic used another form of progesterone.  “We can’t say that!”  I was shocked at his bold statement.  “God doesn’t always just erase your problems!  Sometimes He wants to walk you through them.  Sometimes you have to suffer.”

“Sure we can.  I’m asking Him for no progesterone injections if we’re supposed to do this.”

And that was that.  Whether or not I had to do the injections would make or break the deal.  We first worked with Texas Fertility out of Austin.  I was put on birth control simply to help the doctors time the other medications and the transfer.  No big deal.  I could handle that.  I also began prenatal vitamins.  A few weeks of estrogen pills, a few days of progesterone gel, and a Valium later and it was a done deal.  Embryo transfer number one, down!

Our second embryo transfer was with Houston IVF.  I, being the pro that I am after one experience (yeah, right!) and assuming that all fertility clinics are alike, geared up for another simple round of pill poppin.’  Of course I made sure to ask if they would allow me to use the progesterone gel instead of the injections (a lot of clinics feel that only the shots are tried and true and do not use the gel) but I didn’t really ask about anything else.  My nurse told me that I would have to take Lupron injections for about three weeks to knock out any of my own hormones, but assured me that they were no big deal.  Teeny tiny needle in the fat of the stomach.  Nothing compared to the progesterone ones….

So I psyched myself up.  This is totally do-able.  A few pills.  A few shots.  Some gel.  I got this!

Shortly afterwards, I received a box via Fedex.  A BIG box.  A big box stuffed with  several little boxes and lots of bottles.  My heart was racing.  What in the world was all of this?!?!  Surely they had given me somebody else’s order!  I don’t DO lots of medication!   I called the nurse, in a panic, calling off all the names to her.  She patiently explained some of them to me and said she’d email me a calendar explaining when to take what.  Some of them, she said, we’d get to later.  Needless to say, it was a rough day for me.  Let me re-phrase that.  It was a rough couple of months for me!

Either I’m a big baby, or BJ is the absolute WORST shot-giver on the planet!  I dreaded 8:30 and  the supposedly “easy peasy” Lupron injections every single night.  Some bled.  Some burned.  Some wouldn’t GO IN!  And some got stuck coming OUT!  I thought the needles weren’t sharp enough or something!  (The nurse said that callouses develop and you have to be careful not to inject in the same spot or this will happen.)  When BJ gave me my 24th and final injection (felt more like 124th!) I finally broke down and cried!   Big needle.  Little needle.  It doesn’t matter.  I. HATE. SHOTS!  Thank God it was finally over!  But that wasn’t the end of my troubles!  One of my meds was causing insomnia.  I couldn’t fall asleep until 2-3 a.m.  A couple of my other meds were affecting me emotionally.  My emotions were a roller coaster of ups and downs for weeks!  BJ and I laughed as tears streamed down my face one night as we watched American Ninja Warrior.  It was ridiculous, and I knew that the medications were causing all of the tears, but there was nothing I could do to stop them from coming.  So we just laughed.  And laughed.  And laughed!  Soon after, we found out that my estrogen levels were still too low and they added another form of estrogen-a pill- to my list of daily meds.  This time, BJ only had to make a slightly negative comment about my shirt to get the tears flowing!  I cried during commercials.  I cried during worship at church.  I cried just chatting with my  mom, BJ, or friends!

In addition to the birth control that I was already on, my original box from the fertility pharmacy contained:

All my meds

prenatal vitamins

aspirin

a sharps container

needles, alcohol swabs, and gauze

Lupron to be injected

a Valium

steroids

antibiotics

progesterone in a capsule

progesterone in a gel

estrogen in a patch

(Later, they added estrogen in a pill form.)

Sticky residue from the estrogen patches

The estrogen patches irritate the skin. You have to move them around and can’t put them in the same spot until a week has passed. Here you can see the irritation from the freshly removed patches and how I barely tried to rub off the sticky residue that one left, but rubbed my skin off instead! Thankfully, I now have a special product to remove the residue!

Currently, I take a prenatal vitamin, an aspirin, 6 progesterone capsules, and one estrogen pill daily.  I have to put on 4 estrogen patches every other day.  We recently received a call from a nurse stating that my progesterone levels were too low and I would have to start the intramuscular progesterone in oil shots immediately.  After freaking out a little, and getting sick in the bathroom, I told the Lord that this wasn’t the deal we made, but that I trusted Him.  I told the nurse that I would do whatever I had to do to make this pregnancy successful, but if there was ANY other way…  They put me on a high dose of progesterone capsules (high enough to make a pharmacist crazed!) and my levels went right up!  Thank you Lord for coming through for me and NO INJECTIONS!

In addition to the meds, a surrogate must undergo a psychological exam, counselling, a physical exam, a procedure called a hysteroscopy where dye is injected into the uterus, one or more uterine lining checks, a mock embryo transfer or “practice” run through without the actual embryos, (Not all clinics do this.  Austin did, Houston did not) and multiple blood draws to check medication levels regularly.  In our case, we also had to meet with an infectious diseases specialist because I tested negative for a very common flu-like virus that one of the intended parents and the embryos tested positive for.

As you can see, it’s been a long journey to get to “the beginning” of our surrogate journey!  Was it worth it?  I’d have to positively say, “YES!”  It’s amazing how the memory of those shots and tears fade away when you get to yell, “You’re having a BABY!” to someone who thought it might not ever be possible.  I’d do it again and again to be able to bring that kind of joy to anyone.

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