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!

bitey shirt

 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…  🙂

shirt

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.

9-26-2012

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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!

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/089.mp4.html

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!

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/005-4.mp4.html

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.

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/003-5.mp4.html

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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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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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