He Has Made Everything Beautiful

everything beautiful

Looking back over the last year, I don’t think I could be in any more awe over God’s grace and provision than I am at this moment. I’m sitting here, 38 weeks pregnant, waiting on the arrival of our daughter who just a year ago was considered by the medical community to be impossible. But God makes the impossible possible in His own time.

Here are just a few highlights from the last few months:

*Carolina is a growing little bean. At our 32 week ultrasound she weighed 3lbs. 12oz. and they say is in the 39th percentile. She is head down and the placenta moved! The ultrasound tech felt so bad for all of the appointments we have had that she gave us some 4D images of her.

Carolina 4D

We cannot wait to see this precious little face in person!

*Daniel and I were blessed with a whopping five baby showers!  Yep, you read that right. Dear friends hosted showers in Birmingham and Auburn, we had a wonderful shower in Grove Hill at Daniel’s family church, a sweet shower in Greenville hosted by my Godmother, and a surprise shower at work that I never expected. To say this is one spoiled/blessed little girl is an understatement. We could not be any more grateful for all of the sweet gifts!

Auburn Shower

My sweet friends (Deanna, Olivia, and Sydney) who hosted my shower in Auburn.

Grove Hill Shower

My sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law at my shower in Grove Hill.

*I gained a sister (in-law) in early July when my older brother Preston got married. I was so touched to get to be a part of such a special day in their lives. I could not be any happier for them!

Agnew Wedding

My new sister-in-law Catherine who cannot wait to meet her new niece!

*We have steadily been working on Carolina’s nursery and are almost done, which is good since she’ll be here any day. I promise to share pictures once it is complete! Daniel has done a great job of putting everything together and putting up with my very particular taste, haha!

*I am still working and plan to up until I go into labor. It is hard, there is no doubt about it, but I want every day of my maternity leave I can get to spend with her after she is born. My ankles have officially turned into swollen hoofs, but I keep reminding Daniel that he married me for better or for worse. He has been so sweet and helpful and tried his best to make me feel as loved and beautiful as possible. I married a winner!

*As of last Friday everything is looking good for a healthy baby that could be born any day now. I am 2cm dilated and 75% effaced. It is such an amazing/crazy feeling to know that it’s just a matter of time before we meet our daughter in person!

38 week bump

And the obligatory 38 week bump shot.

So it’s prediction time. Carolina’s due date is August 5th, but when do you think she will make her arrival? Feel free to leave your guess of due date and birth weight as a comment below or on Facebook. It will be fun to see who gets the closest.

His Tomorrow Is Greater

There is hidden beauty in each season of life.  In our season of waiting I am constantly reminded of God’s grace and will for our family.

We have been co-leading a small group for 18-25 years old’s called “Making God Your #1, So You’re Ready For Your #2”. Basically, how to prepare your heart for marriage. I figured God put us in a college town, so we should take advantage of the unique position we find ourselves in. It has been so wonderful! And the funny thing is, I find such encouragement from these guys. I will find myself encouraging a young lady on being patient for her future husband and I’m instantly reminded that I too have to be patient for our future family.

Last weekend, I attended my church’s annual women’s conference, reCreate. It was fantastic! Not only was it so nice to spend some time with my girlfriends in Birmingham, but boy were the messages exactly what I needed to hear. Two of the speakers Charlotte Gambill & Karol Hobbs, as well as, Natalie Grant who led worship shared about their struggles with infertility. All three of these ladies have their miracle families now and it was so incredibly encouraging to see women who have walked down the same path and made it to the other side! I am so grateful these women shared their hearts, it blessed me more than I can say.

I also recently ordered a new daily devotional book Living Life Undaunted: 365 Readings and Reflections by Christine Caine. I actually heard Christine speak at last years reCreate conference and absolutely love her. Ladies, this devotional does not disappoint! Today’s reading was right on point with what I needed to hear.

“When we enter every season of life understanding that it has been carefully designed by God as a vital step on our journey and part of our ‘all,’ we can then live each one with purpose and passion, whether we fully understand God’s plan or not…Some seasons are more enjoyable than others; some more difficult; some dry and some abundant; but all are necessary. Don’t despise the season you are in; instead step into all that God is doing in and through you during the season.”

So incredibly good! So in this season of life I will choose to not soak in sadness, but hold true to the promises God has given me. My today may not be exactly what I would have chosen, but His tomorrow for me is greater than anything I could imagine.

Season of Waiting

My grandmother, who turns 93 next month, once told me to be content in every season of my life, because it was just that – a season. There are good seasons and bad seasons, busy seasons and seasons that seem to last a lifetime. For the last few months we have been in a season of waiting; a season to pause, pray, and anticipate. We have no idea how long this season will last, but I keep reminding myself of my sweet grandmothers advice…be content, every season has a beginning and an end.

I have to admit, part of me thought that maybe if I waited long enough to post that something (anything) would happen and there would be news to report. Instead, it’s more of the same and I have become okay with that.

The hidden blessing is that this season has allowed Daniel and I to settle into our new home. We’ve also filled our time with good friends and family. Below are just a few highlights of the past few months.

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Our friends Tyler & Alissa and their dog Harper stopped by for a quick visit on their way down to the beach. Abe desperately wants to be best friends with Harper, Harper desperately wants Abe to give it a rest.

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Our friends Sydney & Jeremie helped us host a baby shower for our dear friends Ben & Deanna who are expecting little Henry next month. We had a great time and even the guys said the shower was pretty fun. We all can’t wait for Henry to get here so we can love on him!

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My college roommate Amanda (or Hotmanda as I call her) came down to visit while her husband was on a mission trip in Uganda. We had a great time hanging out and I was very sad to see her leave.

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Abe became best buddies with Amanda’s dog Dude. They were two partners in crime and really milked their cuteness for all it was worth.

We also participated in our church’s semi-annual 21 Days of Prayer. It was a great reminder that while we don’t have the answer for when and how our future Baby Clarke will arrive, God has the answer. We just have to trust in Him and His timing.

Be Anxious For Nothing; 15 Scriptures To Soothe An Anxious Heart.:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Wherever You Go…

Be Strong

I want to apologize for not posting for so long.  As some of you know, over the last seven months not only have we been walking through our family journey, but we’ve also been building a house.  We started building at the end of December before we had any idea what lay ahead for us. It is finally complete and three weeks ago tomorrow we closed on our “for a long time” home. We are in love!

House

On move in day.

Unfortunately, because we are the first house in the new subdivision internet has been a challenge. Our wonderful builder loaned us his hotspot for me to use for work (since I work from home), but I didn’t want to use it for personal use and take advantage of his generosity.  I had to make an exception to my rule though, since yesterday was our appointment with the Fertility Specialist, Dr. Bates.

Since my levels have finally gone back to normal (!!!!!!) the doctor was able to talk to us about the next step. We had so many questions and he did a great job of trying to answer them as honestly as possible while being considerate of our emotions. He told us that it really boils down to two options; IVF or trying naturally one more time. He explained to us that we are wonderful candidates for IVF and he truly thinks it is our best option. However, he also talked to us about trying again naturally. While this was our desire, my concern was that if we had another ectopic pregnancy I wanted my remaining tube to be removed. He assured me that would in fact be the plan as he didn’t think I was a candidate for any further Methotrexate shots

I am fully aware of the fact that when i mention wanting them to remove my remaining tube it sounds harsh. And it is harsh! But I don’t apologize for feeling this way. The last seven months have been exhausting; physically, emotionally, just plain exhausting. The idea that we would have a third ectopic and they would not remove my remaining tube and we could face that risk in the future again is where I draw the line. Others faced with the same situation may choose differently and that’s okay.

We went ahead and discussed iVF with Dr. Bates. He said given our fertility this far he sees no reason why we wouldn’t have fantastic success.  Our risk of another ectopic while higher for the general population is lower for us. Basically my odds of having another ectopic trying naturally at this point are between 1 in 3 up to a 50% chance. However, with IVF we drop to a 1 in 20 chance. We had researched the option of having them remove my remaining fallopian tube before starting IVF. Unfortunately if we jump straight to IVF insurance will not cover the removal of my fallopian tube. But also at the end of the day IVF is expensive. We are on the lower cost end of the scale and he told us to expect between $10-12,000 in costs for the first cycle.  The good news is that he thinks he would be able to harvest enough eggs for at least one (if not more) frozen cycles and those only cost between $2-3,000. Having just signed mortgage papers though both of those figures seem pretty scary right now!

So, Daniel and I have decided to give it another go naturally. We know it is risky, but at this point we don’t feel like we have much to lose. Hopefully, we will succeed in having a healthy uterine pregnancy. If that fails and we do in fact have another ectopic then at least they’ll remove my fallopian tube and we are back to IVF with not much other than time lost. Dr. Bates was supportive of this decision and they will monitor me very closely looking for signs of an ectopic the second we find out we’re pregnant.

These are big decisions. Life changing decisions. But God continues to provide reassurance and comfort. He continues to show us the path forward and give us the confidence we need to get through the journey. And Dr. Bates is on board. He ended the appointment saying “Leave here knowing it’s not if you will get pregnant, but when and how.” Only God knows the answer to that question, but we can’t wait to find out!

Without Fear Of The Future

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Future is a big word; full of hope, possibility, fear, worry, the unknown. If I spend too much time thinking about our future it can consume me, so instead I have to choose daily to focus on the here and now.

Daniel and I went for my follow-up last Thursday and it went about how we expected it would.

The good: My doctor felt confidant that my HCG level will finish going back to normal on its own and released me. So for now, we can get back to normal (or at least our new normal). I will go back next Monday for blood work that will hopefully confirm my HCG level is at zero. She referred us to a fertility specialist Dr. Bates in Birmingham at UAB and we have our first appointment scheduled for June 24th.

The bad: She prepared us for our visit with the specialist and explained what we should expect going forward – IVF.

We were in no way surprised by this news, but that doesn’t make it any less abrasive.  No one expects to go from “let’s make a baby” to “IVF” in six months. We fully plan to discuss all options with the doctor at the end of June and there’s still a chance that he will allow us to try one more time naturally. However, we have full peace and confidence that things will work out the way they are supposed to. We know that He has placed a desire for children in our hearts for a reason. Our future may take a path we did not expect, but we will not let the fear of the unknown stand in the way of the promise that He has given us!

Patience is a virtue, and I don’t have it.

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Patience is something I struggle with, daily.  I want to see where I am heading, know how I’m getting there, and take the quickest path there. However, I am constantly reminded that my timing may not be God’s timing. So I wait.

The last week has been calm and wonderful.  After the great news that I didn’t need a third Methotrexate shot last week we slowly got back into our normal routine. Most notable was that I could finally enjoy a meal that consisted of more than bagels and rice. Woohoo! While I am still on some restrictions (no alcohol, exercise, etc.) we are basically back to normal.

So we headed to Birmingham for the long weekend and spent some long needed time with friends. Let me tell you how nice it was to just relax and enjoy ourselves after the last few weeks. It was also a great reminder of the amazing friends God has surrounded us with who are continuing to pray and support us through this process.

And PROCESS is the key word. Yesterday’s blood work results came back and while they showed progress they weren’t at the ZERO that I wanted to see. They went from 69 last week to 8 today. I know, it’s so close and I should be ecstatic about that, but all I could think about was how it wasn’t at zero and I had prayed so hard for it to be zero. Then I stopped and reminded myself once again that my timing is not HIS timing. And so I wait. Patience.

Thursday Daniel and I will go to a follow-up with my doctor and hopefully get a clearer picture about what the coming weeks will look like. I will then go back next Monday for more blood work to confirm that hopefully my HCG level is finally at a zero.

Patience.

Wonderful Joy Ahead!

Yesterdays blood work came back and the last round of Methotrexate shots seems to be working!  My levels haven’t gone back to normal (0) quit yet, but they are definitely on their way.  We are so thankful for this, since the shots gave me some pretty bad side effects.  The only foods I was really able to tolerate were bagels and rice. Yum. Yum.

I will go back for more blood work next Monday and then a follow up appointment with my doctor next week.

God is good!

Wonderful Things

Someday You Will… (Ectopic Pregnancy Saga, Part 2)

You Do Not Understand

God has a much bigger plan for us than we could ever imagine. It’s this truth that has kept me grounded during the last few weeks. The first ectopic pregnancy was tragic, but I thought it was just a stepping stone on the way to our forever family. I remember all of the people who told me about their ectopic pregnancy, or their friends, or cousins who went on to have healthy pregnancies. This comforted me at the time, but in the back of my mind I wondered if that too would be our story.

I felt relieved when the dye test they performed at the end of March showed no issues or blockages with my remaining Fallopian Tube and we were cleared. My doctor sent us on our way, “Hopefully the next time I see you in a few months you’ll be pregnant!”

We knew it might take longer to conceive this time around since I only had one Fallopian Tube left and while hoping to conceive quickly we were prepared for a longer wait. So a few weeks later when I tested and it came back negative I was not surprised and shortly thereafter my period started right on time. Two days after my period was over I started spotting and immediately thought something was not right. Of course I did what everyone shouldn’t do and Googled possible causes, one of which was an ectopic pregnancy. We decided I would take another pregnancy test just to clear my mind. I took the test fully expecting it to be negative, so what a surprise when it came up positive. I immediately panicked. It’s that moment when all of your fears start coming true and while you want to trust that everything will be okay all you can do is panic.

I went to the doctor’s office that morning for them to draw blood and was told not to worry that they were sure everything would be fine and to wait for them to call with the results. The next morning when they called they said my HCG levels (the level that indicates if you are pregnant) was low, but that it could still be very early and they wanted me to come back in two days for them to recheck things. It came back lower and I was told I was most likely having an early miscarriage.

Now, let me stop here and say that miscarriages are horrible and sad and I don’t wish them on myself or others. And the idea of having one was sad, but in the back of my mind I was just so thankful that it wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy.

The roller coaster of blood work continued for two weeks and then everything changed. This time my HCG levels came back higher, which is a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. An ultrasound and more blood work later, it was confirmed. My doctor wants to do anything possible to save my remaining Fallopian Tube. They started me on Methotrexate shots, which is a chemo drug used to attack/kill off the failed pregnancy tissue. They can give me up to three rounds of shots and unfortunately we are finishing up our second round of shots today. We are waiting for the test results to come back now, which will determine if a third round of shots are needed or not.  I am really hoping that this last round of shots worked, as the medicine has not made me feel good at all! I’ll post later tonight or tomorrow with an update.

It’s hard to see how things will work out when you are in the thick of a bad situation, but Daniel and I just have to keep holding on to the hope He has put in our hearts. We know we are meant to have children and so we will journey on and let Him figure out how we get from here to there.

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I am doing now, but someday you will.” John 13:7

Peace In The Storm (Ectopic Pregnancy Saga, Part 1)

First off, let me say thank you for all of the amazing support everyone has shown us over the last few days. We are beyond grateful for your kind words and prayers. Before next week, when we find out if this current round of shots is working, I thought it would be good to catch everyone up on how we got to this point. So, grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy part 1 of the our “ectopic pregnancy saga”.

We all create mental images of how certain events will play out in our lives; proposals, weddings, finding out you’re expecting. This is natural and expected. One day I’ll share our proposal story with everyone (probably on a day when we all need a good laugh). Since deciding to start trying for our family, I’ve thought a lot about that moment of finding out we’re pregnant. How will I tell Daniel, will I already “know” I’m pregnant before taking the test, how and when will we tell others. So needless to say, that moment did not play out the way I expected it to when in January I find myself on my back in the ER being told “So, did you know you’re pregnant?”.

Let’s back up a little.

It’s December 2014, Daniel and I were getting ready to go visit my family in South Carolina for the holiday.  I had no indications that I was indeed pregnant (no morning sickness, fatigue, anything), but knowing that there would be alcohol involved in our visit I thought it was best to take a pregnancy test anyways.  It was a day before my expected period, but I decided to test anyways instead of doing so after getting up there.  It was negative.  Now I know what some of you are thinking, it could have been a faint line that I didn’t notice.  Trust me, when you want to be pregnant you analyze that little piece of plastic with a magnifying glass.  There was not even a hint of a positive line and the next day my period started on time. Oh well I thought, it can take a few months to conceive.  This was something I was mentally prepared for. So off we go to South Carolina where I enjoy my mimosa over Christmas breakfast.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve.

I’m sitting in a recliner relaxing when our dog Abe decides to jump into the chair with me. Keep in mind he is a 70lb Goldendoodle (see picture) and I am (not disclosing my weight) a petite 4’11” chick.  All this to say, it hurt. He nailed me right in the gut with his back paws on my upper thighs. Later that evening I get what felt like really bad menstrual cramps. I pop an Advil and don’t think too much about it, until I wake up in the morning with even worse cramps and a radiating pain down my right leg. Again, I take some medicine and go back to sleep.  When I wake up again I’m feeling better and am just glad that is over with. I figure Abe got me good..

Daniel & Abe

My amazing husband, Daniel, and our Goldendoodle, Abe.

Fast forward to Monday.

Our church starts our bi-annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting. Daniel and I decided to do a Daniel Fast (this is a real fast not a fast of foods that my Daniel wants to eat, haha!). We started eliminating caffeine and sugar over the weekend and head off to early morning prayer with juice/water in hand. Toward the end of the prayer time I start to feel icky like my stomach is upset, so I excuse myself to the bathroom. But nothing happens except that the cramping gets worse, I start to feel nauseous, and as I’m walking back to find Daniel I felt like I was going to pass out. We head home, I call in sick to work, pop some more medicine and head back to bed. I wake up feeling exhausted, but better for the most part. I decide the caffeine/sugar withdrawal hit me  harder than expected and maybe I was coming down with something, so I drink lots of water, break my fast and eat a can of soup, and take it easy the rest of the day.

Fast forward to Saturday (January 10th)

Daniel’s parents came into town to deliver furniture that his sister and brother-in-law no longer wanted and we gladly took off their hands. During breakfast I once again begin to feel bad and excuse myself to the bathroom. Once again, nothing except that the pain got worse. His mom jokes that maybe I’m pregnant and I assure her I’m not. They are so ready to be grandparents so I didn’t want her to have any false hopes. I pop more medicine, jump under a heating pad and figure it too will pass. They head back home and Daniel heads off to go hunting. Now please know that Daniel asked several times if I wanted him to stay home and I assured him that I was fine. Throughout the day the pain got better and then worse again. Daniel called to say he was on his way back (an hour + drive) and during that time the pain got exceedingly worse. The radiating pain in my leg was back and I was beyond uncomfortable. I called a good friend of mine who’s a pharmacist and he says it’s possibly my appendix and that if it gets worse I should go to the hospital.

By the time Daniel got home I knew something bad was wrong and we decided to go to an urgent care facility that was directly across from the hospital in hopes that we could get in and out quicker than the ER. They too ask if I’m pregnant and I tell them all the reasons why I don’t think I am and they too think it may be my appendix, give me a shot of pain medicine (to keep me comfortable), and send us off to the ER. Let me just say that the shot in the rear I received to “make me comfortable” didn’t do a thing and the pain just got worse as we waited. Finally we made it back to a room to be seen by a doctor and I can almost for certain tell you that when I got up on the gurney that is the exact moment that the rupture occurred. I have never been in that much pain in my life. I sent Daniel to go track down a doctor/nurse/heck anyone at that point to help. A nurse came rushing in, saw me in pain, and rushed out again. Thankfully she returned quickly and hooked up an IV of anti-nausea medicine followed by morphine and then we waited for the medicine to take effect. Three rounds of IV pain meds later I finally, while not pain-free, was comfortable enough to answer questions and be touched.

And then there comes the doctor, “Well the good news is that I don’t think it’s your appendix. So, did you know you’re pregnant.”

That moment I had envisioned of seeing the pregnancy test turn positive and then gleefully telling Daniel he is going to be daddy was gone. Instead, I am drugged up on pain meds and Daniel looks like he’s seen a ghost and there was no joy, no excitement, no yay it happened! Instead, you could almost feel the sadness, the fear, the this can’t be happening to us. But it was. They quickly explained that they thought I was experiencing a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and prepared me for surgery.

But let me tell you, God was there with us.  Amidst the pain and sadness we felt Him working in ways it’s hard to explain. Our nurse had also experienced an ectopic pregnancy and was beyond empathetic and encouraging. The on-call OB-GYN was the doctor I had heard great things about, but was booked up patient wise and I hadn’t been able to get her as a doctor. She was as great as i had been told. I had just switched on to Daniel’s health insurance plan at the beginning of the year and we quickly realized the difference in payment everything was on his plan compared to my old plan with my employer. We would still be paying everything off if the rupture occurred New Year’s Eve. We were beyond grateful that we didn’t know we were pregnant and hadn’t gotten attached to the idea yet. It was little things, but those little things gave us peace in the storm and we were so thankful!

Storm Quote

The beginning of our journey…

Wedding Forehead Kiss_n

I am a planner.  I like to know where I’m going, when, who I’m going with, what I’m doing, etc.  I am not a fan of unexpected change.  Not at all!  So when Daniel and I discussed starting a family, it was well thought out.  We knew when we would start trying and I had done my research about what to expect.  I wanted to know what road lay ahead of us.  We prayed for an easy journey ahead, but I also prepared myself for all of the possibilities that could happen.  Or so I thought.

We are now six months into our journey and are currently in the middle of battling our second ectopic pregnancy.  I do not use the word battle lightly.  Daniel and I have been amazingly blessed.  Our marriage has been easy, amazing, everything we had held out hope for.  We love our life together and do not take it for granted.  So this interruption to our plans is our battle, but we plan to one day hold up the banner of victory!

There was nothing that could have prepared us for the last six months.  While I will save the details for later, our journey so far has gone like this; emergency surgery in January 2015 for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube, conceived again in April 2015 with another ectopic, two rounds of Methotrexate later we are hoping to avoid surgery on my remaining fallopian tube.

Daniel and I have a strong faith and we know that God has a greater plan than we can even imagine, but I will not lie and say this has not been a difficult experience.  There have been a lot of tears shed so far and I’m sure many more to come, but there’s also been an amazing amount of love and support and hope.

The journey awaits us and we are ready for the road ahead. Family, here we come!