A Father’s Thoughts

It was the kind of news that is etched into your memory forever. Like watching your child being born, except the complete opposite of emotions.  Perhaps it is more like remembering where you were and what you were doing when the attacks on 9/11 happened.  Because that’s what it felt like, and that’s what it was, an attack.

An attack on our 4-day old daughter’s health and future.  An attack on my wife and I and the joy we had waited four long years to be a part of.

And there was nothing I could do…

It was a normal sunny Saturday afternoon to the rest of the world. But for us, this was our first Saturday with our new daughter.  And this was her first Saturday, ever.

There had been a lot of firsts for me that amazing week.  First time watching a childbirth; first time cutting an umbilical cord; first time laying my eyes on my new daughter; first time changing a diaper; first time feeding a baby…first time after first time, but mainly, our first child had arrived as promised for our adoption.

Promised not only by the birthmother that had selected Anne-Marie and I from hundreds of other prospective parents, but a child that had been promised by God.  The path to this promise wasn’t exactly how Anne-Marie and I had pictured years ago when we first started dreaming of starting a family, but it was exactly how God had planned it all along.

Finding that path wasn’t easy. Following that path wasn’t easy. But for some reason, I thought that path would eventually begin to ease. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

That Saturday afternoon, my wife received a text from our daughter’s birthmother.  The message was vague, but said enough to make the both of us start to worry.

“Doctor called about baby…worried about some test results…his #…please call me”

Questions immediately began to swirl in my mind, and I’m certain my wife’s. What doctor? Why did they call her? What tests were we waiting for results on? What could be wrong from those tests? Why would we call you (the birthmother) when we have the doctor’s number?

Anne-Marie immediately dialed the doctor’s phone number as she walked into another room as I stayed to watch our daughter meet her grandmother for the first time. There was so much joy in the room that I stayed behind in, but I could tell that the joy was being sucked out of the room my wife had gone into as she spoke with the doctor and his nurses.

Why did I stay behind?  I need to be with my wife. She needs me to be there by her side. My daughter needs me to be there by my wife’s side and not next to her, even if Reagan doesn’t know it yet.

I left the calmness and joy of my daughter, and began to walk into the next room.  There was heaviness in the air as I walked closer to my wife as she furiously took notes on whatever the person she was speaking to was saying.  She glanced at me as I was trying to read the notes she was taking. The glance said it all, something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t right with our daughter.

A cry from our daughter came from the other room, and I looked back. Everything was ok there, but it wasn’t where I stood. I began to wonder, what could be wrong? How serious is this? She had just been tested the previous day for a heart murmur that had been cleared. Her EKG and echocardiogram both showed everything was ok. What more could there be?

Never ask that question.  Whether it’s good or bad, there can always be more.

When her conversation finished and Anne-Marie had hung up the phone, she began to explain to me what the doctors had told her.  She did a great job trying to relay the information she had just been told back to me, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. It wasn’t because she was speaking unclearly or hadn’t taken good enough notes, but to me what she was saying all sounded like a foreign language.

The news was that my new 4-day old perfect daughter had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Glutaric Acidemia Type 1.  After Anne-Marie explained the basics of the science behind the disorder, she then began to speak about the risks and possible outcomes.

I was…

Terrified.  Easily the most frightened I had been up unto that point in life.

Angry.  How could this happen?  To us?  To her?  After all my wife and I had been through up unto this point, why? Why, why, WHY?

Sad.

I still am.

I’m actually still all three.

Lean not on your own understanding

After putting our adoption story out there for the world, as well as our daughter’s diagnosis of GA-1, we received tons of emails, texts and phone calls.  The outpouring of love was amazing and Rob and I were truly touched by it all.

So many people had those initial feelings that Rob and I did of, “this is not fair” and “why is this happening to you guys after all you’ve been through?” Rob and I put the video and blog out when we were ready…I told him, “we’re going to end up consoling people b/c they are going to have the same feelings we had initially…” b/c it’s a shock. However, there were more sentiments of “you guys are so faithful…what a testimony, God is using you, we are blessed to call you friends, we can’t wait to see Reagan’s story unfold.”

I definitely feel like God is using us…I don’t know quite in what way (lean not on your own understanding), but I get that he’s handpicked Reagan and us for something special. Rob and I were talking, and we agreed that it’s weird for people to call us faithful.  Many times in the past few weeks, we’ve felt totally faithless.

For instance, sometimes I want Reagan to be two years old…b/c if you can get through the first two years without any major health scares with this disorder, it’s a huge hurdle overcome, reason being is that in the first two years, there’s so much development happening cognitively as well as physically, emotionally, and socially.

And then I want Reagan to be five or six and starting school.  B/c once you’re that age, you will have a better idea what, if any effects, the disorder will or has had.  By school age, the culmination of her social and motor skills, and all skills needed to attend school will be present.  We’ll be able to see our deck of cards more clearly.

I’ve also caught myself looking online at stories from families who have a child with this disorder and it makes me so upset.  While most children can fight an ear infection, cold, virus or fever on their own…they can spell disaster for Reagan.  The reason we have to be vigilant at the first sign of sickness is b/c when you get sick, your body starts to break down proteins…well, she can’t break them down like everyone else and instead, acid will begin to build up and it can attack the brain.  Everyone’s story is different and Rob reminds me that the stories I read online are not our story…we only have Reagan’s story and it’s still unfolding.

But what is her story? What is the outcome? I want to know.

The video I made was done with the purpose to tell the beginning of her story, but it’s also to remind me of those verses, it’s just as helpful for me to watch it…it’s like my very own pep talk to myself.

Even though I want a full disclosure from God and I want it now, I’m not going to get it.  I can’t control everything…a life lesson I am learning at every corner.  Only God is in control of her story, and I pray that her story is a beacon of light.

A little secret I’ll share with you…during the first two weeks Reagan was home, when we kept this diagnosis close to the vest, several things happened. Our photographer posted online about a local family in Central Florida who went in for a 36-week ultrasound, and the heartbeat was gone.  I couldn’t even imagine.  The day we arrived at the hospital for Reagan’s birth, I had so much anticipation for the monitors to be hooked up to our birthmom.  I’d never heard Reagan’s heartbeat, until the day she was born.  It was such a HUGE relief, and an even bigger relief when she cried.  She was carried nine months in the womb of a stranger whose world God selected to collide with ours.

Not only did I read this woman’s blog of her infant loss, I’d heard of another woman that gave birth at a local hospital whose baby never took a breath.  Heartbreaking, again.

But, there’s a third story; from a friend of mine I went to college with. She entered my life for only a season and made a HUGE impact on my life back in 2001.  She is one of the few people that God used to totally change the trajectory of my life. I can think of a handful of people that God placed around me in college to pull me close to him and draw me away from the life I was living.

My friend was nine months pregnant and I remember looking at her FB page and seeing all the encouraging posts, “we can’t wait until she gets here!” and “you’re doing great!”…

A few days go by, and I go back to check her page out and it is filled with condolences; she lost the baby.  She gave birth at home to a 10 lb baby, but the baby wasn’t breathing.  My friend had also lost a lot of blood and both mom and baby were rushed to the hospital.  The baby never made it.

How could this happen three times in the course of two weeks and I hear about each of these stories?  In those first raw moments of digesting Reagan’s diagnosis and going through emotions I never thought existed, I would see these stories on social media (among other stories of suffering from people I don’t know that would, seemingly randomly, appear on my wall).  Seeing other people’s suffering and comparing it to mine, I felt like our deck of cards was not so bad.

But why did I need to compare our deck to someone else’s?

What I began to realize in those first two weeks is that we all have suffering…that’s part of the deal when you’re on this side of Heaven.  We live in an imperfect world.  Instead of worrying about “what are people going to think” I just started to lean on God…not on my own understanding.  What else can you do when you can’t understand the plan?  It’s not my plan, it’s God’s plan, and I’m just walking along.

I know that might be construed as faithfulness, but like I said, there were times I just wanted to fast forward to the future, or hit the rewind button b/c I felt like we were living a nightmare. When I look online at other stories from children with GA-1, those nightmare feelings re-surface…I have fear, so much fear for the future.  And then I remember that FEAR is a LIAR.

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
Isaiah 41:13
“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’

Instead of giving in to the fear, Rob and I make conscious decisions to enjoy what God has given and blessed us with, right now. Even though I want glimpses of the future, I want to enjoy and savor this stage.  It’s a dichotomy.  She’s the cutest teeniest tiny baby…and I know this stage goes by so fast and everyone says to savor it, so we are.  We love those big eyes looking right up at ours when we feed her and change her…and we love watching her sleep…and in the light of day, we even love the midnight feedings, or 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. (aren’t you full yet?) feedings.

We both try not to think about the disorder and I feel like we’re getting into our groove as parents.  I say that as if we’re pros…we’re just a month in.

Rob and I truly appreciate your prayers, texts, calls, FB messages, etc.  We are taking things one day at a time…one test result to the next and trying to rely on God for each moment.

*Praise Report – Reagan’s first test results came back after being on the diet and her Lysine levels were low.  This is good, they prefer them to be low vs. high…but b/c they are low, the dietician is upping her protein intake.  It’s way too early to say, but maybe Reagan will be more tolerant of proteins as she gets older.  In addition, ALL of her amino acid levels were perfect!

Trey and Rachel

20120418-084106

Trey and Rachel just had a baby. His name is Everett and I saw a picture of him on FB today. It made me so happy and giddy for them. You might be questioning whether I’m truly happy for them, given our infertility struggle…and let me tell you why my heart is overjoyed for this particular couple.

Rachel is one of the best friends I’ve ever had, if not THE best. During the last three years, Rachel has sought me out to talk with me, journey with me, cry with me, laugh with me and help me sort through things in my journey. We have had countless white mocha lattes at the Barnies which is a stones throw from each of our houses. We have cried in Barnies, laughed…gotten to know this super adorable Barista,and talked about everything going on in our lives. She watched me go through fertility treatments, and gave me shots monthly. Rachel is a nurse and I trusted her to stick a needle in me. We joked that she would be integral in helping me get pregnant. I cried when she had a miscarriage, and she cried with me every month I got a negative pregnancy test. One month, the drugs were affecting me so negatively that I couldn’t stop crying. She was so concerned that she drove over with makeup only on half her face and she cried with me. My pregnant friend, put her joy aside and got down in the dirt and muck and mire of my life and cried with me.

Rachel has journeyed with me.

I remember when her and Trey and Rob and I got together for yogurt one night by our house. They told us Rachel was pregnant and I was so happy for her. They told us immediately, as in the day after she took a test. I remember everything about that. They were gentle in bringing the news to us, because they knew. They had watched us ache and cry for our own baby. And I cried on the way home that night, but I felt blessed to journey with Rachel too.

Yesterday, Rachel and I were texting. I texted her this on my way to work.

Rachel Text 1

A few hours later Rachel let me know she might be in labor.

Rachel text 2

On my way home I actually stopped by Trey and Rachel’s house. She was having contractions and in pain, and Trey was getting things together. I will be forever grateful for this 15 minute glimpse into what it’s like to start the labor process. Because, it might be the closest I ever come to experiencing something like that. A few gems from being a fly on the wall in their house was Rachel calling Trey an idiot for something…we joked that he would have a lot more of that to look forward to when Rachel was giving birth. But my favorite thing that was said came from Trey:

Trey: “Rachel, I think if you just rest the contractions will go away”
Me: “I’m pretty sure that once the contractions are 4 minutes apart, it’s go time. I don’t think they’re going to stop.”
Trey: [shoulder shrug] says something to the effect of he is new at this whole thing
Rachel: [logging contractions on an iPhone app] “Trey was this app free?”
Trey: “no”
Rachel: “why did you pay for an app?”
Trey: “This is serious! We’re having a baby. I think we can pay for an app”
Rachel: “Yeah…ok” [chuckles…has another contraction]

Wow. I can’t believe I was a part of that. I left and told them I felt blessed to be a part of their journey…but this was a special time for them and I needed to bow out.

Rachel text 3

I loved every update. I loved waking up to a text from Rachel from 2:24 a.m.

Rachel text 4

I love this couple. And Rachel…she is the definition of friendship. Taking the time to be sensitive to an infertile friend and to journey with them, I imagine might be tough. It’s rocky. But Rachel has been a rock. She has always been there for me. So yes, I am genuinely thrilled for her and Trey…and I’m heading to the hospital as soon as I can!

Moving on

After three or so years to try and have a baby, we’ve decided to pursue adoption. We asked ourselves, “do we want to be parents, or just try to get pregnant.” The answer to us was clear…we want to be parents. Here’s how we came to that decision…

The doors to seeking fertility treatment just seemed to be closing. We did a total of 15 rounds with our fertility clinic. It started about two years ago with medications of letrizol at two different doses for several rounds as well as an ovidrel shot. After six or seven rounds of this, which included about 2-3 appts each month we decided to stop. We put our fertility treatment on hold for about 18 months, and then began again with a different doctor at the same clinic. We did clomid, 3 shots of follistim and ovidrel, and I also took a steroid every day during the duration of treatment b/c it was supposed to aid in getting pregnant based on their research. We did five IUI’s and I even had a surgery to widen my cervix. Even still, when all the tests looked good, when the follicles and sperm analysis were the best possible results, pregnancy never came about. A positive result was never seen. I realized that even if we did want to go through IVF, God would decide whether we became pregnant, not the doctors. So if it hasn’t happened up to this point, why do I think I could alter God’s plans through IVF. I want to say that ethically and morally we are ok with IVF within certain guidelines and would not judge someone for proceeding with IVF to build their family.

We discussed how proceeding with IVF might look like. You might have up to 60 shots in one month, you have a surgery to retrieve the eggs, and the raging emotions I felt while on a much more mild treatment path, made me not want to experience more intense mood swings, emotions, physical discomfort and cryfests. What fertility treatments do to your body should not be overlooked. Watching Guilianna Rancic’s struggle to get pregnant really hits home with me. And b/c IVF makes your hormones go crazy, you allow your health to be at risk, in her case, the drugs activated the cells in her body and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer runs in my family on both sides. It’s just not worth it to me to pursue IVF when the cons outweigh the pros. The pro is, you may get pregnant and can have a biological child (something people take for granted). The cons are added emotional, mental and physical stress, not to mention the financial cost, plus potential for constant disappointment, which I’d had enough of. I was done and wanted to move on.

Adoption is something you have to warm up to, in my opinion. You have to make a conscious decision to care for a child, not of you physically. But adoption is also a beautiful way to parenthood and something I believe you are called to. Adoption is not for everyone, but hopefully it is for us and we are chosen to parent beautiful children through it. We both want to be parents, and I’m excited, hopeful and optimistic about achieving that through adoption.

God’s command to us

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple.[b] Of David. 

Psalm 30 – God shows his character in an unbelievable way in Psalm 30.  He comes to the rescue…He heals you, spares you, saves you.  And his one request, that we sing praises.  Sometimes it feels like we are in the muck and mire of life…and we are quickly sinking. The last thing I want to do so often, is ask God to help me…to thank Him for everything He’s done for me.  But, have I not already learned that God has a perfect track record?  He’s always provided for me, cared for me, and lifted me up before.  Would He not do it again?  Read Psalm 30 and see for yourself.

1 I will exalt you, LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 LORD my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; 
   praise his holy name. 
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 LORD, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;
LORD, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Linsanity

linsanity

Someone posted this article on facebook and I thought how appropriate for all Christians  to hear and read.

God created us to live with a single passion to
joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.

 No matter what you’re going through…you are supposed to live with passion and joy for God.  That is incredibly hard sometimes, maybe even all the time.  I often feel like I don’t deserve to be going through infertility…I don’t understand what God is trying to teach me.  Maybe one day I’ll know, and maybe I’ll never know until I reach Heaven.  But what is clear, is that I should be joyful in it, through it and after I’m out of it.

Through these last three years, I’ve had my ups and downs with God.  But most recently, I’ve just been pissed at Him.  Like a kid who can’t get their way, I stomp my feet, throw temper tantrums when no one is around and shake my fist.  Begging, please please please, can you please give us children?!  If I were to imagine how an earthly parent would react to a request from their child of this nature, I can see why the parent would say no.  And as my tantrums with God don’t seem to be working…I’m going to have to try this joyful approach.  I’m going to have to sit quiet and listen to what He’s trying to teach me.  I don’t want to…but if I don’t, then I might miss out on something great.

A thousand years…

I created this video because I love this song and would always think…I feel like I’ve loved this child to be for a thousand years.  As I started writing the words in the video…it made me realize that the love Rob and I have for each other also feels like we’ve loved each other for a thousand years.  And God…well, he has loved us since the beginning of time.

Real love is loving the other person through their mess and imperfection.  That’s why Jesus was such an amazing example for what true love is.  Even while people were hating him, he died for them.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video.

Two and a half years ago

Two and a half years ago I thought being pregnant was the only thing that mattered. I was consumed by it. It also didn’t help that I watched over 50 COUPLES get pregnant and announce it on Facebook…but who’s counting. I ask myself how come 100 people were able to become parents, but not us?

Let’s back up though. How did we get to two and a half years later? Well, in Jan/Feb 2009, Rob and I thought it would be a good time to start our family. After 6 months, of negative pregnancy tests, I thought something might be wrong. We decided that if after a year of trying, we hadn’t conceived, we would go to a fertility clinic.

Cue February 2010 and our first visit to a local fertility clinic. We had a myriad of invasive tests and questions we had to face. Six months of appointments, drugs, the last month which included an injection in my tummy…we still got a big fat negative.

The cost of treatment was getting to be too much, not to mention the emotional, physical and mental drain on your body. Infertility can be used by Satan as a foothold to get between you and your spouse. Rob and I have been completely open about this with one another and our close friends. When you’re both striving for something whole heartedly and it doesn’t happen you can get disillusioned and it causes you to have some serious introspection. “Why doesn’t God want to bless me in this way? How come all our friends are pregnant? Why do I feel like no one cares?”

If you’ve never had to go through something like this, it’s hard to really understand how it feels. Resolve, the National Infertility Association, compares the struggle of infertility to that of a cancer patient. You deal with the loss of self esteem, loss of security, loss of control, loss of anticipation–after so many negative results you just start losing hope. The biggest that goes unnoticed to “outsiders” is the loss of someone. Every month that is not a success, its like mourning a death…and then you have the loss of health/body image because you weren’t able to produce a life. All of these emotions can wreak havoc on a relationship. And I believe–I truly believe, Satan loves to use this struggle to come between husband and wife. You feel inadequate and the quiet whispers of “God must be punishing you…you’re not a real man or woman…your name won’t live on,” well, that can bring you down quite a bit.

So at the kitchen counter in July 2010, we looked at the monetary costs of another round of treatment…$2,000. (Did I mention insurance covers zero)? We discussed our emotions and we affirmed that NOTHING was more important than our relationship with each other and with God. And that this struggle was getting a foothold in our lives and that needed to stop. I cried all weekend, but I knew it was the right decision. So from July 2010 to September 2011 we didn’t do any fertility treatments. I had some acupuncture and did yoga for stress relief, but we put our biggest desire on hold for more than a year as we tried to sort though what God was trying to teach us.