The words of this post have been swirling around in my head for quite sometime now. Even before our sweet boy was born, I wanted to share my thoughts and reflections on pregnancy, but it was too personal an experience to put into words at the time (plus I was tired). But now, while I’m probably even more tired, I feel a stirring within to write, reflect and share my heart.
Carter Evan Schneider was born on March 14th, 2023. My labor was long, slow and full of waiting, much like our journey to get to him, but still so sweet. In the moments before I started to push, I looked up at Clayton and my mom and began to cry. Not because I was afraid of the pain to come, but because of the anticipation I felt to finally meet our child. I was so excited to see him and to hold him. The culmination of years filled with prayer and work. The moment he was finally born and laid on my chest all I could do was weep. I just cried and cried holding our miracle baby. Thinking of how God orchestrated Carter’s life and wove ours together will forever bring me to tears. The faithfulness of God, His love for us and the sovereignty of His plans for our lives now have a permanent reminder in the face of our son.
In February, just a month before Carter’s due date, I found a notebook where I had written a letter to our future baby. Although I didn’t date the letter (I so wish I would have), I do know it was in the summer of 2021. I remember I was having a particularly hard day and feeling discouraged. I went to the park for a few moments alone to process my thoughts and wrote the following letter:
Dear Future Baby,
Hi sweet baby! We love you so much. We don’t know you yet, but we will soon. Right now your daddy, Clark and myself are working and preparing for you. You are already made in the image of God, He loves you so much and has a plan and purpose for your life. We can’t wait to be your parents and love you forever. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the process of meeting you, it’s a lot of work. But I always stop and remind myself how worth it all you will be. You are already a miracle. God is moving heaven and earth to bring you to our family. We love you sweet little one.
On the next page of the notebook I had listed the ways God had already provided through our embryo adoption process. First, he led us to embryo adoption. We know without a doubt this was God’s plan for us, we have so much peace in the way our adoption plans unfolded. I still think it’s amazing that while no one in our inner circle had really ever heard of embryo adoption, they still immediately said yes when we explained it. Next, I listed how God had provided financially. I’m so glad l listed out these specific provisions. I’ve not shared too much about the financial details of this process, but with each transfer the total cost just kept going up. From the actual cost of 3 transfers to all my medications, doctors appointments and more, I’d say all in our total was around $25,000.00 (at some point after 20 grand I kinda stopped counting). Well thanks to Covid (there’s something you don’t hear often), we were able to put our stimulus money towards the costs. We also used every penny our of tax returns. We raised another $1,000 through a garage sale. Plus, a couple of my family members were generous in supporting us. All that to say, we knew God would provide a way. Although our savings account took quite the hit, it’s just money. We can always earn more and we can’t take it with us anyway. There is no price too great when I look at sweet Carter’s face and there’s no better way I can think of to spend our money.
To those who know someone walking through infertility, and that’s pretty much everyone reading this because infertility affects so many. It can be hard to know how to support your loved ones so I have a few pointers. First, be gentle when asking couples when they are going to have kids. In my opinion, if you know a couple who have been married for a few years without children, especially if they are in their mid to late 20’s, consider not asking them at all. Or if you do ask, find a private moment and ask with tenderness and love. I am already getting comments and questions on when we’ll have our “next baby” or how “next time you need a girl!” And this is even after publicly sharing our story. Just because someone has one baby doesn’t mean they are guaranteed another. So also use caution when asking, “when will you give them a sibling?”
If someone has confided in you by sharing their struggle, check on them. This is especially important on special occasions and holidays. Let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them. Ask if they need anything or have any specific prayer requests. If you know a couple pursuing IVF or adoption of any kind, ask them how the process is going. Some people choose to keep things more private and that’s totally okay, but I know I appreciated when genuinely asked how things were going. Also, don’t forget about the husbands. Men typically don’t enjoy taking about the struggles of infertility, Clayton definitely doesn’t, but it’s important they are supported too.
Remember that infertility is a medical diagnosis. You can’t simply “relax” and hope it will go away. Just because you know someone who said as soon as they “stopped trying” they got pregnant, doesn’t mean that will happen for everyone. Be careful with the advice you give, it may actually be best to not give advice especially when unsolicited.
Lastly, don’t judge someone else’s choices. If a couple announces their adoption plans, cheer them on. If a couple says they are trying IVF, cheer them on. When your friend says they are adopting frozen embryos (even if you don’t fully understand what this means), cheer them on. Don’t judge them for their choices. Don’t say hurtful comments behind their back. Cheer them on. Be thankful you don’t fully understand their situation and simply support them.
To anyone battling infertility, you are seen. I’m so sorry for the pain that longing for a child brings you. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair. It’s a pain like no other to be let down month after month, then to pick yourself up and try again. It’s a battle for only the toughest of couples. You are stronger than you know. Infertility is not a punishment for something you have done, God has not abandoned you (although the devil tried to convince me of this many times). I would encourage you to find a few trustworthy friends to walk closely with you. When it may seem easier to retreat, let others support you. People will often say the wrong thing (or nothing at all out of fear of saying something hurtful), most of the time it doesn’t come for a malicious place. It’s a lack of education or understanding. That doesn’t mean the words don’t hurt, I have been easily offended more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve learned grace needs to be extended both ways. Everyone’s journey is different and will take its own twist and turns. During the hard moments, find small things that bring you joy. Maybe it’s coffee with a friend, journaling your thoughts and frustrations, or decorating for Christmas early (this is what we did after our first transfer ended in miscarriage). Find something just for you that makes you feel a glimmer of hope again. You are never alone.
To our donor family. Thank you for choosing life. While we do not know you and may never have the chance to tell you personally, we are beyond grateful for your generous decision to save Carter’s life and share him with another family. He’s perfect. It’s not lost on us that you’ve been through your own battle with infertility which lead to IVF. I can only imagine what your story may have been and I’m positive the choice to donate your remaining embryos was a weighty one. But a choice made from the deepest place of love. We are honored to carry out your choice to love this sweet baby. We promise to always give Carter the best of us. To love him, teach him to be kind and work hard. To raise him in a Godly home where he knows the love of Jesus. He will know his story and we will only speak of you with the highest respect and gratitude.
To our friends and family who have walked this road so closely beside us, thank you. I wish there was a stronger word to convey our gratitude. From prayers and encouraging words, to sending me band-aids, icepacks and chocolates to get me through so many shots, you have loved us well. You’ve sat with me while I cried over devastating losses and cheered with us during celebrations. It’s been the sweetest joy to place Carter in the arms of the people who prayed him to us. We love you all.
If I were to sum up our journey of infertility and embryo adoption in one word I think I would choose humbling. Humbling because no matter how much I tried to control the outcome of getting pregnant (either on or own or through embryo adoption) I ultimately had no power. Humbling because we had to ask for help and rely on others. I’m an enneagram 2, I’m the helper, I’m often prideful and don’t like asking for help. Humbling because our plans and timing had to be surrendered to God over and again. Humbling because I was able to carry and give birth to our adopted child. Humbling because while I think I know best, God has gently reminded me His plans are higher than mine.
New International Version
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
To close out this post, I’m sharing a few of our memories along the way. Each picture a reminder of our steps along the way.