Be Still

The D-group bible study I’m a part of is currently reading a book called, Bearing God’s Name, Why Saoni Still Matters. In the first week, one of the corresponding scripture readings was Exodus 14. As a read through it, I was struck by this section of the text: 

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the dessert to die?” I had to chuckle when I read this, because it sounded both over dramatic and yet completely relatable at the same time. While I’ve never been attacked by an Egyptian army or any army for that matter, I can totally understand the heart of where the Israelites were coming from. They were scared, confused and oh so human, just like we still are today. God had literally just freed them from slavery, but they quickly forgot the goodness of His mercy because the couldn’t see what was coming next.

Throughout our infertility journey I have felt similarly.  Scared, confused and wondering what is next.   While part of the infertility battle is physical, it’s the mental battle I struggle to win. I’m often consumed with my thoughts and emotions.  I’m sure I have said a lot of dramatic things to the Lord and to my husband, sounding similar to the Israelites. Things like:

“Why would God give her another baby but not me?”

“Why doesn’t anyone understand what I am going through?”

“Why don’t they ask me how I am doing? Do they not care about me?”

“Am I a bad mom? Is God punishing me by not giving me another child?”

“I am the most selfish person for wanting another child when I already have one beautiful, miracle son when other families have none. I’m wrong to desire another baby.” 

But God. God steps into the lies and says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

Chills. The last line always gives me chills and totally puts me in my place.  I am an action, solution-based person. If there is a problem I want to fix it. Me. On my own. I don’t like to ask for help, I just want to take care of things myself. I’ll gladly help you with your problems, put me in and let me help you fight, but I’ve got my own battles just fine. No. This is control, or a false sense of control anyway. The Lord says to be still. To surrender. I’m continually learning when it comes to stillness. My mind goes 100 miles a minute. Always thinking, planning and preparing and even self-loathing. 

Not only does God want me to be still, but he also deserves the glory. His power, not mine. His saving, not mine. His plans, not mine. So, I’m learning to turn my battles over to Him and trust Him daily. I am learning not to compare my story to others, and enjoy the unique journey God has placed us on.

He will fight for me, I just need to rest in Him and be still.

Our 1 in 8 Story

“Approximately one in eight couples are affected by infertility in the United States. That’s about 6.7 million people each year who have trouble conceiving.”

I’ve never publicly shared our fertility journey. I’m not entirely sure why, other than it’s deeply personal and it’s scary to share something so vulnerable with the world. We have shared with our families and close friends, but never on a public platform. However, to understand the whole story I think it’s important to start from the beginning.

So, here we go. When we first got married, in 2015 we knew we wanted to start a family right away. We both desired to be parents and since we got married in our later 20’s, we were ready. Initially we weren’t too alarmed when we didn’t get pregnant right away, we knew it could take a little time.  After one year of trying we began to get discouraged. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to make sure things were okay. The doctor said, “You and your husband are both young and healthy, I’d like you to give it six more months of trying before we start down the infertility road.”.  So, we waited (even though I wanted answers) and kept on trying. Month after month I was hopeful and then disappointed. Infertility is such a mental battle; the monthly emotional roller coaster is exhausting.

Eventually, my follow up appointment came around. I was scheduled to see the doctor over my spring break, on Wednesday to be specific. Well, the week leading up to the appointment I was feeling really discouraged. I’d taken a pregnancy test earlier in the week and it was negative…but then my period never came. This was also the week of our second wedding anniversary. I remember telling one of my co-workers about it and she said, “Go home and take another test!”.  So that afternoon, 5 days before my scheduled appointment, I reluctantly went home and took yet another test.

This time there was a very, very faint positive line, or at least I thought so. I wanted to be excited, but I was mostly confused. Those tests can be hard to read sometimes! So, I waited and took another one, again a very faint positive line appeared.

I will never forget the excitement yet hesitation I felt. I wanted to tell Clayton in some cute, Pinterest worthy way, but I was too scared I was only imagining the positive line. When he got home from work I showed him the test and he was hopeful yet unsure too. After a trip to Target for the “good test” (you know, the kind that says the word pregnant) we finally believed it was true! 

Clark David was born on November 18th, 2017. Our precious little miracle baby. We were in awe of him and soaked up every moment as new parents. Clayton and I knew we wanted at least one more baby and because we waited longer than we’d anticipated for Clark we decided to start trying again as soon as possible. This was slightly scary with an infant, but we were okay with having babies close together.

**Fun fact, Clayton is an Irish Twin! He and his sister are only 10 months apart! I’m not saying I wanted to keep that trend going, but I would’ve been okay with it, especially if it meant not having to wait again. 

Well, a year went by…we started to wonder. Was this infertility again? Or was it just God’s timing? We also started getting asked when baby number two was coming. Like a lot, which only feed my doubts. We talked about getting testing done, and I did have some basic blood work done (which came back fine), but time just kept moving on. Once we hit the two-year trying mark things really began to shift for me. This was taking longer than it did the first time…people had told me it was easier to get pregnant after your body had already done it once…what was taking so long?

After speaking with my doctor about our fertility struggles, she recommended Clayton get some testing done. So, this past May, he did. We were shocked when results revealed we were suffering with MFI, Male Factor Infertility. I won’t get into all of the details here, but long story short the odds were not good. In fact, one doctor said we had about a 5% chance of getting pregnant when we conceived Clark. *If you have experience with MFI, or are walking through it, I’m happy to answer more questions individually.*

This was a lot to process and honestly led to some of the darkest days of my life.  We were both heartbroken. And I felt very alone. As I was grieving, I was also worried about Clayton’s heart and didn’t want to make him feel worse. But he being the logical one said, “Well, it had to be one of us.”. On top of this news, we were still in the midst of the Covid lockdown when the whole world felt different.

I will also add here that secondary infertility brought with it a whole new group of emotions. I felt guilty, selfish and ungrateful. I felt wrong to desire another child when so many people were still longing for their first. I felt ungrateful for asking God for a second child when I already had the greatest gift in Clark. Honestly, I felt like a spoiled brat.

Thankfully, through some amazing friends and family, I was reminded that God had placed the desire to be a mother on my heart. It was not wrong to desire another child, because God put that yearning in my heart. Clayton and I processed all of this together over the next few months.

As we prayed and sought out our options we both keep coming back to adoption. Most doctors and specialists we saw immediately suggested IVF. We researched and even met with one of the best IVF doctors in the country, he was amazing. However, we just didn’t have peace in proceeding. To be perfectly clear, I am not against IVF in anyway. I think its an amazing way to grow your family and we did consider it. Ultimately, it just wasn’t where the Lord was leading us.

Adoption was something we’d always considered, even before Clark. My best friend is adopted from Honduras and because of our relationship I’ve been in awe of how God works through adoption. I mean, God chose to put her in my home town of Troy, Missouri of all places in the world and I am tremendously blessed by her friendship because of adoption.  We also have a newly adopted baby in the Bass family. My cousin and his wife adopted the sweetest little boy almost 2 years ago. He is such a blessing and brings so much joy to our family. Knowing him and his story added another adoption tug on our hearts.

This past fall we began praying about adoption more frequently. In October, we both set daily prayer reminders on our phones to increase the frequency of our prayers. I also began researching adoption agencies. While we felt the Lord saying yes to adoption, the process itself was very overwhelming to us. I looked into several agencies, but the more I researched the more confused I felt.

Then as I explained in my previous post, embryo adoption came into consideration. As we began researching and praying more, I felt the Lord clearing the way. Where I was confused and overwhelmed before, I felt peace and clarity.

My dad often reminds me to seek the peace of the Lord. This was something he began praying for us when I first expressed our interest in adopting. He kept encouraging me that peace was coming. Not just any peace, but the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Peace like no other.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7

He was right. The peace we have in this decision can only come from the Lord. We will continue to seek and walk in His peace daily. When we have moments of doubt or when questions of the unknowns creep in, we cling to this peace. We hold strong to the promises of His truth. He is the creator of life. He has placed us here in this moment. And He has the perfect plan for our family.

Starting the Journey

January first was extra special for us this year as we officially began the process of embryo adoption with the National Embryo Donation Center. What a way to start off the new year! I had imagined submitting would be a quiet, prayerful moment of Clayton and I sitting at the computer together, both clicking submit together. However, in reality it consisted of Clark climbing on top of me while Land Before Time played in the background (for about the 100th time). But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was real and messy, the beautiful reality of parenting and life in general. 

First, I would like to introduce you to embryo adoption (I’ll explain our journey that led us to adoption in a later post.). Embryo adoption occurs when couples who use In Vitro Fertilization to achieve pregnancy have remaining embryos after their family is complete. One of their options is to donate those embryos to another couple (Sadly the other options are to discard the embryos, donate them to science, or leave them frozen indefinitely.). Embryo adoption allows the couple with remaining embryos to select a family to “gift” the embryos to. The adopting family is then able to use the donated embryos to achieve a pregnancy and give birth to their adopted child. 

When Clayton and I began praying about adoption in general, embryo adoption was not an option we considered because honestly, we didn’t understand it. In fact, when it was mentioned to me early on I said, “Yeah, we won’t do anything weird, we’ll just do a normal adoption.” Now I laugh and roll my eyes at myself for saying that. 

I am so thankful God brought embryo adoption back around to our thoughts and prayers. The second time it came up in conversation I jokingly mentioned something about it to my mom. She said, “Janae, as your mother, I’d love for you to have the opportunity to carry another baby, because I know it’s something you desire.” Again in the moment, I told her, “No, we already decided against that.” However, her words kept coming back to me. Was there an option where I could carry my own adopted child?

Just as only God would do, the next week my mom started seeing articles and news stories about embryo adoption. She sent me one of the news stories and said, “Found this interesting after our talk.” I watched it and my heart began to soften. I spent the next two days researching, praying and trying to understand the process of embryo adoption. 

Once I felt like I had a solid understanding, I knew I had to bring it up to Clayton again. I was nervous because I’d mentioned the idea to him previously, back when I said we’d just do something “normal” and he was also not open to the idea. So I started out the conversation by admitting I didn’t understand what embryo adoption was previously, then I simply started explaining what I’d been researching and learning. It was amazing to see it all clicking for him too. In fact after I’d explained everything, Clayton said, “I hate to do a 180, but now I think this may be the best option for us.” 

With his blessing I began researching even more. Side note, in our relationship I am typically the researcher/gatherer. I need all the information! I like to read, study and research. Clayton is very logical and level headed. So once I’ve gathered the information, I relay it all to him and we decide together. He doesn’t overthink everything like I do. So having his sound mind helps me to clarify my own thoughts and sort it all out. Any other couples like us? Or maybe it’s reversed for others. 

We started praying more than ever. We had already been praying about adopting daily for several months, but now the prayers were focused specifically on embryo adoption. I was actually praying that if this wasn’t God’s will for our family, that as we started sharing the idea with friends and family they would have valid reasons for us to stop pursuing it. I prayed for doors to be opened wide or closed tight. 

Each time we shared the process we got a “yes” answer. Which is amazing to me because most people had never even heard of embryo adoption before! They were all blown away by the process and also saddened by the fact so few people know about it. They also affirmed our thoughts that embryo adoption is a life-honoring, biblically sound opportunity. 

As I continued researching options for Embryo Donation programs, my passion began to grow.  My passion for these tiny frozen lives just waiting for a chance at life. My passion for their biological families, who chose to honor life by offering them for adoption. My passion for couples experiencing infertility and my passion to tell others about these lives just waiting for a chance.  Somewhere along the journey I felt the Lord calling me to share our story. It’s not that I think I’m a talented writer or that I want to be the spokesperson for embryo adoption. It’s simply a passion to educate others and share the hope embryo adoption can give. 

We are just beginning this journey. One that is sure to have its ups and downs. We debated on waiting until after we were pregnant to publicly share our story. And honestly, that feels like the safer option. However, we are choosing to walk in faith. We are choosing to share in the now. We are choosing to trust God in every step of this process and honor Him with the outcome no matter what.