When Grief is Sharp

We just got home from a lovely Christmas dinner with some friends from church and I cried all the way home. The overall night was so pleasant and charming, and to the outside world, nothing was wrong. All was well. But my heart was breaking and by the end of the meal, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Throughout the night, there were many jokes about having young children and the many stresses that brings. At the end of the evening, the couples were sharing their year’s biggest lessons, whether from marriage or having new children. This makes sense to have a “year in review” of sorts, as we’re coming to the new year. It’s a good time to reflect on what God has taught us this past year. But as many of the couples have had new babies this past year, it felt like everything asked about or talked about was having children. My husband and I haven’t been able to conceive for several years, so by the end of the dinner, I was shutting down. The whole night I’d been cheerful and happy, and while I can usually take a handful of remarks about kids, this was becoming too much. As we were asked the awkward question of a very generalized, “What have you two learned this year?”, my husband answered with good insights while I sat there with tears welling in my eyes. I was desperately praying that God would reach down and not allow them to spill over in front of everyone, which I knew would make everyone uncomfortable and sad. It was no one’s fault. This was just life – right?

As other couples noticed the time and had to get back for the babysitter, I took the opportunity to also grab my coat, plaster on a smile and say my thanks for a lovely evening – and get the heck out of there. Hubby was gentle on the way home and asked if I was okay and I didn’t even know what to say. I wept all the way home. Just silent tears, streaming down my makeup’d face, at the fresh pain of this salt in my wound. Here’s the thing: I understand that there will always be new babies to celebrate over and these little faces bring my heart such joy. And they also bring such a sharp grief, it can sometimes take my breath away. I can absolutely feel the happiness of another woman’s new child at the exact same time that I feel my heart break just a little more. It IS possible to feel these two, seemingly opposite emotions at the exact same time, and both be fully genuine. I think we expect ourselves to feel one or the other, but never both at the same time. Or that feeling that joy should somehow pardon the grief, which doesn’t always happen. The longer I live, the more I realize how very multifaceted we really are and that our emotions don’t always fit neatly into one box or another. Sometimes it’s messy in here. Sometimes we’re complicated and our emotions will be in two places at the same time. And that’s okay. It doesn’t diminish the validity of my heart feeling joy for another, simply because I feel the sting of pain for myself.

Here’s where I’m having a little more trouble, and here is where I’m putting out a call to anyone who has ever met someone who was hurting. Have some compassion – and then have a little more. Be loving, and then extend that love just a little further. And be brave. Be bold enough to get your hands dirty, to sit down in the muck and mire with the person in their grief. Instead of trying to fix it and make it better, just listen and BE. You don’t need to have the answers. God already does. But you do need to be His ambassador of gentleness and compassion when another person is hurting. This is what we are called to. I found it painful to be sitting there at a friend’s table listening to others groan about the trials of childrearing, going on and on about how they would be happy to give someone else their kids, while my husband and I are praying and trying every single month for that privilege. This is the confusing part, because on the one hand, I know that these couples genuinely love their children, but they also get stressed out and overwhelmed with them. That’s okay and it’s so normal. It’s also okay that we’re not all in the same life stage right now and I truly want to hear about other people’s worlds and what they’re learning. But then there’s the other side of this, where I feel like sometimes a little bit of tact and carefulness is lacking. If someone at that table tonight had just lost a child, would everyone have felt so comfortable to be laughing about their frustrations with their kids? Or would they have been just a little more tactful with their words? Maybe they would have paused for a moment more, to reflect on the fact that kids are NOT a given and they are NOT an expectation. Stressful and wearying as they may be, they are a precious gift from the Lord.

I doubt the jokes would have gone on as long, because in this scenario, people would have been more careful about the couple who had lost this imaginary child. But here’s the thing – every single month, it feels like a loss to me. No, I don’t have a funeral or a memorial service for this kind of grief. I don’t bury a box with my beloved child. This version of grief is so much more invisible than that and 99% of the time, no one ever sees it. This isn’t a scarred face or a wheelchaired body that advertises it’s pain and suffering. This is the silent, lonely, sometimes shameful version of grief. This is the kind where you wonder if you sinned long ago and never remembered to square it with God. Or if this is a kind of punishment because of how you treated someone once upon a time. This is where you wonder if it’s all YOUR fault. This is where my husband wonders if it’s all HIS fault. This is the timed, not-always-sexy-sex that you make sure to have every other day, just in case. This is where you overanalyze every single twinge and tweak of your body, wondering, “was that a clue?”. And when that month is over and you feel those cramps begin and the flow comes, you feel that little hope die all over again for another lost chance. No carrying on the family name, no little ones in oversized T-shirts to read stories to before bed. No baking Christmas cookies with the tiny faces that look like yours, while they make a mess of the powdered sugar and sprinkles. This is the hard part, because this what no one sees.

So when I put out a call for compassion, this is why. I don’t enjoy going on about my grief and I don’t much enjoy exposing my pain when it’s one of the most intimate, personal sides of myself and my husband. But I also understand that this is so often overlooked and misunderstood. Not intentionally and not because people don’t care; more often, it’s because people simply don’t know what to say or do. But if we’re meant to express love the way Jesus did, let’s consider what he did while he lived here among us. For just a short 33 years, Jesus walked as a man on this earth, probably stubbing his toe and hitting his thumb with a hammer as he learned carpentry from his father Joseph. We know he experienced heartbreak from his own family not understanding him and from his own people rejecting him. We know that he wept and he cried so hard over his love for us, that he bled. We know he experienced pain and grief. Yet as far as we can tell, Jesus never had cancer. He never buried his own child. He didn’t lose his wife. There were some very specific forms of grief that Jesus didn’t walk through himself – and yet, I imagine that he had such deep compassion on those who did suffer those things. There are many verses speaking to Jesus’ compassion – for the blind man that he healed, for the daughter that had died and he raised back from the dead. He was a tender man with a deep love and even without experiencing every single form of grief himself, he understood what pain felt like. He was there with people in it and he loved them and had compassion on them while they suffered.

There are silent sufferers out there, friends. There are people, like my husband and myself, who are in some silent grief that you may not be able to see. It may not be obvious to the outside world like a cast on a broken leg, but I can assure you, it needs just as much tender care. We are called to “love one another” as our very greatest calling. This doesn’t just mean when it suits us or when it’s convenient for us. This doesn’t only mean to be loving when we understand where the other person is coming from. This is the kind of love that needs to get messy and not be afraid. This is the kind where you sit with a friend and say nothing at all in the midst of that uncomfortable, awkward space where grief settles. Just let it be. Just sit down and shake hands with it and let it be for a minute. Don’t rush to the answer, don’t try to slap on a quick-fix churchy answer of what sounds right. There will be time enough for all those conversations. They’re good conversations to have, but they’re not the only kind necessary when someone is hurting. We could all use a little more compassion in this world and during the Holiday season, grief is often made sharper because people are missing loved ones or struggling with pain we don’t see. Grief is more pointed now because the joy of this season is so highlighted and paints everything in swirling colors and ribbons. That joy is valid and wonderful, but for some, it makes their heartbreak feel all the more lonely. Give a little more of yourself to someone hurting this season and make sure they know you’re there all the way. This will truly be a gift and a heartfelt investment in the people you’re called to love.

           ** Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. **


Christmas for Two


Photo via Alisa Anton / Unsplash

This Christmas season has been a little bit all over the place emotionally. For the most part, I’ve felt positive and very grateful for the many blessings God has given me – a loving husband, family that we both love, a warm home, my health, and too many other blessings to count. These things may be more than I can count, but every single day they are on my mind. I cling to the blessings of this past year as a kind of anchor and as a healthy reality check. I need to be intentional to remind myself of all the myriad ways that my God loves me – in big ways, in little ways, and in the everyday ways that are too easy to overlook. I have to keep myself grounded in gratitude. Otherwise, I know I could be consumed (easily and oh-so-humanly) by the thoughts of children, the prayers for children, and the trying to analyze every little twinge of my body in light of trying for children. It would be too much to allow this one hope to infiltrate every other area of life, so I continue to press back at that hope with a sort of gritted teeth of thanks. I know that sounds strange and not very pleasant. But sometimes that’s how it feels.

When I was a child, I imagined the children in my future. There were always several children in my mental picture, not just one. But then real life happened and things never quite went the way I anticipated. At the age of 21, I got sudden and severe Lyme disease and for the next 14 years, I was bedridden and in a wheelchair. There weren’t too many hospitals that I didn’t see the inside of, usually because of a seizure that wouldn’t stop of excruciating pain with no known cause. I know not many people experience Lyme disease in the more extreme way that I did, but this is just how my body was fighting itself. It was a long, painful, lonely road –  and so much waiting…. just waiting for a day to walk again, to feel pain from working out, not just lying around. To be normal again and try to recapture some – or all – of life. Fast forward to my mid-thirties, when a true miracle happened and I finally got proper treatment for the Lyme. My health was restored and for the past several years, I have been able to work again, exercise, walk and be healthy again. I do not take one single day for granted. I know what it is like to be “without” – without the basic and core health that gets you through your everyday tasks, stresses and joys.

God brought a dear and beautiful man into my life who is full of heart and love. I married him at the youthful age of 35 and we just celebrated our third anniversary. We’ve fought through a lot, we’ve had adventures and we’ve laughed a ton. I’m so blessed to have a companion in life now. It wasn’t so long ago that it was mostly just me on my own road with the Lord. “It’s just you and me, kid”, came to mind frequently throughout my life, as if God were saying that to me in lonely times. And yet He loved me enough to expand His love into a husband who chose to share my life. It’s awesome and I’m so grateful. But now I’ve come to a place where I wonder if that childhood imagination of little ones just will not happen. Is doubt wrong? Does doubt make me less faithful in the God who healed me? I struggle with this, because I’m reminded daily of the true Healer and my Father who adores me. Am I missing something? I’ve been checked out by doctors and so has Hubby and from all the results, we’re both fertile and healthy. So what is standing in the way of Baby? Has my body just been through far too much stress to be capable of creating a new life? Am I more worn out inside than I’m even aware? Is there anything I can actively do to help myself and thus, help our baby dreams?

This is the part I struggle with – where do you acknowledge your own responsibilities in then bigger plan , and then where do you simple understand that you’re meant to continue waiting for God? I read an article recently that mentioned being an active participant while you wait, and I totally agree with this. I’m not one to sit around and bemoan my circumstance while doing nothing to better it, if I’m given the choice. I’ll always choose to better myself or push myself harder. If anything, I tend to work too hard, try too hard. And then I feel like I’ve failed when that effort doesn’t yield positive results. And guess what? I can’t “make” a baby, in the sense of creating a whole new living soul. That’s just never going to be on my resume – it’s only ever going to come directly and only from God. So where is the line of what is my part and what is God’s? Or is it less clearly divided than that? Maybe instead of either/or, it’s more about an intertwined joint effort. Maybe my participation looks like me doing everything that I can to be the most healthy version of myself that I can, and then just maintaining a prayerful posture about the rest of it. Maybe it looks like God coming alongside me during this wait, teaching me important lessons along the way. And maybe it’s about me coming alongside Him, being open to waiting some more, being patient and learning the lessons He has for me. There is so much to learn during this wait, but I’ll be honest that it’s not always easy.

2016 has been the “year of the baby”, as far as most of my friends and peers. It seems like almost all of my cousins, church friends and work friends have had children this past year. I wonder why it always seems to come in waves like this. Is there a gravitational pull from the moon that makes everyone extremely fertile? And if so, how can I get in on that gravitational effect? Even a few friends who had been on this infertility road for years have finally grown their families, either through biological children that finally were conceived or through the precious adoption of a long-awaited child. My heart has rejoiced with these dear ones and I have cried tears of pure thanks on their behalf. I genuinely can’t be more happy for them, to finally see their dreams of children become a reality. And yet there is that bittersweet pill of the pity in their eyes at knowing my heart and the lack of little ones to fill that spot. My friends are kind and quiet and compassionate. And yet, it is the loneliest of roads when I’m at yet another baby shower with all the tiny clothes and baby-bottle-shaped cookies. I show up anyway, because I love these ladies and I love their new little families. And also because my desire for children isn’t everything. I will not allow it to rule me and to determine how I love my friends and sisters. Yes, I’ll go sneak away to the bathroom to shed a few tears, and then I’ll have to pull it together and act stronger on the outside than I feel on the inside. But that’s life, kids. It’s up to me to actively choose how to LIVE during the wait.

I’ve said before that I never want this desire for children to define me or to become an idol in my heart. There are just too many other things in my life to be grateful for – the ceasing of constant physical suffering not far from the top of that list, along with a million other things. Children – whether here or there – cannot own me. I will prayerfully keep standing by that and aim my heart at God’s bigger plan for my life. And I’ll actively participate and love my sisters, because that’s what they deserve and that’s what their new little ones deserve. I’ll hurt and I’ll ache and not understand life, and when that hits, I’ll take my tears of sadness and grief to my sweet husband because I know his ache mirrors my own. I’ll take all of this to my Father, who truly understands the depth of grief. Right now, I pray for a child, but long ago, He sent His ONLY child save my soul. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s how deep His love was for me, even as broken as I was and still am. He wants me to be near to Him in this lifetime and even nearer when my soul can finally go Home. He accepts me and dearly loves me, even when I’m confused and sad sometimes. He hasn’t lost sight of His plan. None of this is surprising Him. His love is built into the waiting period, because He wants to grow me into a better version of myself, so I can be a better example of His Love. As many emotions as I may feel, I have to keep that at the forefront of my mind this Christmas season.

Whole 30: Finding Balance

Well, we almost made it, but then the wheels fell off. Gotta be honest here – we’re only human and other things in life happen that we decided to make some room for in our diet. It’s important to include this as well, because even though we didn’t quite succeed for the entire 30 days straight, we did learn invaluable lessons.

For the past few weeks, Hubby and I have been following The Whole 30 and we’ve been having great results, as you can read about in my previous posts. We even hosted Thanksgiving Dinner and I prepared a purely healthy, Whole 30-approved menu! Everyone loved the healthy fare and I was really glad to find something that’s clean eating for a feasting holiday. I figured as long as there’s a turkey, you can pretty much add anything as side dishes and call it Thanksgiving dinner. I started with a creamy hot Pumpkin/Butternut Squash soup course, then we had the full Thanksgiving dinner (courtesy of the Whole 30 book’s recipes). We even had a healthy dessert of sauteed apples (in ghee, sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg) and frozen bananas (also blended with the same spices) on top as an “ice cream”. It did not feel like “diet food” and everyone mentioned how delicious the food was and how healthy they still felt afterwards. I was thrilled with the menu and will definitely make this again.

We hosted my family this year and during the week, we also celebrated my brother’s long-awaited college graduation. He’s had a full career for years and has been steadily working toward his college diploma, so this was a big deal. We had decided before we even started our Whole 30 diet, that we would all take him out to one of our favorite local Italian restaurants as a celebration. Hubby and I have only gone to this restaurant a few times, because it’s pricey and feels very special. It was the perfect place for my brother’s graduation dinner and Hubby and I made the decision to let ourselves enjoy. We truly delighted in the glass of wine, the homemade bread, the savory main courses and even dessert. It was a real celebration and I’m glad we didn’t just get a lettuce leaf and call it dinner. Thanksgiving dinner was clean, as I mentioned, but then that weekend was Hubby’s birthday and we also went out for a special dinner for that. After everyone left, Hubby and I took one extra day off to rest and we just enjoyed leftovers so we didn’t have to think too much about food prep.

While we didn’t make it the full 30 days, we learned a few things over the 2.5 weeks on the Whole 30 diet. Hubby didn’t seem to have too many issues with having other foods again, but I felt some changes:

  • Hives! About 10 minutes after I ate the delicious Italian food, I broke out in a few small hives along my neck and jawline and my eczema was immediately itchy. It was crazy to be sitting there and suddenly have these reactions to whatever was in this food! Before I may not have even realized this response, so it was very helpful to know that something I was eating was triggering it. This happened a few other times after I’d eaten less-clean food, but I can’t tell exactly what has set off this reaction. I’ll have to slowly reintroduce one food at a time after cleaning up my diet again for a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to determine what’s causing this inflammatory response so I can avoid it.
  • Joint pain. The day after we splurged, I woke up with my finger joints and knee being more stiff and slightly sore. This also may have been because of all the added salt in these tasty foods, but I could tell that there was more inflammation in general. Now that the full weekend of the ‘splurging food’ is over, I can once again feel those general aches and irritations throughout my body.
  • Small headaches. While my headaches aren’t nearly as bad as they were before we started this diet, I can feel them sneaking in again. I’ve had to take ibuprofen a few times over the past weekend, which I hadn’t had to take at all during the 2.5 weeks of eating clean. That tells me something!
  • Slight heartburn. Before we began the Whole 30 diet, I was getting almost-daily heartburn, which had been a new issue for me. During the 2.5 weeks of eating clean, the heartburn totally cleared up and I had no problems at all. However, last night some of the heartburn reappeared and I’m sure it’s because I ate some less-clean things over the weekend.
  • Fuzzy-minded and tired. Wow, what a difference! While we were eating very clean food, both Hubby and I were clear-minded and sharp and we had a steadier energy throughout the day. Now the the splurge weekend is over, it’s really hitting me how much unhealthy foods can sap our energy. My mind feels cloudy and my energy was at a total low all day yesterday. Maybe part of this was recovering from the busyness of having people all last week, but I can definitely tell a real difference because of how I ate over the weekend.
  • Listen to your body. Overall, this diet has taught me to listen to my body better in so many ways:
    • When it’s hungry, feed it, but try to make it full of nutrition.
    • Get creative! Try new flavors, new weird veggies and fruits that you would never have tried before. Try new recipes and new spices. God designed us with taste buds for a reason – make everything, especially the healthy meals, taste out of this world.
    • Don’t be afraid of fruit – give your body healthy fruit when it needs it, not just veggies. Fruit has enzymes and nutrients that we probably don’t even know about yet, so having a full array of both fruits and vegetable is important. (Fruit also helps you stick to this clean-eating plan, because we need some small amounts of healthy sugar to function properly and think straight.)
    • When you need a break, take a small break and fully enjoy a treat, but then get right back on the wagon and give yourself the good nutrition you need again.
    • Food is your fuel, but it’s okay that it’s also a celebration sometimes. I think people are afraid to use food as a celebration, but why? Life is short! Go ahead and celebrate and fully enjoy a delicious meal. Make the rich meals occasional (it keeps them special!) and learn to celebrate with healthy choices too.
    • Don’t worry about being “perfect” – there’s no such thing and it’s a sure way to set yourself up for failure. If I can aim for 90% clean eating and allow 10% for a treat here and there, my body will thank me, I’ll be able to fight off illnesses better and I’ll freely enjoy the treats here and there as just that – a treat, not the norm. You don’t want to take the “special” out of a treat by having it too often!

Today I’m going right back to it and to be honest, I’m looking forward to it. I’m trying to un-categorize food as being either “good” or “bad”, because then that means that even for celebrations and occasional feasting times, I’m setting myself up to feel guilty. I used to struggle with this feeling, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that food shouldn’t be categorized as emotionally “good” or “bad”. Sure, some foods are “good” in the sense of having better nutrition, etc., but I don’t want to assign emotional context to that. Just as I wouldn’t be better than anyone else just because I only ate “good food”, and I also shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed because I’ve made the decision to eat “bad foods”. Sometimes pizza is exactly the right thing and I shouldn’t have to feel sad when I’ve enjoyed it. The key for me has been learning that moderation is the key. It’s not about never having ice cream or pasta, but it is about making that an occasional treat as opposed to the normal staples of our diet. And I’ll tell you what – when you eat mostly clean, whole foods, your body simply functions like the amazing machine it’s designed to be. Then when you make those allowances for treats, they truly feel like treats! I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to our Italian feast for the graduation dinner. I savored every single bite and flavor – but I also was able to stop eating sooner because I had learned how to listen to my body better. I realized when I was full and I didn’t have the desire to keep plowing forward, to the point of feeling uncomfortably stuffed. And yes, I had some annoying reactions, but that was also extremely helpful because I may not have realized I’d been responding this way before to items that were always in my diet.

Moving forward, Hubby will be making more allowances in his diet for some dairy and a few other things that we’d cut out, but he will mostly be sticking to the meals that I make for myself as I go back to the Whole 30 plan. I honestly felt wonderful on this eating plan, and I felt like I was giving my body what it really needs to function at it’s best. I was glad to allow fruits again, as I had been nervous about the natural sugars in them before. (Hint – try a splash of fruit juice in seltzer water for a real treat with dinner!) I was glad to feel stronger, yet lighter and more efficient in my physical self. I was thrilled with dropping extra weight (hooray!) and as I continue this way of eating, I’m excited to get back into a healthier weight range. Another big part of my motivation for eating clean and losing extra weight is to help my body with baby goals. We’ve been trying to get pregnant for the past two years and although both Hubby and I are healthy on paper, the baby train just hasn’t stopped at our place yet. I do know that I’m above my healthy weight range, so I’m excited to keep getting stronger and healthier, both for the hopes of baby and also for my own overall longevity and health. I’m very thankful that I came across this plan – it’s been a real answer to prayer as I was trying to find something that we could maintain, but also see good results with. I’m choosing not to be “owned” by guilt or sadness at not being perfect or finishing the 30 days completely. Although that was the original goal, I’m glad we enjoyed a few of the feast meals with our family and friends, for occasions that were worth the splurge. After all, any healthy diet plan should aim to teach you how to eat better in general to keep up your good health – and to allow for those treats and feasts to be the special times they’re meant to be.

Whole 30 – Day 8-14

Round 2! This is about a week late in posting, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Day 8 – Today has been a tired day and we’ve both felt more worn out than normal. I realized that I have a small sore in my mouth, similar to the kind you get when you eat too much sugar. I know I haven’t been eating poorly, though, so that’s not causing it. I just realized today that it may be a small virus that I’m fighting, which would make sense with being so tired. Maybe we’re both fighting off something small right now, but eating this clean will only help that. We’re giving our bodies plenty of nutrients to fight off problems, so hopefully with some extra sleep, we’ll start feeling more energetic again.

Day 9 – I can’t believe we’ve already made it to Day 9! I feel like the past week flew by, but I think that’s a good thing. I’m sometimes still struggling to make sure everything (food-wise) is prepared, so we’ve had to scramble a couple of times to add an egg or a random veggie to something in the mornings. I do think this food can be slightly more expensive, if you buy as much organically as you’re able to. (But it’s a worthwhile investment in our health, so we can avoid costly medicines down the line.) We’ve been trying to go organic as much as possible and are trying to stay away from things with pesticides, hormones and preservatives. I figure if we’re going to be doing this clean-eating plan, we should make our best effort to avoid creepy chemicals.We also aren’t going out to eat, so that probably balances things out monetarily. Hubby told me today that he thinks whatever inflammation he had is going down, because his wedding ring is fitting better now. I’ve noticed mine is as well, which is nice! My clothes are also fitting more loosely, which feels great. I’m struggling not to weigh myself, because I’m so curious about what’s happening in my body. But I won’t do it. I’ll be good and let the whole month go by. Breaking the obsession with the scale is part of the point, anyway. I do find myself trying to see changes, though, which maybe I shouldn’t be doing either. I keep squinting into the mirror to try to see if I look different – I think I do? It’s hard to tell. I should probably just mind my manners and get back to chopping healthy foods.

Day 10 – We’re doing well on this plan, which is really encouraging! Our kitchen is a battleground of dirty pans and dishes, and we have definitely needed more time for cleaning up after our cooking adventures. But aside from the prep/cooking and cleaning, this plan has been really awesome. Last night as we prepared dinner, we were talking about eating this way and Hubby said that it’s been so great, we could just keep going! I agreed and do think this is going to inspire us to choose better foods even after the 30 days is over. I think we will slowly reintroduce a few things (like dairy and whole grains) and see how we feel. If we react poorly, that’ll be good to know so we can adjust our diets. In the slightly negative category, my eczema has still been a problem. I was hoping it would clear up while eating this way, so I wonder if I’m slightly allergic to something that’s still in my diet, or if it’s simply the cold dry air exacerbating it. Years ago I had a food allergy test and it said that I was slightly allergic to eggs, chicken and mushrooms. In the past, when I ate eggs on an empty stomach it would me feel nauseous, so maybe I’m still bothered by them. I’ve been eating eggs with veggies almost every morning for breakfast, so I’ll have to try to find something else as a good protein for the mornings and see if that helps. But in positive news,  we both feel like we’re truly tasting our food better and we joked that we are not suffering on this “diet”. We had some huge black grapes last night and I thought they were amazing, but Hubby only had a few because he said they were almost too sweet! It’s pretty crazy that simple grapes would be “too sweet”, but it just proves how our taste buds are changing.

Day 11 – Today we had a delicious dinner of “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) that were sauteed with onions and cherry tomatoes. We added grilled chicken to the top as well. We used a vinaigrette that I made up the other day (for salads), using 4 limes, some olive oil, minced red onion, crushed garlic, fresh minced dill and chives and some salt and pepper. It was amazing and it tasted like we were having a plate of fresh pasta. We’re really enjoying learning new cooking techniques and new ways to make food taste great, without the traditional fatty/sugary sauces.

Day 12 – This morning, Hubby said that his jeans are starting to feel looser and he’s going to have to tighten his belt. I was realizing mine are too, and it’s a great feeling. I’ve felt like my face, neck and shoulders are much lighter and feel slimmer overall, and my jeans aren’t as tight around my legs now. We still have a good amount of energy and feel like life is being put into us by eating this way.

Day 13 – Most of my headaches have cleared up, which is a huge blessing. I only seem to get them faintly when too much time has gone by and I haven’t eaten. It seems that getting past the first two weeks really gets your body into the swing of things with eating this way. At first, it has a little tantrum and you may not feel well, but as your body adjusts it gets easier. You really do feel your body’s signals better on this eating plan – I can tell when I’m genuinely empty and hungry, versus when I’m thirsty or just wanting to snack. Both of our wedding rings are fitting more loosely now and we feel much less inflammation overall.

Day 14 – We’ve stuck with this plan for a solid two weeks now and even though we haven’t weighed ourselves, we can definitely tell that our clothes are much looser on us. We feel less puffy and bloated and we both have less overall pain (in joints, headaches, stomach issues, etc.). Our skin looks clearer and more glowy, which makes sense considering how many fruits and veggies we’re eating! Hubby keeps complimenting me, saying that I just look healthier and happier, which is always good to hear. We’ve been sleeping better too, which has been a great bonus especially for me. The small amount of  We still keep saying to each other that we’re really not “suffering” on this diet! We’ve been satisfied and enjoyed everything we’ve made along the way and it’s changed our taste buds in a good, healthy way.

Week Two Takeaway:

Overall, we have both been very happy with this way of eating and we’ve frequently said that we’re planning on keeping this basic eating style even afterwards. As we got into Week Three, it was Thanksgiving and we were hosting family for the week. I followed the amazing recipes in The Whole 30 to make our Thanksgiving dinner (under Holiday Dinner) and everything turned out delicious! I changed a couple of things, like making the Pumpkin Puree into Pumpkin/Butternut Squash soup by adding a little more chicken stock. I also added a bit of cayenne pepper to give it some kick and then had some plain Greek yogurt on the table (as “sour cream”) that people could add to the top for a cooling flavor. The Sausage, Apple and Squash casserole recipe was a perfect substitute for traditional bread stuffing, as all the spices tasted just like stuffing. I used ground pork for this and it was a great addition. I will definitely be making this recipe again, but maybe try using butternut squash next time as the acorn squash was very hard to peel. (Or maybe I just need a better peeler?) I’ve noticed that Hubby’s clothes are getting almost too loose on him and he now looks like he’s wearing clothes that are at least one full size too big, if not two sizes. He’s had to tighten his belt a couple of notches already. His facial features have sharpened and he looks really healthy overall. I can tell that I’ve also lost weight, but I know I have further to go than Hubby does. Because he lost so quickly, we’ve decided to ease a few other things back into his diet, but keep the baseline the same healthy things. He probably also simply needs to eat more overall than me, as he seems to burn through everything faster. I’m glad we’re both feeling so much better and it hasn’t been long at all.

Whole 30: Day 1-7

For myself and others, I’m going to keep a brief weekly log of my experiences and how I’m feeling over the next 30 days.

Day 1 – Today I felt really excited to finally be kicking off this 30 day eating plan! I feel inspired to try new recipes and learn new techniques that I can use in the future as well. I love that this book includes healthy versions of mayo and ranch dressing. I haven’t made them yet, but we’ll see how they taste! Physically, I feel sluggish and tired, which has been how I’ve felt daily and why I’m hoping this will help. I felt fine through most of the day, but by the end of the day, I was starting to get a headache. I tend to get hypoglycemic if I don’t eat frequently or have enough food and these meals do take longer to prepare. By the time I had dinner ready, it was late and I was truly hungry, so I think that triggered my headache. I could tell that my body was also craving sugar and carbs (where are my Puffs when I crave them?!), but I denied the beast and had some hot tea instead. Hot tea is a saving grace in place of dessert and it’s what really helped me in the evenings when I lost weight before. By the end of the night, my head was pounding and I had to take some ibuprofen before it turned into a full-blown migraine. I felt slightly hungry, but having the tea and some water seemed to help.

Day 2 – This morning I woke up with a slight headache, but not nearly as bad as last night. I slept really well, although I’m not sure yet if that’s due to the dietary changes or simply being tired. Either way, sleep hasn’t always been my friend, so I’ll take it. I do feel a hollow emptiness that mirrors hunger, but I know it’s not, as it’s still there after I’ve just eaten and am satisfied. I think this hollow feeling is my body adjusting to not having the simple carbs and sugars. I feel a little bit tired and rundown and there are some small pains in my neck, back and joints. Drinking black coffee isn’t my favorite yet and I’m noticing that sometimes it just doesn’t make me feel good. After that first cup this morning, I switched to tea and am chugging a lot of water throughout the day.

Day 3 – I had some small pains in my wrists and the slight headache was still bugging me a little bit. I know I’m drinking a lot more water, so I think that’s also helping with overall inflammation. For some reason, when I’m eating healthy foods, I tend to crave more water. But when I’m eating poorly, I never want water at all! I would think that my body would do the opposite – crave MORE water when I’m eating badly, just so it can cut through the junk. Who knows. I feel a little more clear-minded today and I don’t feel as terrible in a detoxing sense as I was anticipating. I had a baked potato tonight with dinner and I found myself feeling nervous to eat it. I’ve been so used to staying away from “anything white” (potatoes included) as well as too many fruits or things with natural carbs and natural sugars. This plan feels a little strange to me, but I’m trusting the fact that even foods that have slightly more carbs and sugars (from fruit) are still healthy in the sense that they are whole and from the earth. I’m not planning on overdoing it, but having a potato (which offer iron and other important minerals and vitamins) isn’t something I should be afraid of.

Day 4 – I’ve been sleeping more soundly at night, which is a surprise to me. I’ve read that others did as well on this plan, but it seemed like an odd side effect of changing your diet. Everything is related, though, so I’m very thankful for better sleep. Now I just need to actually plan for more hours of it. This morning I feel a little lighter overall and it feels like some of the bloating and puffiness has calmed down. My skin looks clearer already and my mind is clearer. On this plan, I don’t snack as often, as they generally want you to aim for 3 healthy and satisfying meals a day. I do find that I get hungry before my next meal, which is something I’m trying to just accept as a part of the adjustment to this plan. I used to eat every 3 hours or so, even just a snack to keep my metabolism going and my blood sugar regulated. That seemed to work well for my energy levels and I didn’t seem to bottom out with my blood sugar as much. On this new plan, I have to be prepared and be careful to not let myself go too long without eating, as that tends to trigger headaches that can turn into full-on migraines. I need to make sure I’m eating enough at each meal. I’m finding myself trying to break the habit of being too strict with how much I’m eating. This is a restructuring of what I’ve done before, which was five smaller meals throughout the day. I do want to give this a full chance and see how my body does with this plan, so I’m sticking to it for the month. I did notice that I got two small hives along my jaw this morning, which is out of the ordinary. Occasionally, I would get a hive, but I couldn’t figure out what it might be from. The only thing I can imagine this morning’s hive would be from is the tiny amount of milk Hubby put in our scrambled eggs. He very kindly made breakfast for us without realizing that adding the milk wasn’t allowed on this plan. I have to be realistic that life will sometimes happen, so while I’m trying to stick to this plan overall, I wasn’t going to waste the meal because of a small amount of dairy. It was interesting, though, to get this new hive a few hours after breakfast. I’m not sure if the hive was triggered from the milk, but when it’s time to start reintroducing foods, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Day 5-6 – We’ve been sticking to the meal plan and have discovered the joys of “zoodles”! Zuchinni noodles are a great substitute for traditional pasta, especially when you’re trying to be creative with veggies. I saw someone else make an avocado-alfredo type of sauce to put over the zoodles, so I came home and gave it a whirl. It was honestly one of the BEST meals we’ve had all week! I topped it with grilled chicken and it was creamy and very hearty, but still Whole 30 friendly in all of the ingredients. We’ll definitely be making this again! Both Hubby and I feel a bit lighter overall and I can tell he’s lost some of his tummy already. My clothes are fitting more loosely and I feel like my body is pulling in allover. I’m being good and not letting myself weigh in until the end of the 30 days, which is both freeing and also makes me so curious to know what’s going on. But I understand that part of this plan is meant to help break the obsession with the scale, so I want to do it the way they’re suggesting. I used to weigh myself a few times a week, so this is a new approach. It is kind of cool to think that the weight is taking care of itself without me constantly watching it, though. That has been surprisingly freeing.

Day 7 – Today I have a bit of a headache again, but I think it’s because I did not eat enough yesterday. In my rush to get to church in the morning, I didn’t make time to eat breakfast and I just grabbed a cup of black coffee once I got to church. When we got home, I had a small piece of the spinach frittata that I’d made from the day before and an apple with some cashew butter. But then the whole day went by with more activities and I wasn’t prepared with food for snacks or dinner. By the time we got home in the evening, I was busy prepping, chopping and cooking for the week’s meals – but I still hadn’t eaten dinner! It was way too late by the time I had a baked potato with some chicken and guacamole. I didn’t intend to do this, but I know I didn’t eat enough yesterday. I think this is probably why I have a headache this morning, which I’m hoping will go away as I continue to eat more healthy things throughout the day.

I made scrambled eggs with red onions and broccoli this morning (YUM), with a side of fruit salad of pineapple, blueberries, raspberries and banana. I felt like my body wasn’t craving coffee this morning, so I had a nice cup of green tea instead and added some macha powder. I’ve been drinking lots of water today as well, so hopefully my body will re-balance itself as the day goes on. For lunch, I pre-cooked some veggie hash (diced potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips, beats, Granny Smith apples, chopped pecans and almonds) and added some of the chicken I’d made this weekend. We can add a little of the guacamole to the top once it’s warmed up and it’ll be a hearty and healthy lunch today. We’re planning on hitting the gym right after work (first time back in a long time!), so last night I also roasted up a bunch of the same veggies as I used in the hash, but added different spices so it’s a new flavor and cooking technique to enjoy. I’ve found that pre-cooking as much as possible makes the week much easier in terms of meals, especially when you’re aiming to be so healthy. Most of our diet now consists of fresh fruits and veggies, but they all take a good amount of prep to create a meal. I really enjoy cooking and being creative with food, so I don’t mind the chopping or cooking, but I am finding that I have to really have a plan for when I’m going to do all of that. Hubby and I have both really enjoyed all the delicious foods that we’ve been having on this plan and it’s been fun to try new things (like ghee and coconut cream/milk) in our cooking.

Week One Takeaway:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! This has been key to being successful on this plan. Our body is processing through these whole foods much more efficiently than “non-foods”, so we also burn through this fuel faster and need to have things ready to grab when we feel empty again. Once hunger strikes, I find that I need to eat pretty quickly, or I get headaches and lightheaded. This just means I have to be prepared!
  • Eat enough food. Throughout this week, as we were learning the meals and program, there were times that we weren’t eating enough food. We would have enough to be satisfied for that meal, but I don’t think we were including enough healthy fats at each meal. For example, for breakfast we would usually have eggs and a piece of fruit, but that doesn’t stick with you for long. I’ve been using the recipes in the Whole 30 book as more of a reference, but we haven’t stuck to a strict meal guide. As long as the foods I’m preparing are Whole 30 friendly, we’ve kind of made it up as we go, but that’s where we’re getting in trouble with not eating quite enough. I’m going to look back at the meal guide for the week and try to be sure to incorporate more of the exact foods/combinations they suggest.
  • I’m not as nervous to eat fruits, potatoes and (healthy) fats. In moderation throughout the week, I’ve been incorporating some Idaho potatoes into a few meals. I don’t want to be afraid to include healthy, whole potatoes in our overall diet, as I know they have quality iron and other nutrients that are unique to potatoes. I’ve also been using more coconut oil, milk and cream in my cooking, as well as a lot more avocado. These are all foods that I used to be more careful about adding, because of their natural fat content. But on this eating plan, you really DO need these healthy fats and they actually make you feel good. We haven’t felt like a brick is sitting in our guts after our meals, even when we’ve been fully satisfied.  I also used to limit fruits, because I was still in the mind frame of avoiding all sugar, but I’m glad to be getting all the nutrients from whole fruits in our diet as well.
  • Sleep. Sleep is so important and we definitely have not had enough of it this week. We have found ourselves a little more tired, but we’ve also been sleeping more soundly. I’m wondering if our bodies shifting away from foods that weren’t good for us is making us tired. And if we haven’t had quite enough food each day, I’m sure that has also contributed. It’s not the same terrible, ready-to-nap -at-3pm kind of tired that it used to be, so hopefully this week we’ll do better with getting to bed at a good time.
  • Water, water everywhere! I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve noticed that I tend to drink more water when I’m eating healthy. I would think that my body would crave more water when I’m eating poorly, but I never seem to care about water then. I keep a tall water bottle at my desk at work and fill it a couple of times a day, in addition to 1-2 cups of tea throughout the day. I know being hydrated is going to help, especially as we’re heading into cold winter temperatures and dry air.

Food: Trying something new

Started yesterday, Nov. 7th, 2016:

Today Hubby and I begin The Whole 30 experiment. To be honest, I feel like I’m jumping into the deep end when I’m still racing to learn what The Whole 30 is. I feel inspired to get right into this, so I’ve been watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and articles about other people’s experiences and will be reading through the book as we tackle new meals each day. I don’t want to wait to read the whole book first, or I might lose my fire to get it started! I now have a basic understanding of the plan and ‘rules’, so this weekend Hubby and I bought all the fresh, healthy foods we’ll need. Now it’s time to start this new way of eating (and thinking) for the next 30 days. Today we both made a list of how we feel physically and mentally, and we’re also taking ‘before’ pictures so we can see any changes after the 30 days is over. I’m very curious to see what changes happen to my mind and body over this next month. This morning I took a close-up picture of my face, so I could really see the texture of my skin and the whites of my eyes. I wanted to capture a moment, written on my face, that told me how I’ve been feeling lately. Honestly, when I looked back at that picture, it instantly told me I was worn out and exhausted. I just look depleted and tired – in my eyes, in my skin, in the overall lack of energy I sense emanating from this face. That’s a pretty sad way to be facing the world, especially when I have a choice about it!

You would think that after several years living in my own self, I would know all the healthy and unhealthy ways I view food, but lo and behold, I found a few new ones that I hadn’t realized before. One is that I don’t really need a good reason to eat – I just enjoy food and I enjoy eating. I don’t really binge or overeat, but lately I’ve just been eating whatever I want, whenever I want. The fact is, that’s just not healthy. Eating my favorite Reese’s Puffs at 10 o’clock at night will just not assist my overall health or give my body the fuel it really needs. (But they’re SO good!) I’ve also realized that I’ve enjoyed the freedom of eating this way. No rules, no guilt, no counting anything, no worrying about if it’s too late at night to enjoy those Puffs. There has been a mental relief in just going with the flow, especially as the last two months have been busier than usual. It’s been nice to live without a plan, at least for our meals. I’ve also just realized that in some quiet, deep-down part of me, I’ve felt totally overwhelmed when it comes to healthy eating. I didn’t even realize I felt this way until now. Before, whenever I was feeling a need to clean up my diet and health, I would have a pretty decent plan of just choosing to buy and eat whole foods. I cut out refined carbs and sugars, and I ate mostly veggies and lean meats, with a little diary and some legumes. I would only occasionally have fruit or complex carbs/grains. The last time I ate this way, I lost almost 50 pounds and I felt so much better in every part of myself. I wasn’t following a strict “diet” – it was more common sense eating and listening to my body’s needs.

But this time, it seems like I don’t have as much mental space. Before, I was single and had plenty of time on my own for grocery shopping and prepping/cooking super clean meals. I had a relatively simple life during that time, which was such a blessing, because it gave me the mental space to prioritize myself and my health for the first time in my life. I remember thinking last time that it wasn’t hard, but it did take a lot more time to prepare and plan for success. Sometimes I felt like it was another job and at that time, I was very thankful to have enough room in my life to make it happen. I was able to prove to myself that I could tackle this and be successful. Most of all, I was healthy and I knew everything going into my body was helping this design to work properly. It felt right, I got sick less often, had more energy and knew my physical self was thriving on the right fuel.

This time around, life looks different in a lot of ways. Now I’m married to the sweetest guy and together, we have a very full life. I’m thankful for him daily and after God, our marriage is now my top priority. My focus has shifted to heart and home, and serving outside of our home as well at church and in our community. Add in family and friends and a full time job and it seems like the week gets booked before I know it. I don’t think I was prepared for how busy married life would be. And I don’t even know why it’s so busy sometimes! This isn’t just living with a new roommate – this is a LOT of heart-to-heart conversations, a lot of planning and caring for our home together, a lot of just life together. It’s awesome – and it’s BUSY. I’m the primary chef in our home because I love cooking and I love creating fun new meals. Over the past year, I’ve gone through several phases of eating cleaner and thankfully, Hubby is the easiest man to please when it comes to food. (Three cheers for him!!) Each time we’ve eaten more whole foods and limited non-foods (chemicals, preservatives, fake everything), we’ve felt much better. But usually after a few weeks, I would run out of creative ideas and I would get overwhelmed at the pressure I was putting on myself to come up with new meals. It just got to be too much. So I would quit and we would take a break. Then it’s rinse-and-repeating this schedule every couple of months with no real consistency.

One of the things that appealed to me about The Whole 30 was that everything is in one book and some of the thinking is already done for me. Normally, I don’t like this. I cringe against following any kind of prescribed plan, in almost anything in life. I’m more independently minded and I much prefer to choose my own way (with God’s leading) and leave some flexibility for life to happen. But clearly, that hasn’t been working out, so I’m ready to try someone else’s ideas for a while. In the first part of the book, they explain the science and basis for The Whole 30; then in the back of the book, there are recipes with beautiful pictures, all using from-God’s-green-earth whole foods. The overall goal of this plan is to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which I know I struggle with. This past two weeks has included almost-daily migraines, body aches, feeling exhausted all the time and just general funkiness that wears me out. The picture I took of my face doesn’t look vibrant and full of life – and I’m too young to look that way yet. Or ever! I’m considering logging our journey through this next 30 days, for myself and for others who are thinking of trying this plan too. I’m not sure what to expect exactly, but I do know that my starting point right now feels pretty crummy, so hopefully we can only go up from here. Here’s to a healthy new adventure!

The Wait


Photo via korafotomorgana/Flickr


Here it is, the day before I get the blood test to tell us if we’re pregnant or not. These last two weeks have been very much all over the place emotionally, especially the second week. Right after the IUI, we were both feeling peaceful and hopeful that this would work. We have been giving this to God in our prayers every night, as we know how much this hope for new life is only in His hands. That first week I was determined to not let my emotions take me over the edge of lunacy, which would be easy to do when it’s something you’re so hopeful for. And for the most part, I was able to stay very measured emotionally and mentally about this whole process. I wasn’t upset or worried, and was surprisingly calm throughout the week. I was praying a lot whenever thoughts would pop into my mind (which was often), and then I would try to move onto whatever task was at hand. Worrying or over-thinking wasn’t going to change anything anyway and I was so thankful that week was so peaceful.

And then the second week hit. Like a ton of bricks.

Oh, hello, humanity. Hello, over-thinking and all-consuming thoughts. Hello, unbidden tears out of nowhere. This second week has been such a challenge, to say the least. We went away to visit family over the weekend and while that was a wonderful time to catch up and rest, I was also fighting myself the whole time. I think it really began with some sudden cramping and spotting that happened right about the time that implantation could be happening. It was right in that window, about 6-10 days after I’d ovulated and had the IUI, when a sudden harsh cramp hit my lower abdomen. I felt like I could feel the outline of the lower part of my uterus, which is NOT a normal feeling. I was at work at the time and had to take a few minutes to lean into it and just breathe. It was intense, but not terrible, if that makes sense. Sweet Hubby works nearby and he brought me a banana and some milk, which has always helped me with cramping before. (The potassium and calcium are a wonder when I’ve had bad cramps before, easing things within 10-20 minutes.) Even before Hubby arrived with the snacks, the cramps began easing and haven’t returned, at least not in that same way. I also began spotting, so I called the nurse and she said all of these things could be possible signs of implantation, when the egg burrows into the uterus lining. I’d read that as well, but it helped to hear it from the nurse.

Since the IUI a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been using progesterone suppositories (oh joy!). Within a few days of starting them, I began spotting (sometimes freshly red), which honestly made me so sad. I was sure I was out this month and that this was the beginning of my period. But a friend reminded me that it was too soon for my period, which was true. It’s hard to remember all those details when you see that red and get nervous, so I was thankful for her reminder. (Side note: It’s been a blessing to have close friends and family alongside me, lending support, a shoulder or a joke to tease me back to reality.) The spotting has continued intermittently every day and most of the time, it’s that watered-down red color. I’ve come to think of my bathroom trips as going to the Pit of (potential) Despair, me being full of nerves to see what might be awaiting each time, wondering if this will be the trip to end my hope. So far, it’s just the same soggy diaper feeling of the spotting (I hate pads) and we’ll just have to see what the blood test says. As far as other symptoms, I hadn’t been feeling too much of anything else, but a few days ago, I started getting light cramps, more headaches and feeling more bloated. The last few days, my head has felt swimmy and a little dizzy, and I’ve felt more tired in general. I basically have all the same symptoms I would be having before my cycle begins, so there’s no way to know for sure what’s going on until we get the blood test results back. And that’s what’s driving me crazy!

I feel like time has been passing in super-slow motion this past week. Over the weekend, I remember thinking, How has only the weekend passed? How will I get through this whole coming week? (With a LOT of prayer, that’s how!) I was in the car with my whole family and after more spotting, was overwhelmed with feelings of brokenness. I was so sad, just feeling like the most essential part of my womanhood is not working; there will be no small eyes like mine looking back up at me and Hubby’s family name wouldn’t be carried on because my body won’t work. During some parts of this infertility journey, I haven’t felt that way, that fertility is the full meaning of being a woman. And I still believe that I AM worthy, precious and absolutely valuable as a woman, whether my fertility works or doesn’t. But on this day, at my wits’ end, I really felt how broken my womanhood was. It’s only for us as women to carry new life into this world, to keep the family lines going. Men can’t take this on for us. It struck me that for a woman to not “work” in her fertility would be like a man’s penis not working – it doesn’t make him a man, but he might feel grieved if that essentially masculine part of him stopped functioning properly. Feeling overwrought with grief, I silently wept behind my sunglasses.

That grief has come upon me several other times in this past week, and I’ve cried each time. Last week may have been easier, but this week simply has not. I am simply more worn and feeling broken and grieved at times. When those moments happen, I’m allowing myself a few minutes to truly feel them, to allow myself to cry when I need to. In general, I’m not much of a crier and it takes me a lot to get to tears. But not with this. I’m sure the extra progesterone pumping through me isn’t helping matters, but I also realize that there are genuine moments of grief along this journey. They’re not only with the negative pregnancy test. There are moments of smaller griefs too, that are unique to each woman feeling them. So I’m choosing to show them some grace and give them some room to breathe. This infertility journey is a FULL process; it’s not as easy as only a means to an end, Infertility and then Baby. Along the way there are all of these precious, sad, hopeful moments that deserve to be understood and recognized. It’s okay to feel both ends of the spectrum at one time. Sometimes, both weeping and hopefulness will hold hands and sit with you at the same time for a while. This week has been one of those weeks.

Tomorrow we hope to find out where to land these thoughts – and then I’m sure there will be a whole new slew of feelings and thoughts to consider. We don’t have a plan just yet if the test is negative tomorrow. I don’t know if we’ll jump right back into another IUI process or if we’ll take a break. Either choice will be okay, though. In this, there really is no plan, at least not for us. Each month we’re taking one at a time, prayerfully considering and asking for God’s guidance to be with us as we make a new choice. Along the way, God has been close to us. This flurry of emotion has brought me to Him again and again, with my brokenness, my grief, my hopes. I keep having this tiny seed of hope, this feeling deep down that I know God can bless us with little ones and that maybe He will. They are His lives to give, not mine to demand. So I go to Him, over and over again, feeling repetitive and silly in all my humanity, but also knowing without a doubt that He cherishes me deeper than I could imagine. That He created every single one of my emotions and hearts desires, not just the happy ones. He finds me valid and wonderful and wants to hear about every fleeting thought. So I will keep going back to Him, again and again, to ask for more grace, for more peace, and to thank Him for the sweet gifts He has already given me in a loving, patient husband to walk this journey with. No matter what the outcome of the blood test is tomorrow, I want to be intentionally grateful for the gifts that are already here.

For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

Our Journey Through Infertility

When I hear the word “infertility”, I feel sad. It feels like a hopeless word, a place where baby dreams go to wither away. Don’t get me wrong, I feel the true weight of it as well and I have deep compassion for the many people that are walking this road. A dear friend has been on this heartbreaking road for years and my heart always grieves alongside her, while still hoping for a baby miracle. For myself and my hubby, it’s been a 2 year journey of infertility. As our wedding was approaching about 3 years ago, we talked about when to start trying for a family and decided to wait for the first year. We wanted to take the first year to focus on getting our new marriage off to a good start – you know, really enjoying each other, spending long weekends away, creating new romantic memories together that would give us a good start. And then reality hit, and we found the dreaded rough patches that many other married couples told us were inevitable. That’s another topic for another time, but suffice it to say that we learned a LOT about ourselves (how ugly sometimes!), and we learned a lot about fighting on the same team, instead of fighting each other. We had to figure out a way to be in this for the long haul and that first year was a real gut check. We said many times that we were very thankful it was just us for that first year, because it was hard enough to get through all of the heartache of a growing marriage with just the two of us. I imagine it would have been a lot more complicated and difficult with children in the mix.

Fast forward to today, 2 years into our infertility journey as of this month. I feel like it was just yesterday that we began on this road, but somehow it also feels like it’s been a very long time. I don’t know if this season will last for the rest of our lives or if it’s a temporary time of “drought”, but it’s a strange period of time, this in-between. I have friends who are on both roads – the road of infertility and the road of parenting little ones. I see challenges and blessings on both paths and have felt some of that myself, at least about the infertility side. (I’ll let you know if we get to the parenting side!) Throughout this time of infertility, I think I’ve felt every emotion – hope, anxiety, stress, worry, excitement, disappointment. It’s a lot to handle mentally, to keep everything somehow balanced when your emotions tip to the extremes. I think part of the reason it’s so intense is because it’s such an intimate thing to begin with. We wish that we could be like Adam and Eve in the garden, just going about our idyllic married lives and then, hey look! It’s little us’s! I never expected to be walking this road, but here we are. And things aren’t proving to be as easy as we’d hoped.

We’ve been seeing an infertility doctor for the past year or so. We started with 3-4 cycles of Clomid to see if the more conservative approach might work, but it didn’t. We had many, many early-morning doctors appointments, blood draws, ultrasounds (good morning!), temperature-taking, timed baby-dancing and more. By this past winter, we were exhausted from the process and after some time and prayer, we decided to take a step back. It was becoming another job, for me especially as the woman. Preparing the “nest” of my body and womb can be quite the process when you’re struggling with infertility. Something as beautiful as intimacy with my husband can be turned into a chore, making us both feel that we’re just there to get the job done. How sad that would be! I do think that for the most part, we were able to keep a good sense of humor about all of this along the way. From all the TTC (trying to conceive) websites, blogs, books and articles out there, I knew how obsessed I could easily become in this process. That scared me, because I know that my curious mind could easily trip into staying awake all night, scanning and reading tons of sites and books until I’m bleary-eyed. I love to research things, but this could get out of hand if I weren’t careful, and sometimes it did. Sometimes I let myself envision those tiny smiling faces of my future kiddos, or wondered about how I would break the good news to our families that we were pregnant. It’s crazy how easily every little pang, cramp, headache and tired feeling can suddenly turn into, “Oh, I must be pregnant!”. It’s nuts and it can take us over if we’re not careful to monitor our minds.

I think the struggle to keep that healthy mental balance is really what brought us to taking a break. I just didn’t want to think about this anymore, at least for a while. I wanted to have sex whenever, because I love my sweetheart, not because I’m asking for a “donation”. I didn’t want to make one more visit to the doctor to be poked and prodded. I hit my wall and broke down in tears, feeling overwhelmed with the stress and responsibility. Hubby had also been starting to feel exhausted by all of this and we both just felt that the grace for it was ending, at least for a time. So we took a much-needed break and felt so relieved! It was wonderful to appreciate just the two of us again and all the many blessings we already had in our lives. I also ended up getting a bad case of bronchitis into the springtime, so it was actually a good thing that I wasn’t pregnant during all of those medications. Finally, about a month ago, after recovering from that illness, going back to the gym, eating healthy and and finding our rhythm, we felt ready to start this process again. We went back to see the infertility doctor and resume treatments, this time feeling refreshed and ready to try something new.

The whole time we’d been taking a break, we had continued talking about the various forms of treatment, discussing the pros and cons of each, how we truly felt, and ultimately, praying about each. While we’d been okay with the more conservative approach of the Clomid, we both felt like IVF (Invitro Fertilization) and even IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) were a little too sci-fi for us. It felt freaky to think of doctors and nurses mixing our most precious commodities in a petri dish, or inserting Hubby’s swimmers right into me. Where was the romance in that? Wasn’t that too cold and distant for such a big, intimate step? We had a lot to think through, and it took many months of discussing the benefits and risks and continuing to ask for God’s leading in this. We had a lot of questions to ask ourselves: Were we trying to take too much control? Is God okay with any of this medical intervention? Are we playing God without realizing it? Not to mention the IVF issues of disposing of frozen, fertilized embryos, which neither of us wanted to do. We both feel that life and soul begins at conception, so we weren’t okay with disposing of any unused embryos. (We later learned that they are able to only fertilize one or two eggs at a time, leaving the other eggs frozen and unfertilized. If those eggs aren’t needed, it would be no different than a period of flushing out the unused egg, like a woman’s natural cycle.)

We had a lot to consider and have spent many months praying about all of this. Ultimately, for us it came down to this: while scientific advances and doctor’s intervention are amazing and useful, they are no replacement for God. Only God can grant the gift of life. No matter how many medical treatments we try, no matter how medicine intervenes, ultimately, we believe God is the ONLY one who can breathe His breath of life into a new soul. He IS the Ultimate Creator of all souls. Man is not. This thing called life is His design, which is humbling and centering. We cling to this, as we move forward in this fertility journey. This has to be our heart’s anchor and we have to actively protect it as such. In this, we eventually came to the peace to move forward with the IUI, giving it all to the Lord to guide. If it’s His will to use this method to grow our family, we will praise Him in it. If it’s His will to keep us a family of two, we will also praise Him then. Children aren’t the be-all/end-all to this life and we have an obligation to continue praising Him in any season, even the ones we don’t like.

When we finally came to the decision to move forward with the IUI, we were both very surprised at the peace we felt. We hadn’t felt that way before; if anything, we’d felt very uncomfortable with it. But this time was different and we both knew without a doubt that God’s hand of calm was over us. We have been so thankful and have joked that we keep expecting it to feel weird again. This last 2 weeks has been filled with doctors appointments all over again, with me being poked and prodded daily. I’ve been doing injections every evening of Follistim (to encourage follicle growth) and then Ganorelix (to keep things on hold while the eggs mature). My doctor also wanted me to begin treating my body as if I were already pregnant, so no more caffeine (I miss you, coffee!), medications (like Motrin), or alcohol. The first two days last week that I gave myself the injections, I had the worst headaches. I’m already prone to migraines, so that doesn’t help. But now I was also eliminating caffeine, which probably exacerbated things. I usually only have 1-2 cups of coffee per day, but I think my body wasn’t happy about the lack of it’s daily caffeine buzz. Not to mention I started all of these injections at the same time I was having my period, and no Advil or Motrin to take the edge off! My body was going through a lot of things at once and I was laid up in bed while it all sorted itself out. Thankfully, after that first couple of days, the headaches eased. I also noticed that I was much more tired than usual during the course of these treatments, struggling at work during the day and falling asleep to evening TV.

All of that to land here, to the day before the IUI. Last night I did the “trigger shot”, which tells your ovaries to release the now-matured eggs. I should ovulate within about 36 hours, so tomorrow morning is when we’re scheduled for the IUI procedure. It doesn’t seem to be a big process and I should be able to go about my normal day afterwards. And then we get to wait for the next 2 weeks, until they can do a pregnancy test to see if baby will come from all of this. Hubby and I are both hopeful that this might work, but we’re also feeling measured that it may not work. Part of me feels like, if it’s already been two solid years of trying, what’s the difference with this? But for now, this feels like the right step.

He Said/She Said: Infertility

Welcome to a new addition to my blog, He Said/She Said! Over the past several months, I’ve been wanting to add in Hubby’s voice to some of my blog posts. I think this is a great way to take a peek inside a marriage, to the real conversations we find ourselves having. I thought it was appropriate that our first blog post together should be about our individual views on our journey through infertility thus far. (You can read the backstory in “Our Journey Through Infertility”.) Even though I’m the one doing the shots, medications and feeling the side effects of it all, Hubby is absolutely the other, very crucial half of this. All of this affects him as well and I think it’s important to capture snapshots of both of our hearts as we journey through the various elements of marriage, infertility being one of them. Below, you’ll hear from Hubby and myself, as we get ready to go through our first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) tomorrow morning. We haven’t read each others contributions, as we want this to be a raw and real look into each of our perspectives. Say a little prayer for us as we take this next step!


He Said:

Infertility was never something I expected to deal with. For most of my life, I’ve thought of myself as healthy. I still consider myself young. I had always expected having kids would just happen. So, when weeks of trying turned to months turned to a year, I was baffled. I was even more baffled when we began testing and were told that nothing was wrong with either of us. I didn’t know what to think. All I knew was it just wasn’t happening. The decision to start trying for a family was made for us when we missed a cycle of birth control. We had both agreed to wait a year to have kids in order to get established in our marriage—a decision that proved providential when our first year turned rocky, though that’s a story for another day. All of a sudden, in July of our second year, we were faced with what seemed at the time like a huge decision. Would we try to go back on birth control or would we just go for it? We looked into each other’s eyes and with nervous grins decided to go for it.

Fast forward, and we’re two years in and faced with another big decision. Will we keep trying to have a family the “natural” way or is it time for something “artificial?” In some ways it feels like admitting defeat. We need help to get pregnant. It’s also forcing me to do a lot of soul-searching. Infertility has tested my motives like nothing else and filled my mind with dozens of questions. Can I trust my heart on this one? Does God want us to remain childless for some reason only He understands? Do I have selfish motivations for wanting kids? Am I trying to take matters into my own hands rather than trusting God to bring us children in his timing? Or did God put us here when he did so we could do it this way? Or the biggest question of all … will I be OK if we never have kids? Can I let that dream go? I can’t think about it too much or I start to think too much about what will happen when we are too old to take care of ourselves and what will happen when the end of life comes. Will we be alone? Will we be forgotten if there’s no one left to carry on our name? … See what I mean? Sometimes it’s better not to think too hard about it. As we prepare for the next step of trying an IUI on Friday (a step we make with a lot of prayer) we are trying to be hopeful in a measured way. Maybe nothing will happen. Or maybe we’ll have twins. We simply don’t know. All we can do is take the next step.


She Said:

Infertility is hard, especially on me as a woman. I feel so responsible to “start” our family, even though I know it takes the two of us, both being healthy, for that to happen. I think I feel this pressure because I’m the one who will carry the child and everything that I do, eat, drink and even think and feel will affect the growth of that child. It’s a huge responsibly to be the sole carrier of such a fragile life! And what do I do when it’s not happening? Is it my fault? Am I broken as a woman? There are so many thoughts I’ve had over the last couple of years, things I’ve had to work through, cry through and pray through. At this moment, I’ve had to settle on it simply not being the right timing for a child. There have been so many lessons and even freedoms that Hubby and I have needed to experience during this time, and looking back, I’m thankful for that. Maybe that perspective will change, who knows. But for now, the day before our IUI, I feel very calm. It’s a calm I haven’t felt in this way before, mixed with this teeny tiny little hope that this will work. Honestly, I keep trying to push that hope down. (Shhh…) But overall, I really think God is keeping me chilled out and I am so grateful for that. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow morning, but for now, I’m glad I’ve been relaxed about things. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt everything from cynical (What’s the point? We’ve been trying for two years unsuccessfully…), to feeling hopeful and catching myself daydreaming about the possibilities of this working (Danger, Will Robinson!). My physical self has been going through the hormone-stimulating injections every night, the exhaustion and headaches that have come with that, and the bruising for my efforts. Oh, and the very early-morning daily doctors appointments for more ultrasounds and blood work. But even through all of that, this sneaky peace has been there. I’m shocked, to be honest. I keep expecting to wake up and feel scared or worried or too hopeful. This must be a supernatural peace that passes my understanding, because I know how amped up I could get.

Tomorrow morning may work out and help us begin to grow our family. Or maybe nothing will happen and it’ll be a disappointing phone call from the nurse in two weeks. Or we could achieve pregnancy, only to lose it later through miscarriage. Only God knows that part at this moment, and for now, it’s enough to just take one moment at a time, one injection at a time, one prayer at a time. Today I had a relaxing warm bath and as I was scrubbing, buffing and polishing, I found myself feeling like I was getting ready for my wedding day all over again. I had that same sense of calm and hope that I had the day before we got married. This might not mean anything, but I decided to lean into it and just let myself treat this as a kind of ceremony. As I readied myself for tomorrow’s appointment, I prayed whatever thoughts came to mind. I just gave it all to God – the hopes, the fears, the nerves, everything. I tried to be really present in these moments, to be calm and maintain that sense of peace God has given me this past 2 weeks. It’s going to be interesting to see how that peace is doing over the next couple of weeks, when it’s really tested while we wait until the pregnancy test. I can’t let myself dwell on that future phone call though, with the outcome of all of this, or I’ll go nuts. “Just enough light for the road ahead”, right? So for now, nerves and all, I’m going to keep clinging to that peace. I’m going to continue taking one moment at a time, trying to keep all of this at arms’ length and keeping a sense of humor for sanity’s sake. And we’ll keep praying that whatever happens, God helps us through it.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

~ Jeremiah 29:11, New International Version (NIV)

Finding Balance

Slow progress kills me. With many things in life, I can be patient and pretty flexible. (Okay, maybe with the exception of non-drivers, but that’s another issue. There’s gas pedal for a reason, people!) But when it comes to seeing results in myself – with dieting, working out, anything – I can be so impatient and unrealistic. My mind says crazy things like, “I worked out today! Shouldn’t 50 pounds be lost already? Why isn’t this working?!”. I am my own worst enemy, self-defeating when I need a boost to keep going. So this time around, I’m trying to be more aware of this and more careful with my internal responses. I’m trying to lean into giving myself grace and patience, which honestly, isn’t easy. I’ve always had a strange relationship with food, eating and dieting, but not nearly as extreme as some people deal with. I find myself trying to fit into eating patterns that are more easily recognizable, the kinds of patterns you see in people on TV who are profiled in their health journey. But I’ve never really been extreme about eating, one way or the other. I wouldn’t hide away chips, cookies and candy and scarf it down in secret. I enjoyed food, both healthy and junk food, but it wasn’t a classic case of binge eating. On the other hand, I have had some extreme times in my life where I’ve been afraid of food and calories, and then have become overly restrictive. When I was in 6th grade, I hit a growth spurt, but it went horizontally instead of vertically. Later on, I would stretch out and everything evened out, but at that time in 6th grade, I felt like a blob.

When I looked around, all the other girls were lean and skinny, with toothpick arms and legs. I was becoming aware that my clothes were getting too tight and I became embarrassed about myself. The popular girls were the classic Mean Girls (why are they so popular, then??) and they bullied and mocked me often. I carried all of this quietly, hating myself because I believed their lies. I hated that my fat made me insecure and scared to try fun things. I hated that I was becoming awkward and shy because of my body. I wanted to dance around and play like everyone else did, not be sitting on the sidelines feeling ashamed or afraid I’d be mocked. So I finally asked my family how to lose weight, curious to know what they would say. My dad made an off-handed comment that if I just didn’t eat anything, I couldn’t gain weight. I know now that he didn’t really mean I shouldn’t eat anything, but his flippant comment stuck with me. (Makes me very aware now that we have to be careful with our words around kids!) It made sense – no calories in meant nothing to add, right? So I made a decision to start a diet of barely anything. For the next month or two, I only ate a nonfat yogurt at lunch, (and never ate breakfast anyway), and then a fat-free hot chocolate packet at night for dinner. All told this was probably only about 300 calories, if that. But I thought I was helping myself, and in my mind, the logic followed that if you didn’t add new calories, your body would simply have to burn off the already-there calories.

It doesn’t work like that, though.

Instead of seeing the slim results I was hoping for, I became extremely weak, fatigued, forgetful, heahachey, you name it. I was dragging myself to my classes, feeling like I was about to drop at any moment. My backpack seemed to weigh 100 pounds and I could barely lift it after a while. I wasn’t sleeping well due to the constant ravenous hunger and the terrible headaches, and I was tired all the time and could barely think straight. My grades started slipping and even now, I still forget some of that time of my life. What a mess. Finally, my mom asked me one night if that hot chocolate was all I was having for dinner and when I said yes, she said that wasn’t enough. She took a good look at me and finally realized something was very wrong. (Mom had been very sick for some time, so she hadn’t realized how restrictively I’d been eating.) She gently asked me what I was doing, and why I would only have something so small for dinner. I could tell she was concerned and I finally told her that I’d been trying to diet and lose weight, so I wouldn’t be fat anymore. She asked what I’d been eating and when I told her, she looked horrified at how little I’d been consuming. She immediately told me that I couldn’t do this anymore, that it wasn’t healthy and that I was actually starving myself. She explained that dieting didn’t mean not eating anything, it was just shifting some things to healthier choices. She made me a full plate of dinner that night, which I ate with such relief.

Since then, I’ve seen the darker side of my potential for food restriction and it’s appropriately frightened me. I was acting anorexic in my behaviors, even though I don’t believe I was truly anorexic in my mind (yet). But I know now that that could happen, that I am capable of backing myself into an eating disorder if I’m not careful. I might not even mean to, but that wouldn’t matter if I landed there. I’m sure most people don’t wake up thinking an eating disorder is where they want their life to go, yet many people suffer with them. They begin on a simple “diet” and then it gets away from them. They’re not bad people and many were probably just aiming for better health and a better weight range for their body. But if they land at an eating disorder, it doesn’t really matter how they started. Now they’re left with a beast of their own making and the time and perseverance it takes to heal out of that requires a lot of strength. All of this scares me, and it should. Since that wake-up call in 6th grade, I’ve known my inner darkness when it comes to food, so I think instead, I’ve tried to make it LESS of a thing. Whenever I would sense that inner control trying to monitor my eating, I would shove it aside and purposely eat. This has caused me to swing the other way and be overweight now, but I was showing it who was in charge and that I know it’s not healthy to fear food. I had grown up and realized that food is just a thing – yes, it’s delicious and savory and decadent sometimes. But it’s also simply fuel for my body to function. It’s the gas in my car of life, which I don’t have a return policy for. I only have this one vehicle to get around my entire life, so whatever kind of fuel I put into it is the performance I’m going to get back.

I understand this better now. I aim to see food as just a thing, not as anything personal. It’s not personal that I can’t eat everything under the sun like some people can; it’s not personal that my body seems to hold onto more weight than other peoples. Food isn’t evil, and food isn’t my safety. It’s all just life, just a thing. Food is fuel, pure and simple. Whatever goes into my mouth tells my whole body how to behave. Letting go of the control and fears of food has helped me shake its hand and understand it better. I can make friends with it now and just let it be what it is, instead of giving it so much power. To this end, I’ve been eating healthier and more balanced. I’ve been choosing grainy toast with avocado and egg (YUM) for breakfast; for lunch, deep green salads with lean proteins, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Craisins, salt and pepper. And last night, instead of the normal lean protein and veggies for dinner, I went out with my family and fully enjoyed a French Dip – a beef sandwich with a crusty roll, with mac-n-cheese on the side. And a Coke. It was SO good and I so enjoyed it! And then when I was satisfied with it, I gave the remainder to my husband. I’m re-teaching myself that I don’t have to finish my plate, that I have to listen to my body’s signals. My grandmother meant well when she said there are starving children in Africa, so that meant that I should finish my plate of food – but we’re not in the Depression anymore and we’re not in Africa, either. I have to adjust several messages from childhood about food and re-wire myself. And this IS possible. It is possible to learn new ways to interact with food, dieting, eating, living. In practice, that has meant me eating mostly pure, clean foods, most of the time. And then there are times like last night, when I truly wanted a break and was feeling for a dripping French Dip. Oh, and did I mention the 3 mini-chocolate bars I enjoyed during “Finding Dory”? Such a cute movie, by the way – and the chocolate was divine.

Eating this way is new to me. It’s not the aggressive dieting of the past, it’s a more relaxed approach. It’s less freak-out, calorie burn and more listening to my body. I’ll admit that it’s a little uncomfortable to eat this way, simply because it’s new – and balanced. I’m not used to it yet, so I’m trying to just acknowledge that it’s going to take some time to adjust. It’s okay if I feel a little wobbly right now. I can give it time. In the meantime, I’ve lost 8 pounds and haven’t felt as extreme mentally about food – either being “on” or “off” my diet. Food is just food, just fuel. I’m exercising too, but that has also been more balanced. When I’m truly tired, I rest instead of pushing like I usually do. I also don’t understand “rest” very well, but that’s another topic. Balance is good. Balance is healthy. And healthy is what I’m going for.