Closing Up Shop

I didn’t set out to be an “infertility blogger,” but that was what a lot of this blog turned into. And I appreciated the outlet, because for the four years between ditching the pill and conceiving our miracle Jonathan, a lot of awful stuff happened. I needed to write about the big things, the small things, and most of all, the feelings that went along with all of them. Strange as it sounds, I want to remember these feelings. I don’t want distance and a happy ending to destroy the compassion I have developed for those experiencing many kinds of grief and disappointment. And it’s good to have those memories somewhere outside my head, so they will remain in their original form and also allow me to let go of them enough to move forward.

We have no idea if Jonathan is our first child or our one and only, or how future children will join our family if they do. But even if we struggle with infertility, miscarriage, or more adoption disappointment in the future, our status has changed. We are no longer childless. We can no longer say we haven’t carried a pregnancy to term and seen it result in a healthy, beautiful baby. We are no longer in the dark regarding the horror of sleepless months or the anxiety of knowing something is wrong but not knowing what or the joy of seeing our son smile and laugh while gazing into our eyes.

We are parents. We are grateful and enjoy capturing special moments in pictures and sharing them on Facebook, Skype, over the phone, or in person with those we love. But here that joy feels like a disconnect from the immense pain that paved our road to parenthood. So for now at least, I am closing up shop.

I want to spend my writing time, what precious little I have, writing my books. What’s more, I don’t want to dwell on the lingering negative feelings that creep into my head when I don’t get enough sleep–wishing our first-conceived was part of our present family, or grieving the breastfeeding experience I wanted, or wondering where my hormones will land when they calm down after all the craziness they’ve been through. I want to acknowledge those things as they come up, but I also want to teach myself to focus on what is here with me right now, and that is this little lovebug:

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So I will let this blog stand as a testament to just how much we had to go through to get where we are, and I will love my little one all the more for it.

It’s gone right here:

JonathanIt’s gone to caring for, admiring, and worrying over Jonathan Reece, who came into the world on January 20. He was small–only 6 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches long–but as you can see, he was perfect. No smashed face, no cone head, no black eye–he was perfect. He is perfect.

He announced his arrival by sending contractions only to my back, and by my back I mean my tailbone. Two labor and delivery nurses told us over the phone that I likely wasn’t in labor before the pain was too much to manage and we went to the hospital anyway. I got a cervical catheter to induce dilation and went from one centimeter to six in twenty minutes (while I may or may not have been screaming hysterically, unable to answer the doctor’s questions). Thank You, Father God, for our labor nurse, Nancy, who sings in our church choir with Mike, and for Danna, who held whichever hand Mike wasn’t holding and didn’t let us give up. A few hours to finish up with the epidural, two hours of pushing, and we had our little one. We could hold him. He was ours.

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The month went to a weeklong visit from Grandma and Papa, who took care of all of us. I could finally call my mom “Grandma,” the title she’s been dreaming of since my wedding day. I could watch her dote on my son and realize that even with two decades worth of childcare experience, I needed her to be there. I needed advice. I needed someone to make me a sandwich each day around lunch time and tell me to take a nap. I needed someone to keep on top of our laundry and dishes so I could take care of something infinitely more important.


It’s gone to medical procedures–the routine ones like check-ups and circumcision, and the scary, unexpected ones like the one where we learned our sweet boy was quietly starving and we were readmitted to the hospital two days after we left. It went to many tearful, painful nursing sessions where I felt like a mothering failure for needing to give my baby a bottle of formula to make up for all the weight he’d lost. It has gone to accepting that having Grandma and then Daddy helping me feed him was not the plan but can be a blessing–and really, it’s not like anything else in this journey has gone according to plan.

It’s gone to sweet moments of snuggling him as he sleeps, singing to him and reading him books, gazing at his perfect face and wondering how we got so lucky. It’s gone to moments of panic where I nudge his foot or hand just to make sure he’s breathing, my overactive imagination unwilling to contemplate what would happen if he wasn’t. It’s gone to days and nights of sheer exhaustion, and appreciation of dear local friends who have brought us dinner or otherwise loved on us and gotten us through another day.


GrannaAnd, somehow, we’ve arrived at this:

one month

It has come too fast after too many long nights and short days. It hasn’t been the way I expected any more than I expected to feel contractions only in my tailbone or have a low milk supply, but it is orders of magnitude better than the grief and frustration that preceded it.

Jonathan Reece, our miracle baby, we love you. Even in our disbelief that you have been in our lives so long, we know you have been in our hearts much longer.

You’d think by now I’d be the world’s leading expert on waiting for my child to arrive. But being 39w3d pregnant is a lot different than I thought it would be when we were waiting to get pregnant, or waiting to be chosen by a birth family.

I’m not just waiting to welcome my child into the great big world. I’m waiting to go into labor. After all the painful endometriosis episodes of watching and waiting to see if a new symptom was worthy of action or just ibuprofen, now I know a painful hospital visit is looming and I’m waiting for it to begin.

We have our bags packed, minus the toiletries and phone chargers we use daily. They sit, along with Jonathan’s diaper bag and car seat and Mike’s sleeping bag and pillow, in a pile near the front door, ready to be loaded into the car while gently mocking my nesting impulses for perfect order and cleanliness. We have a stack of addressed Christmas cards waiting to be stuffed with birth announcements and sent to relatives and friends near and far.

Every trip to the grocery store, every dinner out, every round of laundry or bathroom scrubbing has me wondering if it will be “the last time before…” Before Jonathan, before parenthood, before life as I know it is permanently altered.

Mike and I don’t do well with huge, permanent change, even of the best kind. We were not blissful newlyweds because we were too overwhelmed with trying to organize our new, mutual space and make it our own. (Also, there was some sleep deprivation involved as we learned to share blankets and bed space. Looking back, that probably made mountains out of what should have been molehills more than anything else.) We fell in love pretty quickly and wanted to be married, both in the abstract and to each other, from very early on in our relationship, but that didn’t mean it was an easy transition. Especially for people who aren’t always the most graceful transitioners.

So even though we’ve waited an eternity and waded through a quagmire of grief and frustration, there are still moments where we both get nervous, or terrified, or just a little dazed at the unknown possibilities of being parents. And knowing it could start any time, or be started for us when we’re at our wits’ end, leaves the waiting that much more intense.

I’m still pretty bad at waiting, but at least this time (I hope) all will be well when it’s over.

Technically, Jonathan’s first Christmas will be in 2015, not 2014. He’s still safely on the inside of his mommy for the moment (and my doctor thinks he’s likely to stay that way until closer to D-Day, January 16). But whether he knows it or not, there were presents under the tree bought for and addressed to him–clothes and toys unmistakably for a baby boy. Mommy and Daddy took the liberty of opening them on his behalf, and then thanking his grandma, great-aunt, and uncle for their generosity.


He even got his own stocking, labeled “J” lest we confuse it with the “E” and “M” ones that have hung from our mantel for awhile.

We didn’t get him any gifts from us, though. In part it felt silly since we are buying things like crazy and sorting through shower gifts, preparing for his arrival. But also, for this Christmas, he is our gift. He is the gift we have prayed for these past four Christmases. Our little miracle coming just after the Season of Miracles, on the heels of the celebration of the most miraculous birth in the history of the world.

God has given, all right. And we rejoice in His soon-to-be perfect gift.


This July, when I was in my nauseous-zombie-first-trimester-fog state, I got an email that made my day. For the first time in my writing career, I had a work of fiction accepted by a paying market. After five years of virtually nothing but rejections, this felt almost as miraculous as the little guy responsible for my zombie fog.

The story is called “The School Strike.” The paying market is an educational database called Schoolwide, which has a library of texts available for schools and school districts with an annual subscription. I heard about them through my local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) chapter’s blog in April, and decided my much-rejected story didn’t have anything to lose. A few weeks ago, I filled out a questionnaire about my writing process and background that will accompany the story when it goes live. Every six months that it generates enough downloads to stay live, I will get a royalty check. Probably enough to take our little family out for ice-cream, maybe a fast-food dinner, but still.

It was so encouraging to get an acceptance letter instead of another rejection for my stack (and yes, I have a literal stack of my rejection letters, or rather a folder. I have one for acceptance letters too, but it’s so much smaller.) It was even more encouraging that this story falls into my favorite genre, historical fiction, and is my second story idea to come from wandering a museum in Europe. In this case, it was the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, where I read the stories of college students who risked their lives resisting their Nazi invaders and wondered what a younger but equally determined child would do in the same situation. My last published article back in 2009 was also about this movement, so I already had the background as the story grew in my head during that eventful trip.

But when we came home, of course, life got a little too eventful. Writing has been a challenge for me ever since because it requires so much concentration and emotional awareness, both of which were often already occupied with the various facets of our infertility struggles. Somewhere in there, I managed to write this story, and revise it with the suggestions of trusted critique partners, and sporadically send it to a magazine or contest only to have it come straight back. That I sent it to the editor who agreed to publish it the same month God began knitting Jonathan together in my womb feels like the ushering in of a whole new era.

And it helped give me the courage to keep digging deeper into the first story that jumped into my head from a museum exhibit in Europe, the novel I used as my master’s thesis. It has been rejected four or five times as often as “The School Strike,” and I now see with good reason. It wasn’t ready for the big time. Maybe it still isn’t, and that makes me uneasy as I start to feel comfortable with the changes I’ve made and wonder if maybe it’s ready for another round of agent- or editor-hunting.

I don’t want to press my luck. I don’t want to feel the dull ache of rejection again. That was a constant presence during our two years of adoption possibilities, along with my writing attempts before and during that process. I finally feel chosen again. It’s a feeling I know won’t last forever, but I still want to cling to it like the softest of security blankets.

May I find the courage to deliver this story into the world when the time is right, just as I ask for the courage to bring forth that other piece of my heart I’ve waited so long to hold.

Full Heart


My heart is full of many things as I approach my last month of pregnancy. I expected, when I thought I would never be in such a position, to have a heart full of only good things–joy, gratitude, anticipation, love. All of those things are there, all of them bubble over and make the days creep by as I long to finally hold a baby who is mine.

But new-mommy anxiety fights for a place, especially when I’m not able to sleep through the night for several nights in a row. So does frustration at my aches and pains, along with lingering sadness over all the hard things of the past few years. It all lurks beneath the surface, sometimes closer to the top than others, and it’s hard to know when to acknowledge it and when to try to force it away by ignoring it.

It’s as if I don’t feel I have permission to feel anything negative. Well-meaning, otherwise-supportive folks have reminded me that backaches and labor pain are “what I prayed so hard for.” Not many, but enough to feel put in my place. Yes, for this child I prayed, harder than anyone will ever know. But funny how God answered those prayers with a little person kicking my ribs and not with a crystal ball and instruction manual. I feel no more ready to labor and deliver, let alone parent, this baby than anyone else who has never done either.

At the heart of it all is still a degree of incredulity that this is happening to us. The fear that something could still go horribly wrong is there, of course, but there is also a competing voice in my head saying, “But what if it doesn’t? What if Jonathan is a healthy, happy baby who grows into an amazing kid and then a handsome, God-loving man who outlives his parents?” And that thrills me to no end, but it can still feel like someone else’s story. Surely that can’t be meant for our family after all this time?

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” Genesis 21:1-7

Once again, I feel the permission to be anxious or incredulous from Sarah. I imagine her shaking her head in wonder for months after Isaac is born, maybe still afraid he is a dream or a manifestation of dementia. But there is joy, thankfulness, love, and laughter in her words too. It can feel a little cramped with all those feelings floating around in there, but there is room for all of them.

Lessons From Adoption

Our adoption process that we left hanging is still a sore spot for me. I still don’t understand why we felt led down such a long, complicated road that didn’t result in a child, and hearing about the serendipity of successful adoption stories has the same effect on me that miraculous pregnancy stories did when I thought we would never have one of our own. All that to say, though, all the psychological preparation we did for adoption changed our perspectives on having a biological child.

I mentioned my impatience with the perspective that a woman’s body is made to give birth in my last post, and I suppose this is a follow-up to that. I should add that I don’t doubt there are plenty of women who give birth relatively easily without major medical intervention. The world’s population would be incredibly small if that weren’t the case. I also don’t doubt that there is value and substance to the research on the benefits of immediate skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby after birth, often followed quickly by the first breastfeeding session. So many hospitals, ours included, wouldn’t promote it if there wasn’t a good reason.

But here’s where some lessons from adoption come into play. Basically, adoption taught us to say two words most new parents find very difficult to say: it’s okay.

Adoptive parents rarely get the chance to experience that skin-to-skin contact. When medical professionals and otherwise-helpful publications glorify that time and make it synonymous with the entire process of parent-child bonding, it often produces guilt and fear. But adoptive parents do bond with their babies or older children somehow, and that bond isn’t somehow secondary because it wasn’t facilitated in the seconds following birth. We had to come to a place of acceptance of this for over two years, and had to learn to be okay with it.

We had to learn to be okay with not breastfeeding an adopted baby, especially so that I would be free to pursue whatever endometriosis treatment was necessary to give me the energy to care for this new baby. Some adoptive moms do nurse, but very rarely are they able to do so without formula supplementation. So we had to smile and nod through the rhetoric about breast milk being nature’s perfect food while instead being thankful for the abundance of quality formula that would allow us to feed our baby. And if breastfeeding Jonathan doesn’t go well, guess what? I still get to be grateful, and he will be okay.

Babies are resilient. They can survive exposure to horrible substances, they can survive with a minimum of medical care, they can survive being transferred to another set of parents. It’s no one’s ideal, and in no way am I advocating for it. But we saw a lot of hair-raising scenarios among the fifty-four cases we were presented with, and to many of them we said, sometimes with fear and trembling, it’s okay. If you are meant to be ours, we will get through this together, because that’s what families do.

Biological families can get through less-than-ideal beginnings too. Jonathan already has a lot of advantages over many of the babies who could have become his older sibling in that I know what he’s been exposed to and it’s all been approved by my doctor. Ultrasounds have shown a healthy boy of normal size and proportions. God willing, he’ll come into this world safely and I’ll be able to hold him to my chest and let him nurse immediately while Daddy wraps his arms around us both.

But if we can’t, we will still form an unshakable bond with the son we longed for. He will be okay, we will be okay, and we’ll get through it together, because that’s what families do.