I took a deep breath. And changed my mind. I couldn’t do it.
I returned to my computer screen the very next night. Took a another deep breath, squeezed my eyes closed, and clicked, “Send.” Just like that, it was out there. “It,” being our deeply personal and current story of infertility emailed out to a little less than thirty people. One small baby step.
A very big dream, turned into planning, and then a reality.
One brilliant girl in my support group suggested a 5K supporting infertility to Beth. And she took that dream, and ran with it. Why not dream even bigger by giving away an IVF cycle to a couple in need? And there you have it friends, Baby Steps 5K held on November 22nd, 2014 was born! I excitedly witnessed (from the sidelines, I take no credit for the hard work and countless heartfelt hours spent by those in charge) God make the impossible, possible as things slowly fell into place. My generous and passionate doctor donated his services for the IVF, the medications were donated, the location was set, sponsors, volunteers, you name it all came together. Beth called it an Ephesians 3:20 event.
It was during our support group meetings and talks about the upcoming 5K that I felt a stirring in my heart to share our private struggle with loved ones. In order to win that IVF giveaway, we needed support! We could not do it without them. I tried to shove those feelings away, deep down somewhere where I could forget them. I didn’t think I could be that transparent and open about my imperfections. Those feelings continued to resurface, each time a little stronger, until I finally gave in and listened to what God had placed on my heart. Our email asked friends and family to join Team Stickle! Each person who registered could donate their IVF giveaway ticket to us, giving us more chances in the drawing to win. The response was IMMEDIATE. I woke up the very next morning to email notifications from people already registering and joining our team.
I went to dinner with a friend shortly after I sent out the email who supportively wanted to understand why I had never talked about it before. The only answer I had was, I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel strong enough to talk about it. If someone were to ask me a question about something fertility related, I wouldn’t have a perfect answer, because I myself didn’t have answers. And what if I just burst into tears? To me that was scary. I am not a comfortable crier. It’s the Town in me. This past year, Will and I were going through and processing doctors appointments, tests, blood work, and failed fertility treatments together. There were many nights of hard, hard conversations. We needed to figure it all out and work through the pain with each other first. It wasn’t until the start of our break that I felt we were on the other side of something. I felt okay. I felt ready. Another part of me didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, or for Will. I wanted to be treated the same by people I loved, because I am still the same person, Will is still the same Will. I didn’t want my friends to edit themselves, or conversations, about their kids and pregnancies because of me. I wanted to be included in their lives and the lives of their kids. I wanted to be able to make the call of attending or not attending showers, parties, dinners if it was too hard for me. So much of this is out of my control, I didn’t want that to be taken away from me too.
Over the course of the weeks leading up to the race, we received an outpouring of love. Texts, emails, cards, hugs, bracelets/medals. I re-read every word over and over. Just the simple acknowledgement meant so much. My heart felt squeezed so tight. Each day my inbox was flooded with notifications of people registering for Team Stickle. Those notifications were little nuggets of encouragement. In our email, I also asked everyone to invite others, and boy did they get to work on recruiting. On race day, Team Stickle totaled to 80 people. The largest team of the race! Eighty amazing people, each and every one of them important to us. On average, a first year race has around 70-100 registrations. Our team alone amounted to the average number of a first year 5K! Wow, overwhelmed is an understatement. The response to the race in general was tremendous. They were hoping for a total 250 people. Instead, God exceeded expectations and registration was capped ten days early at 1000 people registered. God is able my friends.
There is no way for me to describe race day and do it justice, it was that incredible. The air was electric. Rounding the circle of the race route, looking back at the sea of people behind me publicly supporting infertility took my breath away. It was a whirlwind, and over before I even knew it. I wish I could go back and hug on my support group buddies longer. I wish I could go back and just stand in front of the wall of miracles and stare.
Our names did not get pulled for the IVF drawing. At the time, I did not know the girl who won personally. But I didn’t need to know her, or her story, to know that she deserved to win just as much as any couple there. I looked up her team when I got home just out of curiosity. She had 15 people. Those odds were stacked against her. That IVF was supposed to be hers. I believe this with my whole heart. The human part of me was sad not to win because man, it would have made things a whole lot easier. God has something else in mind for us, His favor was there on this day in another way.
My 3:20 moment did not come in winning the IVF cycle like you would think. My 3:20 moment came when we did not win. It was when our team stood with us as the winner was announced. When they hugged us. When they became tearful for us. When they said this is not the end, this is not over for you. I know that, Will knows that, but to hear them say that too is something I never could have imagined. My 3:20 moment came when our team said we will find another way. When they said you are strong at a time when I felt my weakest. When they showed me that their support did not end on race day. And they will continue to walk with us through this journey, one small baby step at a time. Discouragement and disappointment did not take over on this day. Instead of creating doubt, this day created encouragement and a greater hope than ever before. God wanted us to humbly experience allowing others to share in our pain. To humbly experience needing our burdens carried. We have never felt more loved than we did on November 22nd.