This past weekend, life came full circle. I felt so honored to play a part at the Sarah’s Laughter Infertility workshop this year as a speaker. Sitting in that room with those couples, I was immediately brought back to when I first found the workshop years ago. After having an emotional breakdown heading to a baby shower, I realized I really wasn’t as okay as I had been trying to tell myself. Shortly after said break down, I heard about the upcoming workshop announced at a church service which is how I landed at that workshop a few years ago and how I would later join Sarah’s Laughter. On Saturday, I laughed and I cried throughout the time I spent with this group. Nothing will ever take away the pain and emotions of infertility. I was so proud to be there, so proud of Sarah’s Laughter, so proud to see graduates and current members there volunteering. And I really think we all felt it, the hurting for a baby, the deep desire to become parents, the vulnerability of it all.
The workshop’s theme this year was “Just Keep Swimming.” I really feel like this year’s workshop takes the cake. Elisha Kearns who writes the blog, Waiting For Baby Bird was the keynote speaker. My friends currently in the group were super excited to meet and hear from someone that they find such encouragement from. There were breakout sessions throughout the day on loss, and for people interested in starting their own infertility support group. My friend, Kim, a family and marriage counselor, led a breakout session on keeping your marriage strong through infertility. I was so proud of her for getting up there (even after losing her house in the recent flooding) and offering such genuine advice and encouragement to couples. James Henderson led a session for just the men. I think this is such a needed thing! Yesterday, I caught up on the Sarah’s Laughter podcast and listened to the episode that he and his wife, Portia, recorded. Friends, it was good. I know he was the perfect person to lead the session specifically for men at the workshop, especially after listening to their podcast. I actually might just listen to the podcast again! Sarah’s Laughter Podcast, Portia & James The most unique part of this year’s workshop (to me) were the round table discussions (think speed dating) several tables set up around the room, each table represented a different topic (gestational carriers, adoption, perseverance in prayer, two different reproductive endocrinologists had a table, etc) Guests of the workshop could make their way around to the tables for a short little session. They received some very valuable information from such an expansive group of great resources. I can only imagine how much this helped people facing infertility. I think out of anything though, I was the most excited to see faces that I did not recognize. Their face might have been like my face a few years ago at the workshop. Not really in the deep end of infertility, but knowing they do not want to be alone. I really hope and pray each person, especially those sweet new faces, who attended left feeling understood.
I spoke about navigating through the sea of infertility.I wanted to share my talk with readers of this blog. Some of what I spoke about I have already written about in this blog. There are a few personal details/stories that I am not going to include (what happens at the workshop stays at the workshop right?) but I hope someone reading this finds the encouragement and that extra little push to just keep swimming.
Hi friends! My name is Mary Claire and I’m so happy to be able to share today with you. This workshop is extra special to me because a few years ago it changed my life. At the time my husband, Will and I, had been trying to get pregnant for a year. I knew I had PCOS, and I knew our next steps would be to see a fertility doctor. I was very green to anything infertility, but I had reached a point where I realized I did not want to be alone anymore. I heard an announcement about the workshop at a church service and knew God was pointing me in that direction. So I showed up by myself and that day my life changed. It was at this workshop that I met my really good friend Melissa. Where I met Beth. Where I found out about the Daily Double Portions. Where I heard about Sarah’s Laughter. It is because of the workshop, that I joined Sarah’s Laughter, came out of the infertility closet, formed a Baby Steps 5K team, became fully funded for an IVF though a GO FUND ME page put together by family and friends that resulted in my pregnancy. It is because of this workshop that I did not go through infertility alone, pregnancy alone, and now parenting alone. God placed me at that workshop on that day for a reason. And if you are here today, I want you to know that God placed you here too. This is exactly where you are supposed to be. This workshop changed my life and I pray that you walk away today feeling changed too.
I have such a special place in my heart for each of you in this room. You are all so dear to me. I just love each of your sweet faces. I want this for each of you so bad and I am believing in babies those babies. I hope that I can speak encouragement to each of you today. For those of you who do not know me, to give you a quick story- Will and I walked through infertility a few months shy of three years when we got pregnant. After three unsuccessful IUI’s we took an extended break to save for IVF. During the break, we put together a Baby Steps 5K team. This led family and friends to start a GO Fund Me page to raise funds for IVF. In a matter of weeks we were fully funded and immediately got started. Days away from retrieval, our IVF cycle was canceled because my body didn’t respond to the stimulation medication like it was supposed to. Out of all the follicles I had, only three matured. Instead we moved forward with our 4th IUI which was a success. 8 months ago, we welcomed twins, Bennett and Eliza, into our family. I can say all of that really quickly in a handful of sentences because I’ve said it so many times. But let me tell you, almost three years of infertility didn’t feel like it went by as quickly as those handful of sentences. In the middle of all of that there was a lot of tears, A LOT OF TEARS, heartbrokenness, sadness, and anger. If you are walking through infertility I want you to know that I understand your pain, I understand what it feels like to want a baby so bad it hurts. I know what its like to wonder everyday, will I ever be a mom? Or how will we ever come up with that much money? I want you to know that all of those feelings you have are very real.
Lets talk about the theme- just keep swimming. I love those three small words. When I think about what that means for me and infertility- I think just keep swimming can be tough but it means never giving up. Infertility can pull you down and drown you if you let it. Keeping your eyes on Jesus no matter what storm comes your way and no matter how long the journey is what just keep swimming means. When you feel like the storm of infertility is too big, remember to just keep swimming. God is there right beside you and He has not forgotten you. No ocean, including infertility, is too big for Him. When you are lost, just keep swimming. When you receive another negative pregnancy test, another failed cycle, another diagnosis, another wait- just keep swimming. Press on and press into God.
Thinking about this workshop, just keep swimming, persevering, staying focused on Jesus. I feel really called to share the story of Peter walking on water with you. This story keeps popping up in my life. I have heard it in recent church services, blogs I read, it was mentioned in a recent Bible study, and it was included in a recent Daily Double portions. So bare with me. I’m going to touch on a few verses.
In Matthew 14, starting with verse 22, “Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone” Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding 5000 men. He sends the disciples off in a boat across the Sea of Galilee so he can go up to a mountain to recharge his batteries and pray with God alone. He was tired after the miracle and needed some alone time so he said yall go ahead, I’ll catch up with yall later. So the disciples got in the boat and set off across the lake. As it is getting dark, a really bad storm begins and the waves and wind are full force. They couldn’t see anything and they were stuck. Jesus knew when he sent the disciples across the lake in the boat that they were going to hit this storm. I don’t think its crazy to wonder, if he knew they were going to face rocky waters, why did he send them in the middle of it? I think sometimes God allows storms in our lives, like infertility to strengthen us. Maybe He is using infertility to strengthen your marriage, grow your trust, or to strengthen your faith. Infertility is bigger than you, but it’s not bigger than God and you can’t get through this storm without Him. Really ask yourself, what is God teaching me in this season of struggle?
Jesus doesn’t immediately go to the disciples and save them from the storm. He’s up on that mountain for a while, it gets dark outside. He lets them ride it out a little. This is the perfect example to me on how God will meet our needs, not on our timetable or according to our wills, but on His timetable according to His will. Throughout my struggle with infertility I needed constant reminding that I had no control of when and how we were going to have a baby. I could plan my little heart out and everything seemed to be going according to my plan, and then God would remind me I was not writing my own story. He was.
When he does go to them in Verse 26, the storm is so bad they can’t even see Him they can only hear Him. And they are terrified. They think he is a ghost. In verse 27, “Do not be afraid,’ he said. ‘ Take courage I am here’” Notice that when he walks out to them, he doesn’t calm the storm. A recent Bible study I was a part of touched on this. I love how it taught:
Sometimes the Lord calms the storm, and sometimes he calms us so that we can handle the storm.”
With infertility, sometimes it can be hard to see God moving in your life. You have to really listen and trust that He is there. He tells the deciples not to be sacred, and says I am here. God is with you in the middle of the storm of infertility and He is whatever you need. If you are discouraged, He is your hope. If you are tired, He is your strength. If you are worried, He is your peace. If you are unsure or full of doubt, He is your wisdom and your clarity. He’s got you. He is whatever you need in your storm. Do not be afraid.
In verses 28-29 Peter calls out to Jesus and asks if its really Him? And if it is really Him to command him out of the boat and onto the water. So Jesus does just that, and Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water to Jesus. Peter sees the wind and waves and takes his focus off of Jesus because he is scared. When his focus shifts, he begins to sink. And he cries out to Jesus to save him. In verse 31, “Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said, ‘Why did you doubt me?'” I like how it says immediately. Jesus immediately saved him when he cried out to Him. God is always faithful to us. He will not let us sink. He will not let us drown. He’s got you girl. Call out to him and he will immediately reach for your hand.
When we take our focus off of God and start to worry over our circumstances or our situation, we start to drown. When we keep our focus on God and His promises, He will always get us to the other side. One of the darkest times for me in our journey was when our IVF cycle was cancelled. We had a huge response to our Baby Steps Team and an outpouring of support for our Go Fund Me it all happened so quickly, there was so much momentum, I really felt God was all over it. I really felt like this was going to be IT. And then we were told, you know what you’re body isn’t working like it supposed to so instead of moving forward with retrieval, we are moving forward with an IUI. Which we had done several before that did not work. In that moment, both Will and I felt so defeated. Why would God do this? It was during this time that I really had to say over and over again on repeat to myself and to God, “your will God. You know the desires of my heart for a baby, but whatever it is God your will be done.” Because this was a road I never could have predicted, or ever wanted to walk down. I saw us sailing through the IVF finish line and getting pregnant. I know God is able. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above. So when that doesn’t happen it really takes the wind out of your sails. I had to put my faith in his hands and say YOUR will above anything else even if it doesn’t look like my will. I remember telling Will, I don’t even want to do this IUI. And his response was, call the dr and call it off. But I felt a pull on my heart to just keep swimming. To show up for the procedure even though we had very little hope that it was going to work. To keep telling myself that God is good and God is for me. If we had let our circumstances engulf us, our disappointment dictate us, allowed our situation steal from us, and not have moved forward with the IUI, we would not have Bennett & Eliza today. It was in the middle of these unwanted circumstances in the middle of this storm that we found our miracles. God got us to the otherside. And even when it didn’t make sense, even now some of it doesn’t make sense, I had to really trust that God uses all brokenness for His glory in the end. Even when my faith was a little shaky, God is always faithful. I’m not saying this was an easy thing to do. It was a really really hard thing to do. I definitely didn’t do it perfectly and it didn’t come naturally. I can stand here before you today and say I’m so thankful for the struggle of infertility because without it, I wouldn’t know God the way that I do. I felt so close to Him during this season because I needed Him so much. He had my full attention and with it, he shaped me- my faith and trust in Him was stretched and strengthened. I love that saying, He will turn our mess into our message. And let me tell you, I was one big hormotional (totally stealing that word from the keynote speaker) mess.
I would have loved it if there was a nice, neat bulleted list of, “here’s how you get through this” when I was walking through infertility. But that doesn’t exist. There is no manual. I put together my top five ways to navigate through infertility and I wanted to share them with y’all.
- Connect with God every day
- Find a way to connect to God every day, however it comes naturally to you. My church last year really encouraged doing a daily devotional, they worked through the One Year Bible and that was a little intimidating to me. So I did the Jesus Calling devotional each day. Another way I felt connected to God was to listen to worship music. Sign up for the Daily Double Portions. Some people write Scripture on post its or index cards and have them placed throughout their house and car. I want to say I’m one of those people, but I’m not. This might be a way for you to feel connected to God every day. Connecting to God everyday keeps your eyes focused on Him. It changes your attitude, your perspective, and really how you respond to your circumstances.
- Look for God in your everyday, because He is there. Sometimes it can be a little harder to see Him. He reveals himself to you in ways that are important to specifically to you. I’m a huge baby name person. When I would come across my baby names while walking through infertility, I knew this was an affirmation that God had not forgotten me, that He would fulfill his promises to me.
- Give God praise and thanks everyday. There is good in your life. Write it down if you need to, because there will be times that you forget the good. This keeps us turned towards Jesus, and not away.
- Find a support system
- Join Sarah’s Laughter if you are local
- Find someone who is walking a similar path that you can sit down face to face and hear their words, see their face, get a hug from. Online support is wonderful but person-to-person is just so special.
- Find wise Godly counsel. Its great to have girlfriends who can relate to you and send eye roll emojis when someone is pregnant or all the kissy faces/prayer hands when you are walking into a procedure through text. But it is equally as important to have spiritual counsel in your life. You also need a person in your life who can tell you what God says about infertility. Someone who can point you back to Scripture.
- Don’t forget to laugh
- My husband and I are not very serious people. But we were put into a serious situation. We had to have so many serious conversations. You have to be able to laugh to get through it. *I shared a few personal stories here, but for the sake of the length of this post (SO LONG. I was up there for 45 minutes) I’m going to cut that part out.
- Give yourself grace
- Be patient and kind to yourself. Think about how you would speak to a friend that reached out to you in need of support, and speak to yourself with that same voice. Give yourself permission to say “no” to things that are painful. Baby showers might be something that are difficult to get through. It’s okay to protect your heart and stop going to them or passing up hosting invitations. If there is a friendship causing you pain, distance yourself from it. It doesn’t have to be forever, but during this season of your life if it is healthy for you to put space between you and a person, do it. Get off of Facebook. This made a huge difference for me. I was constantly comparing myself to other people and measuring myself up against them. They’ve been married this long, have this many kids, are this age, and have a nice house. I started feeling very bitter and jealous not only towards random people on Facebook, but also my really good friends. And I didn’t want to feel that way towards people I loved. It’s something that I couldn’t help, so I had to say goodbye to Facebook and walk away from it. When I did, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I’m a much better person without it. My friend, Margo, also got off of Facebook and she said this- which is so true- being off of Facebook people actually reach out and connect to you because they can’t assume you saw it on FB. I feel like I speak to or text with so many people because of this. I get lots of, “hey since you’re not on Facebook…” And in my opinion, that’s a good thing!
- Form a Baby Steps 5K Team
- Form a team, ask for support. This was such a turning point in our journey. I understand what it’s like to not want to talk about it. I really do. I was there once. You don’t know if you open up about it if you will cry. And crying publicly is not my thing. I’d rather laugh, who wouldn’t? So I respect that and I’m not trying to push anyone to do anything they are uncomfortable with. But when I came out of the infertility closet and asked people to support us in the Baby Steps 5K I really got a glimpse of how much God loved me. It’s something you are taught at an early age…” Jesus loves me yes I know.” And it is easy for me to see how God can love other people, like I get how God loves her, or her, or her. But I understood that God actually really loves ME too when he sent so much support our way. I saw how important I was to God. It isn’t everyday that people tell you how much they love you or how much they want to see your dreams come true. I feel so lucky that we had a Baby Steps team because of those words of encouragement that poured into our hearts. This also gives people who really want to do something to help you, help you. There is so much unwanted, or unasked for advice- “have you tried this__” “what about adoption?” “I know someone who has a friend that’s stepsisters cousin___” I really give all of this the benefit of the doubt and think the intention behind it all is to want to help. Forming a team will also help bring awareness to infertility and give people a personal connection to the cause.
- If you aren’t from the local area look up, Resolve, it is a national organization that does walks all over. I attended one in Houston a few years ago 🙂