Trust

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Not too long ago I wrote a letter to Dr. B. I’d run into him out shopping one evening and got to give him a hug and wish him Merry Christmas. I hadn’t seen him since he called to say the IVF didn’t work; I had been expecting to feel…upset or sad, maybe sorry or guilty…like we worked really hard, prayed really hard, for this thing to happen and maybe it was my fault it failed.

I didn’t feel any of those things though, I just felt joy. Seeing him for the first time out of the office, realizing I missed the people we’d spent so much of our time with this past year. And later, knowing I needed to tell him that the year, though difficult at times, was all part of the plan -I wrote him a letter.

Here’s what it said:
After our disappointing IVF I was having a hard time wrapping my head around all the whys and how comes. It’s been a hard 8 years hoping for this dream, and so much hard work by so many people this last year chasing it. It feels like God keeps asking me to walk toward a cliff and put my toes over the edge. That’s scary, I’m tired, it hurts, I’m a slow walker.

So, I was doing a Bible study called Discerning the Voice of God. I’m pretty sure in the 12 weeks we took to go through it people are generally supposed to learn something new every chapter. Things about obedience and seeking and whatnot. But my study was full of one thing: Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.
And arrogantly I think ‘that’s what I’m doing! ‘.

Then He got really real…
He asked me -If I offered to turn your fertility over to your best friend would you want me to?
I’m, of course, saying -Yes! Let’s do that! I trust her, she wants what I want, we’d have this fixed by dinner.
And the response I get is -Why do you trust your fallible human friend more than your infallible God?
Ouch.

So, back to my cliff, I was talking to someone recently about this image of God asking me to put my toes over the cliff and do that hard trust thing, and it brought up yet another question from God.
-If Dr. Bachus asked you to jump off a cliff would you do it?
And my answer was -Yes! Of course! Because I trust him. I trust if he asked me to do that then I would be tethered.
The response to that was simple and profound -Then trust me to have you tethered and keep walking.

So, I’m not trying to raise anxiety about this crazy patient with too much trust in you, but rather to reaffirm the importance of the process.
It’d be great if God let you be in charge of our infertility, we’d have this fixed by dinner, right?
But it’s not up to you.
You just get to do your part, bring the science! And turn the whole thing over to the only One who knows the reason for the journey. Maybe, we hope, it’s a baby. But maybe it’s something we can’t see yet because our toes haven’t found the edge of the cliff. Frustrating that the answer can’t be even an inch closer.

Sometimes, I get questions about if doing these treatment things are really trusting God.
Well, there can be no doubt when each moment -from admitting to my heart that adoption was a means to an end but not a solution to a problem, to right now- doors flew open before us. Some opened with a tragedy to lead us to a blessing and on to days of frustration. But, the doors haven’t closed yet so we keep going where they lead. They may not lead in the direction I want, but I can’t doubt the leading for my own expectation. Of course it’s trusting God, the dude invented everything science is based on!
Sure, He could snap His fingers and make this easier -but dang it if easy is not the point. Father’s are so like that.
*insert my teenage eye roll here*

It’s not a Christmas miracle, but a Christmas blessing instead…tears don’t make for a bad year, sometimes they’re just growing pains.

Waves

I am standing on a shore
In the tide line
I watch the waves break
The frothy sea rushing at my feet
It does not reach my toes
I smile and look up
I can see an endless horizon
Feel the warm sun on my face

I do not sense the change
I only feel the sand slipping beneath me
Looking down, the sea has claimed my toes
My instep, my heals
Sea overtakes my feet

Step back, I think, step back
I cannot move
I cannot lift my feet
I cannot lift my eyes
I can only allow the wave to come
Cover me, sink down in it
Wait

I think there should be a rhythm in the waves
A setting-off point
A noticeable shift before I am covered
Trapped

As unpredictably as it arrived
It slips away
The sea draws back
Only then can I move
A laborious tug of war
Drawing myself from the sand

I stand and watch the waves break
I lift my eyes

Grief

Grief is your doctor saying his prayers weren’t answered; hearing his disappointment before he speaks the hard truth aloud.

Grief is trying to hold it together long enough to finish the conversation so you don’t blubber into the phone.

Grief is curling up in your bed and sobbing until it feels like your head and chest will explode with the pain.

Grief is wishing you could sleep until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Grief is clinging to a photo of your babies and knowing they’ll never be more than those few cells but it feels like a miscarriage all over again.

Grief is putting on makeup and sunglasses and hoping no one asks how your day is going.

Grief is giving into the ugly cry when you need to; pulling over to sob until you can see to drive again.

Grief is letting tears fall when they need to, packing extra kleenex, and knowing you have to let the pain in for it to get better.

Grief is feeling angry when people want to comfort you; even tender words to a wounded heart can hurt.

Grief is praying for acceptance of whatever happens; praying the pain doesn’t harden your heart.

Grief is time. The oblivion of sleep, the stray tears of insomnia, moments of distraction, moments carried under by the waves.

Grief is waiting; choosing to move slowly, being tender with your body and your heart. Allowing the weight and truth be what it is and not trying to rush to cover it or push it away. It’s knowing those sparks of life deserve to be grieved just as they were loved; wholly and completely.

The Transfer Story

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Awake at 5am, not because I needed to be but because I think I was worried about my bladder. I got up at 2am to pee, and I needed it refilled to very uncomfortable for the embryo transfer this morning. Having a full bladder helps push the uterus into an optimal drop off position for the transfer and is one of my few jobs today. Get my shot, take a shower, don’t pee, lay with a flat pelvis afterwards.

So, needless to say I was awake at 6am when my actual alarm went off. I’d been thinking about and praying about our little embryos in the dark while I waited, excitedly nervous-hopeful. At 6:45am we were greeted by my nurse Jeneka’s smiling face, she’s a favorite, I was very happy to see her. I got changed into my gown, socks, hat, and mask -the extent of my OR prep today. Yay! D put on coveralls over his street clothes, booties, hat, and mask to accompany me this time. I got comfy on the gurney, we signed consents, Jeneka asked what I remembered about retrieval. When I told her I said “just a pinch” when it hurt so they wouldn’t stop she said she guessed it was more painful than I let on and maybe having tattoos prepared me to handle it so well.

Dr. Shari came in, that was our first face-to-face meeting and I was glad I got to shake her hand. She had the picture above to give us with the encouragement that they divided and compacted together just like they should, they look great. She also said we have 4 more about that stage and so we’ll see how they do over the next couple days to know how many we can freeze. We stared at the picture a little in awe that life begins so small, so miraculously, and that medicine can touch magic in such a way.

Dr. B came in and we were ready to roll! I did roll in fact; gurney to OR, scooted over onto the table and tried to relax while I looked around a bit at all the things I missed from being drugged a few days ago. Jeneka set the ultrasound on my pelvis, Dr. B explained what we were watching on the monitor, and then sneeky-as-can-be he dropped off the embryos via catheter. Bodies are so sensetive as to how things get delivered sometimes, geesh. He then drained my bladder for me so I could remain flat for the next 45 minutes and not be in agony. It’s the relief of 2am on a cold winter day and not having to leave the warm nest of your bed to walk across a cold floor to the bathroom. He talked over my going home instructions while we waited. Pelvis horizontal until Wednesday night (let’s call it Thursday morning), no activity that strains the lower abdominal muscles -heavy lifting, crunches. We need a nice gentle home for implantation. Then, I scooted back to the gurney, rolled back to the prep area and relaxed a while.

Dr. B told me my retrieval was one for the memoirs, and such a good story. He said it was hard work for him and so had to be hard for me. You’re so strong. He said, and I teared up. Apparently he’d almost given up on that right side ovary. He’d tried, and it was stubborn and there was a section of bowel in the way he couldn’t risk hitting to get to it. He’d started breaking down the instruments and decided he’d give it one more shot. I’m just stubborn. He said, Couldn’t leave it alone, so I checked one more time. That’s when we had you do the hyperventilating. He grinned. When you took a deep breath it changed the pressure in your belly just enough that the bowel moved aside and I could get a straight shot into the ovary. (This is with Hilary also aiding us by pushing on my belly from the outside.) He was afraid he couldn’t just have me hold my breath forever…to which I said he could have, I’d have held my breath as long as it took, that’s all I was thinking about. I’ll do anything. He said Yes. exactly what he feels too, we do whatever we have to.

So, with the needle in the ovary I let out my breath and the bowel pressed on the needle shaft while he extracted an egg. Then he asked me to take a deep breath to move the bowel so he could safely reposition the needle for the next egg. We did that over and over and it worked. He laughed It was the darndest thing. A most unique retrieval. I told him about how I had all these people praying Move, ovary, move. He said that was prefect and surely it worked.

It’s so humbling to have a doctor tell you you’re a strong person. Because oh my gosh I don’t feel that way. Keeping my smile, being willing to do the process, he knows it’s not easy and he notices those things. When I tell you that Dr. B and his staff are an important part of our journey this is why. He didn’t give up. Not all doctors would do that.

While I waited to be released to get up, get dressed, and come home I daydreamed about how maybe this time next year we’d be asking them all to stay late after work. We’d bring our baby(s) to introduce them to all the hearts and hands that worked so hard to create them. We’d have a photographer friend come and take ‘family’ photos. We’d celebrate. I’m praying in that direction, one day, one day.

Lastly, I had two songs in my head all morning…
Third Day -Sing a Song
BJ Thomas -Hooked on a Feeling
Don’t ask me why, but that’s my morning soundtrack. One for each embryo. ;)

The Embryo Update

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Thank you Google images.

Retrieval success!
On Thursday morning I was given a very nice drug cocktail that made the day seem like a dream I can’t quite grasp.  And then Dr. B (with much assistance from my posse of favorite nurses: Kelley, Hilary, and Jeneka) poked my ovaries with a needle and collected 10 little eggs. The good Lord answered our prayers and allowed access to that stubborn right ovary! I did have to hold my breath a few times to help push it into place, and that’s mostly what I remember from the procedure.

Dr.B: Okay, take that big deep breath.
Me thinking: You will hold this breath as long as it takes to get those dang eggs.
Hilary: You can breathe normal.
Rinse and repeat several times.

There was minimal pain, I did feel a sharp stab a few times, but only once I remember flinching and gasping and when they asked if I was okay I said “just a pinch” so they wouldn’t stop. I kept thinking push into the pain that’s how he’s gonna get to them. And he did, 5 eggs from each ovary.

Then I went home in a sleepy stupor and mostly slept till 3 pm. I’ve had a little soreness, a little crampy feeling, more so on the right than the left, but nothing that I needed meds for after the fact. I began my anti-rejection drugs that night and my progesterone shots the very next morning to prep my body to receive back embryos. Now that we’re caught up with me let’s talk embryo development!

Everyday we get a report on what’s happening with our little seeds so I’ll update this same post as we go when I know the next thing so it’s easier to track development. (Sorry if it gets long.) Here’s a chart that might help:

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Friday’s Report:
Dr. Shari, the embryologist, erred on the side of caution and fertilized 8 eggs with ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) and 2 she allowed to fertilize on their own. 5 of the eggs are visibly fertilized -4 ICSI, 1 natural. There was no difference in egg quality or outcome between the different ovaries. Also, just because she only saw the 2 pronuclei stage (image 1 above) in 5 eggs doesn’t mean there aren’t more. It’s a temporary stage so we may end up with a different embryo count over the next several days. That’s why we get a daily report. For now, we celebrate the 5!, pray for continued superstar development and wait.

Saturday’s Report:
Dr.B called to let me know 2 embryos are at just the right stage in development, and 3 are half-a-step behind. He said that’s totally normal and looking good for today. Tomorrow he should be able to tell a little better about quality and whatnot. We just need 2 good seeds for transfer on Monday so we are very thankful. Grow, babies, grow!

Sunday’s Report:
Dr. B called with very good news! We have 4 embryos at the 8-cell stage (3 ICSI, 1 natural), and 2 embryos at the 4-cell stage. If you’ve been following our math you’ll be noticing we got a little baby bonus. He was careful to tell me it is a small bonus, and things can change quickly, but that they’re continuing to monitor growth with hope for even the one-step-behind embryos.

Our reunion is set for tomorrow morning at 7am! We’ll head over to the office a little early and have a conversation about who’s coming home with us and who will be frozen for a later cycle. Assuming things stay on this same trajectory we’ll most likely choose the two best looking embryos for transfer. If something unfortunate happens over night we’ll decide best course of action for success. One of the things I love about Dr. B is that he’s willing to push the envelope, but still approaches things with a conservative heart. He’s okay if we have twins, and he’ll push a little in that direction since we are open to that. But, he worries about triplets for my health and the health of the babies. He wants me to have a healthy, happy pregnancy and healthy, happy babies to show for all our hard work!

In our perfect world we’d obviously like this to be successful on the first go. I want to be pregnant tomorrow, that’s my prayer. We’d also like to have embryos viable for freezing, that would mean a chance at siblings later on in this perfect world we’re thinking of. However, if hard things happen and we don’t get the dream tomorrow having extra embryos will give us a chance to try again without needing to repeat the retrieval process. While that’s not the perfect world it would still be a blessing. So, as you continue to pray for our family you are armed with all our hopes. Thank you so much for your continued love and support! If any babies could be prayed into existence it will be ours. How many kids can say they weren’t just a parent’s dream, but were born first in the hearts of an entire community of family and friends? That awes me to no end.

We are so grateful.

Abundance and Lack

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The dark circles in the center of the ultrasound are what little growing eggs look like. That’s what gets measured and watched and prayed over, tiny dots of hope.

I tend to be a smile-even-though kind of person. I smile even though I don’t get the joke, or the story wasn’t funny, or I don’t feel like laughing. I smile until it hurts and then sometimes I lash out. Sometimes I just cry, especially now with my body riding high on fertility drugs. It’s good to relieve tension and anxiety with laughter, I’m all for it, just ask my Dr.

Dr B: “I don’t want to be doom and gloom… but I do think we are going to need some luck, and assistance, patience and some grace to get to the eggs on the right side. Now, we can absolutely have great results with just the left, but I want them all…”

Me: “Don’t be greedy, Dr B.”

That’s how our conversation went this morning when he told me our egg count was diminishing before my eyes. And, not even for lack of eggs but lack of accessibility -they’re just simply in an inconvenient spot.

When you begin IVF you’re kindof told what the hope-fors are. One of those is: We hope we can start with somewhere around 16-20 eggs. Those are good numbers to begin with, because as we go through the retrieval and fertilization process we will lose some. Some will be too small, some won’t fertilize, some will stop growing during the week, etc etc etc. We begin at the top of a funnel with 16-20 eggs and we hope to end with 6-8 good embryos. Enough that if we want a sibling, or we need to try again, we have a reserve.

Now let’s jump to our reality.  We can see on the ultrasound 6 eggs on the left,  maybe 7 but that 7 is very small. We can see 5 on the right, maybe 6 but again number six is very small. Our funnel, best case is only beginning with 13 eggs. Okay, that’s good,  not great but enough. Even if we got 4 good embryos that’s still a possible 2 rounds of IVF. Awesome.

Fast forward to today: now we’re looking at only being able to get to 7 eggs. Our funnel is getting smaller and smaller. And now we’re just praying for 2 good embryos that keep this dream alive. The numbers might mean very little to you, but to us each one of those eggs is a possibility. Losing 6 of them before we even get started is devastating. Those eggs, those embryos-to-be, each one is the potential for a child. Each one could have a life, be a sibling…each one is a tiny spark of hope and letting them go is not an easy thing.

I’ve been thinking about talking through something here, something that seems to come up time and time again with different people and always leaves me angry or upset. The news of today just pounded it in a little more, so I am going to address it while it’s on my mind.

One of the first and repeated (holy crap -SO. OFTEN.) questions I get when people know we are doing IVF is a variation on: What are you going to do if you have multiples?
Because everybody thinks Octomom, John & Kate, the quints, the quads, the twins after adopting triplets. And their teasing smirk about all this is usually something like: maybe you shouldn’t do it if you’re gonna have 5 babies! Or I’d give you mine so I can be carefree again, or a facial expression that says you’re crazy.

Lemme break down what you might be misunderstanding:
The moms of multiples love their children just as they would a singleton. The parents of multiples have to go through finding a new normal just like the parents of single children, it looks different, but it’s fundamentally the same. You deal with whatever struggles life throws at you, you bring your babies home and you get on with life. Most importantly -when you’re talking to someone who’s dealing with infertility having children, any children is not our fear.

The fear is not in abundance, the fear is in lack.

When you tell me these stories, when you regurgitate this info with a voice that says ‘this is the horror story, isn’t it funny, it could happen to you’ I’m not laughing. In fact usually I don’t want to hear about it anyway, things with a million to one odds are not on my radar right now. Those stories are rare. Let’s talk about all the infertile couples who go through treatment and go home with half a dozen miscarriages and empty arms. Let’s ask if they’d choose the hard road of multiples or the hard road of a nursery that never gets used.
Teasing someone dealing with infertility about how scarey you think having too many children would be is ignorant and cruel. Because while you’re so damn worried about (if you were being realistic) twins or triplets I’m over here living in hell thinking I’ll never have the one. And then something like today happens and it jacks that fear right through the roof. You don’t have to worry, my terrified heart says to those remarks, I can’t even have one.

I know you’re joking. I know you don’t mean it like that. I know you’d be happy for us no matter how many babies we bring home. I know. But it’s not funny. lt still hurts.

If you want to tease me about multiples tease with hope and encouragement not fear. Tease me about needing a minivan, or how strong I’ll be after carrying all those babies. Tease me about how our lives will explode in a chorus of laughter and tears and running feet, having a built in basketball team,  or needing all the babysitters for date night. Don’t tease me about giving up on a dream because the dream is hard, this road is hard enough.

Asked to Look

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A week ago I joined a Bible Study, one that is familiar -the people, the place- and also new in the word. In the Fall a group of women and I gather to study together, this year we are studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Today I did my first two days of homework and was moved to tears.

During day one Priscilla asks how we approach God; What are your feelings about hearing God’s voice? I said:
I doubt my own worthiness to hear from God and in doing so do not expect Him to speak to me.
I approach God with a doubtful heart instead of the expectant confident heart He wants me to have.

Day two struck a nerve. We are reminded of the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 18:9-18 where God promises them a son at the appointed time. If you know the story you might also know that in their doubt Abraham and Sarah used Sarah’s maid to bring about a child instead of trusting and waiting on God’s promise. Priscilla writes: “While the righteous man trusts God to fulfill His Word, the proud man (self-reliant) depends on himself to bring things to pass.”

It was here my heart started pounding. Did I do that? Did I pray and wait on God or did I move without Him? Are we doing the right thing?
You might be thinking -uh, Steph, I think eight years is a good ‘waiting on God’ time period. If you know me you will know that during this infertility struggle we’ve prayed and asked and begged and tried to move and not felt right and changed our minds. You will know I struggled with how far to go into treatment, is choosing IVF not trusting God?

All of those fears rose up within me today. Have I done something wrong? And, so not knowing what else to do in my panic, I prayed. Father, is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Did I lack enough patience? Did I not wait on you? Is this bound to failure because I’m going about it all wrong? Tears were falling, heart was pounding, fear and doubt were building…and then I heard Look.

“Look…Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days…”   – Habakkuk 1:5

So I did. I took a deep breath and I looked back over the unfolding of this story and I saw the God has guided our family even in my doubts and fears. He has stilled my rush to move when it needed to be stilled, and He has opened doors to move us forward when it was time to go. God has provided a way for us to do IVF; financially, emotionally, physically.

He has provided a doctor and nurses I adore and wouldn’t want to go through this without. There’s no one else but them for our journey, they are important.

He has provided a supportive and encouraging community to surround us. Would we have had these people through other routes to children? Of course, but it’s not a coincidence I have several science/medicine loving friends who are all in to talk about the process we’re doing. They’re interested, fascinated, want to be a part of this difficult journey. That’s a God thing.

I have sisters and brothers in infertility walking the road with me. Some up ahead who have their miracle babies and are cheering telling us don’t give up. Some right along side crying the same tears when it gets hard, and moaning the same moans as we trudge on. I’m not in any moment of this alone and that is possibly the most important part of the journey.

God made us for community and connection and through the last eight years He has steadily built mine. I married into the family He knew I needed. I found a church with leaders He knew I needed. Within that church I found a circle of friends that are irreplaceable. His hand moved when I met my best friend’s husband on new-member class day (in a room full of people he sat down next to me), and it moved again when I joined a Bible Study and found her sitting across from me (only later realizing the connection). His hand moved each time from one friend I met another, and another, and another. As our stories unfold together and we have a million Me too! moments, God is there knowing these are the people I needed for the journey. He’s been building the village our children will grow up in slowly, steadily, faithfully. He’s given us to one another for a reason.

What I learned today, what has the tears streaming down my face as I write this, is that I am not unworthy. Those doubts, those fears, those moments when I question my faith, my hope, my trust, my belief -that is not God. That is the enemy trying to break what God is building, trying to blind me to the blessings in the struggle, the glory in the journey. I must come back to Him in those moments and remember that He asks me to look.

Look and see what He has done, do not doubt what He is doing.

Keep Moving Forward

It’s what I’m going to tell myself a lot during this next season.

Keep moving forward.

It’s what I’m going to try and remember when the days seem overwhelming.

Right now I’m focusing on one week.
One week where I stop taking one medication. One week where I begin a new Bible study and fill in those to-come days in the calendar. One week where I have a family lunch planned. One week where the Mr. and I would like to start a workout routine together. One week where I get back to my coffee and craft group routine. One week where I’ll add four new drugs to my daily. One week where I’ll add a bunch of reminders in my phone to alert me when is time to take those drugs. One week where I’ll remember what it is to give yourself shots in the belly. One week where I’ll also do laundry, cook dinner, wash dishes, snuggle puppies, and a million other mundane things. One week lots of other couples have gone through and come out the other side, we can too.

Here’s a peek at what this month’s IVF calendar looks like:

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There’s just one week between me and the next doctor appointment. That doctor appointment is a bright shiny goal to reach. It’ll be the check-in time to be sure I’m doing all the things correctly. It’ll be the first notion as to how my body is dealing with all these new drugs. It’ll be our chance to see if the follicle-stimulating,  egg-growing,  drugs are doing their thing.

Then it’ll be just one more week of growing and we’ll be ready for the next step. It feels like a snap of the fingers and a mile away all at once.

Here’s what my next two weeks look like from the pharmacy:

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That’s not all the drugs, that’s just to get me to egg retrieval day; two weeks-ish from today.

I just have to keep moving forward through these days. One at a time I’ll mark them off the calendar. Even the crazy busy, stressful, days come to an end and get marked off. They all get us one day closer.

It feels fitting that the weather is changing as we start this next step. Although, I admit, I still feel that– I thought we’d be done by now! frustration. And, I often think: OK, by Thanksgiving this could be over. By Christmas we’ll know. We might have so much to celebrate come New Years. Oh, please God, I hope so.

:::right now:::

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Right now: it’s 7:39am, and I’ve been awake about 40 minutes.

Right now: I’m thinking about having a second cup of Chili Chai tea with cinnamon honey because I woke up with a headache.

Right now: I believe I really need to learn to drink more water consistently.

Right now: I’m anticipating kissing the guy next to me when he leaves for a tractor pull in twenty minutes.

Right now: I’m contemplating a strange dream in which I got married again to this same guy. In a park with too many people, and with dishes that don’t match for the reception that nobody noticed until it was too late. -and which overwhelmed me making me hide in the bathroom.

Right now: I’m remembering what it felt like to wake up to fear and horror on the news many years ago; where I was, how it felt, how I prayed, how we rallied in the aftermath.

Right now: I begin and end my days with tiny pale blue pills, and I sprinkle little cream colored ones all along the path from one to another.

Right now: I’m excited that with these cool morning temps and the coming of Fall comes a renewed routine with favorite people and a little more structure to my weeks.

Right now: I’m thankful for ‘yes’s where I thought there would be ‘no’s. -Yes, you can have a reduced price. Yes, I can go on a trip with you. Yes, I understand the anxiety. Yes, I’ll help you figure it out. Yes, it will be ok.

Right now: I’m going to drink my tea, try to focus only on the concerns of today, and start my day with a willing spirit.

Every Little Minute

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It’s time to start again. The forced hiatus we’ve been on while my body healed and recalibrated is hopefully going to be over very soon. Tomorrow, if things go the way they should.

I’ve been fortunate this week to be busy enough not to dwell on the ifs and whens. Fortunate not to be stuck inside my own head with questions that don’t get answers until it’s all over. In the grand scheme of things this process is pretty quick, especially compared to 8 years of waiting. But, in the day to day it is excruciatingly long, and the calendar of meds and appointments overwhelming.

I’ve learned to work through hard stuff one thing at a time -sometimes I’m good at it, sometimes I’m not- but coming back to the process over and over helps. How will I get through the next couple of months? A minute, an hour, a day, a week at a time.

Sometimes in the big and scarey every little minute matters. The minutes when my stomach hurts and churns in anticipation of things I can’t control. My period will start on time and we move forward, or it won’t and we wait. The minutes my head is pounding and diving towards a migraine while I worry if the meds will cause awful side effects, or not work at all. The minutes my throat is choked with tears and the fear that it’s all for nothing drowns me. The minutes I cry out to God to just get me through the next wave and help me keep my head above water while I try to reason with anxiety that can’t be reasoned with. The minutes I take a deep breath and look in the mirror and tell my self this is happening for a reason and I can do it and it’ll get better and just keep going.

All the minutes matter; the hard and scarey ones aren’t for nothing.

I’ll be the first to admit that some days it sounds like complete shit. Because what I want to know is Why? and How? and Please God, are we done yet? and the only being I know with answers isn’t giving them to me. But I also know that a simple act of empathy can make someone else’s struggle a tiny bit easier. And, let’s be real, people, we all struggle with something. This whole big living thing is a give and take. It’s sometimes being the one who borrows strength and sometimes being the one who gives it -more often than you realize it’s doing the two things at once.

Eventually -and oh my word sometimes that feels like forever- those difficult minutes pass and then you know not to take the good minutes for granted. The minutes you’ve forgotten to worry about what might or might not happen in two days or two months or two years because today was full up. The minutes when you are just being; just talking to a friend, just thinking about what you’ll wear on tonight’s date, or writing the grocery list. The minutes when Matthew 6:34 is possible.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

It’s easy to take the good minutes for granted. Easy to forget that those happy minutes are precious and the people that fill them up are blessings. When you spend too much time in the dark you can forget how good the light can be. How much that light that life is worth fighting to get to. The process of hunting for a path back to the light can be just flat out exhausting. It takes courage to keep on going. It takes an awesome depth of strength and perseverance to fight darkness that lives inside your head. It takes a supernatural faith to believe the hard minutes are worth the effort and you are worth the fight.

What I know is this: every little minute can be different, and you do whatever you can to get to the next one.

Sometimes you hit your limit and that was far enough. Say no when you need to. This isn’t a competition. You are allowed to disappoint people and make them mad. The good ones forgive and are waiting when you’re ready, the others aren’t meant to be yours. Knowing when you need to ask for help and focus on self-care is important. Surround yourself with people that value you for who you are and allow your process to be whatever you need.

Sometimes those same people help you push yourself until you’re sure you’ll break. They help you do it scared because they believe in you, and they know you might find out you can do things you thought were impossible. You can do hard things.

I can too.
Thanks for reminding me.

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