My hope in sharing a piece of my heart with you is that whatever your life looks like at the moment, you would know that you are not alone and that our God hears you and sees you. He created us to hope and to be filled with life. So have hope. Be hopeful for tomorrow. Experience what it really means to become strongest in our weakest. Love on your loved ones that are on their knees daily for you and are carrying the burden for you both. And for goodness sake, above all else, rest in the arms of our Father. Let Him hold you, all of you, every broken piece of you. For it is in those moments where He puts us back together and binds up our brokenness. It’s in those moments when healing begins. So whatever your story is, don’t give up keep fighting. He’s already on the other side and you already have the victory. With that being said, here is my attempt to put on paper what my grieving heart has felt in the midst of our waiting, and more importantly what our God has shown us in the midst of our darkest days.
For those of you who may not know our story, I met my best friend when I was 14, he was 16 and we fell for each other the moment we met. Eight years later he asked me to be his wife. That was the happiest moment of my life, and then we said “I do” and that moment happily overruled the other.
Zeke and I have been married now for over two years and I have learned more about myself, my husband, and our God more in these past two years than ever before. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for that. When we met in high school things got serious quick when we realized we had something really special and over time, that brought talk of getting married and one day starting a family together. That was one of my favorite things about us, here we were in high school talking about the day we would raise our kids and somehow, it just felt right. I’ve always seen this strength in Zeke that amazed me and have longed for him to be a daddy and for our kids to see that same strength. Likewise, I have always known my true purpose is to love God, adore and respect Zeke, and to be the best mama I could be. So yes, we loved the idea of having babies early and we’ve talked about it for some time now.
We waited a couple of months to get settled in as newly weds before we started trying. We waited as long as we could stand it, which was about 4 months and then we were ready for what we had prayed for and talked about for years now. My older sister, (who, side note: married Zeke’s older brother. They happen to be our best friends and more than that, we look up to them more than they’ll ever know) at this point had her first baby boy who was a year old. I knew she got pregnant with him pretty quickly, so naturally, I thought I would be the same way.
After 5 months and no positive pregnancy test, we called our doctor and he put me on some medicine to help with conception. I would go in every month to get an HCG trigger shot and an ultrasound to see how I was progressing. We did this for 3 months and still, no baby.
Up till now we were of course battling fear, grief, and all the “what -ifs” but to be honest, it wasn’t until this point when we really started struggling. I say we, but since I’m being completely honest here, Zeke was holding it together for us both. He was being the very definition of what God calls a husband to be and can I just say, he only exceeded that as the months continued. Crazy how you can go thru something so hard and it reveal such character in someone. I had the honor of seeing my husband grow into more of a man than I ever thought possible. I was able to see a determined yet broken husband rely solely on our God to carry the heavy burden we were feeling. He was never too proud or too bitter. He daily led me as he had vowed to do when we looked our darkest days in the eye.
So every month grew harder and harder to face. Our longing to start a family ached in our hearts more than I can explain. The Lord’s timing is always perfect, but none of this seemed perfect. This was hard. This was not what we wanted, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could handle this. To me, this started the transformation in my heart where I had a choice. I can let my selfish heart take over and fill me with pity and fear. Or I can let the God who created my inmost being, who knows our hearts deepest desires, to carry me. So He did. He carried us day-by-day, minute-by-minute.
This was around the time that our church, Church of the Highlands, did our annual 21 Days of Prayer. Every morning at 6 A.M, Zeke and I would be on our knees, hearts vulnerable before our Father and just prayed for our precious baby. I want to stop here and tell you about something I wrote in my journal about what my heart was feeling during this time. God did something so sweet in me. One early morning at prayer, I sat there, tears running from praying over our unborn baby, and my hands were full of prayer cards for other hearts hurting just like mine. I decided to take my eyes off of our own problem and join in with the hearts that were grieving over their own. The moment I did this, I was overwhelmed with comfort and peace. Sometimes even in the midst of our pain and grieving, we still have room to take our eyes off of ourselves and be there for someone who needs us. And even if you feel like you don’t have room, make room. The first card I read was a young married couple that had been trying to get pregnant for a year now. I thought to myself, how in the world could someone do this for a year! I just cried with her. I never met her, I didn’t know her name but I shared her pain. I knew her heart cry all too well, and I had been given the opportunity to pray over her something we had been praying over myself. So be encouraged today that even if you feel like you have nothing left to give, or maybe your heart is full of self-pity, there is always room to look someone else’s direction, to share in their suffering and to bring comfort to their brokenness.
Our sweet friends who have played a crucial role in our lives for a wile now, Amanda and CJ Blount are the purest example of turning their eyes to others instead of themselves. They were there for us to pour our hearts out to and they covered us in prayer. It was during this time we realized the Lord has brought us some really special people to share our burden with and how important it was to have people who cover you in prayer and who will speak life over you. I remember sitting at their kitchen table, tears spilling down with Amanda’s sweet hand in mine, she prayed over us and she spoke life into my empty womb. Small moments like these throughout our journey of infertility have revealed major blessings that I don’t think I would have seen if it weren’t for our story. One of my favorite things our pastor, Chris Hodges has said is
“There is purpose in your pain.”
I clung to this truth and chose to believe that through our pain, there is a greater reason for it and I believe there is going to be healing on the other side.
Once my doctor realized there might be something bigger at stake than just delayed pregnancy, he scheduled me for surgery in February to double check that I didn’t have endometriosis and was pretty positive I didn’t. As I woke up from surgery, I remember my sweet daddy holding my hand in the recovery room (just another sweet blessing from Jesus is that my dad partners with my doctor at Brookwood Hospital), so you can imagine how hard this also is for my sweet daddy to have to stand by and watch our story unfold. Dads have this desire to sweep in and make everything that’s bad in the world go away and in this case he’s had to be strong and steady while watching us fight our battle. He held my hand and told me that my doctor found stage 4 Endometriosis and was so severe that it was wrapped around some pretty vital organs including my appendix, which they removed completely because of the damage it had done to it.
I was a mess. Zeke was strong. Weary, yes, but strong. Daily he would speak life over our brokenness and over our unborn children. We lived out Romans 4:17 “…Who calls things that are not as if they were.” I have to admit, this was hard for me. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The only thing I was certain of was my empty arms that longed to hold our baby. I was certain of my aching stomach as I recovered from surgery. I was certain of the weight I saw Zeke carry. But I had to cling to the drop of faith I had left and I would run and rest in His presence. There were days when I literally had to make myself spend time with Him and worship him, because my heart was so in the flesh, it was so full of bitterness and hurt that not one part of me felt like laying it all down again just to do the same tomorrow. But oh friends, when you do, he heals your brokenness. He wraps you in his goodness and his promises. He breathes life into you once again so that you can face tomorrow, and not only that, but you can have hope and you can experience life. Even if it is the life you didn’t expect or didn’t even want at the moment. Even in the midst of pain, He allows us to have joy. How? Come as we are. So I did. We did. Together, every day in prayer, in tears, in our mess, we came. And every day, He healed.
In my journal I wrote these words after talking with my sweet mama who I think some days was hurting more for us than we were ourselves. Ever since I can remember, she has always been steady in prayer, in every season, and once again I am thankful for that being something I can cling to in times like these.
“I remind myself that our stories are not for us. For we are not our own, but we were bought with a price. The most precious price there ever was. That’s what is so beautiful about our brokenness, is that thru it brings healing. Maybe not for you or me at the moment, but it brings healing to someone, somewhere, someday. I choose to believe that anyway. My prayer is that my brokenness written on this page will bring healing to whoever’s heart may be reading this. We have to remind ourselves that our story is His story. My prayer so often thru this has been that He would protect my heart when my faith is tired. Guard it when my head is full of lies, when my eyes want to see what’s in front of me instead of the things unseen. Hold it when the pieces are no longer whole. Father, here’s my heart, speak what is true.
In my hurting and grieving, I wanted to write what was fresh on my heart. I am a mess, but there is beauty in my mess because I am choosing to believe that. There is a God who loves me and wants me to run to Him because He is waiting with open arms to embrace me, adore me, and breath life into me once again so that I may face tomorrow with hope. So thru my mess, my brokenness, my grieving, I will hold fast to you Jesus and I will have hope. Your strength becomes my own. I do not have any left. You move the mountains and the seas and still You know me. You know every detail of my hopes and dreams. You know my wants and my heart cries, but not only that, you care about the small things in the midst of those cries.
Jon Bloom said best what my heart is feeling: ‘One of the most profoundly comforting things about scripture is how it reveals God’s compassion for us impatient waiters. He knows that he can appear slow to us. He knows that at times we are going to feel like he’s forgotten us and is hiding his face from us. He knows that as he patiently works out his purposes, we will experience circumstances so difficult and confusing that we cry out in bewildered pain.’
For those of you like me who feel alone, be encouraged that God loves us enough to give us people like Abraham and Sarah to help us see that we are anything but alone. That no matter how long we wait, He never leaves us or forsakes us. So today I sit with these encouraging truths on my lips: ‘Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’ Psalm 31:24
He is able to do what he has promised my friends. Today, I sit in the waiting with a renewed hope and joy that we serve a God who has it all figured out for us and will bring it to fruition in His perfect timing.”
After a long recovery and taking nearly two weeks to where I could finally walk upright without having to bend over, I woke up really sick one morning throwing up and went back to the hospital and had a reaction from the surgery. It felt like those days lasted extra long. Zeke was balancing work as a football coach while taking care of me, all while having this constant doubt and fear in our minds of “how did we ever get here” hanging over our heads.
Because of the stage 4 Endometriosis and me being such a young age to have it, our next step was to go to a fertility clinic. Yall, can I just tell you how much I felt attacked from the enemy after realizing this was our next step? For some reason this made it so real. Not that it wasn’t before, but this was a new uncertainty of being outside our comfort zone of my dad’s practice. This was new doctors, new medicine, and the unknown was staring us straight in the eyes. My whole life I had been healthy. I trained 24 hours a week and If there was anything that didn’t match up with a goal I had, well it was simple really, work harder and fix the problem. That’s what 18 years of competitive gymnastics branded into my every being. It was up to no one but myself to achieve greatness. How did I get there? Work harder, set goals, and don’t stop until you achieve them. When you do, make new ones and start over. That was my life. From a very young age, that was all I did. Fast forward to now, when I don’t have that 24-hour a week practice schedule, I just have a constant battle of choosing to release every fiber of what was so engraved into me. It’s not up to me to fix. There’s no putting in the extra hours, extra reps with this. Its simple, trust Him and stop fighting.
After researching our insurance coverage, we were told that our insurance covered “One visit per lifetime” to the fertility clinic. You can imagine our thoughts after hearing that. We knew we were moving to a new school for Zeke, which meant new insurance, but it wouldn’t be until about 5 months until we could change it. Until then, we would pay everything (blood tests, medicine, ultrasounds, dr. visits, tests…) EVERYTHING out of pocket. We were about to experience what it really looked like to rely on God for our daily bread. And we experienced that for sure. Daily we were in the presence of God in a mighty way, and without those moments, we wouldn’t have made it. He drew us more near than we had ever been before.
It was in a time of worship when I realized that if all of this is just for the closeness, then that’s enough for me.
So, the day that had always lurked in the back of our minds and thoughts came. We walked hand in hand, scared hearts but holding fast to His promises into ART fertility clinic. We knew we were going to be paying everything out of pocket, but it wasn’t until we sat down with the financial advisor that we knew how much that really was. First off, whenever the nurse tells you to meet in this room with the financial advisor, you know you’re in over your head. We didn’t have much wiggle room to spend thousands of dollars a week just on ultrasounds and blood work alone, not to mention, we had been told the process of the fertility medicine usually takes a couple months, and our new insurance won’t be picked up until October! (It was July at the time). Although I felt like my towel of faith had been wrung dry, we mustard up another drop and signed the papers. I looked at Zeke, tears in my eyes seeing him bearing all of this weight on his shoulders and in his eyes there was no doubting the burden he carried, but he still showed me God’s faithful hand on us and whispered: “We’re ok Madison.” It was all I needed.
The nurses handed me my needles and syringes with a link to watch a video on how to mix and draw up my injections and we headed home as tears ran the entire way with my hand holding tight to Zeke’s. How did we get here? What is God showing us through our brokenness? How will we pay for all of this? I saw this new look on my husbands face. I’ve known him for ten years and have never seen this look. It was one of heartache but determination at the same time. “We will get pregnant Madison.” And even though every bone in my body and every thought the devil had put into my head was telling me those words were not true, I believed them with the little I had left in me, and so did he.
About two months went by of shots every night, blood work twice a week and multiple Dr visits a week. I was taking Menopur injections, which can I just say burns like crazy! The Menopur was paired with Letrozole injections, and an HCG trigger shot to release the eggs. It’s funny how strong you feel after learning to give yourself shots and handling them like a boss. No, I did not want this and would much rather not be giving myself shots every day, but again, I had a choice, so I chose to feel stronger instead of beat down. Even though I had to choose it daily, and many times, multiple times a day, I still chose it. Many tears, prayers, heart cries and a couple thousand dollars later, still no baby.
In August of this year I had my second surgery to remove more endometriosis that had grown back since my first surgery. I came in for my post op appointment excited to hear what treatment we were starting next but shocked as I heard the words. “We think the next best option for you is IVF.” For those who may not be familiar with this, as I wasn’t until we stepped into this journey, IVF is at the least a $15,000 treatment. Not only that, the toll it takes on your body is very strenuous and along with it come some very big decisions on the idea that Zeke and I believe that life begins at conception, which you can imagine many others do not believe the same. Unnoticed to when they came, tears were streaming down my face, looking into our sweet Dr.’s eyes questioning how in the world we had gotten to this point.
With Zeke being a football coach and it being the middle of the season, we only saw each other for a couple hours at night before the next day started, so as much as he wanted to be there for every visit, it just wasn’t possible. This visit in particular, I needed Zeke. I needed his strength and steadiness. How was I supposed to commit to IVF when I knew there was no way we could do that? Long story short, we sat down with our Dr and decided on one round of very strong injections of pure Follistim before looking into IFV. The thing with these injections was there was very high risk of multiples, and not to mention because of my high stage of endometriosis, the risk of miscarriage increased as well. I was having countless nurses and forms telling me I might be forced into “selective pregnancy” with this medicine, which I won’t go too much into because I could spend hours talking about, but it is a form of abortion and my heart is so heavy with that topic, so you can imagine myself as I was a mess already, my heart is so weary, emotionally and spiritually drained daily, after meeting hours with doctors, nurses, and financial advisors, I had to hear this. A day that I thought started out really tough actually turned out to be one I won’t ever forget. A sweet nurse was helping me gather my information for this month’s treatment when she began reading out the risks of multiples and the possible option I would face with selective pregnancy. I shared with her that I am thankful for her concern and words but I happily rebuke them in Jesus name. I told her that those precious lives that Jesus decides to create in me will live and not die. It is my God who is the creator of life and I will not have to choose which of my babies will live or die. That was a big moment for me because I’ve never had a time where my voice could be used in such a big way before. She smiled and hugged me, thanking me for sharing that with her and that she now had a new perspective of life! How awesome is our God!
The call came again, “I’m so sorry to tell you Madison, but your not pregnant..” there were more words after that but I didn’t hear them. Days felt like months and months like years.
I went in for my baseline for the next month and ready for my next schedule of shots and treatments and then the nurse informs me that I have three cysts, one of which is 4x the normal size. She told me that I couldn’t do treatment this month because it would make the cysts grow and be very dangerous for my body. In the meantime, I cannot work out, run, or even vacuum because of the high risk that one of my tubes might twist around this large cyst. That was a super painful month, but with the no shots and no doctor visits, it was nice to have a month home with Zeke without medicine. Every day lingered. My fear throughout this journey was that I would be going through the motions of days until our day came when we were pregnant. I feared not living each day to its fullest because they’re were so many days that went by where joy in the midst of sorrow seemed like something unreachable. It had been almost two years now since we had been trying to start a family. Some of the promises I clung to during this time were:
“We cannot see what loss, sorrow, and trials are accomplishing. We need only to trust. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today.”
– Streams in the Desert
“-Make me to hear joy and gladness today, Lord. Show me how, in the midst of my want, to be content.”
“I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.”
“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”
After the month of no medicine, I headed back in for my baseline. They lowered my dose of Follistim because I had such a reaction with the cysts. This would be the last month of medicine before IVF. We had to really fight the enemy’s lies with this last month because IVF lingered in the back of our minds. Towards the end of the month, ART does a lab pregnancy test, which is super early, like before a home pregnancy test would be and they call me that day with the results. My pregnancy test came and the hours followed where I would wait. Alone I waited. Zeke waited while having to continue his day. The call came and the sweet voice said the words I know I will never forget in my lifetime. “Madison, your HCG pregnancy test was positive…” and the rest was a blur. I was pregnant. I AM PREGNANT. Imagine the ugliest cry you have ever done and that was me times ten. I immediately fell to my knees and gave that child back to the Lord. Father this child is not my own. Have your way in this mighty life of his/hers and oh Jesus thankyou. Thank you for not only this gift of life, but the gift of this 2 year journey for Zeke and I. Yes, it was devastatingly hard and we ached to our core daily, but oh how strong we are because of it and how close we are with the heart of Jesus. We went in weekly for ultrasounds to see baby, but this time our hearts full of hope and joy. I will never forget when we saw our baby. They said it was one baby and had a strong heartbeat! At our 7 week check up, we went in and to our surprise saw not one baby anymore, but TWO BABIES! We are having TWINS!!!! God is so so good and blesses us more than we can ever imagine.
I had this burden on my heart to share our story for about a year now. I have prayed over the eyes and hearts reading this. Whatever your life looks like today, wherever you are in your own journey of waiting, be encouraged. You don’t have to have it all together because if I’m being honest, healing begins when we are all a lot more real and vulnerable. Our story was hard to share, but it has brought so much healing and closeness to our God than I can even begin to tell you. I have fallen more in love with Zeke and he has with me. We have had two extra years of prayer that we’ve earnestly prayed over our baby and for all of those things and more, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Whether you are longing to be a mom and your journey is double the wait or if your wait has been two months, you are not alone. If you have recently lost a baby, you are not alone. My heart hurts for you and there is power in your story. If you are uncertain about your purpose in life or you are relying on our Father for provision for whatever it may be, you are not alone and He hears you and He sees you.
Cling to His promises over your life, draw near to Him and I promise you, the nearness He brings in return to you brings with it the biggest blessings and strength you can imagine.
Blessings through our Journey:
-My sweet dad being a doctor who gave us wisdom and comfort throughout this.
-My brother in law Bo who looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me about how the Lord spoke clearly to him on an afternoon jog that zeke and I will have 4 kids and to pray for them.
-The nine week study I did with my sister Mallory “Treasures of Darkness” who the author, Jane Johnson walks thru her story of infertility of 10 years. (She just brought home her baby boy!)
-My little sister molly crying with me sharing my pain and taking care of me after my surgeries
-When zeke comes home from work one night to tell me that one of the other coaches approached him and told him he sees the heart and character of Job and David in him.
-When I got the call the third time telling me once again, I’m not pregnant and my husband immediately hangs up the phone and speeds home to hold me tight.
-My amazing father in law who is the head coach where zeke coaches who allows zeke, time after time to rush home to comfort his broken wife, all the while his heart aches to hold his grandchild just as we ache to hold our baby. I can’t thank him enough for those days.
-When I don’t have words to say and neither does zeke and that’s ok
-After I looked at zeke and said with all the weariness in me that “I’m so tired” and without flinching, tears running down his face, he responded: “me too, but if thru all of this, we are clinging to and are seeing the heart of Jesus. That has to be enough for us.”
-The nights zeke held me as I cried myself to sleep
-The endless encouraging words from my family and friends that will never ever be forgotten
-The reminder from my dad to keep my eyes on Him and on others
-For those sweet nurses who have to dial my phone number every month and tell me the hardest thing I will have to hear. Bless them for being so strong. I can’t imagine having to do that.
-All the minutes and seconds I spent in the presence of our God.
-The sweet girl at the elevator with the Follistim pen that I prayed for.
-The nurse that I broke down to as she took my blood because it somehow all of a sudden all hit me right then and there.
-We seriously could not have kept our feet on the ground without the support and love from our family. Thankyou Mama, Daddy, Mallory, Bo, Molly, Sawyer, Mrs. Gina, Mr. Geoff, Tommi, Thomas, Logan, and Roy. You all have journeyed this with us and Zeke and I will never forget that.