Thursday, April 30, 2015


Hannah has ONE thing she loves to do lately. 


That's it. Anything else I suggest falls flat. Honestly, the shoe thing is sort of "healing" for her. If she is upset and crying hard, she goes into the laundry room and finds another pair of shoes. 

Most of them are Abigail's, but occasionally she tries on some of her own or her brothers or parents as well.

I took ALL of these photos within 90 minutes this morning -- trying to capture how rapidly these changes occur. 

(Please excuse the garbage can background ... lovely.)

Review: Henry Hodges Needs a Friend

Written by New York Times Bestselling Author Andy Andrews, this book is billed as a "hilarious rhyming story."

While it was sweet and the art was, as promised, charming, I didn't find it hilarious by any stretch of the word. A little bit silly, it was generally a very "regular" story about a little boy who, feeling lonely, is given a dog by his parents.

The conclusion sentence sums up what the author is trying to instill in children through this book:

Henry didn't need a funny pet,
Colored yellow or blue,
But a one-of-a-kind friend,
Just like your friends need you.

At some point, almost every child struggles with feeling like they don't fit in or are left out -- just like Henry Hodges. I appreciated the author trying to make that point. However, I just didn't feel like this story did a good job of reaching "every" child.

I personally wasn't a huge fan of his feelings of loneliness being because he lived on a quiet street without a lot of children. I felt the reason for his loneliness was very narrowed. There are many kids who live on quiet streets that don't feel lonely.

I also wasn't a fan of a dog solving his problems. As a dog lover, I love books about dogs. And I agree that they can truly make sadness in your life, lift considerably. However, there are many children who aren't able to get a pet. And even if they are, a pet isn't a friend. They are very different things.

Generally, I thought this book was very sweet and the art very charming, but the storyline itself just seemed a little ordinary and narrow.

Not my personal cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wee-wind Wednesday

Today I reflect back to the day Hannah was born -- September 4, 2013. Here are two videos of Abigail meeting her little sister for the first time.

My boys never really met each other or had a moment where the younger could finally play with the older. They were basically raised like twins and the dynamic was very different.

But suddenly, in the last few weeks, these sisters are playing together, and it is a sight to behold!

Abigail got them both a dress, and Hannah is holding her "phone" (anything can be a phone!)

I'm constantly in awe that I have the amazing privilege to have two boys to play together and now two girls to do the same. Abigail still plays with her brothers A LOT. She and Sidge will often break into a bout of pretend house or Wild Kratts. But all of a sudden, these two little girls are interacting.

And it is so much fun to witness.

Hard to believe that that tiny little baby is now a little girl old enough to interact with her big sister.

I've never had a sister. 

Let the games begin.

We Bought a Farm: What's in a name?

We are one month from moving.

In fact JB's parents are already out at the farm. They are working on getting the secondary dwellings livable before we arrive in a few weeks.

They actually took Scrubs too. I really, really miss him and his presence in our home. I realized that it's a rare occasion for me to be in my house without Scrubs there. (I've been without him for long periods of time when having my babies or traveling, but I've always been away from my house.) But because he loves the farm so much and because our current landlord wants to try to sell our house and have showings, we thought him joining them on the farm would be a better choice.

(And while I do miss him, I sure don't miss his hair. WOW! My vacuuming needs have dropped exponentially!)

When I think of moving, I get this incredibly excited flutter in my stomach coupled with this intense feeling of finality and woah! So many times I have moved and had to make new friends and find my new groove. But each time I have known that I will only be there for a short time, and if it doesn't work out, there will be another move to try again.

Not this time.

This time we are picking somewhere that we plan to live forever.

In fact, we have named it.

Bauernhof Kitsteiner.

Why the name?

We actually thought of not naming the farm at all. It's our home. Most people don't name their house. But because JB is going to be holding educational events on the land, we knew we had to call it something. We played with all sorts of Biblical and meaningful names. But in the end, we wanted something that told what this place was for us:

A family farm.

But Kitsteiner Family Farm felt a bit overdone. Not the Kitsteiner part. (Pretty sure we are the only Kitsteiners with a farm in the USA.) But the Family Farm part.

So we started thinking of different ways of saying Family Farm. We played with Turkish and Portuguese, but while both of those meant something to us, they didn't resonate like we wanted. We even thought of my roots: Dutch. But that wasn't right either.

But German?

Our name is obviously very German. And Germany has always stood out in our minds as one of the most beautiful, rolling, relaxing, peaceful places we have ever been. We want our farm to feel like Germany and put our souls in that same state.

So we consulted with some of our German-comrades to make sure we had the name right and that it sounded right and that it would work. And we went with it.

Bauernhof Kitsteiner.

Kitsteiner Family Farm.

Other than the fact that I still have trouble pronouncing it (Bowern-hoff) and spelling it (still have to cheat on that one), we know we have named our new farm something that means something to us and allows us to return to our years living in Europe and the roots of JB's family name.

Now to get there.

P.S. We are still working on rolling my blog over to a new site. It's gotten put on the back burner but stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

7 things no one tells you when moving back to America

I recently stumbled upon this article: 7 things no one tells you when moving back to America

I related so well to these items (listed below). Generally speaking I still feel that coming back to America was almost harder than leaving it. When leaving your home country, you are prepared for everything to be different. But when coming back, you forget that it has been a long time since you experienced "normal."

Here is the list:

  1. American stores can be overwhelming. The first time we walked into a big box store upon returning I took a picture because I had forgotten how vast American stores can be. And the malls, y’all, so many stores under one roof. Which leads to….
  2. Selection overload, my goodness. Did you know there are whole entire refrigerated sections devoted to yogurt? Just yogurt. And that you can buy virtually any type of fruit or vegetable, no matter the season, at the grocery store? We discovered flavor combinations and brands of cookies, cereal, yogurt, chips and drinks that we had never heard of because they haven’t made their way over to Japan yet. Our first shopping trip was about two and a half hours long, and we left with hardly anything because there was just too much to choose from that I needed to revise my game plan. It is still actually tough having so many things to choose from and I find myself missing the days of choosing between item A or item B (and sometimes just item A because B is out of stock).
  3. The technology will amaze you. I am not sure about other overseas duty stations, but Okinawa ironically isn’t up to date with the cutting edge technology. When we walked into the electronics store to get a new TV we were hit with so many selections of 4K/Ultra HD, 3-D, surround sound, etc. We had to get a lesson in what everything was. Also with cell phones, we forgot what “normal” was. (Note: I hear that the cell phone systems in Okinawa changed right when we left so these statements may no longer be accurate, but they sure were for us while we lived there.)
  4. It is so strange to head out in town and not have to check how much foreign currency I have on me. I had a “yen coin” holder that was always in my purse. I will admit it was a sad day when I retired my special blue yen holder, but there is freedom in only depending on one type of currency and knowing that your debit card will work everywhere.
  5. You don’t need to plan for holidays, birthdays and other festivities months in advance. No more checking to see if a company ships to APO/FPO addresses or if they use USPS Priority verses the other delivery services. I still find myself online shopping and thinking, “Oh bummer, their stuff comes by the ‘slow boat.’” Then I have the “duh” moment of “Oh yeah, everything arrives fast here.”
  6. You can leave hoarders anonymous behind. Overseas I had what I called “two syndrome.” Virtually everything I bought I put two in the cart. Closer to Thanksgiving I found myself with copious amounts of pumpkin pie filling, crescent rolls and pie crust. I must remind myself when shopping now that there is absolutely no reason to hoard items. I don’t need to have a supply of black beans to feed an army. I can come back any day of the week and the store will have what I need.
  7. American driving is so fast. With typical speed limits starting at 65 plus miles per hour and relearning to drive on the right-hand side of the road, I am pretty sure I still have a white-knuckle death grip on the steering wheel. We have been home for a few months and I still find myself flipping my windshield wipers on instead of my turn signal or getting into the passenger side of the car thinking that it is the driver’s side. My husband has to remind me that the speed limit is 65 miles per hour and most people would prefer I go at least 55 verses my new default speed of 45. Why is everyone in such a hurry anyhow?

Odd & Even Game

I found this SPRING PACK online. (You can download it for free if you register with the site.) 


I changed up the game "rules" a bit. I gave each boy a deck of cards since both of my guys LOVE to play cards. (Kings in the Corner, Solitare, Spit, Spoons, War, and variations of Rummy are their current favorites.)

Each boy took a turn flipping their card and trying to fill up their flower with EVEN or ODD numbers depending on what they pulled. The first one to complete their flowers, WINS.

You could easily make one of these flowers yourself as well.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Scoops of Blends

I am a very low-key homeschool mom. A big thing is that I don't reinvent the wheel ... ever. I use resources that have already been created as much as I can.

I found this very fun game online. It requires kids to match ice cream scoops with ice cream cones to make words and thus practice the blend sounds.

You can download this document by clicking here: Scoops of Blends

A c-section mama processes

I've always felt a little "robbed" when it came to my birth experiences.

But after ten years of infertility, I simply told myself to suck that up. How amazing that I got to have a baby at all. The fact that it didn't go as planned? Keep that to yourself.

(Click here if you want to read what happened during Elijah "Sidge's" birth that started off all this c-section nonsense.)

I still think that fact is mostly true. It truly doesn't matter how your babies get here when it really comes down to it.

However, I recently read this article: Three Truths About C-Section Mamas shared with me by my Turkey friend Sarahbee. It was written by a woman who photographed section births. And it really got me thinking. 

April is C-Section Awareness Month (they have a month for everything, don't they?) and so I figured now was a good time to share.

I went through a range of emotions with each of my three sections. With my first (Elijah "Sidge") I didn't even have time to process these emotions since it was unplanned and of an urgent nature. But with my last two planned sections, I had much more time to think about things as we went along.

There were two main things that always "bothered" me about having a c-section. 

1. Being prepped for the surgery: This is probably the one that has always stuck with me the most. I really never realized, until reading this article, how much my emotions were normal and expected. Sitting on the operating room table, waiting for them to put in the epidural while everyone scurried around and JB waited outside and knowing I was soon going to be cut open and recovery was going to begin has always caused me to not WANT to think back on the birth of my kiddos.

The author captured what I felt so vividly when she wrote:

Being prepped for a c-section is not a walk through the park. Many times, a mothers partner is not allowed in the OR until after the epidural has been administered and everyone has taken their place.” This means that while doctors and nurses move about, readying the operating room for delivery (maybe talking about their lunch or what movie they saw over the weekend) a strong pregnant mama sits on a cold operating table considering what lies before her - often scared and often feeling very alone. 
And in these moments, a c-section mama must hold onto the strong and fierce love she has for her baby. She lets fear wash over her...and then she lets it drift away. She know that in this moment, this is what is best for her child, even though whats best” means a major surgery with real wounds and scars. Even though whats best” means letting go of a dream or a vision of birth that shes been building up for the last nine months.
If you havent had a c-section before, I encourage you to let the stark reality of this moment settle in your mind - put yourself in her place, on that table, waiting, possibly fearful.. When you do, I think youll quickly realize how brave c-section mamas are.

2. Not holding my baby (or really wanting to) after the baby was born: When Sidge was born, he was in BAD shape, and we thought we were going to lose him. Holding him was the last thing on my mind. But with Abigail, we were in Germany, and they didn't have their OB recovery room available. So JB had to go with our daughter to one room while I went to a different section of the hospital. When they asked me if I was okay with that, I told them I was. (What else could I say?) And honestly, after everything that happened with Sidge, I didn't really feel the freedom to ask for more. After Hannah, I had some hypothermia set in that caused me to feel very ill. Each time I couldn't hold the baby or just didn't feel like holding the baby or was in too much pain from the section to hold my babies. So different from so many pictures I see online on Mamas and babies.

There arent many mothers who will say that a c-section was what they had first envisioned when they thought about giving birth. A c-section is a medical necessity in the best of situations; in the worst cases, it can be due to the outdated practices of a doctor or his/her desire for convenience.
Some c-section mamas have weeks to mentally prepare for a change in their plans, but many only have days, hours, or minutes. Suddenly, everything she envisioned when meeting her child has changed. Her birth plan has been thrown out the window. Surgery lies before her. She doesnt know how long shell have to wait after birth before she holds her baby in her arms.
We humans dont tend to do well in situations of sudden change. And yet c-section mamas find a way to let go of their pride and connect with an inner-strength that allows them to enter the OR and give birth to their child.
And then the actual surgery happens. The actual cutting and suturing. Full recovery often takes months. And while most of us would like to curl up with a bowl of ice cream and a stack of movies after a major surgery, c-section mamas do just the opposite. They nurture and love and bond with their needy, beautiful babies.
Emotionally and physically, these women are SO strong. And this strength isnt just necessary on delivery day; this strength must endure in the weeks and months and years ahead - as their bodies and souls heal, crafting new dreams with their little ones in their arms. 

I'm appreciative of this article and to Sarahbee for letting me say, "I'm not happy I had to have c-sections." This article gave me permission to say, "I wish I could have done it a different way." And I also felt allowed to say, "That part was really hard."

But at the same time, I am so incredibly THANKFUL for modern medicine. I am quite aware (and my doctor at Eglin reiterated this to me) that had I not lived in the place I did and at the time I did, I would have most likely died in childbirth with Sidge. Or he would have died in order to save my life. 
And that means my girls wouldn't be here.

This article made me realize that I am blessed. But it is okay to feel free to admit that this is a part of my story I wish could have been written another way.

It's okay.

Auction closes


This is how much our 4th BECAUSE OF ISAAC auction raised this last week.

So incredibly excited. What a fun time.

I must put out a huge and special THANK YOU to my friend and cousin-in-law Briana Huisman who ran the entire auction. What a blessing it was for me to be able to step back and help instead of run the show. She did such an amazing job.

Now she needs a BIG NAP!

So excited for Criss & Renae as they get closer and closer to their adoption dreams.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Sermon

Naleigh Moon -- Song on Adoption

Thanks to my friend Leina for sending me this. I was really touched by this song and the beautiful adoption story it portrays. Actress Katherine Heigl's husband performed it. She directed it. She has an older sister adopted from Korea, and so she always knew she wanted to adopt from Korea too. Really sweet.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Auction closes tomorrow!

Our FOURTH Because of Isaac concludes on Sunday at 10pm EST. We have passed $3,000, and it currently appears that we have a very good chance of reaching what seemed an insurmountable goal when made it -- $4,000!

Please pop over to Facebook to bid.

There are so many items to choose from that it is impossible you won't find something you like. It truly is our best auction so far when it comes to quality of donations.

$15 worth of clothes for FREE (I promise!)

I decided to try out this link and see if it really worked. And it REALLY did.

I simply had to sign up for Schoola. Once I did, I received a $15 store credit AND the big kicker ... FREE SHIPPING!

All you have to do is click here. 

No gimmicks! I promise! I just signed up and will receive my two items for free.

P.S. I did have to enter my credit card information when checking out. But I received my receipt via email and was charged $0.

Faces of Infertility: Kris's Story

In celebration of "National Infertility Awareness Week", I am featuring stories of infertility this week. These are all guest posts that I hope will put a real face on this devastating disease. Please spread the word and share these stories!

I’ve dreamed of being a mom for as long as I can remember. In college my friends thought I was crazy because school always came very easy to me and when things would get tough I would want to quit. It was so hard to stay committed to studies when I just didn’t see myself doing it in the future, all I could envision was taking care of a house full of babies. In 2001 my husband and I married and talked of having a large family of both biological and adopted children one day. By 2003 baby fever was setting in. We lived on a street in military family housing where 6 out of the 12 or so families on the street were pregnant, and when those babies came along it was hard not to want a baby of our own. At 23 I never in my wildest dreams imagined infertility would be something I would have to deal with. I was young and healthy, so getting pregnant should be a breeze, right?

Two years later, in 2005, we were still not pregnant and couldn’t understand what was wrong. We went to an OBGYN who didn’t ask any questions, handed over some Clomid pills and told us this should do the trick. My first cycle on the Clomid was a success and we were elated when I had a positive home test and we learned we were finally pregnant. At 6 weeks, while on a business trip in Chicago I began to bleed. I didn’t know what was happening so I went to the clinic at the convention center where my conference was being held. The nurse there was concerned and I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital with an escort from my company. At the hospital the doctor confirmed I was having a miscarriage. My husband was miles away, unable to do anything at all and I was going through one of the worst experiences of my life with a complete stranger by my side. I am still thankful for the compassion of the escort who was so kind to sit and try to comfort me when I was scared to death, numb from pain, and all alone. My husband arranged for me to fly home the next day and getting off the plane and seeing him there was devastating. I felt like a failure, I had lost our baby. Guilt wrecked me with questions of whether or not it was my fault, had I done something wrong, was it the trip, etc…

I went to the OBGYN who told me it was ok -- that miscarriage is a common thing and we could continue to try on the Clomid pills. That we should be successful soon because we responded so well to the first round of Clomid and it worked right away. We proceeded to do eight more rounds of Clomid in back to back cycles over the next nine months. Each time hopeful, only to be devastated by negative after negative on pregnancy tests. I was depressed, I was angry, I took it out on my husband and we struggled. After the eight failed rounds the OBGYN gave up and in 2007 referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist. Hope had been restored. This new doctor would be able to help us, he had to.

I was terrified of the infertility clinic, I hated needles, passed out when I got shots and thought having an IV or blood drawn was a fate worse than death. I was a hysterical mess sitting in the chair having vial after vial of blood drawn and I remembering thinking to myself I can’t do this. The blood draws were the least of my worries I was soon to find out. The doctor also wanted to do a hysteropingogram, where they take X-rays of my uterus and tubes while injecting them with dye to ensure they are not blocked. That came back clear. Blood work all came back clear. Semen analysis came back clear. The doctor knew what he was doing though, he knew the right questions to ask. When I told him my periods were regular he knew to ask me to define regular. When I told him my periods were normal he asked me to define normal. He explained to me he thought I was the poster child for endometriosis and he recommended having laparoscopic surgery to determine if he suspicions were correct. I thought he was crazy. I thought he was trying to take my money and didn’t know what he was talking about. Periods were not supposed to be a walk in the park, and every one had pain with them, right? That is what I thought. I was scared to death but out of options and so I agreed to the surgery. The doctor was right, I had severe stage III, borderline stage IV endometriosis. We thought we had it all figured out! We finally had a reason!

The plan after cleaning out all the endometrial tissue was to attempt a clomid/IUI cycle. I thought for sure it would be a success now that we had the endo cleaned up and my body was healthy and ready to carry a child. I was wrong. It failed and that was one of the hardest negatives yet. We tried another Clomid IUI, negative. Now we were running out of time. My doctor had told us with each failed cycle comes a period and with that comes the possibility of endometrial tissue settling outside my uterus where it didn’t belong and an increased chance I would need another surgery. He told us he was cutting us off at three failed IUIs. Basically with each failed cycle my chances of getting pregnant decreased. We also learned my husband was being deployed and would be leaving before we could complete the third IUI. The timing was awful. We froze a semen sample to do the final IUI with and when the time came that one too failed. Once again I was alone, he was on the other side of the world and my depression grew worse fearing we were running out of time and chances. I took medication to stop my period so my endometriosis could not get worse while my husband was gone.

When my husband returned from deployment we jumped right back into trying and now looked at IVF options. We were still considered “unexplained infertility patients” because even after the lap to clean out endo we were not successful, so the IVF was a gamble just as everything else had been. We gave it a try and by now I was becoming a pro at shots and blood draws. We learned how to have my husband give me four shots a day and a time or two I even had to do one to myself.  We transferred three great looking embryos and were hopeful that this would finally be our time. The first IVF cycle was a success and we soon learned I was pregnant with one child. I was scared I would lose it but the constant monitoring kept me sane and reassured. When I was five months pregnant my husband had to leave for a year long, unaccompanied tour in Korea. He was able to fly home for three weeks for the birth of our son in 2008. Four years after we started trying to grow our family we finally had a baby to show for it. It was the happiest day of my life.

When my husband and I were finally reunited after his Korea tour we began trying again for more children. We still had no answer as to the cause of our infertility and no idea if it was still an issue or now that my body had been pregnant and carried a child if it would be able to do it on its own. About three years after my son was born we began seeking the help of a reproductive endocrinologist in Germany, where we were stationed at the time. I was thankful for having been through the IVF experience before in the USA so I was not so alarmed by going through the process in a different country, with a different culture, with language barriers. I missed the comforts of American medicine more than once during the procedures. We attempted a fresh IVF cycle, followed by two FETs. We ended up transferring a total of 8 embryos and had nothing to show for it. Not a single embryo took. I was devastated. To make matters worse the military denied our humanitarian request to remain in Germany longer to continue medical treatments. We were being forced to move and we were being sent to a tiny Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic where there are NO fertility treatments whatsoever. The assignment was a death sentence in my mind.

The silver lining of our assignment at Lajes was that for the purpose of adoption, the Portuguese government will consider American military families stationed there as residents, therefore making the adoption of a Portuguese child completely free! This was amazing news! We completed all the requirements, home studies, etc… and on Valentine’s Day in 2013 we received a letter notifying us we were approved and officially on the waiting list for Portuguese adoption.

I had started to accept that I would not have any more biological children and began to sell all my maternity and baby things I had been carrying around for so long. On a Monday on May I sold the last of my maternity things to a friend of mine and that Friday I got the surprise of my life when I learned I was pregnant again, naturally! The joke was clearly on me! I was terrified of losing the baby, scared of the limited medical care on the island, and a mental wreck because I had finally come to terms with not having more biological children and I was happy with that idea. Everything worked itself out, and due to the limited medical care on the island I flew to Germany alone in December at 36 weeks to wait for my due date. I spent Christmas away from my family, which was difficult but worth it when my healthy baby boy was born this January. Last month we had to withdraw our name from the Portuguese adoption list because of the amount of time we have left on the island. We do not have enough time to finalize custody before we will be reassigned this August. It was a little disappointing, but if this journey has taught me anything it is that you can never be certain what the future holds. You can plan, you can medically intervene, you can pray, but in the end His will is all that matters. The road to get us here makes me appreciate my babies even more as I know what gifts they truly are.

(Please note that all parts of this article are the opinion of the guest writer and not necessarily viewpoints that I personally share)

Dog pile!

What not to say to your infertile friend

One of the things that has truly been on my heart during our journey through infertility is educating people about infertility.

Many of you have asked me my opinion on what you should or shouldn't say to someone struggling with this. I am speaking more to women. While this is a couple's issue, this is something that usually affects women much more than men.

So here is my short and sweet guide. If you follow these rules, you won't go wrong!


A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

  • #1 They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • #2 They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • #3 They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.
It is important that you understand that each of these three "routes" offers excitement, pain, and heartbreak in their own way. I have friends who have chosen or been forced down each of these different paths. It is important that you don't press them down any of these roads. #1 is racked with worry and fears after the amount of time and money invested. #2 and #3 are very difficult choices and usually not the first option.

Here are some things you should NOT say to them while you are struggling. Now if you have said any of these to someone, don't feel bad. One of my dear friends was struggling with infertility before I was diagnosed. Looking back, I said every one of these things to her. I have apologized, but she understands that I meant well. I understand that people mean well. However, the more educated you are, the better.
  • Don't tell them to relax. This is called the "R" word in infertile circles. This is very rarely the problem for infertile people. While stress can be a problem, it is often not the issue for people who publicize their infertility journey. Stress is usually an issue that is quickly rectified.
  • Don't minimize the problem or say there are worse things that can happen. Don't say this really isn't a big deal or shouldn't bother them that much. Of course there are worse things that can happen. Any life-changing event could be worse, but it doesn't change how much it hurts.
  • Don't say they aren't meant to be parents. Well meaning Christians often say this trying to imply God's will is sovereign. Faith and God's presence is a huge issue for infertile women -- let them deal with this on their own or with a Christian counselor.
  • Don't ask why they aren't trying IVF. IVF is very expensive with a lot of ethical considerations. It isn't an "easy" decision.
  • Don't play doctor. Don't give medical advice unless you really know what you are talking about.
  • Don't be crude. This should be obvious. Making jokes about "Do you need a lesson?" is just mean.
  • Be tender when making a pregnancy announcement. The general rule here is to not make your announcement in a public place with your infertile friend in attendance. Instead send them a card or an email and allow them to digest it privately first. Or sometimes you can tell the husband and ask them to let the wife know. Remember that they are happy for you but they are jealous for their own frustrations.
  • Don't complain about your pregnancy or your children. Obviously there are things to complain about but it is a wise move to find someone else to confide in with these problems.
  • Don't push adoption (yet). The general rule is to not bring this up unless they bring it up first. This is a very wonderful and tender topic and when they are ready, they will share. Why do most people not adopt and have genetic children? Because biological children is the primary choice for most people. Your friend is no different in this desire.
  • Don't start any story with ... "I know someone..." or "I had a friend who..." These stories often feature the exception, not the rule. The biggest culprits: "I know who a friend who went on a vacation and then had a baby", and "I know who friend who got pregnant right after they adopted." These cause chills down an infertile women's spine.
  • Don't tell them that if they adopt, they will probably become pregnant. The fact is that less than 1% of couples conceive after adoption.
  • Don't question their decision to stop treatments. Again, a personal decision. Encourage them in whatever direction they choose. If they want advice, they'll ask.
  • Don't say "I hope this works for you because being a parent is the best thing ever." I have heard this on more than one occasion -- shocking? Yes. Painful? Yes. I know they meant well but it is hard to hear.
If your friend (or an acquaintance) brings up their infertility to you, they are wanting to talk to to you about it. From that point on, the conversation is probably welcome. Start off by saying, "If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay, but how is everything going?" Most of the time, once a couple decides to share, a woman wants to talk about it.

Okay, so that's a lot of things NOT to do. But what should you do:
  • Pray for them.
  • Remember their "calendar" and send an email or card on a big day.
  • Put them in touch with other women "in their situation". (Ask them if they want to be contacted or do the contacting.)
  • Let them know that you care. Cards or caring acts are appreciated.
  • Remember them on Mother's Day. Church is very painful on Mother's Day when you are infertile. John and I don't go. We plan a fun day away from all the mother's with flowers. You can simply send a nice card that you are remembering them on that day like you would the anniversary of a loss. My friend Deanna had her kids (my godkids) send special "God-Mom" cards on Mother's Day one year. This was a wonderful thought.
  • Attend Support Group meetings with them.
  • Invite them to all events but give them the option to "opt" out of events that might be painful (baby showers, baptisms, etc.)
  • Invite them to special child-free events whenever possible.
  • Give them poems or even books that you think might be helpful -- try to have another infertile friend give a "stamp" of approval on the book. (I have a great list!)
  • Offer to go to appointments with them if their husband is unavailable. (Thanks Lesley!)
  • Recognize that not being able to have a child is the loss of a dream. It is the same as a single person who wants to get married not finding "the one" or an athlete having a career-ending injury. It's a loss of sorts. They will move through stages of grief including a time when they question their faith. However, they will cycle through this with love and prayer.
  • Read books that will help you understand the infertile woman's heart. I strongly recommend Water from the Rock to understand the grief process infertile women go through.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Military Child

Infertility: When Adoption is NOT an Option

My friend Sarah posted this link to Facebook, and I really loved this article: Infertility: When Adoption is NOT an option. 

I especially liked the quote by Sarah's friend Justine. She speaks directly to the question that so many people ask of infertile couples. "Why don't you adopt?"

"And I know that question, for the most part, comes from a place of love and they know I would be a great mother. They want to take care of my pain. They sure as heck don't want to sit in pain with me because it's so uncomfortable, so they'd rather have sympathy for me and fix it," she said during a phone interview.

I have often echoed these sentiments and encourage people, under NO circumstances, to bring adoption to an infertile couple unless THEY bring it up first. Adoption does not fix infertility. It is wrought with its own emotional and financial issues. And for some couples, adoption is just not something they feel comfortable with either for emotional or financial reasons.

Infertility is not cured by anything. In fact, even having a child (like I did) doesn't cure what it does to your heart. It changes you. It hurts you. It grows you. It moves you.

Another contributor the article was Christy Harris -- who was unable to think about adoption due to the financial side. She says:

"Letting go of the concept that you won't be able to carry your own child is really hard. It's really emotional, and I don't think there's anything wrong with adoption. If I could afford it, I would absolutely be all over it, but it's one of those things where I don't think it's fair that people assume that just because you can't have kids you are now responsible to go and adopt.
"People consider you selfish if that's not what you're looking at, and it's not that you're selfish. You just want a chance to have a family and kind of be like everybody else,"
Newlyn Lulan, who faced secondary infertility (the inability to get pregnant after a previous pregnancy) discussed what it feels like to face an empty womb:

"There's a drive in you that you ... feel like you just have to keep trying," she said during a phone interview. "It's just a nagging feeling. The feeling is overwhelming at times with a sense of urgency knowing that after age 35 fertility begins to significantly decline.
"It's not the stereotypical feeling of being incomplete that some have heard over and over," said Luman, who created a Facebook page for people to share their experience with infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth and infant loss. "Suddenly your growing baby and dreams filled with your every ounce of being are taken from you and you feel completely helpless."
Another infertile woman made a fantastic conclusion statement that truly summed up what women living with infertility need:

"Knowing the difference between empathy and sympathy" is crucial, she said.
"I don't need you to feel sorry that I am a 35-year-old woman who wanted to be a mother but doesn't get to be a mother in your traditional sense of the word. When you feel sorry for me, that leaves me feeling more alone ... but for you to look at me, and say, 'That sucks. I'm sorry. You would have been a great mother. What do you do now?' That's different.
"That difference between feeling with me and feeling for me, I think that's a big part of it."

Friday Funnies

Me: "Sidge could you please get some plates out for dinner?"
Sidge: "No thank you."
Me: "Well, yes, I need you to get them."
Sidge: "But you asked me!"
Me: "I know. But what do you think I really meant?"
Sidge: "That I should?"


While putting the kids to bed the night before my triathlon, I reminded them that I wouldn't see them in the morning.
Me: "I'm going to be leaving very early for my race. But because it is supposed to rain, you guys are going to stay home with Daddy."
Sidge: "I hope you don't finish last Mommy."
Me: "I know Sidge, but if I do, that's okay. I'm just doing it to have fun."
Sidge: "I know."
Me: "And someone has to finish last."
Sidge: "Yeah. I just hope it isn't you."


We often sing a song to Abigail. It's a variation of Chantilly Lace. We sing "Abigail Grace and the pretty face, the piggy tails hanging down, she giggles when she walks and she wiggles when she talks. She makes the world go ro-ro-round. Anything nothing in the world like our blue-eyed girl to make us act so funny, make us spend our money. Make us feel real loose like a long-necked goose. Oh baby she's the one I love."

So yesterday I was having Abigail practice saying her first name.

Me: "What's your name?"
Abigail: "Abigail."
Me: "Abigail what?"
Abigail: "Abigail Grace."
Me: "Abigail Grace what?"
Abigail: "Abigail Grace pretty face."
Yikes! Not good.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last Minute Neck Hug

Madeline with kiddos -- not cooperating ... again.

My Uncle Bob and two of his three children: Madeline and Evan made a last minute drive into Nashville for a hockey game. Most of my Dad and Mom's families live in the Chicago/Indiana area, and I have not been to see them in years. We drove into Nashville at the very last minute to have lunch with them. 

Here is a picture of all the kiddos with Madeline. What a beautiful girl she is -- inside and out!

Lunch was, well, what I'd expect. Three kids behaving nearly perfectly and one little child named Hannah doing her own thang!
Hannah and her new-person scowl. Meet her and this is what you'll get. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Faces of Infertility: Joni's story

In celebration of "National Infertility Awareness Week", I am featuring stories of infertility this week. These are all guest posts that I hope will put a real face on this devastating disease. Please spread the word and share these stories!

My journey with infertility took place more than thirty years ago. A time before the internet allowed women to research for answers regarding pregnancies or receive support when a miscarriage ended hopes and dreams. My story benefits from the passage of time because I can reflect back on how God’s plan developed through my difficult experiences and how He worked everything out for good. My first pregnancy was an exciting time. I had a sister and a sister-in-law who were also pregnant. I never even considered that anything could go wrong especially after I had surpassed the 12 week milestone. However, after one particular weekend of virtually feeling no baby movement, I lost a little boy. I was about four and a half months pregnant and miscarried at home. I can vividly recall every detail of that devastating time. My mom came down from Wisconsin to be with me. Many well-meaning people sent flowers, but I was left with the loss. I recall waking up in the morning and for a split second all was well. Then the reality of of what had occurred sank in and I felt that I couldn’t, nor did I desire to face the day. My mom strongly encouraged me to get up each day. I was the only person in my circle of friends who had suffered a miscarriage, and I know that they did not know how to deal with me or what to make of my situation. Since no one had dealt with infertility -- not a word in anyone’s vocabulary -- no one could relate.

Wendi with her Dad and Mom, George and Diane, as a baby.

One of my good friends at that time was Wendi’s mom, Diane. Within a few months, I became pregnant again, but miscarried after two months. My third pregnancy was going very well and I was within three weeks of my due date. At that time my water broke and I expectantly headed to the hospital, anxious to hold our new baby in my arms. When the nurse was checking for the baby’s heartbeat, she couldn’t find it. She searched for about 20 minutes but to no avail. There wasn’t any heartbeat. My baby had died. I delivered a little boy sometime later. Stillborn!! I begged my doctor to allow me to go home rather than endure being on the maternity floor and he agreed. My mom came down again ... there were flowers again. I recall that it took some time before I felt I could leave the security of my home. What if I ran into someone who wasn’t aware that I had lost my baby? My family questioned me regarding a funeral for the baby, but I was emotionally unable to go there. For my fourth and final pregnancy, I saw a high-risk specialist who was affiliated with Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. I prayed so hard for this child. Seven months into the pregnancy, during a scheduled stress test, my doctor explained that the baby’s heartbeat was failing, and an emergency C-section was performed. Brant James was born at 2 lb. 2 oz. He went down to 1 lb. 10 oz.

Holding Brant

From the beginning I knew that Brant was going to have difficulties. We were able to take him home when he was three months old and weighed in at 4 lbs. Brant did have major difficulties. He was profoundly retarded to the degree that he never walked, talked, or really knew who we were. He was difficult to feed and only a few people could handle this task. Wendi was one of these people and she certainly was the youngest. Wendi was about eleven or twelve when she began to help me by babysitting for Brant. What a gift from God!!

When Brant was seven and a half years old, God answered my prayer for the possibility of adopting a baby. We had an appointment with an attorney on a Wednesday afternoon in November, and Brant became ill and died four days later.

Almost six months to that day, God gave us Brianna. I often remark that it was God’s plan all along for Brianna to become our daughter. God also intended from the beginning that our lives would intertwine with Wendi and John to the extent that Brianna would give birth to Isaac and Isaac would become their son. God is faithful and He is good!!!

Faces of Infertility: Casey & Jordan

In celebration of "National Infertility Awareness Week", I am featuring stories of infertility this week. These are all guest posts that I hope will put a real face on this devastating disease. Please spread the word and share these stories!

I’m a planner, always have been. I plan things out. I have success. That’s just the way it’s always gone for me. Any job I’ve applied for, program I have entered, scholarship I wanted…check, check, check. So naturally, having a baby would be no different. We would start trying at a time in the year where the baby would be born with a good birthday according to the school calendar. I mean, a September birthday would just be the worst.
Two years later and I would have given anything for a child with a September birthday.  Of course, if you weren’t in my inner circle you wouldn’t have known that all wasn’t going my way. I was a teacher, a spouses’ club president, a fitness instructor, a friend, a wife, and an active traveler. Chances are you probably asked, “When will you have kids?” or “Don’t you want kids of your own?” We had been married 5 years, shouldn’t we have a family by now?
Truth was, I was crying just about every day. Yes, I wanted kids of my own, I wanted them with every fiber of my being. I wanted to have a baby shower of my own, to have sleepless nights, to hold a tiny baby in my arms. Even more so, I wanted to be able to go to baby showers without leaving, to attend church without crying, to be happy when yet another pregnancy announcement was posted on Facebook.
The doctors said we had a less than 5% chance of getting pregnant on our own. IVF was our only “real” option, and even that wasn’t guaranteed. We tried it, only to have an early positive result turn into a negative. We tried it again, this time not even an early positive. Just a “no,” yet another “no.” All the while, life had to go on. There were responsibilities, and trips, and parties. People to be happy for and things to accomplish. Behind the scenes, though? Every day was hard. Every single day was a reminder of the fact that I was failing at something that every drunken cheerleader seemed able to accomplish.
Then came round three. Our third attempt with IVF. This time was different and we were finally given the “yes” we had been hoping for. Not just that, but TWINS! We had a double blessing after all that we had been through in the last two years. FINALLY. Weeks later on a flight to Boston, the bleeding started. The ER doctor coldly handed me a paper on miscarriage and sent me on my way. I have never cried so much. I have never felt so very hopeless. After all that effort, our babies were gone. But even then, the obligations continued. A speaking engagement, a new job upon on return to Turkey…life was still moving and I still had to put on a brave face.
I wore that brave face to a follow up ultrasound before scheduling a D&C. Except that I didn’t have to schedule that D&C after all, one of our little beans was there. One tiny little heart just beating away. We had experienced the lowest lows to the highest highs in just one week’s time. Deacon joined our family in June of 2012. He was (and is) a miracle in every sense of the word, and our journey to him changed my life forever. I now understood what it was like to want something so very badly, yet have it be so far out of reach. Our infertility journey changed my life and it changed my parenting.
Just 19 months later we welcomed our daughter, Sutton. A daughter conceived in that 5% window, and a clear reminder that God doesn’t work in percentages. No treatments, no help, just an unexpected blessing. From “that girl” that has it all together to “that girl” that carts around the traveling circus that is two children under two, and now I find myself again putting on the brave face.
1 in 8 couples faces infertility. Chances are you know someone who has been through the pain, or maybe even someone who is currently struggling. Maybe you have a friend who is dealing with hormones and shots and continued negative tests. You see the brave face, but you don’t see the struggle. Maybe you have a friend that has children so close together it seems as if she gets pregnant with no problem. You see the brave face, but you don’t see the struggle. Just remember, chances are there is a lot more going on in a person’s life than what you know or see.  

(Please note that all parts of this article are the opinion of the guest writer and not necessarily viewpoints that I personally share)