Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Story: Part 2

So guess who totally boo-hoo'd while telling her story at group a couple of weeks ago? Yep, that'd be me. And in case I've never relayed it on here, I *HATE* crying in public. I'm not a big cryer in general, but especially not in front of people. I even manage to hold it in during the sappiest movies. But put me at home alone in front of a tear jerker and I'll go through four boxes of kleenex. It must be a complex - who knows... but I don't like crying in front of people. So yeah, when I got to the end of my story, like where we are today, I totally had to just let it go. I thought this might happen in my girls' group, but not in my couples' group in front of boys - geez!!! Oh well... there's always a crier in the group and I guess it was me this time.


So anyway, let's continue on, dear readers. I know, finally, right?!  Sorry I took two forevers to finish it up, but well, you know... life.  And again, this is a LONG ass post, so I hope you're well caffeinated and in a comfy chair.  If you missed the first part of my story, hop over here to catch up. Thanks for reading along and I of course welcome any questions y'all have for me. Leave a comment or drop me an email if you rather. Grab some popcorn and let's go...



And so it begins. Graduating college was truly like closing of one chapter and starting of a new one. I interned at a public accounting firm in Marietta for the better part of that first year out of college. The job was cool - it was my first "real" paycheck (other than part-time jobs here and there) and I thought I was freaking rich. In accounting, an intern is really no different from a first-year hire (same pay, same responsibilities, etc). That year, I met two other UGA students who were interning with me - Lucky and kuntry bride (whom you hear me talk about a lot). If I gained nothing else from that job, I walked away with two of the very best friends in the world. I have lots of great circles of friends, but these two girls are the ones I actually see the most. We've all gone our separate ways career-wise, but we've only grown closer as friends.


I went to grad school at Georgia State University to get my Masters in Taxation and I also got through the CPA exam after just two sittings. The exam's all computerized now and formatted completely differently, but it used to be a 2-day exam offered only twice a year and the first time pass rate was less than 10%. Translation - it's a hard ass exam and it consumed my life for over a year. I also continued to work for the same firm for the next few years. And shortly after getting through school and the exam, the hub and I got married! We had a fabulous fall wedding and actually got married on my parents' anniversary. It happened to fall on a Saturday that year - meant to be, don't you think?!


Married Life. That first year of marriage was definitely challenging. Unlike the rest of the world (or at least it seems), we didn't live together before we were married. So learning to live with a stinky boy was no easy feat. Especially for this girl, who had NEVER shared a bathroom with anyone EVER until this point. (Remember that only child thing? And oh yeah, I missed the whole dorm experience and lived in the same off-campus apartment for four years with my own bathroom.) But those first few years were also a ton of fun. We were both doing well at work, had great friends, just loving life... doing our thing.


It was shortly after we got married that I got a call from one of my old high school girlfriends. She was now the head cheerleading coach back at our high school and she was calling to see if I'd be interested in tagging along as a second coach for one of her squads at a summer cheer camp down in Florida. Well, sure, why not... A week at the beach for free? What's not to love? But this was a little different than any of the camps we had gone to in high school. This one was a Christian cheer camp, so all the squads there were from different Christian schools from all over the Southeast. Throughout the week I kept hearing the instructors talking about "cheering for God" and glorifying God with cheerleading. Um, what the heck does God care about cheerleading? Short skirts and tumbling... seriously. I didn't really get it, but whatever. I mean the God stuff didn't freak me out - I'd been around it all my life, but I just wasn't so sure God really cared about how fabulous a basket toss was...


On the last night of camp, all of us - instructors, cheerleaders, and all - were out on the beach for a night of worship. I remember there being a lot of singing and scripture reading, devotional time and whatnot. But then at the end we all just broke up into groups and prayed together. The whole night (well, the whole week actually) is pretty fuzzy now, but I'll never forget my girlfriend leaning down beside me, putting her arm around me, and praying aloud for me. It was all I could do to hold back the tears (remember that hatred of public boo-hooing?). I don't even remember exactly what she said as she prayed, but I totally remember the warmth I felt. It was God just tapping on my heart, or perhaps nudging me with his elbow, to come back and seek him.


I don't even know if that makes much sense to anyone but me, but from that moment I just knew I needed to start pursuing a relationship with God. I had never doubted him or questioned his truth, but like I mentioned before, he was more or less kept on a shelf and I just pulled him out when I needed him. It was also around this time that I joined a women's small group - not one affiliated with our church, but just a group of girls (a lot of them were the hub's co-workers at the time and he hooked me up with them). Most of these girls went to Northpoint Community Church and they'd always talk about how "Andy" said this and that. (And I'm like, who the hell is Andy?) Well the hub and I of course didn't have a church home but it was definitely something we had really started to desire as a couple. So we decided to go to the Buckhead campus one Sunday with some of the girls and well, we've been there ever since. It was pretty much love at first sermon. And I'm pretty sure Andy Stanley has spoiled all other pastors and churches for me and we can never go anywhere else.


We started attending regularly pretty much right off and it wasn't long before we decided to get connected in a small group. The church is so big that they don't do your traditional "Sunday School" classes. They have incredible programs for kids, but they strongly encourage adults to get into small groups. It's a group of 10-12 individuals (like my women's group) or 5-6 married couples (like our couples' group) that meet weekly or so in someone's home. We've been involved with couples' groups on and off for the last 5 years or so. And they've been such a huge blessing in our lives. One of the biggest things we encourage our engaged couples to do (as mentors - the ministry we're currently involved in) is to get in a couples' group once they get married. It's been one of the best things we've ever done for our marriage and our faith.


The Money Pit. We ended up moving up here to Buford after living in Dunwoody for the first 3 years of our marriage. We had two doggies at this point and wanted a yard for them. And we were really thinking about starting a family soon and our 2 bedroom/2.5 bath townhome didn't have much room for any growth. So we ended up making the anything-but-wise decision to buy a new house before selling our first. We were building the new house from the bottom up and thought we'd surely sell the townhouse in the meantime, but no. We crunched the numbers and *knew* we could handle the two mortgages while we had to. And we did for a while. We had two renters over this period - one good pair, one not-so-good pair. (Being a landlord sucks, by the way.) But things eventually came to a head in 2008. The hub's job situation changed, so our income was going down, down, down. And expenses all around were going up, up, up. Our bad decisions in the past came back to haunt us (or kick our ass, however you want to phrase it). But with lots of effort, prayer, and the help of my parents, we were able to get that beast of a townhouse sold. Y'all remember that, don't you?! That was a good day.


The same week that we sold the townhouse, Dave Ramsey was in town giving his Total Money Makeover Live show. We knew all about Dave - he had spoken at our church a couple of times. We had the book. We even attempted to do his program for a while, but we had totally half-assed it and well, as we found out - you can't half-ass it and get anywhere. We decided we needed to be at his show. His books are great and his show is great, but seeing him live in person was crucial to getting that fire lit for us. His enthusiasm is so contagious and I was nearly in tears at different times during the show. The hub and I were so fired up that we literally put our butts in one of his FPU classes the very next day. That weekend changed our lives.


We had always made good money but we had no real direction with it. The hub and I are both spenders and that's a recipe for disaster right there. Even though I'm a CPA and definitely the "nerd" of the two of us, I like my designer shoes and handbags, girls. So while we weren't necessarily hurting in the past, we just had no real plan. Money came in, money went out. No budget. I mean those are only for people with not a lot of money, right? Who wants to be restricted? Please. We saved some here and there, but it was just "savings" - it wasn't for any purpose. Which means it didn't stay there very long. And sure we'd give here and there, but we certainly weren't intentional with our giving. We were generous when we could be, but there was no real plan.


We've now been on Dave's plan for over a year. We've done a monthly budget since day one. And I freaking LOVE the budget. (I talk all about the budget here if you're curious.) Not only do we now give every dollar coming in a name, but we completely flip-flopped the ordering of our money. Old method: Spend, spend, spend, and if we have any left then we'll save and maybe give. New method: Give, save, live on the rest. We went cold turkey on this new operating system - there was no easing out of our old ways. We went full force with this budget. We started tithing for the first time ever - which taught us to truly trust God with our money and not lean on ourselves. Wow, was that freeing. I can't even communicate the tremendous sense of peace that gives us. Even in the months where we're super tight and we've got to really get creative to make it through, we never even discuss not tithing. It's not ours and it's not an option - that's just how we look at it now. It's a scary leap of faith to take - it really is. I mean, 10% doesn't sound like a lot until you write it down and then you're like damn... But it was such a huge lesson for us - it's all about trust. And embracing that trust is what has truly brought us peace.


Today, 7 years into our marriage, we admittedly have the lowest combined income we've had since the day we married. But I've never been more at peace with our finances. Because we have a plan. And we have a God that has proved ever-so faithful throughout all these tough times. It's definitely one of those oh-if-I-only-knew-then-what-I-know-now things, but girls, I wouldn't change a thing. Yeah we made some really poor decisions in the past and did some stupid things. But sometimes learning the hard way makes you that more able to bust through the shit and do some amazing things with your life. And I'm so excited about our future and where this all will take us. This 180 we've done on our finances over the last 14 months has sky-rocketed our faith and has made our marriage ever so stronger.


Baby Blues. Most of y'all of course know the other big "thing" we've been dealing with... we've been trying to get pregnant for the last 4 years. It's not something I ever saw coming. I've always been healthy. I've always had regular periods with no problems at all. So after months and months of trying to get pregnant to no avail, I was really getting frustrated. After about a year of trying on our own, we did some initial testing with my OB/GYN. Just some basic bloodwork at first, and the hub had his boys tested. Other than some low progesterone levels on my part, all looked fine until I had an HSG. Don't even ask me to spell that out, but it's basically where they take a catheter and put dye up in your girly parts so they can see if your tubes are open, etc. I was in radiology to have this done, so it's just me and the radiologist and another technician - not my normal doctor. And besides spitting out some big words, they really wouldn't explain any of what they were seeing to me. So I'm looking at the screen and the radiologist mentioned something about my uterus having horns. (WTF?)


Before you know it, my mom and I are googling stuff and don't know what to think. The hub and I met back with my OB and she explained that I had a uterine anomaly. She wasn't sure exactly which kind by the HSG, so I'd need to have an MRI to further diagnose it. But whatever it was, I would require some kind of "procedure" either to correct it before pregnancy or once I got pregnant to keep it from rupturing. So I had the MRI done and I was then referred to my RE (fertility doctor). I was obviously beyond the scope of popping a few pills to fix my problem. We met with the RE - I had to bring all my images from the HSG and MRI and he confirmed that I had a septate uterus. Basically, I had a wall of good-for-nothin' tissue down the middle of my uterus that needed to be removed. It wouldn't necessarily prevent me from getting pregnant, but it was a very unstable environment for a baby. Solution? Surgery.


I didn't really think twice about it - I wanted to have babies and if this is what I had to do, then OK. Both my mom and the hub were there. While in surgery, my doctor discovered stage III endometriosis and removed it all. He thought I might have it, but it's really hard to tell without being in there. So that was good to find out - I hadn't had any symptoms, but this was most likely why I hadn't been conceiving. Unfortunately, I had a very weak area on the wall of my uterus and he was afraid to attempt removing the septum for fear of rupturing my uterus altogether. So he removed the endo and got out. I had a rough time recovering from that first one and that afternoon and night in the hospital was AWFUL. It was out-patient surgery, so I was able to eventually leave, but OMG. Not fun. I'll spare you the details.


Because my RE wasn't able to remove the septum, I required a 2nd surgery. He put me on some turn-me-into-a-raging-bitch medication for a couple of months to soften my uterine wall and repair that weak area I mentioned, and then we had the surgery. He was able to remove the septum this time and also cleared out some additional endo he found (not much, but it just keeps coming back - annoying). Recovery was much, much better on the 2nd one. He wasn't in there nearly as long and it just was a much better experience altogether. So our plan from that point was to try on our own for three months, then do three IUI cycles, then move to IVF. Nothing happened of course on our own. We were gearing up for our first IUI cycle at the beginning of 2008 - and that's where our this whole mess started to collide with the financial disaster of 2008.


We had the first ultrasound to get that IUI going, but I don't know... it just all kind of hit me. Tax season was about to start. Even the IUI's were more pricey than we had initially thought and we were already strapped financially. Maybe this was bad timing. So I didn't go back after that initial ultrasound. The nurse called me to schedule my mid-cycle check and I told her we decided to skip that cycle. "OK," she said, "just call us when you're ready." We didn't go back until February of this year. We just needed a break. We certainly weren't prepared to go very far financially and I just needed a time-out emotionally. Taking tax season off turned into taking that summer off... and before we knew it, we hadn't done anything in a year. We of course weren't preventing anything on our own! But we just needed a break from the doctors.


We finally went back for a consult with my RE in February of this year and laid out the plan once again. In May, we did our first IUI and actually got pregnant. I was completely stunned. I didn't think IUI would work for us at all, much less on the first try. It wasn't for lack of faith, I just seriously didn't think it'd work. I thought we'd end up doing IVF in the long run.  So we were shocked and thrilled, of course.  But as y'all know, we lost the baby a few days later.  It was rough, but I don't think I had the same feelings as others have with miscarriages.  I don't know... I barely had time to get used to the idea of being pregnant,  I mean it was so surreal.  So when we found out my hormone levels had dropped, it was almost like, "yeah, I guess that was too good to be true."  I don't really know how to explain it...  it was a punch in the gut, no doubt.  After the hub told me the news on the phone (he had called the nurse to get my results), I had to leave work and run over to my parents house to see my mom.  Everything just came rushing in all at once - the realization of being pregnant only to have it stripped away from us so quickly.  I just broke down in my mom's arms.  I didn't really feel like I lost a baby.  I don't even think about that baby as a baby... it was more like we lost our "chance."  That's what it felt like.


We've learned to celebrate every step though and actually conceiving was a huge, huge step for us.  And it all once again confirmed that we're not in control here.  We did two more IUI's this past summer after that initial one, but neither worked.  After the 3rd one I really felt at a loss.  I knew, according to our previous plan, that the next step would be IVF.  (And this would be one of those times I was cursing those who get knocked up while on birth control and have babies for $20 co-pays.)  We met with my RE again to discuss the next steps.  Because we did switch up my meds after the 2nd IUI, he wanted to try one last IUI before moving to IVF.  OK and just so you can wrap your head around it a little, an IUI cycle is about $1500 and an IVF cycle is like $1500 x 10.  And my insurance covers none of that - those are complete out-of-pocket costs to us.  And that's kind of where we are now.  We have our next steps laid out for us but it's a question of when we can do them. 


It sucks to be financially bound with this and not be able to move forward as quickly as we want to, but I'm just very faithful in the fact that we'll get there when we're meant to get there.  Really, it's the not-knowing that sucks.  It really sucks.  I want to be a mom so badly.  But I'm in love with my husband and love the time we share together just us.  We've been blessed with more time to grow with each other and with God over these last few years.  Years that would've been filled with dirty diapers and terrible two's had things gone the way *I* wanted them to go.  And all that's good, but God surely has his hand in all of this.  I just wish I knew his plan!  If I could just know that I'll have a baby in say, 2 years, I'd be OK with that.  Or maybe none of this will end up working and we're going to end up adopting.  I'd be OK with that.  But I just don't know.  So all we can do is keep praying and pluggin' along. 


Through this whole amazing process, I've learned all about trust, faith, and true peace.  None of those are ever perfected - it's all a daily struggle.  I have to make the decision every single day to look to God and not to what I'm after.  I have to decide to place my faith in him and not in my own abilities.  And with those decisions, I am able to experience real peace which keeps me from giving into my own fear and sorrow.   Because even on my best days, infertility just sucks. 


Infertility makes you feel like less of a woman.  I mean gosh, the one thing I should be able to do as a woman, I can't freaking do.  And it doesn't just affect me...  I've got a husband who wants to be a dad.  I've got parents who are dying to be grandparents.  Sometimes I can't help but feel guilty for making everyone around me wait.  I've seen infertility kill marriages and friendships.  And I totally get why.  I think some women dealing with it just completely lose themselves in the anger and depression.  I don't ever want to be that person, but I certainly understand how someone could get there.  I think I generally have a great attitude about the whole thing.  There are lots of bloggers out there who blog about infertility.  Their whole blogs are dedicated to infertility.  There are a few good ones, but most of them I find depressing.  They seem to encompass this very "woe is me" outlook and I don't want any part of that.  Infertility in no way defines me... it's just something I'm dealing with.  So while I like to update y'all on our progress and sometimes vent here and there on my issues with it, it's not all I'm about.  It's not what I want to be known for.  


I think writing about it helps me personally, but maybe it also enlightens some of my readers as to what some of their own girlfriends or sisters might be dealing with.  Infertility just isn't talked about that much.  And when friends find out you're going through it, they often just want to "fix" you.  I can write a book with all the suggestions I've received on things I "should try."  The bottom line is that you just feel very left behind.  Especially at 32, the majority of my friends are on their 2nd and 3rd kids.  And they live in a completely different world than I do.  And that's OK... they've certainly done nothing wrong.  But it's just in your face *all* the time.  Pregnant people are EVERYwhere.    (I seriously can name 6 people due this week.)  Babies are EVERYwhere.  People just keep making babies like it's nothin'.  But such is life, I guess.  When you can't get what you want, it seems like everyone else in the world has it. 


But as crappy as all of that is, I sure wouldn't change the journey for anything.  God is doing some serious work in me and he's using this all for a reason.  The money thing, the baby thing - it's all part of an amazing story - his story.  I have no idea where it ends or where we'll end up, but I have grown SO much over these last few years.  Whereas God used to be a bullet point on my list of things about me, he now consumes me.  I was so bitter in the first year of struggling to get pregnant.  I had to surrender it all over to God and learn to look to him.  And he's placed some truly awesome people in my life to help me deal with all this.. most notably, my friend Jill who is at Northside Hospital (as I type!) awaiting the delivery of her little IVF miracle.  She and her husband were our first small group leaders years ago when we first joined Buckhead Church.  Far before either of us dreamed of having fertility issues.  My friends and family have all been tremendously supportive, but having that friend who has been there is so important.  I'm so thankful for her.  And through that same small group, I also became great friends with Pam, who knows first hand how difficult the "wait" is.  She and her husband are adopting a baby from China - which is an excruciatingly long process and only seems to get longer.  These two ladies have been such crucial forces in my journey and I love them dearly. 


And who knows where all this will lead...  I'm just along for the ride.  Today I'm just continuing to put my faith in God and follow his lead.  I'm just trying to stay in a position where I can hear him and not get swept away by my own fears.  I'm grateful for where I came from and where I am today.  I'm so thankful for all the twists and turns along the way in my story.  It's not one I would've written myself, but I'm not the one holding the pen, after all...  


Deb said...

truly trust that God does have a plan for you BB! I shared your pain for many years and can assure you that ALL of that pain is gone. We leave in 12 days to head back to China for our second little girl. These girls are the BIGGEST Blessings ever! I never thought I would ever have to wait this long....but it makes it all the sweeter! Blessings to you!! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Lady Law Dawg said...

Love your last sentence - so true!

Julie Tiemann said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Your authenticity is so refreshing. It's so clear that God is at work in your life in a major way!

Preppy 101 said...

It's a brave thing to share your story. You and your husband are amazing people. Thank you for sharing your story. God is good in the good and the bad. He is so good to us. xoxo

Jill said...

WOW. Will you write a book? Seriously? Or perhaps consider going in to counseling? You'd be AMAZING. This popped up on my google reader a few days ago and a "saved as unread" because I wanted to sit down and have a good chunk of time to read it and I am just so moved. God is really doing some amazing thing in your life and you inspire ME daily with your are SO right about how most others have the "woe is me"..not you girl!! I'm so thankful to know you and walk this journey with you. Thanks for sharing your story. You are a beautiful writer. I'll help you get your book deal if you need an agent. (Not that I know anything about that world but I'll figure it out because this needs to be written up because lots of others need to read it!!) As a side note, I just made a list of people that sits on a sticky note on my computer that I want to consistently pray for and you are on it. praying, praying, praying..and knowing this is all a part of God's big story in your life.

tickledpink said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I will keep you in my prayers, and I know God has a wonderful plan for you! I have a hard time keeping the faith when all the fears and struggles over take my life. You are such an inspiration to keep God first, keep trusting in Him and just have faith! God is working in your life and it's such a testimony to me and others!

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It really touched me. :)

Lucky in Love said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is amazing :)

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

I love you, Bestie!

I want so badly for a baby to be in your arms. You will be an amazing momma one day and I pray (selfishly!) soon.

I cried when you mentioned wanting to know God's plan. I feel the exact same way. If only I knew it would happen or not or go this way or that way or in 2 years... I screamed at God a few weeks ago as I was having a breakdown (in my car where all of my best breakdowns happy. Its good that way though bc I have to pull myself together to get out of the car. Ha). Literally scremed at God. Not. Like. Me.

I love you and I am praying for you always.

Sherrie said...

Best of luck to you and I will pray for continued strength to trust in God's plan for you.

Brian and Carole said...

Well Amanda, again I am super late in reading this. But I am so glad I did. Your words are honest, sincere, funny, encouraging, and strong. I'm so glad we met so long ago at Buckhead Church in the oddly transforming small group, ;o).
I hope you know that we DO pray for you guys, love you, and truly do miss you ALL. :)

Dr. Blondie said...

Just found your blog from Preppy Pink Crocodile's site (I know KK), and I wanted to leave a comment to tell you that your story has really touched me. My husband and I are going something very similar--IUIs and miscarriage (if you're interested, read my blog's July 19th post of this year), and then getting back on the horse to try again. It's amazing how God has worked in our lives to build our faith through these trials, though. I wish you the best of luck!