I don't typically choose a word or phrase for the New Year, but this year I decided to choose one & I decided to go with "vulnerability." 
I don't usually struggle with being vulnerable...as long as I know that everything is going to turn out fine. 
When I've made it through my struggles & come out a survivor/fighter, it's then that I'm fine sharing my story. 
This year I want to be more open with my struggles, when things aren't figured out or when I'm still going through the journey of figuring things out. 
Today was a struggle. 
Sunday mornings are hard when you're a pastor's wife. 
I had a needy toddler & needy dogs & I just felt like I was paddling to stay afloat. 
I felt like my patience was being tested & frankly I felt like I failed as a mother. 
I lost my cool with the dogs & I about lost my cool with my toddler. 
I had thoughts creeping in saying, "you can barely handle one kid right now, what makes you think you can handle or even deserve two?" 
You see, we've been still struggling with infertility & here in the upcoming months, we'll go through another embryo transfer. 
And I'm so scared for so many reasons. 
I'm scared things won't take. I'm scared we'll just invest all this money into something that won't work. I'm scared something will go horribly wrong even if things do take. I'm scared for of what it means if I do have another & when I struggle with moments like today, what kind of parent will I be if I have two? Am I fit for this? Do I deserve this? 
These thoughts start to creep in, that have so many times before (& I feel tend to be common with infertility)- maybe I couldn't get pregnant (again) naturally because I've done something wrong...maybe I just don't deserve this...I'm a failure...my body is once again is a failure cause I thought, maybe having one would trigger something...am I unworthy of anything more... & as I struggled this morning, things still had to get done, I still had to make it to church. 
And as I sat through church this morning, I was remind about grace- that God's doing within me what I can't do myself- 
Heidi, remember, you are deserving of grace. 
And I was reminded that I'm not alone- it's so easy to feel alone & to silently struggle, but the reality is, I'm not alone- 
Heidi, remember community, remember that you are part of a body. 
After church, one of the sweet ladies came up to me, hugged me, and said, "I'm praying for you." 
If only she knew just how dearly those words meant this morning. 
And I was reminded of peace- God is with me. 
In these moments I just need to breathe in peace & trust God has me through this process. 
Heidi, will you find peace in trusting me?
And as church ended, we were asked "how is it with your soul?" And that hit me hard. 
And the next song started, and it's like these words dug into my very most being:

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see

And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.

It is well with my soul

After church, I decided I needed a redo, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, brought Phoenix home, put him down for a nap, and I just sat. 
When I looked at my coffee cup, I noticed the word "joy" - a reminder to choose joy, not just in those good, easy moments, but in all situations. 
Like today. 
So the fear isn't completely gone today, the struggle of infertility still silently looms overhead, but today I'm choosing to walk in joy, I'm remembering grace, and I'm breathing in peace. 
And I'm taking it a step at a time. 
The reality is, I could sure use prayers today & this month especially. 
This week is National Infertility Week and after the last few years that Dave & I struggled to get pregnant, I think I'm ready to talk a little more publicly about our story.
From day one, Dave and I have tried to be transparent about our struggles when we talk with people, but I feel this has been one of those weeks I've never really acknowledged publically, not that I don't see it as a great awareness week, but let's be honest- for anyone that's gone through infertility or any type of struggle to get pregnant-

It sucks that when you're in a good place to have kids, when you want that baby so very much, when you've tried and tried to the point where things like sex because a chore, where it seems like every single person around you is having kids & it seems just too easy for everyone else, where you just feel alone no matter how much support & love you are surrounded by...it's just depressing.

Did you know that One in eight American couples will experience infertility, and 1.1 million women will undergo treatment this year. That most won’t talk about it makes it that much more painful: A recent survey of infertility patients reveals that 61 percent hide the struggle to get pregnant from friends and family (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38311820/ns/health-womens_health/t/many-couples-struggle-infertility-silence/#.VyQjO032apo).

It's sad that so, so many of us go through this journey and yet so many of us are silent with our stories.
But really, can you blame us?
Infertility made me feel like something was wrong with me.
I was tired of hearing things like "if you just relax, you'll get pregnant."
I mean, really?
You understand right that someone going through infertility treatments can't "just relax."
We're literally tracking every single moment of our cycle because we need an idea of when to start medications or when we're ovulating.
We're being poked and prodded and nothing is left to the imagination in that doctor's room.
We're going through uncomfortable and painful procedures all to just increase our chance to hopefully one day have a baby.
And the reality is that none of these things we experience is a guarantee.

But this isn't a post to ridicule others.
Honestly, I truly feel most comments came from a really sincere and loving place, but those words were just so hard to hear when all I wanted to do was truly "just relax."
I wanted so bad to wake up one morning to morning sickness or the excitement to think "I might be pregnant" and have a pregnancy test come back positive.

When I first started having a tinge of an idea that something was wrong was within the first year of marriage.
I had stopped taking birth control, not that I was actively trying to have kids at that time, but I just struggled a little bit with the idea of birth control and frankly didn't really like how it made me feel emotionally.
But a year later after stopping birth control, nothing happened.
I didn't really think much of this because I knew not everyone gets automatically pregnant after stopping birth control.
So that next year I started actively tracking my cycles.
I figured it would help me know a little more accurately what was going on, but maybe we could start trying a little more intentionally.
So I decided to see my doctor in Columbus; I just sensed something wasn't right, plus I was experiencing some ovarian cysts and had wondered if that might be some of the cause with not getting pregnant.
In that appointment I was pretty much written off because of my age "you're still young, we'll see what happens in a year."
Then another year went by and another doctor. Same thing.
And another doctor and the same experience.
They were all convinced that I was "still young."
At this point, I was starting to think that something was just wrong with me.
I mean, I was young right?
Why was I struggling so much to get pregnant?
Was I getting too stressed?
Was I over thinking things?
I felt so broken.
And at this point I just gave up.
I started feeling like deep down I would never be able to have a baby.
When people started asking when Dave & I would have kids, I would try to brush it off or make a joke out of it.
Part of me always wanted to break down in tears and tell others just how hard we were trying.
But I didn't want people to see this brokenness.
I didn't want people to feel sorry for us.

When Dave & I moved to South Dakota, my cysts were still pretty bad so I decided to see a doctor again when we moved here.
I remember a lot of prayers at this time asking God for someone to take me seriously...I just wanted to find answers.
So I decided to see a doctor at Sanford.
She said a lot of the same standard things I heard before, that things looked good and that I was young....but then she said, you know you've been off birth control for almost five years now and that concerns me.
So we gave it a month to see what happened and again nothing happened.
She referred us to a specialist.
They started running test and  looking deeper into the issue.
The first thing that the doctor realized was that I had Short Luteal Phase meaning my cycles would last about 23 to 24 days making it hard to know if I was actually ovulating.
So I started Clomid.
That was not fun- I had mood swings, insomnia, and felt like an emotional mess.
On top of that, nothing was changing.
So they switched me to Femara, which was better on me emotionally but it still wasn't doing anything.
After months of attempts, they decided that it was time for us to visit the infertility clinic.
More tests showed there was some borderline issues with Dave and that I had Diminishing Ovarian Reserve which basically meant that my ovaries were like that of a 40-year-old woman.
Pretty much, there wasn't a lot we could do on our own and realized we were going to need a little more assistance to get pregnant.
So we decided to take a more aggressive approach and decided to try an IUI (artificial insemination).
I remember that very first time we went in.
It was the first time in a long time that we really felt hopeful.
And I remember when it failed.
I remember laying in bed bawling.
I remember Dave holding me tight.
I remember how much it hurt.

A couple months later we decided to try a second round.
This time it wasn't as hard when we had a negative, mainly because by this point we felt so numb within the process.

After that last attempt, we were done trying that route and knew from our research that chances were that we were investing a lot of money & the changes of getting pregnant were diminishing.
So finally our doctor approached us about IVF (In vitro fertilization).
I remember how hard it was to hear that this was really our only other option.
IVF wasn't an easy decision to make.
We had so many questions:
Are we playing God by taking this route?
Should we use this money to adopt instead?
Even if we did choose this route, could we even afford it, especially if there's no guarantees that this would work?
IVF would cost us $11,000 just for the procedure. Add on another $2,600 for the first round of medications as well as another $1,800 for follow up medications. On top of that covering every single ultrasound, doctor's appointment, and procedure we had already done on top of what would still lie ahead for us.
Depending on your insurance and the state you're in, insurance may cover very little, if any of the infertility treatments.
In the state of SD, Blue Cross and Blue Shield doesn't cover anything.
Oh, except birth control.
Ironic, isn't it.

So Dave & I started Praying.
We were then denied for a house loan, which took adoption out of the picture as we would need an additional room for a child.
{don't worry, Dave & I still have a heart and desire to one day adopt}
Every single time I prayed about IVF, there was such a peace. And every time I talked with friends & family I trusted, they were so supportive of the process.
Then my grandparents offered for us to take out a private loan with them.
So finally we decided that this was the right next steps for our journey.

Let me tell you, IVF was not easy.
There were lots and lots of shots that had to be done at certain times throughout the day.
Lots of doctors visits and ultrasounds.
When it came time for the extraction process, I actually had to go through surgery & because they extracted so many eggs, it was a pretty painful recovery process.
I tried to go to work the next day, almost threw up & passed out, and decided I just needed to just go home and try to recover.
Thankfully (and sadly for a lot of women this isn't always the case) we had 4 good embryos and a potential for 2 more.
So we set our implantation date.
On Easter Sunday, we went down to Sioux Falls for the procedure.
I remember sitting in that surgery waiting room so anxious, scared, excited.
Dave and I were prepped for surgery, and I was wheeled into the surgery room that had a screen beside the bed.
As they implanted the 2 embryos we decided to use, we were able to watch our little babies as they were implanted.
Deep down we were praying hard that maybe, just maybe we would be able to meet them one day.

[Here's my little Phoenix as an itty bitty embryo.]
& Here was the day we would find out if the procedure worked or not.
We were SO nervous.
Random fact: It was also Food Truck Friday in Sioux Falls, so of course a foodie has to do what a foodie has to do.

& Here was the first time I heard the best words I could ever imagine:

What a crazy, crazy journey these last few years have been.
They were some of the hardest, most difficult years.
So many tears, so many dark moments.
But when I looked into those little blue eyes and I snuggle Phoenix close,
It was all worth it.

Want more information on National Infertility Awareness Week? Visit: http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/what-you-can-do.html

Let me start this post by first stating that I am by no means an expert in this area whatsoever, but I have had a few people reach out to me when we flew to Florida when Phoenix was a newborn asking for advice.
I figured I could share a few tips & tricks I've received along the way in hopes that this might help relieve some parent anxiety when flying.
{Also, any parents out there that have additional advice, please share!}
So here we go, lessons learned along the way- Volume 1 (because seriously, I have still so much to learn and I feel like this is just the first blog post of many, many more):

1) You can travel with a car seat and stroller for free! Each time Dave & I have traveled, we have either just checked them both at the beginning, or have taken them through security and checked them at the gate.
2) I've found it easiest to go through the airport & security with Phoenix in a carrier or a wrap. This helps free up my hands for other things and he likes being close. Security lets you walk through with your baby and they typically just wipe your hands with a strip that they test. So easy!
My two personal favorite carriers/wraps are the Ergo360 or the Boba.
3) You can also bring along a diaper bag that does not count as a carry-on or personal item. We have used Phoenix's diaper bag to help carry extra clothing for him (in case of blow outs, spit up, etc) and  it can also be used to carry an extra shirt or two for momma (in case of blow outs, spit up, etc). Plus its nice for anything additional that we need space for or what we want to utilize on the flight.
4) Just plan to buy diapers/wipes when you get to where you're going. I always pack just enough (+ a little extra) for the flight and time in the airport. This saves a lot of room in your luggage for other things. 
5) The last few times we've traveled, Dave & I have just checked our carry-on at the gate. This way we don't pay the luggage fee, but we also don't have to carry the extra bag around the airport. I see this as a win-win situation.
6) You don't have to have documents for children under 2 years old (at least for Delta flights- check for other airlines under their FAQ page on their website). We learned this the hard way when Dave panicked when he couldn't find Phoenix's birth certificate and we almost missed our flight. Thankfully, because we didn't need it, we checked in on our phones, brought only carry-ons, and were able to get through security and on our flight in record time.
7) Try to plan feeding your little one during takeoff and landing- this will help ease ear pressure. Don't feel stressed though if baby doesn't eat, as I've also found out, a pacifier to be helpful in these situations. If baby is sleeping, let them sleep- at least in my situation, the landing didn't seem to affect Phoenix at all as he peacefully sucked on his pacifier during our landing. (Subpoint: Pacifiers are awesome for a flight)
8) If you plan to breastfeed and prefer to cover up, here is my favorite cover up: https://www.uddercovers.com/cart. 
It's so nice because it has a hoop at the top that makes it easy to see baby, but long enough to keep covered up.
9) Also if breastfeeding on a plane- and this doesn't always work- but if it does, try to get a seat next to a window. I've realized this is much more comfortable to have my back to something and that way too I have more control of putting up/down the blind on the window. 
10) Changing diapers on an airplane are HARD. Plus, if you don't change the diaper just right, you may have a major blow out from the side of the diaper (learned this lesson the hard way). The bathrooms typically have a changing station within them, utilize those. 
11) People are so much nicer and so much more compassionate then you would think. I know I have major mom anxiety when traveling because no matter the scenario, I don't want people perceiving my baby as being bad or difficult when he starts fussing or crying on a flight. But the reality is, these things happen- some things just are going to happen that are out of our control. The last flight we were on, we had a moment where Phoenix got really fussy, but the lady sitting next to us was SO sympathetic and tried to help soothe him. It was just nice knowing that for every person who was annoyed at the crying baby, there were still those who are completely understanding and really don't mind. I also had countless times where people would see my hands full and offer to help me out. It's a really good reminder that there are good people still out there and that every thing is going to be okay.

10) And lastly, the best advice we've received from a friend:
"There will be some good flights, and some not so good flights. Just always remember to give each other grace."
Oh boy, I think Dave and I learned this during the last trip we took.
On the way to Georgia, Phoenix was golden. 
He slept the entire flight, 
Ate at all the right times.
Needless to say, Dave and I were feeling like super parents.
...then we flew home.
Little man was fussy going into the flight, we fed him and he settled down- though mind you, he was wide awake & trying to entertain a little 4 month old isn't always the easiest. 
But still, not too bad.
...and then the blow out came.
Oh and it was a mess.
You know the kind where it's mostly all outside of the diaper and somehow the diaper doesn't seem to catch most of it? 
And it was on my hand, my sleeve.
I look over at Dave panicked and asked him to give me a wet wipe.
Thanks to the air pressure Dave couldn't hear a word I was saying & he starts searching through the diaper bag- mind you, we still to this very moment aren't really for sure what he was looking for.
Finally, I managed to get Dave to hand me a wet wipe.
I cleaned up as best I could and then the real situation came.
How in the word do you change a wiggly baby in a plane, which mind you, was super full.
So I just decided to wrap a blanket around the bottom half of Phoenix and just deal with it once we landed.
Then Phoenix starts getting SUPER fussy (which wouldn't you be too if you were covered in poo?!).
So I'm trying to comfort and he's mad.
Dave's trying to comfort.
Our kindhearted neighbor tries to comfort.
I think at this point I just shut down.
Thankfully I was able to get Phoenix fed and he settled down for a bit & let me tell you, I raced out of that airplane as fast as it's humanly possible and bee lined my way to the bathroom.
Oh me, oh my.
That was definitely a reality check and a good reminder of those some good, some bad moments.
And we're still learning that grace bit.

So friends, the moral of the story is, 
There's definitely no best way to travel, no matter how hard you prepare,
But just take it a step at a time and you'll learn along the way.
(and advice from those who've been there definitely helps)

There will be good times, and not so good times, but remember to always give grace.

Tomorrow is my first full day back in the office-
Thankfully I am only working part time this week to help transition back into work, but regardless, this will be my first full day away from the little one.
It's so crazy in how a short two month time span, you can become so attached to such a tiny little being.
Even though I'm not very excited for tomorrow, I do have to thank all those wonderful mommas out there who gave me some great advice on heading back to work- THANK YOU!
The advice received was especially valuable tonight.

Tonight I had a checklist written up and was in the process of marking things from it off in hopes of reminding myself of everything I still needed to get done tonight and what all I need to take with me tomorrow.
And of course, tonight was one of those nights where Phoenix just wasn't ready to settle.
As I watched those minutes tick away, I started panicking that I wasn't going to get everything done that I needed to or else I would be up super late.
All I could think in this moment was why couldn't my baby just fall asleep and why of all nights did Dave have to get home late.
For a brief moment I started feeling both very much alone and very much frustrated.
But then I felt a gentle reminder tugging at my heart.
Make the moments you do have with your little one matter.
It suddenly hit me that the whole reason I was panicking was because I'm not looking forward to leaving my baby behind.
So why was I wasting these precious moments where I did get to be with my little one?
Why was I treating my baby as another thing to check off my list instead of valuing another moment to bond and connect?
Why was I forgetting that sometimes the most  important things aren't always doing but just being. 
And as I sat there thinking, I realized nothing needed to be rushed- it would all happen in its own time and that it would all get done in the end (even if that meant sleep deprivation).
And as I gently rocked my baby to sleep, I sat quietly with him for a few extra long moments, finding both thankfulness in this moment as well as contentment in the time we do have together.

Last semester my friend Natalie and I started a women's small group.
We both were looking for ways to connect with other women in our church, when next thing we knew Dave was talking us into hosting our own Bible study on Sunday mornings.
It's been a really fun experience so far and I'm loving all the new women I'm meeting through this!
This current semester we are doing a study on Jen Hatmaker's book, 7.
I'm really enjoying it so far and really feel like it's going to challenge me far beyond my comfort zone. It's also been a refreshing perspective on what fasting is and how I can incorporate fasting into my own life.
Just a quick synopsis for those of you unfamiliar with the book, 7 is about Jen Hatmaker's seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of over-consumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:


Only seven foods for a month. Only seven pieces of clothes for a month. Give away seven things we own a day for a month. Eliminate seven forms of media for a month. Adopt seven substantial habits for a greener life. Spend money in only seven places. Practice "seven sacred pauses" a day and observe the Sabbath...a deeply reduced life to find a greatly increased God.

For our Bible Study, we've decided to take one week for studying each chapter and then the following week we take the concept and create our own type of fasting for the next 7 days.
This week we reviewed the chapter on Food. Now in Jen's case, she chose seven foods that she was only allowed to eat for a month (no spices, sauces, etc). For her fast, she went with chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. Her friends who were doing this challenge along with her chose 7 different third world countries and ate diets similar to these countries.
Now since I'm breastfeeding and know that some foods just "work" for me and my supply, I decided choosing only 7 foods might not work the best for me unless I strictly wanted to live off Gatorade, oatmeal, and belVita Oatmeal Cookies.
So instead, I decided to take a cleaner eating approach, to eat more with intention than by convenience.
I guess somewhere mid pregnancy, I replaced my balanced diet with bagels, pizza, and doughnuts because... well... pregnancy. But then it hit me post baby that yeah I was still working out, but I wasn't taking care of my body and probably wasn't sharing the best nutrients with my baby. 
It hasn't been the easiest week so far, especially because I haven't done much grocery shopping, but it's been so good for me to really think about the things I'm eating and consuming.
It's also changing the way I pray, not just praying out of convenience, but really taking the time to pray intentionally.
I've also noticed how much less waste there is within my fridge as the well meaning vegetables are now actually being consumed and food that's sat in my pantry for the last year is now being utilized.

I'm really excited to keep reading through this book and to really stepping outside of my convenient norm.
[More to Come]

Has anyone else read through 7? What were your thoughts on the book?
Have you done a similar challenge?

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