Thursday, November 27, 2014

on Thankfulness

If you would have told me back in March that I would wake up on Thanksgiving morning with a heart full of thankfulness, I wouldn't have believed you. I probably wouldn't have believed you in April or May or even August. It's been a tough year. 2013 was my hardest year, until 2014 happened. Infertility just goes on and on, you feel like it's not just your story now, but that it always will be. Then miscarriage touched me. I didn't expect it to, I thought I would have a one month old at Thanksgiving, but I was wrong.

Then after I miscarried, I still hoped that even if i didn't have a baby at Thanksgiving, maybe i would at least have one on the way. And i don't. I still don't. But i am so thankful this morning. And I'm thankful that I'm thankful. :)

I'm not thankful for miscarriage, and I'm not thankful that infertility keeps going on and on, and that I don't know if or when it will be resolved. What I am thankful for is that God has sustained me. God has helped me through it. God has put people in my path to help me on this journey. He has given me songs like I am not Alone and You are Wonderful and Not for a Moment to remind me that He is always there, that He knows my struggles, that He loves me unconditionally, and that He has promised to one day turn my sorrows into joy.

He's given me a husband who may not always understand what I am feeling, but who always tries to understand, who always has my best interest at heart, who cares about me more than anything else in this world. He sometimes makes me laugh so hard i can't breathe. He sometimes makes me laugh through my tears. There are not enough words to say how thankful I am that we are together.

He knew back in 2003, when i looked into this little puppy's eyes and just HAD TO HAVE him, that I would one day face some tough times and need this little dog curled up next to me. Dog lovers, you understand, right? :)

He's given me some wonderful family & friends & church family. They pray for me, they wish the very best for me. They hurt when i hurt and rejoice when I do. I love these people.


He knew I needed a support group. A safe place to vent my heartache and frustrations and be completely and totally understood. He gave me the courage to go and he's given me more friends through that group than I know what to do with. Some of these friends are lifelong friends. And that's the number 1 reason i can be thankful for infertility. I would never have met these people if not for this journey. Even if i had, we certainly wouldn't have the bond that we have. Very thankful for every one of these girls (plus some that are not pictured!).

He's given me photography, helped me to learn it, helped me to start a business with it, and given me mentors to help me get better. He even gave me the ability to photograph pregnant mommies and newborns and children without feeling the pains of infertility. Oh, i feel those pains outside of photo shoots all the time, but get me behind the camera and something happens. My focus goes to photography and how to get the right image of that beautiful mama-to-be. I am so thankful He allowed that! Maternity shoots are some of my favorite shoots, which is something i never expected!

Oh, and did I mention He helped us get a house this year?! Yes, he did. And i love it. Some days I drive up in our driveway, and smile. This is our house. THIS is our house! This is our HOUSE. This is OUR HOUSE?!?! :) Or i walk down the hall and see the beautiful wood floors and smile. I love it. It's cute and perfect for us. Also, i LOVE Watson! It's a great area! We love so much about this area. We've found a lot of local places that we really enjoy. And we are closer to church, my family, and several friends.

This list could go on and on, obviously. There is always SO MUCH to be thankful for. Today I will think about and celebrate those things with my family. Can't wait.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! And P.S. I am praying you all have a wonderful day today. Even if you are hurting and not feeling very thankful right now... that's okay. It's okay to feel that way. Praying you feel His peace & comfort in your heart today.

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord 
for He is good
His love endures forever. 
-Psalm 106:1-

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Baby Steps Infertility Awareness 5k & IVF Giveaway

A little over a year ago at my infertility support group, my friend Emily shared her dream of one day having a 5k to raise awareness for infertility. Beth took that idea and ran with it. She began to make plans, set dates and make calls. She teamed up with Dr. Webster (my reproductive endocrinologist, and also the RE of many girls in our group), and they continued to make plans for this big event. She researched, she organized, she honestly ate/slept/breathed the Baby Steps Infertility Awareness 5k and IVF Giveaway. I remember us talking about it off and on from then until the event took place this past Saturday. I remember thinking it would be a great event. But y'all. I had NO IDEA.  


 I know the parents of several of these babies! :)

  Spoiler alert... ivf giveaway winner is somewhere in this picture! ;)

As teams started forming for this race, the numbers kept climbing. They had never done a race of this kind before, so they threw out the number 250, and hoped we would have that many people sign up. But they ended up having to close registration at 1,000 people. Unbelievable. And that is just one example of why an event like this is so important. It matters. Infertility & infant loss matter. It affects a lot of people.

And yes, you read that right... an IVF Giveaway. IVF is some people's only hope of conceiving a child. It is extremely expensive, and most insurances do not cover even a small portion of it. A chance to win an IVF cycle would be a dream. They said that every person who came to the race would have a ticket for the IVF drawing. If you didn't need IVF, you could donate your ticket to someone who did. So basically, if i had 40 people on my team, i would have 40 chances of winning the IVF cycle.

 Our tickets for the drawing. :)

I began spreading the word. I didn't talk much about the giveaway, because I was conflicted about that part of it. I mean, I had gotten pregnant on my third IUI, so couldn't that happen again? I still wanted a team of family & friends there to support us, though. Beth always says that nobody should walk through infertility alone. To be literally walking WITH friends & family that support us would feel so amazing. That's why i wanted a team. I figured I would still enter the IVF drawing. 15 out of 1000? If i won, then God's hand was in it for sure. I was very confident that the person meant to win it, would win it. But i still wanted our people there to support us.

 Team Venable!!

My team ended up being only 15 people, 3 of whom were long distance friends that were paying to sponsor a local friend to go. I was so touched that people from out of state who could not even attend would be willing to do that. It just blew my mind. Several of my close friends also signed up and that made me so happy. I'll be honest with you, though. I was disappointed in the weeks leading up to the race that more people had not signed up. It was interesting for me to see who did and who didn't. It's hard not to wonder why someone didn't sign up if they don't tell you. Of course I knew some people had other obligations, which is totally understandable! But i guess i just figured certain ones would be there for us. That part of it was a bummer, and i struggled with it in the weeks before the race. I told Beth how i felt and she said she hoped that even though i didn't feel supported by certain people in my life, she hoped i would feel supported by the community at the race itself. I doubted it, though. I couldn't imagine feeling supported by people i didn't even know.

However, i was wrong. I did feel supported. I felt valued. I felt like our story mattered. Just having that many people there for the same reason... it just felt overwhelming, in a very positive way. Our friends showed up and it meant so much to me that they were there. It wasn't weird or awkward that they were there for our infertility issue like it's this big hush hush thing that it has been in the past. They came and we all had a great time. It was just such an awesome day, i still cannot stop thinking about it!
 This picture cracks me up! Ashley & Amanda, ready to rock it! 

It was a little chilly... and early... glad they love us!

Love these ladies! Ashley, me, Elisabeth, Amanda & Becca! 

I really don't know what to say about how i felt and how i still feel after that day. God's favor was all over it. In the words of Beth, "It was a total Ephesians 3:20 day!" & that it was. Rain was in the forecast all week, but then it just moved to Sunday. The weather was perfect (although chilly and very windy at first!! It felt really nice to me...beautiful & no humidity!). We arrived early, when most of the people there were team captains and volunteers. That means it was a lot of support group friends (past & present). Hugging their necks & seeing their faces was just awesome. Refreshing. I love each and every one of them!

me & loren

me & mary claire 

Us with Heather & Chad 

Me & Kasie

Renee, her husband and their brand new baby boy they brought home through adoption! I hadn't seen her in awhile and didn't know they had brought their baby home!

 Me & Samone

 Me & Jenni (who  now has twin girls!) 

 me & Amy 

Me & Portia, who is now pregnant with a baby boy, after SEVEN years of infertility!

Our team members started arriving, and it was SO GREAT having them there!!! My friend Lindsay showed up; she is also going through infertility and is a good friend of mine. She and her best friend drove four hours to attend the race. I was so happy to see her!!

I kept running into one support group friend after another ... girls i am currently in the group with, and also girls who have since had children. It was just amazing seeing all of them. And, of course, Beth.

The race itself was fun... kind of... for exercise! ;) Haha just kidding. When it was over, we all enjoyed jambalaya and waited for the race to finish. I wanted to mention Mrs. Liz. I grew up with her oldest daughter, Rebekah. Rebekah is one of my out of town friends who bought a ticket to support me, but wouldn't be able to come. She asked her mom to run in her place. I kept saying it wasn't necessary, i didn't want her mom to feel obligated to come. Her mom has 11 kids and i didn't know what she would think of a walk for infertility! I hadn't seen her mom in years either! Her mom emailed me to let me know she didn't know if she would be able to make it but that she would definitely be praying for us. She said the kindest and most encouraging things to me.

She ended up showing up at the race and she was just SO SWEET! She had to leave after she ran, but she reminded me that she would be praying for us. Then she stopped and said, 'How about I pray for y'all right now?" Well, of course! So she did. Right there on the lawn of Pennington. And you know...this woman has 11 kids. Maybe God will listen to her prayers regarding infertility! Haha! Kidding, but she really ministered to us. She didn't have to, i haven't seen her in over ten years, probably! But she did and it was a really special part of the day for me.

Then there was a lot of speaking. And this is the part that was just so overwhelming and amazing and fantastic. The part i just cannot put into words. I may have some of this out of order, I can't remember exactly what happened first. But i believe it was at first announcing winners... all the winners of all the different age groups for the race. This adorable old man won for his age group and it was SO CUTE!! When he won, the crowd went wild and started cheering!! I realized quickly that it is my friend Adele's grandfather!! SO SWEET! (And by the way, FOUR people on her team won... two of them first place...and she is a nutritionist! Healthy family!)

After that they announced giveaway winners. Not the IVF, but other things that sponsors had donated. I was one of them...someone won a photo session with Melissa V Photography. Yeah! :) (Also, my logo is on the shirts. No big deal.)

Then Beth talked about infertility. She talked about how infertility stories are all throughout the Bible and they show how clearly God is with us through our infertility story, even when it's hard, even when it feels like He's not. And she talked about how with God, nothing is impossible. It was so amazing for me. You see, these are exactly the kinds of things she tells us in her living room at support group. To hear her telling this at this event with nearly 1000 people listening to every word... well, it meant so much!! It just felt like... this matters. This means so much to so many people. And i knew she was speaking to the heart of girls going through infertility that don't get to hear her talk two Thursday nights a month. ;)

After Beth spoke, she introduced Dr. Webster and he spoke for a few minutes. When he first took the mic he got emotional and everything was quiet for a minute. I about lost it at that point! He is so sweet, so passionate about what he does! He considers it a calling, and he loves every one of his patients. He truly does. I knew it was probably such an amazing moment for him and Beth and Emily, because this had been in the planning stages for so long and finally seeing it come to be was just too much! He said so many great things... one thing i love that he said is, "you know, i see a lot of my former patients here with the children that they adopted... and i just want to say that we consider those children are our family too." I just thought that was the sweetest thing!

After Dr. Webster spoke, Joy gave a testimony of what God showed her when she was going through infertility. Joy was in the support group before i was, but i have since met her and she is so sweet! Her testimony was so awesome, and i wish i could share it here, but i could never remember all the details. Maybe i can get her to do a guest post. ;)

And then it was time for the big giveaway. It was the CRAZIEST moment. So amazing. So powerful!! I mean, it just was so much more than giving away a dream vacation or a car. It meant more. I will be honest and say that i desperately wanted one of my support group girls to win it. My friend was next to me and i knew how bad she wanted it. Another friend was way in the back with her team, and i knew their next step was IVF & they needed it too. Another friend was across the field with her team, i knew she wanted it. My heart longed for one of them to win & i knew they all had a good chance. They drew the name, and the winner's name was called. There was a scream near us. I didn't know the girl who won but i cried immediately when i saw her reaction. I am actually crying now thinking about it, and i cry every time i look at these pictures. I'm so glad i was right there and able to capture them for her. A moment she will never forget. (She is the girl in the black & blue headband.)

 The above picture kills me because of the two girls to the far right. Look at their faces! Look at the emotion!!

Wow. I'll just let you look at those for a few minutes...

I ended up messaging Ashton on facebook because i wanted to get the above pictures to her. We chatted back and forth a few times, and of course i now consider her a friend. An infertility sister. Here she is with her team. Congratulations, Ashton!

(Her story is here, if you want to read it. And she blogged about her win here.)

After that, the race was over, and it was just a lot of mingling and chatting and laughing and hugging before we left. We did manage to get a Sarah's Laughter support group pic (these are current and past members, obviously!). I wish i had gone into photographer mode or stage manager mode or something, and had everyone looking at the same camera and arranged in a better way, but you know... it was an emotional overwhelming day! My mind was all over the place! And i was not the event photographer. But here we are.

One of my favorite moments of the walk was talking to Dr. Webster. We haven't been back for treatment since March. We needed a break for emotional and financial reasons. I thought he wouldn't even remember me because he has so many patients, but i shouldn't have worried! He totally remembered us. I told him we needed a break but we hoped to come back in the new year. He said sometimes you need a break. Brad mentioned we bought a house, and he says, "Oh, that seals the deal then!!" (meaning we are bound to get pregnant now, since we got a house!). It was funny. He is so sweet and kindhearted and i just adore him and am so thankful he is my doctor!

Sorry this is so long, but it was one of the best days I've had in a long time, and i wanted to remember every detail. We had a blast and i honestly can't wait until next year!! Even when my infertility story is resolved, i still want to be a part of this, year after year. It was just an awesome day.