I’m Anti-Gender Reveal Parties and I Still Had One – Here’s Why

This past weekend was pretty emotional! This was the first time real tears of excitement and joy were shed. Post IVF and a positive pregnancy test, you’d think that immediate joy would settle in but to my surprise, it didn’t.

I was still struggling with lots of fear and worry. I was trying to get through a very hard season while finding joy. I felt grateful yet sad. And guilt was really starting to settling in.

There were moments that I asked God why this ongoing feeling of sadness kept lingering. Different things would trigger it. And I found that I’m not the only IVF patient who’s felt the same way as I asked other women who had gone through it too. Up until this point I had to be cautiously optimistic. And it was hard to switch from that to joy in a matter of a day. It’s almost like I had to rewire your brain.

The biggest hurdle after getting a positive pregnancy result was continuing to take injections. I saw other mamas-to-be and inevitably compared my journey with theirs. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t just move on from the medicine and the physical pain.

I told my husband, “I’m so thankful but this is still hard for me to get through. I’m still experiencing the loss of what could’ve been”. That night I prayed and asked God to help my heart find joy. To help my heart and body heal. I knew that he could heal the hurt, the loss, and the physical toll my body had gone through.

In the morning, I woke up and said to myself, “We’re going to have a gender reveal party”. Now, I’ve never liked gender reveal parties. I’ve always thought they were corny and unnecessary. That’s what baby showers are for, right? Well something in me told me that I had to start celebrating even in the midst of feeling blue. I had to receive God’s joy by doing the sacred act of celebrating.

Advice: never say never. Life changes every minute. We change as people. And what one day we thought we’d never do, maybe that’s the very thing we need to do to move forward. In this case, it was a cheesy gender reveal party.

The best part was sharing this with our family. They have been just as invested in seeing this miracle happen as us. They have prayed, supported, and been there for the hardest days. In the end, we are so happy we did this party with them.

Plus, we got to eat some pretty delicious food and satisfy our sweet tooth with a mini candy bar. Everything was budget friendly yet fun and pretty. Shoutout to Five Below and the Dollar Store 😉

Five months have passed since we found out we were becoming parents. And even though there are still days that I struggle with this infertility journey, I’ve gotta say that God has truly turned my mourning into dancing (as you can see from the pictures). He has taken care of my heart and is healing it more and more each day.

We are ecstatic to be having a baby boy! My father-in-love is the only one of his brothers who had a son. And Edward, my hubby, is the only son who is having a son to carry the Palma name! God is faithful!

To my son, Phoenix Palma, we love you. You already fill our hearts with a joy that’s unexplainable. Your life is marked by godly legacy. And your name expresses exactly who you are: rising from the ashes, renewal of life, and uniquely remarkable. To us and to so many people, you are uniquely remarkable–our first miracle baby. Te amo, mi bebe!

IVF ONLY – Our Miracle Is In Motion

All photos on this post by our amazing friends Andi & Tyler from River & Brave

I’ve been keeping this secret for the past couple of months (hardest secret to keep, by the way) and I am so happy and excited to finally let you in on it. FINALLY, I’m pregnant!

We are pregnant by the grace of God AND because of an amazing medical team at Fertility Care: The IVF Center of Central Florida. THIS IS TRULY A MIRACLE! And I want to share why it’s a miracles.

In March of this year, we started the process for our first IVF cycle. That decision came after getting a medical diagnosis in 2017 that was very heartbreaking for us. The only way we’d get pregnant was through IVF. And still IVF wasn’t a 100% guarantee.

How did IVF work for us?

Step 1: BCP (Birth Control Pills)

Well a month later in April, I kicked off this IVF cycle with a round of birth control pills. How odd right? Getting on birth control to get pregnant? But this allows the medical team to be in total control of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Step 2: Ovarian Stimulation

After stopping the BCP, an ultrasound was performed to make sure everything was healthy. Blood work was also done to check hormone levels. Then a few days later, on a date dependent on my cycle, I started injections (a.k.a STIMS) to stimulate my ovaries.

Normally, a woman produces one egg per menstrual cycle. In IVF, the goal is to stimulate your ovaries in order to produce more than one egg.

This was one of the scariest parts for me. I had read horror stories about women getting lots of bruising, being emotionally unstable, and just feeling miserable in general. Thankfully, I have an amazing friend, Audrey, who has done a few cycles of IVF and reassured me that I’d be fine.

These injections were done on my stomach. Twice a day for about two weeks. The bloating and discomfort WAS REAL! I wasn’t fitting into my jeans and it was the biggest oxymoron to me because it felt like I was pregnant without being pregnant. THANKS INFERTILITY FOR THAT CRUEL JOKE!

Step 3: Egg Retrieval

The time leading up to the egg retrieval was filled with medications, monitoring of follicles in the ovaries by the endocrinologist and nurses, and finally a trigger injection to tell my ovaries that it was time to ovulate. This injection had to be taken at a very specific date and time. THAT WAS NERVE WRECKING! Because if we didn’t do it right on time, we could throw off our upcoming egg retrieval.

I was up bright and early for my egg retrieval. I think it was a 5am wake up call in order to get to the clinic by a very specific time. I was wheeled into a operating room and put under anesthesia. And my hubby and mom stayed in the waiting room where they could see a monitor being updated with the amount of eggs they were retrieving.

We were so fortunate to get SIXTEEN eggs retrieved! Sixteen is a great number because not all eggs make it through fertilization. With sixteen eggs available there was a bigger margin for when the eggs got fertilized.

After the eggs were retrieved, my hubby gave a sperm sample. The brilliant embryologist used his sperm sample in order to fertilize the eggs. In our case, a special treatment was used called ICSI, wherein a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.

Step 4: Freezing the embryos

Post operation is a time to relax, recuperate, and wait to get results. There are a couple ways things can unfold post egg retrieval. It’s common practice to transfer back one or two embryos a few days after an egg retrieval. In my case, the doctor recommended for all my embryos to be frozen, wait for my next menstrual cycle, and have a frozen embryo transfer.

I responded a little too well to the STIMS and was on the verge of getting ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries can become very swollen and fluid can leak into the belly and chest area. I’m thankful our clinic took all the precautions needed in order for me to stay healthy.

The following days after the retrieval, we got a few phone calls from the embryologist letting us know how many embryos had made it. By day 5, which is when they put those babies to freeze, we had 6 embryos. SIX LIVES! SIX POTENTIAL BABIES! We felt so attached already and knew one of them would be transferred in a month. Such a weird, awesome, hopeful, scary feeling.

Step 5: Embryo Transfer

As soon as I got my period, I called my IVF nurse to let her know we wanted to start our Frozen Embryo Transfer. She put me on BCP AGAIN. And a couple weeks later, I got off of the pills and started what was the toughest medicines: estrogen patches and progesterone in oil injections (PIO). The PIO shots are intramuscular injections that have to be injected in your butt/hip muscle. They are painful and uncomfortable. And my muscles are still recuperating from them.

The estrogen made me extremely irritable at first. My emotions were ALL OVER THE PLACE. How can a little patch do alllll that?! It’s crazy how these meds work.

After being on the meds for a week or so, my transfer was scheduled to happen on June 14th. I had to make sure I wasn’t ovulating before the transfer by taking at home ovulation tests.

On the day of the transfer, we arrived at our clinic, feeling very hopeful and of course anxious. Would this work? Would I get pregnant? Before going into the operating room, the embryologist came to see us and gave us a picture of the embryo they were going to transfer. THAT MADE IT SO REAL TO US! It was such an emotional moment.

I walked into the op room super nervous and anxious. This time Edward got to go inside with me. I would not be under anesthesia this time as this would not require my ovaries to be pierced or prodded like the egg retrieval. It was more like a pap smear with extra discomfort.

The endocrinologist got me all set up. My legs were wiiiide open, my you-know-what was also spread wiiiide open, and he positioned the catheter that went through my cervix in the perfect angle and location. When he was sure of everything being right he called the embryologist to bring the embryo.

And there she came with our embaby (as I like to affectionately call the embryo) in a little tube. Edward says he thought to himself, “here comes my baby”. ::cue all the tears::

The doctor then transferred the embryo into my uterus via the catheter. We had a monitor where we could see all of this happening. But the embaby was microscopic so in reality we didn’t see it go in.

Step 6: The Two Week Wait (TWW)

After the transfer, you continue with the PIO shots and estrogen patches. And you wait two weeks to go back to the doctor so they can do blood work to see if you’re pregnant or not.

I have to admit the two week wait is filled with a lot of anxiety. You’re EXTRA careful not to do anything that can jeopardize a potential positive pregnancy test. It is HIGHLY recommended, kind of mandatory, not to take an at home pregnancy test because they can give you false positives or false negatives. I stayed FAR from them and waited anxiously for our next visit to the doctor.

I had a little scare a week before my next doctor’s visit. I was spotting and had a bit of cramps. I cried all night and was sure I wasn’t pregnant. I thought I had gotten my period. At the time I was too paranoid to think straight. But now we know that those symptoms were normal and are considered implantation bleeding.

Our appointment finally came on June 25th. On that day we were flying out to a ceremony Edward was invited to for his work. Either this trip was going to be our celebratory pregnancy trip or a very sad and long stay in San Antonio.

On our layover, we got the call from our clinic. A POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST. Or as many like to call it, A BFP (BIG FAT POSITIVE)! After our trip we went back to the clinic to make sure my HCG levels were rising and they were so we were officially, officially pregnant.

After IVF and a positive pregnancy test

On July 25th, I graduated from my fertility clinic and was sent off to my OBGYN. It was a huge milestone moment. And also bittersweet as these people played such an important part in our journey. We love them dearly and will continue to have a relationship with them.

I am currently 13 weeks pregnant (YAY!) and I waited this long to announce because I think I needed to feel confident that this was real.

When we found out I was pregnant, we were in shock. After waiting 3+ years to get here it is kind of surreal. And it has taken time for it to sink in. We still had to be on injections and patches until last week. That element kept us cautious and a bit anxious. We knew maintaining a healthy first trimester depended heavily on these hormonal injections and patches.

Therefore, my final injection and the final patch I peeled off my belly, were huge milestone moments. PRAISE BE TO GOD! Science helped put the pieces together but HE MADE LIFE HAPPEN!

AND THAT’S HOW WE GOT PREGNANT! Not the traditional, steamy-love- making, euphoric moment, most people experience. BUT A MIRACLE NONETHELESS.

Final thoughts about IVF and our miracle in motion

When we first got the “IVF ONLY” diagnosis, I could not fathom how something so scientific could be a door God was opening. I thought He had to heal Edward instantaneously. I thought that only if we conceived naturally would it be considered a true miracle.

Today I can confidently say that none of this would’ve been possible without the miracle power of God.

Most IVF patients have to do multiple cycles and multiples transfers to get a positive pregnancy test. In fact, there’s only a 39% chance of it working. BUT GOD! Not sure why God chose for it to happen this way or why now but in His sovereignty, He orchestrated it all for this time in history.

God provided the insurance, the finances, the resources, the clinic, and the support. Ultimately, God orchestrated sixteen eggs to be fertilized, six embryos to reach day 5, and one embaby to be transferred at that very moment in time. Ultimately, He breathed life into our embyro and made life in my womb. I wholeheartedly believe that.

Baby Palma, you are a miracle! Our miracle is in motion! Thank you, Jesus! And thank YOU for your love, prayers, and support.

IVF ONLY – Keep Fighting, Fighter

Sometimes you just gotta smile through the scary stuff. This was an exciting yet nerve wrecking day. We prayed and trusted God for his will to be done in our lives.

What a road we have been on the past few months. (Well, really the past 3.5 years. Here’s the whole story in case you haven’t read it yet). Our first IVF cycle started in April and I can’t believe we went through that and are (ALMOST) on the other side.

We have been to countless doctor appointments, lost count of all the injections I’ve had to take, cannot explain the discomfort of each pelvic ultrasound, and the ROLLERCOASTER of emotions we have experienced have been exhausting.

IVF is not easy or simple. I knew what I was getting myself into when I chose to go down this route. I knew my faith would be challenged. I knew my physical strength would be challenged. I knew my relationships would be challenged.

Sometimes I HATE that this is our story. Sometimes I CLEARLY see the blessing. And sometimes I doubt why God would choose us. Why he would think I can endure the pain, grief, happy, and elated moments, which you can experience from one moment to the next with just one simple phone call from a nurse.

I clearly remember a couple nights before our egg retrieval. I was so uncomfortable. My ovaries were so enlarged and I was in physical and emotional pain. I was waiting for results from an MRI and I was so so so scared that the results would be something that would hinder the cycle from moving forward.

That night all I could do was cry. So I got out of bed, went into my closet, put my headphones on, played some worship music and started singing to God. There was nothing else I could do. I had to remind myself that even in this process, God was still God. He was with me and was for me.

Moments like that have happened more than I’d like to admit. Fear, anxiety, worry, and just plain sadness are things I have wrestled with through this process. What I’ve learned through it all is that no matter how long you’ve known Jesus or how deep of a prayer life you have, there are somethings that will rock our faith. It’s battles like these that make you realize just how much you need Jesus. More than you ever thought. And you desperately seek Him because, truly, he’s the only person who can get it.

I believe God doesn’t expect us to have it all together. I believe that he knows when our faith needs to be elevated and expanded. Even though we are unaware of our need, he knows exactly how much we need him. He knows that at times, we will feel defeated. He knows that at times, our faith will need to be encouraged. He knows that at times, we’ll need a good cry. And he actually holds space for us to be exactly who we are in those difficult moments of life.

Do I regret making the choice of doing IVF? NEVER. There may be really bad days but the promise of life and hope is so much greater. God has used this to bless us in ways we thought would never be possible. He has shown us a grace that seems impossible for him to give. We have felt cared for and loved by Him through the people in our life. He has shown his great love and faithfulness for us.

If you’re going through a battle right now, I just want to say I’m sorry you’re facing this difficulty. I won’t say I understand exactly what you’re going through because I don’t. But can I encourage you today with something I’ve learned along my journey with infertility?

Fight your battle with an army of people who can pray for you, uplift you, and let you be yourself. Be sensitive to God’s voice as he tells you who that army of people will be. There are very few people who can get in the nitty gritty of tough battles, but God does provide those relationships if we are open to them. I know it’s hard to let people in when you’re at your weakest, but do it anyway. The right people will stick around and will be used by God to help you through it.

This is my closing encouragement to you and to me: KEEP FIGHTING, FIGHTER! Even on the darkest days, when your hope seems very weak and fragile, and your body and heart are faltering. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. Please don’t give up. God is for you. God is on your side. Let your fight be hinged on his grace, his promises, and his unending love for you.

Summer Lovin’ Devotional

Summertime is usually spent soaking up the sun and unwinding. Isn’t it the best feeling to disconnect and recharge? I’ve got to admit that sometimes as I disconnect, I can forget to connect on a spiritual level. That’s why this summer devotional was created.

The beautiful truth is that summer was God’s way of showing us how bright and wonderful His Glory will be once we see Him face to face. Summer is a glimpse of the no pain, no tears, no hardship eternity we will experience.

And this devotional will help you take notice of that truth. This devotional is meant to add intentionality to your summer. It’s meant to help you connect with God when you’re on the go or on taking it slow. It’s meant to encourage you to experience God’s love. And it asks questions that will deepens and expands your faith.

The best part is that it is very affordable (just 10 bucks) and comes with four 8×10” prints you can frame in your home.

To purchase the Styld by Grace Summer Lovin’ Devotional, go to the Styld by Grace shop here!

5 Ugly Truths About Infertility

National Infertility Awareness Week is here again! It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Sharing my heart and journey is both heart-wrenching and freeing.

This year’s theme is Uncovered. Infertility warriors have been encouraged to Uncover truths about infertility this week to bring awareness to the disease. I’m hoping to uncover some ugly truths about infertility in a genuine and honest way.

I also hope to uncover the love, hope, and grace of God we’ve experienced while facing the ugly truths. I wouldn’t be doing our story justice without speaking on both.

Ugly truth #1
Infertility is isolating and lonely

There are days when you feel like you’re an island. Who can relate to what’s happening in your life? How can you explain it to the people around you? The reality is that no matter how much details you give, there is no way to fully express the emotions and procedures you are going through. Some relationships change or grow distant. Some people don’t know what to say so they say nothing at all. Some people say insensitive things or make less of your journey. All these things can make you guarded and much more selective with who you’ll be sharing your story with.

Ugly truth #2
Infertility is coping with denial

Edward and I clearly remember the day we saw “IVF ONLY” highlighted in yellow when he was first diagnosed. We couldn’t wrap our heads around it. It was a huge blow for us. We thought, “What the heck? That is so extreme! This can’t be right. Not us”. It took us a year to go back to the doctor. I couldn’t fathom having to go through something so invasive. I didn’t feel strong enough or ready. And I thought that God’s plan HAD TO BE different. Well, it wasn’t. This is the path that we must take. And we are finally at a place where we’ve accepted that this is our reality.

Side Note: We are in the middle of our first IVF cycle! It’s a huge step in our journey. We are excited, nervous, anxious, and hopeful. And I’m super proud of us for taking this step.

Ugly truth #3
Infertility is filled with shame and embarrassment

Honestly, talking about all the stuff that needs to work and be healthy when you’re going through infertility can be so embarrassing. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been examined, prodded, asked intimate questions, and performed analysis’ that are uncomfortable. Then, there’s the shame of feeling like there’s something wrong with you. The shame you feel when people ask if you have children. Or the embarrassment when you have to decline an invite due to financial or emotional struggles.

Ugly truth #4
Infertility is time consuming

If you’re going through infertility and trying to explore different options to become parents, it take A LOT of time and effort. Whether you’re adopting, fostering, getting medical help–it takes a big chunk of your life. Your calendar is dictated by appointments, hearings, visits, or medical procedures. And for the average person dealing with infertility that can mean putting work, responsibilities, goals, jobs, or prior commitments on hold. That in itself can be frustrating and disheartening.

Ugly truth #5
Infertility is coping with pregnancy envy

This is by far the hardest thing to admit for me. By nature, I am not an envious person. I feel most like myself when I’m encouraging and cheering someone on. But grief and loss have weird ways of manifesting. I felt like the worse person in the world when I saw or heard of pregnancy announcements and all I could feel was anger and disappointment. I hid my emotions many times because what kind of “evil” person would feel pregnancy envy? I was genuinely happy for them but incredibly sad for us. We have seen many friends and family get pregnant and give birth in the 3 years we’ve been waiting. The feelings of grief and loss have been deep. But we have learned to work through these feelings. We have chosen to bless, love, and celebrate our loved ones despite what we feel in the moment.

God’s Truth:
Love, hope, faith, and grace

My husband said something very wise to me the other day as we spoke about our journey. “God has a plan behind everything. He doesn’t close one door and never opens another one. He closes one door to open another one. A door we need to go through. The word need should only be used by God. He’s the only one who knows what we need“.

I’ve expressed to Edward many times that I just don’t understand why we have to go through this. Are we not good enough people? Are we destined to be terrible parents? And his response has always been that it is just that God has a special assignment for us.

I now understand this. It’s taken me a while. And sometimes my mind wants to play tricks on me. But in my heart I know that for some reason, God has a knowing we don’t. He sees something we don’t. In His sovereignty, He deems it necessary and essential for THIS to be our story. Somehow this will have a ripple affect for eternity.

Through every single Ugly truth–loneliness, denial, shame, lost time, envy–God has been there. His has loved us fiercely. He has sent people to love us and meet our needs. He had given us the grace to walk through this with dignity and strength. He has orchestrated moments for us to hear his voice. He has provided in ways that are uncommon for most people going through this. And he has double, tripled, our faith.

The real truth is that this incredibly heavy load we carry is something we never wanted but can look back and see evidence of God’s love, grace, and hope. We have come to realize that He is the prize. We have come to believe that He is what we hope for. We have come to know that He is what our hearts are after. And no ugly truth or diagnosis can take Him away.

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

Romans 8:38-39