No one could’ve expected these crazy times, right? I’m sure you’re reading this while being home for quite some time. We’ve been staying home since baby Phoenix was born. He was born right before the nation closed due to COVID-19.
Being quarantined while having a newborn has been sweet. We’ve been able to savor every single moment and milestone. But I also have to be honest and admit that it has also been very difficult, as we’ve had to be away from our tribe.
The birth of Phoenix was supposed to be the culmination of a really long and difficult season. We were looking forward to being with family, friends, and enjoying life with our new baby. There’s a bit (actually a lot) of sadness in my heart. What we are living is far from what I had hoped for and envisioned for this season.
I know I’m not the only person who’s experiencing loss during this crisis. And I want to say that our loss is legit. And it’s totally ok to process it. There’s many dreams, plans, and expectations that have been put on hold. And all we hear about is death, stressful statistics, and the pressure to “flatten the curve”.
Despite the loss and pain that we are feeling during this time, we must lean into the voice of truth: God’s word and His promises. On Palm Sunday, as we had church from home, while holding onto our miracle baby, God reminded me of something.
A year ago during this time we were starting IVF. We had NO IDEA if it would work. It was a complete leap of faith. But we beat the odds and have a healthy baby boy in our arms. Even though this season doesn’t look and feel anything like what I hoped it would, I am literally HOLDING living proof of God’s faithfulness.
When I see Phoenix, I see God’s faithfulness. Every day I struggle with fear of what could happen to him. We waited so long, went through such physical and mental hardship, and endured lots of heartache to have him. Anxiety sometimes is inevitable for me. But I remember that he was an impossibility at one point. And somehow, God made a way. His faithfulness saw us through.
As we continue to move forward during these trying times, let’s remember to focus on God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.
What are you HOLDING in your life as living proof of God’s faithfulness today? During really hard moments, return to those and be encouraged that God’s faithfulness is always with you.
And on that note, I’d love to share some baby milestones we are celebrating as Phoenix turns two months.
Month Two of Baby Phoenix: • He loves music and singing with mommy • He is smiling more and has the cutest dimple by his chin • He is outgrowing some of his newborn clothes (bittersweet feeling) • He is starting to hold his bottle • He can get his arms out of his swaddle • He has a fiery personality and the name Phoenix fits him very well 😉
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.
Spring is all about florals and pretty colors. But to be honest, after a while I get kinda tired of seeing the same style of florals in artwork and fashion. I thought it’d be cool to switch things up and create abstract floral for this month’s wallpapers.
Abstract art really inspires me because it’s almost as if the artist left a part of the process up to me to finish. I become part of the piece as I imagine what it could mean or what the empty spaces and shapes could become. There’s an element of anticipation and reflection that I enjoy.
I hope these pieces help you reflect and inspire you to become part of the art process. May they remind you to have hopeful anticipation for whatever God has in the works for you.
There are two versions of the artwork. One with illustrated details and one without. I love them both! To download the wallpapers, long press or right click on the images below.
This may seem kind of redundant year after year. But it’s an activity I really enjoy and sets the tone for my year.
If you’re choosing a word for the year as I am, I want to encourage you to let go of all the pressure to perform, be perfect, and meet every single goal.
It’s my mission through Styld by Grace to inspire you (and myself) to choose grace over perfection. We work our butts off to do our very best AND we let go of all guilt and shame when we fall short. Because guess what, we are human, we are are not perfect little robots. Remember that in our weakness, God shows off His power (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
As I started to brainstorm how’d I pick my word of the year, my first step was to ask God to give me clarity and perspective for the coming year. At first, I thought of the word ‘Adventure’ but that just didn’t feel right.
So I decided to do two activities in my journal. The first was sort of like a retrospective of last year and a forecast for next year. The second activity was a list of all the ways I will implement my word of the year.
I started thinking of the thoughts and behaviors that overwhelmed me this past year. So many times I shied away from things, I became discouraged to pray big prayers, I fell into the mentality that what I’m doing is insignificant.
After thinking and doing these activities, I chose the word ‘BOLD’ as my 2019 word of the year. In 2019 I want to learn to live with boldness and conviction. Bold steps of faith, bold action plans, bold prayers.
Below I have listed tools you can use for these activities yourself. As well as the questions and prompts for both activities.
Activity #1 One Word Questionnaire: 1. What worked for me in 2018? 2. What didn’t work for me in 2018? 3. What would success look like in 2019? 4. Word dump (write down any and all keywords that stand out) 5. One word (choose one word as your word of the year for 2019).
Activity #2 How can I ______ in 2019?: (Example using my word ‘bold’: “How can I be bold in 2019”?) 1. Definition of the word chosen 2. Categories: • Relationships • Finances • Faith • Career / Business • Dreams / Aspirations • Health & Fitness • Education • Fun Add or remove as many as you’d like.
Simple, right? I’d love to know your word for 2019. Let me know in the comments below and if these activities helped.