It’s been 5 months with this cutie and 5 months of sheltering at home. I wish I could fully express through these words how utterly exhausted AND incredibly grateful I feel.
Phoenix is becoming so much more aware of the world around him. He loves his play gym, crinkly toys, and has recently started watching Sesame Street, which he loves. He’s sitting up with support from mommy and daddy. He giggles and laughs, loves silly play and dance parties.
Although I love making special memories with him in our home, I really wish I could take him to all the places I dreamt of taking him when I had him in my belly.
Put plainly: this sucks. Becoming a mom at the same time as a global pandemic is not what I ever expected. Especially after waiting so long for our miracle baby. In all honesty, I just feel like it’s so unfair. And I feel selfish admitting that because I know there are people in far worse situations during this time.
I’ve dealt with the worst anxiety I’ve ever felt in my life. My thoughts have been like an endless roller coaster. And there is so much sadness in my heart. The consensus, from speaking to friends and connecting with others on social media, is that I’m not the only person dealing with this.
While I feel so blessed to have Phoenix, I also feel like he’s missing out on the best version of me (mom guilt, anyone?) I try my very best every single day. But sometimes it’s inevitable to feel worry, anxiety, sadness, and fatigue.
Being in isolation and dealing with anxiety has taken a toll on me. As I’m sure it has for you with whatever you’re dealing with. We were not created to do life on our own.
So today it’s my true heart’s desire to offer you a space where you don’t feel so alone. Can I share somethings I’ve learned in this pandemic to cope and overcome?
CONNECT I’ve found it so helpful during this crazy time to connect with other new moms. Listening to what they’re going through has opened my heart and perspective. I’ve been surprised by how their emotions and experiences are much like mine. The result? Not feeling as isolated and alone. While also being reassured that I am not crazy or a bad mom (and neither are you, friend).
TAKE BABY STEPS If you’re suffering with anxiety, what has helped me is to just take baby steps. Don’t allow people’s expectations or criticism to influence your decisions. It doesn’t matter if no one understands. Trust me, I know this is extremely hard. As a 4 in the enneagram, I really hate feeling misunderstood. Just take care of yourself and do what you need to do, little by little, to move forward.
BE CONSUMED Finally, being consumed by God’s presence has given me a place to rest and be made new. For me, being consumed by His presence means to absorb it and give it my full attention. And I’ve practiced that by trading all the crazy things I read or hear for His truth. In order to do that, it’s meant reading his word more, staying away from social media, and having conversation that edify my faith in Him.
I wish life was different right now. I wish I could take my son to my favorite places and share his beautiful smile with the people who love him. My heart is broken that this is life right now.
But despite all that, in my heart of hearts I know that God is a God who uses all things for our good. I know He is a God who redeems lost time. I know He is a God who mends and heals our broken hearts. And I know He is a God of restoration and nothing is wasted when we put our hope and trust in Him.
Truly, I hope you feel seen and heard through this blog today. I don’t know exactly what you’re facing. We may all be going through the same pandemic, but all our experiences are different. Styld by Grace will be here to offer you support, understanding, and the hope of Jesus.
PRAYER Dear Heavenly Father, I surrender all the stress, heartbreak, confusion, and anxious thoughts. I ask for you to fill me anew. Lord, I humble myself and bow before you. I come under your Lordship and sovereignty. There is no better place to be. You see the bigger picture. And I trust you. I trust that you’re good and faithful even when I can’t see it. Jesus, I speak your name and declare it over my home and family. There is power in your name. There is nothing that can match it. For you defeated death. And through you we are saved. Lord, give us an extra measure of faith and grace in this season. We lift our eyes up to you. We love you and we’re thankful that in just one moment we can come before your throne and be transformed and renewed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
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.
A couple weeks ago, I decided I was going to be off all social media platforms at least once a week. I chose Monday because I wanted to start my week with better habits.
The first thing I do every morning is check my phone and my fingers automatically go to Instagram. I mean, it feels like I’m in a vicious cycle that I can’t get out of.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. It has brought a lot of special connections and it has allowed me to grow Styld by Grace beyond the blog. So being off of it completely on a Monday, when most people are on and catching up from the weekend, can be nerve-wrecking. There’s this feeling like I’ll lose these very important connections I’ve made.
The truth is I won’t be missing out on anything. There is always tomorrow and there’s always an opportunity to delivery great content and connection, no matter what day it is or in which way it’s delivered.
But at the end of the day, my eyes have to be focused on what’s in front of me more than what’s on my phone. My default cannot be scrolling endlessly and in turn neglecting what I have in front of me.
So if you’ve been feeling like you need a little detox from social media for whatever reason, here are some healthy alternatives I’ve replaced it with on Mondays. Read on…
Connection: investing in my relationships
“Are you even listening to me”? I don’t know how many times my husband has said that to me while I’m glued to my phone. Of course I pretend I know exactly what he was saying. (And pretend is the keyword because I’m totally zoned out). This is what motivates me the most to keep going with No Instagram Mondays. Truly connecting with the people I love. Without needing a like, a comment, a share, or any form of validation. Just simple quality time. I’ve also started an email series, “From My Desk To Yours”, for my newsletter subscribers where I share things floating around my desk like my weekly favorites, podcasts, music, and stuff that’s on my heart. It’s such a freeing way to invest in my community without expecting nothing in return.
Faith: connecting with God
The part of me that’s affected the most from being off of social media for a day, on a weekly basis, is my walk with God. I can’t say I’m perfect at this. But eliminating one thing that distracts me from connecting with God is very helpful. Like I said, my instinct is to open Instagram first thing every morning. But knowing I can’t on Mondays, gives me a reason to open the Bible app instead. Or it gives me a reason to listen to Sunday’s sermon again. And on my downtime, instead of scrolling I can actually pray about the stuff that’s worrying me. There is time for connection with God. Sometimes we just are too distracted and don’t make room for it.
Rest: giving my mind a break
At times I feel that my brain needs a break from my phone. My mind needs a break from all the information, updates, memes, and heartbreaking news. Seriously, what am I fueling my mind with? Do I really need to know every detail of every thing that’s happening in the world? I’m not saying I want to be oblivious to what’s happening in the world. I’m just saying I think my mind can’t take in information non stop without processing it in times of rest. In fact, on days when I’ve been off of social media I tend to be less anxious and I’m able to relax a lot easier.
Education: learning new things
On Mondays when I’m tempted to click on Instagram or Facebook, instead I click on my Podcast app. I listen to something that will help nourish my mind. What area in my career, dreams, or goals do I need to learn more about? There’s so much to learn and so many ways to learn new things. Podcasts are just one way. I’ve also watched interviews on Youtube of people who are in my industry to learn how they have navigated their career or entrepreneurial journey.
Friend, if you’re thinking about quitting social media for a day or a week or even a month, there’s really nothing to lose and you WON’T be missing out on anything! It’s definitely not easy and I’ve messed up more times than I’d like to admit. But we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. There’s so many ways to connect, learn, grow, and invest in ourself and others.
If you try it, let me know if any of these alternatives helped you too.
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.
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.