Tuesday, December 25, 2012

merry christmas

Last Christmas we had babies.  This Christmas we have kids.  

It's been a truly magical day.  Frances smiled from the moment she turned the corner in the kitchen and spotted her new toys until the second we tucked her into her crib.  She was truly giddy.  She loved each new thing she found, but couldn't get over the fact that she had her very own car.  She sat in her pink car for most of the day, laughing and playing and babbling.  

Barnes was mesmerized by it all.  He played with his new toys all day, never once going into the living room to check on his old ones.  He cooked in his kitchen for much of the day, and he definitely loved his car and new crayons, but he was obsessed with his new stuffed dog.  Barnes drug his dog (which is as big as him) all through the house.  He took it on rides in his car.  He made it sit on the couch.  He hugged it and kissed it and used it as a pillow when he got tired.  

Christmas was more wonderful than ever before.  It was the kind of day that makes you think, "How could I possibly want more kids?  The two I have are so perfect, and they are to such a fun stage."  It was the kind of day that makes you think, "How could I possibly not want more kids?  The two I have are so perfect, and I would be honored to get to do this whole thing again."

I pray that your Christmas was full of love and wonder.  Wonder for your families, your children, your friends, your abundance.  And wonder above wonder for the Christ child sent today.

Merriest of Christmases from our family to yours.

making breakfast

my very own car
b and his dog
race time

my sweet miracles

Sunday, December 16, 2012

finding the perfect tree

Last December, I was determined to find the perfect tree for the twins' first Christmas.  So Andrew and I drove to several tree lots, taking turns getting out to check out the options, while the twins slept in the back of the car.  This year, I knew the shape and fullness of the tree wouldn't matter as much...it just needed to withstand the terror of two toddlers.  And there was no leaving the twins in the car while we quickly surveyed a lot.  Nope.  This year, we had lots of help.


For the past few days, I had been thinking, "I really need to blog.  Something light and happy and cheerful.  I need to lighten it up a bit around here."  And then Friday happened.  There is no light when 6 educators have been shot.  There is no light when 20 six and seven year olds have been killed.  There is no light as I read this morning that the youngest victim, a six year old boy, had a twin sister who survived. 

Reading these stories makes us feel heavy and sad and hopeless.  This tragedy darkens our world, even at a time when we are preparing to celebrate the most joyous occasion. 

Jesus was born to bring true light to our world.  The light of love and goodness and truth.  How do we reconcile His presence, His love for us and for every child of God, with this massacre?  Well, for me at least, the two are irreconcilable.  For years now, I have eschewed the common phrase that "everything happens for a reason."  Instead, I choose to believe that sometimes bad things just happen.  God didn't intend them, and he mourns right along with us. 

But I do believe that, when we let Him, God can teach us and mold us when we feel we are facing the ugliest of circumstances.  This tragedy reminds us that we truly are all a community.  In our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our country, and even our world, each life is intertwined.  We are all neighbors.  And Jesus was clear about this--we must love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:31).  So in the days that follow, as we continue to process this unthinkable act, I pray that we would all examine how we are doing as neighbors.  How do we support those who grieve?  How do we protect the most vulnerable among us?  How do we help those who need it most?  How do we set examples of love and service in our own homes?

May we all hold the victims and their families in our hearts this season.  May God bring them moments of comfort and light as only He can.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

poor santa

We are still sad.  We are still lost.  But life continues.  Most importantly, life continues to get more and more interesting for our sweet b&f.  We never want them to be affected by any of this--we want to guard them from our sorrow--so we are careful to fill their days with fun just as we always have.

This week we got to tag along while Andrew attended a conference in Chicago, so b&f got to meet Santa.  The real one.  The one at Macy's Santaland.  He was storybook perfection, with his jingle bell suspenders and wispy white beard.  I'm not so sure that b&f appreciated how special he was:

a less traumatic moment atop the john hancock building.  i promise this is not posed.
just a rare moment when sibling love shone through.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

the post i never wanted to write

When Andrew and I began our path through the life of infertility, we made a conscious decision to live that life out loud.  When we got pregnant with the twins, we took that to a whole new level, sharing our experiences in this blog.  Since that time, countless phone calls, conversations, emails and messages have assured me that God is using our story.  We are no different from any other couple facing difficulties while building their family, except that God has given us the grace to be transparent about it.  And in small ways, I believe that God is using our transparency for good.  But here's the catch--when you decide to live out loud, when you decide that God has called you to transparency, that means you must share the good and the bad.  You must be honest about both sides of the infertility coin.  After all, not every treatment works.  Not every IVF (or other treatment option) ends with a beautiful baby in your arms.  Fertility treatments are never a guarantee...not even close.  So with a heavy heart, I feel compelled to share the latest chapter in our journey.

Thursday morning Andrew and I were in Chattanooga hoping to continue building our family.  When we did IVF in January 2010, we had two embryos transferred (our sweet B&F).  On the day they were transferred, three other embryos were still growing.  Overnight, two of those arrested, leaving only one.  That little fighter, who we have always known as bittiest, was frozen through a process that was, at the time, state of the art.  

Since the day this embryo was frozen, we have longed to have him home with us.  So in August we set the date--December 6th--to have him transferred.  For four months we eagerly anticipated this day.  Our doctor said that the embryo was of great quality when frozen and believed we had a very good chance of getting pregnant.  We tried to manage our expectations, but were already so attached to this little one that it was difficult.

I started medication in mid-November to prepare my body.  While the medication protocol is much more manageable for a frozen cycle, it is still not easy.  The exhaustion and the pain from the shots were quite difficult while caring for two 15 month olds.  Then, on Wednesday afternoon, we headed to Chattanooga.  We knew there were three possible outcomes: 1) that the embryo wouldn't survive being thawed, 2) that it would survive but we wouldn't get pregnant, or 3) that we would get pregnant.  We were in no way prepared for what ended up happening.

As we arrived in the waiting room, I received a phone call.  It was our embryologist.  Trust me when I say that you never want to get a phone call from your embryologist on the morning of your frozen embryo transfer.  Before I even got through the door to the office, she held me as I sobbed.  She didn't try to stop me, so we knew it was bad.  When they thawed our embryo, about 90% of it had already arrested.  It was most likely damaged during the freezing process, so it never had a chance.  As our luck would have it, however, a tiny sliver of it remained alive.  Let me be clear--this is not a viable embryo.  With this damage, it cannot result in a pregnancy.  But they couldn't tell us that it was 100% gone.  So we had to make a difficult decision.  We could leave it there to arrest, have it transferred and stop meds (which would hasten the end), or continue as planned.  The embryologist said that she personally wouldn't have it transferred; the ivf coordinator said that she personally would.  At the end of the day, it wasn't about trying to have this baby, but doing what we could live with.  So we chose to have it transferred.  I felt more comfortable allowing it die in its intended home...we wanted it to come home with us in whatever way it could.

Clearly we wanted this baby so much.  But with the outcome we are facing, it would have been much easier if it had completely not survived.  It could have been over.  Now I will continue medicine for 9 days and have to confirm what we already know with a home test.  It's going to be a long couple of weeks for us, and we appreciate your prayers.  We are heartbroken right now for the child we longed for, and a bit lost as well.  It's unclear where we can or will go from here.  We desperately want more children, but our resources are quite honestly drained.  We do not feel that our family is complete, but are trying to adjust our expectations to what may be our normal.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

why every baby should be a twin

When B&F were teeny, I never thought I would say this, but now I truly believe that all babies should be twins.  Maybe the world would be a smidge better if every little one came with a built in partner.  Why?

  • Twins have an automatic playmate.  They don't depend solely on their parents for entertainment. They have a best friend from the moment of conception.
  • Twins learn to share very early.  As soon as they recognize that there is another little human around, the process of learning to share begins.  I'm not claiming that b&f have sharing down to an art at 15 months, but we are already seeing glimmers of generosity that warm this mommy's heart.
  • There is always someone to eat the food that they don't want.  Frances loves grapes....like, is obsessed with grapes.  Barnes likes them, but gets over them rather quickly.  When Barnes is finished with his grapes, he knows he can pass them over to Frances's high chair, where they will be disposed of properly.  
  • Twins are forced to realize that the world doesn't always revolve around them.  Even at a young age, they see that they may not always get what they want.  As sad as it sounds, sometimes I have to let one of my kids cry.  If the other actually needs me, then one may be left on the floor in tears.  And do you know what usually happens?  By the time I can get to the tantrum-throwing twin, he or she has picked himself up and began playing again.  I truly believe that learning this lesson early in life will serve them well.
  • Twins have a partner in crime.  Our little monkeys are already quite mischievous, and they feed on each others' sly ways.  I can only imagine that this will be loads of fun for them as they grow.
  • Both parents get to hold a baby...all the time.  This doesn't always feel like a benefit, but at the end of the night, when both Andrew and I are sitting and reading to a child one-on-one, I realize how special it truly is.
Having twins is a unique adventure--one that I never imagined I would experience.  But I am thrilled that I get to experience the craziness of raising more than one baby of the same age, with all of its joys and hardships.

Next, why every baby should be an only child....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

a house full of thanks

For Thanksgiving this year, Andrew's family made the long trek from South Carolina to West Lafayette, and we had a wonderful time celebrating together.  I am so, so lucky.  My in-laws are nothing like the jokes or horror stories you often hear.  They really aren't in-laws at all....just fabulous people that I inherited when I married Andrew.  We are ever so grateful for the few days we were able to spend together this holiday.

pajama party with aunt e

watching the parade with my best friend, stella

starting the day right with a little beverage and the black friday ads

thanksgiving kisses from brother

sliding with gigi

my big girl

our family of six

three generations of shafer men

we got to eat at the big people table...i wasn't impressed

and then we got to break out our holiday wear