Behind the scenes (big fertility update!)

There's been some developments going on "behind the scenes" (behind the screen?) at the Burden house which I'm happy to share with you now!

Remember a few months later when John ran a marathon and we went camping in Petoskey? John running the marathon wasn't the only milestone we reached that weekend! John and I had been on a waiting list with our clinic to be recipients of donor embryos (embryo adoption) and that weekend we received a list of embryo profiles awaiting families! After Arie went to bed, John and I spend hours around the campfire reading through each profile, searching our hearts and the heavens for the ones we would call our own. In his faithfulness we believe God made it immediately and abundantly clear which ones we should choose. That is a story I will likely share when our babies are here. (Wait... WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?! Yep. Hang with me!)

Remember September 2, 2015? No? Maybe it was an ordinary day for you. For us, it was a big one! It was the day on which we transferred two beautiful, perfect, loved embryos into my womb.

The following two weeks I would describe as mostly peaceful with a few nervous breakdowns (on my part) as our family members and a few friends held us up in prayer.

Our first beta (pregnancy test) came back positive at 436 and two days later my second (which should rise by at least 80%) was 954! More than double! Those numbers were very comforting as our chemical pregnancy numbers were lower: 52 and 104.

Still we had experienced the joy of two positive betas before and our happiness was tempered by fear. We spent two weeks anxiously anticipating our first ultrasound. The same ultrasound at which we didn't see a baby last spring. Our hearts cried to the heavens Please, oh God, let us see our child! Let us see that beautiful heartbeat! 

Yesterday that moment arrived: the moment that could be one of the best or the worst of our lives.

As I sat on the exam table, waiting with John for the doctor to arrive, my body shook. I kept flashing back to that horrible moment last spring that occurred in this same room. Please, please, please. Was the simple prayer pulsating through my body.

Soon the doctor arrived with a female medical student. He wasn't my normal doctor (who was out of town), so he took a moment to look through my chart before the ultrasound. When he saw my beta numbers he smiled and showed them to his student. "What do you think the odds are of twins?"

Her eyebrows raised, "Yes those are very high numbers! I bet it is twins."

The doctor asked me and John if we wanted to place a wager. We nervously laughed but inside were all Doctor we will hit you with the ultrasound probe if you don't do this thing right NOW!

Every second seemed to draw out eternally.

Finally I lay back on the exam table and the ultrasound began.

Just as fast as our doctor last spring said, "I don't see anything," this doctor spoke some of the most beautiful words we will ever hear:

"Yep. There's one baby... and... there's other one."


John looked into my eyes with a mix of elation and near painful relief. TWINS!

I took a deep breath as I began shaking again, this time with joy rather than fear. An emotional, "Oh!" and "Wow!" escaped from my mouth as the doctor and student pointed out the two flickering hearts on the screen and measured the beats.

117 and 122 beats per minute. Perfect.

After five years of infertility and two years of treatment, we are having twins through the gift of embryo adoption!


Telling Arie was pure joy. John and I drove to his school at the end of the day and told him in the car because we just could not wait a second longer to share the news! After a gleeful gasp, Arie's immediate reaction was to request a bunkbed so he could sleep on the top and the babies could sleep on the bottom. He was not too happy with us when we told him the babies would sleep in our room at first.

"But I want the babies too!" he cried.

We promised him we'd share. "These are all of our babies, Arie. Our whole family's."

His frown turned to a smile, "And I can teach them lots of things! Like crafts!"

He's going to be a wonderful big brother. It's so fun to share this journey with him as he is old enough to grasp a lot of what it happening, but still young enough to request adorable things like a bunk bed for newborns.

As of Monday I am 6 weeks along and the babies are due in May. We are praying fervently for a healthy, full term pregnancy for these babies. I am feeling very tired and pretty much constantly nauseated, but even feeling sick I give thanks because to me these symptoms are a sign of the life inside, life I have wanted for so very long. My prayer is that I will handle the discomfort with grace.

We are thanking our Father who brought us through a time of unbearable darkness into this beautiful and merciful light! "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17



On an abundance of shoes and apples

If you had to guess how many people live in my house by the number of shoes by our front door right now, you'd venture a guess no less than 10.

It's still just the three of us here in our cozy home, but it's that magical time of year where no matter what you choose to wear in the morning, it'll be the wrong thing shortly after lunch. If you then change your clothes to something more appropriate, you'll regret it by dinner.

We've got sandals. We've got sneakers. We've got shoes you wear without socks and ones you wear with. We've got rain boots. We've got flip flops. We've got it all and no idea which ones to choose.

It must be September in Michigan! The only time of year you might get me to admit those pants that zip off into shorts are a good idea.


We've been to the apple orchards twice this month; the first time it was hot and humid and felt like summer. Two weeks later we were back, picking under a bright sun with temperatures in the mid 60's and a chilly wind blowing through our sweaters.

Between our two trips, the Burdens have taken home over 50 lbs of apples. (I thought that was pretty impressive until our friends picked 130 lbs which is almost *ME* in apples! Apparently I've got to up my game a little here!)
"I fink I picked some tree wif my apple." 

Last year when I went to prepare apple sauce for the freezer I borrowed one of those makers that looks like a mortar and pestle; you know the one with a mesh "bowl" and a wooden stick? That's what my mom used when I was growing up and I love the results.

I'm ticked at myself this year because I went to order one on amazon and I accidentally bought this stainless steel food mill instead! Blerg. I had them both in my cart and deleted the wrong one. Give me some advice, dear readers- should I give it a try or return it and buy the one I really wanted? I've never tried this kind of food mill before, but it seems to get good reviews?

While I've been waiting for my apple sauce maker to come in the mail, I've been making other apple goodies like apple butter, apple muffins, and apple crisp, along with eating lots out of hand and cut up with peanut butter (my favorite!). I'm now sick of apple crisp and muffins, but good golly apple butter is my new favorite thing! I spread if over Ezekiel Bread cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast. You should try it.

I've got a few (read: lots) of apples left. I could make them all into apple sauce, but if you've got a great apple recipe please pass it on to me, particularly something savory.

Also taking recommendations for shoe storage.

Happy September all!



5 Way to Reduce Stress during Infertility

I'll start with a  quote from Captain Obvious: "Infertility is stressful."

Don't I know it.

It's a mounting kind of stress, too. For me it started with the disappointment of not conceiving within the first three months of trying. Followed by a lot of worry about something being "wrong" when it didn't happen in the next three. Then just flat out panicked anxiety when still nothing happened in the next six. Here I am five years (and a gazillion treatments) later, still hoping and praying.

By the time most couples reach out to a doctor for help with conception, they're already anxious, scared, and running on fumes of hope. And they're only getting started on what could be a very long journey.

That's another thing: you never know how long the journey to conception is going to take. Going through infertility is like running a race but you have absolutely.no.idea. whether you're embarking on a 100 meter sprint or a marathon. If it ends up being a marathon it's not just running, either. It's like running for years but also getting tripped every month and having to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

No wonder infertility is so stressful!

"Just relax" is about the worst advice you could ever give or get when it comes to infertility. There is no "just relaxing" in this world. While it's not clear exactly how stress effects infertility, though,  I think we can all agree that less stress is better. So if "just relax" isn't going to help, what can?

Here are five ways my readers and I have successfully reduced stress during infertility:

1) Exercise. Surprise! Saw that one coming, didn't ya? Yes it's true: exercise reduces stress. Personally I hate exercise but after my husband started training for a marathon last year, I was inspired to give running a try. WOWZA! I was floored by how much it enhanced my sense of well-being. I had been walking around with knots in my stomach for years and running was the thing that finally loosened their grip on me.
John running his marathon! 

I used the Couch to 5K running plan. If you hate exercise like me, let me tell you that when I started I could not even run for 90 seconds. 90 seconds. Now I'm up to over 20 minutes. If I can do it, so can you.

I asked on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for reader suggestions about stress reduction. Instgram user jillianlaine wrote this about her experience running: "It freed my mind of infertility struggle and stress. I set a goal and worked towards it. Entered a couple of 5ks and next weekend I'm doing my first 10k. It's showing me, "Hey! Look what my body can do!"

I resonate with that! After my body failed me so many times, it feels so good for it to be doing something right!

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that during many infertility treatments women are restricted when it comes to vigorous exercise; particularly if you are taking drugs to stimulate ovulation. During those seasons of treatment walking is a great alternative. Ask your doctor if you can practice yoga. I am particularly fond of youtuber Adriene Mishler and her channel Yoga with Adriene. She has a unique way of making yoga both fun and relaxing. Plus she's sassy and who doesn't need a little sass in their life?

2)  Talk. You guy have heard me say this a hundred times, but sharing my infertility story was the best decision I ever made. The support I've received from family, friends, and blog readers has been absolutely invaluable. It has normalized my experience and made me feel less alone. It's also helped me think through my treatment options and given me questions and suggestions to bring to my doctor.

You get to decide who you tell. It could be everyone like me or it could be just a few close friends. Just tell someone.

Facebook user Amy Alkema-Holubeck commented, "I talked to those people who understood where I was coming from, started opening up to more friends and family and not feeling trapped." There is freedom that comes from releasing the secrecy and shame of infertility!

You might also benefit from joining a support group or talking to a professional counselor. For me, support groups have their pros and cons. I've found tremendous support there in the past but I've also had to take breaks from participating in them because they've given me more things to worry about. Usually knowledge is power but there can be such a thing as too much knowledge (and too much googling) when it comes to infertility... and in those cases a little chosen ignorance can be helpful. You will know what's best for you!

3) Take Breaks. I was surprised by how many of my readers said taking a break helped them reduce the stress of infertility. Infertility treatments are all-consuming and, because of the relationship between age and infertility, couples often want to be aggressive with their timelines. I know I do!
Camping, summer 2015. 
John and I have had "built in breaks" in our treatments, most recently as we've been discerning our path forward after loosing all the embryos we had for donor IVF. While this break wasn't wanted, it has been a wonderful time to step back from treatments, enjoy our family, and remember how life can be good and beautiful.

Robin 'Wieringa' Jellema commented on Facebook about a break she and her husband took from treatment to enjoy a camping trip, "I got back home with a  whole new attitude! Our time in infertility wasn't over, and we still had ups and downs. But I had been feeling frantic and it was the rest I needed."

I know that "frantic" feeling and I have a feeling many of you do, too. Taking a break, even just one cycle off, can be the grace we need to fill us up before we keep running that infertility race.

4) Prayer and meditation. This summer John and I had the opportunity to enjoy a bi-weekly spiritual retreat, led by our church's Spiritual Director. I loved the way he described our prayer times each week: "A retreat (prayer) is intended to help you create ample space to listen to God and rest in his transformational love."

Each week as I spent time reading the scriptures, journaling, and in silence, I experienced a deeper sense of God's love. I've found that in our Western evangelical culture, we too often believe that we are suffering because we are doing something wrong. As in, "My infertility is a punishment or a test from God." This mindset can do serious damage to our souls as it paints a picture of a angry, spiteful God. The truth is that suffering is inevitable, reasons are often unknown, and God wants us to rest in his undying love as we walk through it. Spending time in prayer and meditation before the LORD is how we do that.

Read this incredible poem by Karl Rahner, which describes the awesome peace that happens when we spend time with God (if you aren't into poetry I bolded the parts I thought most important).

Only in love can I find you, my God.
In love the gates of my soul spring open,
allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom
and forget my own petty self.
In love my whole being streams forth
out of the rigid confines and narrowness and anxious self-assertion,
which made me a prisoner or my own poverty emptiness.
In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you,
wanting more to return,
but to lose themselves completely in you,
since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart,
closer to me than I am to myself.

But when I love you,
when I manage to break out of the narrow circle of self
and leave behind the restless agony of unanswered questions, 
when my blinded eyes no longer look merely from afar
and from the outside upon your unapproachable brightness,
and much more when you yourself, O Incomprehensible One,
have become through love the inmost center of life,
then I can bury myself entirely in you, O mysterious God,
and with myself all my questions. 

- Encounters with Silence

I can testify from personal experience that engaging and prayer and meditation with God has not answered my questions about why he has allowed me to suffer so long with infertility, but what it has done instead is quiet and agony that comes along with them. I believe this is what it means to trust. There is no better way to reduce stress than to trust in God.

Anyone can pray and meditate. You can do it right now if you want! But if you want to dive more deeply into the art of spiritual practices a good place to start is with Dallas Willards' The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. 

5) Massage or acupuncture. Many of the women in my support groups swear by massage or acupuncture, both to help with fertility and to reduce stress. I think we can all imagine why a massage would make us feel better! There are some practitioners who will give a special "fertility massage." I have no experience with that, but again I know women who get them and love it. I can see how just doing something to care for your body and yourself would lift your spirits.

I started acupuncture treatments this summer after receiving approximately nine million suggestions about it. It seems everyone and their uncle knowns someone who conceived after treating their infertility with acupuncture. My "results" remain to be seen, but I can tell you that the emotional experience of getting acupuncture has been wonderful! I would recommend it to anyone. I love my practitioner's positive attitude, I love feeling like I am doing something good for my body, and I love the 20 minutes of stillness and silence I get as I lay quietly with the needles in my body. I leave my sessions with a true lightness of spirit. Will it heal my infertility? I don't know. Has it helped with my stress level? Absolutely.

(If you are in West Michigan and want a recommendation for a practitioner send me a PM!)


Have you tried any of these five tips for stress reduction? Or something else? What has your experience been?

As always thanks for reading!



New Music


You know that abrupt screeching sound an old vinyl record makes when stopped?

Yesterday that sound played on my life when I sent my five-year-old off to school.

There I was swaying away to the familiar music of my stay-at-home-mom-to-a-little life when


the record stopped.

It wasn't unexpected in an immediate sense, of course.  I had been anticipating and even welcoming this day since Arie came home almost three years ago. It's exciting to send a child to school! He is going to make new friends, explore new challenges, be confronted with new perspectives, and blossom into the adult he wants to be. That's all good stuff. I'm not sad about sending him to school. He's ready. I'm ready.
Ready for school! 
But I have to tell you, this is not the way I thought my life would be. When I put that stay-at-home-mom music on in late 2012, I thought the song would last much, much longer. As John and I have fought infertility to bring another child into our family, it's been a battle to keep the music playing.  I love this song! I don't want it to stop! This is the dance I was created for. 

As fertility treatments and procedures failed, the silence that loomed beyond Arie's first day of school loomed large. When finally I conceived early last spring, expecting a baby mid-fall, I rejoiced in the perfect timing! I'd send one child off to school just in time to welcome another home. Perfect.

Then I miscarried.

When the shock and grief began to lift a few months later I had to face the reality of what was happening. I thought, "Okay. This record is going to screetch to a halt very soon. What I am going to do when the music stops?"

Here's the thing I learned this summer: What I needed less was to figure out what to do in the silence, but how to be at peace with it. How to be at peace with empty arms, a quiet house, no cradle in the nursery, no stroller on the sidewalk, no baby at my breast. How to be at peace in the silence.

Last spring, I didn't feel very peaceful about any of this. Rather I felt desperate, angry, hollow. When I opened my bible I kept going back to 1 Samuel to connect with Hannah, another barren woman. Hannah prays so fervently, so desperately, for a child that a priest who witnesses her prayers asks her if she is drunk. Boy do I know those kind of prayers. She corrects the priest by saying, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer. I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

"deeply troubled"

"pouring out my soul to the LORD"

"praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

Thank you, Hannah for not mincing words. Yes. This is what I have felt. I understand those kind of prayers.

The desperate form of Hannah's prayer caught my attention but so did the content. It wasn't just how she prayed but what she prayed:

"LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life..."

"Your servant" - that's the phrase that caught my attention. I found it so interesting that she was able to be both miserable and humble. Personally when I'm miserable I'm also pretty angry because this is not fair! I admit: I've done some heavenward first shaking in my infertility journey.

Maybe I'm the only one. ;-)

That phrase "your servant" immediately made me think of another woman in the Bible: Mary.

In Luke 1, Mary is visited by an angel who tells her that she- a virgin- will give birth to a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. She responds, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me according to your word."

Here we have two women- one who has not received the child for whom she longs and the other who receives a child she was not expecting- both of whom name themselves servants. Both of whom humble themselves before the LORD.

As I flipped the pages of my Bible back and forth between these two stories I thought, "I'm going to try that." I'm going to try pray both those prayers- of Hannah and of Mary.

Over the course of the summer I've attempted to internalize my own meshed version of those prayers that goes something like, "LORD God, please look upon your servant's misery and grant her a child. I am your servant. May it be to me according to your will."

This prayer has changed me.

Yes I still long for a child, deeply. But when I pray this prayer, the excruciating hollowness inside me floods with peace.

True peace.

It's not a peace that promises me a child, but a peace that promises me I'm going to survive this, when honestly I didn't know before if I could. It's a peace that promises a future. And joy.

Yesterday when the record ripped to a halt, I found myself at peace with the silence. In the peace and silence I am receiving new words from my Father, new direction, new purpose... new music.

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