The Christmas Everything Post! 2015

Even in my hardest Decembers- like the one when we were waiting for Arie or last year's when we celebrated the holidays in the wake of our first failed embryo transfer- Christmas has been an occasion I cherish. As I've lived with infertility it's been the hope and the peace of the holiday that I cherish: the hope that through Jesus all things will one day be made right... and the peace that comes with that faith.

Earlier this month I was listening to a Christmas station on Pandora when a cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah came on. I furrowed my brow and wondered how this song was considered holiday music, but I didn't click the thumbs down icon because, well, it's Hallelujah, right? This version included a final verse that I'd never heard before (probably spent too much time listening to Jeff Buckley's cover!). When I caught the lyrics it made perfect sense to me why the song would be played at Christmas:

"And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!"

That's the promise of Christmas I've clung to in my hardest Decembers: that even though it so often goes terribly wrong in this life I will someday stand radiant before my God with nothing left to say but simply: hallelujah!

This Christmas, however, it's not going all wrong for me. It's going all right! For the first time in a while I've approached the season not just claiming the peace and the hope of the season, but the joy. For years I've dreamed of sitting by the lights of our Christmas tree with a baby in my arms or my body and this year that dream is- almost unbelievably- a reality. This year I carried two babies with me to the Christmas farm as we picked out our tree. I hung their ornaments on the boughs of it's branches. I felt them kick and flip inside as I watched Arie and John open gifts beside it's lights. I willed them to move into more comfortable positions as I over ate at dinner and as I constantly needed to stop for a bathroom break on our 6 hour journey to my parents' in Ontario. I showed them off to my mom and sisters in the form of a quickly growing bump and enjoyed many celebratory belly rubs from Aunts and cousins at our Christmas party. What happiness.

I've shared before about the trepidation I sometimes feel bringing two lives into a world often filled with such tragedies as bitterness and war. This Christmas I felt the joy of the opposite: the blessed assurance that I am bringing these children into a world that God is redeeming. A world over which he rules. A world he is calling to himself with endless love, love beyond our wildest imaginations. Yes this can be a hard and scary place to be, this world, but it is the place God has given us and it is good to bring new lives here.

Some pictures of our joyous celebrations this Christmas:

The bottom third of lights on our fake Christmas tree stopped working last year so we took the opportunity to try a real one this season. I don't have the best record with houseplants so I was a little nervous about whether the needles would stay on the tree through December 25, but it was a smashing success! Today is December 31 and it still looks fantastic. I think we are officially Real Christmas Tree People now.

I always had a real tree growing up and hunting for that perfect pine with my family are some of my favorite childhood memories! A gift I'm thrilled to pass on to my son!

Decorating the tree was peaceful this year. We munched popcorn and sipped hot chocolate with Christmas carols playing in the background. Arie is old enough to hang even fragile ornaments without fear of breakage. We examined all the "special ones" and told their stories. "This one if from when Mama and Papa went on their honeymoon!" "Here's one from your first Christmas with us, buddy." etc.

Next year with two infants possibly crawling around decorating the tree will be a whole different story, but a beauty of it's own kind!

Since John is a pastor, Christmas morning is a busy one for our family. We opt to open our gifts together on Christmas Eve morning, which gives us both a special day together as a family as well as a special day to devote to worshiping our newborn King! Here is Arie's face on Christmas Eve morning, anticipating his gifts:
I didn't even have time to focus! Clearly I was excited as well! ;-)
A Snoopy!
Whispering what the gifts were. He couldn't hold in the secret any longer!
Homemade gift: picture of a submarine.
After church on Christmas Day we opened gifts with John's mom and sister. Arie received a huge cardboard pirate ship which combines his love of coloring with his love of pirates. It was a hit!

Note: Snoopy along for the ride! :-)

The following day we traveled to Ontario to celebrate with my family. My niece Lux was born last April and will be almost exactly a year older than our twins, who are due in May. We loved spending time with her not only because she is adorable and an extremely happy baby but also because she gave us a little window into what our Christmas will look like next year... times two!

Almost all the rest of the pictures on my camera were of Lux and Arie. Ha! I was able to pull out photos of all our family members, but the ratio made me laugh. I bet there were 10 kid pictures to every one adult. They are way cuter than us so I guess that's probably fair.

I love this next picture of my sister Jenna's husband holding his niece. The first time I met Justin it was at a Christmas a few years ago; I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw the way he watched my sister opening his gift. He looked at her with such tenderness and affection. The way he cares for his niece and nephew make me so happy; he will be an awesome father someday!

My brother and sister-in-law are so cute with their daughter. She is one of those babies whose default position is happy. She laughs easily and wants to explore everything! She is a good baby for my brother because, as my mom says, "she loves to be pestered!" She loves it when her dad pokes her nose or brushes a stuffed toy in her face. She loves being held up high and "dropped" down low or jiggled around. Apparently all those years my little brother spent pestering me actually paid off! I never would have called that one. ;-)

A highlight of Arie's Christmas is always the chocolate letter he (and we all) receive from my dad! Arie's first Christmas he was home with us just one month and we were struggling to get enough calories in him each day. He would only eat cheese, bananas, and milk. I let him eat almost the whole letter that year because I was so happy he was eating something. Ha! This year I told him only one bite, so he made it a good one:


We had a wonderful time together as a family. Every year I feel so blessed by these people and grateful that we all get along. I know not everyone has that happiness. When I watch my parents enjoying their three kids, in-laws, and two (soon to be four!) grandchildren, I can only pray that John and I  will enjoy the same with our children in 20 or 30 years.

I pray your Christmas was also filled with joy and if not joy this year, then the peace and hope we have in Christ Jesus.

I'll "see" you in the New Year! xo


Twin pregnancy: week 17 in review

How far along? 18 weeks, 1 day.

Weight gain? Up to 155lbs. Gained 2 pounds this week. Total gain: 17 pounds. My belly looks so much bigger this week. I think the twins had a growth spurt!

How are you feeling? Awesome. My nausea is only very slightly present and I'm not too tired anymore. I'm thrilled to be enjoying the holidays feeling healthy again!

Noteworthy moments: My bump is now officially big enough that strangers look at it when they see me. Sort of an "eye contact, bump glance, eye contact" move. No one has been bold enough to actually ask if I'm pregnant (which is probably good manners), but I've had a number of people strike up conversations about having children to give me an "opening" to share that I'm expecting.

As I've been seeing friends over the holidays they are all reaching out and rubbing my belly. I know some pregnant women don't like to be touched, but not me. I probably would feel weird if it was a  stranger, but for friends: touch away! I've waited so long for this. Each touch of my belly is a tiny celebration of many answered prayers.

Get a little spiritual: Last summer I wrote a post called "Living in a pit with a heavenly view" in which I likened the experience of infertility to being stuck in a big hole in the ground. I wrote about my efforts to keep my eyes focused upward on the heavens, even as I wept in the pit. It still makes me cringe to remember.

Now that I have passed the first trimester fear of miscarriage and the consuming fatigue and nausea of the last few months, the joy of my freedom from infertility is truly making itself known. I am out of the pit! I am walking above ground! I can feel the sun! I am free to go wherever I please. My heavy heart is light again. My sadness has lifted. I feel free! 

Years ago I heard a sermon about the new earth in which the pastor described the special joys those who have lived with loss will feel. The blind will see! We will all see, of course, but the blind will have a special joy in seeing. The lame will walk! We will all walk, but the lame will have a joy we will not know when their feet finally touch the ground. Today I feel as though I am experiencing a small picture of that joy: while millions of women have a child growing inside them today, I have a special kind of joy because of the pain I once felt. Not only do I get to know the joy of pregnancy, I get to know the joy of being freed from infertility. I thank God for this gift.

The freedom I now I claim has not only freed me from something, but also for something. The energy that was once drained from me in grief is now mine to direct in a multitude of ways. Currently I am working with a refugee ministry through my church. I never would have had the emotional reserves to commit to a ministry like this when I was submerged in the dark pit of infertility. Now I am free to serve others as I draw from the well of joy I have overflowing from the gift of answered prayers.

This is truly a blessed season of my life and I am grateful!

Bump shot: 



Twin pregnancy: week 16 in review

How far along? Today I'm 17 weeks, 2 days. Getting to this week's update late due to having been sick. Still a little stuffed up today but feeling much better.

Weight gain: 153lbs: total gain 15lbs. No gain this week.

How are you feeling: Let the clouds part, a sunbeam shine down on me, and the peoples rejoice because my nausea is almost gone!!! I feel like a new person! Actually I feel like my old self again which feel just plain fantastic.

In other pregnancy symptoms I am already huffing and puffing over small physical tasks like flights of stairs. It's quite comical. I'm only 17 weeks! I don't think this bodes well for my future. I wonder how much those stair chairs for senior citizens cost?? ;-)

Noteworthy moments: I am starting to feel the babies! I was sitting on my couch last week and I kept feeling this little tickle on my belly, sort of like a fly landed on me. I "brushed it off" a few times without really thinking about it and then left my hand where the tickle kept happening. When I felt it again with my hand on my skin I realized that feeling was coming from the inside! I told John about it but I wasn't quite sure I knew what I was feeling yet. Well, it's been happening for the last week and the sensations are getting stronger. It feels like bubbles or the brush of a butterfly wing. I asked on Facebook what you guys thought and forty-something of you confirmed yes I probably am feeling the babies! What a lovely milestone! I will enjoy these small movements while I can because I know toward the end they will probably be quite uncomfortable!

Get a little spiritual: As we approach Christmas I've been reflecting on the story of Jesus' conception and birth. One of the things I believe about the scriptures is that they are "living and active" which in part means that I can read the same passage a hundred times and then one day it will hit me in a way it never has before. This week I felt that way about Mary's song in Luke 1. Mary's song is composed of the words she speaks after an angel tells her she has conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 1:49 she says, "The Mighty One has done great things for me- Holy is his name."

Those are the words on my heart this Christmas. Both in this temporal way through the blessing of pregnancy and in the eternal way of my salvation I can declare with Mary: The Mighty One has done great things for me! Holy is his name.

Bump Shot: (This is me at 16.5 weeks, my belly already measuring 22 weeks pregnant!)



Twin pregnancy: gender reveal!

I'm guessing you are just going to scroll past anything I write up here so let's get right to the point! Yesterday I had an ultrasound where we hoped to learn the sex of our babies. Today is my 30th birthday and I was really hoping our babies would give me a gift by revealing themselves. Happy to say that they did!

Baby A:

And Baby B:


I was DEAD WRONG with my guess of two girls! Ha! John and I are thrilled. After the ultrasound I walked around with the dorkiest grin on my face all day. Two precious little baby boys! What a gift. 

The sonographer did tell us we would have to confirm at our 20 week ultrasound, but she seemed pretty confidant. Based on her tone of voice and body language I'd say she was sure baby A is a boy and about 80-90% sure Baby B is also a boy. With this being a twin pregnancy I'll have lots of ultrasounds and plenty of opportunity to double check! 

We gave Arie a gift bag with blue baby shoes in it to reveal the news to him. His face broke out into a grin when he found out he is going to have two brothers! His first exclamation was, '"I KNEW IT! I TOLD YOU!" which is not even true (he guessed one boy and one girl), but we just laughed and enjoyed his pleasure. I told him I'm so happy to have more boys because I love being a boy-mom to him! 

John and I had one boy name in mind already and we are having fun talking about a second name, plus middle names. We are going to keep the names a secret until the birth. 

I haven't gotten the official report back from my OB yet but from what we saw and what the sonographer could share, both babies were looking great! It's amazing how much they change month-to-month in the womb. They are already four inches long and we could see their little fingers and toes on the screen. 

Here's my week-in-review:

How far along? 16 weeks today!

Weight gain: Up to 153, total gain: 15 lbs. By the end of my second trimester I'm betting I will weigh as much as my husband! I'm trying to convince him to put on some sympathy weight so I don't feel so huge next to him. ;-) So far he's not buying it. 

How are you feeling: Starting to feel a little better in the last few days! Less tired, and my nausea has reduced to the point where I am starting to cook meals again. Woo hoo! Feels fantastic to be getting somewhat back to "normal"... or, as normal as one can be with two humans inside. 

Noteworthy moments: Finding out the sexes of our babies! Also going shopping for baby boy clothes immediately after.

Get a little spiritual: One of my first thoughts after I found out that our babies are both boys was how incredibly grateful I am for my husband. I feel confidant raising three boys with him. I hope and pray our boys become the kind of man John is! I love so many things about him: his confidence, his sense of humor, his strong conviction, his humility, his loyalty... and I would call him "a man after God's own heart." I love watching him lead our church and preach every week with passion and conviction. He is the best partner I could imagine for my life! I thank God for bringing us together in marriage almost 8 years ago. 

Belly shot: Haven't taken one this week yet! Will plug it in here when I do it.



Twin pregnancy: week 14 in review

Today's "week in review" is going to be a quick one because I have made myself too busy today! This weekend I got my birthday present early (I turn 30 on December 8th): a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Woo hoo! So pumped about it. Thank you John, Mom-in-law, and parents for the awesome gift!

So now that I have this awesome mixer I OBVIOUSLY had to re-arrange and re-organize my whole entire kitchen.

Current kitchen state: disaster.

Current mental state: whyyyyyyyyy did I start this!?

Hopefully I can get everything back in order before John comes home and sees my crazy all over the counters and table and chairs and floor.

Anyway, here's my update:

How far along? 15 weeks today!

Weight gain: Up to 151lbs, total gain 13lbs. If you're keeping track you'll notice I gained 2lbs last week rather than my usual 1lb. Maybe I ate too much pumpkin pie over Thanksgiving. (Yes I did.)

How are you feeling: Slightly less tired than in past weeks, still just as nauseated.

Noteworthy moments: Got to hear the babies' heartbeats again last week! I didn't write down the pace and I can't remember but they were both fantastic.

Next week I will be having a 16 week ultrasound and may find out the sex of the babies, if they cooperate! I'm so very super really hoping they do! I still think it is two girls, although I had a dream about the babies being born and it was two boys! Divine revelation!?  Well, I also had a dream that each baby was actually half of the same baby and it had to be sewn together after birth... so maybe I shouldn't take my dreams too seriously.

John thinks one boy and one girl and Arie's guess is the same. Leave me a comment with your guess!

Get a little spiritual: Simply feeling very grateful and happily enjoying the holiday season. John, Arie, and I went and cut down a real live Christmas tree this year (previously we have always done fake). I took some picture of that adventure which I hope to post on Thursday! I'm always pretty emotional around Christmas because my faith means so much to me, but this year even more so. I don't feel hormonally emotional, just very much aware of how dark our lives can be- how dark mine felt last year- and desperately we need the light of Christ.

I love John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." How good it is to claim that light in the midst of all our struggles and believe that the darkness will never overcome!

Bump shot: (Didn't put the green shirt on today. I refer to my kitchen project and NO TIME FOR CHANGING.)

Well my kitchen calls! Thanks for reading!

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