Thursday, September 24, 2015


Two months ago we welcomed our sweet little babies to the world.  It has taken me two months to write this post because every minute of my day and night has been spent caring for them.  Also, my brain is mush. Sleeping for one hour at a time does not make for a nimble mind. In the beginning if I had a free minute I would try to decide whether to eat or sleep...knowing I could not do both before one or two babies woke up.

Now the babies are sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches and I can see the light.  After sleeping for four hours I feel like I could pen a classic American novel or run a marathon...or take a long afternoon nap. The latter usually takes precedence. Today I will feel satisfied introducing our precious children to you.  

Simon Max Hall 
Clara June Hall

Simon is a mellow baby.  He loves to eat and sleep and is generally happy. He was 6 lbs 1 oz when he was born and at 2 months he weighs 9 lbs. 9 oz. His weight is the 4th percentile and his head is the 75th percentile (I've been told this is a Hall trait).  He is a quiet observer and often looks on seriously as his sister screams her head off.

All of his dark hair fell out except for a ring around the back from ear to ear.  He looks like he has male pattern baldness.  But he is growing blond hair on top and I think his eyes will be blue.


Clara is sassy and curious. From the moment she was born she was wide-eyed and loud.  She will let you know when she is not happy with a cry that escalates from coughs and sputters to ear piercing shrieks.  But once she is fed and rested she is sweet and funny. Sometimes at night she looks around our room like she sees something that I don't and she smiles.

She was 5 lbs. 8 oz when she was born and is 8 lbs. 9 oz. now.  She has held some of her long dark hairs...they hang out in the back and come forward almost like a bad comb over. Her hair is coming in dark and fuzzy and her eyes look like they will be blue.

Both of these babies love to cuddle. They love to be held by anyone and would spend their whole lives in your arms.  Some people say it spoils a baby to hold them while they sleep.  But really it spoils me.  If I could live without sleep, and if my arms were strong enough, I would hold them all of the time.  Their cuddles are like a healing balm for my worried soul.  I cherish that they are here with me today.  I want to hold them and love them while I can.

Children are the bridge to heaven. - Persian Saying

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Does the Journey Seem Long?

Jonah was diagnosed with Treacher-Collins Syndrome the morning after he was born. Our new pediatrician, a man I had never met before, came and told us about his diagnosis. We spent the previous night worrying about our new little one, so any answers were a huge relief.  We were grateful to learn that he would have normal development of his body and brain and that his vision would probably be fine.  We braced ourselves as the doctor described the many surgeries Jonah would face, but again felt relief that his condition was not life-threatening.  We tried to process this deluge of new information and challenges while dealing with the usual learning curve of new parenthood.  My brain churned over diapers, cleft palates, nursing, pumping, craniofacial disorders, sleep schedules, bath time, hearing loss, etc...

Then everything stopped.

My focus became sharp as the doctor explained that I was the carrier of this syndrome. He could tell just by looking at me that my genes were responsible for our baby's fate.  He went on to explain that we would have a 50% chance of passing on this syndrome to any children we had in the future, and that their expression of the syndrome could be mild or severe. My heart broke. Even though I had been a parent for less than 24 hours, and it had been a difficult 24 hours, I wondered in that moment if I would ever have the opportunity again.

As Jonah grew and progressed and became the light of our home my fears about never having more children were buried by the busyness of being a mother.  I felt content to be his mother and decided I could deal with our challenges at some later stage of life, when it felt right.  Little did I know that those feelings would soon surface because of circumstances beyond my control.  Suddenly on a late September day our sweet boy was gone, in a matter of minutes, and we felt his absence deeply.

In the days and weeks that followed Jonah's death I remember wondering if and how we would ever have more children.  Jordan and I began to grapple with some very difficult ethical and moral questions in the midst of our overwhelming grief.  We loved Jonah so much, just as he was, but also knew that his condition (more specifically his small airway) contributed to his death.  We explored the ideas of embryonic genetic testing, egg donation, adoption, or simply taking our genetic chances. Jordan and I had different reactions and feelings about each of these options.  No choice felt easy or inconsequential.  Some choices felt selfish, while others felt too risky.  We met with a genetic counselor to discuss our options and began a winding indeterminate journey back to parenthood.

It was about this time I met Katie.*

I was assigned to get to know Katie through the Visiting Teaching program of our church.  In that moment Katie and I seemed to have very little in common other than our approximate age.  She was newly married and still in the honeymoon phase.  I was grieving deeply after losing Jonah and trying to navigate this uncharted territory in my marriage.  She was working full-time as a teacher, and I was trying to find ways of filling the quiet stillness of my days.

Looking back I'm sure no one would have judged me for choosing not to visit teach.  I could have excused myself from the responsibility by citing my overwhelming grief, or the differences in our circumstances.  But I felt compelled to go each month whether by guilt or responsibility or the spirit.  I will always be grateful that I did, because our seemingly divergent paths soon became parallel and we both became witnesses to incredible miracles in each others lives.

As we met each month we talked about simple things like work, marriage, travel, etc...  I shared some of the things I was experiencing as I continued to grieve, tried to find a job, sought solace in the mountains, and began visiting a fertility clinic in the area.  We became closer as we honestly talked about life and it's challenges.

Shortly after our first visit to the fertility clinic we stumbled upon Katie and her husband in the lobby.  We were just about to begin our first in vitro cycle and they were meeting with the doctor for a preliminary consultation.  We all felt optimistic and hopeful about the possibilities ahead.

Our optimism soon transformed into endurance as we both faced disappointments and setbacks. For three years we consoled each other as we each dealt with the heartache and frustration of miscarriages, chemical pregnancies, unhealthy eggs, blood tests, hormone injections, changing diets, endless waiting, physical and mental exhaustion, financial burdens, and difficult doctors.

With each new attempt we hoped, prayed and fasted for each other.  When we visited each month we talked about how hard it was to know if we were even on the right path. Should we continue or quit? Was adoption the answer? Would it all be worth it?  I felt very strongly that I could only pursue one option at a time. I would follow our fertility journey to the end of the road and if it failed we would begin looking into adoption.  Katie felt compelled to complete an application and home study and actively pursue adoption while going through in vitro.  We talked about our choices and faith and hope and the love of our Heavenly Father. Then we took turns believing that everything would work out in the end.

Eventually Katie and her husband swtiched doctors and we followed suit.  We ended up going to Dr. Andrew at East Bay Fertility.  He seemed to be solving some of their problems and we were looking for new solutions.  Jordan and I only had two remaining embryos, and one more chance to try.  We put our trust in Dr. Andrew and began treatment for immune issues and a blood clotting disorder.  In November we transferred the embryos, prayed for a miracle, and waited.  Jordan and I braced ourselves for bad news at every blood draw and every ultrasound, and were stunned when the news was good.  I was pregnant!  Not only was I pregnant, but we were expecting twins!  We held our breath through that first trimester and prayed that Katie and Josh would experience the same miracle.

They tried one more time with renewed hope and it just didn't work.

I took her flowers one afternoon, self-conscious of my growing belly in the face of such disappointment. Later I asked if they would try again, and she said she wasn't sure.  She felt grateful they had options, but needed some time and space to choose their next step.  We didn't see each other for a couple of months, but kept in touch through texting.

Then Katie's miracles began.  One morning in March I got a text saying that Katie and Josh were headed to Idaho to meet a potential birth mother.  The birth mom found out about Katie and Josh and felt sure that she wanted them to have her unborn baby, which was due any day. This young mother had previously fallen away from her faith, and then found it again as this new life grew inside of her.  In the face of great opposition she convinced the biological father and her own family that this baby did not belong to her, but to Josh and Katie.  In a matter of days and through a series of miracles the baby was born, and this brave young woman gave an incredible gift to our friends, a sweet and perfect little girl.  As I await the birth of our babies, I feel nothing but admiration and respect for her and her selfless choice.  I can't imagine being that brave.

Yesterday Katie, Josh, and baby Chloe stopped by to bring me a baby gift while they were in town.  I sat
with them admiring their precious daughter, and awkwardly moving my giant belly around to get more comfortable.  It felt so amazing to know that we had traveled this long road together. We both prayed for answers and miracles. We both tried to make good choices and kept moving towards the outcome we desired most.  And in the end we both were blessed with unique experiences on our path to parenthood. After years of struggle the stars seemed to align and God's plan for each of us became evident.

When Jonah died I still believed in God.  I believed in a God who loved me deeply even though he allowed me to suffer.  But it became difficult to believe in a God who would listen to the desires of my heart. Traveling this parallel path with Katie has renewed my faith that not only does God love us, but that he actively works with us to help us realize the desires of our hearts.  He requires us to be patient, to work, and to engage in the struggle, but in the end I believe he is placing people and solutions in our paths to help us find joy.  I am so grateful that Katie's path crossed mine just when I needed it most.  It has been such a blessing to watch our individual miracles unfold.

*A special thanks to Josh and Katie for allowing me to share their story!  You should definitely watch this sweet video it will make you smile and cry.

"I have absolute certain knowledge, perfect knowledge, that God loves us. He is good, He is our Father, and He expects us to pray, and trust, and be believing, and not give up, and not panic, and not retreat, and not jump ship, when something doesn't seem to be going just right. We stay in, we keep working, we keep believing, keep trusting, following that same path and we will live to fall in His arms and feel His embrace and hear Him say, ""I told you that it'd be okay, I told you it would be all right."" - Jeffrey R. Holland

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weathering the Storm

When I was in elementary school we lived in Oklahoma, and I lived each day in constant fear of tornadoes.  In the morning I would wake up and peer out the window at the sky and try to determine the likelihood of a tornado destroying our home or my school that day.  If it seemed questionable at all I began implementing a strategy to stay home.  If there were storm clouds on the horizon I would suddenly feel a stomach ache churning.  Every slight chance of rain was met with a cough and possible fever.  I was sure that a tornado would come when I was away from my family and we would all be separated or killed.  The danger felt very real to me and I could not seem to shake my fear.  I checked the news, called time and temperature daily, and learned all of the signs of trouble: wall clouds, green skies, and anvil shaped thunderheads. 

I remember driving home one stormy night with my family through a severe thunderstorm and feeling the panic rise within me.  My anxiety transformed into a slew of questions. "Could lightening come into the car?" "If a tornado came what would we do?" "How could we be sure that we were safe?"  As a scientist my dad answered my questions, explaining that the rubber in the car would conduct the electricity into the ground, and providing logical answers for my other questions.  But none of that seemed to calm me.  Then I remember him turning to me and asking me a question.  He asked me to look at his face and to decide if he looked scared.  I looked at him and decided that he didn't seem to be afraid at all.  Then he told me that whenever I was afraid I should look at his face, and if he wasn't scared, then I didn't need to be either. 

My whole life I have looked to my dad in moments of joy and pain as a confirmation of safety and peace.  When I have felt overwhelmed or afraid I have gone to him and felt his calm comfort and reassurance that things would work out.  When I have been worried about a major life decision I have looked to him and felt his complete confidence in my ability to make good choices.  When I have experienced great joy I have looked to him and felt his joy magnified. 

On the day that Jonah died my dad was doing research on the north end of the Great Salt Lake.  The news traveled to him slowly, and then he began the long drive on dirt roads and highways to the hospital.  I remember the moment he finally walked in the room.  I saw his face and felt such a release, like I could let go of some of my strength and that he would help me carry this new sorrow.  In that sacred space he mourned with us and gave us blessings so that we could endure our new heartache. 

After Jonah's funeral service and burial we all retired to our homes to rest and recover from an emotionally exhausting day.  A storm moved in while I slept and I woke to the sound of car doors closing and my family arriving with food to sustain us.  I walked outside and looked to the sky.  The dark storm clouds were receding and the setting sun shone across the valley.  Two vivid rainbows arched over our home.  I stood in our yard amazed by the poetic and biblical feeling of the moment. Then I felt my dad's strong arm reach around me.  He leaned down and whispered that rainbows are symbols.  They are a promise from God that we will never have to pass this way again.  Before that moment I felt so much uncertainty and fear.  But as we looked to the sky together I wept and let my heart believe in that promise, because I knew my dad believed it.  

My dad has calmed my fears, celebrated my victories, mourned beside me, and let me lean on him for strength. I believe in a benevolent God who loves his children, because of the way my dad loves his children.  His love for each of us is unique and unconditional.  In those times when storm clouds seem to gather on the horizon and fear builds in my heart I remember my dad's counsel to me as a child.  When time or distance separate us I know that I can find the same peaceful reassurance in looking to my Heavenly Father.  I also know that when the storm finally passes, God's promises will be clear and reflect the beauty and pain of all that we have experienced.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

This,Too, Shall Pass

Last night I woke up at 3 am and began my usual pilgrimage through the dark hallways of our house to the kitchen.  I stood in front of the glowing refrigerator trying to decide which midnight snack would be least likely to give me heartburn, and took my chances on peanut butter and jelly toast with milk.  Then I walked a few laps around the kitchen and living room to relax my muscles.  After feeling my way back to my room, I gingerly crawled into bed trying to minimize the pain in my pelvis, as I adjusted a multitude of pillows to support my growing belly, elevate my head, and take the pressure off my joints. Then I waited and prayed for sleep to come.  It was elusive.  My mind was filled with thoughts.  Not anxieties or concerns, but random thoughts, like how to spell "Absaroka," the name of a county in Wyoming.  I read a little, worked on my meditative breathing, and eventually got up again two hours later to have a bowl of warm granola as the sky began to lighten and the birds starting singing their morning song. 

Each night when I feel overwhelmed by my cumbersome shape and the possibility of never sleeping again; when the frustration and emotion of sleep deprivation come creeping in I think to myself "this, too, shall pass."

I know some people don't like that phrase.  Perhaps it seems too easy when applied lightly to deep heartache and sorrow.  Maybe it has been overused or just used too flippantly.  But for me it has become a reminder that all things pass away, whether it is sleepless nights or difficult pregnancies or years of infertility or grief.  It also reminds me that when difficulties pass away there are often accompanied by blessings and beautiful moments that pass with them.

When Jonah died I prayed and prayed to find a job that would feel meaningful and give purpose to my days.  After almost a year of applying for jobs and being rejected I found the perfect fit, but realized that while I waited and struggled I had learned to love the simple time I had with my husband in our home.  We grew to love each other more deeply in the waiting space.

The same is true of our journey through infertility.  Jordan and I began searching for ways to have more children shortly after Jonah died.  We knew their would be obstacles because I am a carrier of the Treacher-Collins gene, but I had no idea how many obstacles we would face on our path to become parents again.  We began six in vitro cycles and had 3 canceled, due to unforseen issues.  We spent thousands of dollars on tests and procedures.  We experienced two miscarriages and spent many nights and days crying and praying for relief from our trial.  After 3 years, I found out I was pregnant with twins and we were overjoyed, but I also realized that I had found incredible support and joy in my work as we waited.  I had developed deep friendships with the girls I worked with and knew that as this trial passed, so too would my time working alongside my dear friends. 

When Jonah was with us I could have spent my days and nights wishing away his genetic condition, or praying to move beyond the struggles and surgeries he faced.  But his time with us was short, and I'm grateful that I didn't wish away even the difficult times, because they are precious to me now. 

And when Jonah's spirit left our home, and we plunged into grief, we also entered a realm of love a support that I can only describe as angelic.  Now, sometimes, I miss the deep emotions of the grief and loss I felt, because it was always paired with the comforting presence and peace of God's love for us.

In the middle of the night as I try to fall back asleep I recognize how fleeting this moment really is.  This will probably be the last time I get to be pregnant. Which means that I may never experience the heartburn, anxiety, fatigue, body aches, hemorrhoids, nausea, and pain that comes with growing a baby, or two, in my body.  But I'm well aware that it also means that I may never again get to feel the incredible sensation of little hands and feet moving and pressing inside of me.  This may be my last chance to marvel at how powerful and capable my body is of changing and supporting the life of another.  I may never get another chance to witness Jordan exclusively taking care of me and protecting me.  As the heartburn and joint pain pass away, these blessed moments, too, shall pass.  They will be followed by new experiences filled with frustration and joy, but I will never be able to return to them.

So in quiet of my room, as the singing birds signaled the approaching dawn, and as I shifted positions one more time, I waited in the dark for the babies to kick, and tried not to wish the moment away.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Motherhood and Miracles

Motherhood is complicated.  Even as I sit here at my computer ready to write, my heart and head can't seem to agree on the message I want to share.  My life as a mother has been a dichotomy of intense sorrow and overwhelming joy.  I have had the unique experience of dipping my toes into motherhood, sampling it's trials and triumphs, and then watching and waiting on the sidelines wondering if I would ever return. Even now as I type and feel my expanding belly press against my thighs I wonder if I will return.  Will we all make it safely through the next three months into the realm of motherhood and family again?  How can something seem simultaneously tenuous and inevitable.

This morning as I dried my hair I had myself convinced that this Mother's day would be joyful.  I even preached to Jordan about women needing to let go of the guilt, pain, and sorrow that often accompanies this day. Looking back I'm pretty sure this was a pep talk for myself. We talked about how men never seem to feel guilty on Father's Day. They just seem to soak up the love and adoration of their families.  Why shouldn't women do the same? Walking out the door I felt empowered, grateful, joyful, radiant and ready for Mother's day.

Then I lost it, sitting on a hard metal chair on the very back row of church.

I was fine in the beginning.  Three beautiful young women who are about to graduate from high school spoke about their mother's and how their mom's radiate Christlike attributes. While they spoke I peacefully gazed at my belly watching little feet, hands, and unidentified body parts pop and glide across my stomach.  My pregnant belly and the babies inside are nothing short of a miracle to me.  My attention is always on them and I feel like I have been blessed with abundance as I watch them move.

I felt really good. Then the children in the congregation got up to sing a song for their mothers, and my heart began to break and I could not reign it in.  As a rule for daily living I try not to focus on what Jordan and I have lost. Most of my grief and sorrow has transformed into gratitude for the experience of being Jonah's mother.  And after years of infertility and longing for motherhood I feel like it was a miracle that we had him in our home, even for a short time.  But seeing those children at the front of the chapel singing to their mother's tugged at my heart and brought my grief to the forefront in a way I haven't experienced or allowed myself to experience for years.  I felt the profound loss of our sweet Jonah.  It became so real to me that he would be four, almost five, singing with the children at the front of the chapel.  Mother, I love you, Mother, I do. I started crying tears of grief and sorrow as my more sensible side tried to "keep it together."

As the meeting came to a close I wiped my tears from my red and swollen cheeks, accepted the token gift of mother's day chocolate from one of the young men and realized that motherhood is a messy endeavor.  The choice to be a mother, whether realized or unfulfilled, is an act of faith and vulnerability.  When you desire to be a mother you open your heart to the depth of all of life's emotions. Sometimes those emotions are amazing and sometimes they are devastating.  I've decided that is why this day is so hard for so many.  Everything is exposed and there is no place to hide.  It is possible to feel intense gratitude and a multitude of sorrows in the same breath.  But that is also the beauty of motherhood.  It is frightening endeavor that is full of possibility.

I came home, ate lunch, and settled in for a long Sunday nap.  When I woke up Jordan was lying beside me.  I asked him if it made him sad to see those children singing.  He said it did.  I embraced the feeling, uncovered my round belly, and waited and watched for the babies to kick.