Full Heart, Empty Womb {Guest Post by Stephanie Greer}

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Today, my friend from Nashville, Stephanie Greer, is sharing an excerpt from her book Full Heart, Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice. Mr. V and I witnessed Steph and Eric’s first struggle and the birth of their twins, and reading her whole story really touched me. Infertility is still such a weird topic in our culture. I love that Steph is opening doors and is willing to talk about her struggle and paths. This is part of chapter 1 of her self-published book, which you can buy for Kindle or in paperback.

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In August of 2002 we got married and settled in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t think I could be any happier. We had our whole life ahead of us. We both had a good start to our careers. We were happy and madly in love. We spent every weekend trying to make our house a home. And if we weren’t at a football game, we were at a wedding. We were at the age that all of our friends were getting married. And since we lived in the heart of the Southeastern Conference, one didn’t get married on a game weekend! We went on dates and fun trips when we could afford it. It truly was the honeymoon period.

Eric and steph at wedding

My maternal side emerged after only a few months, and I begged to get a puppy. After little persuasion, I convinced Eric to let us get Majors (named after famed UT football coach, Johnny Majors). He was my baby.

I am a planner. When I first started with GE, I went into a Franklin Covey store and spent my paycheck on a beautiful planner. A planner that could not only help me plan my day in A, B, and C order, but I could plan six months ahead – even two years ahead! It served me well in my career. I planned meetings. I planned contests for my sales team. I planned trainings. I made plans about plans. I always had a plan and that kept me sane in a stressful, high demand workplace.

I also had a plan for the Greers. Get married. Enjoy being newlyweds for two years. Have our first child. Wait another couple of years and have our second. If we have two kids that are the same gender, then try for a third in another two years. It would be that simple, right? For some, maybe so.

It took a little more convincing than I anticipated to get Eric on my plan’s timeline. But after much campaigning, I got him on my timetable. I couldn’t help it. I was so ready to become a mother. All my life I have loved kids. I made all my money in high school babysitting the kids in my neighborhood. I never had a lot of clarity on what my career would be but I always knew I would be a mother. And I was ready now.

I learned about tracking my temperatures to figure out when I was ovulating. I learned what ovulation is and why it is so important. My friend Kristen told me when we should and shouldn’t try. She even shared with me some old wives’ tales like how long I needed to stay lying down so the sperm could do their job. We were going to hit the ground running. I was so excited. I just knew that we were going to start trying and instantly get pregnant.

It was exciting at first. When I told Eric we had to have sex every other day, he wondered why we hadn’t started trying sooner! I lingered in the baby aisle at Target. Need this. Need this. Must have this!! Oh I can’t wait to register!

Our first attempt to conceive coincided with a trip to New York City for Thanksgiving. I didn’t even have a glass of wine because I was SURE that I was pregnant. Granted, the sperm hadn’t even had a chance to fertilize the egg, but I just KNEW I was pregnant and wasn’t going to take a chance.

Diagnosis: Infertile

That is the way it was for a couple of months. Then my obsessive nature took over. I started not only checking my basal body temperatures each morning, but I put the results in an Excel spreadsheet and even made a graph! As silly as it was, it gave me the first indication that I was INFERTILE. As I looked at my temperatures, it became clear that I wasn’t ovulating until very late. I didn’t ovulate until day 28, and my cycle was only 34 days long.

Being a take-charge kind of gal, I made an appointment with my OBGYN. I went in armed with my graphs so we could figure out what to do. I went through a battery of blood tests to figure out what was going on with me. I will always be grateful to my doctor for listening to me. Traditionally you have to try unsuccessfully to conceive for 12 months (a full year!) before you are given a workup and treatment for infertility. We had only been trying to get pregnant for a few months. But it was quite clear that my body wasn’t doing what it needed to do for us to get pregnant.

I was so frustrated. Something was wrong with me. Why can’t my body do what it is supposed to do? I mean, I am a woman, right? Had I done something to cause this? Was I just getting what I deserved? I did have a little wild phase in college. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Everyone was getting pregnant around me! No problem at all. They just went off the pill and poof! They were pregnant. And then there were those who weren’t even trying that were getting pregnant, too! I felt like a failure. And it didn’t seem to bother Eric that much and that made me mad. He didn’t understand why I was so upset.

The blood tests confirmed everything that my temperatures indicated. I needed help to get me to ovulate on time. According to my doctor, I needed to take Clomid® to help me ovulate more regularly. I also needed to take progesterone after I ovulated. I had what is called a Luteal Phase Defect which means that the time between ovulation and the start of my next cycle isn’t long enough. My uterine lining would shed before an embryo even had enough time to implant. The progesterone would prolong the luteal phase (keeping my uterine lining intact) so that if I got pregnant the embryo would have enough time to implant.

It felt good to have a plan. My OBGYN said she would let me cycle like this for a few months but after that she would refer me to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for further evaluation. That was fine by me because I was going to get pregnant the first month. If not the first, then certainly the second! She also wanted Eric to go to an urologist to be evaluated as well. This proved to be a vital step in our diagnosis.

So that brings us back to me sitting in my office chair after getting another pregnancy announcement email. Bawling my eyes out and hugging Majors, my fur baby, for dear life. I went from a life that was living wedding shower to wedding ceremony of all my friends to a life of weekly pregnancy announcements and baby showers. That is where we were in life. A time when even a simple question like “Guess what?” got an excited “You’re pregnant!!!!” in return. No … I just found a good pair of jeans. While all of my other friends in their mid to late 20s were deciding to just “go off birth control and see what happens,” I was taking drugs just to give me a prayer of conceiving.

Little did I know that this would be a nearly ten-year journey for us. It would be a journey that would bring me a lot of tears but even more strength. A journey that against all odds brought me closer to my husband and taught me that I had to trust and lean on God. Through much of the journey I felt like I was all alone. Unless you have been through infertility, you just cannot understand how isolated it makes you feel. I have many reasons for writing this book. The first and foremost one is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Please join me on my journey. If you are infertile, I think you will be able to identify with some of it. Hopefully that will help you to know that you aren’t the only one who feels this way. If you happen to have a loved one who is struggling to conceive, perhaps this will give you a small glimpse into the trials and agony of infertility.

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stephanieStephanie is a native Texan that has spent the majority of her life at home in Tennessee. She is a true Southern girl who loves God, sweet tea, football and anything monogrammed. She married her college sweetheart, Eric, who taught her about true love and football.  The “option” still stumps her because isn’t there always an option to throw the ball?? After battling infertility for years, they were blessed with three children. In her first book Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice,  Stephanie chronicles their journey through infertility and what she learned along the way. When Stephanie is not writing, she stays busy volunteering and caring for her family. If she is lucky, a hot bath and a good book are waiting at the end of a very full day.

You can find Steph on her blog, The Southern Lady Mama, as well as on Facebook. Her book is available on Amazon.

This Is How We Do It

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As you may know from my self-confessed blog crush, Modern Mrs. Darcy is pretty much my favorite blog. I comment there so much that I sometimes worry Anne will think I am stalking her. (But really, do you know any bloggers who LOATHE comments? Hint: NO.)

I am so honored today to be guest-posting at MMD about “how I do it” – as a work-at-home mom to three little ones, writing for magazines and managing my own blog as well as a brand’s, and just generally attempting to stay sane.

And if you’re visiting from Anne’s blog, welcome. You might enjoy some of these posts that characterize what I do here at JessieWeaver.net – parenting, faith, recipes, books, and confessing my awful housekeeping skills.

  • 25 Jesus-Centered Christmas Books to Celebrate Advent is by far my most-pinned post, and one I think is really helpful! I know we don’t want to start thinking about Christmas yet, but …
  • I’m slowly working on telling The Big Story, about God working in our lives and marriage through foreclosure and completely unexpected circumstances.
  • My son Joshua may have been a surprise, but he was no accident!
  • Nine Minutes is pretty typical of my inability to get a grip on keeping a clean home.

And to my regular readers, I hope you’ll hop over and read what I had to say.

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Also, I think I got the most Facebook comments I’ve ever received when I confessed I haven’t cried yet about Libbie starting kindergarten. I wrote a little more about it on ParentLife this weekend, if you are interested. Here’s “More Ways to Feel Guilty: Not Crying about Kindergarten.” Plus you can see Libbie’s adorable first-day-of-school picture.

Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Person

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I have a guest post up today at my friend Mary’s site Giving Up on Perfect. I’m talking my own version of perfectionism and why I always thought I was just plain weird. I’d love it if you’d go read it!

giving up on perfect

I’ve always thought I was a pretty strange person.

I fit into many of the categories you ascribe to firstborn children … overachiever, bossy, serious perhaps to a fault. But there was one area where I never knew quite where I fell: perfectionism.

In some ways I am an uber-perfectionist. I worked as a copy editor, which requires an eye trained for detail and rules. When I am serving others my cooking, I freak out if everything doesn’t look like the cover of Southern Living.

Keep reading here!

From the First Day …

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How do you like to get wet at the swimming pool?

Are you an easing-in kind of girl, inching your way down the steps? Getting used to the water up to your ankles, legs, hips, waist, all the way to your neck? Holding your breath as you finally decide to duck your head underwater and hoping the frigid flash won’t give you a small heart attack? …

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I’m so honored to be writing at She Reads Truth today about Lydia. Visit there if you want to read the rest!

And if you’re visit from She Reads Truth, welcome! I hope you’ll take some time to explore Vanderbilt Wife. You might be interested in 31 Days of The Book, where I just read the Bible for a month.

The Joys of Nursing by Bridget of Life at Le. Rheims

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I’ll let Bridget tell you how we know each other. For now, enjoy this encouragement to nursing moms (like me!). Want to read more of my thoughts on nursing? You might like I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger or Sitting Still Can Be a Finer Thing.

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When my sister was in nursing school, she had to do a standard rotation in obstetrics and its subset of pediatrics. After studying for a time, she had to take a test and one of the questions on it asked her to outline the four steps of nursing. Nursing. That was the word the teacher used, and it was the word my sister read. Of course, what the instructor meant by nursing was the act of being a nurse. What my sister, being in an obstetrical and pediatric frame of mind understood, however, was nursing as a euphemism for breastfeeding. She puzzled over the question for a few moments before finally writing down this:

Step 1: Open bra and expose breast.

Step 2: Position baby near nipple.

Step 3: Feed.

Step 4: Burp.

Seriously.

No joke.

It’s funny to think about it but, in reality, those are the very basic steps to “nursing.” However, any woman who has ever nursed a baby knows, the “steps” to nursing are far more and at the same time far fewer than these four.

To nurse a baby, one does need to perform all of those steps, and so much more. She needs to cuddle, to caress, to snuggle, to coo, to make eye contact and skin-to-skin contact. She needs to relax herself and be simultaneously alert to the needs of the baby. She also needs to drink (that giant water bottle most nursing moms carry around isn’t just for show). Most importantly, she needs to live in the moment because this time of breastfeeding does not last forever, no matter how long a mother chooses to nurse her baby. Nursing, although it can be what I like to call a giant time-suck (like Pinterest), is a fleeting time-suck, so a mother needs to know when to just rest and be with her baby and connect in a way unlike all other connections.

This brings me to the main point of this little post. A nursing mother needs time to rest if she wants to “succeed” at nursing (a terrible word for it, I know, but still accurate). I need to remind myself of this on an almost daily basis. Right now, my living room looks like this:

bridget green living room

In all honesty, my entire apartment looks like this to some degree or another.

And that’s OK. I’ve got a three month old gift from God to care for and she takes precedence.

The apartment will always be here. There will always be another basket of laundry to fold, another sippy cup to clean, another sink to scrub. From time to time the whole place will look like little Sarajevo in the ’90s. Am I happy about this? Not really. Am I happy about the reason for this? Beyond words.

My home won’t always look like this. Even now, in the midst of the chaos that accompanies a new baby it goes for hours or even days at a stretch where it is more or less neat. Right now though, I’m going to ignore the mess and revel in the joys that nursing my baby brings to me.

By the by, that sister I spoke of? She’s an amazingly talented, caring, and more than capable RN who more than understands the steps of “nursing.”

Bridget Green is a wife and mother of six, writer, yarn addict, and lifelong lover of Hanson (which, by the by, is how she and Jessie “met”).  When she isn’t filling sippy cups or (not) folding laundry, she writes about it all on her blog, Life at Le. Rheims.

Using the Library with Littles by Kacie of Sense to Save

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Kacie is a blogging friend who writes at Sense to Save. Her kids are about the same ages as mine, so we’ve exchanged many e-mails and questions over the last 5 years! 

Nothing Like Relaxing with a Good Book

Ever have to wrestle a screaming toddler and march said child past a “quiet zone” in the library right out the door, leaving empty-handed? Oh, I might have done that a few times. After some frustrating and stressful trips, I reevaluated how we handle the library at this stage of life.

My children adore books, and I get such a kick out of reading to them. We try to own plenty of quality titles, but as our money and our bookshelves are limited, we use the library as often as we can. I have a few ways of streamlining the library process.

My kids are at an age and temperament where trips to the library might go well, or they might be a disaster. My solution? They don’t go with me very often. When we all go together, I try to already have a stack of books waiting on the hold shelf. I grab those first and then add whichever books strike our fancy as we browse. The kids like to play computer games, do puzzles, or play with the blocks while we browse and read a few stories together. But we’re always ready to jet at a moment’s notice if need be. If I can swing it, I’ll take just my older child and let my daughter have some playtime at home with Daddy. When she gets a little more library-mature, we can do trips together.

More kids books
source: The Greenery Nursery

My library allows me to save booklists in my online account. I use this feature to help keep track of titles we’d like to read together at some point and to quickly place them on hold later. I have many lists–titles just for me, and also titles broken down by age range or source.

I borrowed Honey for a Child’s Heart and added many of their book selections to my online booklist. Of course, my library doesn’t carry all suggested titles. Other book list sources include titles from the Sonlight, Peak With Books, Five in a Row, and My Father’s World homeschool curricula.

A few days ahead of a solo or group library excursion, I’ll look at my list and place 10-15 or so titles on hold.

We’ll add another 15ish titles from shelf-browsing, and we’ll be set for a few weeks. The ones we liked will be read a few times.

I do like wandering the shelves to see what I can find, besides just using the online search catalog. I’ve found many great books this way–ones not on any list but enjoyable just the same.

All of our library books, when not in use, live in a designated bag in a closet that the kids cannot open. I’d rather not pay for lost books, so it’s better for us to just keep them inaccessible until they’re a little older.

My kids have a Shelfari account that I use to keep track of books that we own, and library favorites that we’ll want to read again someday (or eventually buy). I don’t update this  with all of our library titles as that would be too time-consuming, but I did activate a feature on our online library account that keeps track of titles we’ve checked out, so I can look that over if I ever had the urge.

Lastly, I’m trying to take advantage of the library’s online resources. Ours has several:

Freegal, a music download service, which allows me to download (and keep!) three mp3 files per week. For free! I am slowly adding to our music collection this way. I have a weekly reminder set in my Google calendar so I won’t forget. Three tracks per week is 156 per year in my permenant collection — can’t beat that.

Ebooks! I love that I can borrow an ebook without setting foot in the library. My branch’s e-collection is gradually growing. Right now, I’m only spotting some titles that are still a bit advanced for my kids, but their day is coming when I can read titles straight from my Kindle or phone.

Audiobooks are another option we can snag in-person or online, but right now they aren’t into that format. They prefer a live person reading to them.

My library recently added Zinio, a site that lets patrons read magazines online or on their mobile device. My library’s selection only includes titles for adults at the moment.

I love the resources in the library and I hope it helps instill a life-long love of reading.

How do you use the library with your little ones?

Kacie is a 27-year-old mom to a 4-year-old boy just a few months younger than Jessie’s Libbie, and a 2-year-old girl just 3 days older than Jessie’s David. Jessie’s 3rd child came in March, and Kacie’s is coming sometime in late September/early October. She blogs about money at Sensetosave.com.