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Emily's Story

When I was asked to write my journey through infertility I had some reservations. It’s a private matter for anyone to share and I felt even more protective, because of my career as a professional athlete. However, as I prayed I knew that my story could be one of hope for others as well as a place of growth for myself.

My story is not greater or less than anyone else’s, it is just the story that God has given to me and I see his workmanship through each victory and defeat. One thing I want to remind you as you read is that as a Christian we fight from the side of victory. Jesus won the war against the enemy on the day that he died and rose again. We have already won!

I grew up in Colorado and had a wonderful childhood filled with love and laughter. I was never in want or need for anything. My parents taught me about Jesus and at the young age of 4 I began my own sanctification process when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I fell in love with Jesus as I grew and continue to learn new things about His wonderful character each and every day.

As a child I dreamed of having a large family. I used to love to play with baby dolls and began babysitting as soon as I was old enough. I was ecstatic when I became an aunt and I remember saying that I would get married young and have 4 kids before I turned 30. Little did I know then.

As I grew, my passion for sports also grew. I began wakeboarding at age 12 and my hobby quickly turned into a career. I began competing professionally at age 14 and went on to win the U.S. Pro Tour that year. I was voted “Rookie of the Year” and was soon earning success, endorsements, fame and money. I had everything that most people dream of and I was enjoying life. During my career of wakeboarding I snagged the title of X-games gold medalist, World Champion, National Champion and 4-time Pro Tour Champion along with several other titles. Through all of my success as an athlete I still had a close relationship with the Lord and saw my purpose in wakeboarding as more than a profession or job, but rather a calling.

I met Kevin at age 18 and quickly fell in love with my Texas stud. Our story could be a whole book in itself, but let’s just say it was God ordained, and we were married very quickly. I was so happy to be married and was very thankful to have Kevin’s companionship on tour with me.

After a few years of marriage we went on one of my family’s annual camping trips to Grand Lake, Colorado. On the trip we received the heartbreaking news that my mom was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma cancer and was given a very short time to live. The news was sad and shocking and in this weird way made me feel like I had to have kids before the unspeakable could happen. So we decided that we would start trying to have a baby.

I was so excited when I thought of pregnancy and holding our baby for the first time. I used to daydream of how we would break the news to our family and how I would look with a big belly. Being a mom was my biggest dream in life. I had this great plan that I would get pregnant, take a year off wakeboarding, then make a comeback and just tote our little baby to all of the wakeboard competitions. I had the perfect plan. And I thought it was going to be so easy to get pregnant. Kevin and I were healthy and young and all of our friends got pregnant right away, so I had high expectations for a quick conception.

Months turned into years. I studied and read and studied some more. I could have written a book on fertility, cycles, sperm, eggs, ovulation and every other term that comes along with it. In fact, I tracked my cycles for 2 years and took my temperature every morning. I could tell when I was ovulating without even taking a test, because I was so in tune with the signs of my body. I lived on different forums with other wanting and waiting moms and began to feel like it would never happen for us.

Why God? Why is this not happening? Why is every other person in my life getting pregnant and having babies and I can’t? Why do they get pregnant on their first try? What’s wrong with me? Why would you rob me of the one thing that I really want in life? These were some of the questions going through my head. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) This was my reality for several years.

Even though I honestly felt like I was trusting God, I wasn’t. I was depressed, lonely and an emotional wreck. In His faithfulness, God didn’t leave me in the pit of despair. I saw glimpses of Him through each and every moment. He gave me the space to feel these things and learn how to trust Him in new a way I could never have understood before.

Kevin used to try and comfort me and say, “It’s okay babe, it will happen. Just be patient. God knows. Just relax.” I appreciated his efforts, but there was no relaxing and there was no peace. There was only sadness and a hopeless feeling was beginning to grow. Every month that my period would show up I would lose it for about 2-3 days and be a devastated mess.

Kevin and I decided not to share with our friends or family that we were trying, especially with my wakeboarding career still in full force. In a way it was nice that no one was asking me all of the time if I was pregnant yet, or have others offering their advice. But, on the other hand, it was very lonely. I felt so alone. I felt like no one else knew what I was going through. I peed on about 30 pregnancy tests and never saw a positive. I made my husband have sex with me every day for a week just so we wouldn’t miss the egg. I obsessively observed every twinge in my body, or sore breasts, or feelings of nausea. On top of wanting this so badly, I still had to keep up appearances to everyone in my sport. No one knew the real me. No one knew that competing at a wakeboard competition was the farthest thing from where I wanted to be. I would have traded any of those gold medals to hold a baby in my arms. But, unfortunately it still didn’t happen.

By year 2.5 we decided it was time to go to a specialist. I checked out fine. No known issues, other than low body fat. They said you need to gain 10 lbs. and you will probably get pregnant. That became my new goal. I just needed to gain weight. So I tried. I ate healthy, took vitamins, exercised regularly, even did Chinese acupuncture and took all sorts of Chinese herbs. But it still wasn’t happening.

We went back to the specialist and they said, lets just go ahead and check out your husband. The results for his test came back a few days later and I will never forget that call. The doctor said, “I have bad news about Kevin’s sperm.” My heart sank. She went on to say, “The test showed zero sperm. This condition is called Azoospermia. We of course would like to do another sample and run more tests....” I don’t think I heard anything else she said as tears were pouring down my cheeks. I was sobbing silently and somehow mustered a “Good-bye” and hung up the phone only to collapse in pit of pain and self-pity. “Why Me? Why Kevin? Why would you do this to us God?” On and on the questions and the lies ran through my head.

I called Kevin at work and told him the news. He was very sad and I know it was so hard to hear that he was the culprit and he felt he was the reason I was so depressed. He was the one keeping me from my dream of motherhood. He was the one who was broken. But instead of Kevin getting depressed and down he said, “Well, what’s next?” He never gave up! I gave up too many times to count, but Kevin never did. He went to every doctor visit I told him to be at, every acupuncture appointment, took every pill and herb I would give him to boost his fertility. He wouldn’t go in hot tubs and would never drink any caffeine. He was amazing through the whole thing.

Our efforts didn’t help. When we visited the urologist for the final time, he told us to just give up and that there was nothing he could do. We were both numb. “How could this be it?” He said that there was maybe one more chance. We could do a biopsy on Kevin and remove tissue to see if he made sperm. AHHH! Scary for Kevin, but he did it and was so brave! And guess what, they found 6 sperm!!! I know it isn’t 60 million like the average male has, but it was something. Kevin made sperm! We jumped up and down and were so excited!!! It was a feeling of hope! Something that we hadn’t felt in a very long time. The doctor saw it as bad news, but we saw hope. There was a light at the end of this long dark tunnel that we had been stuck in.

At this point our doctor gave us the option of IVF and said there was a very small chance that it would work. In fact they said it would be lower than a 5% chance of success. On top of low chances, Kevin would have to do the surgery again, because they wanted fresh sperm to fertilize my eggs in the lab.

After much prayer, planning and saving we decided to go ahead with IVF. I was so excited and hopeful to begin the cycle and as much excitement as I felt, I also had major fear that it wouldn’t work and that I was going to be left childless, broke, and heartbroken. But without risk there is rarely reward, so we did it. And with a small chance of success we transferred 2 embryos into my uterus.

The 12 days leading up to when I could take a pregnancy test were the longest days ever, but the time finally came to take a test. I woke up and took a pregnancy test, and waited the 2 minutes for it to process. Kevin and I looked at the test together and we didn’t see anything. It was negative. My heart was broken and I began to cry. I was trying to hold it together, but I couldn’t believe what we had just been through; all the money, all the time, and all of the hormones injected in my body for nothing! I felt numb, but I was so thankful that Kevin was there with me, holding me. I knew that we were in this together. He was invested in the process just as much as I was. He had to have 2 surgeries and he had to endure pain that most men could never imagine dealing with. We sat on the bed holding each other.

A few minutes later my best friend knocked on the door and soon walked in the room and saw me crying. Without us saying a word she knew that the test must have been negative. She proceeded to take the test out of the trash can (only my best friend would touch something I peed on) and said, “Is this the test you took?”

“I only took one” I told her.

She said, “Come look!”

Kevin and I perked up, “What?”

“I see TWO LINES!” We grabbed it from her hand and sure enough there was a faint second line! We were pregnant!!! Praise the Good Father that we serve!!! It was the most amazing feeling I have probably ever felt, next to marrying my husband. I still get giddy thinking about that moment!

I think I peed on about 14 more tests until it was time for me to actually visit the doctor. I just had to keep making sure that it was real. The thankfulness in my heart was greater than I could contain. I wanted to shout it from the rooftop that God had done a miracle that no doctor thought was possible!

The pregnancy was fairly easy and at 40 weeks on December 6th, 2009, I gave birth to our baby girl, Hope Noelle. She was perfect and brought us more joy than I even could have imagined. On top of Hope being born my mom was completely healed of her cancer. That, too, could be a whole book in itself as well, but once again God showed his miraculous power in my mom’s life.

I know this may sound weird to someone who struggles with infertility or even those who don’t, but as happy as I was to be a mom I struggled with depression in Hope’s first months of life. It could have been post-partum depression, but part of me was so in love with this child that I couldn’t imagine never being able to have another baby, or to be pregnant again. When my baby was 3 days old, I was crying in my bed, sad that I may never have another baby. Sounds crazy right? But it was so amazing that I knew that our family was not complete yet.

The first year of our daughter’s life was so much fun; learning how to parent, and soaking up every moment I had with her. Soon Kevin and I decided it was time to expand our family so we decided to do IVF again. We thought it would happen again just like it did the first time, but unfortunately we went through the whole process and we didn’t get pregnant. I was devastated and felt so sad, but thankfully I still had a beautiful little girl at home and it eased the pain of the disappointment slightly.

A few months later we decided to give it another try. By this time Hope was 2 and we went for attempt number 3. I knew no matter what happened, whether we got pregnant or not on this try that we were done with IVF. It was too expensive and it was too emotional and unhealthy for our bodies. So we were really praying and hoping that this would be the one, but we were disappointed again when my period showed up before I could take a pregnancy test.

I knew that God was in control and that it was going to be okay, but in that moment it wasn’t okay. I cried hard. I cried for days and weeks and sometimes it would hit me randomly in the weirdest places and I would have to excuse myself to go regain my composure.

At this point I knew something had to change so I began to get my hands on a lot a scripture about faith and about God’s promises. I knew that God had a lot to teach me about Him and about His goodness. At times I think I would see infertility as something that God had given me so that it could teach us a lesson. Or it would be something that we could help point other people to God, or help someone who is going through a similar situation. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of those things can be true. God does use “…all things for the good of those who love Him…” like we are promised in Romans 8:28. But, God also revealed that He didn’t do this to me. He is GOOD and He is fully good. All good things come from Him. He revealed to me that we live in a broken world with death, sickness and disease and infertility. It is all a symptom of brokenness and depravity. He loved me. He really loved me so much.

After this revelation about the Father’s love and his goodness, I began the process of loosening the grip I had on my womb and fertility. In fact, I will never forget one specific day when I was having a quiet time with the Lord. As I was praying, all of the sudden I was overcome with emotion. I cried, I wept, and I truly mourned the reality that I may never feel a baby kick, or hiccup or move in my belly again; that I may never hear life’s first cry again or hold a child to my breast for comfort and nourishment.

I picked myself up off the floor and I felt different. I had a peace and a joy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt light. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Something else happened in that moment with the Lord, I heard Him tell me that I needed to submit to my husband in this area. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I asked Jesus to help me know what that meant as I felt it was for a specific reason.

Months continued to go by and Hope turned 3 years old. Our desire to grow our family was still there, but I feel like we were in a much happier and healthier place. In fact, I felt a sense of contentment and truly felt thankful for my life. But out of the blue one day, Kevin asked me if I wanted to maybe adopt a baby. I was kind of shocked by the question. I had never really thought that much about it and at first I said, “No I don’t think so”. Then, I heard that same voice in my head, “Submit to Kevin” I was like, really God? You want us to adopt? It’s so expensive. It’s a lot of work and paperwork. It can be heartbreaking. Can we really do this?

I took a while to answer but after a lot of tugging on my heart from the Lord I said, “ I want to adopt if you do.” As soon as I said that, it was like I began to have an excitement inside of me. Almost like I was impregnated with a child that wasn’t in my womb, but a child that was inside of my heart.

We began to talk about what country we would adopt from, how old would the child be, do we want a boy or a girl, how long would it take? We didn’t know all of these answers right away, but God revealed the direction we should take as He usually does.

Adoption is very expensive and unfortunately we used almost all of our savings on IVF attempts, so we would have to raise the money. That seemed like a daunting task, but everyone around us who had already adopted told us that God would provide. We decided we would raise the money before we started the actual process of our paperwork and home study. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but as soon as word got out that we might be adopting one of our friends contacted us about a friend’s sister who was pregnant and might be choosing adoption. She wanted to talk to us on the phone! What? This isn’t part of our plan. We don’t have the money raised. We don’t even have the home study complete! This is crazy! But of course God was leading us all along the way and we excitedly talked to a sweet girl who was 7 months pregnant from Nebraska.

After we got off the phone we both had such a peace and felt like that could be where God was leading us, but we just prayed and gave it to Him. A few days later we received a phone call from that same mother. After some small talk she went on to say that she would like it if we adopted her son. WOW! We are going to be adopting a baby boy from Nebraska!!! God once again met all of our desires, even the ones that we didn’t even know we had.

Over the next few weeks we had so much paperwork to get done and money to raise that it seemed overwhelming, but God came through and provided for us. We were soon on a plane to Nebraska to get our baby boy.

Noah James was born September 23, 2013 in Nebraska. He was the cutest little baby and captured our hearts and took our breath away. There was so much love for this child and although he didn’t come from our own flesh and blood, he was “ours” forever; our sweet Noah.

I was able to induce lactation and was able to nurse Noah for the entire first year of his life. It was such a gift from God and He knew how much I cherished nursing a baby. God gave me more than I could have asked or dreamed of. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

So here we are, a decade after we began trying and we are a happy and blessed family of 4. I am so grateful for my family and for my life. It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but it’s my story and it’s Gods story in me. Looking back now, I can see that my anger towards God was sin. All I saw at the time was my desire. Praise the Lord for His perfect plan for each one of us. His grace covers all of our weaknesses and He is so strong, even when we may not even be able to lift our head off the pillow of despair.

Even after having two children and feeling completely content in my life, there is not a month that goes by that I don’t wonder if a miracle will be manifested in my life for a baby. I think I will continue to wonder this and hope for this until I am no longer in childbearing years. But that is the great thing about placing your hope and faith in God. He says to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

So I challenge you to hold on. Don’t give up. Search out God’s promises. Know His character. He is so good and is so full of love for you.