This post will hopefully be the first of many stories, that I am able to document and share. I have just been so blessed to be able to get to know this mama and I am so honored to be able to share her family's beautiful story with you all. God has brought them through a time of infertility and has truly blessed them for their patience and faithfulness. This is one of my longer posts so I hope you'll take the time to read it and enjoy getting to know this sweet family. This post is near and dear to my heart because my own family has faced quite a few big challenges over the last few years, we have struggled with a time of infertility, lost a baby, and battled childhood cancer. Through all of this God has proven to be faithful and has used these experiences to grow us, make us stronger, and to soften our hearts to others who have experienced similar challenges. For the last year I have felt led to use photography as a way to share stories, particularly those of mothers who have faced great challenges in their lives and how God has used those challenges to grow them in their faith. Below you will find a testimony written by my good friend Alyssa Sheedlo followed by her Storytelling photo session where she and her family made baking soft pretzels look absolutely adorable!
"Coming from two large families, Jake and I both envisioned large families of our own and wanted to begin them exactly one year after we were married and have 4-5 children. Our 22-year-old selves were bright eyed and without a care when we began sharing with friends and family that we were going to be starting a family soon. As the months went by those bright eyes slowly turned to confused ones, then concerned ones, then worried and finally panicked. After about 6 months my gut told me we should get checked even though it really hadn’t been that long. After some tests the doctors confirmed some concerns for the both of us and told us we’d need “assistance” getting pregnant. The previous joy I had when seeing newborns and bulging bellies became almost painful for me. Those accidental pregnancies, clever Facebook announcements and young parents having their 2nd or 3rd babies already were a constant reminder that I still was not pregnant and may never be pregnant.
I began to question what God was doing here. I knew he loved children and in fact commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” but why would he withhold this from us if we were trying to be obedient and clearly try to do a good thing in starting a family? I started having some wrong thinking and bad theology going on in my head. I started believing that I must have some major sin in my life that God was trying to reveal to me by bringing me through this trial to punish me. Was I holding the thought of having children too highly in my life? Was I not being joyful enough for those around me? Did God know I wouldn’t be a suitable mom?
The painful months turned into painful years for us, but in hindsight we know our Good Shepard was always near. While my wonderfully fertile family lived here in Illinois God was gracious enough to have our circumstances be that we would live in Iowa where he provided another family that could better understand what we were going through. Although I loved coming back to visit all of the little blessings the Lord had made, a season of separation was good for us. Our church family from Iowa had an uncanny amount of infertile couples who were able to understand and lead us through pain and struggle we were facing. One friend in particular reminded me of an important lie I had been believing- Although I deserved it, God was not punishing me as a sinner. He took the punishment of every one of our sins and erased them when he sacrificed himself on the cross. He was however allowing me to experience this so this trial so that we could be refined and sanctified through it and that was surprisingly very comforting for me. I no longer had to beat myself up for sins of my past and rack my brain about why I was being punished because I’d been set free. The cross had set me free.
Another important aspect of living in Iowa was the huge heart for adoption our church had. They took it seriously and even provided thousands of dollars to adopting families in the church to help take some of the massive financial burden off of families to encourage them to pursue it. The families we grew close to encouraged adoption for us too. We loved the idea of adoption but God continued to place a desire within me to carry a baby and experience child birth and the wonderful things I might not be able to fully experience through a typical adoption. One of Jakes aunts finally mentioned another option that I had briefly considered a few months prior and that was embryo adoption. She explained that couples who had gone through in vitro fertilization because of fertility issues would often have “left over” embryos. Sometimes doctors would create too many embryos not considering that these little babies who already had their own DNA, their gender determined and God-given souls were already life. They would often make extra that they could freeze for later pregnancies and multiple attempts if they did not initially result in a pregnancy or if the couple wanted more children. Often times there could be up to 15 embryos created at once and couples wouldn’t be able to have that many or the pregnancies would not be successful so they were left with many cryopreserved in freezers, not knowing what to do with them. I did some research and found a Christian adoption agency that helps these families who wish to give these frozen babies a chance at life. There are actually estimated to be more than 500,000 currently frozen souls in the U.S. alone. The Lord laid it on our hearts to continue with the process and after our home study and other adoption requirements we were matched with a set of 7 embryos. We were ecstatic and humbled by the amazing gift God had provided to us. We did our first embryo transfer in Des Moines and transferred 2, which is recommended typically to have the best chance at 1 surviving and resulting in a pregnancy. Heartbreakingly, those 2 babies did not survive the transfer. We were crushed by the loss of life and the realization that my body may not be able to carry a baby at all. After months of grieving, the adoption agency director contacted me and encouraged us to try again. We had recently moved back to Illinois to be closer to our family including now 6 nieces and nephews. We prayed and knew that the Lord would be with us no matter the outcome and knew we must be vulnerable and trust him. We transferred two more in December 2013 and found out just before Christmas that I was pregnant! I praised God and surrendered the pregnancy to him. No matter the outcome, I knew this baby was his, if he allowed me to carry them with me for one month, 3 months or have a full term delivery, I would be grateful for the privilege. A few days after my positive pregnancy test I went in for an ultrasound to see if one or two of the embryos survived. Well we’ve often heard that God has a humor and right there on the screen we saw 3 flickering heartbeats of our triplet baby girls. One of the embryos had split in utero which is about a 1% chance with the frozen embryos. Throughout the pregnancy the Lord continued to protect those baby girls and Ainsley, Evangeline and Claire were delivered at almost 36 weeks without a single complication. How great is our God!
About 18 months later we experienced another failed attempt at transferring a single embryo. Again, saddened by the loss of life we knew that God had these lives in his control and knew we needed to be faithful to give our last 2 embryos a chance to have a full life. In late February 2016 we transferred our remaining embryos and prayed for them fervently. Both babies survived the transfer and resulted in the pregnancy and birth of our twin boys Abram and Hudson. Our two sets of multiples have been such an answer to prayer and have shown us God’s providence in the situations he has placed us in. Never would I have imagined in those early dark years of infertility that I would be a mother of 5. He is a God of healing, renewal, and patience. He knows exactly what is best for his children in his perfect timing."
The pain you've been feeling can't compare to the joy that's coming.