The Birth Story

If you haven’t read our infertility story please read that here first.

As 2018 comes to a close, I sat rocking my little girl this evening and a tear slid down my cheek. What a year this was, and what a year compared to the last several years. I just rocked and rocked and prayed “Thank you God.” Being on the other side of a major trial for the second time in my life, I am once again shocked by his grace and goodness. Not sure why I am shocked by that, maybe because I don’t feel it is deserved, but wow. He always gives so much more than we can imagine. It is just always in His timing. He uses the hard and painful to shape and mold, and once we see his artwork, we stand back amazed. Our infertility story and now our Birth story have made me stand back utterly in awe of Him, I never saw this coming.

Pregnancy

I loved being pregnant, like ridiculously loved it. I loved my belly, I loved maternity clothes, I loved going to bed early and my cozy pregnancy pillow, I loved every single kick and movement, I loved going to doctors’ appointments and hearing that little heart beating. I was finally here. I loved it! After 6 years of marriage and 2 long years of actively pursuing IVF treatments, I loved that I was going to be a mom.

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As the due date got closer I was equally excited to meet our little one and find out gender, but also bummed that I would be done with this pregnancy journey. It almost felt like I had worked so hard to get pregnant that the actual having a baby part I wasn’t ready for! BUT, we began the usual full-term eviction processes. Long walks, spicy food, etc..

Labor and Delivery

On Saturday July 28th ( I was due Aug 1) after two walks I finally started feeling some contractions  Hmmm I wonder if this could be it? I still wasn’t feeling very big. I never got “uncomfortable” the way so many full-term moms complained about. I found that kind of odd.

No, Saturday wasn’t the day.

Sunday July 29th – nothing.

Monday July 30, I went to lunch with my mother in law and described those low contractions and explained how I just didn’t feel like I was very big, and that those contractions weren’t normal or even real. I even said out loud “I just feel like there is a tiny little girl in there.” 

Contractions again that evening- fizzled at bedtime.

Tuesday July 31 – nothing.

Wednesday August 1- 6:30 am, oh hello familiar contractions, I wonder if today is the day?

Aaron came with me to my 1:00 PM doctor appointment that was previously scheduled.  Contractions had been consistent all morning and I told him to stay close and be sure to go with me to the doctor! Contractions were starting to get painful.  The doctor checks..I am at a 1.  Boo.. go home. I really wish they would have checked on the baby at this appointment.

On the way home. This hurts.. like… um… ouch.

By 4:00 PM, after eating a late lunch from Chik-fil-A (!!) I call and we head to the hospital. 

Last photo before baby!

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These contractions REALLY hurt, but why are they so low? Why so sharp? Where is all this wrapping and tightening people talk about? This doesn’t seem right to me.  After the nurse checked me I was barely a 3. OK, we still have a long way to go. That’s fine… I looked the nurse straight in the eye and said, 

“Please, don’t send me home.”  

After a few minutes the nurse came in and said, since you asked not to be sent home we are going to move you to a room. The doctor said it was ok if we just monitor for a while. Once we got settled into a room, only a short amount of time goes by and the nurse comes in and tells me to turn on my side. Ok. Odd. She comes back in a few minutes later, “let’s put some oxygen on you”… 

At this point I am starting to feel like something really isn’t ok. My contractions are starting to lessen significantly and I am afraid I will have to go home. Like terrified something is wrong and I will get sent away from the “safety” of the hospital.

A few minutes after that, in walks the doc, who says, “I don’t like this, I just told the OR to prep, let’s go.” 

Oh, wow, ok this is like an emergency?  … yep…

oh…

Aaron immediately informs the family that just kidding this won’t go until late in the night or early in the morning. Baby is coming out immediately.

Within 20 min I am laying, completely numb, and I hear the words “Meconium, Meconium!” and I am feeling the tugging of baby coming out.

Let’s pause from the scary for a second.

Our doc, who is AMAZING, has Aaron check out baby to announce gender. He pauses for a bit (I find out later it’ because she is green and brown and covered in poop and he can barely tell gender because her cord is weird colored and he was so distracted by all of that, I mean who wouldn’t be?) and I finally hear the words, “That is definitely NOT a boy..” 

As soon as I processed that, while in the midst of the crazy emergency C-section, I felt the most unbelievable and overwhelming feeling of completeness. It wasn’t “aww a girl, yay,” which I did feel so so much, or even any of the other million feelings I could have felt. It was complete. My family is complete. Our story is complete. This journey to motherhood is complete. We are complete. God is amazing.

And we instantly knew we were naming her Sloane. More on that later.

Back to the scary..sorry

I hear no crying. As I mentioned she was brown and green, and they didn’t bring her to me. Finally after cleaning her off they lifted her up and I burst into tears - she was so beautiful, but then off she went. still no crying. “We are just going to take her to the NICU, we will keep you updated.” She weighed only 5lbs 1 oz and I was 39w4d. She should have been bigger.

I asked the doctor while she was stitching if Sloane would have survived if I was sent home. Her response was, long pause, um.. I don’t think so. um… WHAT? See remember when I had those contractions on Saturday evening, I think this is when she was in distress and had pooped. I really did think something was wrong, and in fact, it was.

Later on I was told that a piece of my placenta had died several weeks prior to Sloane’s birth causing her small size and eventually her distress. Her lungs were completely filled with meconium. She was on 100% oxygen and that still was not enough. If I could stress one thing to IVF moms is to ask for extra monitoring during third trimester. We IVF mom’s have a lot higher stats for complications, and if I had known, maybe we could have taken her earlier and saved her from this..

As soon as they whisked her away I think God put blinders over my eyes, I just kept thinking, lots of babies go to the NICU, I honestly didn’t even feel worried and I don’t know why. At 5am they came into my room to tell me they had intubated her and put her on a vent.  Oh wow, ok…. that probably isn’t good. (Later on, I noticed on a bill the words “newborn resuscitation”) 

When morning finally came around and I was able to get up and go see her. This was my first look. 

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“No, you can’t touch her.” “Please don’t talk in here.” “The towel over her head keeps her calm.” “She is just struggling.” “Her lungs are full.” “Meconium aspiration.” “She has probably been in her own meconium for 4+ days” 

Now I was starting to worry…

NICU

So, Thursday was a mess, back and forth to the NICU waiting for any good news, talk of a transfer to a level 4 NICU, and numbers that just weren’t promising. No one could tell me she was going to be ok. 

Friday, more of the same, until early afternoon, I was alone in my room because Aaron had gone out to eat with my parents so I could take a nap, and the Neonatologist comes in and says, we need to move her. Her numbers are dropping and we don’t have the treatment that she needs.

FULL BLOWN PANIC on my part. Aaron, get back here now! Every blinder was ripped away in that moment. Every emotion came flooding in, as did the tears. She was going to die. but, God you wouldn’t do that. You just gave us this miracle, are you going to take her away? 

The doctor started talking about stroke risks, and ECMO, and all of these crazy sounding things and I finally looked the doctor in the eye and said, please stop. Just stop talking. I could barely breathe.


The transport team arrived, and I wish I would have taken a picture of the amount of things and people necessary to move an extremely sick baby. There were 10 people in her tiny room and a tiny box on top of enormous machines that looked and felt like a casket.  I felt like I was saying goodbye to my two-day old girl forever. There were doctors everywhere all telling me different things. I finally sort of yelled above all the hustle and just said can I please just look at her, even from a distance and then I will let you take her. I just wanted to see her one last time, if it was going to be the last.  Off she went, I didn’t see her again for 4 hours. 

Then I was discharged, 40 hours after having major surgery, so we could follow her to the new NICU. I think by far, this was the worst day of my life. I was in pain, weak, tired, terrified, and now I had to pack my bags, leave the hospital, go to another hospital and wait and wait and wait to see her. I can honestly say the tears I shed in that awful waiting room were actually physically painful. I was cut open and sore from walking back and forth to the NICU, washing pump parts and doing all the things I should not have been doing because my baby was unbelievably sick, and I was broken. Aaron and I were broken together.

The name Sloane and the Facebook announcement

Let’s pause and talk about the name Sloane. Aaron found it in early May 2018, and it went on the list. We just kept coming back to it. We LOVED that it meant warrior. She had to have been a warrior to survive in my pit of a uterus, but now the meaning was even more important. She had a long fight ahead. 

A few days after she was born Aaron (who isn’t big on social media) asked, are you going to post that she was born? People keep asking me if you have had a baby yet and I don’t know what to tell them... I just burst into tears.

Was she going to make it? I can’t take a photo of her without tubes everywhere… I didn’t get a fresh 48 session. She looks scary… This isn’t how it is supposed to be... This is not how I envisioned this happening… Through years of infertility my end goal was that hospital photo with the giant bow (yes, I always envisioned a girl) and the adorable baby burrito all swaddled up... She was none of those things. She was laying naked on a table with so many cords..so many..

I couldn’t yet… I waited a few more days and finally 5 days after she was born I posted. I still cry when I think about it. It was not how I had always dreamed it would be. I mourn that loss. I mourn the loss of that beautiful skin to skin moment after a baby being born, a fresh 48 session with the bows as I mentioned, the first bath with daddy, the scale... and even a first cry. I don’t think I heard her make a noise until day 7. The NICU is so hard, a lot of people spend time there, I had no idea how hard. 

That announcement image will always bring tears to my eyes, tears of joy and tears of sadness.

The Girl Who Lived - (did you get the Harry Potter reference there?)


The amount of people praying for Sloane, including our giant church (College Park) where our head pastor mentioned her name in every service that Sunday, is the reason she is alive. You prayed. God saved her. You all also brought meals, sent messages, shipped gifts, gave gift cards, and prayed more and more. She is alive because of you and our Lord (and I won’t forget to mention the AMAZING NICU doctors and nurses). 
Every single night we went home empty handed and exhausted, food was waiting, gifts were on the doorstep, and more messages of encouragement were in hand. When we would wake up and get back to the NICU, she would have improved so much overnight it felt miraculous. Every morning she would do so much better than they predicted. 

How do I even say Thank you for that? I couldn’t write thank you notes because I simply had so many people to thank and I didn’t have the time, but please know that we were and are so thankful for the love that was shown us during this time.

Coming Home

I will NEVER forget the moment I first held her 7 days after she was born and I just kept saying… mommy’s got you. mommy’s got you... as tears poured down my face. She was so tiny and my love for her was so fierce. I know all new mommy’s can understand that feeling. It is one of the strongest emotions I have ever felt. Then to feel like you could do nothing to help your child was just so devastating. When I had her in my arms I just finally felt like I was helping, she knows I am here. This will help her. It was such a relief to feel like I could even play such a small part in her healing. Aaron got to hold her too, and what a sight to behold. 

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After 15 of the longest days of my life were over, she was coming home. We were parents. I was a mom. 2 years of infertility and the intense pain that comes along with that were over. Her fight with meconium aspiration was over. We had a healthy baby girl.


In Awe

Throughout our infertility journey, I kept coming back to James 1 and the word steadfast.  I was still wearing my necklace every day that carried that specific word. 

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Did you catch it?  the word complete. The word that came into my head the minute she was born… 

Fast Forward

On November 10th I was laying down to go to bed, Sloane sleeping in the next room, and I felt the Lord tell me to take off my steadfast necklace. It was so clear and such a strong urge I took it off immediately and heard Him say, that story is over, it is time for a new one.  One week later, as I rocked my baby to sleep, I realized that on November 10th it had been exactly 1 year since the day God began to form Sloane in a lab at Midwest Fertility. A full and complete circle.

So here we are, she is almost 5 months old and I have never loved something so much in my entire life. She is pure joy. As I have said before, being a new parent is hard, she can be hard, but not having her and almost losing her was so much harder. 

We are complete.

With all our love and so many thanks,

Aaron, Sarah, and Sloane Shields

The Nursery

I'll admit right from the start, this was a LOT harder than I expected it to be. I mean, who decided we weren't going to find out gender?? cough cough Aaron.. cough...  Not knowing gender makes decorating extremely difficult, and the main focal point (above the crib) is TBD once we figure out who this little one is because I will either go bonkers toward girly, or subtle boyish if it is a boy..  

I, however, did have fun putting furniture together, organizing drawers with my mom and mother-in-law, and shopping my heart out. I'm a bit sad that everything is done and we are almost ready to bring baby Shields home, but also so thankful and so so excited to hold this little one. God has been so good to us, even in the tough journey getting here, I feel beyond blessed to have had the most wonderful pregnancy. I have felt awesome pretty much the entire time (minus first trimester). Yes, I am getting uncomfortable, yes it is hot out, yes I am a bit swollen, but I am sleeping great and feeling this baby move on the daily will be one of the highlights of my entire life. 

Let the countdown begin. less than 4 weeks to go! 

p.s. I find these two in here often, Haley the most. She will bring me a random toy now and then and drop it in my lap, or take a snooze in here. I think she will be the best big sister ever! 

p.s.s. The lamb was mine when I was a newborn :) 

With Love, Sarah

Our Maternity Photos

         I'm not sure I have words to really express what this session meant to me. Not only did I feel like I would never be able to have a session like this, I didn't expect pregnancy to be as wonderful as it has been. I literally LOVE being pregnant. I love mirrors and reflections of my big belly, I love all the wiggles and kicks to my bladder, I love baby classes, baby pinterest boards, baby showers, and nursery decorating, and I really don't even care that I have peed my pants a few times because of said bladder kicks. (TMI? sorry) The happiness Aaron and I feel is such an extreme contrast from the last couple of years it feels so undeserved. Isn't God's grace like that? So undeserved, yet so shocking and beautiful. 

      These photos are also special because I walked through infertility with Karissa (the photographer). I was able to photograph her maternity session after years of waiting, and then for her to come to my house and do the same was surreal and perfect. She captured us in our element, our home, with our fur babies who mean quite a bit to us. So so thankful for her and her talent. More pics coming soon once baby shields arrives!  

Side Note: Since I am booked for the remainder of this year and if you are still wanting photos, email her she rocks!! karissa@carisdesign.com

 

Family and Newborn Sessions are my jam!

I am loving what I am doing lately! 

Families: I love love love spending time with families. Plain and simple, the unpredictability of kids is a blast and a challenge for me that I love to embrace. I can't even tell you the amount of times a toddler boy has just pulled his pants down and peed on a bush during a family session. To mom's total embarrassment and to my laughter, I just snap a photo of cute little booty cheeks and mark it as a memory. Or when a little one won't even budge for a smile until big sister comes over to give some tickles. Kids are innocent, full of life, crazy, dramatic, and they grow up too fast. 

Babies: Newborns are squishy and adorable, nurseries are newly decorated, and mom's just want someone to capture all the work they put in creating this life. I can finally understand that now too, while currently growing my own mini human.

Homes: I love our living spaces and how families (or designers) come with creative ideas to make where we spend most of our time special and beautiful. 

For a long time I fought shooting family portraits and newborns. I thought, "no I am a wedding photographer, and I can only be good at one thing. kids are crazy and that is scary. What happens if I can't give someone what they want? What if a kid misbehaves or doesn't smile? What if I am not good enough?"  I think so much of what holds us back are things that may seem scary. Fear. Being willing to fight through a little bit of that before you settle into a new comfort level can be hard, but so rewarding. 

I have been a photographer for 10 years, actually longer if you count when I got my first DSLR, which was in 2006. I have been fighting my own "business" for awhile now.  I am informal, casual, and simple about how I run the "business" side of it. (not the shooting part-that I put my whole heart in to) To be completely honest, I am TOTALLY ok with that, and I hope you are too. I don't want my clients to feel pressure, or to come to a session stressed out. I don't want to charge SO much that they can't use me. (I do need to charge something though, remember said mini human, It needs clothes and stuff) I don't want to get overworked so that I run out of creative ideas or passion and energy to make kids laugh and have a good time. so, I am ok with casual and simple for now.  (that means, text, call, message me about a session, we will pick a time, and I'll be there. Simple) 

I think most of my clients will say that during a session, their kids are taken care of. I genuinely enjoy them and keeping them somewhat entertained. I hope that my photos and families represent how much I care about genuine, beautiful, memories.

Since being pregnant, and the big infertility announcement below, I haven't blogged much because I have been busy! Shooting! But, I did want to share a bit of what I have been up to this year so far with Sarah Shields Photography. 

I love you all, thank you for your support. 

I have only a handful of October dates available once I return from maternity leave and then I won't be shooting probably for the rest of the year (unless it is an in-home newborn session). Contact me if you want to get on the schedule. 

Available October Full Session Dates: October 8, 17, 24. hurry they are almost gone! ($395)

October Mini Sessions: Oct 1 + 3. (4:30, 5:15, 6, 6:45) $250 (30 minutes-location TBD) 

love you friends!

Sincerely, Sarah

Our worthy journey

To tell this story fully, I have to go back to when I was 15, sitting in a specialist office listening to a doctor tell me I  will never have kids of my own. I looked over to see tears running down my dad’s face, because he understood. You see, I was a miracle baby. My parents tried for many many years before and after me to have children. I  was a sudden, one time, miracle. My parents knew the weight of infertility, the waiting, the heartache, the desperation, the loneliness. I however, at 15 years old, could not have cared less that I was going through menopause.  I didn’t want or care about kids - who does at 15?!  

Let me back up. Yes, I said menopause.  I have a rare condition known as premature ovarian failure.  The word failure should have tipped me off, but, I didn't think much about it in high school (or college). Rather, I just sat in science class and had hot flashes. Fun!

Fast forward to a Perkins Diner in 2010.  While Aaron (boyfriend of 3 months) devoured a giant stack of pancakes and smoked sausage (the only real reason we ended up at Perkins), my heart started to thump thump thump because I had to tell him something really important. “I will never have children of my own, because I have no ovary function and no eggs.” I don’t remember his exact words, and I don’t think he remembers much of this conversation, but I think he pretty much said, “Uh, ok… well whatever, we will figure it out.” And that was that. He still married me, and never defined me by this "condition." He didn't see this is as my challenge. It was our challenge, and one we'd worry about later. 

(He is a good one - I will get to that more later.)

 

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2010: we were just babies...

I knew all along that carrying a child was something I wanted and felt called to, even after thinking about these things later on in college and when dating. Once married, Aaron and I never felt that it was simply a selfish hope and desire for me to carry a child, it felt like an assurance from our Lord and Savior that was backed up so many times for both of us through scripture and in other ways. Adoption was talked about, over and over. The Lord never pushed us that direction, or to not having children at all.  Adoption is beautiful in endless ways, and we certainly never felt that there is ANYTHING WRONG with adoption (and who knows maybe that is a future story for us) but it was clear that God wasn’t calling us to that yet. VERY clear.  Every vision Aaron and I had of our future involved me carrying a child.  

So, early into our marriage, my incredibly smart, planner, husband, said we should start a “baby” account because we felt called to try IVF with donor eggs. IVF in general is commonly known to be expensive, but throw a donor into it and it just gets absurd. Like, pay cash up front for college absurd.  Actually, let's just be specific.  To even pick a donor and begin the process we had to pay $28,000 up front.  Indiana is a “no mandate” state, meaning companies are not required to provide infertility coverage, so why would they? Did you see the price tag above??  The burden and pressure involved with the monetary side of infertility is almost incomprehensible. Who at the age of 30 has that kind of money sitting around? Like I said before, we had a bit saved, maybe half of that specifically for IVF, but WOWZA…(more on this later) 

Let's pause for a second here and talk about picking a donor (you read that correct: donor eggs). It is kind of exactly like you would envision it.... an E-harmony profile full of information, and a few pictures.  Since Aaron and I were both super familiar with that, and it had worked for us, hey! Perfect right??  

4 years into marriage, around January of 2016, we picked a donor and prepared for our first transfer. Both of us (and the incredible doctors and staff at Midwest Fertility) felt confident that we knew what my issue was and that I had upwards of an 80% chance of a successful transfer using a donor egg. So we transferred our first little embryo babe on May 3, 2016. They were right, and we were ecstatic to get a positive test 8 days after our transfer. Everything was perfect, just as we planned. We had 2 frozen embryos for future siblings and the bill was already paid. Perfect..

 

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At our 7 week ultrasound, Aaron and I were so excited to hear a heartbeat. (Side note: I think it is absolutely amazing that a heartbeat can be heard around 6 weeks which would have been just 3 weeks after an embryo transfer).  BUT, as soon as I saw the doctors face, while he stared at the screen "searching", I knew it had all come apart and our baby was not alive anymore. This will prove to still be one of the most traumatic days of my life. I  sobbed the entire way home, feeling the weight of sadness and loss. As many many women know, the physical and emotional pain of miscarriage is almost unbearable. You are not only emotionally hurting the physical pain involved makes you feel like the world is ending.  Unfortunately, things weren't about to get much better. We had no idea what awaited us.

So much of infertility is waiting.  I had been anxious from waiting from when we picked the donor to the first transfer, then after a miscarriage you have to wait some more.. the anxiety was building.  We planned our second transfer for August 10, 2016.  Keep in mind I am in the midst of wedding season and quickly approaching fall which is the busiest time of year for me. We had initially started this process so that I would have a baby out of wedding season.. it is so funny to think of that now.. trying to time this? HA!  

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Anyway.. Transfer number 2 (+$4600) was a failure, even with 80% odds of success.  We are devastated, and confused. We are $32,600 plus the cost of meds into this with no baby, and now have one embryo left and no chance for "biological" siblings. For me, the pressure with 1 embryo left was debilitating.  Not only did we want a baby, if this next transfer (+$2000 - doctor gave us a discount) wasn't successful we were about to completely lose $35,000.  

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And so we did.....

We lost every single cent, all of our embryos, and most of my hope. 

Admittedly, I was broken, anxious, and angry at the Lord for allowing this. Why? Why was He telling us to do this, if it wasn't working? What was wrong with me? Google was making things worse! This was my confused and extremely anxious stage.  But, in my darkest moments, God's presence was there. He was pursuing me, still.  I was starting to understand that God was doing something. He was testing us, and as you can see from the adult coloring I did as therapy, I was really starting to believe that "We will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory" -Joni Eareckson Tada 

The tapestry was being created, and amid the hopelessness, I found something amazing. I  found several girl friends who were all going through infertility. I can't even begin to tell you how these women began to put me back together, piece by piece. Giving advice, listening with me, crying with me, and me crying with them. We were walking this journey and waiting through this journey together. We texted constantly, we got together, and I started learning. Not only about myself, and these women, but about this process. I could tell if someone was struggling through Facebook posts, or from across a room, because I started to recognize the same pain in others. The Lord gives us those gifts, and the bold person that I am, I would ask them about it and we would meet up for coffee or lunch and cry together, talk through it together, and learn together.  

The Lord was creating something beautiful out of the ashes of my heart. 

Alas, we took a few months off because we didn’t know what to do.  I talked through it with the girls and with Aaron. I researched programs at other clinics. I didn’t want to do this all over with the risk of losing all of that money again. I knew other clinics offered "guarantee" programs and thus asked Midwest to create a program for me.  (I am probably not allowed to talk about it much, but the staff at Midwest Fertility and my doctor are such incredible people.  My doctor was gracious, caring, and genuinely on my side and willing to help in any way possible.) After agreeing to do some testing, we were offered a 100% money back guarantee if we went through 3 more donor rounds and didn’t have a baby. I felt like the Lord had opened a door and further proved that we were doing what He wanted us to do.  BUT, it wasn't free. Or close. Unless $46,000 is close to free...? That's a big number, especially coming off the heels of a little bit smaller but still a large number. We now faced the whole "hey do banks still have cash in their vaults because that's what it's going to take to pay for this" question/dilemma.  

To help think and process possible next steps, we went on a mini vacation.  I was turning 30, it was our 5th anniversary, so Aaron surprised me with a trip to Universal Orlando, and we talked and talked and talked about how to do this (and which banks to rob).  We also ate, and drank Harry Potter World butterbeer, and rode a million rides until I about threw up. We were able to find joy in the process. Living while waiting, hurting, and being in a state of despair is SO important. Keep on living. I would love to say I did this well, and at times I did, and at times I didn't. That is ok. It is ok to hurt. It is ok to shy away from a baby shower, or to say no to that friend with the newborn. Sometimes it was JUST SO HARD. BUT living was what I continually tried to do. 

I mentioned that I would talk about Aaron again, because through all of this I have realized that my husband is my rock.  Yes we might not occasionally see eye to eye and at times we drive each other nuts (he loves sports and listening to podcasts and audiobooks at 2.0x speed - I don't like either of those things!) but he is incredibly steady, and always has a way of bringing me back down to earth. He was constantly praying for me and us, he would get me out of my routine and our house by taking me on trips to distract me, and most importantly, he listened. A lot... let me cry on his shoulder, and let me eat as much ice cream as I needed. AND.. not to mention, married a VERY expensive, infertile woman and didn't complain about it once. NOT ONCE did he make me feel like this was my fault he was emptying a retirement account or we were spending all of our savings because of me. NEVER. If that isn't a testament to the type of man he is, I  don't know what is. When emotions are high, we often say things we don't mean or do mean just would never actually say them, and I really don't believe he ever resented me for this. (this is Aaron here - no resentment coming from me!)

sigh... I  just love him. 

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Well, we found the money, I still really don’t know how or where it all came from. Well, actually, I do. The Lord. He provided it.  It's His money anyway.  I firmly believe it is because Aaron from day 1 of our marriage has made it our number one priority to give at least 10% of what we earn back to God.  Discipline is one of God's gifts to Aaron - even the month we paid $46,000 to Midwest Fertility, we gave our 10%. I don’t say this to pat ourselves on the back, I say this because God is faithful, when we are faithful (and even when we aren't faithful!). It may not always look like we want it to, but oh He is good. 

So.. we move on to Donor #2 (3 embryos again)

Transfer 4,5,6 were all failures in some way. By now I am 6 IVF transfers in and all of us are at a complete loss. At one of our doctor meetings my doctor (who is also a Christian and an absolute saint, we would not have made it through this without him) told me that I am the patient who wakes him up in the middle of the night because he just cannot figure me out and he worries.  I am a complete mystery.  With 80% success rates each transfer, all of my tests coming back completely fine... for us to come up empty 6 times in a row is unconscionable. Our doctor said 1% of people in the world would throw a coin and hit tails 10x in a row. "That person is you. You are my toughest case right now.” 

Oof.

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OK… God do we keep going? Do I keep putting myself through this? Shot after shot, medication after medication, loss after loss. I am SO tired. I  don't think I want to keep going.. then the Lord hits me with this verse..

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I nearly fell to the floor when he showed me this verse, again... I mean, I have read it 100 times, but this time was different.  All I heard were the words Steadfast to completion. I even made someone on Etsy put it on a necklace for me. I will remain steadfast, not only in this process but in my faith. God, we don't deserve a baby. We don't deserve salvation. Yet you provided your son Jesus willingly, and when I stepped back and took a long look at my life, what else did I need other than salvation?  Aaron and I both love the Lord, and have done our best to follow him in good and bad times. 

At this point in the process I'm thinking WOW this is so incredibly hard, but I have an amazing family, an amazing husband, two wonderful puppies, an amazing home, and Salvation. I resolve to remain steadfast in my relationship with the Lord, because He is good. He has given me the only hope I will ever need. Not a baby, but Jesus. 

And so, we continue because the Lord told us to. Loudly.

Donor #3. More bad news (only 2 embryos, and 1 of them wasn't doing well) At this point, the bad news was honestly just an expectation and just as devastating. Every. single. time. more crying, more confusion, more waiting.

Lucky Transfer Number 7: November 16, 2017 (18 months after our first transfer and 2 years after officially beginning this IVF process). We had decided that we had to up our odds somehow during this transfer, and only having 2 embryos just made sense for us to put them both in. The day of transfer started great.  I love transfer days (because I get a Valium). The doctor came in and everything was fine until he told me that 1 of the embryos wasn't looking good and had most likely died. I think in that moment it was the the last piece of bad news my body, mind, soul and spirit could handle.  After almost two years, I just couldn't hold it in anymore. I just cried.  Actually, I sobbed.  I sobbed through the entire procedure, I remember trying not to shake... I cried on the way home, and ate fast food, and a chocolate shake.. because who cares. This wasn't going to work... why would it work the 7th time, or even the 10th or 20th. 

In this moment of utter weakness I fell apart and was close to being hopeless. I was done and resigned to thinking I wouldn't carry a child.  I knew I was done with this process.  I wanted our money back, and to be done. I wanted to go to Hawaii, and Australia, and Europe, and forget this whole mess. (Lots of hormones tend to up the hopelessness also, but I really had reached my limit this time.)

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BUT..Something happened after that day that I can barely explain. I remember my first prayer was God, I can't do this again, I can't pray for a baby one more time... You have heard it, and I simply no longer have the words... Holy Spirit, who lives in me, intervene and talk to Jesus seated at the right hand of God with the words that are in my heart, because I. just. can't. 

So He did.

The words that came out of my heart and mouth were like nothing I could have made up on my own - the Spirit was driving and I was just listening. Powerful scriptures and lyrics like "The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, lives in me" and can give these embryos life.. were pouring out of me like water. Scriptures I hadn't even know I remembered would come to my head and spill out. I remember 3 specific instances: 1 in the middle of the night where I know the Spirit woke me up and took over my heart and interceded for me and our little embryo.

It was miracle time.

I waited 10 days to test... If you understand this process you know that typically you can see something around day 5-6... nope. I am not testing. I don't even want to know. But, wow am I SOOOO tired. I am so crampy... and hungry... 

I only took a few tests... had to be sure of course... 

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I was pregnant, like for real!! I had lines that lasted days and days... 3 blood tests then confirmed. My doctor saw me at my second blood draw, pulled me around the corner and hugged me and we jumped up and down together laughing. BUT..

I had a major step to go. I had to hear a heartbeat.. 

Remember when I said that my first ultrasound back in May of 2016 was one of the most traumatizing days of my life. Here is where that comes back to haunt.. Yes, I had been here before, 18 months ago, and it was ultrasound time again. 

I was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane... I didn't want a repeat of my last one.. I was terrified, I  am pretty sure Aaron was terrified (Aaron here - I wasn't terrified for me, I was terrified for Sarah). My doctor was pacing...literally pacing. He was as nervous as we were.  I took a deep breath and within 30 seconds his hands were to the ceiling and he had the biggest smile on his face. 

Thank you Lord. Thank you!!

I immediately began sobbing with relief and joy. Little Baby Shields was perfectly on schedule at 6w5d. Heart was beating loud and true. The doctor said "Oh my gosh, I have to go call my wife and tell the entire office," and he ran out of the room...  I think he was as excited and relieved as were were. All my nurses came in to hug and congratulate us. It was the most surreal moment. 

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And so, Miracle Baby Shields is on its way.  We have had 4 perfect ultrasounds now and are due August 4. 

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As I reflect on this journey, I don’t think it is a coincidence that my name is Sarah Elizabeth. I just so happened to be named after the two most famous infertile women in the Bible, who I may add, both got a miracle...

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Pain is never wasted.  I have already seen the Lord using this to His glory.  A friend and I started a monthly support group at my house for women who are still struggling with infertility. We hope to not only educate, and support, but to share how the Lord can give us true hope in the midst of suffering and how to remain steadfast in a consuming time of pain and heartache. As I've learned, if we listen, God whispers you are not alone dear one... remain steadfast unto completion.

In our worthy journey, He has been the source of our hope. He is the hero of our story. 

 

A few fun facts


We are only having 1 baby, not twins, we did lose our 1 embryo. (We already have twins, of sorts: Hoosier and Haley)

We will NOT find out gender. and will not share names until after baby arrives.

This will probably be our only child, but only children are amazing ;)

Because the numbers mentioned previously don't really include everything, in total we spent more than 5 figures in the last 2 years, but we are IVF debt free. God gets all the glory!

 

The Wittmers | lots of personality and love

It is always a little nerve wracking being asked by a very talented photographer to capture her own family photos. It is also a BIG honor. With that said, Ashley told me she really didn't want anyone in her family to look at the camera.. um.. what? That was a first for me... but ok that sounds kind of fun actually!  Of course it was almost impossible, because every single person in this family has incredible eyes, so I of course had to feature those a bit, but in all reality, what she meant was, I want to show the personality of my family. 

I don't really feel like I need to explain how this session went, because you can clearly see in the photos we had a little fun. just a little ;) 

See Ashley's incredible work here:  (Ashley Wittmer Photography)

Christy + Ben + Ella + Miles | Summer Sunset Family Session

"What happens if my kids don't behave?"

I hear this SO often and I fear it is the biggest obstacle from parents getting photos taken.  

After you look through these photos I sure hope you are thinking, wow well, doesn't this look like a perfect session? In complete honesty it absolutely was, for me at least. Christy probably didn't feel like that on the drive home. Miles is 3. Three year olds love to run, pout, laugh, take potty breaks, do the opposite of what you tell them, laugh uncontrollably when your sister comes to tickle you, cry for no reason, snuggle with your favorite stuffed monkey, and on..and on.. and you know what? I LOVE EVERY SECOND with those crazy toddlers.

I can tell when parents start to worry and I just shake my head and say let them be little. I don't even get worried like parents do if kids don't pose every single way I want them to. I just tell parents to let them be who they are and I will chase them, try and relax and love on them. 

To me these photos are SO full of life, and really how else do you want your family captured?? 

Thanks to these 4 for being perfect models and especially for Miles for having an amazing and strong personality. Aren't they all just the CUTEST?!?!

p.s. I think after this first image Christy was getting a bit nervous... I wasn't. ;) 

 

With Love, Sarah

 

Jonathan | Class of 2017

AW shoot.., I love seniors. They are SO fun and show up in awesome outfits. Red. yes. please. They know how to laugh and have fun, and they have so much to look forward to. Jonathan was no exception and we had a great time walking around the canal and enjoying the most gorgeous sunset light of all time. Jonathan is off to IU in the fall and he seems pretty excited about that. Being a hoosier fan (only because I married only) and of course have a dog named Hoosier, I was pretty excited he chose Bloomington.  You will do awesome! Congrats on graduation! 

with love,

Sarah

The Sprinkle's | Scarlett is 6 months old!

Oh how I love this family, if you know the Sprinkles you know that it wasn't easy to get Scarlett, and Karissa holds a special place in my heart for her endurance, patience, and trust in our Lord while waiting for her to come along. She is one of the most wonderful women I have had the honor of knowing. I just love photographing this little peanut who is growing WAY TOO FAST, and this family who loves her so fiercely. 

p.s. BABY LEG ROLLS!!! *swoon

Can't wait for 1 year photos to complete this story! 

With Love,

Sarah

My 3 B's to help me relax and "check out"

Season started off with a bang this year, having a new portrait site has been so incredibly awesome, and I have been afraid to do this for years!! WHY?! You should read this post. Spring came around and I kept waiting and waiting thinking... well maybe people don't really remember that I am shooting portraits and real estate... or maybe I need to do more advertising... OR maybe I just need to wait until the world turns green.. Yep that was it! It started 2 weeks ago. At the end of, what I consider, the first week of my season, I had 7 shoots and a wedding, then this week I have already had 8 with 6 mini sessions on Saturday. 

I was prepared, but oh how I wasn't prepared. I missed my "me" time!  Leading me to this post!! "What I do to relax and "check out."  

Number 1: Books!!!!!  I love reading and I love the library. I could spend all day roaming the library and looking for books, comparing them with the goodreads app, and coming home with my arms overflowing. 

Number 2: Bubbles!! I love baths! This, of course, works wonderfully with reading because I can do both at once. I almost take a bath daily, usually in the evening before bed. 

Number 3: Baking. You may not know, that I absolutely LOVE to bake. I don't very often, because I simply don't need to eat baked goods. Although I do eat a lot of ice cream...sigh.. anywhooo Some of my specialties include my grandma's chocolate chip cookies (that she stole from the back of the crisco box... I didn't know this until I was 29..it's a long story) Carrot Cake, brownies, strawberry cheesecake truffle, lemon cookies, and homemade snickers.  

I was craving oreo's, while staring at my computer for like the millionth hour in a row. I may have seen a commercial or something, dang advertisers!  BUT then of course I started hearing those snooty "organic" voices in my head (don't lie, you hear them too), and I thought, oh man they have so many chemicals in them, I should make my own... PLUS I can relax while making them.  

SO... I tried it! 

Naturally, I didn't have a round cookie cutter- next best thing? awwww a HEART!!!  

So... even though it was totally fun and relaxing, the sad news is that although they were tasty... they definitely were NOT Oreos. Next time I hear those "voices" I will ignore them and drive to the store! 

**find the recipe here.  (I used Vanilla creamer instead of half and half.. because.. why not?! and I definitely didn't use whole wheat flower.. ew...) 

With Love,

Sarah

A Real Estate Experience Unlike the Rest

So, maybe you know, maybe you don't, but I photograph homes periodically for realtors. Every house needs great photos to help it sell fast and to post everywhere online for buyers to see. Well, I actually really enjoy this for a few reasons.

First, and I admit this is a selfish reason, it is easy and fun. 

Secondly, I get to see a lot of great homes, hear some cool stories of why and where people are moving, and a lot of times I get some great decorating ideas!!

This morning was unlike any real estate experience I have had thus far, and I will admit, it has been my favorite. 

I walked into this house knowing that the realtor mentioned it would be dark and that the owner was an elderly woman. Ok, I bring my flash and gear up for high iso and slow shutters, but when I walked in, it instantly felt like a home. The owner lived there 35 years with her husband and I believe either her or his parents built the house in the 40's. So basically, no one else has ever lived there besides their family. There was amazing art on the walls, collections and priceless pieces in every corner, tons of framed degrees hanging in the office, and BOOKS!!!! SO. MANY. BOOKS!! (Aaron would have died and gone to heaven) 

The owner talked to me a lot about their books, her husband was a psychoanalyst and an avid reader. and boy did they love each other. ALL over the house were these amazing notes typed out and taped to mirrors. IT was the sweetest and most tender thing Ive witnessed and by far the number one thing that made this house a home. 

Even after her husband passed away several years ago, she still kept all of his notes taped up. They shared something beautiful together, and on my entire drive home I just thought about life and how it goes so fast.  I thought about how we can't take any of our STUFF with us when we go, none of it and how she will have to leave most of this behind. BUT they lived. They loved. They made a home together, love notes and all. 

Isn't this house so NEAT!!!??

After I was done photographing her home, she came downstairs with a stack full of books and said that since I had mentioned that my husband loved to read, that he would appreciate me gifting these to him. Making your husband important and thinking of him seemed like the most natural and important thing in the world to her. She wanted to help me do that. So.. here is my stack and I will never forget this lovely woman and her amazing home that she built together with her soul-mate. 

Evelyn | Newborn

ok, so yes. Evelyn is the cutest and has the most adorable little chubby cheeks, but I have a little extra soft spot for Jack. We did a family session last fall and he remembered me and promptly gave me a hug after I walked in the door. Heart. Melted. 

I have been told I have kind of a gift with kids, my dad was always that way. kids were just drawn to him and I hope I am the same way. I love seeing my families over again and watching them grow and gain new members.  This little family is no exception.

Welcome baby Evelyn! Can't wait to watch you grow up!!

 

Welcome baby Claire | Newborn Session

Elaine and Dale were a "Sarah & Rachel" couple a few years ago and now they have welcomed their first baby, Claire. 9lbs 9oz of pure chubby cheek cuteness! She has some of the most bright and attentive eyes I have seen on a newborn, did you see the way she looks right at the camera? Well, HELLO baby girl, you are SO pretty!! I'm Sarah your forever photographer (I decided). 

Side note: another cute nursery alert! the Perfect shade of PINK!!! (Sherwin Williams "Faint Coral")

Welcome baby Claire, you are loved!

 

 

Hello baby "Dom" aka Dominic

This little man is THE CUTEST!!! I love his hair (that his dad wishes was darker) and his mom just loves so much. Dominic was seriously the best baby! Even being a little older he slept like a champ through his session and most of the time let me put him where I wanted him. He was never more content though in his daddy's arms. Tim must just have the magic, I mean, don't all dads? 

Welcome to the world baby boy, you are adored already by your mom, dad, and furry siblings. 

p.s. another CUTE NURSERY alert! Robots and monsters and original artwork? YES!!!

 

Little Miss Olivia | Newborn Session

   I have loved EVERY session with Shannon, Neil, and little Jack. Now they have added even more cuteness to the family. Little Miss Olivia was born December 20th and the whole family is in love. Jack is just the sweetest, I am pretty obsessed with his little smirk in their family photo. He was all smiles and couldn't take his eyes off of the camera (maybe he just thinks I am pretty??)  Jack has those big eyes that are so easy to photograph and I know Olivia will have them also and be just as stunning as her brother. 

Olivia, you are just gorgeous. Welcome to the world, your family and photographer already adore you!

   p.s.  Make sure to check out Olivia's nursery, I wish my bedroom looked like that!! It is absolutely gorgeous.. THAT RUG!!! (wipes drool from mouth).. 

2016 and on..

   2016 was my year of denial. "No, I am a wedding photographer, I don't do portraits. Well.. ok just this once..."  I had 50 portrait sessions this year. 50!!!! No, no, I am not a portrait photographer... 

YES I AM!

     I can't say no to you, because I really do enjoy it. I LIKE your kids! I don't care that they scream, or won't smile, or run from me. I just chase them. I make weird faces, I tickle them, I play peek-a-boo.  I crave a connection with my portrait families and your children, I want to watch them grow up and capture those faces as they change and the inches they grow. I want to see your homes and how you live, I want you to remember how you live! I also love getting those emails, "wow, that was fast" (I have a weird crazy turnaround time) or "I just had no idea you got anything at all, my kid was being horrible and these are amazing" Really, I hope that my clients might actually have a good time at their sessions. 

     back to my denial.. I really felt like I couldn't serve them, I couldn't serve YOU. I couldn't possibly give you as great of images as those other photographers who "specialized" in portraits, I wasn't enough. BUT you all told me that yes, I could. You wanted me to capture these memories for you. You just kept asking and as hard as I pushed back you just picked dates and times and I just kept showing up. So thank you. Thank you for believing in me.

So 2017 Here I come, no more denial. 

Hi, I'm Sarah, I am a Portrait Photographer.

 

Oh, hey look.. all those photos taken in 2016 by the not a portrait photographer girl... 

Dave + Beth + 1 year old Story

      Beth and Dave are some of the sweetest people I have ever been around. They are genuine, caring, fun, relaxed, and simply love life. They were married down in Story, Indiana on a gorgeous fall day. Rachel and I had the privilege of photographing their picture-perfect wedding day. A few years later, they welcomed a baby girl. Of course, they had to name her Story! She is such a doll baby and if you notice the tickle attack at the end, she is full of laughs and cute little 1 year old giggles. 

Interior Designer | Whittney Parkinson

     Beyond photography my other passion is interior design, decorating, remodeling, HGTV, etc. I have always had an eye for a beautiful home. Whittney Parkinson trumps me by a million with her design skills, I am just lucky enough to be able to capture it once in awhile. She transformed this home in the Village of West Clay and I did all but gasp as I walked in the front door to see her work. 

See more of her work at www.mawrdesign.com

Tyler + Heidi + baby Ari

      In home, lifestyle, newborn sessions are my thing. There is just nothing like having memories of  the house you brought your baby home to, the nursery they slept in, and the couch you all snuggled on. Real memories are created in these spaces and they should be photographed! I love incorporating furry family members and you as new parents. I want you to look at these in 20 years and say "oh my, look how young we were, and oh do you remember that couch we loved and that stuffed elephant on the shelf." Those my friends, are REAL memories. 

    Time to introduce you to Ari Coher, his parents Tyler and Heidi, and his furry siblings Dory and Bruce. They are all absolutely smitten with tiny little Ari... well maybe not Bruce, but everyone else for sure!