1Samuel 1:27 “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked for.”
There is no way that Donald and I could announce our joyous news without sharing the story of what God has done in our lives. Not only has He answered the prayer of giving us a child, He has changed our lives, strengthened our marriage, and protected us from evil. So please bear with us as we share just how great God is and the miracle He has performed to bring this baby in to our family and allow us to become parents.
Before Donald and I got married we discussed children. We both wanted two (preferably a boy and a girl) and we wanted them before Donald was 30 and I was 27. We married on June 4, 2005 at the ages of 22 and 26 thinking we had all the time in the world to start a family. I mean, how hard could it be? Finally the time came in 2009 for us to get this party started – we were ready to get pregnant. It was fairly apparent from the get go that things just weren’t right. Without going in to too many details that would gross many out, I wasn’t ovulating regularly. After a visit to my doctor and an ultrasound I was told I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). “No big deal,” my doctor said. She told me to take a few medications and try again. Still, no luck. And sadly during this time, not once did I turn to God and ask for help. Not once did I ask Him to guide us through this process, direct our paths, or even comfort our aching hearts as our dreams were not becoming reality. Just before it was time to start talking fertility medications like Clomid, I was promoted with Cargill and off we went to Springdale, AR from Weyers Cave, VA.
Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
It didn’t take me long to find a new doctor in Arkansas. It was one of the very first things I sought to take care of once we were settled. You see, I was hard after making our dream a reality – no matter what! This doctor simply confirmed what we already knew. I had PCOS and that it was time to try Clomid. There was even mention that we may need to go through even more drastic procedures like Invetro Fertilization (IVF). I remember leaving the doctor’s office thinking, “Yes…there’s a solution. We can get pregnant ASAP. Let’s go. Let’s let science make this baby!” But oddly enough, when I talked to Donald, he wasn’t ready. Something was nagging at him. He didn’t really like the idea of having to take so many medications to create a child. If we pursued IVF I’d have to take multiple injections a day for weeks and months at a time. Donald was concerned for my wellbeing and the potential wellbeing of our child. Looking back, that was God tugging on Donald’s heart and thank God for that. And the truth is I was mad! I was very mad! I remember crying in the car telling Donald that I felt as if he was ripping our dream out from underneath me. I felt he was taking away my chance to be a mother. Again, I wasn’t seeking God. I was definitely not walking humbly with Him. I was trying to take control over something I had NO control over.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”
Fast forward a few months, and Donald and I agreed to try Clomid. However, before we could try Clomid the doctor’s required that Donald give a specimen (if you know what I mean). A few days later my doctor called with devastating news. She told me that something wasn’t right about the results and that she’d made an appointment for Donald with a urologist. On February 23, 2011 Donald went to see the doctor. I did not go with him, but got a recap when he got home. The doctor found a mass and made Donald get an ultrasound. Donald downplayed the event and said it was probably no big deal, but that he’d go back the next day (Thursday) for the results. At first I wasn’t going to go but something said I should. So I went with Donald to the doctor to hear the news that rocked our world! The doctor walked in to the office on that Thursday afternoon and said, “It’s a 2cm mass that I believe is testicular cancer. I scheduled you for surgery tomorrow morning.” Of course I began to cry. I was shocked, I was scared, and didn’t know what to do. Was this another blow, God? Is this one more reason why we can’t have children? On Friday, February 25, 2011 my 32 year old husband was having surgery for testicular cancer. When the results came back it was confirmed that he had Stage 1 Seminoma. At that point Donald was given an option. He could go through several weeks of radiation 5 times a week or 2 rounds of chemo or he could do nothing but have his condition monitored. After talking to radiologists and oncologist, Donald decided to just be monitored with frequent blood work, check-ups, and CT scans. With this option he was given a 95% success rate of the cancer never returning. At this point I said many times, “If the worst thing that happens in our lives is that we do not have children, I’m ok, because my husband has survived cancer.” Praise God, because to this day, over 3 years later, he is still cancer free!
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In May 2011 we moved again. This time to Newnan, GA. And once again, my first order of business was to find a new fertility doctor. Fortunately Donald’s cancer diagnosis and my PCOS didn’t mean we couldn’t ever have children, but this new combo meant that our only option to conceive was IVF. Neither of us were comfortable with the first doctor we chose as one day his office made a terrible mistake. They called and said we weren’t even candidates for IVF. At the time, Donald was working in VA and I was sitting in my office in GA crying hysterically. How? Why? I remember going home that night, sitting on the couch, and Jeremiah 29:11 was laid on my heart. It hit me – God has a plan for us. I may not know what it is and it may be that His plan includes no children, but He promised that His plan for us was to give us hope and a future. Oh how I had missed this all along. Once again, in the 2 years of our journey thus far, I’d missed the boat. I’d failed to seek God in all of this. I failed to ask Him to help us.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Skip forward to the end of September 2013. I travelled to Savannah, GA for an EHS Conference. (The same place I am now as I write this only a little over a year later.) Funny how I thought I was going to only learn about work on this trip. Little did I know God was going to meet me on a bench on River Street as I read a book. I came to this conference alone and each night I would walk down the river to grab a bite to eat, sit on a bench to relax, and watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. One night I took a book with me. This book gave advice on how to handle infertility and fertility treatments from a Christian perspective. As I sat on the bench that evening I read about IVF and a way to honor God while going through the process. You see, normally with IVF, the doctor will retrieve as many eggs from the woman as possible and fertilize them. After fertilization at least two embryos will be transferred back to the woman. At this point the couple has a decision with what to do with the rest of the embryos. Do you freeze them? Or do you destroy them? And depending on your view of life, this is a VERY big decision. This is a life or death decision. Donald and I believe the life begins at conception and so destroying embryos just wasn’t an option. And I could never imagine freezing my babies. After reading the IVF section in the book, I walked back to my hotel and called Donald. I told him how God spoke to me on the bench. How He confirmed how we could honor Him and achieve our goal of becoming parents. We decided that we once we found a doctor we liked, we would go through with IVF BUT we would only allow the doctor to create two embryos, regardless of the number of eggs they retrieved, as this is the amount of children we were willing to carry. I remember telling Donald all this on the phone from the hotel balcony and he said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for you to invite God in to our journey. Let’s do this.”
That night I began Googling fertility clinics and doctors. I eventually found Dr. McCarthy-Keith from Georgia Reproductive Specialists. Why did I choose her? Because I read reviews that she prayed over her patients. I may have missed the boat for years, but I knew now just how important it was and is to ensure we invite God into all aspects of our lives and honor Him in this journey. So, in October 2013 we met with Dr. MK and her nurse Rita Christopher. We explained our desire to only create two embryos when the time came. Although she thought the request was a little strange, she honored it. She even talked with the embryologist who helped create a slightly different plan. The plan would be that when the time came they would hold back four eggs and fertilize two immediately. If one or both of the eggs did not fertilize in the first 24 hours, she would fertilize the others. This would give us a slightly better chance of having embryos that were mature enough to make it to the transfer. We left Dr. MK’s office feeling good about our decision. We agreed to go back once we had our finances in order as we would pay out of pocket for part of this.
June 2014. It was time. Money was ready. We’d seen Dr. MK. Ordered all the medication and had a date to start injections. And what do you know – the day we’re to start injections we hit a major bump in the road. My annual pap smear results came back abnormal. And yet again, the tears began to flow. I prayed to God wondering why now? Why me? What are you telling me God? I called Dr. MK and was told that we couldn’t proceed with injections until we figured out what was going on with my test results. So, we waited a week to see my regular doctor and have a biopsy (leaving out details to prevent grossing people out again). And then we had to wait another week or two for the results. Would we be able to start IVF again in a month or would it take up to 6 months for me to heal if another procedure was required? I told my Bible Study class of the recent news and was so blessed to have a number of ladies surround me, lay hands on me, and pray for Donald and me and our journey. They prayed for our broken hearts, for our future, and the future of our babies. Like me, they begged God to answer our prayers and allow us to go forward. A week or so later we got a call from my regular doc – test results were absolutely NORMAL! There’d be no more delay. We were all set to go when I started my period next. Oh the relief. Oh how I thanked God for answering yet another prayer for us.
Matthew 17:20 “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
August 2014. We could finally start the IVF process. This entailed taking 3 weeks of birth control and then 10 days of injections and oral medications. I remember looking at all the medicine that came in the box and feeling overwhelmed. I also remember one evening I came to Newnan straight from my job in Fairburn to have dinner with Donald. I picked him up at his work and dropped him off afterwards so he could drive his car home. On the way back to his car from dinner I remember saying, “Maybe we could ask them to create three embryos. I’d be willing to carry triplets.” Donald quickly reminded me this wasn’t the plan God had laid on my heart in Savannah a year before – we needed to stick with the plan. As soon as Donald shut his car door Matthew 17:20 came to mind as God gently reminded me “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Ok, God, I get it! You can easily give us babies from two embryos. In fact, all you need is one. I have faith, Lord. I have faith.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Wednesday, September 10, 2014. After 10 days of two or three injections a day (administered by my wonderful husband) it was time for the egg retrieval. A quick 30 minute procedure later and our doctor told us she was able to retrieve 13 eggs. How exciting! We’d prayed over these eggs. We’d had others pray over these eggs. We’d had friends and family pray specifically for the embryologist to pick the strongest eggs and strongest sperm to create our gift from God. We left the doctor’s office that day with a promise to receive a call within 24 hours on whether our embryos had fertilized. And wouldn’t you know, the next day Nurse Rita called saying that two of the eggs had fertilized, nine were frozen, and two were not mature enough to handle the freezing process. THANK YOU JESUS! We’re one step closer. Rita promised another phone call the next day to let us know if the cells in the embryos had divide. This was going to be a very important phone call. The embryos must divide in order for them to be healthy and be transferred back to me. I was on pins and needles the entire next day. I stared at my cell phone waiting for it to ring. I tried to remember with each nervous minute to pray. I would look down at the ring I wear on my right ring finger that has Philippians 4:6 engraved on it. And so we prayed. And just before noon the phone rang. GOOD NEWS! Our precious embryos had divided and on Saturday, September 13, 2014 those precious embryos would be transferred from the tube in the lab back in to my body for me to carry and nourish.
And then the wait. After the transfer we would wait 12 days until we returned to the doctor’s office for a blood pregnancy test. Prayer after prayer after prayer went up from us and for us as we waited. And during this wait I was blessed to attend a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study retreat in Asheville, NC. There I would see girls that in the last 12 months have become my best friends and my sisters. I would also meet women I had never known, but we were united in our relationship in Christ. Once again, silly me for thinking this was just a time for me to fellowship with my friends from all over the US. Silly me for not expecting God to show up mightily once again. The theme of this retreat was Dreams. Each day we had one or more speakers deliver a message about chasing the dream that God has laid on your heart. On night one, Melissa Taylor asked each woman in the room to write her dream on an index card. Funny, this is the second time I’d done this in the last 6 weeks or so. I’d been asked to the same thing at my Bible Study at church. And just like I did 6 weeks before, I wrote that my dream was to become a mother. I folded the note card and placed it in my journal. Day two, and Lisa J. Allen spoke on the rhythm of the dream that God places on your heart. And without going in to a ton of detail (it was an amazing talk) Lisa began to compare the beginning stages of your dream to the beginning stages of a pregnancy – the first stage being an embryo. Did I really just hear the word embryo? Who uses that word except my doctor? I looked to my left at my friend Amy (who knew our story) and I began to tear up. Truthfully, I heard very little of the words that came next. But I do know that at some point as Lisa explained the growth of your dream in terms of an embryo growing she told us to turn to our neighbor and say, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” UMMM…HELLO GOD! I hear you loud and clear! I couldn’t believe the words that I was hearing. I had a row full of friends and several across the aisles look at me with tears in their eyes knowing exactly what those words meant to me. I remember thinking, “Oh man…I can’t wait to explain this moment to Donald. I just hope I do God justice.” After the talk a friend encouraged me to tell Lisa exactly what her words meant to me. It’s then that Lisa said as she was praying over the talk for that morning that God laid the word embryo on her heart. Again, how foolish of me not to believe that God wasn’t going to show up at this retreat?!? Fast forward a few hours later, and several of my friends and I were sitting in the lobby listening to the worship leader, Erin Maynor, and our friend Courtney play the guitar. As they played, Erin sang a song that she wrote for her adorable son. I don’t know all the words but some of them were, “Tiny hands, tiny feet, miracle baby…” I began to cry. Not really sad tears, but tears of longing to be able to know the feeling of holding and touching tiny hands and feet and praying mightily for that miracle. When Erin finished playing she looked at me and asked if I was ok. I explained my story to her and she asked if she could pray for me? Once again I had women surround me, some of them were my closest friends and some were women I’d met hours before. These women wept with me, prayed over me, prayed with me, and boldly approached God asking Him to not only give us a baby, but to give us twins as this has been our prayer all along.
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”
Whew! Moving on. September 25, 2014. Our 12 days is up. I am anxious. Donald is anxious. Ring phone ring. I carried my cell phone wherever I went. To the bathroom, to meetings – I wasn’t about to miss that call. Shortly after noon my office phone rang (so much for carrying my cell wherever I went). It was Dr. MK. She asked me how I was doing. Where was I? Where was Donald? Was I sitting down? Was I ready for the news? She questioned me for what seemed like an eternity before saying, “CONGRATULATIONS. YOU’RE PREGNANT!” I immediately began to scream and cry and stamp my feet while sitting in my chair. I couldn’t believe it. We’re pregnant! Five years of ups and downs had all come down to this. As soon as the call was over I called Donald. I was able to deliver the most joyous news ever to him. “We’re going to be parents, babe!” What a feeling!!!
1Samuel 2:1 “My heart rejoices in the Lord…”
Now the wait to see if we were going to be parents of multiples. On October 16, 2014 we had our very first ultrasound at 7 weeks. We had nervously anticipated this day. We so desperately wanted to know how many babies we’d be blessed to parent. And then the sweetest thing came up on the monitor – our baby! No, it wasn’t twins, but that’s ok. We thanked God for the miracle of one. A precious life is growing inside of me. How amazing it was to hear its tiny little heartbeat. We love our little raisinette so much. It’s hard to believe you can love something so tiny. It’s hard to believe that God has created something so miraculous and blessed us to be its parents. Baby Raymond is due to join this world on June 5, 2015 (just a day after our 10th wedding anniversary).
Many people think it’s crazy to announce your pregnancy before you’re out of the danger zone of the first trimester, but Donald and I are too excited to wait. Besides…why miss out on the ability to have so many loved ones pray for us and pray for our baby?!? It is by the grace of God and so many prayers that we are able to share this news now. Why stop the prayers from coming!?!
Thank you for reading our story (sorry – I know it was long). And thank you for sharing in our joy. May God bless you all!
Love, Donald and Jill Raymond