Friday, November 21, 2014

A Beautiful Heart

We are falling in love more and more...

Our hearts, falling in love with her heart. And not just her physical heart.

As we watched her little heart today at the fetal ECHO just flicker away, all the little intricacies of her heart, so detailed, and functioning just so, we couldn't help but just smile and our love for her, increase all the more.

Sitting and watching in awe as the technician moved the probe from side to side, Dan gently says "how can someone say that is not a life?" Our baby girl moving from side to side, putting her hands up by her head, packing a full punch on the probe, kicking as if to say "get this thing off of me", a girl so full of life!

Our hearts, so full of love for her! Being able to watch her little body and heart move just so, and her little heart working just so, so that the rest of her body can grow, I can't come up with words. And her heart is functioning at a completely normal level! The doctor sees no congenital heart issues at this point, and a heart that is as healthy as can be! Her coronary arteries are too small to see if she has the issue I had, but her heart function says that everything is perfectly fine. What a blessing and we are just so thankful to God, as HE is the One who is behind the handiwork of her heart. To think that God is making her heart beat at 158 beats per minute, so that everything else functions the way it should, is just absolutely mind-boggling.

For 1 1/2 hours, we were able to watch our daughter just live life. For 1 1/2 hours we were able to share with the technician the journey God has taken us on. We literally could not believe all that we saw today - and yes, we were so thankful that we had this appointment! It was well worth the drive and well worth the time it took - the time flew by, as we just watched her and our hearts growing fonder and fonder!

We also were able to see that yes, she IS a girl :). I told the technician that I just wanted to be reassured again! Oh how I just can't WAIT to hold her, love on her, kiss her, and tell her how beautiful she is! I am sure she is getting used to our voices as we talk to her a LOT, but little does she know how ready these arms are for her! Though like I said before, of course, we'd love for her to stay in there for awhile yet.

My heart, at ease, knowing that thus far, I haven't passed on anything to her. Granted my heart doctors do not feel my heart condition was a genetic issue, but I just feel better knowing that our baby girl doesn't have the issues I did. We are so thankful too, for technology! As we were talking with our technician, she mentioned that because of tests like this, it has significantly lowered the number of blue babies having to be flown to children's hospitals because the issues are caught early on. That means they can get the care they need as soon as they are born because they were born in the right hospital. That is why we are so willing to do what the doctors feel is best for both myself and our baby. Whatever it takes to ensure health for the both of us, we are willing to accept! And of course, anytime we get a chance to see our baby girl, we are going to jump on it!

So, please praise God with us as we are just one step closer to having a healthy child. We see this journey as steps and we are just taking it one step at a time, hoping that the last step is us holding a healthy baby girl in our arms. We try to not take any moment for granted because we know each step is such a miracle!

A baby girl filled with so much life!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Journey That Has Taken Us So Far

As the saying goes, time flies when you are having fun, right?

Well, that can also be said to be true when moving to another state! We have lived in Minnesota for 1 1/2 years already, though at times it feels like longer and at other times, it feels shorter. Sometimes I still don't know where certain things are in the great metropolis over here and do not know who people are, but then other times, I feel like yup, we've been here for 10 years!

When we think back to who we were when we first moved here, we can't help but think back to the journey that brought us here.

That journey had only just begun, when God brought us to Minnesota.

If God would have told us that He was going to move us to Minnesota 3 years ago, I would've said "to WHERE?" If God would've told us that He was going to heal my heart I would've said "Wait, WHAT?" If God would've told us that He was going to give us the gift of a child, I would've been like Sarah and laughed. I truly don't know how I would've responded. I would love to say that I would've just said "okay God, lets go for it!" But I don't think my faith would've truly believed it. Honestly.

And now Dan and I sit, only 4 months away from meeting our baby girl (we pray). We never even DREAMED of this happening - let alone for God to bring us out to Minnesota, for SO MANY reasons.

And one of the things that honestly has been hard, is that when we lost our first 2, we had our families physically there to love and support us, when we had lost so much already. Now to experience pregnancy in such a different way, being away from them, has added some emotions.  I have shed some tears over needing to make the phone call instead of telling our families face to face. I have cried over not being able to share some of this experience (like a growing belly) with them - something our families have prayed for, for YEARS and YEARS. I have shed tears over knowing that we are far enough away, that we have to just cling to God's will for our lives.

And that is what I believe in. That is what I have faith in. That God brought us to Minnesota for healing. For newness. For newness of life. For refreshment. For new relationships. For love. For ways that we do not even fully know yet. God's will is PERFECT and though it is not always easy, God does make it easy to follow Him when you know He has yet to be unfaithful and knowing He never will be unfaithful. He has shown us time and time again, that His ways are perfect, even when we don't fully understand them.

Coming home from youth group tonight and being able to share this whole experience with our youth group kids, has been such a pleasure and joy! The joking, the dreams, and the belly rubbing, bring more joy than words can express (yes, I am one of those people who ENJOYS people touching my stomach). God knew what He was doing! God knew it to be perfect, that He would heal my heart and have us become pregnant. God knew it to be perfect that even through the struggles of not being able to share this directly with our families in the physical sense, that it's our love for each other, that goes beyond any physical distance.

We are so humbled by the love we have felt. We are so humbled that God would choose Minnesota, as a place to grow us, stretch us, and heal us. We are so humbled that God would care enough to give us the true desires of our hearts.

We are blessed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

23 Weeks!

23 weeks and counting...

Still in awe. Still hasn't fully sunk in. And I have decided I do not want it to ever fully sink in - when it sinks in, that means I wish for time to just pass. I do not want a minute of this all to pass by without taking time to think and be thankful for the journey God has us on, to create a little Sterk family.

Each week marks one week closer than we have ever been. Each week marks a week stepped in faith, that this child, has been given as a gift, and we have the privilege of caring for her.

My body: Each move she makes, I try to quickly put my hand on my stomach, as these movements were something I only ever dreamed of feeling. Every move is a reminder of God's grace. Every move stops my mind and turns it towards what is happening inside. Every move, I just cherish! I still feel incredible, which I do not take for granted! And of course, as she continues to grow, so does my stomach, and it's a beautiful thing!

Exercise: I still try to exercise as often as I can! With winter officially here a month early, I have detoured my routine to inside on the elliptical. Dan and I still take walks at night when we can, but exercising for 30ish minutes 4-5 times a week is still ideal for me (per doctor's orders as well). I do have to take a few more breaks, but I think our little girl loves it when I do exercise because afterwards she is just a moving like crazy!

Food: Maybe I am not a typical pregnant person, but I do not CRAVE foods like most pregnant people do. Yes, I still really enjoy eating cereal, macaroni and cheese, and really anything with cheese, but I can go a day without them if I have to. This farmer's daughter isn't a diehard for meats right now (which is REALLY strange), though I got chicken wings at a restaurant recently and they were not too bad! That is the first chicken I have had in a LONG time (I think since July). Really though, I will eat anything, but do not feel I need to eat 10 pounds of it!

Planning: We have registered! We decided to just register at Target since we do not have many store options close to us, and we found most of what we needed from there anyways! It was rather fun (felt like a little kid as Dan would pick up an item and say "here, scan this...")! Who knew there were so many options out there when it comes to baby items, but who knew having a child would require so much? At first maybe we were a tad overwhelmed, but now we are just PUMPED! Excited to live life with this baby girl in our life! She has no idea how excited we are and how much love is built up for her, but hopefully she is figuring that out already :).

Baby: At probably a foot long now, I am sure she is well over a pound now, seeing how almost 2 weeks ago she weighed 1 lb. 2 oz.! She is a mover in the morning when I eat breakfast, also at about 10pm she gets a 2nd, 3rd or 5th wind in her and just has a party in there! Often when I lay down to go to sleep, she likes to remind her mommy that she is alive and well and I LOVE. EVERY. MINUTE. OF. IT. As I lay there falling asleep, Dan has a chance then too, to feel her healthy body just a kicking and we can just lay there and dream about our life with our little girl. We were told by our doctor that she is like a contortionist because at one point, she had her foot WAY up by her head, so I am not surprised to feel her moving often :).

Little does she know, how much joy she has already brought to our life! Little does she know how much our thoughts revolve around her. Little does she know how much hope God has given us through her. Little does she know that her life was planned out from the beginning of time! Little does she know that our arms are wide open and ready for her (though hopefully she stays in the oven until March!)

If you could say a little prayer for her this Friday... I have to have a fetal ECHO done on her in another city. Everything is okay, but the doctors just want to make sure that she does not have any congenital heart disease issues that are noticeable at this point. If so, they will have me deliver in Minneapolis. Of course we pray her little heart is as healthy as can be, but we know this is just one more step towards God bringing her into this world, in the way He chooses. Not nervous, but it is an hour long test (or more) so just praying that her little heart is still just fluttering away!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beauty In Loss


Beauty through experiencing loss.

Loss is incredibly hard to explain - whether it be something tangible or something that you had to let go of all too soon. It is only because of loss, that the experience of carrying a child, is all the more, a miraculous gift.

If it wasn't for our first two Hooties in Heaven, we wouldn't understand what it means to have the blessing of carrying a child on earth.

There is beauty. There is beauty in the taking away. In the loss. Because blessed be the Name of the Lord. Understanding what it means to have a Sovereign God that gives and takes away, only increases the beauty of what is given. If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't know the beauty of gain.

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't understand the beauty of what we have now - a beautiful little girl, growing inside.

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't have the beauty of our relationship with our carrier - EVEN in loss.

If we didn't know loss and experience what it means to lose children, we wouldn't understand the miracle they truly are.

If I didn't know loss, in not being able to have a child of my own, we wouldn't know the joy of hearing the words "I see no problem with it."

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't know the grace that God can truly give.

If we didn't know loss, our faith would not be where it is today.

If we didn't know loss, we would know what it means to trust God and HIS PERFECT plan in our life.

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't understand the depth of love for two little babies we never met.

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't know the simple depth of love.

If we didn't know loss, we wouldn't understand why this girl means so incredibly much to us already. A girl we haven't even officially met, but are counting down the days until we can hold her. Dreaming of the day we can kiss her, love on her, and give her our love. A love that has been given to two little children in Heaven, but has only grown, as God graciously gives us each day with our baby girl inside of me.

There is beauty in loss. There is beauty in the taking away. God allowed the pain of our past to bring about His sovereign purposes - a plan that we truly never imagined. Only a perfect and creative God could create and design a plan such as this.

We don't know what tomorrow will hold. That is why we treasure each and every day with our little girl. A girl and a gift that has given us so much hope. A gift that God has given us to remind us that if we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts.

For this child, we prayed. For this child, we continue to pray.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Good Morning, Minnesota!

It was but 2 or 3 days ago, that I was told that we were supposed to get some snow. Not a huge shocker, since we live in Minnesota. Then I heard that we could possibly get 12 inches of snow. That is when I say "psshhh won't happen". So many times, storms either scoot north or south of us, just clipping us, and we get just a few inches.

Well, Sunday night before I went to bed, I peaked outside one last time to get a glimpse of the green grass, thinking that maybe "this" will be the last time I see grass until April (you think I may be exaggerating, but that is what happened last year!) Good thing I took those few seconds to soak in all that green-ness because sure enough, I woke up to a call that our school was 2 hours late and then another that school was closed. That foot of snow? Well, we are are pretty close to that!

It was a GREAT day to get some things done around the home!
If you wonder what winter looks like in Minnesota, here are a few pics to get you into the winter mode! Unfortunately, our snow blower broke as well, which Dan is thinking it is not worth repairing, but was able to get the majority of the driveway plowed

It was snowing so hard that after Dan was finished snowblowing, it looked like he didn't even touch the driveway because it all filled in again! I have to admit, it was like a snow globe outside and it was BEAUTIFUL! 

So all those in the Midwest, you just wait! Your turn is coming too, I'm sure! The snow also brought cold temps (in the 20s, when average high is in the 40s), so nothing like welcoming winter with a blast! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Picture Perfect

We are in LOVE already! We can't stop talking about our baby girl, what life will be like with her, and we just stare at these pictures! Of course ultrasound pictures aren't picture perfect and maybe not the most "adorable", but we find them to be perfect. In them we see a child knitted specifically by God - a child chosen before the beginning of time. The journey to our baby girl is nothing short of perfect, as this has all been part of God's plan. 

I love waking up and knowing our baby girl is still sleeping, but slowing feeling her move here and there, and then all of a sudden, she's moving in full swing. I love after I eat something, she is more active, as I think she is just like me - give me food and I will have energy too. I love when Dan and I are able to give her kisses, gently rub my stomach to let her know we love her, and little does she know, how much love is waiting for her outside her home within! I love every moment we have with this child, as each day is a miracle. Each day is a gift. And with gifts, we never want to take them for granted. As my blog title says - Today Is A Gift From God - Remember To Thank Him. Our hearts are so full with thankfulness for our girl. Oh to meet her - we just can't wait!

I hesitated sharing these - ultrasound pics are hard to "read" like I said. Yet these show the handiwork of God - something we want to keep at the forefront - giving God all the glory.

Here is a little foot on the right side - apparently she was telling the doctor to get that probe off of her!

Her little face (sideways), with her arm vertical, right next to her chin. Apparently she was opening her mouth wide (which we do have a pic of), but also sticking out her tongue! She also was covering her face with her hands at one point, which I just think is so cute. To think she is just as active as can be, just living life in the womb! "Eating" what I am eating (hopefully she likes cheese and cereal!), sleeping sometimes when I am, and really, doing everything we do.

We are so in love!

She does have to have some testing done on her little heart (called a fetal ECHO) in a few weeks, just to make sure she doesn't have any major congenital heart disease issues. If she does, then I would have to deliver in Minneapolis. My heart issue, though congenital, is not genetic (which is hard to explain), but I just see it as God's divine plan in my life. He knew the best route to display His glory, through a rare heart condition. When we were going through the process with our first 2, we saw a genetic counselor because we were considering embryo adoption. The geneticist and my heart doctor both said the percentage of passing it on is 1-3%. Though, because the hospital I will be delivering at does not have anyone on staff to deal with congenital issues, the doctor wants to rule out as much as we can. We know she has a 4 chambered heart, but our doctor wants to just make sure, which is just fine with us. We understand I am high risk, so we will do whatever it takes to ensure a healthy delivery for both our girl and myself! 

We love all the stages of pregnancy! Now we are entering the stage of thinking about registering! Kind of overwhelming like I said before, but SO fun! Hopefully in the next few weeks, we will get a  chance to go crazy at Target! Not too crazy though, as we will not have room for it all, which in our minds, really is a good thing as we try to live a simple life!

We also want to thank you too for celebrating this life with us - thank you for loving this precious life in so many ways already. May all of this, just direct you back to God, His goodness, His grace, and His perfect plan!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blessed To "Meet" Our Little Girl Today!

 Today was THE DAY we could find out the gender of lil' baby Sterk! We both were SO eager for this day to come because we just wanted to KNOW!

More than anything, we wanted to see our baby again. We couldn't wait to see it's little toes. It's beautiful face. It's formed body. A baby alive and well. Over the past few days, this baby has become more and more active, which is very reassuring to this mama. So when the doctor was trying to get a glimpse of certain parts of the body and the baby kept moving, I wasn't surprised.

And as you can see...

The first thing we did after leaving the doctor's office, was head on over to Runnings to buy Dan's first gift for our baby girl - a pink fishing rod! What a proud daddy he is and as we looked at all the little baby clothes, we had a hard time not buying it all! To say we are excited is an understatement! This girl is definitely going to be a daddy's girl!

We didn't realize this ultrasound was so thorough, but we saw everything from it's lips and tongue, to lungs, to kidneys, to little feet. And of course, that it was a girl. As the doctor looked at my health, he was concerned that my cervix wasn't looking like it should, so he had to do some further testing, which made us a little nervous, because what he described was a possibility of me going into preterm labor (in as early as 2 weeks if he thought the issue was what it was). BUT, after further testing, my cervix looks completely healthy and normal. A silent prayer a thanksgiving said right then and there! We also learned that our baby is measuring a week ahead! Even though March 17 is still the official due date, I am realizing that size-wise, our baby girl may come into this world a little earlier, or I will be having a big baby :). Either way, as long as she is healthy, I do not care!

Again, we are just so thankful for this healthy little child - no matter what the gender! That is what we have been praying for! But now we have the privilege, because of the blessing of technology, to pray for this little girl by name. We decided to keep one thing secret in this pregnancy and that is the name. But I will say that the meaning behind it still makes me tear up!

I realized my last picture of the growing babester was in Islamorada, so here is our baby girl at 
21 weeks!

March can't come quicker, as we can't wait to hold this little girl in our arms!