Not as Planned- Samantha’s Story of Infertility

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This is a podcast episode titled, Not as Planned- Samantha’s Story of Infertility. The summary for this episode is: <p>Growing a family is an absolute blessing! Every family has its journey, but it's not always easy. Today we pull back the curtain a bit, and Samantha shares her story of infertility, and challenges through growing her family. Many women walk this difficult road, and we hope this conversation helps bring perspective about challenges those in your community could be facing, and how to love and support them.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Craving more from Going There the Podcast?</strong> Come be our friend! Make sure you’re following along on Instagram <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">@goingtherethepodcast</a> and subscribe to our podcast so that you never miss a new episode!</p><p><br></p><p>If you love what you heard, we’d be so happy if you left us a rating and review on your podcast app. This way, more people can find us and join our fun convo!</p>

Christian: Let's get real. Who wants to have another surface level conversation?

Samantha: Not us. I'm Samantha.

Christian: And I'm Christian, two friends having raw but truth filled conversations about the messiness of life.

Samantha: So buckle up and don't be shy-

Christian: Because, yeah, we're Going There.

Samantha: We're Going There.

Christian: Hello? We are back again.

Samantha: We are consuming large amounts of Skittles in case you were wondering.

Christian: Yes. We thought about chewing them on this episode, but we thought we'd spare you the details.

Samantha: inaudible.

Christian: Yeah. That's terrible. That's terrible.

Samantha: Some of you right now are actually probably gagging-

Christian: Freaking out, yes.

Samantha: the thought of it.

Christian: We have a poll. We just put it on our Instagram. Are wild berry or classic Skittles better? We don't know which one, but I would argue classic, but currently we're eating wild berry so I don't know. What's your take?

Samantha: I'm really into the wild berry. I'm not usually a candy person, but I'm really crushing these.

Christian: Chewy Sprees are my fave. What's your fave? Or Nerd Clusters.

Samantha: Oh, Nerd Clusters we both are obsessed with, but on my road trip last week, I could not get enough of Sour Punch Straws and I go for those frequently-

Christian: Are you at the pool and are you like 14? I feel like that was the thing you bought at the pool concession stand and then you all-

Samantha: No, but good vibes.

Christian: sucked your little soda through the straws.

Samantha: Now that you're saying that, I'm like," Oh, puts me back in a place."

Christian: You're so weird.

Samantha: This is random but have you heard or watched the Summer-

Christian: The Summer I Turned Pretty? I watched the whole thing in one day.

Samantha: Wait, really?

Christian: Did I not tell you that?

Samantha: No.

Christian: Oh, I watched the whole thing in one day. Andrew took a video of me sobbing in my bed.

Samantha: Everyone says the ending's so sad-

Christian: Sobbing.

Samantha: ...and sweet and you'll cry.

Christian: It's so good, guys. If you like a good Hallmark movie, you would be there for it. If you like that kind of acting, it's cheesy acting, it's kind of dumb, but it is so good. And, honestly, the ending is so sad, but I think it's so good. I was literally sitting there laughing and crying.

Samantha: I already know what it's sad. I just realized what's sad. I'm only on the second episode, but I just realized what's going to be sad.

Christian: Literally, it is sad but also I was laughing because I was just in my emotion so much and Andrew's like," Why are you so into this?" And I was like," To be honest, it's just hitting me right now that they so well in such a good way, they tapped into all the emotions of what life is when it's like so happy, so sad, all the things.

Samantha: Well, really, I don't think it's a Hallmark thing. I think what everyone's saying is it's so nostalgic to your teenage years.

Christian: Yes. Well, we wish we all went to like a beach house every summer.

Samantha: Okay. Not the environment and stuff, but the emotions they're feeling. I was on the second episode last night while I was folding laundry. Justin and I watch shows together at night so I haven't been able to watch a ton of it because when we're together, I have to turn it off. Well, actually one night he started watching with me and he said he didn't hate it.

Christian: I forgot to tell you. I literally binged it all in one day-

Samantha: Yeah, that surprises me.

Christian: ...because my kids were napping at the exact same time and I was really tired. So I was like," I'm just going to sit down and watch a show." So weird. Literally never do that and then I finished it that night. It's only seven episodes, though.

Samantha: Yeah. But it just so taps into those emotions when she's flirting with the boy for the first time or the first kiss and like," Oh, she's so cute." It's cute.

Christian: I have a friend's who is dating like in her dating life, and so I like for her to share details with me because I'm no longer dating. So it's fun for me to get nostalgic. And those moments when they first touch your leg and you literally start freaking out but you're like now when my husband touches my leg, I obviously think it's sweet, but I'm not like," Oh, my gosh."

Samantha: Okay. No, let me set a scene for everyone. You're 16. It's summer like it is now. You're with your friends. You're vibing. You're hanging out. You can drive. You're driving.

Christian: You're vibing.

Samantha: If you're Christian, you're driving an Astrovan. If you're me, you're driving a... What did I drive? A Rogue.

Christian: Rogue.

Samantha: A Nissan Rogue. You've been with your friends all day. Maybe you've been to the pool. Maybe you've been to the coffee shop, whatever you've done. You're going back to your friend's house. All day long you've been texting so- and- so, and like you guys have been texting back and forth.

Christian: What was his name, Samantha?

Samantha: What week was it? My gosh, this was-

Christian: Oh my gosh.

Samantha: No, I had problems. Like I had-

Christian: That's bad.

Samantha: Yeah. I've talked about that in my testimony. I wanted attention from boys, okay? So you go back to your friend's house, you plop on her bed. It's so cool and crisp in the house. You plop on the bed. The vibes are on and everyone's sitting there talking about who they're texting, what the plans for the night are. Tell me you're not back there.

Christian: Yes, we are all back there.

Samantha: Like are you going to the pool party?

Christian: That's so good.

Samantha: Are your parents going to let you go?

Christian: You have a curfew. Are you trying to extend that curfew?

Samantha: Hopefully, no one's... Like is there going to be drinking there? Are you in that or not? Like, guys-

Christian: Nostalgic.

Samantha: Just so many moments.

Christian: Yes, guys. The Summer I Turned Pretty, I thought the title was weird and I was like not about it and then I just started listening-

Samantha: Oh, you don't know that it's based on really popular books.

Christian: Yeah, I didn't realize that.

Samantha: Yeah.

Christian: And then I was like, oh, I'm dumb for not making those connections but I didn't.

Samantha: You're dumb.

Christian: Because I literally don't read a lot of books. I mean I really don't read a ton of books for fun. I read a lot of like,-

Samantha: No, she's tried to be in our book club and inaudible.

Christian: And then I don't read a lot or I don't watch a lot of TV. I don't know. Just not my thing but I like it when I do it and I get into it and then I get too invested because I've thought about it every single day pretty much since then. It's been like a week and a half.

Samantha: Oh, interesting.

Christian: So, guys, this has nothing to do with what we're talking about today-

Samantha: No, but it's fun.

Christian: ...but welcome to our chit chat. Anyways, we are back again and we are excited to kind of dive into a topic that a lot of people have had questions about, that a lot of people have just inquired more information about and wanted us to talk about. And so what we will be discussing today is specifically Samantha's journey in her infertility and, sadly, miscarriages of just a part of her and Justin's story of growing their family and what that's looked like. We have touched on these topics throughout a lot of different episodes and it obviously shapes a lot of way that Samantha lives her life now and they go throughout life. So we wanted just to have a whole conversation to kind of bring you through that story and then also just talk about some practicals of what life looks like through that lens. And maybe if that's your story yourself, I hope it's encouraging to you, but also how do we encourage and how do we love on people who maybe that's not your story, that's not my story, but I constantly want to be learning and growing in the ways that I can love and care for people around me, who that is a part of their story. So that's what we'll be chatting about today.

Samantha: I think we've gotten so many responses about it. We did our live update last week and I got a lot of personal messages. And then Going There's Instagram got a lot of messages asking if we could talk more about how my family ended up on the path to adoption. That's the avenue that we have used to grow our family and just me sharing more. And I definitely know I shared about the loss that we had at, I was 16 weeks pregnant. I'm waiting for Christian to help me out. Was I 16... I was 18?

Christian: I'm not going to correct your own life story because I was told that I often correct your things.

Samantha: I think I was 18. And I've shared that story before. I remember sharing that, but I'll kind of give a little bit of a history on what led me personally into infertility. And it's kind of weird, I guess I would say I struggle with infertility, but I guess if you'll hear my story, maybe you'll understand this more. I've never really considered myself someone that struggles with infertility because I got pregnant three times and had three losses. And I also, before those happened, always knew that I would probably never get pregnant. So I guess, in my mind, I never went through infertility because I don't know if this is right or wrong but, just being honest, I feel like a lot of times people who have said infertility is a part of my journey, then usually it ends up somehow either they have gone through IVF or other infertility treatments and are on the other side or they're like," I'm currently battling infertility." But it's pretty rare that you would be given a diagnosis that it absolutely wouldn't happen for you somehow biologically. So maybe that's why I've never really considered myself battling infertility because I just knew I wouldn't, but then I randomly got pregnant, but then I lost the pregnancies and then we started adoption. And so I don't know.

Christian: Yeah. It's always actually been interesting just as your friend... Again, I want to be really sensitive to this topic because it's not a part of my story and being your friend, again, we've gotten this question a lot of like will you guys talk about infertility? You don't come out and say," That is something I struggle with." Because of your past, you just knew it would be hard anyway, and it's probably not possible. And so I think, though, bringing all of that context to people will be helpful for even the knowledge and just wisdom you have now of how to handle that well, with you walking through that personally, but then also how do we do that well and lovingly and graciously with other people. So take us back, obviously back back back to three years old Samantha.

Samantha: Yeah. So without getting... Oh, we could just sit and talk for hours about you got to hear my mom and I talk about just the things I've been through health wise. I guess when I say that too, one reason I've always shied away from talking about my health and stuff or maybe I'll joke a lot about it, like cancer inaudible or cancer survivor stuff, whatever. Christian's trying not to laugh but I think-

Christian: That's totally terrible.

Samantha: No, you can say that when I've battled it three times, but I think what happens is you hear someone's story and then you feel bad for them. And I just never wanted people to feel bad for me because I never viewed my childhood cancer as something... I know this is going to sound bizarre but like something that held me back. Now in hindsight, I can look back and see like, wow, I missed out on a lot of normal childhood things, but I also had a really great childhood and I still got to indulge in a lot of really cool things and normal things. And then I, in some ways, got to experience really extraordinary things because I was the kid that had cancer and got to do a lot of really cool things.

Christian: But see then, I even think of that statement, though. I get emotional every time we talk about this, but even just what a testament to God working in your life and even going before you, just his goodness and his provision and his graciousness to you in the way that you never talk about this story in a way that," Gosh, poor me. I was a childhood cancer survivor." And you never talk about it in a bad or sad way really. You always talk about it like," This is what I learned. This is what was really hard." And yeah, a lot of people who meet you don't know that about you because it's not something that necessarily straps you down in life now. You don't think like," Wow, that set me back 10 steps and now we have to do all these things because I'm"... I don't want to jump the gun on all the story, but I just think that's so cool and just a way that God has obviously shown up in your heart and mind in just the way and the perspective you have about your life.

Samantha: Thanks for saying that. And I do think, first of all, there was a reason that I was chosen, not in a weird way like God chose me, but the intentionality, the way he just worked in my life throughout my childhood. And I will say this too. I've had a lot of counseling and I've had a lot of time to process this over the years, but I will sit here and say I'm so thankful for cancer. I'm thankful for" infertility" or miscarriages because this can kind of apply to any hardship you go through in life. If I didn't walk through those things as a child, I know my faith and my outlook on life would be vastly different and I don't know if I can say this without it sounding weird, but sometimes, and I've talked to other cancer survivors or people who have gone through really traumatic things in their childhood or maybe people with severe health issues or disabilities or trauma that they endured, in a way sometimes it can feel like we're the lucky ones in a way. Not lucky, but like, wow.

Christian: Well, you have said before, I've heard you say," Sometimes I actually feel like having that perspective is such a gift."

Samantha: It is.

Christian: Like,"I'm so thankful that I have the perspective of battling cancer." I mean you never doubt the goodness of God because you are just like," I have seen that day in and day out. I had no option other than to cling to that hope." And sometimes when we've not been through a hard thing like that, we don't have that perspective or we have a hard time gaining that perspective because we've just never experienced it that closely and intimately. And I think you are just one to say like," That is a gift for me."

Samantha: Yeah.

Christian: Yet again, how God has worked in your heart and mind inaudible.

Samantha: Well, yeah. And it's all Him and two things I was just thinking of, we talk a lot about what if that happened like worst case scenario. For a lot of people, having cancer or your child having cancer would be like absolute worst case scenario. So maybe the fact that I faced that, it gives me this, I don't know, a little bit of a wild hair in life to be like," Oh, I'm not promised tomorrow. My cancer could come back and"-

Christian: That's why she's so weird and crazy, guys. Just kidding.

Samantha: I mean, no, I mean probably I could use more of a filter in that sense, but I do think more of this life to the fullest mentality, live like you're dying. I mean I don't do that. Trust me. When I was sick a few weeks ago and they were bringing up maybe a cancer recurrence, I was pooping my pants. Not literally actually, thank God, but... You can laugh.

Christian: You weren't pooping in a bed, though. Probably in a tray or something.

Samantha: No, I wasn't. I was very... Remember you had to help me to the bathroom one time.

Christian: Well, yeah, I did help you to the bathroom one time. I thought at one point you were like stuck in bed. Okay. Anyways.

Samantha: Anyways, moving on. And then the second thing is just that something I've had to battle with, and this might make me emotional is just... and I'll kind of share more of the story but I battled cancer three different times through my childhood, three different times that it occurred and I was at St. Jude for a long time. If you know anything about St. Jude, which most people do, it's for kids who have cancer specifically. So like the most sick kids in all of the world actually are taken to St. Jude and I saw so much death. I literally grew up seeing death and almost I've had to really go to counseling about that in life because I can be a little bit numb to death or just like really extreme circumstances because it was just a normal part of my life. And something that I always battled with was," Well, why me? Why am I here now living a full life with a family and all these blessings when so many kids literally died?" I mean I remember saying goodbye to so many friends because they knew they were being sent home on hospice. Maybe that's why if I start to talk about the infertility or the miscarriage, I can have a little bit more of a better perspective on it maybe, or like a freeing perspective, because I'm not saying that we should compare our hardships, but I think I look at my life and I'm like," Wow, but I get to live. I get to have kids. I get to have a husband and friendships and a full life." And so I do think that there's something beautiful about, again, not comparing your hardships but when we can have perspective to realize the idea that we're not promised tomorrow. I have lived that. I remember being fearful of death and knowing that death could happen. So seeing the alternative where so many kids didn't survive, so why would I want to sit and just wallow in hardships in life that still come on? Because I know that it could be so much worse. And I think our culture really fights against that perspective and wants us to all really be empathetic for even little things and I agree with that, but I think there's something beautiful about perspective too and remembering like, oh my gosh, your life is really blessed compared to what a lot of people are walking through. I know, even me having cancer in a beautiful state- of- the- art, world class, number one children's cancer hospital, is different too than things people have to face in third world countries and opportunities I had for the best medical care and things like that. All that to say... I needed a breath because it's a lot. It's heavy. I was diagnosed when I was three and, well, we could go into a whole other thing. We really want to have my mom on and talk about her perspective because now that I have kids and a four- year- old... Oh, just thinking about what my parents walked through, having to find out their kid not only had cancer but it wasn't leukemia, like let's do two rounds of this or that or years of this. It was like," We actually have never seen this in a child and we have no idea what the treatment is." And just this long road that they ended up facing. So that was my childhood. And by the grace of God, I was cancer free the last time when I was 11 and they're pretty confident now that cancer would have grown back if it was going to grow back. So I consider myself completely cancer free. A lot of people are like," Oh, you're in remission" or" You were in remission." With my cancer, you don't actually call it that. So it's like I either had cancerous cells in my body or I was cancer free and so I am so thankful for that. I still have a lot of health issues that the treatments affected my body in really intense ways.

Christian: And you go to doctors often now-

Samantha: All the time.

Christian: I mean you have a doctor's appointment each month.

Samantha: Yes.

Christian: Often.

Samantha: And again, that's part of my life where, when I really start to think about it, I can be starting to feel bad for myself. Like, oh my gosh, wait, I have just realized most of my friends in their mid to late 20s don't have to go see all these doctors, pay a lot of money for doctors' visits-

Christian: You've had a lot of colonoscopies-

Samantha: A lot. A lot.

Christian: A lot of people our age don't have those.

Samantha: When you guys... What's the age you're supposed to get them? At 50?

Christian: We get them at 50. We're all going to be like," What do I do? What do I do?"

Samantha: Maybe I'll start a colonoscopy prep school. Like here's what you do. Here's my tips and tricks.

Christian: Oh yeah.

Samantha: Things like that that are just abnormal. But anyways, I can get a little bit" Woe is me, life isn't fair" but then I'm like," No, I'm living. I'm getting to enjoy life." So that was my cancer history. And I guess when I was at the age where you're supposed to get your cycle, doctors kind of said," We really don't know if you ever will." And then in terms like," We don't know what that will mean for your fertility and pregnancy and having kids in the future." And I think when you're hearing that as a young girl, I was like,"Okay, I don't care." You're thinking about-

Christian: And the reason being, just so people understand-

Samantha: Oh yeah, yeah.

Christian: ...that you got a bunch of chemo and radiation in your gut and intestine and abdominal pelvic area. You had the mass like the tumor that you had was on the bottom of your tailbone. All of the radiation, chemo, affected all of those organs, reproductive organs essentially. And so they're telling you as a 11- year- old, 12- year- old, 13, as you go a little older, they're saying," Hey, we have no clue how this is going to affect you because your cancer was so rare because you had all these treatments to this area. We're kind of guessing that you're probably not going to ever be able to carry a baby because your uterus is probably really affected now."

Samantha: Yes. They never said for sure yes or no. They just gave it as a heads up kind of. My tumor was in my tailbone so my abdomen area... and I'm not talking like I had a few rounds of radiation. I had at some points years of radiation and then even internal radiation so really intense blasting my insides. It also had spread to my lung at one point so just that whole area. And I remember my mom kind of telling me," As a family, adoption's beautiful to us. There's always options for you to grow a family." So those seeds were planted at a very young age. That might be my story.

Christian: I've never heard that before. That's awesome.

Samantha: Yeah, and I have some family members, some cousins, that we had watched throughout my childhood, actually like three different family units in my extended family had adopted multiple children internationally, some through foster care. So I had been pretty exposed to adoption. And again, remember when you're 11 or 12, you still think that idea of Pregnancy or having a baby-

Christian: You're like," That's gross."

Samantha: gross or you don't want to do that. So I just never remember feeling the weight of that. As I got older, my body just acted normal and so doctors were a little bit more optimistic about things. In hindsight, if they would've known what they know now, they would've tried to retrieve my eggs and save them so that they wouldn't have endured all the radiation that happened. But anyways, we push way forward. Now we're going to get more into the infertility stuff. I meet Justin and if you're wondering like, yes, this is a conversation I had had with him, because I felt like... when I knew it was serious enough that we were talking about marriage, which we dated a very short amount of time. So we had a lot of very serious conversations.

Christian: So your fourth date, you're like," Hey, inaudible kids."

Samantha: "Hey,by the way"... We had talked about that and I remember it's so cool because his youngest sister's adopted and so I just remember. I remember where we were. This is so random. Morgan Rasmussen, if you're listening, we were cleaning out your summer house. We were taking loads, moving stuff, we're cleaning out her room. She was moving a load and Justin had been helping us. And this is when we had that conversation. And it was cool because he was like," Well, I've always felt called to adoption." It was just something that kind of bonded us together. Now, in hindsight, I don't think he was probably prepared for how hard that would actually be to have to grieve not having biological children. But I mean we got there and we didn't know for sure. So flash forward, we get married, we go on our honeymoon, we fly home. I think you know this, but I don't even know. So when we flew home, there was a fertility doctor in Memphis that was partnered with St. Jude that wanted to try and do an egg retrieval on me because they kind of always thought that my issue would be getting pregnant, but that if I could get pregnant, that I could carry a healthy pregnancy. Which, spoiler alert, it was the exact opposite in the long run. So anyways we go. We do basically what would be considered the first step of IVF where I go on two weeks of really intense hormones and then they try to retrieve eggs. Just to put a little perspective, Justin and I had been married two weeks. We were 21. No, I turned 21 while we were there while I was on the hormones. And so we're like babies. We're there by ourselves. He's never had any kind of medical things like health things in his life or his family. So this is all new to him. When I look back on that, I'm like that was a crazy time. We were just there by ourselves doing it. I think my parents and his family-

Christian: You'd been married, yeah inaudible-

Samantha: ...they were wanting to give us space.

Christian: You're 22, it's fine.

Samantha: Yeah. And just wanting to give us space and stuff and I remember being like," Oh my gosh, that's kind of a lot that we endured right away." So I remember it got to the point where it was the day to put me to sleep and retrieve the eggs. I woke up and I was really groggy. So I don't remember talking to the doctor, but Justin had to tell me, basically, he was like," Okay, the doctor said none of your eggs were healthy enough to freeze. So I'm really sorry. I don't know what this means." And it wasn't like the end of the road because some people have to do multiple rounds to retrieve healthy eggs. But at that point, we were just kind of like," Okay, let's put it to the side. We've had a lot going on." We still had to go finish college. We had to come back to Columbia and finish out our school year. So I remember we came back and, well, that summer I think, because we had been through that, I was not feeling we were ready to start our family at all. But for some reason, we both were kind of like... Oh, that made us want that now. Because I think a lot of times when women go through a miscarriage, it makes you want it so much more because you start picturing what that could look like or be like. So even though we weren't even wanting to start our family then, Justin and I both felt this calling to start really just praying that I would get pregnant one day. We thought like years down the road. Again, we're so young, so new in marriage. So flash forward, we came back to Columbia to finish our senior and Justin's super senior year of college. I think it was the week before school started. So weird. I don't think I've ever told you this. I don't know why I had a pregnancy test, okay? I really don't remember why. We had been intensely praying that I would get pregnant one day and Justin was gone. I wasn't even late on my period. Sorry, TMI. I wasn't even... There was nothing indicating that I should be pregnant. I felt this urge to go take a pregnancy test. Maybe I went and bought it. I really don't remember but I took the pregnancy test and it was positive. And it was just like," What the heck?" I mean, obviously, we told our family immediately because we don't know what we're doing.

Christian: All of the things involved in that, yeah.

Samantha: This wasn't supposed to happen to me. We immediately called the fertility doctor. I remember he was just shocked, floored, whatever. So here we are now at this point. We haven't even graduated from college and I'm pregnant but we're, of course, embracing it and so thrilled. We're like," This is a miracle we didn't even know would ever happen." So without getting too much into the emotional side of things, unfortunately we lost that baby at 18 weeks and, oh, I could just go through so much. That's considered a late term miscarriage. I did have to deliver and something that's so weird to me, it's like before 20 weeks, they technically still consider it a miscarriage even though, to me, it was more like a stillbirth. And just talk about trauma.

Christian: Awful.

Samantha: I think I've shared more about that experience in another episode and just more details about that day, but just a horrible, horrible time. And my questioning after that was really," God"... I was actually content with just figuring this out in years down the road or I was content even before Justin and I got married to maybe only build my family through adoption..." Why would you give me this gift to just take it away?" It really felt cruel even though I knew truth. I think that was another thing. It was like, okay, that was a testing of my faith to say am I still going to believe that you're good? When that just feels like really sick and wrong. So young in our marriage. And I think, for Justin, I don't want to speak for his story, but that was really one of the first really hard things he had been through in life. So that just brought out a lot of things in our marriage at a really young age, a lot of anger for him. We grieved very differently. That was all within the first six months of our marriage. So that was just a really... I look back now and say a beautiful time because I think that set a foundation for our marriage. Even though it was kind of hell that year and it wasn't this idealistic first year of marriage, it was like, no, we are for sure on the same team now. We have learned at this point, seven years into marriage, into our eighth year, how to work through really, really hard life challenges. So that was our first loss. And again, this whole time I guess I'm not considering myself as struggling with infertility, because all these things are just happening without really much thought or planning from our end on it. So then we actually spent about three or four months meeting with some fertility doctors and thinking through some different options. And without, again, I would talk with people in real life about this or if you want to message me, but we were actually considered the perfect candidates for surrogacy because basically what was determined to have happened was that I got pregnant really easily actually. But my uterus had been filled with scar tissue that they never had really been able to see until it started trying to expand. And then I went into labor at 18 weeks because my uterus wasn't expanding properly. So my body thought it's time to have the baby. And so by that point that they figured that out, there was nothing they could do to stop it and so there was still a lot of hope that maybe they could go in over the years and clear out my uterus kind of like you would with endometriosis. I think the technical diagnosis, just in case anyone else has this, it's more rare, it would be called Asherman's Syndrome and it's just where your uterus is filled with scar tissue. So I think the difference between that and endometriosis would be that with endometriosis it's something with the lining versus my whole uterus was just kind of pockets of scar tissue. So there was hope that it could happen one day and we were being really pressured to basically endure the first round of IVF again, create an embryo and then use a surrogate. And I'll never forget. We had still been having adoption conversations. We knew that that would be a part of our story somehow or we wanted it to be, and we were driving home to Arkansas. So this is literally from... We got married in May. This is that December. All of this has happened in our first year of marriage. We were driving and got the call from the fertility clinic to start planning the dates of my round of this IVF. We were like," Great, we'll start that on January 4th right after the New Year." And we hung up the phone and we were on the road in Lebanon, Missouri, if you know, in between the lake and Lebanon where it's two lanes and Justin and I both at the same time... I can't remember who said it first but we were like,"Do you feel good about this?"" No. Do you feel good about this?"" Wait, you don't?"" No." We both in that moment felt an overwhelming peace that we just did not feel like that was the calling for us at the time. We had sought a lot of wisdom through people at our church and just through people we really respected, and no one could really ever give us an answer on is this okay? Is this God's design? Is it morally right or wrong? I don't think anyone can speak to that because it's not foundationally in the Bible. A lot of people have very different theological views on surrogacy, but whatever reason in that moment we just decided it wasn't for us. So that spring, we started the adoption process for the first time and then ended up with our daughter Emerson. So that's kind of what led us to adoption right away. At that point, we were like," Nope, we're ready to start our family. We've been through all this." And I would say there was a period of time that I had to grieve, okay, I'm never going to have a little girl that looks... Justin and I both had really blonde hair when we were little, like blonde haired little girl, or just those ideas that you have in life of what your children will look like. There was a period of grief of that. But again, if you look back at our story, I think God was softening both of our hearts along the way to say like," No, this is how I'm going to grow your family." So flash forward. Emerson was born in January and that fall, same thing happens. I'm feeling really tired and I'm like," Oh crap. I think I might be pregnant." I take a pregnancy test and I'm pregnant. And I remember being with you around that New Year. So it must have been December. It was that December and I was pregnant and a lot of our community was gathering and praying and just so excited. And again, there's always that weird," This could be it. This could be this crazy miracle that God could use to just speak to so many people if I share this with the world." And unfortunately with that pregnancy, we never found a heartbeat. And I'm not going to say that wasn't a hard loss, but I guess compared to our first and because I was so just mixed emotions with it anyways, it was just kind of like," Okay, again, God, why do I keep getting pregnant and you just take this away?" Which I don't know. Our pastor has some funny things to say about that. He's like," Well, you know how you get pregnant, Samantha." I'm like," Yes, but when I've been told for so long you never will, you never will, of course there's that glimmer of hope that it's just that crazy miracle. So flash forward another year... No, during COVID so 2020. So that would've been the beginning of 2019. So a year later, maybe in April, it happened again. I found out I was pregnant. You would think maybe we would learn. But at the same time, we're only sharing these with our close, close community. I mean I think a lot of you might know me in person and might just not be finding out that I've had multiple miscarriages, but we found out we were pregnant and this time we did hear a heartbeat right away. And do you remember that time? Like it was-

Christian: I was like sitting on your kitchen counter.

Samantha: It was a cool time because we had so many people praying and, unfortunately, I was going for weekly checks at a really intense clinic in St. Louis.

Christian: At this point too, you guys had already talked about Emerson was almost two and a half at that point, and I remember you saying," I feel really ready to grow our family again."

Samantha: Yeah.

Christian: So that one felt... For sure each one of these losses is terrible.

Samantha: Yeah.

Christian: This one also felt really hard because you're like," I am ready. Maybe the Lord has been kind of preparing us for this because we were both feeling really ready to grow our family again."

Samantha: Yeah. We were feeling ready to grow our family again and maybe not ready to start the adoption process again, because it's just a very taxing process. And so that one was really hard because we go in, we find a heartbeat. Well, we didn't get the heartbeat last time. And then I think I was eight or 10 weeks and I'm going in every five days really to get checked and the heartbeat, and the heartbeat started declining. And I just remember even our community being like, wow, this is hitting me because why would this be happening? What good is coming out of this? And I still, I mean for so many things in life, we'll never know the answer to those kind of questions. I did eventually feel peace that I don't know why it had to happen that way. And I knew all along, like I remember driving so many times back and forth to Chesterfield looking out the window, being like," God, I know right now you could make something crazy miraculous happen, but you might not. Am I going to be okay with that?" And so maybe you're feeling that maybe you're not there yet. Actually, maybe you're just still in that moment of," You're cruel, God. Why would you do this? Why would you give me a gift and take it away?" But it's easy, I guess, to look back in hindsight and say," I can feel peace about it now or know that." But all that to say those were my losses. And if you follow me or follow Going There, you probably have seen we have adopted again and feel very, very confident that we will continue to grow our family only through adoption. And at this point it would probably be really unsafe for my body to go through a pregnancy. I've had friends over the years and maybe just some random people almost speak over me and say that they really feel I will get pregnant one day. And it's just that weird tension of if I found out I was pregnant today, I'd probably be really upset because it would just be a really scary thing honestly for my body. And also, I think I just have to protect myself a little bit. It's not that I wouldn't believe that a miracle could happen, but I do have to guard myself in saying... and maybe this brings us into the next part of the conversation of why does our culture feel that would be the ultimate miracle, that would need to happen so badly. Why couldn't they look at maybe we would adopt in crazy ways and have cool stories in those ways as the final miracle. Why does it have to be this, well, I believe, and I'm going to always pray that one day you could get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to full term. And it kind of sheds light into this idea that we hold... Well, first of all, children in our Christian culture, especially in this family unit, to such a high ideal, and then also this biological children thing. And if you've said this, I'm not offended or whatever, but you hear a lot like," Well, we want to have three kids of our own and then adopt one." It's like adoption is just that little nice cherry on top or it just kind of looks cute and would be a great Christian thing to do. And it's like what if the miracle is that I wasn't able to carry children, but that I was able to have my children via adoption. Maybe that's the gift. Maybe that's the reason God was telling me over and over," No, you will not carry a baby. This is what I want for you." And I think that's really hard for our culture to grasp.

Christian: Yeah. I mean, guys, if you're hearing this story, I'm amazed every time I've heard it. I've heard this many, many times and it's just eye- opening every single time that I am just in awe of how God works through every detail of our lives. I think it's just so interesting your perspective of just... I think you've said that in a really good way. Like what if the miracle is that you guys got to adopt two babies now and what awesome stories that you get to share with them, what awesome life stories they have and how is that also like your all's life a reflection to other people of just growing the kingdom, no matter how that is. I think it's just so interesting. You have a lot of opinions about just this idea of how our culture brings up the family unit on a pedestal and what that looks like. I think some of that's just culturally of we live in obviously a Western society in America. We are very privileged in a lot of ways. And I think some of that is just like a privileged thing in our culture, but I just think it's so interesting and you've made me super aware of how I maybe talk to people, how Andrew and I even speak about our family and if we want kids, if we don't want kids. Even in those contexts, you've made me very aware of what can be helpful, what can be hurtful, what is maybe not even a biblical way to be looking at what is the purpose of having children or why do we have children. Ultimately, it's to grow God's kingdom and to bring more people on earth to glorify Him and bring glory to Him. And so I just think that's so cool the perspective that you guys have about that.

Samantha: Yeah. So I mean, again, by the grace of God, trust me so many weak moments and just hard times where God really met us there and just growth and community and people around us. But I think when we look at practically if you're the one walking through infertility or loss, I have things that I could share with you. And then also to the people in their team and with Christian saying how you can walk alongside someone going through that. And I think, first of all, it's okay to feel sad and hurt and be grieving obviously a loss. I went through so much grief and it's hard when this is what our bodies are created to do and it's not doing it properly. That's a very hard concept to think through. What I though would have to say, as not an insensitive thing or hopefully not just brushing the grief and the hardship under the rug, is that I think with everything in life, this just seems to be a more tangible thing. We do have to look at it and get to a point where we say," If I never had children, would I still love and trust God the way that I say that I do? If I never got my heart's desire?" I mean you were saying earlier we could do that with marriage. We could do that with that job you want or whatever. And I think that's really crazy to say about kids and a family because it just seems so deserved and it seems so automatic. Again, we're created to do that as women. However, we do live in this sinful, broken world and just like a lot of other things, it's messy and it's not straightforward and so for a lot of people it's not. So I had to get to a place where I said," I desire nothing more than to be a mom, but God, I love you still even if that's not part of my story and my marriage and my family." I think when you can get there, it just frees you up to say," God, I know you want to bless me with things and I'm going to trust that and have hope but I'm also so content." I don't know if that might be offensive to someone really struggling and maybe you're thinking," Wow, you're just not really considering how I might be feeling." No, I'm saying all of this as from the other end, you can aim for that perspective but I know it's hard. I know it's so hard watching other people get pregnant quickly around you, I mean the people that try for maybe not even that long that are complaining about it being hard when you're like," Okay, I don't even know if I'll be able to." Or things I've had to grow in about people that just complain a lot about pregnancy when I've had to say," No that's valid. That's affecting them." But also have a little bit of, I don't know, just social tact to think I would give anything to be pregnant and miserable and just things like that.

Christian: Well, yeah. I mean I think you're obviously caveating what you're saying because you can only speak to your experience. Everyone's experience is different. I want to ask you that, though. How did you get to this place? Because you had days and weeks... I mean I saw them. You had weeks. I think in a few situations you had months of grieving.

Samantha: Seasons, yeah.

Christian: What did that look like? What are you thinking every day? You've obviously walked us through a few of the questions that you're asking like," God, this is so cruel. This feels so not loving. How dare you?" You asked those things. What did every day look like? What were some of those big things that you're like," I really had to cling to this" or like" Every day I made a point to do this?" Walk us through some of that because you're not getting to this perspective with no work and no consistency of showing up.

Samantha: Well, I think like with any grief and I've talked to a lot of people with losses in their life, the first days are the hardest and really time does heal so much. Whether that's a breakup or the loss of a loved one or a miscarriage or a hard diagnosis, it's like the more that you're able to separate yourself from that I call like the D- Day, the day you find out or the day it happens or whatever, it does get easier. Because I do think when you invite God into that with you, he meets you there. There are still days where it's up and down, but overall time moves on and you see that there are still things in life that are blessings and something to be thankful for and you're able to cope with that more, I guess. And then I don't know how else to say it but, Jesus, those were the times when we talk about you have to be in your word. I mean clinging to God's word. Times where I remember laying in bed and being like," God, I can't get out of bed today. Please give me the energy. Give me the strength to do today." And literally needing to lay there and pray that for 10 minutes before I could even get up and go shower and that throughout my day. And just realizing that was okay and just sitting in" This really sucks right now. This is horrible. This is hard." But never distancing myself from God. Being angry with Him and questioning. Like you said, that was the first time in my life I felt the freedom to come to God and say," I'm mad at you. I know you love me and I know truth, but this doesn't feel like you're the God that you say you are." And that's where my faith too deepened even more because I would just feel this presence of like," I know, I know, I know you feel that way." It's not doing anything to hide when we're angry with God like that. He already knows. And so I know that's not super practical, but it was just my faith.

Christian: No, but I think that's so cool because I'm going back to the moments that I shared with you in the few times I was with you in those things. I just think you still do this really well, but I remember learning from you. And I'm so thankful that I feel like we now have a community who also does this. But even just being able to say the really hard, ugly thing, I think you're really good at that. Even now you're really good at saying," I'm really mad today because I feel like this is so"... I mean you said this recently with an adoption. I hope it's okay I'm sharing this-

Samantha: Yeah.

Christian: ...but I remember you sharing recently." It just makes me so angry sometimes how much time and money and emotional and all the things we have to spend on adoption when other people can just get pregnant." And I love that you say that sometimes because I'm like, no, but that's a real honest thing. And then you can turn around and still you're not questioning the character of God. You are questioning your circumstances but then you go back to the Bible and you say," No, let me read about your character. Let me remind myself in my wandering mind and heart of who you are," because ultimately that is who He is. And I just think that's so cool that in your frustration, pain, anger, all of those things, you have never doubted His character, but you are honest about how you're feeling in the moment. And I just think it's one of those things like I think it's the whole idea of bringing sin to light, saying the ugly thing out loud so that you're able to just say like," Okay"... because that sounds foolish. You would know that if you're like," Oh, you're not faithful, God," you know that's not true if you would ever say that. And so I think you're just so good at identifying those things and so that you can move forward. And I saw that in you and I still see it in you now, but that's a really cool thing.

Samantha: Well, thanks for saying that. Again, I think it's God, just by the grace of God, giving me that perspective and we can get into some practical things and, hopefully, by now we all know these. I'm not trying to be judge- y but like for the love, please tell me you know these just common social things.

Christian: Yeah. I want to hear what are some helpful... because we wanted to get to like why are we sharing this story? Well, we hope it's encouraging to someone who's sitting in this moment now, but we also want... Again, my eyes have been open to some things that you have shared with me like this is helpful and this is hurtful. And I think it's all good for us to be aware of how do we love well, because I think we can all sit on either extreme of, like you're saying, you are so blessed. There are so many blessings in your life. We should be filled with hope and filled with joy because we know Jesus, but also life is really hard and we are going to walk through really sad and really hard things that we should grieve and we should be angry about because this world's broken and messed up. And so what are some of those things that are really helpful and then what are some maybe like hurtful slash/ do not do.

Samantha: Just straight. Come on, guys. Well, I would say that I'm probably on the bottom of the spectrum of being sensitive. Not much could offend me maybe. So these would really have to be, okay, you for sure can't say these things or do these things. I mean practically right after my losses, I skipped out on baby showers all the time. It was really nice. I remember a few times either the person that was being honored at the baby shower or the hostesses that I knew if I knew them personally reached out to me and almost gave permission. I mean, hopefully, no one would be offended if you didn't come to your baby shower right after a loss like that, but it feels good. You don't want to hurt people's feelings. You don't want to make other people-

Christian: Just be thought of in that way.

Samantha: Yeah. I always was genuinely happy when friends got pregnant, but there were just certain things to guard myself. I remember there was one a week after a loss and I'm like," I'm going to sit that one out," because it's just hard when I'm thinking about that could have been me in a few months or whatever. So that's just a very practical thing. I just also literally never ask anyone about getting pregnant, when they're going to grow their family.

Christian: Do you guys want to have kids?

Samantha: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. The only time I check in, I have a few friends that are trying to get pregnant and super close friends that we chat almost every day and they talk about trying to get pregnant with me and I will check in like," How are you feeling about that? I know you said it didn't happen again this month." Those are the only times I talk to people and then like, okay, Christian, one of my best friends who I know maybe if you want to have a third kid, it's not weird for me to say," Oh, when do you think you guys will?" Because you haven't battled that. But I think, for the most part, you should never be asking people about when they're going to have kids or grow their family because you just really don't know what they're going through. I'm trying to think of other practical things. Oh, not leaving your friend walking through loss out of the celebrations or keeping updates. I think it can be a hard balance and I don't want to put that pressure on people, but it's like maybe you don't go to your friend that had the loss and complain about what's the test that you have to do. I never got there in my pregnancy.

Christian: Oh, the glucose test.

Samantha: I never got that far but, okay, maybe don't come complain to your friend that just had a loss about how horrible that was. Update them that,"Hey, I had my glucose test today." Or if they're asking about your pregnancy. It doesn't feel good to be feeling like they're just trying to not tiptoe around it with you and not talk about it because you still want to be included in your friends' lives. And you do get to a point where you're genuinely happy and excited for those things. So those are some practical things. I mean finding other people that you can talk to about it. It is, sadly, so common. There's been times, again, my first loss was really public just for the nature too. We already knew the gender. We already had a name. That was kind of public knowledge and so then I talked a lot about our grief after, but yeah, I think a lot of people probably don't even know about our other losses. So telling your close community but not feeling the need, or maybe if you feel like it's healing, to make a post about it or this or that. I don't know. What are some other things you've heard me say?

Christian: Well, and you know what, one thing I was going to say is I think as people are listening to this maybe, they're also listening to like, oh gosh, that's a lot of pressure. There's so many things I could do wrong. I think one thing I've heard about you, I don't know if it's ever, I don't know, but I have heard you say," I did end up just sharing with that person about how hurtful that was. I needed to share with them just where they knew I was at." And I think that's really good too of like obviously yes, we are all emotional people. We all have emotions so you're not always going to be able to tiptoe around everyone's emotions and we know that. I don't think that's what Samantha's saying at all. And so I do think if like someone may not know your perspective, I think it's totally appropriate like, again, that's not my story, but I think you're nodding your head here. That like, in that case, it would be totally appropriate in that moment to also just share," Hey, I'm so sorry. That's really hurtful to me because this is what I'm walking through right now." Or even if they knew what you were walking through, just mentioning it to them, because I think that is what good community and good friendship looks like, of you also just saying," I know this pregnancy's really hard for you. Can you maybe just share and find another friend to talk with that about, because this is really hard for me?" And I think that's just what true community and conversation looks like between two people who obviously love each other and want to champion wherever that finds you in your story.

Samantha: And I trust too. If it's a close friend, I mean I have friends that go through really horrible pregnancies and usually I will be the one to be like," How are you feeling? How have you been doing? I've been really thinking about you because you're so sick." And I think just feeling it out. I mean if it wasn't someone I knew very well, I think as the girl going through the loss or miscarriage too, we're obviously in a very sensitive state, but we have to give people a lot of grace because they might not know what you're going through, like you said. And throwing at them,"Well, do you know I just had a miscarriage?" They didn't intend to hurt you or say something. I mean, yes, I think sometimes people say very socially unaware things, but I've just had to give a lot of grace. But if it is a close friend, for sure, being like," Hey, when you said this the other day, I just want to give you perspective to how that could feel as someone going through a loss or whatever."

Christian: So what would you say about just even tangible things? Like people remembering dates, people bringing your things, people... I don't know. What would you say has been helpful or maybe hurtful? I don't know. In that situation of your journey of that.

Samantha: Nothing really hurtful. I think people are so different. That's why I'm almost hesitant to speak to this because I know specific people where I've asked them... Maybe that's the answer right there. I just realized that. Maybe asking your close friend," Hey, how do you want me to handle your due date that you're not going to have?" Or like the birthday or the day that you lost the baby? Because for me, it's not super important that people acknowledge that. And I know I'm a little bit different in that, though. I have a lot of friends who that does mean a lot to them if you remember that or say their name. So maybe that's the thing is just asking," Hey, what would feel best this year? I know that due date's going to come up and that might be a hard day for you. Would it be fun to go out to a lunch with friends? Would you want to be alone? Do you want people to check in?" Again, no one's ever going to get it perfectly, but I just think it means different things to different people.

Christian: And I think that's a good reminder too of just simply asking. I do have quite a few friends in my life who have walked through this and we acknowledge dates together. We talk about it a lot and I've heard feedback of like," No, I would rather you not ignore it. Talk about it. Ask about it. You all gave your first child a name and so referring to them by that." And I don't want to skirt around it like it wasn't a thing. And so I've heard that from people as well. So again, even just being willing to say," Hey, I want to know how to love you best in this time. What does it look like to walk alongside you?" And maybe throw out some offerings? I know that we've all probably been in states of grief where it's kind of impossible to say," This is what I need." So even if they don't have anything in the moment, maybe just being intentional about checking in a few days or weeks later, however often obviously you guys talk, but just checking back in and saying," Hey, again, is there anything I can do in this time? I want to be respectful to how loving you best would look like."

Samantha: That's good. Yeah. And I think this is a heavy topic and especially for a lot of people, I know there's girls out there listening right now. Like some specific that I know of that are walking through loss and it's just so, so common. So we have to talk about it and we have to address it. But I don't know if anyone has specific questions about things or maybe how I handled this or that, always feel free to reach out to me. Again, this is my experience and I know some of it might be more general or maybe you're thinking like," Oh, well that's not how I felt after a loss." That's okay too. We're all individual humans. I think this is just a good starting point to make you feel maybe you've never told anyone you've had a loss. Maybe you don't feel like you have a trusted community to do that. And I'm, first of all, so sorry that you don't and also maybe it would just feel good to DM me and say," I've been through that too." So I'm here for that as well.

Christian: Again, we hope that this has been almost just encouraging or just felt really... We wanted to approach this topic with a soft heart and gentle spirit, not knowing intimately every person's situation, but we hope that maybe it's helped people bring perspective to maybe what you're walking through or how to love a friend or someone in your community well.

Samantha: Hey, thanks for going there with us.

Christian: If you loved what you heard, don't forget to follow along with us at Going There, the podcast.

Samantha: And it'd also means so much to us if you subscribed to our podcast and shared it with a friend.

Christian: Talk to you soon.


Growing a family is an absolute blessing! Every family has its journey, but it's not always easy. Today we pull back the curtain a bit, and Samantha shares her story of infertility, and challenges through growing her family. Many women walk this difficult road, and we hope this conversation helps bring perspective about challenges those in your community could be facing, and how to love and support them.

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