Friday, December 20, 2013


We're leaving for our Christmas vacation tomorrow, and it cannot come soon enough!! This week has been rough. Three pregnancy announcements - two from ladies who just got married this past summer (ouch) and one from my only close married friend in the area who hadn't yet had #2. Feeling left behind, to say the least.

On Thursday, I had a retreat. Normally I love retreats. But man, Advent. You are killin' me!! The theme of the retreat seemed to be, "barren women and miraculous pregnancies." Duh - that's the Christmas story. Elizabeth first, then Mary. John, then Jesus. Pregnancies, births. "God," I said in prayer. "I know that Christmas is about Jesus, your Son and all. I know this is the pregnancy announcement, the birth - but I am having a hard time reflecting on the Christmas story without my eyes filling up with tears, thinking about my own barrenness...what do I do with that?"

What do you do with the fact that the Christmas story makes you want to weep instead of filling you with warm fuzzies? I found Easter a lot more bearable - no babies there! Lots of grief and sorrow - I get that.

But wow, did the priest leading our retreat give an amazing reflection on Zechariah. Elizabeth's husband. He helped us contemplate what Zechariah must have thought when the angel came to him and announced - finally - that he would have a son, that he would be a papa. "I get it, Zechariah," I was thinking. "I get your pain! Actually, you suffered way, way more than I have - I get just a fraction of your painful waiting, and that's plenty!"

Here's what I wrote in my journal, reflecting on Zechariah. (Warning: not edited)

Zechariah, watching his wife suffer...year after year, no child.

He set up a respectful but distant, cordial relationship with God.

Went about his duties, happy enough, content in a quiet life, but with a part of himself barricaded off from anyone, from his wife and from God - that part of himself that ached for a child.

Because it is just too painful to bear that kind of longing for so many years!

So he shut it down. Locked the door and threw away the key.

He moved on.

But there was always that niggling lack of trust, that little corner of his heart where he wasn't really sure whether God loved him.

And that was OK - he was comfortable, if not intimate, with God. Life progressed smoothly.

Until that day.

When the angel came and tore off the bandage, reopened the wound - "Zechariah, you're going to have a son."

He felt shocked, offended, even violated. We're been through all that! It's over.

The door of that locked room burst open and the years rushed back in and there was young Zechariah, weeping at the riverside because his wife had still not conceived. Clenching his fists and crying out in anger.

How dare you...

That...that just can't wife is old! We've accepted our childlessness, moved on.

But if you've moved on...why the anger? Why the tears?

"Oh, Abba..."

Another chance to hope, to fear, to trust again...

Could it be...?

And then I thought of the immensity of Zechariah's joy, delight, and wonder - how could you even measure it? - at seeing Elizabeth's belly swell, of realizing that this was actually happening, that all the dreams that he thought were dead were resurrecting before his eyes.

Someone needs to paint a picture of Zechariah's face, speechless of course, as he embraces Elizabeth and they weep for joy together...

Yeah, his story was really getting me.

It's not about an eventual miraculous pregnancy. (That part I still struggle with - what of those who pray for just as long as Zechariah and there's never an annunciation, never a miracle? It's hard to know what to do with that.)

The little "gem" I received on retreat was about trust. That's really what Zechariah was lacking, why he doubted the angel, why he was struck dumb. Our retreat master said that he was so hurt by his disappointment at being childless - I get that.... - that he didn't really trust God to provide. So he doubted when he heard the "good news." Unlike Mary, who with a childlike faith trusted God's word immediately.

From my journal:

The real question for me:

Not: "Do I trust God enough to give us a child?" because only He knows whether that's in His plans for us.

But: "Do I trust God to give us joy, whether or not He gives us a child - and even if He doesn't?"

Do I trust that God can bring meaning and goodness even out of this barrenness?

Frankly, most days I don't. It's just really hard! I think that's why I'm really struck by Zechariah - I think deep down he didn't trust either. That's the challenge for all of us - trusting in God as our provident father - but it just becomes so much more of a biting challenge when a cherished prayer keeps going unanswered...

Anyway, a lot to think about, and I also concluded that it is OKAY to feel sad during Advent, even on Gaudete Sunday!!! My heart is hurting, and I'm pretty sure Jesus and Mary understand =) Zechariah, too.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Complicated

I mentioned earlier that we just finished praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. (Also known as Our Lady Untier of Knots - we used this novena.) I can't remember where I heard about this devotion, but it's really a beautiful one. The imagery goes all the way back to the Church Fathers: St. Irenaeus said, "Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it." There's a beautiful painting associated with the devotion (at the link). And I like this description (also from the link):

"What are these knots?
"These are the problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution."

Bingo! I think I have some of those...

And I like this too, although it's sobering: "Ah, the knots of our life! How they suffocate the soul, beat us down and betray the heart's joy and separate us from God." I can relate...

(Pope Francis likes this devotion a lot too, FYI.)

So, knots...

One big knot we're experiencing right now is our situation vis a vis adoption. I know I've touched on it before, so I apologize for the repetition. Fair warning: being a "knot," it's all tangled in my mind, which doesn't make for the most lucid writing...but I just need to think through it.

Basically, after spending the first two years of our marriage living in a one-bedroom apartment, we decided to move (June 2013) to a bigger basement apartment in a house owned by good friends of ours. The friends live upstairs.

Our new apartment is nicer in so many ways - we have a patio and a backyard, more counter space, and (my favorite thing) a "spare room" that is both my craft room and also our guest room when guests come. I absolutely love being able to host guests and not have them sleep on our living room couch/floor. Plus our landlords are wonderful and we don't have to deal with the arbitrary, cranky management of our old place, not to mention the occasional bugs and mice. an adoption information session back in September, I was told (in response to a direct question) that our apartment probably would not be okay'ed for an adoption because the two bedrooms (main and guest) don't have any windows. And that is not okay per the fire code. (I gather that that's part of the home study, having a basic fire safety inspection by the fire department.) I asked whether we could designate our study, which has a window, as the child's bedroom. The adoption agency said that maybe could work (emphasis on "maybe") and that I should request an inspection from the fire department. I have the form but haven't done anything with it yet. (It's a basic form for a variety of inspections - adoption, daycare, I forget what else. The cost is $75).

I'm delaying because a friend pointed out that what if the fire department comes, tells us that no, this apartment wouldn't be cleared for an adoption...and also says that it's not fire-safe AT ALL and that we have to leave. Yikes.

The more I think of it, the more I think that there's no way our apartment would be approved. Besides the no windows in the two bedrooms, both the laundry room and the kitchen/dining room only have tiny windows up high that no person could fit through. Only the living room and study have a normal-size window (it's a basement apartment, but because of the ground slope, only part is truly underground - the part with the bedrooms). So in my bleak imaginings, I can see that a disastrously placed fire could definitely cut both bedrooms off from any possible escape, for example in the (one) hallway that leads from the non-window/small window part of the apartment to the rooms with normal windows and the door...yeah, doesn't make me feel too safe.

Is that even a possibility - could the fire department kick us out, saying that our apartment isn't fit for residence? I honestly don't know.

The thing is, since we're renting from friends, I imagine our apartment didn't face the same safety standards as for an apartment in a big apartment complex, right? Our friends never advertised their apartment anywhere - because I think you can't count a room as a bedroom if it doesn't have a window, right? Anyway, they just advertised word-of-mouth, which is how we heard.

Our landlord friends (who we've told about this whole situation) are really concerned that we'd get evicted by the fire department. They're worried (1) about finding new tenants asap, which would be a challenge, or worse (2) not being able to rent the apartment at all, legally. In other words, they're renting it somewhat under the radar right now, and all involved parties (us and them) are fine with it. But if the fire department comes and inspects it, and finds it wanting in terms of fire safety, then will it get a big red "x" and our friends told not to rent it or else?

Mr. M wants to read our local fire code and any other relevant regulations that might explain what is needed for an adoption or (more immediately pertinent) whether you can get evicted for not having windows in your bedrooms...I personally don't think that codes of any kind are ever that clear or understandable, so I'm not convinced we'd find the information we need.

I'd like to just call the fire department and ask them point blank whether we'd get kicked out if we weren't approve for an adoption. I wouldn't tell them where we live (other than the county) and I don't think they could trace my cell phone (it's out of state) so that's a no-risk option, right? Although they might not be able to (or willing to) give me a straight answer. They might need more context or something.

Or we could have the fire department come and inspect it, and risk getting evicted...

So why don't we just move? I've been thinking about that a LOT! (In between feeling sorry for myself and trying not to feel guilty for moving from our smaller but window-filled apartment.) Yes, one solution would be to move to an apartment that's above-ground and has windows in all the needed rooms.

But ugh, moving. In the past 5 years, I've moved 4 times. Ugh. It's a pain! Not to mention that finding an affordable, safe, liveable place to live in our extremely expensive housing market is so daunting. That's a big reason we moved to this apartment - there was no way we would find a place this nice and big for the price we were offered. No way. If we move, and unless a miracle happens (hence the novena!!!) it will almost likely be either a much smaller/worse apartment (not the best set-up to do an adoption - I really have my heart set on two bedrooms) and/or a sizeable increase in rent (not the best when you're trying to save for an adoption!) Hence the "knot" - there doesn't seem a good solution any way you slice it.

Add to that: my husband is working on his dissertation, and both he and I heartily agree that he needs to get it done. We'd like to move on to a new phase of our lives where he works and I don't necessarily have to (although I might if we still don't have children, especially to save for an adoption). Anyway, we have a great set-up for him right now: a study where he can have plenty of space to spread out and write that dissertation, go Mr. M go! =) Moving is so disruptive to daily life, and I think would be a(nother) setback for his dissertation work. Which doesn't move us any closer to adopting...

Oh, and plus once Mr. M is done with the dissertation, he'll be job-searching all over the country. So we could move, again. So do we move in the area now, just to pack up maybe within another year? But what if we could adopt before moving out of the area? It would be so great to adopt "in town" while we have such a strong network of friends and parish community. So that's a nudge toward moving sooner rather than later...

Ughhhh...Mary Undoer of Knots, pray for us! I am entrusting this situation to Our Lady to find some remedy. Maybe the answer is just WAIT - stay in this apartment, which is saving us money, keep putting it aside to save for the adoption, and just wait until Mr. M gets a job, we know where we'll be living, we can afford a different apartment of the same caliber, etc.

Or do we push ahead now, cough up extra money for a more expensive home that would be approved for adoption and just do it already?!? (My heart likes this head is not so sure.)

So that's about it. Mary, you can take over from here =)

+Ecce Fiat+

Saturday, December 14, 2013

That'll be $100, please

Yup, I was right. No more than 10 minutes after arriving at our grad school's Christmas party, I'm talking with an acquaintance (she graduated a few years after me and got married this past summer), and she says, "Well, I have some great news..." and she's due in July.

I'm glad I was prepared, ha!

I'm glad there was alcohol at the party. Just the thing to soothe a weary heart and ease the pain of cramps...

I'd like to say to everyone reading this who has struggled with IF or is currently all are amazing women. I know from the inside what it feels like to have that constant throb in your heart of longing for a child, and the daily, hourly challenge of not being jealous and resentful of all the people around you who are given this blessing and don't even seem to realize the immensity of is serious spiritual bootcamp to fight against jealousy, sadness, anger, sorrow, desolation, and more on a continual basis. I salute each and every person who is bearing this cross! Many days I count it as a major success that I have not lost my faith, our marriage is still good, I got out of bed and interacted kindly with people, even people who spring pregnancy announcements on me. Small goals, but so huge when your heart is aching.

Overall the party was fine, really. There were plenty of single ladies who were there who I'm sure are missing not only a child but a husband. There were many kind, pleasant people to talk with. But it's still hard - my heart just can't seem to get off it's one-note lament, "I wish I had a child, I wish I had a child." Could you please be quiet for a moment??

I'm proud of myself for going, because there are many people who matter to me that it was good to see and catch up with. I'm proud of myself for smiling and for offering up all the little "jabs" - listening to a mom-to-mom conversation next to me that I couldn't participate in...offering to hold a baby so his mom could fill her plate, only to have him cry: "Oh, he's going through a mommy-only stage" the mom explains...having several conversations interrupted so the mom or dad could go retrieve their wandering toddler...there are just so many reminders of my childlessness, that no one else would ever see or even know. But God knows.

+Ecce Fiat+ 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happenings and Thoughts

Just some things I've been up to, and some stuff swirling around my head...

My birthday was the day before Thanksgiving, so we stayed in our cozy little home and Mr. M made me a delicious meal. =) Thanksgiving morning, we drove to one of my cousin's houses, where we were going to have both lunch and dinner with my parents, aunt and uncle, and several of my cousins, their spouses, and children. I'm pretty close to my cousin who was hosting the meals. She and I are only a few months apart in age and have always "clicked." She actually got married on my birthday 3 years ago, got pregnant right away, had a son, and now is pregnant with baby #2. I knew that going into Thanksgiving because my mom told me that my cousin had been quite sick with this pregnancy.

I didn't know two other cousins were pregnant...and actually no one ever told me. I just guessed from their tell-tale bump (although you can never quite bank on that) and the conversation around the house. Both of these cousins just had least that's what it seems. Their youngest ex-utero children are still crawling and in diapers (1st for one cousin, 6th for the other). All told, there were easily a dozen children there, plus the three in utero. Yeah. Just the crowd I love to be around.

I'm pretty good at keeping it together and staying cheerful when I need to, so I doubt anyone sensed anything out of the ordinary. And of course I did enjoy being with my parents, the cousin I'm close with, eating delicious food, etc. But man, those situations are hard on the heart! I'm glad Mr. M and I had about an hour drive back to my parents' house (where we were spending the rest of the break) because I needed that time to debrief, vent, just let my heart feel for a while.

(How did so many of my cousins end up so fertile, anyway? Where is my fertile gene?)

Of course any IF or single gals reading this know that Advent can be tough...any holiday can be tough when you want a husband or child(ren) to share it with. I am doing my best to get into Advent nonetheless! I have to think going through the motions counts for something - getting out the Advent wreath, setting up the Advent fig tree (we bring our fig tree inside for the winter), singing Advent songs at evening prayer time, etc. The nice thing is, sometimes I forget I'm just going through the motions and actually start to enjoy Advent and forget my troubles for a while. A little Advent treat, maybe =)

My Advent words this year (what keeps coming to me in prayer) are WAIT and HOPE. Surprise, surprise, right? =)

WAIT: I feel like someone (God? Is that You?) has pushed a big "pause" button on our TTC endeavors.  We prayed a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots (put in bold because I LOVE this devotion!!!) to untangle and untie and remove some of these roadblocks that keep getting in our way! (Difficulty scheduling SA...adoption plans are going nowhere until we find out if our basement apartment would even be approved...first need to find out if we'd get kicked out for not being fire safe...timing is all off for the ovulation ultrasound series, etc.)

I keep coming back to: Wait. Just Be. Just relax, says God. (Not You too!!! Don't You know that's the worst advice to give to an infertile lady??) But really, I think it's such an important lesson for me to learn: sometimes, you just wait. Sometimes, you stop pushing and running and trying so awfully hard, and just sit and wait. In the silence before the dawn. In the silence of Bethlehem. The silence of creation, waiting for the Christ Child.

HOPE: Of course this cycle I irrationally hoped that I would conceive. (Had cramping and spotting today and expect AF any hour now.) Forget the fact that my fertile window (approximately anyway) was while we were at my parents' house, in a small uncomfortable bed in a room right next to theirs...not a lot of "I"s that weekend! I still hoped though. Confound it all, I still hope...maybe the cramps and spotting will stop...Our Lady of Guadalupe, please?

Hope is pretty irrational after all, I guess. I mean, if everything was rational - perfect cause and effect, this then that - there would be no room for hope. If I knew I would get pregnant after being intimate with my husband (as some people seem to "know"?) there would be no room for hope. It feels pretty irrational to me to hope that we'll conceive after 30+ cycles of trying. But I know people who have conceived after twice that many cycles, etc. Hope just never quits...and to be honest, I couldn't bear it if it did. As annoyingly chipper as it is sometimes.

My confession is: I'm very jealous of my pregnant friends. And my friends with their adorable little infants. And how can I ever tell them that?? I have a friend who is due any day now, who got married a year after us. She shared with me some reproductive anomalies that were discovered right after their wedding, and we bonded over our fears of not conceiving. Annnnnd, she got pregnant a few months later. I'm having a hard time accepting that. And I feel terrible about it.

I'm also dreading (maybe that's too strong - "not anticipating") a Christmas party this weekend. It's a party for the grad school my husband and I attended, both current students, alumni, and professors. There are so many wonderful people that will be there, but oh so many babies. And I'd bet you $10 - no, $100 - that I get at least one pregnancy announcement. Or "did so and so have their baby?" conversation. I want to go to that party with a baby!! It's an annual thing, and the weight of a whole year really sits on me when annual things come around. Another whole year, nothing. No "news." No cutesy baby to show off.

One more downer of a thought (this is really cathartic...sorry it's so blah): these moments just kind of stick with you, and I have a hard time letting them go. This happened when we were visiting our goddaughter's family back in October. I was shopping with the mom, her 2.5 year old son, and my goddaughter (still in utero - very visibly). We walk into a store, and the lady clerk looks at my pregnant friend and says "Oh, you look beautiful!" and then she looks at me, right there behind her...and says nothing. Well gee thanks. I get it - I don't have the pregnant glow - or maybe it's just because I don't have extra people to buy stuff for...anyway, I thought of that moment again tonight and it brought tears to my eyes, not the happy kind. Why don't people realize when they're rude? Do I need to wear a sign that says, "Really, I'd like to be pregnant, so please don't make a big deal about how not-pregnant I am"? I need to give these hurts to God - it just is so hard to feel "invisible" sometimes.

And to end on a happy note...I had a lovely night out with a good friend of mine, a mom with two little boys. I just needed someone to talk to, and I emailed her and she was free that night, so we got drinks in a wine cellar and she just let me talk and talk and talk and was so sympathetic (even though she's never experienced this long a stretch of IF) and it was just glorious and I was wondering, why don't I do this more often? Reach out to friends? Tell them I need help? I think I just might...I hope all you in bloggy land will agree that blog friends are amazing but there's something about having a friend with you in person! That's why it's so awesome to get together in person with blog friends!! Anyone visiting DC soon, let me know =)

Ramble complete.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My birthday gift to myself not charting. I just needed a break. (I feel like I'm always needing a break!)

I feel like things are pretty much stalled in terms of medical treatment. I've checked zero items off my "list of three" I got from my new doctor back in October.

SA: how can one simple test be so darned complicated?!? Because it's my blog, I feel at liberty to complain. (grumble grumble) The one piece of advice my new doctor said was, "why don't you take the sample to [big local fertility company]?" Not so simple. We called them up, and you have to be a patient of theirs for them to run the test. I don't want to be their patient. I don't want anything to do with them. They are one of the biggest (if not the biggest) IVF clinics in the country. No way am I going in there to have a doctor push IVF on us. What a waste of time.

So then we had to call around and find other possible labs. Well, I can't do that at work - who wants their coworker overhear them ordering a semen analysis? Not me. So Mr. M has been calling (I'm very grateful) and it's so awkward! It's also a real challenge to find a place that will take our insurance, or will give us a quote up front. There are two places that might be in driving range (meaning we could do the test at home). That would be great because last time we tried from a hotel and the time crunch (check-in time, check-out time) just put too much pressure on it. But still, I'll have to take time off from work, time which I don't really have because of the holidays.

Really, why don't napro doctors run their own SA tests? Especially because you have to bring it in - it would just make things so much easier. I don't know, maybe some do?


Ovulation ultrasounds: well, I'll be mid-cycle at my parents over Thanksgiving, and then at my in-laws over Christmas. So January is the earliest I can do this test. But January I have a sizeable project at work with an end of the month deadline, so honestly I think it will be February before I do this. And the time commitment gets me: at least an hour for multiple days. That's just not easy when you work full-time!

Surgery: won't happen until the other 2 are done, so that's that.

With no medical options in the near future, I am giving myself the birthday gift of not even checking my "vitals." No charting at all. Just trying to love my husband, spend more time in prayer, and doing things I love. Not a bad way to spend Advent, I think! I hadn't realized what resentment I'd been harboring toward charting until I stopped doing it for a day or two and just felt incredibly relieved.


11 randoms + 11 answers for Sayin' I Love You

Sayin' I Love You nominated me for a Liebster award, and I'm sorry I'm taking so long to respond to it! Sometimes it's hard to find time for blogging. But I think it's a neat idea and I'm honored to be asked, so without further ado, here are my answers:

Step 1: Post 11 random facts about yourself

1. It's my birthday today =)

2. I have time to blog because my generous husband is making me dinner! He made the dessert first, so I've been enjoying these Italian cookies called "couchidatas" or something - they're basically dough & nut balls covered with powdered sugar. Yum.

3. My mind went's hard to know what counts as "random". I guess something a lot of people don't know about you? favorite movie growing up (school-age) was "A League of their own" (I played softball for years and loved it.)

4. I have 8 nieces and nephews, including a set of quadruplets. All on Mr. M's side.

5. I'm a convert to the Catholic faith. (Anabaptist --> Methodist --> Catholic)

6. Apparently my birthday is the day when Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labore and gave her the miraculous medal (a priest friend told me that - I never knew!)

7. I had a heart surgery right before my sophomore year of college, to correct atrioventricular tachycardia (basically my heart beat too fast). I'm fine now, thanks =)

8. Every summer growing up my family vacationed at Cape may, New Jersey.

9. Both sides of my family have been in the U.S. since before it was a country.

10. My husband proposed to me on a hike next to a waterfall. It was the same hike where we met (on a group outing).

11. The wierdest food combination I enjoy is pork rinds dipped in strawberry cream cheese.

Whew! That was actually kind of tough to think of interesting "random" facts!

Now I have to answer 11 questions from Sayin' I Love You. Here goes...

1.  Why did you start a blog?
As my sidebar said, I needed a place to think through this quite difficult experiencing of wanting to conceive and not being able to. I wanted to connect with other Catholic women who were going through the same thing.

2.  What is your favorite time of your day?
The morning! I'm definitely a morning person. I love the freshness of a new day with nothing gone wrong husband is a night person, so that's been interesting!

3.  When was the last time you cried and why?
Last night because I found out a classmate's wife is having her second baby.

4.  Do you like to leave comments on other people's blogs? Why or why not?
I do! I probably don't comment as much as I should. I like encouraging other people because I really appreciate when people encourage me in the comments.

5.  What is your favorite quote?
Oh wow. about "man cannot live without love" from Bl. John Paul II. (Redemptor Hominis)

6.  What is your guilty pleasure?
I honestly don't know if I have one...sometimes I like eating the ice cream start out of the carton.

7.  Do you have any talents?
I've been told I'm a good writer (I guess you all could judge that!) and I'm a decent singer.

8.  How old were you when you had your first kiss?
I was 16. The guy dumped me on my birthday several years later, so I try not to think about that relationship.

9.  How do you feel about plastic surgery?
I can see that it would be needed sometimes, like after a burn or to correct an abnormality. But I think it's sad when people change their healthy body because they don't think they're beautiful or worthy of love.

10.  What is your favorite childhood memory?
Thankfully, I have a lot! How about (seasonally appropriate)...playing in the snow until I was frozen through, then coming inside to a cup of hot chocolate and sitting at the kitchen table reading a book and feeling so warm and safe and happy.

11.  How did you come up with the name for your blog?
It just jumped into my mind. I read a book once ("On Being Catholic" by Thomas Howard) where he talked about "Ecce. Fiat" as the fundamental words of a Christian, and I thought that was beautiful.

Okay...I'm sorry, but I'm going to be lazy and not do the last part! I hope you don't mind, Sayin' I Love You! You asked almost all the people I know in blog land anyway =)

thanks again for "tagging" me - that was fun!

I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving! You're in my prayers


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I attended a baby shower

AND I went in Babies R Us to get a gift!

I'm kind of proud of myself =)

The friend whose baby shower it was is a former IF sufferer. She and her husband went through 6 years of TTC plus 2 m/cs before they conceived their daughter, who is due in January. Because of her background, she's been so incredibly sympathetic toward me and Mr. M.

For example, when she told us she was pregnant, she said right away, "It's okay if you cry - I bawled my eyes out when my best friend told me she was pregnant with her fourth. I understand." and I believed her. (I didn't cry.)

When we got the invitation to her shower, I immediately knew I wanted to go to support them. Plus - and this was a big factor! - it was addressed to both me and Mr. M. In my humble opinion, co-ed showers are a million, gajillion times easier than women-only showers.

So we went, with the goal of supporting our friends who have been through so much. And it went fine. I was right about the co-ed part: it was so calming to get to be next to Mr. M and to be in mixed company so every single sentence wasn't gushing about babies. We talked about other stuff and that kept me peaceful. Plus the hosts (our expectant friends) were just so gracious. They weren't braggy about their baby, and the mom didn't complain about pregnancy - they were just so happy and grateful and honestly it was very hopeful for me to see that. After 6 years, a child! Wow.

We couldn't stay through all the presents because I had to work that night, but even that was okay. The mom thanked everyone before opening gifts for being there, and got choked up saying how grateful they were for their child, and it was just so humble and lovely. No hint at all of "well, we got married last year, so this is what happens, go us" or anything like that.

Who knows what I'll do when the next shower rolls around. But I'm really glad we went to this one - I think they received our presence as a gift of love, knowing our circumstances.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Not this month

Another cycle, come and gone.

Every failed cycle, there's something specific that I miss, that could have been but wasn't. That will never be. This specific child - never going to exist.

This time, it's pretty obvious: no "news" for my parents at Thanksgiving. A bit harder even: another birthday will come and go without a baby inside or outside the womb. Another calendar year...that's tough. Also (and I usually don't do this!) I looked up when a potential baby would be due, I guess in a fleeting moment of hopefulness, and the baby-that-isn't would've been due around the feast of St. Joachim and Anne. That would have been cool. Oh well.

I grieve all those specifics.

This cycle was kind of funny too: I felt crampy 5 days before my period actually started. No bleeding of any kind, just a dull kind of "pinch" for 5 days. Of course the one little hopeful cherub left in my brain tried to convince me, "maybe it's implantation cramps??" but I ignored it - been there, done that.

Also, for extra pizzazz, getting my period now means that my next "fertile window" (I just can't help putting it in quotes...sorry) will be while we're visiting my family over Thanksgiving. Sleeping in a very uncomfortable guest bed, in the room next to my parents. I joked with Mr. M that I would ask my mom and dad to get us a hotel room: "How much do you really want a grandchild?" ha ha. Just kidding!

What else is there to say? I'm just proud of myself for still going to work after AF showed, for being outwardly cheerful while I was inwardly crying, for still going with Mr. M to give a talk at marriage prep, for still making dinner, getting out of bed in the morning, etc. Not letting grief get the best of me. (It's crazy how much we IF ladies have to endure, and most of it is so hidden...)


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Am I on the cycle of spiritual fruitfulness?

Guest post by Mr. M! He's really getting into this blogging thing =)

Gratitude for infertility? “Yeah right. That's not for me! That's not my temperament! And really God, I think it is okay for me to be sad given my hardships! Any just God would understand why I can't be thankful for infertility – it's an evil after all – and God doesn't want me to be thankful for evil - right?”

All of these thoughts have entered my mind at one time or another during this infertility struggle my wife and I have been experiencing. But as soon as I think these thoughts, then I read Paul's challenge: “Be filled with the Spirit . . . giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18; emphasis added). Be thankful “at all times” and for “everything?” “Well that would seem to include suffering and evil – like infertility. What gives? Really Lord – you want me to be thankful for that? I'll be thankful for other things but not for that. That's impossible!” From on high then I hear a voice speak soft to my heart through this scripture: “Yes, my son, I want you to be thankful for even that.” Long pause. Selfishness of wanting to do things my own way slowly starting to crumbling and then a big “Hummph” heaved on my part.

As usual, this is one of those passages in scripture that I am tempted to pass over for more comfortable, bourgeois ones that already fit who I am and what I do. I have, as my former pastor and still friend Fr. Larry Richards puts it, a tendency to pick and choose which scripture passages I like to hear and tend to pick those that are the most convenient for me. But this won't do as a Christian! As Christians we are called to accept the entire Gospel and all biblical directives no matter how difficult they are for us to understand or to practice. No picking and choosing allowed here. We must choose all or nothing. So “I choose all” I say finally to that angelic voice yet quickly follow it up with “Maybe you could tell me a little bit about how I can do this Lord?! Help my unbelief and unwillingness!”

This is how my dialogue went recently with God and all of these thoughts forced me to examine my attitude toward gratitude. I thought to myself, “Do I treat gratitude as just one of those nice pious sentiments that yeah we should in general do, but when it costs us then I can chuck it off my Christian to-do list? In other words do I make gratitude just a platitude? You know, a platitude - one of those nice things we tell ourselves and others to do but secretly justify to not do because of the aforementioned reasons above. Yes, I know I have treated gratitude in that way and have brushed off the Christian teaching to be thankful 'at all times' and for 'everything' on more than one occasion.” So I began to examine my soul more in depth. Why do I do this? “Usually,” I concluded, “it is because of a lack of knowledge as to why something is good for me and usually it is because I have too limited of thoughts on the topic or then again sometimes I am just selfish. I just want to go on the shorter, easier road.” But as usual, God wants to break open my limited thoughts and actions here. So I pressed on in my search these last few days for a deeper meaning of gratitude. Here is what the Lord has taught me so far, although I know I am nowhere near done learning about how to be grateful like Christ.

I was reading another great book by Jacques Phillipe called The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux. In that book, he started to discuss gratitude not just as a good practice to do occasionally to uplift our spiritual lives, but actually as a necessary law of every spiritual life. In other words, gratitude is not an option. It is something we have to practice regardless of temperament or disposition. “Okay, but why?” Here Jacques Phillipe gives a further insight that has proved helpful to me in the last week or two. He calls gratitude a necessary part of the circle of a healthy spiritual life as opposed to the circle of an unsatisfied, unhealthy spiritual life. I would like to use more colorful terms related to our particular suffering here. So lets call these two patterns the “cycle of spiritual fruitfulness” and the “cycle of spiritual infertility”.

Cycle of Spiritual Fruitfulness

The cycle of spiritual fruitfulness, according to Jacques Phillipe, interpreting St. Therese of Lisieux's thought, begins with trust in God, which is nourished through a life of faithfulness in prayer to God. As a necessary part of this trust, Jacques Phillipe says, we must be grateful before all questions are resolved in regard to our suffering because gratitude opens up our heart to God. Finding a way to be grateful for things opens up our heart because it moves us away from thinking of only our weaknesses or only on the evil, which is not God, to what is good and therefore of God. As we see more of God, then we give more to God and in turn receive more of God's love and grace in our life. As we receive more of His love, then we are healed more and are also able to grow in love more. This cycle then repeats as we grow in love and we become more and more loved and loving little by little. Thus, this is the slow path towards growth and spiritual fruitfulness, but it begins with trust and gratitude. Here is a nifty diagram I created.

Trust Gratitude
Love Opens Heart

Cycle of Spiritual Infertility

Now, the opposite of this cycle of spiritual fruitfulness is the cycle of spiritual infertility. The cycle of spiritual infertility begins with a lack of trust in God through a lack of faithfulness to one's prayer life. In place of gratitude there is a negativity focused on our weaknesses, what we lack, and our suffering. This negativity closes our hearts off from God because we are focusing on what is not God. As a result, this ingratitude makes God's love more distant from us through our own action. As a result, we push the healing and love away in exchange for nursing sourly one's wounds and isolation. If we let this endure too long, then our whole life becomes one big storm of sadness and anger. Eventually, we can even turn bitter toward life in general and eventually hateful towards others and God. Sure, it may be an extreme to become hateful towards others and God, but nonetheless we can isolate ourselves as the result of not having trust and gratitude and this invariably leads to less love. Here is a diagram of the cycle of spiritual infertility.

Distrust Negativity
Less Love Closed Heart

So, the cycle of spiritual fruitfulness offers us several good reasons for why Paul instructs us to be grateful at all times and for everything with no exception. What I have learned is that I want to open up my heart more to the Lord and to thereby love more, so I must find a way to be thankful for all things - even for infertility.

With this in mind, I went back to my dialogue with God. I asked God for the grace to be more grateful moment to moment in my daily life for everything. God, in turn, has asked me when I am tempted to be ungrateful and negative to make an act of trust in the moment and find something to be grateful for – health, the fresh crisp autumn air perhaps, or even more profoundly - my wonderful wife – and thereby to become more aware of His love in my life. Slowly then I become a little more grateful and a little less negative and eventually I hope to become with God's help grateful for everything in my life.

This gratefulness at all times, like the Gospel command to pray at all times, does not come overnight and does not necessitate a formal act of thankfulness at every moment. In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about prayer - to pray always requires us to pray sometimes - so too with gratitude. To be thankful always requires us to be thankful consciously sometimes throughout the day in the little, hidden moments of the day, but obviously not necessarily consciously through a formal act at all times. So I need to practice this gratitude sometimes through my day. As I become more grateful in those little moments, I will not only be able to resist ingratitude in the big, more difficult moments, like when I think about our infertility after seeing our friend's kids bop around me at their house, but also it will help me to be grateful even for our suffering. In this way, I think I am slowly becoming thankful at all times, although such a task even with God's grace is still far off for me. I am very unfinished. But through grace I have come to learn that while we may not be able to control our natural cycles of fertility, we can always choose what spiritual cycle we are in. So I choose the cycle of spiritual fruitfulness. What cycle are you on? Come Holy Spirit, make all of us more grateful!

And oh yes – “Lord I thank you for these insights, for the holy resolve to put these insights into practice, for our blogger friends who are reading this lengthy post and haven't passed out yet with reader's fatigue, for heat on a cold day, my daily Sacrament with my wife and yes . . . okay . . . fine . . . I thank you even for the cross of our infertility that mysteriously brings us closer to one another and You by teaching us all of these challenging lessons that we may have not learned otherwise.”

Please pray for us to continue to stay on the right cycle as we will pray for all of your cycles both natural and supernatural!

+Ecce Fiat's Husband+

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day-dreaming, and two prayers

I've been in a day-dreamy mood. Dreaming about the future, in particular. What will tomorrow bring? What will next year bring? Of course those dreams are wrapped up with our hopes to become father and mother. I asked Mr. M the other day in the car (I was upset because I read a pg announcement of a non-IF blogger, but I was too embarrassed to tell Mr. M that): "Do you think we'll ever get to a point where we'll look back on this time and it will all just be a bad dream?"

I felt a little bad saying that, because I knew it implied that life with my wonderful husband could be a "bad dream"...I was in a dramatic mood, what can I say. But I do look back on other times in my life and they are like bad dreams: the time immediately after my boyfriend of four years broke up with me. That was a rough year and my heart really only started to heal after I did mission work for a summer and after he proposed to his new girlfriend. Totally bad dream material. You couldn't pay me a million dollars to go back to that episode.

So when will we turn the corner? When will all of this IF struggle be but a bad dream, an experience that helped us grow but that - good riddance - is over?

And that got me thinking: wow, this is not a way to live a life...hoping for nothing more that time progresses faster already and the next phase of life comes. Of all the indignities that IF brings, I think this is the worst: the sense of disappointment about my life. The sense of incompleteness, of foreboding sadness, of the "siamese twin of suffering" (a phrase from a fellow IF sufferer).

So here's prayer #1: Dear God, please let IF not have such a grip on my life! 

I really, really miss not going on the roller-coaster of hope and disappointment each month. I can barely remember what it was like pre-IF to get my period and not have an intense emotional reaction. It just was a fact of being female, nothing more or less.

If I'm perfectly honest with myself, I would definitely say that IF consumes a large amount of my waking thoughts. It's just always there, like my shadow. Does it define me? If so, I resent that. But I can't deny that IF has become a defining factor of our married life. We talk about it often - it's just always there.

I want to be just live my life and not have to always be thinking about being childless, always fighting back against inner tendencies to be jealous, to sulk, to plead, to beg for a child.

And that brings me to prayer #2. This one is pretty standard, I guess: Dear God, please show me what you want me/us to do with our lives.

I wrote about it before: not having children really opens up options. Of course I know that it's enough to just live our marriage, witness to Christ through our love, do our jobs well, and be content. No question about that. And maybe that's what God will ask us to do: live a childless life, happy with each other, open to serving those in our families and neighborhood, living "the little way" that St. Therese talks about so beautifully.

But I can't shake the desire of my heart for something more. I can't shake the desire of my heart for motherhood. And this thought occurred to me recently: how wonderful it would be to have something to do that takes so much energy and is so worthwhile and fulfilling that I don't have the time or luxury of sitting around feeling sorry for myself and my childlessness!

For example, mission work. Mr. M and I have talked about this recently. I spent a summer on mission in Honduras, and I loved it tremendously. I felt so alive. It felt so worthwhile. I spent a LOT of time with little kids and loved every minute. Those experiences have been returning to my mind lately, and Mr. M (who has only done 2 weeks of overseas mission work) voiced the idea independently. He was actually the first one to bring it up as an actual possibility. "Maybe we could go to an orphanage and adopt all the children!!!" was the way he put it. Not sure that's legally possible, but I love his enthusiasm!

What if...and I know this probably sounds nuts, and I'm getting waaaaay ahead of myself...but what if we do go to an orphanage in a foreign country, and we serve there, and we love the children like they were our own, and we give them something of the father and mother they never had, and we serve together, and we live in peace and simplicity, and the knowledge of our infertility becomes less all-consuming and more like one detail of our lives among many more interesting ones.

Like I said, I'm in a day-dreamy mood...

This is why I need God's help to figure out what we should do! Maybe I'll get pregnant next cycle, and that would change things awesomely! Or maybe He will make it clear that we should pursue adoption now. But I'm now at the point where I want to think about what the Catechism calls "performing demanding services for others" (no. 2379) as something to which an infertile couple - us - might be called.

A plan of action

I'm a pretty practical day-dreamer, I guess =) I realized that it would be really cool if Mr. M and I could stand in readiness for whatever God calls us to next. He still needs to finish his dissertation - that's a given. That's at least a year. So over the next year (the Year of the Dissertation, as I'm thinking of it), there is so much we can do to be poised for our next task in the Kingdom. Such as:

  • Prayer prayer prayer! I'd like to get back in the habit of doing a weekly holy hour and maybe even a daily rosary (I'm horrible at both).
  • Spiritual direction: get the wisdom of our favorite priest to help guide us
  • Investigate: explore options of adoption and mission work
  • Simplicity (financial preparation): pay down our last loan, don't rack up debt, don't buy a bunch of stuff that we don't need, practice living simply
[Maybe this is clear "between the lines," but lately I've been feeling ambivalent about continuing medical treatment. I know we've done barely anything, and I know I can change my mind practically at any moment, but I don't feel excited about it and instead feel a real heaviness thinking about a major surgery and even doing an SA...I'll save that for another time, I guess.]

More than anything else, I pray to trust God that He will make His will clear! He will not leave us in the dark, but will guide us if we stay docile to the Spirit. Basically I want to ready our hearts to say "Yes" to whatever the Lord is asking of us. So far our marriage has looked quite different than so many of our friends - maybe that will be the case forever, maybe it won't. But I want to spend less time comparing my life to others' lives and much, much more time seeking my own destiny. =)

And a closing quote, paraphrased (I looooove this quote and idea):

Vocation is where your heart's deepest longing meets the world's deepest needs.

Jesus, I trust in You!

+Ecce Fiat+

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How do you cope with the two week wait?

Any day can be tough when you’re struggling with IF. But I think it’s a well-attested fact that the so-called “two week wait” (2WW) can be particularly hard: that time of the month when you could be pregnant, you might be carrying in your womb an eternal human being fresh from the hand of God…or it could just be you still, barren still. Another cycle, no baby. I’m not sure what God had in mind with this design, but the fact that there’s about fourteen days from the fertile window of my cycle until when I could reasonably know whether the answer is “yes” or “no” to my question Am I pregnant??...that’s a bit tough! Not knocking your divine creativity or anything, God…!

So how do you cope? I was thinking about what helps me, which might be totally different than what helps someone else.

For me, this is how I try to handle the 2WW gracefully and sanely:

1.       Find my happy place. Meaning, project forward something fun/interesting/joyful that’s coming down the road, ideally sometime around when AF is due to arrive. For example, during this 2WW, whenever I catch myself feeling down, I think about our goddaughter’s baptism coming up later in the month. I visualize being there, feeling the love and joy of the moment. Or I think about my birthday, also later this month, and visualize the special surprise Mr. M is preparing and how I’ll feel loved. If there’s no event coming up that I can think about, I try to focus on the good things around me: thank you God for my husband, thank you for the beautiful fall colors, thank you for my general overall health. It’s not a magic charm, but I do find it helpful especially to think about good things coming up, people I’m going to see, as a reminder that my world will still have something good in it even if AF comes.

2.       Distractions! Related to number 1, it can help me to just keep busy. Work is good for this! When big projects are approaching, I simply don’t have the time to wonder “Am I? Am I not?” Taking up hobbies has really helped too – I like reading, playing piano, and sewing. If I can get “lost” in one of those hobbies, the time passes pleasantly and with as little anxiety as possible. Plus it helps me feel like I’m not just twiddling my thumbs waiting for baby, but am becoming a more interesting, well-developed human being.

3.       Take it to Jesus in prayer. I guess I should have listed this as number 1 =) IF has really forced me to cry out to Jesus in a more “real” way than I had before. I like to picture myself resting my head on His Sacred Heart like the beloved disciple St. John. When pangs of longing, anxiety, uncertainty etc. threaten to overwhelm me during the 2WW, I try to turn to Jesus: “Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, help me.” I speak with Him honestly: “This is so, so hard. Please take this cross away. Please send us a baby” and don’t worry too much about not sounding devout enough…He knows my heart, after all. No fooling Him with pretending to be more holy than I am! =) But of course I ask for the graces to accept this cross, to desire God more than a baby, to not turn babies into idols, and so on. I’ve found the 2WW in general to be very profound spiritually. It’s like my heart is more vulnerable or something.

There’s probably more to say, but those are my top 3. Thoughts?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How do I not live in fear of pregnancy announcements?

Over-dramatic? Maybe. But really, this has been one of the tougher things about this IF experience: the nervousness, anxiety, fear, whatever word you want to use, that this person I know is going to announce her pregnancy, that I’m going to be caught off guard, react poorly, cry, or internalize it and get all thrown off kilter for hours.

Hello, self. People get pregnant! Apparently other people, but still! Given the number of people I know, and the percentage of those who are married and of reproductive age, it’s not shocking that I get pregnancy announcements on a somewhat regular basis. (Or at least so it seems.)

Here’s one example (these are both true stories, btw): I arrange to meet a friend I haven’t seen in a while. I’m looking forward to catching up, since I haven’t heard from her since before her wedding, almost six months ago. But she’s in town and we’re meeting for lunch. We attended grad school together and formed a close bond, although we hadn't keep much in touch once she moved away. On the way to lunch, I catch myself getting nervous: What if…what if she’s pregnant? How will I react? No, I’m sure would have told me earlier, right? Well, she was pregnant, and she didn’t tell me in advance. She just kind of blurted it out when she first saw me. (She was 20+ weeks - it wasn't like she found out yesterday.) Lunch was…difficult. Me trying to collect my thoughts and be pleasant and happy for her while my heart was bursting with pain, and a fair bit of hurt to be surprised like that…

Or here’s another setup: there’s a coworker who recently got married, and I pass her cubicle often on the way to the kitchenette. Before too long, I see a little cryptic but not-so-cryptic sign in her cubicle to the effect that she’s expecting…wham. Heart pangs again. I take an alternate route to get my coffee now…

So when I’m meeting up with a married friend who isn’t pregnant already or didn’t just have a baby…I wonder. Is she…? How will I handle it? I feel like I have to prepare myself, psych myself up for every encounter…just in case. Because it happens!

And when anyone in my sphere of encounter gets married, I brace myself. Will they announce something soon? How will I handle it?

I wonder if anyone who’s not gone through IF can even get what I’m saying…how much interior preparation it takes just to call a friend I haven’t spoken with (Is she…?) or plan a get-together with a recently-married friend (What if…?). Who knew that would be so hard? I hate it, and I can’t seem to overcome it. My emotions are unpredictable, and I constantly feel vulnerable, wide open to heartache from the innocently begun, “So, we have some news…”

(To my friends' credit, many of them have told Mr. M first about a pregnancy, and let him break the news to me at a good moment. I appreciate that, although it's still far from ideal. I feel bad that Mr. M has to receive all the pg announcements - I know it affects him too, although differently. And some of our friends have told other friends earlier than us, which makes me feel left out. Plus, it's very humbling to feel like I'm being given special treatment, that I "can't handle" a face-to-face announcement like most women. It's true, I can't, but still. I guess there's  just no good way to tell someone, "You know that thing that you've been wanting for over two years? That you think about all the time? That your heart desires more than anything else? Well, I got it." [add: "again / without even trying / and we didn't even want it!" for maximum effect.] Yeah, doesn't seem like there's an easy way to tell someone that.)

This makes me understand why IF can be so isolating. I really do sometimes feel reluctant to attend social gatherings or to call a friend. Depends on where my heart is that day, and where I am in my cycle. And sometimes I feel like I only want to spend time with unmarried friends, because I know they won’t inadvertently trample my tender heart…

Gah. Life is such a minefield when your heart desires a baby.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guest post from Mr. M!! On "How to Live in a Post-Fertility World"

I'm excited to share with you my first "guest post" ever, written by my husband. =) He was just all of a sudden hit with an inspiration and wanted to share the following on my blog. "I wrote it for you!" he told me. I really love hearing his thoughts on this subject, and I hope you do too! Okay, other people's husbands' turn now...maybe this will start a trend? =)

Today, we do not just have a culture that is anti-child, but a culture that is post-child, or what I like to call it, “post-fertility”. More and more people say that they just don't see the point of having children. So many people don't see children as a gift, and they don't see fertility as a gift but as something to control and suppress. Many people seem to have moved “beyond” fertility – it simply doesn't matter to them. The so-called child-free life touting its narcissism in Time this August is a case in point (see “The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children”). The current stat, according to one author, is that 20 % of women now opt out of motherhood! What I want to address here is not how horrible this whole idea is (which it is), but rather how someone like me, who is struggling with infertility, should deal with all of these gushing, sickingly happy post-fertility comments floating in our society. Honestly, some of the greatest personal suffering comes when I hear people flounce the idea of not having children as the next big and great thing. No, it is not so great. Let me count the reasons to you why you are wrong and get really defensive and angry here about how horrible you and your ideas are as I turn your little Time article into a paper airplane sent into a big black hole known as my garbage can.

Okay, no this won't do. What is a better response then? Well, I turn to the gospel here for some guidance. This past weekend we were given a beautiful gospel about one way we can deal with all of these situations. It was the reading about the pharisee who in righteous judgment denounces the tax-collector for being a tax-collector and violating the law. Similarly, I realized that I am being that pharisee when I denounce someone because they are child-free and I, good Catholic that I am, and struggling with infertility, stand in righteous judgment, happy to know that I am being open to life. No, this just won't do. Being open to life is the morally right thing to do, but I am not better than the child-free person the moment I start comparing myself to them. That is ironically their whole problem that I just stepped into myself! That is, they are comparing themselves to the infamous “Joneses”.

The Gospel has a better idea for us – we need to stop comparing ourselves to others, like the Pharisee. In the end, I won't be judged by how well I did vis-a-vis my child-free friend or even my holy friends who are parents, but rather how much I imitated Christ. So in those moments we want to get upset at our post fertility, “child-free” world, let's not waste our time comparing them to ourselves (however valid those comparisons may or may not be), but instead like the tax collector compare ourselves to God and then beat our breasts in recognition of how far we fall short of being like Him. This must be our first response when we become aware of evil in the world or in ourselves. We must respond to sin by being more holy ourselves: “Don't be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21). Blessed are we that we don't just have the ability to compare ourselves to God or rest on our own capacity to accomplish this, but we can also become one with God through the mysterious grace of Christ.

But there is a second thing we can do: embrace this cross of suffering at the hands of our world who just doesn't get that children are a gift. As St. Teresa of Avila taught: “Once you embrace a cross, it’s no longer a cross.” At the moment of embrace, it becomes a joyful affirmation of a love and a hope beyond all suffering and pain. Again this is straight from the scriptures. St. Padre Pio commenting upon the scripture's presentation of the crucifixion says, “We all have a cross in life. It’s just what we do with it that matters. Be like the good thief.” It is worth pondering this line again and again.

Finally, we need to be thankful even for the suffering. Out of suffering comes life, comes love. Maybe it is for this reason that Jesus says to St. Faustina in a vision that “it is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that I give reward.” In this, I take great hope. But what we always have to remember is that it is true that out of suffering comes life, fertility. We may not want to admit it, but the great saints were made out of the crucible of suffering. Christ Himself had to suffer. Perhaps this great horrible suffering of infertility has somewhere a bow wrapped around it? I'm still searching for that bow, but in the meantime I will thank God in advance despite all my feelings otherwise.

So my prayer for you both my dear fellow infertility companions and my post-fertility culture is that we look to no one but God and His will and pray with the hope and trust of a little child to be more like Him through His grace, embrace the cross of suffering we have been given, and find a way to be thankful for it. I know this is not easy, I struggle with it everyday so please pray for us as I pray for all of you, especially my brothers and sisters who don't see the real gift of their fertility and of children.

+Ecce Fiat's Hubby+

My Pre-IF Self

Way back when, when we were first married and I hadn’t given two seconds of time to thinking about possibly not having children…I was such a different person. It’s really interesting to me now to think back about things I used to do before TTC became agonizing and “infertility” become a regular word in my lexicon. Before I joined the ranks of people to whom childbearing does not come easily…all that seems so, so long ago.

Anyway, in the first few months of our marriage, after peak day, I used to go to those websites that predict your due date and find out when our baby we maybe conceived would be born. And then I would daydream about summertime outfits or bringing the baby to Thanksgiving or what feast day s/he would be born on.

I would plan up elaborate or simple ways to tell our friends and family “the news,” picture their faces, feel the joy…before our first Christmas, I had no doubt that we would share the news at least by then, and get to talk to our nieces and nephews about their new cousin, get to open baby gifts on Christmas Eve…

I also used to go to the library and check out books about pregnancy and fetal development, just to “get a head start.” I remember sitting on our couch one cycle during the post-peak time and looking at the early, early pregnancy photos and thinking how wonderful it would be if that little two-celled immortal soul was inside me.

And the baby names…even before getting married, I would doodle girls’ and boys’ names in the margins of my notebooks. One name we discussed on our honeymoon was “Giulia” (pronounced Julia) – that was the name of the street we stayed on during our honeymoon in Rome. My husband’s half-Italian and our last name is Italian, so it would work =) Until my first period as a married woman came, I daydreamed about telling little Giulia how she got her name…

There are other names that are dear to me, but that I’ve tucked deep within my heart. We’d love to name a son after my husband, with the middle name of his maternal grandfather; we’d love to name a daughter after our mothers and his grandmother (their names overlap somewhat!). And of course there are some dear saints’ names too.

I also have a few baby items tucked away. They’re in my parents’ basement, to be specific. I have two winter outfits, those one-piece snuggly outfits with ears. One is pink and one is brown, just like a baby-sized teddy bear. (It’s the ears…they get me every time.) I also have an old wooden child’s potty chair, complete with a toilet paper holder and a magazine rack! I saw it at a yard sale and couldn’t resist. And I have a hiking baby carrier that my mom encouraged me to buy at a yard sale. I hemmed and hawed and finally bought it, mainly because it was such a good deal. I feel a little silly having this stuff, but God knows I’ll use it if we are ever so blessed!

And I have two baby books: one to be filled out by the baby’s parents, and one for the grandparents. Once after IF became real, I filled out part of the book, which asks about my background and my husband’s background, how we met, and so forth. It actually was pretty therapeutic, although it seemed somewhat like a pointless exercise…but I think it helped me be grateful for our marriage a little more.

So yeah, these are things I generally don’t tell people. Things I used to do. Stuff I have for no apparent reason other except that giving them away would feel like a total defeat… I tend to clam up or walk away whenever the conversation turns to pregnancy and baby-raising. It’s just interesting to me to peer back in time at the person I once was…I miss that innocence, that feeling that every cycle could be “the” cycle, that anticipation and wonder. I’ve more or less shut that door of my heart at this point. But the memories are still there.


Friday, October 18, 2013

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

We just spent a lovely long weekend visiting friends out of state. These friends have a 2.5 year old - their little boy, in fact, was born the day after our wedding! His dad was one of groomsmen but never made it to the church...and no, we will never let them live that one down!

They are expecting a little girl - our goddaughter! - in November. I'm so excited to be a godmother =)

My friend, the wife, has no idea what it would be like to experience infertility. To say it's a foreign idea to her would be an understatement - her life is filled with sippy cups, being pregnant, staying in her PJs all day, and playing with her son. Yes, I am jealous =)

So this sounds like the set up to an emotionally awful visit, right? Pregnant woman + little child = heartache and tears, usually.

But the thing is, we love them. All of them. Even with their magical fertility. Because they love us. My friend listened to me for an hour (during naptime) while I complained about our infertility, about the cost of adoption, about painful tests, about everything that she's never experienced. She got tears in her eyes (not the first time either) as she told me how sorry she is, and how she wished things were different. How much she hopes that I become a mother someday.

Yes, moms and non-moms can get along =)

And then there's the little boy...after the first half-hour of shyness, he decided that I was his new best friend =) He wanted me to hold him all the time - my arms are aching today! - he wanted me to put on and take off his shoes, to put on and take off his sweater, to play in the toy kitchen and with the trains, to hold my hand, and to change his diaper...I let his dad do that last one =)

We had the funniest conversations, about animals that live in the ocean and things outside the window, about his favorite gelato flavor (red) and his baby sister, about oreos and elephants. About his favorite food, which was potatoes one time and coffee another. I haven't laughed so hard in a while, hearing his cute little phrases! We went to the beach and dug a big hole, looked for seashells and made a sand castle. Every time we came to a red light he shouted "go!" And you should hear his imitation of a lion's roar...

Consider me completely smitten...

Yes, it hurt to be with a little child! Yes, my heart hurt - physically hurt - to think "I want this so badly..." Yes, it was painful to be in the midst of my dream see his mom with her 8-month pregnant belly cuddling with her 2.5 year old...of course that hurt.

But you know what? I wasn't just on the outside - I was on the inside, too. Not "as" inside as his mom - but I know I mattered. I know I loved that little guy, and my plan is to be the "unofficial aunt" to him and however many kids my friends have =) Because when I was growing up, there were adults that mattered to me other than my parents! In fact, sometimes they mattered more than my parents! (teenage angst...) Yes, I want kids of my own. Now, preferably. No, yesterday. But...I can either mope and avoid friends with kids (which I do) or I can find a place in the tableau, not hate my fertile friends (or at least not too much...) and love their kids.

It's kind of a radical love, too - because I know very clearly that my friends' kids aren't mine. I have to give them back, they're going to run to their mom when they get hurt...but whose kids are really "theirs"? Isn't that the whole point, that parents "borrow" their children for a time?

I don't know...that all sounds too simplistic, and I'm certainly not saying that everyone needs to/should spend time with little kids. I just know that my heart - even though it still hurts - feels awfully loved after a weekend with a little boy who held his arms up to me: "Hold?" who wanted me to sit by him in the car, who snuggled on my lap while we read about dinosaurs and farm animals and trains (did you know that the Little Engine who Could was a girl? I had no idea.) No, I'm not a mom. But I can still do motherly things, and I like to think that helps tip the scales of the world closer to "happy."

IF makes me feel so left out...loving and being loved by my friends' kids makes me feel less left out, more part of the action. Valued. Important. Not a total ignoramus when it comes to taking care of a little creature =) Thank you, my friend, for trusting me with your son! Thank you for not leaving me isolated in IF quarantine, but inviting me into your home and not making a big deal about how great your life is...we all have to play the hand we're dealt, and we're both trying to do that with more or less success.

You're just lucky that I didn't "accidentally" put your son in our car before we left...I've got big plans for the baptism weekend! Trains, fishes, oreos, books...not to mention totally hogging my goddaughter! Feeling blessed.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Weirdest cycle ends, and a 2nd opinion

The weirdest cycle is over. AF came right on time, i.e. on the day she normally comes. So strange - I didn't even think I reached my peak day and it's over already. I guess the one paltry day of CM was it for this cycle. But I really didn't feel "post-peak" at all...who knows if I even ovulated. If you get your period, does that mean you ovulated?

Anyway, bummer that CD1 is here (actually CD3 by the time I'm writing) but I'm actually glad my cycle didn't last and last and last. Good riddance, tamoxifen! I'd like my body's normal CM back, please. Sheesh.

A Second Opinion

On October 1st, I saw a new doctor. She came recommended to me by a friend that I met at a mass I helped plan for couples struggling with infertility. This friend and her husband had been trying to conceive for 6 years, had had two m/c's, and found out they were pregnant a few days after the mass. Everything is going well and I just got the invite for her baby shower (still thinking about whether to go or not). I like to think I had some hand in their miracle baby because I helped plan the mass =)

Anyway, my friend highly recommended this new doctor, Dr. S. Her practice is connected with a local Catholic hospital, and it's about half the distance compared with my other doctor (big plus). Also, the waiting room has soothing colors, magazines other than pregnancy and parenting mags, and pictures other than pregnant women and babies (huge plus!)

Dr. S spent a lot of time going over my history, listening carefully to all the tests I've already done. She did a basic exam and then laid out what she thinks are our best options right now:

1. Get the semen analysis done.
2. Have an ultrasound ovulation series to see whether I'm ovulating, etc.
3. Laparoscopy (which she called pelviscopy, but said they're the same thing).

Ideally, these three would be done in that order. She was surprised we hadn't done the SA yet (we attempted in February to no avail) and reminded me how important it is. I know, I know...okay, that's a good reminder to just do it already. Sigh. Not looking forward to that.

The ultrasound series shouldn't be too bad, just time consuming.

The surgery...well, it's a major surgery. I know many others have gone through it, so that's encouraging. She said she usually doesn't recommend surgery to new patients, but we've already traveled pretty far down the IF treatment road. She also said that 60-80% of women with inexplicable infertility have endometriosis, so that's interested. (We're not technically in that category since Mr. M hasn't been tested yet.)

I think this sounds doable (I'm in a positive frame of mind right now for some reason). Three things to do. Just one at a time. No more drugs.

(In the back of my mind, a big motivation for doing this "list of 3" is that I'd like to get close to exhausting our options before moving forward with adoption. I think I'll have more peace of mind knowing we tried to get some answers to our reproductive issues.)

Interestingly, Dr. S didn't seem to think that the polyps were that big of a deal...she said they "could" present problems, but did not encourage another hysteroscopy to remove them. She said you want to minimize uterine surgery (makes sense) and that it's not sustainable to keep surgically removing polyps (makes sense too). She said that if we do the laparoscopy, most likely she'd remove the polyps too - depending on their location, etc. I actually was hoping that someone would offer the more major surgery to me because if I have to have surgery again, why not the whole shebang?

So that's that. We're going to try step #1 as soon as feasible. Step #2 needs to wait through this full cycle because the Tamoxifen is probably still in my system, which means it probably won't happen until after Christmas. And if we get to step #3, I guess before Easter? I like planning with loose deadlines...

At the end of our appointment, Dr. S asked with genuine concern, "How are you doing emotionally?" I didn't say much - did not want to cry - but really, really appreciated her concern. So that's a plus too. I'm very positive about this. My other doctor was fine, but I felt like she was running out of suggestions and I don't mind not driving over an hour to feel like a sore thumb in babyland.