Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quandries in preparation for my doc appt

Tomorrow I have another appointment with my napro doctor. I scheduled this one myself because in my opinion, it doesn't seem like I've made any progress since my hysteroscopy and polyp removal back in September. We were told to try for six months and then we'd re-evaluate, but at four months in, I'm frustrated that the irregular pre-peak bleeding that was supposed to be corrected by the hysteroscopy is back, and just as much and often as pre-surgery.

It's a mystery to me why we haven't conceived yet. I guess you could understand "mystery" in the theological sense - God knows my heart's desire and I trust that hidden in His will is the reason why I'm still not a mother. I pray for the faith to accept His timing.

But biologically speaking, it's a complete mystery why I'm not pregnant yet, meaning I haven't received a diagnosis of anything that could be interfering with my fertility. The only abnormal symptom my charts seem to manifest is the pre-peak bleeding. It's always very light (or even very, very light) - I probably wouldn't even notice it if I wasn't looking. There's never pain associated with the bleeding, but it's so darn consistent! From pratically the time I began charting (early 2011) until now, every cycle has at least one day of spotting, and more often 3, 4, or even 5 days after my period and leading up to peak day. Post-peak: nothing.

My doctor said that the bleeding could be from a polyp, so I had an HSG (ouch) and pelvic ultrasound done, and they both confirmed the polyp. The cycle immediatley after my hysteroscopy, I had no irregular bleeding. But the cycle after that, up to and including this most recent cycle, the bleeding was back. I'm nervous that the polyp has returned, and I'm not liking the possibilty of going through an HSG, pelvic ultrasound, and hysteroscopy again. And for what? To have one cycle without irregular bleeding? Plus, it was expensive. We don't have the money for that kind of treatment every six months!

But the thing is, I haven't received any direction as to what else could be going on with my body, and to me my chart looks very normal other than the bleeding. I average the textbook 28-day cycle, with peak day around day 17 and a luteal phase of 12 days. I don't have PMS (I'm more moody mid-cycle) and I don't have brown bleeding. When I was charting my temps, they weren't too high or too low. I would like to get some more hormone tests done, because I've only been tested on P+7 (that came back normal).

One thing that's been on the back of my mind ever since Christmas is a conversation I had with my mom, in which she told me that her fertility problems (which I knew she had) were from very irregular cycles, sometimes 3 months in length. She used clo.mid to conceive me - other than me and my brother, she had 3 miscarriages. I'm no expert here, but could her irregular cycles been from PCOS? I don't know if they diagnosed that 30 years ago. Also (and this is embarrasing, but maybe useful) I've always struggled with unwanted facial hair and acne, as did my mom and her mom. I read that that's a secondary sign of PCOS? But my cycles are so normal in length.

Endo doesn't seem like a reasonable possibility either, since I don't have much pain during my periods - it's bearable with a few tylenol. But I've heard that endo can be symptom-less?

I don't know. I'm so confused. I wish I had a solid answer for why I bleed irregularly, and whether that's the real and/or only reason that I haven't gotten pregnant. I'm very much practicing trusting in God with our future family and fertility, but I'd really like some answers too on a medical level.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How to deal with jealousy?

I ask because I don't really know (although I have some ideas). I do know that jealousy is a frequent, if unwanted, guest 'round these parts lately.
Most recent example:

Two friends and I went to Stations of the Cross at my parish last Friday, and we decided to attend the simple supper held beforehand in the Church hall. None of us had been before, so none of us realized that the simple supper is almost exclusively attended by the large families at our parish. Seriously, just about every table was one family – parents and 3-6 kids. I felt out of place at once, but thankfully saw a friend, who is also my Creighton teacher. We sat with her and her husband and their three young kids. At the last session I had with her, she told me about a trip she and her husband were going on, so I asked about that. "Oh, it was fun!" she replied. "Except I'm pregnant, so I had some morning sickness. But we still had a good time."

"Oh. Wow," was all I could manage. I don't even think I got "congratulations" out.

To her credit (I mean, she works with people struggling with IF, like me), she didn't dwell on the pregnancy news or seem miffed that my response was rather lackluster. I don't put her in the category of "insensitive people" – she's always been very sympathetic to what me and Mr. M are going through. But really? They're pregnant again? Four times in as many years, give or take one?

Enter jealousy. Big time. I excused myself to go to the restroom and stood in the stall for a while, looking at my shoes (which I could see very clearly over my non-existent baby bump, ha ha) and feeling...barren. Barren as a brick. Barren as a desert. Lifeless. Barren. And bright, kelly green with jealousy. "God, seriously? You give her another pregnancy, a fourth child in a row, and we can't even have one? Why?"

At Stations a few minutes later, everywhere I turned there were more pregnant women, more babies, more toddlers, more large families. I guess that's a positive thing about our parish. (I know it is, really.) But I feel so left out, so jealous of everyone else's abundance. So angry at their nonchalance about their tremendous blessings (at least that's how it seems to me). 

My goal was not to cry during the Station prayers, and I mostly succeeded. My meditation was poor though, unless it counts to meditate on one's own suffering. Certainly a lot of the prayers and Scriptures resonated with what I was feeling: "Lord, have you forgotten your servant?" "My soul is weary with grief." and so on. I tried to unite my longing, my sadness, with Jesus' infinite gift of love on the cross, but to be honest, my thoughts kept being overshadowed by thinking that all the mothers in the room have a special insight into the Station prayers by being mothers and so knowing more viscerally what Mary was experiencing (so I feel left out there too).

God bless the friends I came with. (Both single, by the way, and so also sensitive to being surrounded by large families.) Afterwards, one asked me whether I was okay. She's so thoughtful.

I'm not quite sure how to deal with jealously. I do acknowledge that it's first a passion, an emotion that I don't choose or ask for. Rather, it hits me over the head unexpectedly, especially with suprise pregnancy announcements. I feel suddenly overwhelmed with grief and longing and I feel a vivid sense of cosmic unfairness at all the people who get to experience pregnancy multiple times (in a row!) when I haven't ever experienced it once.

I know jealousy harms relationships. To be honest, I now dread my next Creighton appointment – maybe dread's too strong a word. But it feels like this safe space for venting about IF has been infringed upon, now that my instructor is "one of them" – the growing list of people who have gotten pregnant in the time we've been trying. And I admit that I sometimes consciously avoid people who are pregnant because of feelings of jealousy. Hopefully it hasn't been noticeable to them, but for example I don't walk past my pregnant coworker's office anymore, and I don't seek out a pregnant friend after mass to chat anymore. (I really like her! - but after mass I feel so vulnerable already that I just want to be with Mr. M and get out of there.) I'm not proud of that, but it is what it is.

My hunch is that the antidote for jealousy is two-fold: one, sincerely thanking God for my own blessings and, more profoundly, for His unfailing love for me. IF really threatens my trust in God's love. Horrible, but true. I pray for the gift of faith often, to truly believe that He hasn't forgotten us, even as He showers the very blessing we want on other people.

And two, pray for the person I'm jealous of, for their pregnancy, their family, etc. I don't always feel like praying for them, but it does seem to neutralize the jealousy and I think it's a way to foil the devil's attempts to foster division through jealousy.

On further reflection, I guess I would add a third: remember that everyone has a cross to bear, at one time or another. Come to think of it, I've never met a person who hasn't had a difficulty or two: if not IF, then their husband's work schedule. Or a child with special needs. Or trouble with in-laws. Or unemployment. Or whatever. The people I was jealous about at Stations - those big, beautiful families - they probably all have their own trials they're going through too.

And as a corollary - I think it's safe to say that there's always going to be someone who has what you want, and always someone who wants what you have. For example, my two single friends I went to Stations with. They desire so much to be married, but haven't found the right man. Since going through IF, I try to be even more sensitive to the fact that I have a BIG blessing that they've only dreamed of having - a wonderful husband.

And I guess I should throw confession in there too =) Nothing like a sacrament for healing emotional wounds! (When jealousy is truly a conscious, chosen sin, of course - excluding the spontaneous feelings, just like you don't have to confess unwanted feelings of lust, or greed, or whatever.)
If anyone has any other advice on how to deal with jealousy - I'm all ears!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A snapshot of my Lenten offering

When my Lenten practice of "offering up" my desire for a child is hard:

  • When I hear pregnancy announcements (even though I'm happy for the person)
  • In February. If Mr. M and I had conceived during our (very romantic) 1st anniversary getaway, we'd be expecting that baby right about now. Knowing 4 couples due this month compounds it.
  • When my daily life seems tedious
  • When I daydream about how we would rearrange our apartment if we had a baby
  • When I tally up how many friends I know who are expecting
  • When I tally up how many people I know of who got married after us but who are pregnant before us
  • When I remember how long we've waited so far
When it's not as hard:
  • When I pray, "Jesus, I trust in you"
  • When I sincerely am grateful for the good things God has given me, especially my husband and our home together
  • When I'm with kind friends who don't make insensitive comments but just love me for me
  • When I offer up my desire for someone else - for Jellybelly, or someone who is overwhelmed, or someone who desires a husband, or the sick, etc. etc.
  • When I'm immersed in something I love: playing piano, planning my garden, watching a good movie, reading a good book
  • Right after receiving communion

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Something JPII taught me, Part 2 (Purifying my desires)

Part 1 here (Trusting God with my children)


The other paragraph in Letter to Families, no. 9, that has blessed me with new insight is this one, where JPII talks about what the proper response of parents is based on the fact that every child is willed by God for his/her own sake:

“It is for themselves that married couples want children; in children they see the crowning of their own love for each other. They want children for the family, as a priceless gift. This is quite understandable. Nonetheless, in conjugal love and in paternal and maternal love we should find inscribed the same truth about man which the Council expressed in a clear and concise way in its statement that God 'willed man for his own sake.' It is thus necessary that the will of the parents should be in harmony with the will of God. They must want the new human creature in the same way as the Creator wants him: 'for himself.'” (LF 9, my bolding)

Wow, wow, WOW! I felt like the Holy Father was talking directly to me. I think about this passage a LOT because it is so profound. It is like the essence of a tender Father: he sees how much I long for a child, as a “precious gift” for our family, and he affirms that longing: “This is quite understandable.” But then he challenges me and calls me to greater holiness. He tells me that while it's fine and good that I desire a child for myself and for our family, there is something still more perfect...desiring a child in the same way that God does: for his own sake.


I guess what gets me about this passage is that it puts into relief what the Christian understanding of childbearing and parenting is. Without God, parents might be tempted to think that they're the creators of their children, that their children “owe” them their life, and so forth. I can think of a bazillion anecdotes: a mother wanting to live vicariously through her daughter and do the things she never did; parents “showing off” their kids as an accomplishment; parents making kids feel guilty for not visiting enough, not calling enough, not doing “x” enough; and so on. It seems like it all comes down to the same root: forgetting thatchildren are not brought into the world solely for the parents' sake, but for their own sake. Wow. (Someone who is actually a parent would have to confirm whether any of my reflections make sense.)

For me now, as a non-mother hoping very much to be a mother, this passage calls me to a radical purification of my desires. It's almost like a mini examination of conscience:“Do I desire a child?” Yes. “Do I desire a child for my own sake, to make me happy?” O Yes. “Do I desire a child as a blessing to our family?” Yes yes yes! “Do I desire a child for his/her own sake, as a creature willed directly by God?” question, please? That last one is HARD! Because I think so, so, SO much about my lack, about what I'm missing out on in not having a child: no play dates, no cuddling, no sweet kisses and noises, and so forth. And these are all legitimate things to mourn or lack! But there's so much that needs purified in my desires too...

This helps me put it in relief: When/if I'm blessed with a child, what will my response be? Will it be “It's about time, God!” as if He owed me a child? Or will it be, “Finally, my dreams are fulfilled. You – child – have come to make me happy”? In honesty, I'm sure both of those reactions will be there – and they're not 100% wrong or bad.

But I want this reaction too: “My dear child, you were given to us by God, your Father. He loves you; He willed you into existence through the love of me and your daddy. We are privileged to welcome you into our family. You are such a blessing to us; you are a sign of our union. But you are not 'ours.' You come from God and are now on a journey back to Him. We want to help you get there. You are given to yourself and we rejoice at your presence in this world, at your miraculous presence in our family. We love you and we are thankful for you just being you.”

...Or something like that.

I want my will to be in conformity with God's. I want to want a child “for his own sake.” I think that is such a beautiful calling! There's so much more I want to think about, related to this. These are just my semi-formed thoughts for now.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's breakfast yumminess

This could become a tradition...

I made pancakes from this mix - bought at Aldi's...

...and fried them on the griddle with my handy heart-shaped pancake fryer 

A valentine you can eat! With chocolate chips and all! (And on our fine china...why not? =))

And a shot of reality: not all the pancakes turned out so nicely heart-shaped. Oh well! They were still tasty.
 A delicious way to start our Valentine's day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What I'm giving up for Lent

Not blogging, as you can see =)

Probably sweets, at least de facto. I always feel wierd eating sweets during Lent. Maybe because I associate sweets with celebration, or at least a special occasion. (But if Mr. M gets me something sweet tomorrow, I won't reject it =))

The easy one: I'm giving up all hot drinks. It's only "easy" in comparison to the other thing I'm giving up, because I do love hot drinks. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. Such a pleasure on a chilly, damp day in late winter/early spring. I didn't want to give up anything essential, like a whole food group, because I'm trying to get in shape and be really healthy. So the extra perk of hot drinks it is. (I do relax from my Lenten sacrifices on Sundays, so I'll probably still enjoy a Sunday espresso with Mr. M.)

The hard one: this came to me last Sunday during mass. I realized that what I need to give up for Lent is my desire for a child. No, that doesn't sound quite the way I mean it. It's not so much "give up" as "offer up." I'm not giving up on trying to conceive, or asking God to take away my desire for motherhood. But I do want to offer up my most precious desire to God. Put more concretely: when the desire for a child in my womb or in my arms pierces my heart, as it so often does, I want to offer that desire up to God and say, sincerely, "I trust in You. I trust You with this desire. I trust You with my future children, if there are any. I trust You to take care of my heart in the meantime. Thy will be done." etc. etc. (So much easier to theorize about than to actually do!)

The Presentation, by Guercino

I think at the heart of this Lenten spiritual exercise, if you will, is the recognition that every good thing on earth can become an idol. I think that's what hit me at mass, as I sat in the choir loft and looked at a stained glass window of the Presentation. Mary offering her child to God. I've reflected on that image, that Mystery, many times during mass. Even our Blessed Mother - especially our Blessed Mother! - had to offer back to God the most precious thing in her life, her Son. She could have clung to Him, refused to give Him back to God, reminded God that she was the Mother of the Messiah, and so forth. But she didn't. She trusted God enough to trust Him with the life of her Son, even to the foot of the cross and the blackness of the tomb. I want to have that kind of trust. I want to say with Mary "Here I am - Let thy will be done to me" (hence the name of my blog). I want to learn how to live with an unfulfilled longing (motherhood) and yet be perfectly content because God loves me. I want to have the "holy indifference" of St. Ignatius to say that I prefer not health to sickness, riches to poverty, motherhood to barrenness, etc., but that I prefer whatever God wills as His means of sanctification and what will draw me close to Him.

I apologize - this all sounds so ethereally pious, even as I'm writing it. I guess I'm hoping that Lent will help me translate all the true, good, and beautiful maxims (Trust God with all your heart...Thy will be done...holy indifference, and so on) into actual flesh and blood in my day to day life. I have a long ways to go, but I'm excited to see what fruits God brings out of my meager offering. Onward, LENT!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Something JPII taught me, Part 1 (Trusting God with my children)

(These are thoughts that percolated while I enjoyed my morning coffee on got kind of long, so I'm breaking it up into 2 parts.)

This extended period of waiting to be a mother has given me ample time to reflect on my desire to be a mother, and on the meaning of childbearing. I'd like to say that this is one of the fruits of this time of infertility, because God has blessed me with some insights that maybe I wouldn't have received had I gotten pregnant right away. I know now that our Church has some incredibly beautiful things to say about childbearing! About its deeper meaning and significance, and about the proper attitude parents ought to have toward their children.

There is one passage in particular that has given me rich food for contemplation as I live this experience of longing for a child day in and day out: Bl. John Paul II's 1994 “Letter to Families,” section 9, “The Genealogy of the Person.” In it, JPII is talking about how every single person can trace his or her lineage – his genealogy – back to God the Father, since we are made in His likeness and He is the ultimate source of life. (That's a pretty profound thought in itself! How often am I unaware that the coworkers I interact with, the cashier at the grocery store, the person who just cut me off in traffic...they are descended from God and bear His image?)

Because God is so intimately present to every person from the moment of his or her conception, JPII emphasizes that conception is not just a matter of biology. Further – and here's where it gets really good – he refers to one of the most profound statements of the Second Vatican Council: Man is “the only creature on earth whom God wills for its own sake” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). This is a foundational principle for JPII, to say the least. I'm fairly confident that it's repeated in every one of his encyclicals. And for good reason! To be willed for my own sake...that means so many things, but at the least it means that I am a subject, not an object. I've been given to myself completely and thus can fully give myself to an other, and ultimately, to God. I don't have just an instrumental purpose in life but my very existence is purposeful. And so much more. What a gift our Church gives us in that brief sentence!

But here's the thing that gets me about Letter to Families, 9. JPII applies the truth that man is “willed for his own sake” to the experience of conception and birth. So he writes:

            “Man's coming into being does not conform to the laws of biology alone, but also, and directly, to God's creative will...God 'willed' man from the very beginning, and God 'wills' him in every act of conception and every human birth.” (LF 9, my bolding)

To me, this is so incredibly beautiful. It literally took my breath away the first time I read it. If this passage is true (and I believe it is), then no person, ever, is “unwanted” or an “accident.” Every single person can look back at the roots of their existence and say “God willed me into this world. God wants me. God desired me to be alive, to be me.” Wow.

I reflected on this passage in two ways. First, as a child of my parents. I can think back to the moment of my conception (without imagining much detail, of course!) and affirm that God was present there, that God willed me into being through the love of my father and mother (who were, of course, essential). From the very first moment of my existence, I was known, wanted, and loved by God. This gives me a lot of joy.

I also reflected on this passage as a woman hoping to be a mother. And to be honest, it both comforts and challenges me. Comforts, because it takes the pressure off, in a sense. Mr. M and I are not solely responsible for bringing new life into the world. If/when we are blessed with a child, that child too will know that from the first moment of his/her existence, s/he was loved and wanted by God, and His will (and not just ours) was at the origins of his/her existence. In other words, we're not the Creator. We hope to participate in God's creative action, but the most we can do is stand in readiness and wait.

Also, it gives me comfort because it makes me think that God knows my children. It's like the reading at mass the other week: Jeremiah says, “The Word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...” (Jer 1:4). Wow. That hit me in a new way when I heard it. God knows who my children are and he knows when they will be given to our family. I will cling to this truth with my mustard seed-sized faith! Thinking of this literally makes me sigh with relief, because just as I believe that God's creative action was at the base of my own life, so I can believe that He will will our children into existence too. (Obviously leaving the possibility open that His will is for us to be fruitful in other ways.)

It's a challenging passage, though, because it reminds me that I can't “will” a child into existence! If I could, we'd have five by now, I'm sure =) This passage reminds me that having a child is ultimately not in my control. I can do everything “right” - have great cycles, eat fertility-friendly food, have perfect timing, and so forth, and a child still might not come. It's not just about “the laws of biology.” This is frustrating to me as a 21-st century woman who is used for things happening if I work hard enough! =)

Second part to come...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Quick Takes #4

1. I've been reading an amazing book called "Burst." It's about a lot of things, but one topic is the author's struggle with infertility. It's written by a guy, so that's neat. He and his wife fought about whether to do IVF or not (she wanted to; he didn't) and some pretty miraculous events changed her mind and led them to adoption. The book's a great read.

2. Fun plans this weekend: on Sunday is our 4th annual Valentine's dinner, a tradition with us and a few couple friends. The husbands cook the meal and the wives relax and then enjoy the meal =) The guys always do such an amazing job! They really go over the top - it's a labor of love. This year it will be us and 2 other couples. Par for the course, I'm the only non-mother. But they're getting baby-sitters, so it should be a fun triple date.

3. I'm very proud of myself for going to a baby shower for a coworker today. Granted, I only stayed about 10 minutes, but it was held during work hours, after all, and I don't know the coworker well. I thought of skipping out but then thought that I'd appreciate having people come to my shower if/when that blessed day occurs!

4. Something I'm excited about: getting ready for this year's garden! We have a 15x15 foot plot in a community garden in our town. It's always so fun to choose seeds out of the catalog. We're ordering ones like: Principe Borghese cherry tomato; Atomic Red carrot; Climbing French green bean; and so on. I loved gardening last summer: it took my mind off of things, gave me something to nurture, saved us money, and was delicious! (It was a lot of work, though...)

5. The SA didn't happen after all. I'm not going to go into details. I realized after the fact that sharing about this particular infertility topic is too personal for us as a couple - even on an anonymous blog. So that's that.

6. I'm out of things to say.

7. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Prayers requested, prayers offered

If all goes well, it looks like we will finally check the SA test off the list tomorrow. We have the hotel booked for tonight, less than a mile from the hospital that is doing the test tomorrow morning. I will be so relieved when it's over, so if you could say a prayer that everything goes as well as it can, that we're not slammed with an exorbitant bill after the fact, and also especially that everything checks out okay and we can move on, that would be so appreciated! (Also, if the hotel has a swimming pool, that would be an extra bonus...!)

Hopefully it doesn't sound wierd to say that I'm "offering" all of the inconvenience, expense, annoyance, time, and akwardness of the SA as a prayer...but if that "counts" as a suffering to be offered, I'll be offering it for the blogger o' the month, JellyBelly! (I've never offered this particular experience before, to say the least...! And hopefully won't have to again.)

I'm also offering the disappointment I feel when people who got married after me get pregnant before me. I'm having a hard time with that lately. It's so very easy to feel like that's not fair, to feel jealous, and to feel left behind. So that's that.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday quick takes #3

1. Mr. M read this post (he reads all my posts, and often they start good conversations), which ended rather melodramatically: "Spring comes every year, right?" The next day, Mr. M sends me this picture: 

With this caption: "Spring is here in our apt. Just thought you would like a picture of it." Mmmmelt my heart =) That's our fig tree, by the way, which by the looks of it will have fully-ripe fruit before Easter!

2. Speaking of Mr. M, he requested for his birthday party, which is tomorrow, a chocolate mousse cake. The picture looked delicious, and it didn't sound that hard to make. Well, I don't know if I didn't beat the eggs enough or what, but the cake I pulled out of the oven last night was about one-quarter the size of the one in the photo! It looked like a flat, burnt pancake. Although still quite yummy. We had a good laugh over that, and I am now going to make a butterscotch bundt cake for the party. I guess I need more practice with mousse!

3. Exciting things are happening in my little corner of the world...basically I called up the director of family life in my archdiocese (whom I know) and asked whether there are any infertility ministries. There aren't (which I think is pretty typical? I haven't heard of a lot of diocese-based infertility/miscarriage ministries, period). Anyway, I suggested to the director the idea of holding a mass for those struggling with infertility and/or miscarriage. He loves the idea! As in, he really wants it to happen. I can't express how happy this makes me - I don't think I've felt this happy or excited about something for a while. If you could, please say a prayer that the mass gets off the ground. There are other ideas too - maybe for a speaker, a support group, a prayer chain, etc. It's all very tentative, but really really exciting.

Only 3 today - lots to do! Have a good weekend!