Monday, March 25, 2013

Cycle day 1, aka Palm Sunday

Well, I won't lie and say I wasn't hoping that we'd get a little Holy Week miracle this year. But nope. No baby in my womb for Easter, and no baby in my arms for Christmas. (Today would happen to be the Annunciation, even though it's not observed this year...) Sigh.

I also won't lie and say that when I saw some spotting and felt some light cramps yesterday, I didn't think for, oh, maybe the 20th month in a row, "maybe it's implantation cramping...?" Why do I always think that? Why is hope so hard to extinguish? But nope. If only.

I'm trying to stay positive. Trying to focus on some exciting things happening in our lives. Such as: We had a housing opportunity come out of nowhere - a larger apt for just a little more money, in a safer location. We're discerning it now, but I'm really excited about the possibility to have a guest room (and, dare I dream, nursery?) plus a larger kitchen and some backyard space. We have until Saturday to decide, so many prayers are going up to whoever the patron saint of housing decisions is!

Trying to focus on Holy Week. My parents and Mr. M's mom are coming to town for the Triduum. I'm excited to see them, but also disappointed that we still don't have any "news." But oh well - it will still be Easter! Jesus will still rise! (I don't mean that to be flippant - of course it matters to me so very much that we are still childless. I'm trying to make more of an effort to focus on the positive and also not let this season of my life pass me by while I'm figuratively sulking in a corner.)


Thursday, March 21, 2013

blood draw series, check

Today was my last blood draw, bringing the total to 7 (8 if you count the testosterone blood draw). I'm happy to say that my arms aren't too sore. Only once did my arm really ache the rest of the day - I think the nurse did something wrong. I'm glad it's over, though. Thankfully I found a lab that's closer than my doctor's office (an hour plus drive) but it still was a bit of a hike on the metro. I got some good exercise walking though!

An interesting thing about my lab location is that it's in the same building as a major fertility clinic that does LOTS of IVF. The kind that advertises on the radio, "A baby is born every 5 minutes at ..." I imagine the women who go there get their blood drawn at the same lab I did. And actually, the first day I went, the nurse noticed that my arms already looked bruised (I had had two draws at my doctor's office earlier) and she asked me, "Are you getting infertility testing?" Totally inappropriate question. But I said yes, and she asked me where I went. I told her, and she asked why I didn't go to the big fertility clinic literally on the same floor. I told her I didn't want to feel pressured to do IVF, and that my doctor was concerned at getting to the root causes of infertility. She seemed really interested, and said she would tell a friend about that who had had a bad experience at the big fertility clinic. I said a prayer for her friend. And at every blood draw, I stood for a moment outside the fertility clinic's doors and said a prayer for all the women and men who go to the clinic, and for all the nurses and doctors that work there. I wish that I could do more to comfort them and show them another way.

So now I'll wait for my results, and hopefully get an appt with my doctor scheduled soon after Easter. And then we'll see! Jesus, I trust in you.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Loneliness & an antidote (update)

(I thought I would add at the beginning, in case anyone reads this and is concerned for my mental health and well-being =) that I don't feel lonely in the sense of not having good friends or being alone a lot. I just wanted to reflect on the particular time of loneliness that I've noticed in my IF journey.)

Another unpleasant emotion that has marked this IF journey (in addition to jealousy) is that of loneliness. Loneliness that comes from feeling left behind as most of the women my age around me have a child, then children. Loneliness from feeling left out when my friends organize play groups and moms' outings while I'm working my day job. Loneliness at not being able to join in the conversations about teething and diapers and first steps. Loneliness at not being part of what seems like an almost universal feminine experience.

And the even more painful loneliness that comes every month when I realize that no, I wasn't accompanied by a hidden son or daughter, but have a vacant womb still. Yes, I was alone these past two weeks, even though I allowed myself to daydream – even just for a moment – that there were two of us waking up, going to work, eating, sleeping, walking, talking. Nope. It's just me.

I wasn't even consciously thinking about the loneliness of IF this past Sunday at mass, when an image came to me that brought me much comfort. This is it (although it's hard to describe): I pictured myself sitting alone, in the dark. Darkness is often a metaphor for suffering and dryness – think St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. Indeed, so much of this past year and a half has felt dark – the dark of unknowing, the dark of sorrow and grief, the dark of loneliness. But it came to me in that same moment that there is one advantage to being in the dark for a long period of time – your eyes start to adjust to the lack of light.

At first when you walk into a dark building after being outside in the sunshine, you can't see anything. But slowly things take shape and forms emerge from the darkness. Well, that's what I feel has happened to me over this journey of IF – I can now discern more shapes in the darkness. And in particular, one shape that has been there the whole time, but I'm just now learning to see – God. In my mind's image of me sitting alone in the dark, my eyes "adjusted" and I realized that I wasn't alone. Sitting near me, close unto my heart, was God. The Good Shepherd, who has been sharing my sorrow this whole time, who has been close at hand this whole time.

And I realized that learning to see Him in the dark brings out new contours of who He is – it's one thing to be close to God when everything is going well, to know Him in the sunshine, so to speak, as a God of Providence and blessing. It's been quite another to know Him in my darkness, in my lowness and emptiness. But I do believe I know Him better now. I truly know Him as a God who is close to the brokenhearted, as the Psalmist says, who binds our wounds and catches every tear.

My eyes are still adjusting – sometimes I doubt that He is there. But in a way, I feel almost privileged to have had this time in the dark with God, to have learned to see Him more clearly in the cracks and crevasses of my soul, the places where no light seems to be shining. In the dark. It's like my soul has become more sensitive to His presence through this long experience of groping for meaning and consolation in what often feels like a meaningless trial. And I hope very, very much that when (God willing) the darkness recedes and the joy of the dawn comes, the eyes of my soul will stay as strong as ever, being able to see God in all things, having a deeper intimacy with Him because we've been through a lot together!

I am not alone. I am never alone. He is there, in the darkness.

To close, a song this experience reminds me of:

Especially these lines:
Blessed be your name, when the sun's shining down on me,
When the world's all as it should be.
Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering,
Though there's pain in the offering,
Blessed be your name.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

This & That

Wow, what a day yesterday! I’m so grateful that the white smoke started billowing out of the chimney in the afternoon, our time. I was worried that the pope would be elected and announced early in the morning while I was still sleeping. But no – I had the live stream screen pulled up on my computer at work and it was such a thrill to see that white smoke! The tension was killing me by the time they announced our new Holy Father! And I have to admit that my first reaction was…um…who? I had never heard of Bergoglio before and had no idea where he was from. Thank goodness for smart phones! I’ve been reading everything about him I can find since then, and I am so, so excited for our new Holy Father. As everyone is saying, his humility and simplicity seem so evident. Out of so many things I love about my Catholic faith, one of the biggest is how the different personalities of Christians can all contribute in their own special way to the furthering of the gospel. Pope Benedict was nothing like Pope John Paul, who was probably nothing like any other number of popes. And now we have a new pope who seems like, well, like his own person! But I’m so confident that the Holy Spirit will do great things through him – I think he already has, judging by the number of people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who seem very taken with his humility and strong faith.

Whew! As a melancholic, all the adrenaline and excitement of yesterday is taking a loooong time to work out of my system. I feel like I need to go sit in silence and pray for a while, and just let it all sink in that we have a new Holy Father.

In other news, lots of things lately have interfered with my ability to post regularly.

·         I’m in the middle of my blood draws. Three down, four to go. My testosterone results came back normal. Wouldn’t you know it, this cycle that I’m getting (costly) hormone testing is quite a bit different than my usual cycle: my peak day was a day earlier, and my CM was pitiful, compared to good, how it usually is. I find that annoying for a number of reasons, but partly because I wanted to get a profile on the “rule,” not the “exception.” Oh well.

·         I planted the first seeds in our garden! Peas, spinach, and lettuce. This weekend, weather permitting, I’ll plant beets, chard, carrots, and some other cool weather crops. I find gardening very therapeutic, being out in the sun and playing in the dirt. And it gives me something to nurture =)

·         Mr. M and I spoke on sexual ethics at our parish’s RCIA program. It went really well! He talked about Christian anthropology and chastity, and I talked about married love and sins against the dignity of marriage. The class was very receptive and I was pleased to be able to talk to them about how married love is always fruitful and that Napro is a moral, and more effective, alternative to IVF. Things I would have liked to have learned earlier!

·         We have a date of the archdiocesan mass for infertile couples and those who have lost a child to miscarriage! April 28, the feast of St. Gianna. If you are local to DC, please feel free to email me at for more details! I would love to meet some of you in person! It should be a great afternoon. The details are still being worked out, but what we know so far is that there will be a presentation by Kevin Wells, author of the book “Burst” and a DC local, followed by mass and optional prayers for healing by a priest well known locally for his gift of healing. I’m pushing for refreshments somewhere in there too =)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

a little poem...

...for a Thursday afternoon (just because)

As a married woman,
sometimes it seems that my vocation is
Like I'm not living it
After all,
marriage is ordered to children.

But the vocation to love
cannot be impeded
by an organic condition.

I am always
to love.

Where science has not found an answer,
the answer
comes from Christ.

I am always
to love.

(Inspiration: Pope Benedict)


Monday, March 4, 2013

Another Lenten Snapshot

The last few days have been tough! I know that suffering (or the acute perception of it) comes and goes, and the last few days I've found myself often in tears, over big and little things. I think part of it is that I read back through some journal entries I made this past year and a half, and realized that it's been over a year since I've felt intense disappointment and sadness over my childlessness. (Not just the time we've been trying to conceive – the time it's been painful that we haven't conceived. The first six months or so were different because I hadn't mentally shifted over from "how exciting – we're trying to have a baby!" to "this is taking longer than I thought it would.")

Over a year is a long time to feel intense disappointement and sadness on a regular basis! No wonder I feel emotionally exhausted constantly. No wonder I find myself placing barriers in my heart against thoughts of pregnancy and babies. No wonder I quickly delete birth announcement emails. And the thing that scares me is that I just don't know how much longer this roller coaster of emotions is going to last. I could, God willing, get pregnant this very cycle. Or I could never get pregnant, ever. I really need to figure out how to cope with these negative emotions, and with being childless, for the long term, because I don't want to be in tears for the rest of my adult life!

My Lenten sacrifice of offering up to God my desire for a child has been hard these last few days too. I want to think it's part of a purification process, purifying my desires and my heart. One realization I had, sparked by a(nother) tearful but very healing conversation with Mr. M, who is so wise, is that part of offering up my desire for motherhood to God – entrusting God with this most precious desire, and asking for nothing in return but His love – is that I need to be content with our "life as two." That is, if I'm really serious about trusting God with my future children, and not clinging to the hope of motherhood as to a life preserver, as if it were the only thing that will make me happy, I need to see the positive good of this time when it's just me and Mr. M – realizing that it's within the bounds of possibility that it could always be just me and Mr. M. My first reaction to that scenario is one of bottomless sorrow. To think of never being a mother is a thought I shove to the furthest regions of my consciousness because it is too painful. And of course it's good and natural to desire motherhood. But I'm afraid I'm starting to resent married life with Mr. M for what it is not, instead of rejoice in the goodness that it is.

I don't know if that makes any sense. I do know that something I'm learning from my Lenten offering is to truly, sincerely appreciate the state of my life right now. If I really mean it when I say that I trust God with my desire for motherhood, which is an extension of trusting Him with my happiness, then I need to be able to relax and let it be – let this childless time of my life be what it is: hard, yes, but also so filled with goodness! Genuine goodness. Goodness that is at danger of being overwhelmed by the ever-encroaching shadow of my sorrow.

So last night, I was lying on the couch feeling completely awash with emotion and longing, and I looked for a long time at a picture of us on our honeymoon in Rome, dressed in our wedding garb, clinging to each other and radiant with joy. And I thought, "I love that man. I love our life together" and it was such a life-giving, heart-warming thought. A thought I need to repeat again and again, say to myself more than I say "I want a baby – I want a baby – I want a baby." I guess what I'm trying to say, clumsily, is that the flip side of offering my desire for motherhood up to God is loving my life right now, as it is, childless and all.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Appointment re-cap

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and advice on my last post! It really does mean a lot to know that someone is "out there" =)

Overall, I'm pleased with how my appointment went yesterday. The more I meet with my doctor, the more I appreciate her. She's very kind to us and also a good listener. Mr. M was with me for this appointment, which was also a bonus.

I did ask to get my testosterone levels checked, which I actually did yesterday while at the office. So we'll see what the results are with that.

Dr. C was concerned that the pre-peak bleeding was back, with only one month of no bleeding after my surgery. She said that it's very rare (1) to see polyps in a woman under 40, because often they start to appear in the pre-menopause stage and (2) to see a polyp return so quickly (if that is what is causing my irregular bleeding this time around). So that was discouraging. If I have to have a reproductive abnormality, can't I at least have one that's common? She also said the science is inconclusive as to why people get polyps at all - why one person and not another, for example.

However, she did say that hormonal imbalances could play a part, since estrogen can inflame polyps if not outright cause them. So I'm going to get a number of blood draws this month: days 13, 15, and 17 (my peak is usually 16/17), and then Peak plus 3, 5, 7, and 9. She was open to doing the 30-day blood draw, but warned us that it would be expensive (probably $1500ish by our estimates - yikes!) so we're going to see if this limited testing yields any helpful data.

If my hormone levels come back normal, then the next step will probably be the HSG + ultrasound + hysteroscopy. I'm not mentally dealing with that possibility yet - just want to get through the blood draws this month.

So human pincushion cycle it is =) I'm split between hoping they find something that can be treated, and maybe will explain the irregular bleeding, and hoping that I'm normal. Probably more the former, to be honest.

Oh, and about the PCOS - I brought that up with her (esp. my family history) and she said that it's not likely that I have PCOS given my normal cycles and lack of polycystic ovaries (viewed when I had that ultrasound in Sept) but I could have a very, very mild case - or a hormone imbalance (maybe extra testosterone?) that doesn't equal full-blown PCOS but is still a problem.