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.