Monday, April 29, 2013

When NFP Doesn’t Go According to Your Plan

I recently came across an article in an NFP series on a blog I had never visited before. (A click here, a click there, and you could end up wherever!) Some phrases caught my eye, and at first I thought that it was another woman in the trenches of infertility. But no – actually the opposite. It was written by someone struggling with the fact that she and her husband conceive children even when they're hoping not to. Now, of course that’s an experience I have absolutely nothing to say about, because it’s as foreign to what I’m living right now as another universe. But what I found interesting is that the way she described her experience with NFP (meaning, for her, the fact that charting hasn’t seemed to help her and her husband avoid pregnancy) is so, so similar to how I describe my experience with infertility. I just thought it would be interesting to select some quotes from her article and comment on them. I don’t know why. I guess because it so often feels like I have nothing in common with my Catholic sisters who conceive children easily and never had a disappointing CD1 in their life. (I’ve been thinking a lot about authentic communion among Catholic women with varying fertility experiences – I have a lot more to “think out loud” in that arena.) But I think one thing I have in common with someone like the author of this post is that both of us are being educated in a radical way to see, as she says, “God plans our family.” The outcomes look very different, for sure. But the interior life, the process of acceptance, surrender, trust, and so forth – I don’t know, maybe they’re more similar than I had thought.

(Quotes from her post are in quotes. My comments follow. You can probably find the article yourself; I didn’t feel like posting a link because I’m not up for a back-and-forth with the blog – hence why I’m writing on my own blog, and not leaving a comment. Maybe someday. For now, it's just something I want to think about.)


“What happens when NFP is difficult or ineffective for a woman?” What happens when you faithfully chart your fertile signs month after month, and come together with your spouse on the “right” days, but still don’t conceive? It seems like NFP doesn't "work."


“Practicing NFP can become a true trial of faith” when despite your greatest hopes, you still don’t become mother and father together. Trying month after month to no avail stretches your faith to the breaking point.


“We need to acknowledge that NFP is not simply a scientific formula but a concrete way which God uses to bring about life – even when our human plans seem to deem the timing to be wrong.” NFP is not a plug-and-chug method. It’s not as easy as “do this, and you’ll conceive.” There’s waaaaay more mystery involved. In our human plan, we’d love to have a child or two by now, but we don’t. The timing for conceiving seems perfect – we’re young, we’re healthy (expect in the area of reproduction, apparently), we’re aching to hold a child in our arms. But NFP isn’t some magic bullet to get us pregnant.


“When going through this difficult period of their lives its also so important to remember that God’s perfect will can use these sacrifices for the good.” Yes! Infertility is so difficult. But our faith teaches us that suffering is redemptive. Trust in God is so hard when the desire for a child is so strong – but He is our loving Father.


“Only God can plan your family… [we] have always been open to His plan for any children He would bless us with.” Amen! Doing all the “right” things – sex on the right day, eating the right foods, exercising the right amount, using the right organic products – this isn’t a guarantee that a baby will come! The radical trust in God’s plan for our family is so key…and so hard. We’ve been open since day one of our marriage to the children we hope will join our family, but so far they haven’t arrived.


“God’s plan for our family turned out to be much different!” Same here! (So far, anyway)


“For some reason my body is most definitely not functioning the way it should in showing signs of fertility.” My body is not functioning the way it should, period. It should have conceived by now. It shouldn’t have irregular bleeding. I shouldn’t be on my 23rd month of charting with no pregnancy in sight. My body is not doing what I’d like it to do, that’s for sure.


“Practicing NFP and, in turn, accepting and welcoming surprise pregnancies has been the most difficult part of our marriage.” I would substitute “this current season of waiting for a child” for “surprise pregnancies,” and the same is true for us. Infertility has been not just the most difficult part of our marriage, but the most difficult part of my life to date.


“This can impact almost every part of married life.” Every part indeed. Our times of intimacy, our shared hopes and dreams, our social lives, and so on.


“Our situation with NFP has also greatly affected my own relationship with God. Its stretched me in every possible way. I’ve felt many times as if my faith is being tested, that God is asking way too much of me, that I couldn’t possibly follow His will.” Amen amen amen! Infertility is a HUGE test of faith. I’ve written in my journal: “I am the wrong person for this cross, God!!! Pick someone stronger, please!”


“But we all have to embrace the cross in order to embrace holiness and God’s will for our lives.” Yes. The only way to Easter is through Good Friday.


“I’m not sure what God’s plan is for this suffering.” I wonder that myself…although I don’t have any children to look at and thank God for. I imagine that would be a consolation, although I can’t speak to the experience of bearing many children in a row, and I don't doubt there would be difficulties with that.


“Our marriage has also been made stronger through all these difficulties.” I agree. Mr. M is my confidant, my listening ear, my shoulder to cry on with CD1 arrives again. Infertility has pushed us toward our faith and toward each other.


“I also have a long way to go in fully trusting God’s will for our family, its a daily trust I have to choose.” Trust is so hard. Trusting God’s will when He doesn’t seem to be listening to my prayers for a child is really, really hard.


“I still strongly believe that God plans our family. And I know that when you come down to it, only God can make a baby.” So true. God wills each and every human being that’s conceived. Why has he not blessed us with a child yet? I don’t know. But it's not because we've done something wrong or failed in someone. Our future children (if there are any) will be direct gifts from God and not an "accomplishment" on our part.


“I sometimes pray that this cross of NFP might require a little less heroic virtue from us.” I pray that all the time. Learning virtue through the boot camp of infertility is effective - but exhausting!


“I have learned through this experience that we sometimes need to direct the conversation surrounding NFP in general from one of method effectiveness in preventing pregnancy towards a conversation more about following God’s plan for our families, His intimate workings within NFP, and the openness and blessings that this brings.” I agree 100%! At the heart of NFP – at the heart of marital spirituality – is openness to life, openness to God. That might look like accepting child after child, or it might look like accepting what feels like an indefinite period of waiting, desiring so, so much to conceive a bear new life but trusting in the valley of tears. Thinking about NFP just in terms of avoiding pregnancy truncates it. It makes it just a method, just a work of technology, instead of a way of life. I believe so, so strongly that "openness to life" is key to every marriage, whether they're blessed with children or not.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Surviving Mother's Day

Last year's Mother's Day was one of the toughest days I can remember. It was either going to be CD1...or not. Well, it was. (Of course, says my non-hopeful brain.) At church, I sat in the choir next to one pregnant woman and across from a young mom. I listened to the prayers for mothers, grandmothers, and pregnant women. Nothing for those going through infertility or who were mothers but had miscarried. Did a decent job at not crying, mostly by pretending I was somewhere else (not the most attentive attitude at mass). And then after church, when most of my friends happily went their way to Mother's Day brunches or went home to see the flowers and cards from their children (or husbands), Mr. M and I went home to our childless home. I think I remember working in our garden that afternoon, pouring all my maternal feelings into our plants and getting good and tired and sunburnt in order to forget how sore my heart was.

This Mother's Day is going to be different - it has to be! I can't take another heart-wrenching holiday that reminds me at every turn (and several weeks in advance, thank you commercial society) of the unfulfilled longing in my heart.

CD1's arrival yesterday means no "mother's" day for me this year. But I'm determined to make it easier on myself! We are literally leaving town for the weekend. We're going to visit Mr. M's family and focus the day on his mom (and mine) and on our nieces and nephews, all of whom are old enough to not make me feel quite the heart-pangs I do when I'm around babies. Plus, I love being an aunt. We'll be in the car for most of Mother's Day itself, driving home. So it will be just the two of us, and we can talk or cry (me) and enjoy each other's company.

I love our parish, but I'll be glad to be away on Mother's Day. There is nowhere I can look at mass that won't remind me of my childlessness, and it's hard to see our pregnant/parent friends on a day that is so happy for them and so sad for us. And I do plan to write to our pastor and ask him to pray for infertile couples and those who have had miscarriages. (Why is that not a no-brainer?)

So that's the plan. I'm sure it won't take away all the sadness, but I think it will prevent Mother's Day from being a big ol' pity party. After all, we have our moms to celebrate that day! And of course I'll be offering up MANY prayers for all those who are long to be mothers or who have lost children.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"T" is for Therapist

I had my second appointment with a therapist this past weekend. This isn't a fact of my life that I'm sharing with everyone, but I'm not ashamed of it, either. In fact, it feels very providential how it all came together: Mr. M and I attended a few talks for newlyweds this past year, and two of them were given by a local Catholic psychologist, who I'll call Dr. K. We really liked her presentations (one on intimacy and one on meeting the needs of your spouse). She was very knowledgeable and professional, but also personable and funny.

During one of the talks, she shared with us how she and her husband struggled with infertility for 5 years before conceiving their daughter, who ended up being their only child. I was floored by her story, which was a pretty miraculous one, as these stories go, and felt a strong connection with her because of our IF situtation.

Fast forward a month or so: one morning in February, things were just so heavy and my heart was burdened so much by our childlessness that I couldn't bring myself to go to work. Instead, I took a sick day and spent most of the morning laying on the couch thinking, praying, crying, and paging through old journals. (I was quite the journaler, especially pre-marriage. I think I'm up to number 52 or so.) Anyway, I was reading back through more recent entries, and I was struck with how hard the IF cross has been for how long. Like more than a year of consistent intense emotions and having to handle CD1 after CD1 after CD1. It had clearly taken its toll - hence the "sick" day.

I thought of Dr. K at that moment, and how good it would be to get some solid professional advice from a therapist who has a strong faith and also suffered from IF. So I called her up and, thankfully, she said she'd be happy to work with me and we set up our first appointment.

Two appointments later, I'm so grateful for her help. Here are some things she's taught me so far, that I'm trying to work on:

  • Infertility is a grieving process, and like every grieving process has various stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. These "stages" aren't linear but cyclical, so they could happen at any time.
  • To cope with anger (something I really needed to talk with her about): anger is like a fire that starts with a spark but can blaze out of control. Just like a real fire, when the "anger fire" starts, Stop, Drop, and Roll. Stop and realize that you're angry. (For me, I think "stop" could also mean just stop what I'm doing - put down the chart! Sit down and don't pick up anything because you'll want to throw it at the wall...) Drop the mask and realize that anger often covers up other more vulnerable feelings - sadness, hopelessness, despair, feeling unloved or forgotten. Anger is a defense mechanism against these more vulnerable feelings. Roll with the underlying feelings - talk about them, write about them, scream about them, but recognize them and go with them. She also said it's okay to be mad at God - He's a big boy, He can take it!
  • To cope with pregnancy "jabs" that seem to build up and pounce when I'm at my weakest: don't just push them from my mind (I do that and think I'm "over them") - actually take the time to feel them. Feel the sadness, the feeling of being left out, the unfairness, whatever. Take time to process them now, and they won't be shoved as easily to the dark corner of my mind just to come out a'blazing the next time I'm extremely sad or angry. Mr. M is good about letting me "talk things out" - I'm trying to do this more frequently, so emotions don't build up inside. (I'm not sure how to do this in public or at work....maybe make a mental note to deal with the feelings as soon as I can?)
  • Don't let the unitive aspect of marriage be swallowed up by our pursuit of a baby. Come together in non-fertile times to nurture our relationship. She also encouraged me to lighten up on the the charting if I need to, if I feel like charting is making our intimate relations feel forced or like an item on the "to-do" list. I need to give this one more thought. I usually do lighten up on charting the last part of the cycle, since what's done is done anyway, and that can be a relief and a break.
I think the biggest thing I've learned from Dr. K so far, and the most encouraging, is that it's okay to feel incredibly sad, angry, and disappointed because of our childlessness. These are normal feelings! I'm not failing at life somehow because I am devastated at not having a child yet. I think a lot of my therapy has been and will be learning how to accept and deal with the (normal) strong emotions that come from IF, while not letting them run my life. (That's a tall order!)


Monday, April 22, 2013

Bloodwork results & next steps

Well, I got my blood work results and had a follow-up appointment with Dr. C, so here's the latest on the medical side of things.

Blood work

Dr. C said that my numbers were "good." Not necessarily "great," but good. For posterity's sake, and in case anyone is an expert in hormone numbers and wants to shed more light on my results, here are my numbers:

Peak -4: E 180, P .41

Peak -1: E 242.9, P 1.0

Peak +1: E 62.1, P 3.6

Peak +3: E 104.2, P 12.4

Peak +6: E 111.3, P 15.6

Peak +7: E 139.1, P 15.2

Peak +9: E 192.5, P 14.6

This cycle, I had less CM than usual. So I think it's reasonable to assume that my numbers might be a little better for a more "normal" month, when there's more CM.

I had irregular bleeding on peak -3 and peak -1. Dr. C said the numbers don't really help explain that. She did say that the estrogen decrease from peak -1 to peak +1 was more drastic than normal. Usually it cuts in half, I guess, and my estrogen went from 242.9 to 62.1, although that was over 3 days, so maybe the day in between had a normal reading?

Either way, the numbers don't give a strong indication of why I have mid-cycle bleeding, so that's disappointing.

Next steps

Dr. C had two suggestions for further treatment/diagnosis.

1.                  Sonohystogram

From what I gather, this is a procedure where a small balloon is inserted into the uterus, filled with water so the uterine cavity is distended, and then the doctor uses sonogram to look at the uterine lining. The goal for me is to see if there are polyps (again) that could be causing the irregular bleeding and possibly interfering with conception – or any other uterine irregularities.

Unlike an HSG, this test doesn't look at your tubes. But since mine were open last summer, and there's no reason to think they've closed, that's okay.

A plus is that Dr. C can do sonohystograms in her office, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable.

Does it hurt?? I wanted to know. She said it's less painful than an HSG, which I had last summer. I don't know – having a balloon stuck "up there" doesn't sound that comfortable...has anyone had this done? Was it worthwhile?

2.                  Tamoxifen

Option 2, which I can do at the same time as option 1 if I want, is start taking the drug tamoxifen. I guess this is a milder form of Clomid. It elevates FSH levels and so can help ovulation either happen (not a problem in my case) or be better. Unlike Clomid, it doesn't dry up CM and there's not a strong chance of twins.

Dr. C admitted that since my numbers are good, there's not a strong need for drugs like tamoxifen. BUT it couldn't hurt, I guess? I don't know – I'm hesitant to use hormonal drugs unless there's a really clear indication that they could be helpful. On the other hand, tamoxifen sounds pretty mild, so maybe I'll try it for a few cycles and see what happens?

(Other bloggers have commented on the frustrations of the "let's just try this and see what happens" approach to infertility treatment. That's kind of what the tamoxifen feels like – maybe it will help, maybe it won't. Might as well try.)

So that's that. I'd be grateful if anyone has tried either of these routes and has any advice for me! I'm waiting out my current cycle and discerning with Mr. M which route to take, or maybe both.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Recent pregnancy-related "jabs"

I'm writing these down here in the hopes that my brain and heart can process through them and let them go peacefully, instead of keep them bottled up inside.

Recent situations where someone else's pregnancy made me feel sad and jealous:

  • Trying to schedule flight arrangements with a work consultant - he can't come to the event because his wife will be having a baby then
  • One of the nurses at the doctor's office, who gave us our intro session on Creighton, was visibly pregnant when I last visited for my latest IF follow-up
  • Former coworker, married this past summer, saw her pregnancy news via Facebook because I have to use FB for my job (just can't get away from FB!! argh)
  • A neighbor, friend of a friend - very pregnant, saw her in the parking lot as she was coming back from a walk with her toddler
  • Former classmate, due in May, married this past summer, signed an email "[Name] and baby" (Why? I don't think the baby really contributed to that email...)
And a recent pet peeve: other people's assumptions about why we don't have children. At a dinner with an acquaintance:

Her: So, do you and Mr. M have kids?
Me: No, not yet.
Her: Oh, I met someone on the train the other day who waited until she was 35 to have her kids. And she said you're never really ready!
Me: [want to say...I didn't say we were waiting to have kids, actually we've been trying to have kids for almost 2 years...but say nothing and eat my salad and hope she changes the subject]

Awkward. And annoying! Why do people do that? I don't mind people asking if we have kids - that's a normal small-talk topic. But why assume you know the reason? It's kind of hurtful, and I certainly don't feel like explaining our IF situation to an almost-stranger.

(All right, I feel better now....sorry for the emotions dump!)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Prayers for Kat

Today I am praying for Kat, as she undergoes surgery! May your guardian angels watch over you during the procedure, and I hope your recovery is not too painful and very swift! Many prayers coming your way today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Random thoughts on a Tuesday

1. In Kevin Wells' book "Burst," he writes that if you ever receive bad news re: your fertility, DO NOT go the beach immediately afterwards! After this weekend, I would add "or the zoo!!" We went to the zoo on Saturday because my parents had organized a trip with about 20 family members to come down for the day. It was great to see everyone, but sheesh! You'd think that the zoo had a policy that only persons with a) a baby bump, b) a stroller, c) a doting grandparent, or d) all three could come in! I'm glad I was at a hormonally stable day (i.e. not near CD1) because that would have been a lot to handle. As it was, I enjoyed my family members and I do like looking at the animals, especially the monkeys. And I told Mr. M, if God blesses us with a child, we are bringing them to the zoo!!!! =)

2. How horrible is the Boston bombing?!? I got a text from my brother yesterday afternoon saying, "me and SIL are fine. We weren't near the finish line" and I had no idea what he was talking about. Turns out they were volunteering in the marathon!! They were around mile 9, so nowhere near the bombs - but wow, they were both shaken up. As was I and my parents. And living in a major metro center myself, it's scary. And so sad that people can't go to a race without worrying about their lives!

3. I'm so touched by how encouraging my friends have been about the mass I'm helping to plan on the 28th - fertile friends and those who have struggled. Several of my girlfriends are making goodies to eat at the talk before the mass. I've given a lot of thought to how to stay close with friends who are having babies when you want to and can't...I don't have a lot of solid answers on the topic, but their support for something like this mass makes me feel so loved, and reminds me how much they care about what Mr. M and I are going through - and that helps me feel more comfortable around them, even though my heart still aches to see their beautiful children and want to provide another playmate...

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 28: Prayers for Hope and Healing

For anyone in the DC metro area....

I'm so excited about this event!!!! And so thrilled that it's happening on the feast day of St. Gianna. I'm really hoping this is the start of future events in our area.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to deal with anger?

(Written on Wednesday, posted on Thursday)

True story: last night I ripped my Creighton chart in two. I probably would have ripped it into a million tiny pieces if the little stickers didn't offer some resistance and if the rational part of my brain didn't kick in. I then slammed the piano bench shut (where I keep my charts) and broke down crying and yelling.

So yeah, I think I've got a problem with anger.

I can pinpoint exactly how I got to that chart-ripping point. I was sick (still am) with seasonal allergies, which really wiped me out this time – two days off work and hours lying around on the couch. I've been feeling crummy since last week. Then yesterday was the first time in the last two months that I've seen some good CM. Fertile, or as my sarcastic inner angry self says, in quotes, "fertile." Great timing, right? I'm going through about a tissue a minute and my head is pounding...not exactly a recipe for romanc. Mr. M agreed. No "baby dance" tonight.

Realizing that we were going to miss out on probably the best chance this cycle to conceive, all because the stupid trees outside finally decided to blossom and send my sinuses into overdrive...on top of already feeling crummy and depressed over being was too much to handle. So as I went to fill out my chart and was not going to put an "I" on that day's square, anger took hold. Hence the mutilated chart and the slammed piano bench (which I broke, by the way, although it could be fixable).

And when the tears came, all of the little "jabs" I had been trying to not think about came flooding back with unbelievable intensity.

The fact that my Creighton instructor is pregnant with her 4th baby in 4 years and I have to get yet another chart from her because I've filled up two already. And that I have to talk with her, of all people, about my pitiful CM and our failure to conceive, while she seems to just look at her husband and get pregnant.

The fact that my coworker (in a different department) who got married last April and had a baby this February is going to bring her baby in on Thursday for "show and tell," and that it would be awkward if I didn't go, since we work on the same hall, but I'd rather just shut my door and not have to pretend that I'm happy for her, or (my bigger fear) hear people make comments about honeymoon babies and Good Catholic Families and the like.

The fact that we're probably not going to move into the new, bigger apartment that came available, for a lot of reasons, one of them being that we really don't need more space (read: it's still only the two of us).

And on and on. Just when I think that these little pricks are taken care of, they surface again to kick me while I'm down.


It's so ugly.

It's there in my heart, and when the dam breaks, I just want to lash out at someone – anyone – and release all this pent-up pain inside.

Who am I even angry at? It's not like someone is to blame for our childlessness. Am I angry at my body? At Mr. M? At God?

Last night, I felt like being sick during my "fertile" window was like being slapped in the face by the universe. I don't know how else to put it. I don't believe God causes us harm, but then who?? At least when someone does something nasty to you, you can have an object of anger – and forgiveness. But IF just makes me feel so indiscrimantely angry – pure anger, if I can put it that way. Angry at the way my life is going, angry at my reproductive oddities, angry at our childlessness, angry that I can't control my emotions better, angry at feeling at the mercy of every baby bump and pregnancy announcement, and on and on.

What do I do with all this anger? Especially when it comes upon me all of a sudden. I'm really ashamed at how I acted last night, ripping the chart at all. I've never had much of a temper, but I've gone through IF before either! This is not the person I want to be. I wish I had a punching bag or something – working out helps, doing something else can help, but in the moment, when I'm awash with anger – rage, even – and there doesn't seem to be any outlet, I do inappropriate things like take it out on my Creighton chart....

I need to talk this over with my therapist (that's a topic for another post) to get a handle on my anger. I'm so ashamed afterwards, and I don't want to deal with IF in this way. Not that it's not something to get angry about! But clearly I don't want to be at the mercy of anger and do or say things that I'll regret later.

Not sure how to end this, just to say that any prayers would be appreciated, advice as well, and that I am supremely grateful for the patience of my husband, who always "walks me off the cliff," as I like to say, and for the mercy of our always-forgiving God, who I feel like I let down.

p.s. Thursday - I'm still feeling under the weather, but was non-sniffles enough last night to have a "good night in" with Mr. we'll see if that bears any fruit, ha ha bad pun sorry...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grandparent wannabes

Looking for some feedback here...does anyone have good advice on how to deal with parents (or in-laws) who want to be grandparents and don't make any secret about it?

This is on my mind because my parents visited over Easter. I have a very good relationship with both of them and in general enjoy their company. I know both of them really want to be grandparents, and (no surprise) I want them to be grandparents too! I wish they were grandparents already, and they could spoil my kid(s) and we could all go to the zoo together and have a lovely three-generational time. But that's not the reality right now.

(I should also note that my only sibling, who is married, is in med school and hasn't given any indication of wanting to have kids any time soon. My parents know that we, on the other hand, are trying and so far failing.)

Lately, my mom has spent a lot of time with one of my cousins, who has 7 children, including one born this January. Before I got married, my mom would make comments like "are you going to end up like M [the cousin] with all those kids?" (My parents aren't Catholic and have some skepticism about the whole not-contracepting game plan.) But now I think the grandparent bug has bit them big time and they (esp. my mom) are like second grands to my cousin's kids. They buy them goodies and take them places and do puzzles with them, etc. - all the things I'm sure they'd like to do with their own grandkids.

I don't mind this, really. My cousin and her husband are grateful, I'm sure! And I don't begrudge them that. But I do get a little annoyed that my mom seems to like giving me a play-by-play of everything she does for my cousin's family. Worse, sometimes she'll move directly from that topic to the topic of my childlessness: "So, what's the latest prognosis for you and Mr. M having children....?" or the like. And that's getting a little old. I get it. My cousin is super-fertile and I'm not. I get that my parents are the next-to-last siblings in my dad's family of 9 to be grandparents, and I'm sure that's tough for them. None of us are getting any younger here.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. I know they are so needed in relationships, even with the people we love the most. Mr. M is of the opinion that I shouldn't share with my mom at all about what we're doing IF-wise because it's too personal. It bugs him that sometimes if my mom and Mr. M are alone, she'll start asking him all the questions about our IF she wants to ask me but doesn't. Triangulation.... I know my mom cares about us, and I do believe she cares more about our health and well-being than about being a grandma. And I generally share a lot with her about my life. I don't mind sharing bits and pieces with her about how we're doing a blood test, or when I had surgery.

But I can't deal emotionally with the thought of her and my dad never being grandparents - it's hard enough to think about the possibility of me and Mr. M not being parents! And it occurred to me that becoming a grandparent is even harder in a way - not only do you have to have your own kids (not a guarunteed thing), but then your kids have to have kids of their own (also not a guarunteed thing - they could discern a religious vocation or have IF, etc.) I think my parents need to deal with their own issues re: grandparent-desire just like I'm dealing with my desire to be a mother.

Anyway, those are my jumbled thoughts. I want to stay close with my mom, and share things with her, but I also don't want to feel like I have to give a monthly account of our IF journey, or add to my own emotional heaviness her sadness at not being a grandma yet. Etc.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Musings on the Paschal Mystery

Before they slip from my mind, here are some thoughts/reflections/insights that came to me during the Triduum this year. Fair warning: these are unfiltered and relatively stream-of-consciousness.

Good Friday - yes, it really is that bad

Maybe it's my melancholic temperament, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when I relate a hardship to someone else and their response is, "Oh, it's really not that bad." Now to be fair, probably some of the things I complain about aren't that bad and I need to lighten up. And I know that the respondant is seeking to help me, seeking to make things easier by helping me see the "positive side" of a situation. But the fact is, some situations don't have positive sides. Or if they do, it's not in the form of a "silver lining" that I just need to squint harder in order to see. Some things in this fallen world are just broken and bad and hard, period.

Such as Good Friday. It hit me in a fresh way this Good Friday the fact that Jesus really died. I know that sounds so basic - it's what we say every Sunday in the creed: "he suffered death and was buried." But this year, for whatever reason the fact really sunk in that Jesus' agony and death on the cross wasn't an illusion. It wasn't an optical illusion or a prank. The Son of Man, God Incarnate, really truly died that black, black day. He gave up his spirit and "descended into Hell," as the Apostles' Creed says. There's no amount of squinting that will find the silver lining in that reality - Jesus died.

The Good Friday liturgy brings this point home. It's stark and sparse. Images covered in red. Priests prostrating themselves. The crowd (us) saying "Crucify him!" This year I felt a real, aching sense of sorrow at thinking of Jesus bleeding on the cross and being placed in a cold, hard tomb. We sang a song that had the line, "Heavy with weeping let these three days pass." If Jesus hadn't really died, then this would all be a show. It would be play-acting, drumming up emotions for the sake of catharsis. Instead, it's a real mourning - Jesus died that day on Calvary. If Easter Sunday didn't arrive, there would be nothing "good" about Good Friday.

In trying to parse out why this point impacted me so much this year, I think it's because it hit home that our faith is not one of rose-colored glasses and optimism. It's one of resurrection and hope, which are two markedly different things than a tinny sort of forced cheerfulness. For me, that gives me the freedom to really grieve over the sorrows in my life - yes, infertility really is that bad. It's that hard. There's not really a "positive spin" you can give to the fact that my body is broken and my vocation to motherhood is stunted. It's all right to grieve that - in fact, it's a fitting response.

The same goes for any truly tragic thing - yes, it really is that bad that babies die in the womb, that children starve to death, that young men and women are murdered in their prime, that the elderly languish alone, unloved. Christianity's response to the suffering of a broken world was not to say "there, there, it's not that bad" - instead, the response for which the world had been groaning since the dawn of time was the sacrificial offering of God Himself on a bloody cross, knowing that no platitudes or bandaids would go to the heart of the crisis.

Easter Sunday - there is no ultimate loss

But....and this is a huge, world-changing, history-altering BUT, Good Friday is not the end! It's not! Could there be a more joyful three words in the English language than "He is risen"?

Because of Easter Sunday - because of the resurrection - because Jesus rose - Loss is not the last word. Sorrow is not the last word. Grief is not the last word. The final word is Love and Joy and Peace and Happiness Forever. These are stronger than death. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia, there is a deeper magic at work than the pseudo-magic of death.

It's not that death and sorrow and pain are "really not that bad" - it's that they're not the final note of the concert. After three days of silence, the music plays on, and at dawn on Sunday the weeping turns to laughter and the sorrow to joy.

It's hard to put into words how much hope this gives me! The best way I've found of expressing it is to say that because of Easter, there is no ultimate loss. The final enemy, death, has been defeated. What else is there to be afraid of? The sorrow I feel on a daily basis over my childlessness is a real sorrow responding to a real suffering. But it's not the final word or the deepest reality. None of this is pointless - everything can be redeemed. There is something greater going on in my life than the daily heartache I feel. That, too, can be redeemed. It's not an ultimate loss. Death and sorrow and pain are real - but the resurrection is more real, if I can put it that way!

Regardless of how poorly I've expressed this, the fact is that at the Easter vigil, as we were all welcoming the light of Christ - the light over which darkness has no power - my eyes flooded with tears and my heart filled with hope. Not hope for any tangible thing that I believe will make me happy (*cough baby cough*) but just HOPE, pure and simple - hope that everything will work out okay in the end, because Jesus went to Hell and back. Hope that love will triumph, because it already has. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.